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The AthHalf race report

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Based on my time, this was not a great race. Based on the circumstances and experience - it was!

I had not planned to run this half marathon. I ran a marathon in early September and was enjoying running fewer miles and feeling good about my recovery. But - my daughter had other ideas! We had a phone discussion about when her Dad and I should come down to visit, and she nixed November as being too close to when she'd be coming home for Thanksgiving. Dad nixed October as being too soon after our Europe trip as he was tired of travelling and wanted a break and some normal weekends home.

I said maybe I'd just come by myself... then she said challengingly "you could register and run the half marathon with me!" I'm thinking... I haven't run longer than 6 miles in the last 5 weeks, and the half is only 17 days away! "But, you could just run it for fun!" she says.

Now understand, I have TRIED to "just run it for fun" or "just run it as a training run" multiple times in the past. But when I'm at a race the competitive monster inside starts saying I have to meet a time goal... I have to push... you know you can run this faster! It gets ugly.

So... $500 in airfare to Georgia, $80 late registration fee for the race and two 10-mile runs later, I was off to Georgia on a Friday afternoon, duly registered for the race on Sunday morning.

We spent Saturday shopping for new interview clothes for my daughter, then picked up the race packets and drove the course. As I suspected it would be - it was hilly. Very hilly. Now, I do train hills. And on my first of the two 10-mile training runs I ran a very hilly course very aggressively. But still, it was daunting.

Arose so early Sunday morning that even the cat didn't think I was really up for the day and waited more than 10 minutes before bugging me to feed him. Ate my usual pre-race food, made sure daughter got up on time, and dressed for the race in my UGA black shirt, red skirt, black calf compression sleeves, and black arm sleeves (it was only about 45 degrees outside). Off to the race start - fortunately daughter's office was nearby and we waited there and used the restrooms until just before the start time. Chilly at the start and too long a line to make that last vital porta-potty stop before it was time to get in the corrals.

Yes, only about 3000 runners, but real corrals! Not just banners that said line up here if you run this speed (does anyone but me ever line up correctly?) but real corrals with gates and different colored bibs for each corral based on your predicted finish time. Daughter headed off to the first corral and I found my place in the third of four. Seriously, the most organized start I've ever been part of - bigger races could learn a lot by observing this one! Each corral went off in a wave, with about a minute in between. Smoothest start I've ever seen and easy to settle into your pace without a lot of jockeying around people for the first couple of miles.

When we drove the course I estimated I'd be about 5 minutes off my best time. Up to six miles the hills were minimal, with gentle downhills and I was on my PR pace, hitting 6 miles in just over one hour. Very pleased and the ambitious competitive monster reared its ugly head. "Just hold this pace and you can PR" it said. "Just keep pushing" It got disgusted with me when I started to slow through the next couple of hills and the longest downhill I've ever run. Seriously - more than a mile of significant downhill! Downhills trash your legs as badly as uphills, just in a different way. The inevitable uphills (what goes down must come up?) took their toll on my time, as did an unusual potty stop at mile eight (only 2 minutes, but still... I never have to stop mid race!)

There was good crowd support. Not the best I've ever seen, but quite good. TONS of signs about how we were running better than the government. Oddly, people started barking when I went by. Took me a while to make the connection with my glycogen-starved brain - UGA is the "bulldogs" and I was wearing lots of UGA gear. Made me laugh when I figured it out.

Coming into the campus there were a lot of little hills, with the last one being short but steep - seriously, who plans a course with a steep uphill at mile 12.5???? The advertised highlight of the race was to run into the football stadium, around the field and back out. I know UGA is HUGELY into football, but I was skeptical of the "wow factor" of this part of the course. Have to admit it was super-cool to see your running self up on the huge outdoor stadium screen. I actually took a walk break in the covered area of the stadium about .2 from the finish, much to the surprise of a spectator who commented "you do know - you are almost there, right?" But it let me sprint the last .2 and finish really strong.

My finish was 9 minutes slower than my personal best instead of my predicted 5, but given the course, the minimal training, and a serious attempt to quash the competitive beast and enjoy the chilly sunny hilly run - not bad. 15 of 38 in my age group at 2:23:52. And the icing on the cake? Some of her friends came out and held up signs for us... no one has ever made me a sign before - so that was SWEET!

And they made one to raz another friend of theirs about how well my daughter was doing.

Not bad. And now I have finisher shirts for half marathons from Athens, GA and Athens, OH (where daughter did her undergraduate work). Do you suppose that equals a full in Athens, Greece? Probably not, but I can fantasize.

And my first-corral daughter ran a personal best despite the hills, coming in 39th woman overall and 14th of 331 in her age group. Proud mama today!


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