Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Publix Georgia Half Marathon

This race did not go as well as I'd hoped, so I am not thrilled about writing this report, but here goes...

Expo and packet pickup:
The race was sponsored by Publix, so there were a ton of free snacks and beverages at the expo.  It wasn't particularly crowded, and I picked up my packet without any wait and was pleasantly surprised by the race shirt (gender-specific, v-neck, and not hideous) and my corral assignment (1st corral out of 16, with preferential access).

We stayed at the Ellis hotel, which was only a half mile from the race start/finish.  Our room was ready early, the hotel and room were really nice, the rate was very reasonable, and the location couldn't have been better.  I'd definitely stay there again if I ever decide to attempt this race for a second time.

Race morning:
I didn't sleep very well, as is normally the case on the night before a race, and got up at 5:00.  Went through the usual morning routine and headed down to the race around 6:20.  Only corrals A and B were allowed to access the start via Centennial Olympic Park Drive, so I figured I'd have no problems but went straight over to check it out.  There was no crowd at all, and getting to the A entry was really easy, so that was nice.  I'm not sure how it was for the 10,000+ runners in C-O, but it was very well organized up front.  After another mile or so jog around the park, I found a spot in the middle of my corral between the 1:30 and 1:40 pace groups, thinking that I would shoot for something around 1:35.  The disabled athletes started at 6:55 and at 7:00 we were off.

The race:
My plan was to try to run around 7:15 pace, but after checking out the elevation profile and reading some race reports from last year, I knew that running an even pace might not work out so I decided to try to run even effort instead, hoping to stay at what felt like a challenging but sustainable effort and relying less on my Garmin than usual.  This seemed like a good idea until I passed the first mile marker at 6:43.  Even with the mostly downhill start, I knew that was way too fast so I reigned it in a bit and used the Garmin to settle into a pace in the 7:10-7:15 range.  I saw Monte just after the first mile, and he actually got some awesome photos (my vizipro orange singlet really does glow in the dark), but they were accidentally deleted.  It's too bad because I felt great at that point, but that feeling was soon to be forgotten...

We came through the first aid station around mile 2, and a drank a few sips of Powerade.  I guess I need to go back to practicing fluid consumption on my training runs, because from then on everything was sloshing around in my stomach and I just did not feel good at all.  I tried to distract myself from the discomfort by focusing on the runners around me (it was actually not that crowded for a pretty big race) and scenery, and it seemed to work temporarily though my stomach continued to bother me.  I ran through the 4 mile aid station without taking any water or gatorade, just hoping that I would finally absorb what was in there and go about my race.  By this point, I had slowed a bit, and it was all up and down, with very little flat, but nothing crazy either.  As we came through Inman Park, we had a really nice view of Midtown during sunrise, and I tried my best to appreciate seeing the city this way.

As the race went on, I figured it would not be wise or feasible to keep up my pace without drinking anything at all, so I tried a little more Powerade at the halfway point.  Shortly after that, the marathon and half marathon courses split, and we started on what I knew would be a fairly long downhill part of the course.  I am not a fan of hills, but running downhill definitely has it's advantages so I figured I'd push the pace a bit.  Big mistake.  Let's just say that red Powerade is not better the second time around.  Anyway, I thought at least I would feel better after that, and though the sloshing was drastically reduced my stomach was still not quite right.  It was really frustrating because I was not really breathing hard and my legs felt fine, but I just could not go any faster.  I thought about my mom, who had planned to travel to Atlanta to watch the race, and wondered if she was watching.  Not wanting to let her or myself down, I tried to suck it up and just kept plugging along, but I really wasn't having much fun anymore.

The majority of the climbs in the race are in the last 4 miles, and at mile 9 we started up a hill that lasts until about 10.5.  Though I had been thinking "I feel great cardio-wise and my legs are not even tired!" to that point, by about 9.5 that last consoling thought was long gone.  A bunch of runners around me started walking, and though it seemed like a really fabulous idea, I knew that if I started to walk it would be really hard to get going again, so I made some calculations and realized that if I could keep my pace under 8:00/mile I could still break 1:40.  I think I looked at my Garmin about 100 times from that point until the "1/2 mile to go" sign.  So much for not using it.  But I had to think about something other than how bad I was feeling, so I put all of my focus on keeping that number under 8:00.  I felt like I was barely moving, but somehow I managed to keep it in the 7s.  As we headed up the final hill toward the finish, I tried to kick it in but it all just felt really pointless and disappointing.  Final time: 1:38:32.  

Only a year and a half ago, I would have been thrilled with this finish time (my half marathon PR was 1:45:00 until October 2011) and I finished 78th out of 4,954 women (top 2%) despite all of the setbacks of late, so I have been telling myself that I should be satisfied but it's just not working.  It was definitely a very draining race, both physically and emotionally, but hopefully I can get it together enough to get through Boston.

Highlight of the day: Post-race St Patty's Celebration

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