From Stress to Bliss: Atlanta 10 Miler Race Recap

My experience with the Atlanta 10 Miler on Sunday is a perfect example of the difference a few minutes and a purposeful shift in attitude can make.

This was the second year (and my second time) for the Atlanta 10 Miler, but this year featured a brand new course – so it was kind of like running this event for the first time.

Last year, I was able to walk a couple of blocks to the start line. This year I had to drive – and unfortunately traffic was hideous (which is typical in Atlanta). By the time I parked, I had less than 20 minutes to go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, and find my start wave before the race began. If you’ve ever done a race with me, you know that situations like this can turn me into a monster since I’m a little particular about pre-race rituals. However, I really tried to take it in stride as best as I could.

Thankfully, I was able to get everything done pretty quickly and still meet up with some friends before gun time. This lovely group of ladies made me forget about my hectic trek to the start line. I was able to shake off my anxiety and reset my mind to think about the great things the day was going to offer me – perfect racing weather, positive people around me, and a challenging new course.

I turned around an anxiety-ridden morning with a little help from my friends

I turned around an anxiety-ridden morning with a little help from my friends

As I took off, I was happy to see the skyline of my lovely city set against a perfectly blue sky. No clouds at all! Temperatures were in the mid-50s at start time, so it was very comfortable. I was feeling happy and very hopeful that more good things were ahead.

This course was very hilly, but I knew that going in so I just embraced them. I had a lot of help to get me through. One of the best parts of the Atlanta 10 Miler is the cheer zones that are part of the Adopt a Mile program. Atlanta Track Club selects other nonprofits to set up cheer zones and water stations, and those organizations receive a donation for their support. The groups never disappoint, and this year every single one was awesome! From giant puppets from the Center for Puppetry Arts, to the Rockdale Special Olympics crowd dressed up like pirates, to the very raucous Decatur Bulldogs, to the group at mile 5 who created the high-five zone (to name a few)… THANK YOU!

While all of those sights were fun distractions, there was one moment that made me literally laugh out loud. Somewhere around mile six, I discovered a tiny little boy who was maybe 5 or 6 years old grinning and dancing. He also happened to be holding a sign that said “Turn Down for What”. His moves and his mischievous little smile were so funny to me!

Another great addition to this year’s race was the Conquer Cardiac Hill challenge – which gave participants their timed splits of the hill made infamous because of the Peachtree Road Race. It climbs 12 stories in less than a mile, and showed up around mile 7 of this course. After all of the other hills I had already climbed that morning, I wasn’t able to speed up Cardiac Hill as quickly as I would have liked. But it was certainly a great motivator!

Happy at the finish line - a new PR!

Happy at the finish line – a new PR!

I ended up finishing in 1:32:32 officially or a 9:16 per mile pace overall. This earned me a new PR in the 10 miler distance (by a good 3 minutes!), and I was proud of that since this course is no cakewalk!

If you’re thinking this blog post doesn’t really focus much on the actual running of the race, you’re probably right. But this entire event felt like more of a party than anything else! I really had a great time – and all of the spectators and friendly volunteers were a major part of it. So if you were along the course and smiled, clapped, high-fived, cheered, or even happened to glance in the direction of the thousands of runners out there on Sunday morning, thank you!

Do you feed off of course support, or do you not really pay attention to it at all? Leave me a comment or send me a tweet!

Rise Up & Run 5K Recap

This Saturday I participated in the best example of athleticism the Georgia Dome has seen in a while, the Rise Up & Run 5K (sorry, Falcons fans). For the second time this year, this New York sports fan finished a race on the field of an Atlanta team. (See my recap of the Braves Country 5K here)

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The Rise Up & Run 5K is a collaboration between Atlanta Track Club and the Atlanta Falcons that finishes on the 50 yard line of the Georgia Dome. Saturday morning’s weather was perfect for runners – temperatures in the 50s and clear skies. The boyfriend and I were able to park easily and for free, thanks to event parking vouchers. Then we headed up to Falcons Landing to grab our race numbers, which were shaped like footballs. The beauty of races in this area is that you can use the bathrooms inside the Georgia World Congress Center – it’s always preferable to avoid porta potties!

