I had been struggling to choose an April race this year since last year I had a Disney race for April. I was also going to be out of town for a weekend and once I found out my original mud run had been cancelled, I quickly scheduled another mud run that took up yet another weekend in April. Given that I loved the post race mimosas at the women’s 5k, it only made sense to sign up for a 5k with mimosa in the race name. Early race week, I signed up and planned race day bib pick up until they extended it a day. Pickup was at Phidippidies, the running store founded by Olympian Jeff Galloway. This would save time on race day as I was stressing the parking situation. The shirt was super nice as it was a rare no-ad shirt. I get that race sponsors needs to be recognized and the t-shirt is a great way to do it, but I kinda like my ad free shirt.
I took the day off before race day to spend a day of Spring Break with the family and woke up with miserable sinus congestion, including a weird feeling of fluid stuck in my ear. The weather had turned significantly colder as well, so we stayed inside and kept it low key the day before race day. On race morning, I headed down to Piedmont Park hoping to get there by 7am to find Parkin and scope everything out. I was able to get free street parking about a ten minute walk from the start area and despite the super chilly morning (upper 30s, low 40s), I ventured out in search of a pre-race pit stop. I ended up taking advantage of the self cleaning toilet at Piedmont Park as I didn’t see much else in the way of options and headed back to the car for warmth. I was thankful I chose to wear my fleece lined pants since I knew part of the course should be shady.
When I made my way back to the start, there were long lines at the self cleaning bathroom, so I went to look for porta potties and couldn’t find any nearby. Uh, okay. I’m not cool with no nearby porta potties. I am sure they existed with the Dogwood Festival, but I was not looking in the right place. It was about ten minutes to the start and there were volunteers holding pace signs to get people sorted out correctly and I lined up in the last group that had a pace which was ahead of walkers. The big issue is we were all on the sidewalk with about ten minutes to go as it seemed like the road was still wide open. Slowly we started moving into the bike lane, which is separated by pylons which makes lane changes a bit weird in a race.
The race didn’t start on time for the first folks in line by the time we squeezed through the timing overhang and I started RunKeeper, I started at 8:12am. It was unnecessarily crowded squeezing to start in one lane, but we had the one car traffic lane heading toward Piedmont, once you dodged the pylons. It made intervals tricky as I was trying to get more to the left. I knew this part of the race was going to be tough as the first mile was predominantly uphill going up 10th opposite way of the Peachtree Road Race finish. Before we got too far down 10th, we were forced to crowd back into the bike lane. I don’t even think it was a half mile in. Luckily for me, I decided to use the crowding to keep myself from going too fast too soon. I wasn’t feeling great still and I knew there was a lot of uphill left before I could get some straight downhill running in. Eventually I settled in ahead of the mile one mark and took advantage of the sidewalk as the one lane was still too crowded to pass easily on my run intervals. Sign of the race was spotted in this section: “Dig deep, like a kid going for a booger.”
I was never so happy to see the edge of Botanical Gardens as it meant the first mile was nearby. What scared me was I mis-read RunKeeper at being over 14:30. I knew I was dealing with uphills, crowding and sinus crud, but that was terrible. I think I was closer to 14 minutes, though. Thankfully the long downhill was ahead of me and I took advantage of that and ran through a bunch of walk intervals. I made great time because of that section (Runkeeper mile 2 split was 11:59!!) and despite seeing more rolling hills as I made the turn onto Monroe, I was feeling great at the mile two marker.
I eventually took advantage of the sidewalk again until I got to where I was mostly in my own as I pushed myself on my intervals. I’ve been pushing harder in training on the last mile, so it was time to put it in race use. I was thrilled when I finally saw Park Tavern come into view as that meant the turn into 10th was close and a downhill awaited. This race was set up to be evil with an uphill start and a mostly uphill finish as there was a pretty long uphill before the turn into the park. I took one last walk intervals as I looked for a mile three sign (that I never saw) and seeing how close the park entrance was, I kicked it up a notch to finish strong. Huge thanks to the person cheering me to run during that walk break as I needed it. I turned and it still felt like a good distance in, but I passed under the timing arch and hit stop on Runkeeper. It read 39:05, which shocked me since I was convinced I would not get under 40 minutes after that first mile and was close to my best 5k of this year run on a flatter course.
I saw runners getting checked for chip times and I was curious if mine was slightly better than RunKeeper. This is when I realized something very terrible happened, as I was shown a chip and gun time of 45:58. I mentioned starting pretty far back with the sign for my pace, so there was no way my chip time was the same as gun time. While I figured this was a temporary error, I proceeded to the post race area to get a banana, electrolyte drink and mimosa. I feared long lines for the mimosas, but they were ready and fully stocked. After my mimosa and banana, I went back to ask if the chip time was an error that would be fixed as this race was touted as a Peachtree Qualifier and I was very close to my fastest 5k of the year. I was told that sometimes the congestion causes chips to be missed.
Congestion causes chips to be missed? Maybe if we weren’t crammed into one lane, perhaps it would have worked. I admit I was not very happy, but I waited for official results before I posted my 39:05 on social media later that day. I realized that of all my chip timed races, this was the first using Innovative Timing Systems with a chip reader at the start. The other race I did before that did not have a start reader. So, while I’ve clearly had no issues with other timing systems, this was an issue for me. After the congestion excuse, I went through the finishers and excluding the first couple of pages for super speedy runners who probably were among the first to start, I counted a total of 90 chip failures from 1,169 finishers making that a 7.7% failure rate. That would be the equivalent of 4,620 Peachtree runners with incorrect times.
Needless to say, I am still super proud of the actual time I ran given that I was sick on top of the hillier course from February. My efforts are clearly paying off. I’m just not going to be running any races this company does as the congestion excuse should not be the answer. I’m lucky that I have a fairly close time should I need to use it for a Peachtree qualifying time, but I feel terrible if those other 89 people ran a super great time all to be cancelled out by the timing fail.