Sunday, March 18, 2012

Publix Georgia Half-Marathon

~8 min. w/u
Target: Finish top 3
Actual: 1:19:59; 4th place
14 miles

PGM Finish Line

I didn't decide to run this race until about 12 hours before go time. Until that point, I'd assumed that I'd be too exhausted from working the expo and too busy on race day to even fit in a short run, much less actually toe the official starting line. But by Saturday afternoon, my spirits buoyed by the encouragement of my coworkers and a pleasantly disaster-free event, I started to reconsider. In previous years, any time in the 1:22 range was plenty fast to land in the money. If I could wake up early to set up our booth, run the race as a workout and take home a bit of money for my efforts, then go straight back to work, why not give it a go??

As you can see from the above results, it was clearly not that simple today. Not only did I underestimate the infamous Atlanta hills and my own exhaustion from a long week of crazy expo hours, but I also drastically underestimated this year's competition. The women's winner ran an eye-popping 1:14--which, given the elevation profile of what was unequivocally the hilliest course I've ever run, is nothing short of astonishing--and she was trailed by Risper Gesabwa, the winner of the USRS 13.1 National Championship in Miami a few weekends ago, and Justyna Mudy, who most recently bested me by three minutes en route to winning 13.1 Dallas in the fall. I finished a woeful fourth, over two minutes slower than my personal best and practically the same pace I split through halfway in the Trials marathon a few months ago. To put it mildly, this was not my best performance.

Not that it matters, but I definitely noticed some conflicting splits on the race clocks that led me to believe the course may have been a bit long or at least mismarked. First of all, let me preface this by saying that I will never, ever be someone who says, "Well, my Garmin measured the course to be 3.1782 mile
s instead of 3.1, so technically my 5k time should have been 18:32.63 instead of the official time of 18:41." One reason I will never say this is because I don't actually own a Garmin. Another reason is I always maintain that a certified course has been measured multiple times by a highly trained team of people actually paid to do such things, so any discrepancy in distance measurement likely lies with the runner. Furthermore, everyone is running the same distance anyway so why the hell does it matter. That said, today's time/split discrepancies were a bit discouraging simply because they lulled me into thinking I was only moderately sucking, only to prove just a few minutes later that I was, in fact, sucking quite terribly. Allow me to illustrate with a few splits that I remember. Again, these are splits from the official race clock, not from my own watch or GPS device:

Mile 3: 17:35--clearly well under 6:00 pace despite some crazy early
Mile 4: 23:35--ditto the above
Mile 8: 47:45--still under 6:00 and feeling bette
r thanks to a long-awaited downhill section
Mile 10: 59:30--sweet! Looks like I'll comfortably break 1:19. Not my best, but not bad all things considered
Mile 11: 66:xx--uhhh, what? I know this mile is uphill, but I guarantee I did not split close to 7 minutes
Mile 12: 73:xx--wait a second...are you telling me I'm barely going to break 1:20?!
Mile 13: 79:20--yup, looks like that's what's about to happen

Finally almost finished!

So as you can see, somewhere between the 10 and 11 mile markers, something shifted. I spoke to several people afterward who verified that the same thing happened to them. One possibility (and obviously the one I would like to believe) is that the latter part of the course was a bit long. A second, more likely scenario is that some of the previous mile markers were actually marked a bit early, which led me to think I was running faster than I actually was. Either way, I gave it my all out there but was no match for the course or the competition. Still, I'm glad to have been afforded the opportunity to 1) run today; 2) run through some of my favorite old neighborhoods in one of my favorite old cities; 3) run a few miles with Jordan before dropping him off at the bus stop (I'll let him tell you more about that); and 4) finish out the day by selling tons of Karhu and Craft gear with the great folks from Big Peach Running Co.! An extremely successful weekend more than makes up for a lackluster run today, and it's hard to argue with the prospect of spending a beautiful Sunday morning in Centennial Park. No complaints here.

Lots of action in the Karhu and Craft tent

Spectacular view of downtown Atlanta and the post-race party
in Centennial Olympic Park