The Atlanta Women’s 5k is my first three-peat race of the same distance in my short running history, so I was super excited for this because I knew what a fun event this was to run. The Atlanta Track Club puts on this event that has been run through the Chastain Park neighborhoods each year that I’ve run it, but the course start/finish moved from the amphitheater area to Sutton Middle School in 2016. This would end up being my first attempt at a repeat course for 2017 and for this race as a result of the changes. One of my 2017 goals is to PR a repeat course and given how hilly this course could be, I was fine making it a goal as an overall 5k PR probably would be unlikely. I’ve been pushing harder on pace lately, but I certainly did not have enough time to make a big enough dent in that quite yet.
I love this women’s only event because there is so much encouragement and support. I’m so proud of all the women who are out there, especially the first timers. A mile is a mile no matter the pace, after all.
Early packet pickup was at West Stride, so I ended up there on Thursday just ahead of lunch time. There were a couple of things I wanted to check out, including their new “this girl is on fire” shirt. I kept thinking I was going to try to walk out without a purchase, but that was not realistic. The Mizuno capris I liked on an Instagram post was 25% off and the new shirts were in my size. I also tried on a pair of Oofos recovery shoes after I had heard good things about them. The cushion for recovery felt nothing short of amazing and I was looking forward to trying these post race.
Race morning started just after 5am as the recommended arrival time is 6:30 as parking is scarce. When the Atlanta Track Club says arrive by a certain time, they know best. Because my dog woke me up earlier than my alarm, I rolled into the parking lot at 6:08 and didn’t deal with a any traffic. I went to scout out the race area and Coach Amy was already out giving encouragement and complimented my skirt. I ended up back at my car with a ton of time to kill and got some reading in. I was getting close to finishing my book and was very sucked in, but I still didn’t finish before I had to head over to the start line. Oh the conflict between my reader and runner selves.
I ended up making my last trip to the porta potties in plenty of time and I got to participate in the pre-race warm up. Not accidentally hitting your neighbor was stressed a lot and it was a fun warm up. I’ll admit I was super nervous as I knew a course PR was doable, despite temps being about 10 degrees hotter this year. I knew what I was capable of, but I had to make sure I didn’t go out too fast. Once I got to corral C, I chatted with some of the ladies around us and let them know some tips on the course. I think the talk of hills scared them, so I reminded them that finishing was the most important thing and to think of the bling awaiting them. Lots of compliments on shirts, tutus, skirts and other apparel were flowing from all the ladies.
Soon, it was go time and we were off. This course has a good half mile downhill at the start and I reminded myself to hold back a little for the uphills that would follow, but I don’t think I held back enough. Since I’ve been doing intervals, I’ve pushed through the first walk interval with a run to avoid being someone clogging things up or slowing down suddenly in front of someone. It felt easy to get through 2 minutes and 15 seconds (yay!) and then I settled into a good pattern for the hills. I even felt like we were catching up to the tail end of corral B. As every race hits tough uphills, you see a lot of the runners slow to a walk and it gets a lot more crowded on the hills. I persisted on the intervals running uphill despite a slower pace. My race plan is to try to take advantage of downhills if I’m not needing the recovery. Soon we were turning off Powers Ferry into the first neighborhood stretch.
I was glad to be an interval runner unlike last year where I ran the entire thing with no walk breaks. I remember last year being ready to give up on running by the first water stop and as I passed mile 1 on pace for the course PR, I was excited to see the water stop and I felt much stronger. I think I went out a little too fast and I was just hoping I had enough energy to keep it up. I took advantage of the very long downhill and soon the turn onto Northside was there. I grabbed a high five as I was really starting to wonder if I had it in me, especially as a long, steady hill awaited.
It was not easy, y’all, but I pushed through all the run intervals going up Northside. It was tough as it was a long hill and we were limited to one lane and sometimes I had to jump outside the cone to pass runners. I felt terrible as the volunteers kept shouting to stay within the cones, but I promise I was looking before going outside the cones. I wasn’t going to let the crowded lane stop me from a course PR. When I saw the mile 2 sign, I was still on track for the course PR and I was feeling tired, but I was determined to keep pushing hard.
I was never so happy to see the turn onto Conway and the downhill followed by a slight uphill and then the last road turn onto Jett with more downhill. This was when volunteers started shouting two blocks to go. Sure, two long blocks, but I could see the mile three sign up the hill. Keyword being up. I told myself it was time to just keep running and I did. I still say this hill is the hardest because you know you are so close and want to push the pace. I know I was questioning if I could keep going, but somehow I kept my legs moving as fast as I could and I just had the last tiny uphill into the school parking lot and I knew it was flat to the finish after that. Somehow I have a smile on my face in the race pics, although I now know my arms have to go up sooner when I cross the finish line.
Before I even saw my official time, I knew I had a course PR based on where RunKeeper was. My official time was 15 seconds faster than last year! This is proof that intervals do not slow you down and you can run just as fast, if not faster. After getting water, a banana and some fruit filled applesauce, I found a spot to cool down some before getting in the super long line for mimosas, er, sparkling orange juice. What a great treat to have post race. After the long wait, I ended up heading to West Stride for their post race party (donuts and mimosas, yes please) and ended up getting the commemorative flute there that they no longer had at the race. I loved seeing lots of happy ladies shopping one of my favorite stores. I highly recommend this race and I’m looking forward to doing this one again next year.
What race do you love for the camaraderie?