Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Race Recap: 7 Bridges Marathon

7 Bridges Marathon, Chattanooga, TN October 20, 2013
Field: A few thousand between all three races (5k, half, and full)
Spectators: Good for a small race. Most of the Downtown portions of the course had fans and even some of the outskirts along the river.  Chattanooga has a good bike-share program, so I saw a lot of the race fans riding bikes and popping up at several spots along the course.  A great idea if you are trying to spectate for your loved one.
Start:  Renaissance Park, right next to Coolidge Park where the finish was located.
Course: A mix of parks, Downtown, and some highways.
Schwag: Dri-fit shirt, water bottle, very large medal.
Other: I received free entry into the race by winning a blog giveaway.  Since I was due for a 20 miler this weekend anyway, I figured why not?!
See, there are a lot of Bridges in Chattanooga. Source.
On Sunday I ran the 7 Bridges Marathon in Chattanooga.  Though it wasn't originally on my race plan, a few circumstances made it fit right in (winning free entry, already planning a 20 miler, and being home alone for my birthday weekend).  Only in it's third year, I didn't know much about the race before getting a bib.  I did know I was going to run over 7 bridges and have some super views of the Tennessee River.  My goal for the race was to run a good training run for 20 miles and then finish without any time goal.
Ignorance is bliss. Smiles because I forgot that a marathon is really long.
I chose to drive up to Chattanooga on race morning.  It's less than 2 hours from Atlanta, and since they offered race day bib pick up (something that is awesome for a runner on a budget), I chose to take advantage of it.  Parking was a breeze.  I parked within about 200 yards of the finish line, giving myself an easy hobble walk back to the car as a birthday present. I arrived in plenty of time to get my goodies, visit the port-a-john, and stay warm in the car since it was only about a block from the start.  The start was a little chilly (40 degrees) and I haven't run in temps that cool since last February.  I was definitely a little under dressed (gloves would have been nice and perhaps not my mini running skirt), but I felt comfortable later in the race.
I really like the shirt and the medal is huge!
The race went well.  I wanted to run consistent, but not go all out.  My goal race is still 3 weeks away, so this was just another chance to gain confidence in the marathon, explore a new place, and work on some race day strategies for the marathon.  I came out of the gate a little faster than I wanted (I was excited), but settled into a nice pace for 20 miles.  After that, I didn't push much and took my time.
This is when I remembered that marathons are really long.
This had to be one of the best aided courses I have ever been on.  For the full there were 22 aid stations with water, powerade, and powergels.  At least half of them (in all honesty, I didn't count but many of them) had additional food ranging anywhere from bananas, oranges, and apples, to chips, candy bars, rice krispie treats and even pickles!  The volunteers were wonderful and eager to help in anyway they could.  I did not eat much at the aid station (a few oranges and a banana half) because of my finicky tummy, but having it available was awesome. I am happy to report that I did take 4 Island Boost packets at miles 5,10,15, and 20 with no trouble at all!  This is a new PR for fueling in a Marathon.  I even tried the yet to be released Chocolate Island Boost (full review coming Friday) and it was awesome.  It was so nice to have one less thing to worry about during the race.
In addition to fruit and fluids, they gave out snack boxes full of recovery foods at the finish. Perfect for the ride home!

I have mixed feelings about the course.  There are several portions that I loved, but a couple sections that I wasn't so hot about.  However, the not so hot sections are necessary to get you to and from the cool parts.  The race starts out with a tour of downtown. Having never actually been to Chattanooga (I've driven by many times), it was fun to check out the city and surrounding areas on foot. I liked running through downtown (miles 1-6) and all of the bridges had fabulous views of the Tennessee River and the city during fall.  I also really liked running through the city parks along the river (miles 19-24) even though I was cursing running at this point.  However, there were a few segments of highway running and industrial areas, which were not so pretty or exciting, but were required to get you between other parts.  I've found that a few miles of not so pretty happens in pretty much every marathon and by far isn't a deal breaker for me.
A view from the finish line of bridge #7(mile 26). 

