It’s time to recap one of my favorite races of the year. The fun officially began on Sunday July 2 with Expo. I woke up feeling pretty run down, thought it was work stress related, but seemed to feel better once I started heading to the Georgia World Congress Center. I had planned for a couple hours of Expo exploring before my volunteer shift as a greeter for the close of day one. Before I even got into Expo, one of the coolest things was the wall of names with everyone’s name. I found myself relatively quickly, despite a pretty crowded wall, and headed inside as bib pickup was my number one priority.
After a short wait at my bib number station, it was time to head into the main expo floor madness. I signed the very full #whyipeachtree wall. I successfully avoided being sucked into the race merch on my way to pick up my Whole Foods bag (not as awesome as last year’s bag, but it is still cool) and my medal. Peachtree medals are an additional cost and I assume we pick them up at Expo due to the craziness that already exists in Piedmont Park, as that would be one more place to stop in the post-race insanity. I knew Expo was going to be a little bit of savings compared to last year with no Sweaty Bands or Sparkle Athletic there, but One More Mile and some new vendors to me sucked me in.
I love One More Mile for their slogan shirts and one day I will get the “I run because it’s good for me, also…because I like to eat and drink a lot” but I did get “give a girl the right pair of shoes & she can conquer the world!” I avoided magnets simply because I have a magnet issues between my car and fridge. And then new vendors sucked me in. I’ve been fiercely loyal to Sweaty Bands, but I bought a recent band on clearance at West Stride that has the same feel as a sweaty Band, so I know it’s more the style that works. One Up Bands had NCAA headbands and I finally got a Florida Gators headband. I also made my first Sparkly Soul purchase with a red and white striped sparkly band with blue bow with white stars. After I visited the Hot Chocolate booth and got a discount on my registration (15k number two in January 2018!), it was almost time to get ready for the volunteer segment of the day. On the way out, I got to see the Kilometer Kids Charity Chase where Team Stars and Team Stripes spent 48 hours on treadmills to raise money for Kilometer Kids.
After walking out with all my goodies, I checked in for my volunteer shift so I could change into my shirt and made a quick trip out to the car to drop things off. This is the first time I’ve had a chance to volunteer with the Atlanta Track Club and I was excited to give back to the running community. I was also super impressed with how well the Atlanta Track Club treats their volunteers. I’m not surprised because I know there are a lot of volunteers who have volunteered for a long time, but for a first timer, I was super impressed. Not only was our parking paid for, everyone got a nice Mizuno t-shirt, a pin and a Waffle House discount card. Not only did we have a shirt to wear, but we also had a lanyard that had our duties and years of service on it. The lesson I learned is to sign up early. By the time I definitely knew I had the free time, Expo positions were not available. Due to working on the 3rd, I had to hope for a cancellation on the 2nd. A little over a week out, after checking constantly for a few weeks, a position opened up for a greeter and I snapped it up.
My Expo purchase and my volunteer goodies.
What exactly does a greeter do? During my shift, I helped make sure people entering the Expo knew to have their runner confirmation and ID available, and I also assisted those that didn’t know their bib number, how the set up was or directing people to those that could solve their issues. And when they say Expo closes at 7pm, they mean 7pm as the doors were lowered halfway. We had to reassure a late comer getting her bib looked up off to the side that she wasn’t getting locked out. The time flew by as I helped runners and shared stories with my fellow volunteers. I’m looking forward to helping out with the 10 Miler and Thanksgiving Half and I have August 15 on my calendar for sign up. On the way out, I made use of the quiet Expo to get a few better pictures than on the way in.
Quiet and not so quiet Expo.
After a long day of work on Monday that also included a consult with a new doctor, (where my temperature was recorded at 99.1 and they called it a low grade fever, but I brushed it off as stress much like I did on Expo day). New to the flat runner were my carry a bead for Beads of Courage. Beads of Courage is an organization that gives kids going through tough medical procedures beads each time they face something tough and the carry a bead program allows for an additional story in addition to a super cool looking bead. My beads had green and ended up matching my bib, so I no longer worried that my bead didn’t fit the patriotic them. I laid out the rest of my flat runner, packed what I needed in my bag and set the alarm for 5am. Unfortunately I had a terrible time falling asleep and did not wake up feeling well rested.
