|This half marathon included a free pour at the end of the race.|
This one was no different. It falls about a month before the Oct. 9 Bank of America Chicago Marathon. You could look at it as a good tune-up before the big race or maybe a race that is extraneous to my training.
I felt like the March 21 Publix Georgia Half Marathon took a long time for me to recover and I really suffered during the Ukrops Monument Avenue 10K the next month.
Anyway, what it came down to was ... reimbursement. I figured I would don the cherry red shirt of Team Beef representing the Georgia Beef Board for this race. That shirt has been extremely good to me, giving me long-sought PRs in the 5K and half marathon.
I told myself it would be just a training run (although I wisely skipped Thursday's 9-mile tempo run as is advised by the Hansons Marathon Method for a weekend race) and wondered if I would even break 2 hours.
I left home at about 6:45 and figured I would just park at Grant Park and have enough time for the 7:30 a.m. race. When I got to the parking lot by Boulevard I was surprised to see it completely full. Half of the lot was blocked off and unusable, so I had to find street parking just before Mile 13 of the race along the park.
It was fine because it wasn't a far walk to the starting area. I saw two other runners wearing Team Beef gear and I got ready to run. I brought what I usually bring out for training runs here in the hot summer -- an extra shirt wrapped up in a bag, one GU gel, and a towel (the only thing I actually used in this race).
The race didn't start at 7:30 a.m. -- the announcer gave us some course notes including that we would be running down the middle of the suicide lane along DeKalb Avenue and also for us to not make any turns along Virginia Avenue (where the Legal Runaround 5K would be running).
When the race started off I basically just ambled along, not really knowing what pace I would run at. I ran the first mile in 8:49 and it felt fine to me.
After Mile 2 when we turned onto DeKalb Avenue, I felt extremely good. I was basically just cruising along, in the suicide lane, and really was running in step with some guy to my right. It felt like a training run.
After Mile 4 he surprised me by taking off down the incline along the neighborhood leading to Inman Park. I didn't follow, choosing to run at my own pace but ended up passing him along the huge hill up North Highland Avenue after turning from Elizabeth Street.
Down Elizabeth Street a short blonde woman had also passed me but I caught up to her near the water station. I was on the right and was pinned in by her since she was on the left. I wasn't going to take water but I also was not able to immediately get around her. At the last moment she moved to try to get into the water and although I was wearing my headphones, I clearly heard her say "Excuse you" to me, which I thought was odd.
So I passed her too and went up toward Boulevard.
At Boulevard I assumed we would just take the PATH trail back to North Highland Avenue. But we actually rode a lane of Freedom Parkway. It was a downhill stretch and I thought those two people I passed would pass me back but I didn't see either of them the rest of the race.
I continued down to the North Highland Avenue intersection and was going at a good clip, 7:37 for Mile 7.
I'd been looking forward to running in the neighborhood, since it really makes me feel at home. It also is pretty much downhill. Right before the Virginia-Highland triangle I saw a familiar neon yellow shirt -- it was Frank from Running for the second half of my life who was on a marathon training run with the Atlanta Track Club. It was nice to see someone I know on the race course and I felt like I was flying by -- Mile 8 here was 7:36.
On Virginia Avenue you could see on either side of the road near John Howell Park people mulling about in the other race. I wondered if the announcer delayed our race a little bit to hopefully ease some congestion.
I continued down the road, catching up with another middle-aged runner who had taken his shirt off but then put it back on. I passed him briefly before entering the Eastside Beltline Trail but he and another runner passed me going up it.
The Beltline is not really my favorite place to run a race. From north to south it is on an uphill incline, not too much, but enough that I think it gets into my head. Plus there were lots of regular runners, walkers and cyclists coming at you and I felt myself slowing. I'd just eaten a Cliff gel that they gave out at Mile 9 (7:31) and I made the mistake of drinking water first at the aid station and then consuming the gel.
Plus I didn't know where to put it, so I just crammed it into my waist pack. I ran Mile 10 in 8 minutes and was just hoping to get out of the Beltline without being passed. Mile 11 was 8:13 and I was wondering what rate I'd have to go to make a PR.
I was happy to finally exit the Beltline but the roads after it were hilly. I felt like I kept pushing and Mile 12 came at an 8:04 pace. Here I knew I would just have to hold on for a little bit longer.
Right before Mile 13 was a pretty big hill and then it was pretty much downhill alongside Grant Park. I knew the finish was close ... but where? I logged Mile 13 in 7:45.
When I entered the park I sped up. The end includes a 90-degree turn to the left, where you have to look over your left shoulder just to see the road ahead. I finally had the guy who passed me back on the Beltline in my sights (he had a 20-plus second lead on me on the Beltline) and when he turned I told him to kick it. I finished just a second behind him for 1:43:43, which is my second fastest half marathon time, just a minute slower than the 1:42:40 I ran in the Publix Georgia Half Marathon in March. (The last .22 mile on my watch was run at a 6:38/mile pace).
I drank a lot of nuun water after the finish and decided to get my complimentary draft beer before making my way back to the car.
I was extremely pleased with this race. It was hilly but it also gave me good confidence going into the marathon. I should have known I could not run slow ever in a race.
Time: 7:36 a.m.
Temp: 72 degrees
Gear: Technical T-shirt, short (Team BEEF), shorts, Headsweats visor, cep compression socks. Saucony Zealot ISO 2.