After all of the pre-race necessities were taken care of, we wandered outside to the start line. We were greeted with the voice of Samuel L. Jackson asking what Falcons do, just like the commercials for the team – the answer, of course, is rise up. We were off as the sun was starting to come up over downtown Atlanta.

Miles one and two went pretty easy for me. It’s amazing what fall weather will do for you! Shortly after the first mile marker, I saw a loose chicken running around on the side of the course. Someone isn’t getting free eggs anymore…

The Falcons cheerleaders were waiting for us just outside the tunnel

The Falcons cheerleaders were waiting for us just outside the tunnel

Mile three brought some pretty big hills. I powered through them, but was delighted that the finish was all downhill heading into the Georgia Dome. Once inside, I was funneled onto the field where cheerleaders were there with their pom poms and the jumbotron showed runners crossing the finish line. The turf was lovely to run on compared to all the miles I do on pavement!

The vibe inside the Dome was awesome! Since there were also kids races associated with this event, there were families all over the place. There was plenty to do, between pictures with Freddie Falcon, a bounce thing, and a football toss. We saw a lot of kids dancing around to the music as well.

The boyfriend trying out his arm

Overall, I was pleased with my time, which was 25:47 for an average pace of 8:18 per mile.  This may have been my favorite 5K I have ever done. It just felt full of energy from start to finish!

Have you ever finished a race inside a sports stadium? Tell me about it – leave a comment or tweet me!

On the field inside the Dome

On the field inside the Dome

Marathon Training Must-Haves

I’m (almost) halfway there! This week completes week 8 of my 16-week marathon training. The Kiawah Island Marathon is on December 13, so we’re just under two months away! I’ve learned so much, but I still have quite a ways to go!

Photo courtesy: Kiawah Island Marathon Facebook page

Photo courtesy: Kiawah Island Marathon Facebook page

I actually had to take a couple of days off due to what seemed like an “overuse” kind of pain in the back of my right knee. After icing, stretching, and resting, I got back out there yesterday afternoon – thankfully I am feeling much better! If this setback had to happen, now is at least a good time. This week my long run is only 13 miles and my total mileage will be 32, so at least my legs will have a bit of a break!

Now that I am hitting the halfway point, I feel like I have a good system down. I don’t mean just having a plan – although that is certainly the first step towards marathon training. (I spent a good amount of time researching different programs and then tailored one to fit my needs.) But in addition to a plan, you need a lot of other things. Here’s my shortlist:

  • Motivational reminders. It’s great to have a plan, but you have to find ways to make sure you stick to it. I actually printed out my plan and wrote down how many miles I’m supposed to run each day on my work calendar. These are visual reminders of what I need to do, both at work and at home. Then when the miles are complete, I highlight that day on my printed plan and update my computer calendar that I use to track my mileage throughout the year. This helps me remember that I am making progress when I feel overwhelmed.
  • A support team. You may think training for a marathon is a solo endeavor unless you have a training partner/group. It’s not! You need cheerleaders to celebrate the process as well as lift you up when you have those low moments – and you will have some. Make sure key people in your life know how you’re feeling and what you need from them. This can be anything from encouragement to joining you for a run to just asking how your training is going.
  • Body glide. No seriously. Even if you haven’t chafed a lot in the past, you better have some now. Once you realize your normal “trouble spots”, slather it on, especially before your long run. There’s nothing worse than getting in the shower, having the water hit you, and wanting to scream because of all the raw spots that quietly showed up on your body while you were out.
  • A willingness to sacrifice. You will miss things, simply because marathon training takes a lot of time. Lately I’ve been known to fall asleep on the couch by 10:30 p.m. or leave Friday night social outings early because I have to be up for my long run dark and early on Saturday morning. Sometimes I can’t have another glass of wine because I know that it’s just going to hurt me the next day (what a horrifying first-world problem). That’s not to say you can’t have any fun, you just have to be smart about it.
  • Good nutrition. I am a pretty healthy eater overall. However, I have had to be even more careful about what I’m ingesting throughout this process. A couple of weeks ago, my long run ended early – I was nauseous, dizzy, and in tears. The next week, I made a conscious effort to eat more and to increase my protein intake. The result? I rocked a 17 mile run. Pay attention to what feels good and what doesn’t.
  • Short-term memory. You have to put any bad runs behind you. Quickly.
  • Long-term memory. This is where you store those great running moments. If you focus on these, you can get through anything!
  • Yes, you can even get inspiration from a holiday classic...

