Monday, March 26, 2007

GA ING Marathon Race Report

For those that want to skip all the boring details of my 26.2 yesterday here is the gist:
Official results:
START 7:07:14 AM EST
10K 48:07
Half 1:43:20
20Mile 2:43:52
FINISH 3:44:15
TIME Chip Time: 3:44:15 Clock: 3:47:47
Pace: 8:33
Place Overall: 499
Gender place: 82

I woke up yesterday at 3:52 am. The alarm was set for 4 am but no matter what time I set the alarm for I always wake up before it goes off. Upon stepping out of bed my ankle felt weak and hurt. I had not run or done much of anything for 2 straight days so there was no reason for it to hurt and I chose to ignore the pain and went on getting dressed. The stiffness and pain either worked itself out or I forgot about it because after awhile I was unaware of it.

I left the house at 5:15 and headed downtown to my sister's house in Atlanta. I got there at 5:50. She was, as usual grumpy--so not a morning person-- and even my ING shaker and little cheer didn't rally her. It is kind of a downer to be all happy in the morning when everyone else is sour grapes.

I brought her outfits and she picked black skirt and declined visor. I also discouraged her from the cotton tank and later she thanked me for my wise-- although less cute-- recommendation of a technical singlet.

Wes showed up and was all tired and whining and hungover. I am not sympathetic. He is the one who volunteered to take us to the start so he knew what he would be doing and at what time and besides it wasn't like he was running. We took my car and I found some of the kids' candy in the car so I ate a blow pop and showed my blue tongue to Sarah several times. She was unimpressed. See how fun I am in the morning?

Wes dropped us near Underground and we ran to get in line for the port-o-lets. The lines were ridiculous. We got in line at 6:30. At 6:48 I started timing people. My sister was a bit mortified at this and that I was being very vocal about my impatience. But seriously, I know I can pee in less than 15 seconds so I don't see why everyone else can't too. I mean do you really want to spend anymore time than that in the portapotty? And the men? They took the longest to pee! Averaging about a minute--some even took 2 whole minutes. That is just wrong. With that equipment I should think you would be much faster. Most women took about 40 seconds. Sarah beat me with a record 12 seconds. It was because I fumbled with the tp. I should have just dripped dry and then I would have won.

At 6:56 we ran to the start and I pushed my way through the crowd trying to get with my pace group. I apologize to all the people I shoved out the way to get through the crowd but I did not want to be way in the back. I was very annoyed to find that they were not corralling people and even worse that they--the volunteers--would not let me cut through to my pace group. Though one volunteer did relent and I got as close as the 5 hour pace group. I never heard the gun and had to ask if it had started realizing it was now well past 7am. Then the mass of people finally started moving. I started Garmin as soon as I crossed the mat and wanted to shove all those people walking out of the way. IT IS A RACE!!! After jockeying a bit hopped on the sidewalk and sprinted it. My friend said she saw me go by in pink skirt like someone was chasing my ass.I am sure I looked ridiculous but I wanted to get away from all the walkers and hopefully catch my pace group.

As I was running down the side walk I saw an older woman who had fallen in the middle of the crowd and was being dragged out of the mob before she got trampled. See, that is is why you should run at the race start and if you don't plan on running get way, way in the back and let the runners be ahead.

Okay, please let me rant on here a second about this: Even in the Atlanta half marathon-- where you are also not corralled-- people still start running once they cross that chip mat. You can visibly see the wave roll ahead of you and then you are running. That did not happen yesterday at all. I was passing walkers in the those first 2-3 miles. I should not have been passing walkers at all after that first mile if they had placed them self appropriately in the line up. And let me also say that it is very hard to stop when you come running down the road at a sub 7 minute pace and find yourself directly behind someone walking a 16 minute pace. That is how people get hurt. So in case this was lots of peoples first race ever and they just didn't know any better let me be the one to tell you that unless you are in the way, way, way back that when your foot hits that mat it is time to start running. Otherwise, please, step aside.

Okay I feel better having said that. So anyway, I know this is where I went wrong but I started chasing down my pace group. I passed the clock at the first mile split and it said 10 something. So I think my first mile was well under 7 minutes. 3 miles was 22 minutes, way, way too fast. This is where I saw Bubbles, Lala and Pop (Poppy ran the half!). They were surprised to see me as I blew past them and mom said I was already glistening. I was hot and I think it was barely in the 60's. I started to slow a bit and around the 5th mile I finally caught and passed the 3:40 pace group.

I think around the 6 mile mark I realized that I was actually ahead of a 3:30 pace time wise but not physically on the course. I had banked about a minute 15. I was hot but I feeling really good. I ate a few clif blocks in the first 10k and stopped at 2 water stations. Then I didn't see another water station til the 11th mile. Not good. But I was still feeling really good.

Somewhere in Decatur-- I think that was in the 11th mile maybe earlier-- a man called out that I was in the top 75 women. So to entertain myself I counted down as passed the girls 74, 73, 72 . . . Later though I would be too confused to count back up as they passed me on Peachtree.

Around 15 miles I still had just under a minute in the bank to be on target for a 3:30 marathon. I knew that I was slowing and would continue to do so considering the course and rising heat. I decided to stop and go to the restroom as I felt that nagging feeling in my bladder. But I couldn't go. I briefly thought this was odd because I am one of those people that can always go but didn't worry about it too much. I was drinking water at every station I came to and I was eating my shot blocks and had had a gel earlier. That was more that I took in my last 2 marathons so I figured I was fine.