Flat Reca with the emphasis on my beads of courage!
Since I was coming from home this year, the red line is closest to my house and I parked at the Dunwoody station planning to take Marta to the Buckhead station. My hubby saved me by actually having a new Marta card as the old one I had was phased out. I was able to add my trips online and not have to wait in line at the Marta station. I arrived at the Dunwoody station by 6:15, a (not crowded, especially for the third stop) train arrived as I walked up the steps and I was in Buckhead before 6:30. The Atlanta Track Club actually does not recommend arrival at Buckhead due to the limited area to walk to the start. But, because it was prior to the wheelchair start at 6:43, it was not a crowded walk and if you have to arrive at Buckhead, I’d do it early like me.
The walk to Lenox Mall was easy and soon there were porta potties in sight, as I was doing too good job of hydrating for the humid, red flag conditions. I was able to snap a few photos of the flag at the start, but things started going wrong after I visited the porta potties. After I stepped out of the porta potty, my heart starting racing and not in a good way. I’ve had this happen to me twice in the past, one of which was when I was fighting off an infection that I kept trying to push through because of work (uh, clearly I haven’t learned from that lesson) and another morning in May, where I wisely took the day off work. I slowly walked across the Lenox Mall parking lot and found a spot to sit down and try to relax. I already suffer from anxiety as it is, so that is not as easy as it sounds, especially given that my anxiety levels had been through the roof. I had an 8 ounce water bottle that I had frozen overnight, so I was taking small sips off what had melted as my handheld was Nuun that I had planned on using to supplement the course water. After a bit, the heart rate slowed down enough that I felt I could try to make a move closer to my corral.
Pre-Peachtree before I felt like crap.
I took another slow walk and ended up finding a spot to sit near the porta potties on Roxboro Road as I still had an hour before my wave was due to go out. I knew that I could get additional water up the hill from where I was sitting and I was close to my corral. At this point, I was feeling pretty rough and I started considering giving up and going home. Yes, I’ll admit that I felt that defeated. I told myself to keep trying and after one last porta potty stop, I grabbed a bunch of water and headed back to my corral. I sat on the curb there as well and wasn’t feeling much better, but since I was already there, I figured I had to at least try to walk the course because I didn’t want to tell my beads of courage kid I gave up, and I wasn’t wanting to give up on the Triple Peach on the first Peach of the series. I also wanted the finisher shirt! I also knew that the course support was pretty amazing and that I wouldn’t be the only one walking. Given I was starting at 8:20, I knew I had close to three hours to finish the course.
I decided it was worth a try and I turned off my intervals on Runkeeper and decided to just do what I could. I worried more about clogging up the start as I was on the left side for more shade and I tried to let as many people walk ahead of me as we got closer to the start. A bit of pre-race adrenaline finally kicked in and I ran (slowly and with the crowd) for a minute or so to get out of the initial crowd. I then slowed to a walk and just tried to stay out of the way as it felt like all of Corral L passed me. I’m not the fastest runner out there, but I’m usually not walking that long at the start, so I was feeling defeated and not worth the small cheering sections as it was an empty road with few runners for a few minutes. And then it got crowded again once M started and caught up to me.
Soon Piedmont Road was in sight and I was feeling like this was going to be possible. I knew the cheering sections would pick up and I knew the water station at mile 1 would be a big help. As did the freedom sticks, aka Twizzlers, that some people were handing out. I knew I wasn’t going to worry about stomach issues since I was walking, so I took one of my favorites. I got a cup of water at Trader Joes, ahead of the first water stop, and realized I drank a lot of water without sweating too much, so I was going to have to make a pit stop. I spent a good five minutes for the potty break, but got some much needed encouragement from those in line with me. The man behind me asked how I was doing and when I said I wasn’t feeling so great overall, but better than when I started, he reminded me it was okay to be walking and to just have fun with it and to let the downhills help me.
