Sunday, March 04, 2007

Awesome Alpharetta Half and Marathon Race Report

Or alternatively: What happens when I don't wear make-up?

Bill Rogers doesn't chat with me even though he ran right next to me for two straight miles and then off and on the entire race.

This was the inaugural race for the marathon. They did a half, same course in October and a 10k. I didn't do either of those. I did run the Alpharetta Half marathon 2 years ago in October but it was a different course. This one was better, but only slightly.

Anyway, I guess to get more of a draw and to look like a serious race they had Boston and New York Marathon champ Bill Rogers come and speak. He ran the half. I think I can be pretty confident and say that even though he is 60 he wasn't racing --unless he was specifically racing me because he finished less than 50 seconds before me and ran most of the race with me. And when I say with me I mean he ran next to me. He never said a single word to me. See? See I told you people don't talk to me when I go naked face.

Unfortunately I am not going to have a lot of positive to say about this race and I apologize in advance to Alpharetta for that. I like Alpharetta. I have friends who live there, work there. I even like to shop there, lunch there, occasionally run on the Greenway. Sometimes I even wish I was rich enough to live there but then I remember I like our schools and cheaper taxes much more than Alpharetta's.

The course is not "awesome" in any way I could figure so I am not sure exactly what they are referring to when they call it the Awesome Alpharetta marathon.Maybe it is the marathon that is awesome. I ran the half and know for a fact that it was not awesome.

For those not from here let me explain that there are 2 Alpharettas: There is the Alpharetta of quaint shops set up in old cottages and farm houses, wide spacious farmland and country like roads with multi-million dollar neighborhoods with 2 acre lots. These are some very beautiful and ridiculously large houses. It is nice; pretty, in an interesting way.

Then there is the Alpharetta of the Mall. It has the big mall, a bazillion smaller strip malls and chain restaurants and gazillion office parks-- albeit beautifully landscaped and pristinely maintained office parks--basically it is a landscape of unprovoking and bland concrete,glass and stone buildings framed by stretches of fescue that are punctuated by azaleas, pear trees and crepe myrtles. And that, unfortunately, is the Alpharetta that the half marathon and marathon dominated.

Oh yeah, and Alpharetta? It is really hilly. But the whole North Atlanta metro area is rolling hills. I know that, run that and am use to that. These are the foothills to the Appalachians. You know the Appalachians? Those little mountains in North Georgia? James Dickey wrote a book and then the book became a movie, and here is where I am going to be evil and strike a chord of fear in my male readers and mention the name of the movie don da da don . . . Deliverance that set the stereotype for who/what Georgians were for the rest of the country. queuing dueling banjos. . .

Ah, good times. Just makes you want to go up to Clayton and go on a back country canoeing trip . . .
Anyway, if you want flat you gotta go run by the river or sink below the gnat line into South Georgia. But yeah, that is too far for me to drive. This was a race of convenience: conveniently it is 3 weeks out from ING and the proximity was good and the course, most likely, similar.

So here are the positives: Organization was fine. Aid stations great, frequent and well stocked. The course was clearly marked for the most part until the final miles. I got confused at the end. Garmin, of course, failed me. The GPS didn't kick in until I was a 3/4 a mile in. It always throws me off when Garmin is off. There was no mile 12 marker or 13 and while I had an idea of where the finish was I wasn't certain and then I saw runners going down the road up ahead--I realize now they were the full marathoners who had turned off but were going into their second loop. From my perspective at that point, even though I thought there was only about a 1/4 mile left,those other runners made me think I had 1+ miles left. It is easy to get confused once you start piling up the miles. I slowed and almost started walking but then I saw the finish banner and picked the pace back up. So I never really gave that final kick.

Negatives: Boring course. I didn't like that I had to pick up my packet Friday or Saturday but had to wait until race morning to get my chip. That makes no sense and is inconvenient. But then again it was nice at the start that they had free lattes, coffee and doughnuts. Spectators rather sparse. This doesn't bother me since I run alone all the time but I add this because I know some people really need those cheering throngs.

