Wednesday, July 8, 2015

2015 Peachtree Road Race Recap

So, the Peachtree Road Race!

This race is the largest road race in the world with an average number of participants of about 60,000 people.  As soon as I have told anyone in Atlanta that I am a runner, the next question for the past 10 months has been, "Are you going to run the Peachtree Road Race?" and my response has been always, "Well, heck yes I am!"

The race has a lottery entry but for Atlanta Track Club members, you are able to have guaranteed early registration.   I signed up as an ATC member specifically for this reason, but it turns out that it was a great choice regardless because they put on a ton of free road races throughout the year and I've been participating in all of them and totally getting my money's worth!

Anyways, registration was earlier this year in the early winter, so I knew I had a spot and then as the race gets closer, they start to distribute bibs with time corrals.  You have to submit a time when you register of an officially time previous race, that they will then use to distinguish where you will get placed in the different waves.  There is an elite, invited runner section and then following that, the regular joe schmo runners are placed in waves A-Z with the last few letters devoted to those who register as walkers.

I was e-mailed a number of weeks before the race that I was going to be running in Wave C.  This was exciting but also made me a little nervous -- I couldn't remember what time I had put in for registration to be placed there, but I felt like it was really a fast wave based on where my friends were!

The logistics of the race were a source of stress for me and many of my friends trying to figure out how to get to the start, the finish, where to leave cars, what time to arrive, what traffic would be like, road closures, etc. etc.  I was lucky that my dad was going to be visiting and despite the fact that he had driven a thousand million hours in the car over the previous two days and arrived late on Friday, he got up early Saturday morning to drive to the start of the race.  My plan was to meet up with the Movers and Pacers crew at 6:45 a.m. and we left my apartment a little after 5:30 a.m. to drive over to Buckhead where the start of the race was.  It usually only takes 20 minutes to get there, but I wanted to give myself plenty of time in case road closures had me walking the last couple of miles.  We attempted to drive as close as we could and got to 1 mile of the race start before the roads were closed.  Which really wasn't bad and there were tons of people out walking to the start.

I hopped out of the car and decided to leave behind the throw-away long sleeve shirt I'd been wearing and the poncho I had brought.  The forecast suggested rain and it was pouring when I first woke up, but when my dad dropped me off the rain had cleared so I figured I would be fine.

Well, I was wrong.

As I walked towards the meeting point with the running crew I ran into one of my friends and we started to walk together when all of a sudden it started DOWNPOURING again.  The kind of rain that you know hope won't last forever because it's just coming down so hard.  So, we did what any logical people would do... and jumped into a Porta Potty for cover!

First time I have ever voluntarily hung out in a porta potty for longer than the absolute minimum amount of time.  However, that being said, it was so early in the morning that nobody had even used them yet!! Promise!!  Eh, whatever, I've done worse things at races.  At least there WERE porta potties! (Flashback: Paris Marathon...)

The rain lessened and cleared a bit and we continued the walk to meet our friends, arriving right on time at 6:45 a.m.  It was fun getting the energy high, seeing everyone's race day outfits, and hyping one another up for the race!  The Movers & Pacers had an awesome crew at this race!!

Also, since I was not able to find a more festive outfit that I liked for the race, I went with a solid blue top, white bra, and this sparkly red headband with a bow that I got at the expo and am now in love with.  [Sidenote: My little brothers were hysterical laughing at this picture of me as they scrolled through the images on my phone on Saturday.  Apparently they found it pretty hysterical.]

I like to warm up for races with pre-race dance parties and I definitely was one of the more amped up members of the group, but I have no shame in that :)  Also, I felt like I looked really small in this picture so wanted to post it here and I also posted it to Facebook.  I don't have a lot of shame in that either.

About 20 minutes before my start wave was supposed to go off at 7:41, I headed over from our hang out spot to the start of the race.  The crew made our signature "tunnel" that I ran through before heading to the start and got high fives from everyone, which seriously made my day.  Even just thinking back on it right now, it makes me so happy.  I imagine all the other people watching were looking at us and thinking, "Wow, I want to be a part of that crew" because the energy, enthusiasm, support, and comraderie with this group is unmatched.

