Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Race Report: Athens Half Marathon

October 21, 2012
Athens, GA
I volunteered at this race last year, had barely started training for my first half, and knew that I wanted to run it come this year. What was better, after seeing the ridiculousness that the course was last year... was the new course for this year and it was awesome. But we'll start at the beginning... 

Last year the expo was at the New Balance store in town. Yep, one store, one sad little table to get your bag and t-shirt and that was it, so I was also super excited to see that it had moved to the Classic Center, so it had the chance for being an expo. Despite the Center being swarmed with high schoolers on the front lawn and around downtown, it was awesome -- lots of tables with vendors and temptations of things I didn't need to buy. Finally got my RunATL shirt, and half off, woo, at ten bucks. Lots of free stuff too! I really love that AthHalf does their own 13.1 stickers and everyone gets one if you grab one.I met up with four of the grad students, Paula, Michael, Tim and Chrissy (the first three of whom I work with, all running their first half!) and wandered around a bit, shared some advice and things to do on Saturday to prepare themselves. I actually felt like I knew what I was talking about, which gotta say... makes you feel legit! I was super excited for them and still felt the buzz myself. 

After the expo, I went and drove the course. While I knew the majority of the roads, there were pieces I didn't know and didn't want to go blind-sided into. I went blind-sided into ATL and that seemed to work out well, but I've never had the chance to drive the course so I figured I'd take advantage. I'm not sure it helped or not. We'll get to that. Saturday was a stunning day and all I could do was pray that Sunday turned out to be just as beautiful and we'd have a great morning! 
Scenes along the route - Memorial Park, UGA Golf Course, UGA Greek Park Circle and Sanford!
Prefacing this with the fact that I still couldn't decide if I want to go all out for this half or not. I had originally been saying that the ATL half was for fun, and this was for serious. But after how well I did at ATL, I couldn't decide if I wanted to attempt the same here. I figured I'd just run and see how it would go and based it off that... 
Trash bag crew!
My alarm was set for 5:45 am -- the other perk to having the race being in your town! I sprung up wide awake at 5 am. Fail. So I laid in bed, got myself mentally psyched to get up and do this just two weeks after the last one. Half peanut butter sandwich, banana and half a Gatorade later I was out the door at 6:30 and ready to meet the same four on-campus at 6:45. Last year, I had noted how many runners had on trash bags over their gear - that way they didn't have to toss out their sweatshirts or long-sleeve tees, and all you lost was a trash bag! So we did. And, kid you not, we were the only ones. Serious. 
We got to the corrals around 7:05, started stretching and getting the jitters calmed. Chrissy and Tim were hoping to run a 2:15, so we hung out for a little bit (and by a little bit, I mean til mile 1), and the rest hung back and did their thing. I think the best advice I've read, and therefore given, is to run your own race. I told Paula there would be 15-year-olds that would pass her and 45-year-olds, but she couldn't let that get into her head (easier said that done). But it's true! Your race is your race -- do what you gotta do. We took off right at 7:30, just as the sun was starting to hit downtown. Thankfully, the sun was to our backs as it came up and we headed into the first neighborhood. 

The first 5K of this was tough. I struggled with getting my head into it, although loved the energy of the families and folks out on the route, both at water stations and in front of homes cheering on runners. Much like ATL, volunteers really make the experience and this race doesn't disappoint with who comes out to cheer folks on either! 

It wasn't until Mile 4 that I really felt like I was in it and felt decent -- hit the split just under 40 minutes and realized that maybe I wasn't doing as terribly as I thought. Most of miles 3-5 was a casual, rolling downhill through the only thing you can refer to as Greek Row on the west side of campus, where I actually half expected there to be a lot of chapters out cheering on runners - wrong. Ah well. Mile 6 is where I stopped and walked for the first time, only to get my Sport Bean bag out and chomp on a few beans. Despite that fact, had my best 10K split ever -- 1:00:54! Stand-alone 10K PR would have been super significant! Kept rolling until close to Mile 8 where I just needed it again. It was about Mile 9 that I realized that even if I walked the rest, I'd hit close to the ATL finishing time -- it was then I decided that if I could pull out a time that was similar to the ATL time, I'd then know ATL wasn't a fluke. And then I felt motivated (finally!). 