I wore a little extra flair during this race because it was my birthday weekend and I was using it as an aided training run.  Having flair always gets extra attention from spectators, but having birthday flair seems to get you extra attention from everyone.  I can't even count the number of happy birthdays I received from spectators, volunteers, and other runners.  Even after the race, runners and spectators who I saw along the course were coming up to me to see how the Birthday Girl did.  It was really fun and made the race a little more special.  The highlight had to be when the 4:15 pace group sang a full round of "Happy Birthday" to me at mile 15.  It was definitely a first for me in a race!!
Because a birthday marathon requires more than the minimum flair!
Overall, I liked this race.  It was well organized and extremely well aided.  I had a good race and was very happy with my 20 miler.  I slacked off a bit for the final 10k (big time positive splits), but that just gave me more time to enjoy the river views. I would definitely do the race again but probably just the half, mainly because I love the half and am only seeing the marathon on the side. 
26 miles for 26ish years.
Time: 4:25:45 (Half splits: 2:03, 2:22)

Lessons learned:
  1. Marathons are still really long.
  2. Marathons don't get easier with age.
  3. Never underestimate the power of flair.
  4. Fueling during a marathon makes life so much better!
  5. Cute Birthday socks can give you blood blisters, but it wouldn't be a marathon if I didn't have bloody feet.
How was your weekend?  Any fun races?

30 comments:

  1. Belated Happy Birthday! Sounds like you had a great time. I like the fact the marathon goes over 7 bridges. You did a great job.

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    1. Thank you! The bridges kept it interesting and made for some spectacular views.

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  2. Great job on the birthday run.
    Their aid stations sound amazing. Better than any half or full I've ever seen.

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    1. Thanks! The stations were awesome. If I could only eat while running.....

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  3. Love your flair! What fun! Looks like a neat race in many ways. Too bad for the not so good parts.

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  4. And of course Happy Birthday!

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  5. Happy belated birthday! Great job on the race. Love the headpiece with the candles--did you wear it during the entire race? The aid stations sounded incredibly stocked, better than our own kitchen. (Pickles! Potato chips! Happy foods!) Cheers and happy running.

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    1. Thank you! Yes, I wore it the whole time, which was a little interesting when it got breezy at one point. I thought the same thing! I don't even have that many snacking options at home!

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  6. Congrats on the great marathon time and happy birthday, too! So fun that they sang to you during the race!

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    1. It was a really cool and unexpected moment when they started singing. Definitely unforgettable.

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  7. I did the half in 2012 and loved it! You skip all the "industrial" parts. I LOL'ed at your comment about loving the half and seeing the marathon on the side. That is EXACTLY how I feel! I'm from Atlanta area too - we should get in touch. My blog is www.mirandainmotion.com if you get really bored and need something to read :)

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    1. Seriously, I always forget how long marathons are until I am doing them! I checked out your blog and noticed you ran Chickamauga. I am curious what you thought!

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  8. How funny, I ran this race and remember seeing you! Maybe on the bridge going over the dam? Can't remember. I agree, I thought the course was beautiful, and the bananas at the aid stations totally saved me.

    Good luck at your upcoming marathon!

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    1. Thanks! I liked that the race was small enough you could remember other runners and spectators.

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  9. Great recap! I was in the 4:15 pace group. Singing to you was one of the highlights of the day for me during my first marathon experience! I've told several people that we sang to a fellow runner, and they said, "You had energy to sing?" That definitely made me feel good about being in shape! Thanks for capturing the day! I'll never forget this race.

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    1. Thank you!! It surprised me when you all sang, but I loved it! Very fun moment! It was a great race.

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  10. Where did you get your birthday socks? I'm running a marathon on my birthday in a couple of months and think I NEED those :-)

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    1. I got the socks at thesoxbox.com They are a little thicker so just be aware. I ended up with some good blood blisters because my feet swell during marathons, but it was worth it!

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  11. Hey EB, I was running the Half and was on a 2:10 pace so I was right behind your 4:15 group for much of the race. It looked like ya'll were having fun. Congrats, great race. We spend the weekend there and loved the town. Fun city.

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    1. Thanks and congrats on your race too! It was a good one.

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  12. The 4 Bridges was my first half and I really liked the way they organized it too. Did you see the spectator with the blowup lamma along the course? He must have had a bike because he was EVERYWHERE! My not so hot spot was that last hill coming up from the Riverwalk to the last bridge (Walnut)...what a killer!

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    1. The inflatable llama was killing me. It was so random and funny at the same time. For me the most killer spot was mile 16 (all up hill going over a huge bridge). I declared it not my favorite mile to everyone around me. :P

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  13. Hi!! New to your blog but I am from Tennessee (Knoxville)! Chattanooga is so beautiful and you are so lucky to have gotten to run in the city! It is awesome that you turned a 20 miler into a marathon! You go girl!

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    1. Thanks and welcome! It is such a great little city! It totally surprised me. I will definitely think about heading up for another race!

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  14. Great job on the race! What a nice way to celebrate your birthday and get a training run in at the same time!

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  15. I just signed up for it today. Im the in ATL too. I am hoping to try something different and a little more flat then the ga marathons!

    www.theredheadedrunner.com

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    1. Have fun! It is a good race. There are still some solid hills, but nothing worse than what ATL has to offer.

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