I tried to take some pictures at the start, but the rain was starting to fall again and I was nervous having my phone in and out of my carrying thing and all that jazz.  Oh!  And I realized when my dad dropped me off that I forgot my TomTom watch!!  I was pretty bummed when I realized that because it has become a little bit of a comfort object for me with running over the years to have a watch.  I barely look at it during races, but it's just part of my "uniform" and without it I feel like something is missing.  However, I just went with the flow and before the start of the race, I turned on my Nike Plus app to run with during the race.  Plus, I was a little bit excited about that because I knew I'd be running fast and get one of those banners that says I did my best time (or at least that was the hope!)

Speaking of which - let me tell you that I MAJORLY stressed before this race about whether or not I should try and run FAST and get a PR or if I should just enjoy the crowds, take beers along the way (I'd heard stories) and just run the race as if it were a party.  In the end, I know I am too competitive to really take the race as a party.  Plus, I was in a unique circumstance where I had run the course and the route so many times that I really felt like I had a strong chance to really do well on the time.  I was well prepared and ready to go.

When the race started, I took off, finding a pace I felt comfortable with and could maintain.  The first 2.75 miles of the course are slightly downhill so I knew I would be feeling good at the beginning.  There were lots of runners waiting for their waves and cheering, different groups and families along the course and I tried to take it all in. There are only two turns in this race, and one of them isn't even an official turn.  When we made that first one though I knew we'd be on the route for a while.

I took high fives from little kids, grabbed cups of water whereever I could, and at one point was given a little American flag from some of the little kids on the side that I ran with in my hand.  I got a little sick of carrying it though and didn't want to have it when I knew the uphill would start but also didn't want to drop the American Flag on the 4th of July so I finally saw a little girl giving high fives and shouted to her, "Want a flag?" and handed it off along the route.

There were a number of groups out partying, drinking, some people giving out coffee shots.  And a generally really good atmosphere for the first few miles despite the drizzly weather.

I was really impressed with the amount of water and aid stations along the way, but I guess for a race in July in Atlanta there normally is more of a heat problem than we had on this day.  A number of the fire hydrants were open and spraying water which probably would have felt amazing on a hot day but on a wet, rainy day I was avoiding them at all costs!

I managed to do pretty well going up "Cardiac Hill" which is the mile long hill between 2.75-3.75 on the route.  The second half is a bit more challenging than the first, with more slight inclines after the major hill along the route.  After the big hill, I knew where those ups and downs were and knew to just keep pushing myself to get to the top of each one.

My Nike Plus app announces your mile splits and I was excited that my first few splits were under 8 minute miles!  They definitely slowed down a bit as I got into the hills, and I did my best to calculate in my mind how my average times were doing to see how I was towards beating my goal time.  I remember when the overall time I had at the 3 mile and 4 mile and 5 mile markers were announced and I was totally shocked at how low the numbers were, despite the fact I knew I was running a decent race.  Somewhere along the course the rain picked up a bit too and I remember wishing that I had brought a hat to wear.  I'd thought about it when leaving the house, bc I generally wear a hat when running in the rain but I had really wanted to wear that red sparkly head band...

I ran along the side of the road for most of the race, trying to get the energy of the crowd, high fives, and observing the different parties.  There were some really cute kids cheering and right before mile 5 I actually ran until a spray of champagne as a group of guys had shook up a bottle and were spraying it all over the runners.  I actually licked my lips and tasted to be sure it was actually champagne and I was kind of jealous that I only had a slight taste!

It was nice to enjoy the crowd as I ran.  The last rainy race I ran with a goal was the Publix Half Marathon.  I remember seeing the Movers & Pacers crew at around mile 10 cheering, but I was too tired to even cross the road as they were on the other side to get high fives and hugs.  I wanted to keep focused on my goal for this race, but also be sure to enjoy the fun of the crowd -- which, now that the race is over, I think I can successfully say that I did.

A little after mile 5 a huge crack of lighting and thunder happened RIGHT ABOVE ME.  All along the route they had these official signs up that said "Threat Level: Moderate" with different colors.  I wasn't sure if it had to do with the weather or the security.  As I got towards the end and the rain was heavier, the thunder and lightning started and the finish was within reach I saw that the signs said "Threat Level: High" -- although I still didn't know if it was because of the weather or because of the security being close to the finish (races are all a bit more on edge after the Boston Marathon bombing.)  Whatever the signs, security, rain, whatever - when that thunder and lightning started, I just wanted to be DONE.