Coming into Tate, Sanford and the finish line.

Miles 10-12 were similar to the 5K I ran on campus last weekend - down on the south end of campus, rolling crested hills, up by the baseball stadium, and then up the main drag that goes up toward the stadium. There's an awesome quick hill that comes up that leads you down toward the stadium, and that's where the crowd started, as it literally sits over the finish line, so you could pick up on the crowd at the finish line and then above on the main road. So exhilarating and even more motivation coming from the buzz! I realized here that I had potential to actually make this count, as here I was about 12.5 miles and just past the 2-hour mark! Holy crap! I chugged along the last crests and thank God the last quarter mile is downhill. I hit the 12.8 or so mark, saw a group of grads I knew, and threw my Nathan at them, I just couldn't handle it anymore and prompted to take off as hard as I could.

Whether you're a UGA fan or not, or a college football fan or not (okay, maybe you need to be a fan to appreciate it kind of), finishing the last .10 of a mile running a loop around Sanford Stadium is probably the coolest thing ever -- especially when they put you up on the Jumbotron! I only wish they had found a way to let people inside to cheer you on. At any rate, I sprinted the whole loop through Sanford just to give it my all to the end.
Have you ever seen such a happy runner? :) [source]
 I didn't even see the clock at the end, just hit stop on my Garmin and worked my way through the nutso crowd at the end towards the med table -- holy cramp in my quad! It wasn't until I grabbed a muffin, got stretched out and headed back towards the corner where the cheering section was and then I saw it: 2:10:00! Holy smokes! I got even more antsy for that official time! I stopped, wolfed down that muffin, banana and stretched while waiting for Paula and Michael to finish -- Tim and Chrissy killed their race in 2:03, Chelsea at 2:05:xx and I had even PRed! Happy morning, everyone! Paula and Michael came in around 2:41, happy to just be done! I'm so excited for all of them!
Still not sure how I pulled that one off, but super excited to know that ATL wasn't a total fluke and that, in fact, I am in a lot better race shape than I even thought. Even with these rough two weeks behind me, I've made some amazing progress the last few months! And it makes me a lot more excited for what's to come with marathon training being officially underway!

Your final result? BAM!
I really am wondering how this happened these last two weeks, but for now... just going to roll with it! My splits weren't nearly as consistent as they were from ATL, but overall not too shabby given where I started 9 months ago.
As soon as I got home, I showered, threw on my compression socks and laid up on the couch. I'm now fully convinced that food-ordering/restaurant apps were made for post-race runners who can't get off the couch to make food for themselves but oh, it was the best decision ever. And I spent the entire day in those socks, even going to play kickball with my students, to the dog park and to bed -- figured it was worth trying! And today... I feel great. Worth it. Looking forward to getting out the door in the morning for a shake out run/jog/whatever it might be!

New PR. Four minutes (nearly) off my time from two weeks ago. And nearly ten minutes off my time from my first half just nine months ago. What a year, what an October... what more fun to come! And next up, it's Disney's Wine and Dine... all for fun!


  1. Saaaaahweet time Megan!!! Maybe the secret to setting a fantastic PR is race every other weekend? :)

    1. Right? No kidding! Guess I need to go find another one to do ... oh wait, that IS in two weekends! :) Wine and Dine, here I come!

  2. YAY! so glad i got to start off my day with a successful race recap, i needed some good runner news:) you did great! and 2 prs in 2 weeks, wow. so glad you get to finish off all this craziness at disney. wait till you see the expo there. it will be legen-wait for it-dary! :)

    1. So glad I could start your day on the right foot! Haha. :) I know I can't believe this 2 PR business. It's kind of insane.

      And yes.. already excited/overwhelmed/pumped for Disney! SO EXCITED. First legit expo. :)

  3. Just stumbled across you - Congrats!! A great time and new PR :D

    1. Thank you! And thanks for stopping by! Love your blog. :)

  4. The post is written in very a good manner and it entails many useful information for me. I appreciated what you have done here. I am always searching for informative information like this. Thanks for sharing with us.

  5. All these are the points that are highlighted to make the customers know how they can be motivated to get different things at a cheap rate just with the aid to gain coupons.
    Also visit- discount coupons India