|So two half marathons in 7 days? Well, I liked the shirt!|
Then they released the reveal for this year's race shirts and I was hooked. This year's color was black and I really loved the all-black look of the half marathon shirt.
So just 16 days before the race, I signed up.
In my mind, I was always going to take it easy on this one, what with the Publix half just six days before and especially knowing I would really have to run in that one to keep up with Silver medalist Meb.
But after running 1:39:49 in that race, I wanted to test out what it would be like to run this one entirely on power. I also knew that I've run a few times similar performances just a week after running in a previous race.
There was also a little peer pressure, as my friend Anna, who picked up my race packet, told me her friend Jessica was running in the half. "I told her to look for you, since you've run 1:39," she said. "So you may have a blonde chasing you!"
I left Atlanta much later than I did two years ago when I ran in this marathon and got my 3:40 PR, which still stands today. One benefit of leaving at 6:30 p.m. was that a lot of the traffic had left. But that meant much of the drive was in the dark, which turned out to be not so bad.
I ended up getting to my hotel room at 10 p.m. and ate a bowl of leftover spaghetti I brought with me. As I ate it, I thought it might not be a great idea since I'd be getting up at 4:30 a.m. but I ate it anyway.
When I got up, I ate a serving-size bowl of Picky Oats' "Can't Beet Chocolate" and made my way to the Albany Civic Center where the race was to start. Because of recent heavy rain part of the parking lot was a lake. Still there was enough parking and I had about an hour to kill. I stayed in my car until 20 minutes before the race started, went to a portapotty and then did a .6/mile warmup around the parking lot.
Unlike six days ago in Atlanta, it was fairly warm -- 38 degrees. So I didn't even need to use the throwaway painters jacket I received at the end of the Publix race. I just left everything I didn't need in the car and then went to the start line. The announcer had everyone sing the National Anthem -- I don't think I've ever experienced this in the probably 175 races I've done in my life -- and just like that the race started.
My goal for the race was to run at about 250 watts and this meant I had to slow a little on the first turn out of the civic center on Oglethorpe Boulevard. It also meant that I was chasing a small pack of people who were running way faster than I was, including Anna's friend Jessica. I paid that no mind and made sure that I kept my wattage in check on this first long hill. Mile 1 = 7:35.
As we ran the next few miles (Mile 2 7:29, Mile 3 7:22), I found myself still maybe 30 seconds behind Jessica's pack and way ahead of anybody else. I thought it would be prudent if I kept this lead pack in sight at least and let my power increase a little. Mile 4 = 7:12.
Just before Mile 4 we turned northward into the neighborhoods that would bisect the marathon route. During this time I could feel my left hamstring, it wasn't pain but it was definitely tight and I wouldn't have been surprised if I ended up pulling it and causing my half marathon effort to be done. But I decided to push ahead, especially when I realized I had caught up to this small group and had passed them.
I knew this northerly push would last to about Mile 7, where the route would push southeast toward the finish. About a half mile after Mile 5 (7:26) we turned on Dawson Road and this taller gray haired man passed me. He was running at too great of a clip for me to even consider catching up with him and I let him go. I was still a little worried about my hamstring but my effort felt pretty decent given my wattage goal and I just wanted to get to Mile 7 and assess how I was doing.
At Mile 6 (7:18) I took the first of my Salt Stick chewables. I reached Mile 7 in decent shape (7:20) and, having seen my split times to now, was really thinking if I just took it easy and didn't do anything rash I would have a PR on my hands. So that fed my thinking the next few miles (Mile 8 7:12, Mile 9 7:27).
At Mile 9 I reached in my waist belt and pulled out a caffeinated Spring gel. In the Publix race I didn't take any gels and I thought I really suffered the last few miles. So out came a gel and at Mile 10 (7:23) I started to get fairly excited. The second half of the course puts you through neighborhoods which are filled with turns and rolling hills. At times it felt disorienting, running at a fast pace and turning all the time. I took a second chewable at Mile 10 and noted my 10-mile split was maybe a minute above my 1:14:52 PR.
Mile 11 (7:17) flew by but just before Mile 12 (7:27) I felt a slight twinge in my right calf. This basically continued every quarter of a mile until the finish. I knew at Mile 13 (7:29) I was maybe three tenths of a mile off of what my watch said I had done and the official race distance, but I still hoped for the best.
I made the final turn for the finish and could see ... 1:39. I was a little deflated as I thought my splits had set me up for a massive PR and I worked to finish as quickly as I could, finishing in 1:39:27. My GPS said I'd run 13.5 miles (the last bit at a 6:59/mile pace) and my Strava also said I'd run nearly as far, 13.49 miles.
I'm not sure of the discrepancy, since the course was fairly compact given it was on small neighborhood roads and I'd even tried to run the tangents after passing the small pack in front of me at Mile 4 and definitely as I chased the older gentleman who passed me at Mile 5.5. The race was altered from its original course because of the flooding but since the marathon is a popular BQ race they made sure the alteration was recertified well before race day.
Jessica came running in 40 seconds behind me and I gave her a big high five at the finish. I'd thought she was the next finisher after me but it turned out two men finished in between. I received my race medal and a foil space blanket, which was helpful.
I wasn't sure if I'd placed or not so I waited around, my muscles getting pretty tight in the process. Finally there was a big line in front of the award table, so I waited my turn in line and meekly said, "I'm embarrassed to say I'm 49 and I'm not sure if I placed?"
But it turned out I did, good enough for second place in my age group. I might have placed anyway even if I had trouble or took it easier since third place was 1:47. I received a nice black fleece pullover with the race logo on it. I was happy for this as I immediately put it on and made the walk back to the parking lot. I made a mental note that if I ever ran this race again I'd park in the spaces in front of the civic center instead of behind, just a little farther to go.
Still, I was more than pleased having just run my second fastest half marathon (and two 1:39 halfs in 7 days) and being inspired for even better results in the future. It was such a well put-together race and one I guess I'll be happy having done for a while since now races for the time being have been canceled.
Time: 7 a.m.
Temp: 38 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Team BEEF), shorts, cep compression calf sleeves, Nike Zoom Vaporfly Flyknit 4%/B.