But all that aside. My major complaint was the weather and I can't blame the race directors on typical crap shot North Atlanta weather. It was cold. It was 30 degrees at the start and I swear it got colder. 30 degrees isn't terrible but the wind. OH. My. God. The wind. It really kicked in after mile 4 and was just brutal by the 8th and 9th mile. I guess there is a reason it is called Windward Parkway. I didn't have my mittens--I couldn't find them. It has been in the 50/60's lately and I haven't needed them. Then I think maybe I didn't choose my outfit so wisely: grey just below the knee tights (my calf's get hot), long sleeve technical shirt, shiny pink windbreaker and pink hat. I don't know. I thought I would warm up after the first mile or so and that might have happened had the wind not been a factor. I really don't know what would have been a better choice as it was just the force of the wind and the chill on my face and hands that was so horrible.

Okay, I'll stop whining enough to give you my mile breakdown. Keep in mind my times are approximate and from my sketchy memory since Garmin thinks I only ran a little over 12 miles today.
Mile one: 6:54 split. Too fast but this was downhill and I was fucking cold.Trying.To.Get.Warm.
Mile two: 14 minutes flat. Slowing as we are climbing.
Mile three: Just over 21 minutes. I had stopped and took off my shoe. It felt like my sock was slipping and was bunched up. Turned out that my feet were just really numb and I was only feeling part of it. Put shoe back on and kept running thinking I hate not feeling my feet. Shortly after this time Bill Rogers showed up. So did the hills. Even still I kept pace with him for several miles.
Mile four: I think around 29 minutes.
Mile five: Right around 37 minutes.
Mile six: 44 minutes--downhill. I lost Bill when I stopped for water. But he kept stopping too. He seemed to be having some problem with his shoe. I swear I wasn't stalking him. He was just the most recognizable person around me. There seemed to be a lot of men who all looked the same age--40's, around the same size and all wore black and had hats on. Bill had a bright yellow shirt on and track pants and was taller, thinner. I only saw a handful of women the whole race. It seems I always run with the boys.
Mile seven: Just under 53 minutes
Mile eight: 61 minutes the wind is just killing me. I think I muttered holy mother of fuck and I saw Bill turn to look at me. Still, he never said anything to me. Maybe, even in all my pink, I was invisible. Really, I know it was the lack of make-up. I am so much hotter with the make up.
Mile nine: I can't remember. Cold,windy,sucking hill ass--or something like that.
Mile ten: 77 minutes--really this is fine and I kept thinking if the course gets more forgiving I might can kick it and do under 1:40. But not really knowing the course made it hard to gage. I really didn't care except a PR would have been a nice boost. I knew I wasn't going to win. Around here I need to do sub 1:30 for the half to win--in the women. Men usually do under 1:15.
Mile eleven: This ran me past the children's boutique where I have spent a fortune on dresses for Carmella and gay boy outfits for Beau. I had brief moment of shopping nostalgia. And after I passed the mile eleven marker I stopped paying attention to time, topography and Bill Rogers. I decided to think about Evan instead.
Miles twelve and thirteen: I said a prayer for Evan and asked him to get me through this hellish wind tunnel of a race and asked again for peace for Justin and Pam. I think he maybe heard me because then the race sloped down and the wind was finally on my back. Then there was finish line confusion and then I was finished.

My watch said 1:41 and 45 seconds, chip time is 1:41 and 51 seconds. I was 15th female overall and it looks like third in my age group. Pretty consistent with my half times of late and I suppose I could consider it a PR if I compare it to the Atlanta half since the course was probably more equal. My 1:41 PR is from the Silver Comet and that is by comparison a pancake flat race.

After finishing I had thought to stick around and see if I placed. But I got ridiculously cold and decided that even if I did place I doubted if they were giving away the fur coat or fleece jacket that I desperately needed. I must have looked in the early stages of hypothermia as several people advised me to get warm. Where they thought I should go I have no idea. One very kind and nice guy said he would give me his sweatshirt but he didn't have anything on under it. He laughed when I good-naturely told him that good intentions were not going to keep me warm. Together we looked and asked about for the shuttle bus and I also waited for the New Orleans coffee cart to make something warm to drink other than gumbo. They kept offering me benignets. Doughnuts and wind proved the theme du jour--neither of which am I terribly fond of.

Finally some hot chocolate and 20 minutes later me and my sympathetic companion finally located the shuttle. I almost started to cry when I saw the driver shut his doors and pull away from the curb before I could get to the bus. But God bless, he pulled back over and let me on. It was the best post-race shuttle ride of my life.

PS to Wes for linking me from his blog. I appreciate the props. And hi to all who stopped by. Hi! Please keep reading and commenting.
PPS Sorry about all the typos. I am tired of editing and writing this. Some are writers, some are editors and the latter-- I know beyond a shadow of a doubt--I am not.
Cheers and onto to taper mania. . .


