Sleighbells on the Square 5k – Marietta, GA – 12/10/16

This race had been on my radar since last December when my gall bladder removal surgery took place two days prior.  Needless to say, I was ready for redemption of my first registered race I was unable to start.  I do have the t-shirt I paid for from last year, which was a long sleeve tech shirt.  This year’s race had a two day packet pickup with one day at Big Peach and the other day at Dick’s. Because I’m a fan of the local running store, I headed out on Thursday to Big Peach.  I was a bit bummed to only get my bib that day as t-shirts were being handed out after the race.  I understand that some races, such as the Peachtree, are known as being finisher shirts, but a small local 5k that has handed out shirts in the past in advance? I hate carrying extra stuff on race day, even if it’s just post race to my car.  I’m hoping it was just an issue with the shirt order.

Friday night prep was a little more time consuming than normal as bells on shoes were encouraged and I was going to be there with bells on!  Let’s just say I should have ziptied rather than just tying them in with flimsy string.  Race morning ended up feeling like 32 degrees so I was thrown right into the freezing weather. I planned to be there around 7:30, an hour before race time as I wasn’t sure how crowded parking would get close to the start line.  However I woke up around 4am with a terrible migraine that wasn’t quite gone after two doses of meds and a pitiful attempt at sleep, so I was going to have to throw some Coke at it necessitating a stop at Quik Trip.  I still made it by 7:45 and took in warmth (and real bathrooms!) at the Strand Theatre.  Around 8:20, I headed out and tried to line up far enough back that I wasn’t in the way for speedy folks, but even though I was nowhere near the very back, I still encountered walkers right at the start.  I understand and currently am a run-walk interval runner, but if you’re a pure walk, wait until runners go.

In the craziness of the start, I went a minute at a full run rather than my 30-30 intervals I would settle into.  Somewhere early on, I looked down to notice that one shoe was already missing bells.  Yep, zip ties would have been my friend.  Soon three lanes went into two lanes and then into one as we made a turn onto 120.  Wait, what?  For those unfamiliar with Atlanta, many races go through the process of becoming USATF certified so that runners can submit their results as a qualifying time for the Peachtree Road Race.  When you have 60,000 fellow runners, the faster you can run means the earlier you can start and avoid more of the heat.  At least that’s how I look at this.  Anyways, this race was advertised as a Peachtree qualifier, so I had looked up the certified course and based on that I was prepared for a course with nothing crazy in terms of hills.  When we turned onto 120, I was hoping it was just that we were doing the left turn a bit earlier and we would catch up with the course.

I continued on with my 30-30s, still having trouble getting a good run pace in as it’s very crowded in the single lane we have on 120 to run in and I realized that by the time I hit mile one that a PR was probably not going to happen. I was okay with that as my main goal is to get to my 15k and finish right now.  My ankle has not been the biggest fan of my running since getting back into it, but I’m determined to make it to January 22.  When we made another right turn onto Fairgrounds Street, I knew this course wasn’t going to be the one I thought I was running and upon seeing a massive hill, I may have said a bad word out loud.  Whoops.  30:30 intervals were maintained with the exception of one that I think I skipped.  And at the next turn, I should have cursed out loud again as a very steep hill loomed.  I gave up on attempting to even run 30 seconds on this hill and I even heard another runner say this was a different course than last year.  

There were a lot of up and down hills through here and I abandoned 30:30 for walk up and run down the hills.  I finally hit mile two almost past the Marietta National Cemetary (two races in a row mentioning a graveyard? bonus points?). There was some winding around downtown to get back to Cherokee Street going the wrong way.  I was so deflated by this race that it took a lot of talking to myself to get going when those run intervals came up.  It did not help the last part of the race was a slight uphill, but once I hit that mile theee sign on Cherokee, I tried to kick it into super speed, but there was nothing left.  I also realized I had not gotten a high five yet, cue more disappointment.  I passed another lady that we had been going back and forth in passing each other all race and I told her that she had this.  Then she took off and finished at super speed.  I may not have had it that day, but her finish made me smile.  

Final time was 41:12, my fourth worst running 5k, and worse time of 2016.  After grabbing water, Gatorade and snacks, which were plentiful considering how slow I was (yes, that wax positivity!), I decide to get my shirt before I forgot.  The shirt table was right next to the finish chute and it ended up being a bit of a cluster to get into line as people kept walking through the area and stopping.  This was exactly why I like getting my shirt ahead of time as I hate dealing with crowding.  I stretched and headed home to ice down the foot.  

While I loved the idea of running with bells, I’m not sure I’ll do this race again.  I dud ask why the course was different, but never received a response.  I know my next race will be better than this one.  I know it’s okay and there will be bad races.  I will be better prepared to handle adversity next time.  And I’m going to get my high five next time.  I have some more fun goals in 2017.

Have you had a bad race? What caused your race to not be so great?


(Photos courtesy of True Speed Photo – waving in mile three and trying to finish strong)

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