Friday, March 25, 2016

Publix Georgia Half Marathon Recap 2016

Publix Georgia Marathon and Half Marathon, Atlanta, GA
Field: ~10,000 runners between the Full and Half marathon
Spectators: All along the course. The race also sponsors a cheer zone contest for charity.
Start/Finish: Centennial Olympic Park in Downtown Atlanta, Home of CNN, The Aquarium, World of Coke, Georgia Dome, etc.
Course: Loop course through various Atlanta neighborhoods and historic areas including the MLK Center, the Carter Center, Piedmont Park, Georgia Tech, etc.
Schwag: Tech T-shirt from Mizuno, finisher's snack box and paper coat thing.
Other: This was the 10th anniversary of the race and the first year that the Atlanta Track Club took over organizing it. Along with them came their partner Mizuno as a title sponsor and official merchandise supplier.



I really had no idea what to expect heading into this race. I took it easy recovering from 26.2 with DONNA and hadn't really jumped back into scheduled training yet. I was running 4-5 time per week and planned on using this race as my first long, hard workout after the marathon (it was 5 weeks post race). Marathon recovery had gone well (no injuries, no major issues), but I still wasn't at a place where I felt I was knocking out workouts again. I hadn't really thought to much about this half as I've run it 5 times before ( here's a few recaps 2015, 2014) but I knew it would be hilly and a great tour of the Atlanta neighborhoods.

I headed down to the Expo on Saturday and joined in on the WeRunSocial meet up prior to getting my bib. It was fun to see some familiar faces (I hadn't seen Jen in forever) and meet some people I've only known from social media. Afterwards Jen and I head into the Expo to wonder around and see our good buddy Katie. The Expo itself was pretty small. The Atlanta track Club only officially took over the race in late December which isn't a lot of time for major changes, and I am curious to see what they do with the future of this race. Side note: I thought the did an excellent job with the race this year.
WeRunSocial Meet-up. Totally stole this photo from Jen.

So Saturday wasn't exactly the kind of day you would want prerace. I was on my feet a lot (to the point where I was achy and had tired legs that night), I forgot to eat lunch as I rushed to the meet up at the Expo, and I had tons of trouble trying to decide what to wear on race day (I ended up changing my mind a few minutes before leaving the house on race day). All these snafus didn't worry me too much, because my goal was a good workout.
A spectacular shot of the finish line from the Atlanta Track Club.

Race day came and the Jayhawk and I took the train to the start. I had talked him into signing up when the track club did a $26 bib promotion the day they announced they were taking over the race. I think he was a little worried about what I talked him into when I described all the hills and various people told him "Oh, that half is rough," but there he was ready to take it as a long training run. We live close to a rail stop and it's a straight shot to the start, so we left that house less than 45 minutes from gun time. Of course as soon as we got on the rail platform I had to potty and since we had arranged to arrive at the start within 20 minutes of the gun, there was no time for a port-a-john visit. Great planning by me (extra motivation to get to the finish quickly?).
Pre-race with the Jayhawk. Race weather was perfect: 40s and sunny.

When the gun went off, I tried to settle into a comfortable pace. Being watch less, I paid particular attention to my breathing which took a minute to regulate on the cool morning. My goal was to not go out too fast, build speed through the race as long as everything felt good, and if not, try to keep it under 2 hours. With the time change the race starts basically in the dark and the sunrises ~40 minutes later. As I came up to the first mile marker, I hear someone yell "8:01, right one pace" and at that point I realized I was right behind the 1:45 pace group. My immediate reaction was to slow down. I hadn't trained for this pace, I was just finishing recovery, and I had no desire to walk the last two miles of the race when I blew up.
I assumed I had got caught up in the excitement of the start and for mile 2, I focused on my breathing and my stride, and letting the pace group go. If there is a carrot in front of me, I will chase it. Seeing them would only encourage me to run faster than needed. Additionally, they were a pretty big group and I don't always like being part of a big pack, so letting them go would give me more space on the road. Physical everything felt fine at this point. I was putting out effort, but not to a point it felt unsustainable. As I hit the mile marker 2 sign, I noticed the time was still right around an 8 minute pace. I thought to myself "Ok, this is where it start to drop off and you settle in. That can't be sustained in these hills for too much longer."
Waving to friends at mile 7. I was running into the sun. I don't normally glow like that.

And then mile 3 came in at 24 and change. So here I was 5k into the race at a faster pace than normal, wondering if I could really hold on to it for the next 10 miles. I decided to see what each mile marker brought. If my pace dropped off at some point what did I really care? It wasn't a goal race, I wanted a hard workout, and I knew exactly what was in front of me course-wise. Enjoy it like a tempo workout and jog it in if need be. So along I went, enjoying the course, taking in the views, and smiling at the fans.
The race shirt. The run really large. This is a unisex XS.