  1. Hey Natalie,

    Wasn't that movie (Deliverance) shot in WVA? For some reason I always thought it was there.

    Did you try to talk to Bill Rogers? What an opportunity. He probably was stalking you...LOL.

    Good job on your race...I went to the web site and looked up the results but they seemed to lump all the runners in male or female catagory...I didn't see any age listings.

    But anyway...congratulations!


  2. Way to go, Nat!

    Dagny and I tried to find the finish to see you, but were thwarted by the Alpharetta fuzz. It looked cold and miserable.

  3. Hey Charlie,
    I'm pretty certain the movie was shot in Clayton,GA. I know it is set in North GA. I took a class on Dickey in graduate school but I may not have been paying the greatest attention and could have my facts wrong.
    You are right, they didn't have the results in age groups. I just looked at the overall and there were 2 women ahead of me in the 35-39 age group. They did say they were having an age group ceremony but like I said, I didn't stick around so I don't know.
    No I didn't chat with Bill. I tend not to strike up converstations with other runners during a race but am I always willing to chat with them if they intiate. I hate to bother someone who is serious and focusing. I will also say that the faster I get it seems there is less conversation going on around me. At the 9 minute mile pace? Everyone was talking. Start creeping under the 8 minute pace and it is pretty quite. I didn't really see Bill talk to anyone. I saw a few people who were behind us and heading out on Windward when we were looping North take pictures of him. I always think I want to carry my camera during a race but never do. Now had it been Lance Armstrong or Paula Radcliffe I might have tried to say something but then again I think jogging they are both a lot faster than I.

  4. Thanks Steph! There were tons of fuzz! I had a hard time getting cutting over to get home.

    I got your message. Looks like you called around 10:30ish. I finished around 8:40 and was home by 9:30ish so we probably would have missed each other. There were very few spectators at the finish when I got done just the volunteers I think. Ryan and the kids never come out for any of my races except the Atlanta Marathon and the kids were pretty bored.I'm always done before he can get them dressed and out of the house anyway. But they better be there for the ING--same goes to Lala, Pop, Bubbles, Meme and Pat.

  5. Ah, Alpharetta. My first 10K was there, and I do remember the rolling hills well. I was thinking, Damn! These hills are lot longer (not steeper) than I am used to, and I have tons of hills where I live. The wind can be brutal, but at least it wasn't raining like October. The rain itself wasn't so bad, it was just waiting 26 minutes for Dee Dee to finish after the race that I froze my butt off. Nice job on run. I don't know what's up with your Garmin. How frustrating!

  6. eh - i'm glad i skipped it. congrats on a great run tho'.

    btw all i ever needed to know about running in alpharetta you can find here.

  7. Congrats! You run in the toughest races under horrible weather conditions! If you ever get a flat course with perfect weather you would be a MONSTER!! The scene from "Deliverance" that scared the wits out of me was the "Squeal like a Pig" and they weren't talking about the Flying Pig Marathon either!

  8. Wes
    Those hills were long. And even though that are rolling I swear the downhill part is shorter and I kept thinking did I go downhill, did I miss it. It constantly felt likt I was going up hill. It was cloudy at the start and I think that is why the GPS took awhile to pick up. It is partially my fault since I didn't turn it on til a few minutes before start. I know better than to wait.

  9. James
    It isn't just Alpharetta that has the sidewalk issue, Roswell does too, really all of N. Fulton does and the drives do like to pretend they don't see you. Sidwalks, no matter where you are running, in the Atlanta area are a must.

  10. Bruce
    I know it is the "squeal like a pig" scene but I didn't think it was neccessary.
    I have not had the best of luck with the weather for my races this year. But the course really wouldn't have been so bad if I hadn't been fighting the wind on the uphill.

  11. I ran the Half Marathon back in October of 2005 I think. It was awful, a full circle around the mall until you got to the finish? And the office parks? Ugh. I enjoyed reading your recap! I link to Wes (he really gets around!) and then came across your blog! Good luck at ING!

    - Sarah

  12. Yes! That was 05 and I ran that one too. Someone told me that it was acutally longer than 13.1. This year was a different course completely. It was a slightly more interesting course but much much hillier.
    Thanks for reading Sarah! Are you in Atlanta? Are you doing ING? Off to look up your bloggy.. .

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