    Yes, you can even get inspiration from a holiday classic…

    Mantras. I’m all about positive thinking while on the run. Sometimes you have to dig deep to keep going. I find I have been repeating one of two things lately: “You just need miles on your legs” and “How bad do you want this?” The first reminds me of the fact that I don’t need to be speedy on my long runs. The second is just a personal challenge to myself. On a side note, this has also been in my head on runs when I don’t bring along the iPod lately – which is oddly encouraging while getting me excited about the holiday season: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OORsz2d1H7s

With all these tools, I’m feeling excited and really happy that I’ve made it halfway through the training process. I just have to keep focusing on the goal – I’m coming for you, Kiawah Island Marathon!

What helps you when you’re training for a big goal? Leave a comment or send a tweet!

Running Reading List

Running takes a lot of self-motivation. We have to WANT to get up early and head out into the dark/cold/extreme humidity/whatever to get in the miles. We all go through periods when we may not be as delighted to hit the pavement, and that’s when turning to others for inspiration can come in handy.

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There is plenty of stuff out there to read when it comes to running. You can find magazine articles and books on everything from training plans to nutrition to the history of the sport. Don’t get me wrong, this information is very useful (and I sometimes read waaaay too much on these subjects). But I want to highlight a few books that provide encouragement to runners – no matter where you are in your running journey.

One of the two times I have met Meb - he is a really nice guy!

One of the two times I have met Meb – he is a really nice guy!

1. Run to Overcome – Meb Keflezighi: I have a bit of a crush on Meb that started even before his historic Boston Marathon finish this year. The guy is an Olympic silver medalist and the winner of the 2009 New York City Marathon as well. He’s been through it all – epic highs as well as extreme lows due to injuries, and this book covers it all. There’s even an updated version that includes his big win this year (I may have an older copy, but I love it so much since it is signed!). And once you learn about his early life, his accomplishments will seem even more amazing.

2. Going Long: Legends, Oddballs, Comebacks & Adventures: This book is actually a collection of stories that have appeared in Runner’s World magazine. You can read all of them at once or come back to it for stories as you have time. You’re bound to find someone you relate to or are inspired by – whether it be one of the pros or an average runner.

3. Running on Empty – Marshall Ulrich: This is the story of a man who learned to cope with life through running. In his book, Ulrich chronicles his run across America during which he attempts to break the world record. His story offers a glimpse into the mind of an ultramarathoner and illustrates the importance of both being independent and creating a trusted team.

4. Born to Run – Christopher McDougall: Yes, this is the book that greatly boosted the popularity of minimalist and barefoot running. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a look at a different culture. It also introduces you to a crazy cast of runners who make for an interesting story.

I also love to read other running blogs for tips, race recaps, and even what gear people are using. And I enjoy talking to other runners about their experiences most of all. So make sure you find the time to listen to or read other people’s stories. It may surprise you who pops into mind when you’re trying to push yourself just a bit farther.

What books or blogs do you turn to for inspiration? Leave me a comment, or send me a tweet!