Labor Day weekend in Atlanta is always a busy weekend full of events that are tradition. There is Dragon Con and the Decatur Book Festival and apparently the Big Peach Sizzler is one as well. While I technically didn’t move to Atlanta until the weekend after Labor Day in 2006, I was here that weekend with a load of stuff in my first Atlanta neighborhood, Brookhaven. Ten years later who knew I would do packet pickup (on the site of my husband’s second home in Atlanta) in Brookhaven and run through Brookhaven for the race. We did packet pickup at the Brookhaven Big Peach store on the way to the Decatur Book Festival and I got the first glimpse of the awesome finisher medal. It was an extra purchase, but I’m all about the bling and the proceeds go to support Cystic Fibrosis research, so it’s win for everyone.
Race morning started bright and early at 5:30am which was rough because I had been out late for the Goo Goo Dolls concert the night before. Race start was 7:30 and one of my fellow mom runners warned me porta potties had long lines, so goal was to get to the Chamblee Marta station by 6:30. At 6:45 when I finally made it to the lot where all the pre-race stuff was, the lines were short, but when I came out, I was so glad I arrived early as the line had tripled in length. Pre-race, I ran into one of the runner dads from my husband’s dad group and we caught up in running stuff before the race began, including questioning people who start running before the timing line as we weren’t concerned with starting near the front. It’s one of those things I do to preserve energy because if there is a timing mat to cross, it doesn’t matter that I run until I hit that mat.
The race started with temps in the upper 60s which made it the coolest race I would run since May. Whenever possible, I review the course map elevation and this one didn’t seem like it didn’t have too many crazy hills. Aside from the first one on Peachtree and two others, one near the start of the Peachtree Road Race, which didn’t seem terrible when starting out in 80 degree weather, I went in mentally ready. Being my third 10k, I knew pacing myself would be important to keep going at a run all the way through as it would continue to warm up. As always, the start of the race can be crowded before everyone spreads out, so I tried not to get too caught up in that, but I also wanted to take advantage of the downhill as the worst hill in my mind would be that long steady uphill shortly after the turn on Peachtree and I did not want to have to walk that early. I figured the heat would catch up to me at some point, though, but I was hoping for it to be later rather than sooner.
As soon as I made the turn onto Peachtree, the glorious downhill was there, but I could see all of that first hill staring me down and looking super scary. That’s despite it not being anything close to Cardiac Hill. I decided to just aim to make it to segments in my head before I thought of walking and as I hit each segment and picked another point, my fresh legs kept going. Soon enough I made it up the hill and started going down some. And I hit mile 1 with RunKeeper saying I was at .98. What? RunKeeper wasn’t way off yet? It was actually better? And I was going under 14 minutes which was my goal pace for this race, although I was going to be happy with beating 1:30 in time? All I know was despite having my handheld water bottle, I was ready to see Lowes and water stop one around the curve. Water stops and a valid excuse to walk for a moment were my rewards for keeping up the run. If someone can tell me how they can drink from a cup without spilling while running, please let me know. The water stop volunteers had it together handing out cups and cheering us on.
I kept on chugging down Peachtree kind of amazed that I was running a route I drove a lot the first nine months I was in Atlanta because it was between my gym (how I miss Adrenaline Fitness) and home. I felt a little shocked by the rolling hills, but pushed my way through every single on of them. I had to weave a lot still as I passed people and was passed back the same people who were running different methods than me. My next goal point was my first home, the Post Glen Apartments, the next water stop which was around the halfway point. Soon I was passing the area where Big Peach was and I knew I was close.
When I made it there, it was surreal in a way to be grabbing water from a set up in the turn lane that I drove through so many times in the past. The volunteers there ended up being the most exuberant ones on the course. I was about halfway done and I didn’t have Cardiac Hill looming this time. I was feeling pretty awesome and I was still running. The crowds were thinning out, but I wasn’t hanging onto a 14 miles pace per RunKeeper. It was just under, but I was also hitting mile markers after RunKeeper said I was, so I knew I would have work ahead of me on the back half, where two challenging hills remained. There started to be less shade which makes a huge difference the hotter it is outside. It was in the stretch between Post Glen and Lenox that some idiot driver ended up in one of the blocked off lanes. That might have been the closest I’ve come to seeing why we sign waivers of dangers of road racing and it makes me happy I had my trekz titanium headphones, even though the driver was ahead of me. The poor course volunteer was screaming at him and saying she hoped he didn’t hit a runner.
Luckily as I made my way into Buckhead, taller buildings would give me back my shade. The last water stop was right before where I jumped into my corral for the Peachtree, so I knew what I had left and that the turn on Piedmont wasn’t that far. At least I was telling myself that as the legs were saying otherwise. I was starting to get tired out through there and I kept swapping places with the same runners, but I was determined to keep my pace up. But as I’m getting closer to passing Lenox Road, I see two runners held by the police so traffic could pass? What the heck? I was not enjoying that bit of a hill, but I don’t stop during races. I have walked, but I keep moving one foot in front of the other. I will admit that part of me was thinking that a forced stop might be good, but I told that part of me not to give up. Luckily as I got there, the officer stopped traffic again and I didn’t stop. I had made it through the worst mile although it didn’t feel like it at the time. RunKeeper confirmed that with a 14:26 pace mile five was the worst for me.
As miserably hot at the Peachtree was, that stretch from Lenox to Piedmont felt way worse in tired legs. I kept telling myself that I was down to the final minutes and a medal awaited. The turn to Piedmont felt like it was never gong to get there and I even walked for a few seconds before I told myself not to give up on that 14 minute mile pace and to push through just a few more minutes. I think the turn onto Piedmont was the happiest sight and I got my second wind. I could see the last road turn onto Lenox (for those not familiar with Atlanta, yes, that’s the same road with the cross stoppage issue, we did a square-ish thing) and downhill was involved, so I made the most of it. I haven’t quite figured out my end of 10k sprint, as the .2 is tougher to sprint than the 5k .1, but downhill, helped and then turning into Lenox, the last turn into the finish line seemed so close! And I managed to sprint past a few people and that motivated me to finish strong. I was so happy to be done knowing I shattered 1:30, but not sure by how much because when I finally remembered to turn off RunKeeper , it was over 1:28.
Official results later that day came in at 1:27:34, 3:13 better than the Peachtree. I attributed it to cooler weather and no Cardiac Hill, but a friend insisted it was an impressive improvement for only two months. I missed the 14 minute mile pace with a 14:06, but I will get that next time because I proved I can get close and it should be cooler in October. And as I was making my way in search of food after getting my medal, a lady came up to me saying she was trying to keep up with me until I took off near the end. I know I’m often motivated by other people on the course, and it as cool to know to was motivating another runner.
I managed to miss the place handing out burgers, which was probably for the best as I sometimes feel yucky after eating them, but I did not miss the Flying Biscuit tent for my biscuits. When I saw they were arace sponsor, I said I would run for biscuits. And they are in the medal ribbon and the kiddo recognized it, so I am doing something right. There were buses back to the start line that I hopped right on and soon I was back at my car. This was definitely a race that I could make tradition, unless the urge to go to Darlington for throwback weekend wins next year. I’ve been to Darlington, but the hubby and kiddo have not, so we shall see. If NASCAR doesn’t win, this race will see me back next year. And they better not stop me at Lenox and Peachtree!