Pre-race: I woke up pretty early. I don’t remember exactly what time, but I have a feeling it was 5:00 am. I planned to take MARTA up to the race so I needed to give myself enough time to drive to MARTA, ride it 20 stops, and then walk around to warm up. I had my typical breakfast of oatmeal with a side of peanut butter and honey bagel downed with a big glass of water (didn’t have any Gatorade). I’ll usually stretch while breakfast is preparing itself too. (What else am I supposed to do with the microwave is counting down?) Everything I was going to wear was set out the night before so I just put everything on, kissed my girls, and left.
There was almost no one at the first MARTA stop so I had no trouble getting on, but Five Points was a different story and I ended up almost not making it to the start line in time. I had to use the time waiting for the trains as part of my warm-up so I’ll go ahead and skip to the next section.
Warm-up: Every MARTA platform was time to walk. Warming up the legs and getting them ready for stretching and jogging. I walked up and down the platform at East Lake and Five Points while everyone else just waited. Time kept ticking by and I was more and more anxious that I wasn’t going to get to the start line in time. Five Points was a zoo. No one wanted to get on the Red Line toward Buckhead so I couldn’t push past the hoards of people to get on the empty train. The doors closed and I was forced to wait for the next Gold Line toward Lenox. I was pretty ticked. Whatever, more warm-up and stretching.
I finally made it to Lenox Station and had to start jogging immediately off the train to get to the start. As soon as I hit the street I saw the crowds of people just meandering around blocking all paths on every sidewalk and every street. I ended up cutting over onto the the mall’s property and jogging up the access road behind their fence. I’m not sure who the volunteers are or how much training they receive for doing their jobs, but the guy at the athlete checkpoint wouldn’t let me through. They had a big barricade set up on Lenox near Peachtree that only runners with corrals A-E (or something) could pass through. I didn’t have a letter on my bib because I was Sub Seeded and he wouldn’t let me through. I was trying desperately to convince him that I was faster than those groups and eventually gave up, apologized, and just went on ignoring whatever he was saying. I made it up to the start line just at the National Anthem finished and ended up seeing a group of ATC folks in the Sub Seeded area together. Water Cheetah (AKA Ed) was searching (sort of) frantically for someone and I let him know she was waiting for him at the checkpoint I had to force my way through. (He had like no time at all to get there and back, but he made it.) I high-fived a few people, saw Drew back in the slums of A, and got ready to go. It felt like I was only in there for 2 minutes before the race started but I was really happy that I made it and that we were able to start despite it starting to rain a little heavier than it already was.
Run: My coach suggested that I go out at a 6:15/mi pace, so I go out hoping to get there. I wasn’t able to get up to 6:15 comfortably but felt like my eventual 6:20-6:25 pace for the first three miles was the best I could do once I got going. I felt like I was really moving and wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to hold that. I have been doing much running because my ankle has been a little iffy since Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga. I ran with Ed and Ben for a little while, but Ed dropped off (he just finish IMCDA so cut him some slack) and I lost Ben as we hit the second climb after Piedmont.
My ankle was holding up great and I started to take the race a little more seriously (not that I wasn’t already but when running I never know how my ankle will feel until I’m in it) to keep up the pace that I had started. I took water at each aid station and used anyone around me that was running my pace to cut through the wind in some areas. With a road as wide as Peachtree, it’s also in my best interest to run straight lines. I never understood why people would run in the traffic lanes and not use the full width of the course. I tried not to get in anyone’s way, but I was constantly hugging each turn left and right to ensure I ran the least amount possible.
I ended up spying a fraternity brother that has always been faster than me so I told myself I’d do whatever I could to stick with him. It was great motivation because he was a good 50 yards up from me (I could pick out his hair from a mile away) and I tried to slowly close the gap the best I could. I think I caught him around the start of mile 5 and just kept pushing to get to 10th Street.
I saw my step-dad right at 36 minutes and thought I might be able to make it to the finish line at 40 if I pushed it hard enough right then. Looking over my splits the time didn’t drop much compared to the perceived effort I was putting in. I turned the corner on 10th and started picking up the pace. It was a much longer run than I remembered (I didn’t do a course run like I did last year) and I felt silly about backing down once I realized how much farther I had to go. I was really pumping it trying to get there by the 40-minute mark. Some guy started running with me and talking to me at the pace we were running. He was telling me what a good job I was doing and that I was almost there! It was crazy! Here we are running sub-6 pace and he’s tracking with me and telling me to finish strong and keep it up. It was a little weird but really helped. Once I realized I wasn’t going to make it by 40 I was a little disappointed, but I immediately knew it was going to be a nice PR so I was pushing it regardless. A few dry heaves popped up as the finish line started to come in to view and I pushed them back down to try and get a good finish line picture. (Of course I didn’t find one.)
Splits according to my Garmin 910XT:
1 – 6:22
2 – 6:25
3 – 6:21
4 – 6:53 (that hill)
5 – 6:50 (more hills)
6 – 6:23
.2 – 5:52/mi pace
Total Run Time: 40:58
Post Race: I stopped my watch at 41:00 on the nose and was really happy with how I had done. I walked backward a little bit to see how far behind me my fraternity brother or Ben were going to finish but I didn’t see either one of them. (Ben ended up 39:26 and my fraternity brother ended up about 17 seconds back.) I tried to make my way back up the course to see if I could run with my mom (she was running her first Peachtree) but was turned away from walking up the side of the course for some reason. I walked into the finish area and grabbed a top 1000 card, some water, a food box, and my t-shirt. It was about here that my ankle started talking to me. It didn’t hurt too much, but it was starting to feel a little sore. I grabbed my Triple Peach Medal as well as some free food before heading in to the private Atlanta Track Club Member Area at Park Tavern. They gave out a few beer tickets and I sat down with Nathan and some other ITL guys to sip on a cold one and eat some of the free food. It really started pouring then so I called my step-dad to tell him I wasn’t going to be able to make it back out onto the course to run it in with my mom. I called my wife to let her know I was done and she offered to come pick me up (wow she’s super nice) so I didn’t have to walk back up to the Midtown MARTA Station in the rain on my ankle.
What would you do differently: I’m not sure what I could do about the droves of people because they are perfectly fine to be getting to the start line whenever they want, it was just a little stressful that I knew that most of them wouldn’t be starting the race for more than an hour after me and I couldn’t get on the train because of them. So what I would do differently first is maybe try and leave my house a little earlier next time. (Though I had almost no trouble last year with the trains so maybe it was because of the rain or something?) I feel like I pushed the pace the best I could during the race with how much running I had been doing so I’m not sure I’d change anything related to the run. The only thing I can think of would be that I might try to find a pace partner and try and stick with them shoulder to shoulder the entire race. Who knows if I would have been able to run in with Ben had I not lost him in the shuffle at one of the aid stations.
Rate your overall experience with this race: I give it a 5/5. I’ve said before that I don’t like how the Atlanta Track Club does virtual race bags (which they did again) because there’s not really anything in it, but the expo for this race is 10x better than the other races they sponsor that require expos for packet pickup. There’s tons of stuff to do at the expo and lots of gear and accessories to load up on if you need a few items. Taking the rain out of the equation, it was a great race. I was pleased last year and I was pleased this year as well. Despite the rain there were tons of people standing on the course to cheer everyone on, make noise, hold up signs, and play music. It seems to be a great race to do and I would suggest that everyone do it at least once.
And how can you have a bad experience when you set a PR!