And the miles ticked off. At times I felt like my pace was surely dropping, but then the next mile marker would have me still more or less on pace. (Note: I didn't know how far off my time was from the official clock, but I knew probably around 30 seconds based on where I started). I got in a lot of practice at my 8's multiplication at each clock. To be honest, for most of the race I was in disbelief of my pace. I didn't feel like I was overexerting, but it didn't make sense to me that I would be running that much faster than normal.
The medal. I like the dogwood theme they had going with the race gear.

Turning out of the park onto 10th street (around mile 9) I did start to notice a little wind. Pre-race the forecast had shown a windy day, but lucky for us, it was pretty minimal. Nothing compared to the stiff ocean breeze I faced at DONNA. Shortly after the 10 mile marker, I heard someone call my name from behind me. Sure enough it was Daniel from The Running Cat. I've know Daniel for a year or so now from social media, but we've never actually met in person. It seemed only fitting that would we finally meet midrace. We chatted for the next 2 miles before Daniel sped his way onto another PR (1:42!).
Post race finish line selfie. Is there a class I can take to be less awkward at the selfie?

After what I always think is the longest mile in racing history (straight, with a quick turn at the end into the finish), I crossed the line in just under 1:46 clock time (Chip time was 1:45:34) and I was more than a little stunned to learn I ran a 4+ minute PR. It's not that I didn't think I could ever run that pace (running a 1:45 half was going to be my goal for the fall), it's just that I never thought I could run that pace on that day. The more I've thought about it since race day, the less sense I've been able to make of it. I'm sure I had some carry over from my marathon training cycle, I was well rested from recovery, and the weather was just perfect. The Jayhawk ran better than he expected that day (not a PR, but impressive given it was his first half on a rather hilly course). We both returned home with happy smiles after enjoying a great race on a beautiful spring day.

Have you ever been completely surprised by the outcome of a race? Is there a race you enjoy every year?

26 comments:

  1. Such a good race, and I am so glad that they had good weather for it after teh weather sucking so much the past few years. One of my favorite cities, love Publix, love Centennial. So many warm fuzzies. Way to rock it out! Chicago was like this for me. Little did I know that I kicked so much ass that I broke my back, but that is neither he nor there.

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    1. It was about time that race had good weather! And to add to the fun, it timed perfectly with the city in bloom. It was one of the pretty years I've had on that course. Thanks Lady!

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  2. 4 minute PR, thats huge! I ran that race 3 years ago and it is hilly- great job!

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    1. Thanks Lisa! It is a hilly one, but such a fun tour of ATL.

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  3. An expected, huge PR - that's amazing! Congrats!!

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    1. Thanks so much Jen! I'm still a little shocked!

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  4. Congratulations on a whopping PR on a tough course!

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    1. Thanks Frank! Sorry we didn't run into each other.

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  5. Congrats! I'm impressed at your ability to ditch the Garmin!

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    1. I'm still new at ditching the garmin, but so far I really like not having it on the course. Thanks Caroline!

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  6. woooot congrats on a great run!! I know for a fact that races that I go into with very loose goals end up being my best ( both mentally and physically ) !

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    1. Yeah, I really think having no expectations takes the pressure off!

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  7. Wow, congrats on the surprise PR.

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  8. I remember how surprised I was when you casually mentioned you were running without a watch. A short while later I peeked at my watch -- we were cruising at a 7:45 pace!

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    1. Woot! I will say that I do miss having data after the race. It's the only down point to running without my garmin.

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  9. Wow, that is incredible! A 4 minute PR on what you were hoping just to be a good workout? I wish I was brave enough to run without my watch (even for just a workout). Congratulations!

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    1. Thanks Lynsey! I've really started to like racing without my watch. It forces me to run on feel.

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  10. You are awesome!! Surprise PRs are the best. I find that we sometimes have our best races when we take all the pressure off. Love that medal too!

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    1. Awe, thanks Courtney! Yeah, having no pressure really helps mentally.

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  11. Congrats on the (surprise) PR! When I PRed the 10K, I was totally shocked by how well I did. I know running lots of easy volume helps increase your fitness, but for some reason I'm always shocked when it works.

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    1. Thank you so much Rebecca! I agree. My volume was higher during marathon training this time and I really think it improved my overall fitness a lot!

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  12. Congrats on the great finish!
    Perfect weather days always help! My PR was a perfect weather day, I had not been able to sustain the pace I ran in training ever lol it was odd, but i loved it.
    I think all the long distance training really translate into speed on a shorter distance and since you were still running in recovery you don't lose much. I work with a girl who has PR'd her half time after marathon training (twice now)even few weeks off, it is amazing.
    Glad you had such a good day!

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    1. Thanks Karen! Perfect weather is really handy during a race. Wow, sounds like her marathon training works well for her on all levels!:)

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