This was another busy weekend with a soccer game and the girls' sixth birthday party on Saturday and of course my first 5K on Sunday. Since this blog is my selfish attempt to focus on me, I'll just say that the soccer game was great, we tied and the team is getting better. The girls party was a lot of fun too. I took a lot of pictures and video with the camera and thanks to my wife's great friends there wasn't even a lot of clean up to do. After the party we went over to the neighbors for some football and to let the girls burn off some energy. We came home at 9pm and all of us were off to bed. Why to bed so early, you ask... well because the race started at 7am and was bout 25 miles away, so I was picking up my buddy at 5:30 for the ride.
We got off to a good start and made it down to the race location at about 6:15. The "main" race for the day was the Atlanta 13.1 series half-marathon and we were running the 5K that goes along with it. It was really well organized, so parking was a breeze and the start/finish area was well signed. Being my first time, I was feeling a little out of place, but I decided to just plaster a smile on my face and have a good time. There were about 2500 runners for the half marathon and it was just really cool seeing all these people gathered in one spot for such a neat thing. Did I mention is was about 45 degrees? Brrrrr. I'm ok with the cold, but you could tell a lot of people hadn't yet gotten used to the season change around here. We walked around the start area for a while, just soaking in the atmosphere and people watching. With about 5 minutes before the start, we headed towards the back of the crowd so I didn't block anybody's path through the start.
We started at the sun started brightening the sky to the east. Walked up to the line with the crowd and started my trot as we crossed the line. As we turned left onto the main road it was awesome to look ahead and see all those bobbing heads filling the road. There was a pretty good downhill in the first half mile and then a rise. I was having some trouble with my pants sliding down and stopped once to retie them. Then my shoe came untied, which has never happened on any of my runs, so once again I was off to the side to stop and retie. My buddy was running with me and he just laughed at my "first race disasters." We turned into this nice neighborhood and passed the first mile marker at 18 minutes clock time. We weren't sure how far after the start we crossed the line, so we figured we were about 13 minutes. We heard one woman start getting worried as she saw the clock. "Wow, that's a really slow mile," she said to her friend, who then had to explain to her about chip time and clock time. (For those of you who don't know ... they start the clock when they yell go and the first runners start, but each runner has a chip in their race bib and a mat at the start and finish record your "actual" time).
There were some pretty significant ups and downs in the second mile. We were still moving along at a pretty good pace, but we hit this bitch of a hill and I took it at my regular pace. I was passing a lot of people on the hill and when I got to the top I was struggling. I was able to keep going though my breathing was labored. Around this time we got to the water station which was cool, having all those cheering people. Shortly after the water station there was another tough up hill. I was hurting through this one, thought about walking to for a few moments, but kept focused on the top and pushed it through. Just after the top they split off the 5K runners to head back to the finish while the "real" runners kept going. I was able to catch my breath on a nice down hill section that led through to the last 1/2 mile.
This last part was brutal. We had driven in on this road and I saw that it was uphill almost all the way to the turn where you go about 150 yards to the finish. We started up the hill and I saw the finish but it was not close enough. There was a roundabout at the turn and I saw they put us on the outside, going around the left before making the right hand turn. I thought that was mean but I knew we were almost there so I kept going up the hill. A cop at the roundabout was going all "drill sergeant" on the group in front of us who were walking the hill. "You can't walk up my hill!" he was barking. We got up there and we smiled and waved as he said something about personally designing the course. IT was then that I realize the reason we went left around the roundabout . We didn't turn right down the drive to the finish, but had to go another 50 yard or so up the steepest part of the hill before we turned around to come down. After commenting on the cruelty of it, the volunteer at the turn around cheered us on and said "its all downhill from here."
We had seen the clock said 44 minutes when we passed the roundabout, and it was about 44:30 now. I really wanted to beat 40 minutes, but as I said, I didn't know how much cushion we had from the start. We turned the corner together and I told my buddy the Giants fan (the guy from last week) that since they had won he could finish first. He said no its cool, and I jumped him and took off, laughing as I did. They called out our names on the PA and I came across the line, feeling really darn tired but proud and smiling. Trying to figure out what each volunteer was trying to hand me, between water and powerade and bananas and cookies and towels and who knows what else, got our pictures taken and then we were out. My legs felt great, buy my lungs were hurting on this one. It was a great feeling to finish and walk back through the fairly empty start/finish area. We walked through to the other side to grab our bags and stood to watch the half marathoners go around on their second loop, then went back to the finish to watch the winners come through in 1:03, amazing times.
Some moments that stick out from the day...
- Running past a man pushing his handicapped son in a stroller up one hill and having him fly past me on the downhill.
- Seeing a cop pull up and get out if his car at the bottom of the last hill. I asked him "Do you have your radar gun? How fast was I going?" He says "I got you at 1.2!" I laughed, "All right, my fastest yet!!"
- Drill Sergeant cop telling us we were doing a great job.
- Turning to my left to spit and noticing at the last minute that a woman was passing me on that side. I lowered my head and spit in front of me and she said "Bless you" as she ran past, because she thought I'd sneezed.
- Walking past the results table after the finish, I asked the girl there "Did I win?" She says, "Did you beat the bear?" "There was really a bear?? I thought I was hallucinating" was the funniest thing I could come up with. Apparently the sponsor's mascot is a bear and they had some guy in a bear suit run the 5K. He came in second.
Thanks for reading if you're still there. It was an awesome experience. I had a great time though I was hurting through the end. I can't imagine running 13.1 miles on all of those hills, but I definitely want to give that a try. Next week, race number two.
Oh yea, almost forgot ... my buddy checked our times on his Iphone on the ride home. My chip time was 39:48, which means I beat my goal even with my early race disasters.