This has been a much hotter summer than last summer and it has been rough running at times. I came into this race excited for a summer 5k that I should be able to break 40 minutes, but the weather looked like it would feel like the 80s at the start, so I had some doubts. I got to the race early, found my friend and we ended up at the start line a few minutes before the start. Being that it was so warm and I likely didn’t hydrate enough after the outdoor Richard Marx show the night before, my handheld water bottle was along for the race.
Much like last year, the the start seemed sudden and we were soon in the crowd barreling down the steep hill on Mt Wilkinson. I was definitely trying to pace myself yet take advantage of a good half mile downhill to start, but it’s tough in the crowd. By pacing myself, I was preparing for the uphill on Cumberland. To me it’s the worst hill on the course. And while I know I made it a lot further before walking this year, I still had to walk. As soon as semi flat road re-appeared, I was off and running again and soon mile 1 was done at around 12:30, which is crazy fast for me in the summer. Mile two is the toughest mile of this race as there aren’t significant downhills in this mile of the race. I was able to keep chugging as we passed the Cumberland Mall taking Akers Mill out to Cobb Parkway. I just reminded myself to keep pushing up that hill on Akers Mill as a small downhill was there at Cobb Parkway.
Finally the last big hill, in my opinion, because it’s steep, loomed as did the water stop. Now, you will remember I mentioned having my handheld water bottle with me. It was a good thing because I stopped at the water table and the few cups out had no water in them! I finally gave up after the person at the table had to open a new bottle of water and was having trouble. My friend, who I had just passed before the water stop, ended up telling me that she got barely a sip of water by the time she was able to get water. This is not acceptable! We were not walkers, so I know we were not the slowest on the course. I know other groups may have more people experienced with water stops, but for a race of less than 1,500 people, water should be ready to go even if we were the ,1000th people. I’m just so glad I had my water with me as I never would have made it on such a hot day with as little water as my friend got.
But back to the run, I took off wondering how much time I wasted and took that last bit of hill pretty fast. And then the long downhill was there along with the start of mile three. Last year I remembered looking down and seeing I was running in the nine minute mile pace on this hill. I also felt like I was mostly by myself at this point last year. Not so this year as I started passing people feelin like I was flying by them, but knowing there was still a good 3/4 of a mile left after the downhill, I paced myself to only run a ten minute mile pace down the hill. I was feeling the heat of the morning, but the thought of a course PR kept me going, but I finally gave in for a quick walk break after crossing the Chatahoochee on the small hill before turning into the Lovett School. The finish line was getting closer.
That entrance felt longer this year, but I was ready for the turn and the little steep burst that awaited. I hoped to get that over and finish with some semblance of a sprint. I kept my legs going even though I knew a PR wasn’t going to happen, but I knew I could best last year’s time. Boom – 38:04, a full 1:11 second improvement over 2015. Not too shabby for thinking the heat was going to slow me down. It was one of those races I needed as I am improving despite having some runs before that, and since then, that have been far from spectacular.
My friend finished not too far behind and she finally got her much needed bottle of water. I took her advice and walked back to the finish party rather than taking a bus back like I did last year. I ended up getting a sweaty selfie with the Chatahoochee as a background, so it was worth it. When we finally got to the post race area, the one for more water and a banana was insane, so we found a place with jolly ranchers and granola bars as all other food seemed to be gone from other sponsors. It was disappointing considering how awesome the post race party was in 2015. We hiked up the Overlook Parkway hill back to our cars, and according to her Garmin we climbed 16 stories!
Despite the disappointments of water and the post race party, I was ecstatic with a super fast run and a much faster run than last year. This race proved I am getting stronger and I will keep getting better.