My trip to Atlanta for the Georgia Marathon got off to a rough start as I overslept my 4:30am alarm by a solid hour, making a real question of whether I’d make my 7am flight. I threw on whatever clothes were nearest, grabbed my bag and without taking time to think twice was out the door & driving to the airport. I got lucky with traffic, with the parking shuttle and TSA stuff and though my flight had boarded by the time I got to the empty gate I was still able to get on & head on down south.
From Hartsfield I went straight to the expo at the Georgia World Congress Center. I got my number, grabbed the obligatory samples, browsed the racing baubles but couldn’t find a hat I liked. The most interesting thing about the expo was speaking with an ultramarathoner named Joe Fejes at the USATF booth. He was pitching a dome race he’s putting together in Anchorage in August – Six Days in the Dome. If six days are too much for you, there’s also 48 and 24 hour races available, all on a 1/4 mile track. I’m getting dizzy just thinking about it. If I make it to Alaska, it’ll be for Moose’s Tooth.
The rest of the pre-race day was spent at the Georgia Aquarium (pretty awesome) and managing the logistics of pre-race food. The place I chose for lunch ended up hosting a furry convention at the same time. I’d like to think I’m not judgmental about people’s preferences, but it does takes some getting used to all the tails being wagged about.
Race morning, no problem getting up at 4am. I was staying at the Atlanta Hilton, at worst a 15 minute walk from the start. Not bad, but up and over a sizable hill. I accidentally packed creamy peanut butter. :/ Nobody likes creamy peanut butter.
Race conditions – it was fairly warm, maybe 59 degrees? I checked my phone and jacket at the gear bag drop and didn’t miss them as I waited in the corral. Nice, to be this warm, but more humid than I’m used to.
I was in Corral B, which was pretty much at the front. In retrospect, I probably should have been back a bit, given how many people passed me. Most of the people around me seemed to be half runners – this half was taken seriously, it was some sort of regional championship.
Start: The thing that strikes immediately is the start is up a hill. This wasn’t an anomaly – the entire course was up down up down. At some point I thought to myself that 90% of the course had been uphill. Within the first mile we were running down a street by Georgia State University in a shower of these little white flower petals – coming from still frozen Mass this is lovely. There are several of these petal showers along the course.
Mile 4: The course runs past the MLK Center for Non-violent Social Change.
Mile 6: The Carter Center is here. Very attractive area near this part of the course. Maybe I just like it because it’s downhill.
Mile 7: The half marathoners split off here. This is one of those races where that’s the bulk of the field, leaving a lonely stream of marathoners for the rest of the morning. We run through Little Five Points, which you can tell without any prior information is a cool neighborhood.
Mile 8.2: My favorite sign along the race course was here in some place called Candler Park – it says something like “No Trespassing, No Jogging, No Dogs!” Fortunately we don’t jog, we run. I don’t even know any joggers!
Mile 10: I snag a ziploc bag of gummi bears from a family of three (the father says “your wel-come dude” in an awesome stoner way). This is excellent race food, though my mouth is dry and I have a hard time with them, breathing in some bear bits. I’m not entirely unconvinced there’s not a gummi bear tree growing in my lungs right now.
Mile 12: The course passes Agnes Scott, a private women’s college. I was a little confused with a sign along that part that said something like “smart girls are hot”. I don’t disagree with that sentiment, exactly, I’m just not sure that it’s a joke that needs to be made right outside a women’s school. Maybe I’m humorless.
Mile 13.1: I’m four minutes behind last week (1:48:35, an 8:17 split).
Mile 15: In to the Emory campus here.
Mile 17: Oreo station. I get mine from a little girl wearing a white tutu. Super cute. This neighborhood (Druid Hills) is absolutely gorgeous, apparently they filmed Driving Miss Daisy here. The homes here are massive, impossibly large by even Brookline or Newton standards. In one front yard I see two young girls romping with friggin ponies. I’m too stunned to get a photo. Plus there are giant hills to worry about, and I’m struggling. My pace here is starting to slip from the respectable (mile 16: 8:21) to the less so but let’s just finish this dang thing (mile 19: 9:12).
Mile 19: Light rain starts here. I’m happy for it. The next few miles a bit of a blur as I’m totally out of steam, a solid hour too early. No number of gummi bears is going to bring me back.
Mile 22: Into Piedmont Park – we’re heading back downtown and there are nice views of the Atlanta skyline here though my only photo is crappy. Small out and back here so I get to see that there are actually people behind me.
Mile 24: On to Georgia Tech’s campus. They have a giant inflatable Yellow Jacket. I am dead and more dead. The cheerers here are enthusiastic which is a good thing, as I am not. They will have to be cheerful enough for the both of us.
Finish: I come across the line just under my mid-race hastily arrived at goal of 3:50 – 3:49:40. This is an 8:45 split, which feels infinitely slow after last week’s 3:34 effort in North Carolina but in reality it’s just about what I ran at Marine Corps last fall, a very similar-feeling race. Final place is 277th among 1629 finishers, 17%.
After the race I was feeling bad, much worse than last week despite the slower time. I can tell I’m way more dehydrated than I should be, and not to get too graphic but I briefly wonder if I’m having a rhabdomyolysis issue (I wasn’t). I grab my jacket & a food bag and limp my way back to the hotel to shower/rehydrate (by the time I get there I’m freezing, and glad that I somehow packed my gloves). I only have one hour to get stuff together and find the train to the airport, which is just not enough time for the amount of energy it requires. I’m not cutting things this close in the future.
Speaking of the future. This was my fifth marathon of the year, and I’m feeling a little burnt on it. Maybe it’s just because I was sick after, but I’m glad to have a break in my schedule. Not necessarily from running, but definitely from this distance. I have two ultras already booked (4/26 & 6/7) but those are on trails, low key, no travel required. For the rest of the summer I think I’ll stick with halves and shorter. I’m in the NYC Marathon lottery next Wednesday and if I don’t get into that maybe I’ll register to run the Rhode Island half marathon triple crown series with YJP. I want to improve my speed before the fall, and I think shorter and faster races are a good way to do that.
So – my next marathon will be on 9/13/14 just outside Salt Lake City. Go big, Big Cottonwood, kicking off my western expedition plan that will also include a stop in Boulder. Hopefully I’ll have more life in my legs for those two then than I did today.
Song of the week, Wait So Long by Trampled by Turtles.