When you make the last turn it is a bit deceiving because there is still a good chunk of a mile left and a bit of an uphill push, but I tried to do my best to keep fighting for that last stretch of the race and then sprinting to the finish.  The finish is always farther away than I think it is and that last quarter of a mile in a race always takes forever!  I crossed the finish line, feeling good, and stopped my watch just in time to see the 10K record banner flash across my screen.

My wave of the race started at 7:41 and I was already done at 8:33 so I knew I had done a good time!!! I also knew that what that banner said was not accurate.  I estimated my time to be about 52 minutes since the GPS running apps on your phone are always a bit off.  The Nike app was giving me my mile splits a little before the mile markers throughout the whole race and my total race distance was said to be 6.4 miles rather than 6.2.

I grabbed a finish line pic and selfie and then continued to wander into the park.  The rain was REALLY coming down at this point so it was hard to even keep my phone out.

I imagine that on a nice day, the post race in the park is awesome.  On a rainy day, your feet get stuck in the mud.  They were also announcing that the race was being postponed and that they requested all people to leave the park/field immediately due to threatening conditions.  It was raining so much I was nervous taking my phone out so tried to call and text friends and family through a plastic bag, and also struggled with service, with I assume is from having so many people in one place all trying to use their phone at the same time.

I really wanted to meet up with my friends but had no idea where they were, was cold and soaking wet, and huddling under a tree for shelter.  Not ideal.

I made the executive decision to just leave the park and find my family.  It was miserable out and when I learned that my family was out on foot at the race -- well, I was so amazed that they were actually there that I really wasn't going to do anything besides try and meet up with them.

I had to walk ALL the way around the finish of the race to be able to get across to the other side of the road I needed to be on.  It was a cold, wet, rainy walk that felt like it took forever but I finally turned the corner to see this little face and found my family.  HAHA, how funny is this picture??

Everyone was in much better spirits than I would have been if I were standing in the rain to watch someone else run, but I was very appreciative for that!  We took a bunch of pictures and then walked over to the race so that I could watch/cheer for some of the finishers.

I saw a few friends finish and from there, pretty much had called it quits and was ready to be dry and off my feet so we headed to the car.  I much win big sister of the year award because I was giving piggy back rides to my brothers on the walk back.  They are lucky they are cute :)

I spent the rest of the day anxiously awaiting the final results to be posted online because I really wanted to see what my "official" time was.  I knew it was going to be a personal best time but I wasn't sure to what extent.  I was refreshing the ATC website and my e-mail all day because I knew that they'd said they'd be posted before the end and I finally saw that my official race time and new 10K best time was a 51:49!!!!  I AM SO PROUD OF THAT TIME!

I beat my previous best time by 3:13.  More than 3 WHOLE MINUTES I beat my last time!  My finish ended up being 1129th out of 27528 for women finishers, which puts me in the top 4% of women.  I was 171/3025 for my age group, which is top 5% for my AG.  And overall, the race had 54493 finishers and I finished 5148, so I was top 10% of the race!!!  One of the things I love about running is that I have no shame in being proud of myself.  And I am really, really proud of myself for all the things that I have accomplished running.  I am so amazed that I am in these top percentiles for my age group and for women finishers, even in massive races like this.  I never would have ever imagined I would be here when I was celebrating finishing 5Ks in 38 minutes.

I also love that I had FUN during this race.  I wanted to enjoy the experience as well as push myself hard and I felt I did that.  I felt good at the end of the race.  I felt I could maybe maintain my pace a little further or have gone a little harder so I am already thinking of where to improve, but before I get too far into that, I want to spend more time just basking in the fact that I am really proud of how I did, the time I finished in, and the fact that I smiled through a rainy, early morning fourth of July run through thunder and lighting.

I found out later that the later waves were delayed a bit.  The race way that the race was set up, people hadn't even started until 9am even - so 30 minutes after I finished, people were still starting the race.  Some runners ran anyways, not listening to the delays.  Everyone I know was able to cross the finish line.  Some stayed for the parties but most head out.  I'm already feeling a slight "hangover" from the Peachtree Road Race -- you know that feeling when something you've been excited about and looking forward to for so long is past?  I have been feeling that way this week and am already looking forward to next year's race!

Saturday was a good day :)

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