And that I did. I high fived a lot of kids, and some adults, too. I powered up on two different signs that read “touch here to power up”. I told the guy who took a beer at the start of Cardiac Hill that the beer was going to give him super powers to get up the hill. I went through a lot of sprinklers. I celebrated at each mile marker I passed. I thought that because I was walking, I wouldn’t feel so hot (oh yeah, low grade fever that I blew off as nothing was in effect), so I took a bottle of water from a random stranger that allowed me to start dumping water on my head starting with the water stop at mile three. I even ran a few chunks of the downhill in the first half of the race. Even with the potty break, I was just under an hour at the 5k split. At that point, I felt like two hours was doable, even with the hills that loomed.
I was reminded that I was pretty lucky to have two functioning legs when I passed the Shepherd Center near the top of Cardiac Hill. I may have been feeling terrible, but I was still out there doing what I could. I still may have cursed each small uphill that remained after Cardiac Hill. I started taking ice chunks from random strangers and putting it on the back of my neck or down my sports bra. I was thrilled when I crossed the I-85 bridge and I was even more thrilled when I could count down the turn on 10th Street once I hit street numbers. I may have danced and even brought out my tiny Whitney Houston when I passed an area playing “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” One of my favorite singers, Matt Nathanson, says everyone has a tiny Whitney inside of them. I told the motivational ass slaps sign holder he had the best sign ever, but I politely declined an ass slap as a happily married woman.
The cheers definitely get louder the closer to 10th Street you get. Or maybe it was my head knowing I was down to the last mile and I was actually going to finish this thing. I saw finisher t-shirts and told those wearing them that they needed a “spoiler alert” sign. I was just glad the design was not the one I hated. Adrenaline kicked in and I started to run down the hill after the turn on 10th Street. I got to see that Atlanta indeed has rainbow crosswalks at Piedmont and 10th and running across them was another highlight of the race for me. Not only do they look pretty, they show support for friends. And there is still one last uphill after passing Piedmont. Once I got to the top of the hill, I knew it was a gradual downhill the rest of the way and I kicked it up and began to run to the finish. There were a lot of walkers to weave through, but I was just happy to be running no matter the pace. I had a lot of people try to pass me when I was passing a walker and got bumped more in this stretch of the race than anywhere else.
But I crossed the finish line (with a better second half time, thanks to the first half potty break) and got stuck in a crowd that didn’t seem to be moving towards the meadow. I don’t know if this was still due to the runner who had went into cardiac arrest about fifteen minutes earlier. I heard he was okay. I finally got into the muddy meadow (yay recent rain! Sarcasm here) and ended up grabbing a warm bottle of water. I finally found a table that had cold ones and got my snack pack and then my shirt before heading to the Park Tavern and the Atlanta Track Club post-race member area.
I learned from last year that I needed to take adequate time to cool down before beginning the trek to Marta. I found a cool spot to sit and get some rest while I snacked and hydrated some more. After a real restroom stop, I decided it was time to head out. Somehow I missed the place that had Coke as I was feeling the need for caffeine, but at least I grabbed a fresh water prior to heading out as I knew it was going to be a long, hot walk. I cursed the hills some more as it felt like a never ending up hill, which makes sense since 10th has the nice downhill going the opposite direction. I was thrilled when I crossed Piedmont, even more thrilled to see Peachtree again and super happy that when I made the Marta station, my good Marta karma continued as the train that was arriving was a North Springs train, so I hopped on and it wasn’t crowded.
Thanks to the amount of walking pre and post race, I got in 23,823 steps for the day and I can tell you I didn’t add much of them once I got home. This race ended up being a lesson in strength I didn’t know I had. I may have had my slowest 10k time, but it was probably the hardest I had to fight to finish this distance. I will probably look back at this one and be reminded how much of a bad ass I was as I likely had a low grade fever when I ran this. I went to the doctor two days after the race for my cruddy feeling and my low grade fever was even higher than on Monday. Prior to Monday’s red alert, I had actually thought I could PR, as I actually beat my 10k PR in the Hot Chocolate at the 10k split, but I still had thoughts of a course PR, but that wasn’t meant to be.
I earned my medal and my t-shirt and carried a lot of motivation.
Have you ever run a race that you knew wasn’t going to go your way, but kept trying anyways?