Saturday, April 19, 2008

ING Race Report

March 30, 2008
My first half-marathon!
Finish time: 2:05.42

I had to leave the house at 5:00 am to catch the MARTA train in order to be downtown for the 7:00 am start. Waited and waited for the train in the cold... BRRRR! I think the high was around 42 for the day. It was windy and pretty darn cold on the train platform. Of course I had shorts on because I sweat more than anyone I know - it used to bother me but now I am a proud sweaty head and, as sweaty heads now, you dress for the run not the waiting around. (now that I have some experience I know I could have brought clothes with me and left them at the bag drop - lesson learned)

The train finally arrives and has some kind of mechanical problem so they are stopping and going the whole way to Peachtree Center which explained why the wait for the train was so long, normally they arrive every few minutes. The train is packed, you could not have wedged one more person on it. I was getting a little nervous as I arrived at the train station by 5:45 or so which should have been plenty of time but was still sitting on the train at 6:40 (the race started at 7:00). Once we arrive at the station, everyone unwedges from the train and fights for spots going up the stairs (wall to wall people running late at this point due to the slow train so you can imagine). We finally hit the outside world (I climbed about 5 flights of stairs so was warmed up at this point). Three blocks to Centennial Park. I have to drop my bag at gear check and then stand in line for the port-a-let. All done at 6:55, I made my way to my "corral" at the back of the pack. As it turns out I am in "corral 7" which is the absolute last starting group. (in thinking it through when I signed up I was probably thinking I would walk it and that would be about a 15 minute mile - thus the slow time on my entry and placement in corral 7). No problem, this is just about finishing not about getting a great time. Although since it was my first race, any time would have been a PR :)

The gun goes off and we inch our way to the front. Twenty plus minutes later, the crowd miraculously breaks free (not unlike Moses and the Red Sea) so you could actually run across the start line. There were 15,000 people in this race so it was impressive to be running right from the start.

ING did a great job with the race course. You wind through all the different areas surrounding downtown Atlanta (Inman Park, North Avenue, Little Five Points). This being my first long race, I was surprised how many people actually used the port-a-lets along the course - there were lines at everyone along the way - even the first ones around mile 1. I didn't opt to stop and stand in line :) They also had water and gatorade at every mile and those GU energy packs about half way.

The run itself was great, there were spectators the whole way. Many of the neighborhoods had their own cheering sections and either were playing recorded music or had live bands. It definitely made the run fun... On the last mile (or maybe a little before), the top two leaders from the marathon came through with a police escort so it was interesting to see their pace as opposed to those in the pack with me. They pretty much went flying by like we were crawling on our hands and knees (or maybe we were at that point, it is all a blur...). We didn't see them for long.

I felt pretty good running for most of the race, I did it without stopping to walk which was the goal. The last mile one of my knees started hurting so I felt like I lost some time there as that slowed me down a bit. I did manage to sprint the last 500 yards (again the competitive thing - picking off people even at the end). I am told if you can do the ING you are prepared for most races. I really think running at Stone Mountain helped. Anything seems flat compared to the Mountain!

Leading up to the finish line, you are running through a chute with hundreds of people cheering you on. That is really when you get caught up in the moment of the accomplishment. I'll admit, I teared up :) So exciting!

After the finish line, you pick up your medal and some kind of "heat sheet" that is supposed to keep you warm then stand in line to get your bag from gear check. The heat sheet is is large piece of mylar. It worked for a bit but I guess it can only help so much in 40 degree weather.

I managed to locate MARTA (after winding through the lobby of the Westin with 2 female runners and one of the Kenyans in tow). The streets were blocked due to the falling glass from the tornado so the only way to Peachtree Street from where we were was through the Westin. So... on to the MARTA train. I was so anxious to get home, I forgot that they have NE and N trains on the same route so I accidentally got on one bound for Doraville, got off at the next stop and got on the next one bound for Dunwoody. Once I got back on the train, I had an issue with what might have been low blood sugar (?). I felt like I was going to faint a couple of times on the train. I have fainted in the past so you kind of know when it is coming. I started getting really hot and then everything started closing in and getting black like you are looking down a tunnel. I seriously was sitting there thinking, I am by myself on a MARTA train with no ID on me, am I going to end up in some Jane Doe ward at Grady? I remembered I had a gel energy pack in my bag so ate that and felt better within a few minutes (lesson learned on that one). Not sure I would have received much medical attention on the train so good thing I had my own solution (HA) . Then some girl the next row over threw up in her heat sheet and I realized I wouldn't be the only freak on the train. (they got off at the next stop).

I felt decent when I got home. My knees hurt a little bit immediately after but then felt better within 24-48 hours. I think I do need to figure out the nutrition angle though, after the low blood sugar thing on the train obviously but then I also have pretty bad stomach cramps for several hours following a race for some reason. I don't seem to have the issue when I practice but with races I do. Need to figure that out...

All in all a great experience... My time was actually a bit better than I thought it would be, it might have helped my pace to have to pass so many people that started ahead of me. As it turns out I am competitive, I seem to enjoy passing as many people as I possibly can. Who knew?

I have my medal and was able to do something I never thought I could accomplish. When you cross that finish line it is definitely one of those moments that chokes you up. Who would have thought I could do it?? They have a feature where you can track specific runners online and my Dad watched my progress online which I thought was pretty cool. At least I have one fan :) My time was faster than I expected but now am oddly disappointed that I was so close to coming in under 2:00 hours and didn't do it. I guess that is the overachiever in me, never satisfied. Loads of fun, would definitely do it again. Next stop Chicago!

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