I was really enjoying myself. The course is amazing and rolled through the old Atlanta neighborhoods punctuated buy the blooming cherry, dogwoods, pear and red bud trees. Everywhere green with cotton candy like blossoms and pretty bungalows. I thought of e.e. cummings poem anyone lived in a pretty how town (with up so floating many bells down) as ran through Druid Hills and Inman park. Anyway, just gorgeous. I loved it and didn't really mind all the hills until we hit Freedom parkway. I think they should take this part out. I think it offers nothing and is just a 2 1/2 mile stretch of concrete and asphalt. This was when I really started to feel the effects of the heat.

It was going up Freedom Parkway, right before the 19th mile marker, that I saw the second of the 3 downed runners I came across during the race. This one brought me to a walk. It was a young, fit looking guy. He was already off the course, surrounded by other runners and he was unconscious when I came upon him. They were trying to turn him over and he was just out-- totally floppy. There was nothing I could do so I kept on running. The firetruck going to him passed me at the beginning of the the 20th mile so I hope they got to him in time. I have heard no reports of anyone dying so I have to assume everyone I saw went down was fine. I am sure this being the inaugural run they are downplaying any major glitches. But let me just say it was a tough course anyway and people were struggling big time from the heat. I mean, hello, nearly every year someone dies running the Peachtree and that is only a 10k. Yesterday felt hotter to me than in any of the years I have run the Peachtree and that is on July 4th.

I was still feeling good and realized that I was about 2 minutes behind a 3:30 marathon goal and I was fine with that. I really was not set on getting a 3:30-- just a sub 3:40-- or at the very least a PR. I figured with a 10k to go and how I was feeling it was in the bag. I even cheered at the 20 mile split and yelled out "Last 10k, woohoo!" Those around me weren't quite as cheery.

Coming up Ponce De Leon I ran up on a weaving runner with 2 cyclists on either side of him. They were medics. The runner, a man in his late 40's I'd guess, who looked to be quite fit, raised his hand to wave them off and then went down. He just crumpled into himself right before me. As I went around him I saw him trying to stand and the medics pushed him down and pulled him off the course. That was very unnerving to see but I was still feeling good and not worried.

I turned into the Highlands and was feeling great. I mean, yes, my feet were hurting and I was hot but you know that was not surprising considering I had just run 21 miles. I saw my uncle in front of Limerck's Junction. He jogged alongside with me with his laptop and said he was tracking me. I asked where I was and he said I was predicted for a 3:34 finish. Awesome, a nine minute PR.

Then after I passed the Inman park middle school I saw Ryan, Beau, Carmella and Lola. They didn't see me and I had to jump off the course to get to their attention. I gave out sweaty kisses and forgot to tell Ryan to get orange juice and Motrin for the end. Oh well, I would be okay. As I came down a hill there was a guy setting out beers in front of his house. I called out to him-- but I don't think he heard me-- that after 21 miles I wanted something better than Miller lite. I know, gift horse in the mouth but Miller lite? Gag.

As I entered Piedmont Park I started to get really cold. I had goose bumps and my hands were very swollen. I also wasn't sure where I was. I couldn't figure out if I was still in the 21st mile or the 22nd. I started to feel a little sick and dizzy so I slowed down. Then this guy in a yellow nut hugger (a.k.a speedo) ran up beside me. This made me feel sicker. It was just obscene and I picked up the pace a bit because I sure as hell didn't want there to be any race pictures of me next to him. I couldn't shake him and my feet were absolutely killing me. Every step felt like my bones were being crushed and I felt so sick. So I stopped and walked and creepy speedo guy passed me and went on his jiggly sweaty way. Finally I saw the 23rd mile marker. I was so happy that I was where I thought I was but time was really slipping away. I made a deal with myself that I would run the flat and downhill parts and could walk/jog the hills. This was a good plan but the last 3 miles? Yeah, they are uphill. It was Atlanta all over again.

And here is my other rant, and I mean no offense to the walkers doing the half marathon, but after busting my ass on 22 grueling miles, hitting the wall and suffering early signs of heat stroke, and then find myself having to walk among half marathoners with canes-- okay they were walking sticks-- was very demoralizing. Not to mention when I was struggling to run I had weave around them. They should have had the half start later or well before so the marathoners don't have to tango with them at the end. Just seems unfair to the winners of the marathons to have to cross the finish line with the half marathoners and also not fair to the halfers who are struggling after 2+ hours of running and have marathoners blow past them.

So yeah, I really wasn't feeling well and my feet were just killing me. I figured my choices were to just quit right then, run and be like one of those runners who pass out on the course and maybe not finish and seriously hurt myself or conserve my energy and walk so I could finish. I really wanted to finish and knew I could but it was hard getting past having to walk after having run so strong for 22 miles. I was so angry that I wasn't finishing strong. I even said out loud as I came up on the Fox Theater that this was just mean--referring to the hill, to the heat. Those last miles were a blur and I think I probably talked to myself. I felt very out of it.

Once I got to the last mile I knew I could finish it running and really busted it out the last stretch to the finish. I must have looked strong and impressive because Lala said I was "flying". It was a total rouse but none of the people at the finish had seen me humbled and crawling up Peachtree so-- at least to them-- it looked like I kicked hill ass. I even threw my arms up and smiled for the photographers.

I was very confused after I finished and I have never, I mean never felt as bad after a race as I did then. The volunteers just push you on through the finish maze. I felt like I was drugged and was still really cold as volunteers pointed me this way, and wait, stop here and let me take your chip. Here, hang on, congratulations, here is your medal. Then someone pressing water into my hands and another putting a space blanket around me. Wait. Stop, Natalie, (my name was on my bib but it was weird that everyone knew my name)let me take your photo. Hold up your medal and smile. Medal? When did I get this? Then people offering me food and somehow I ended up with pretzels. I was just wandering through this maze not really seeing, hearing anything. Just sort of sleepwalking awake. I saw the medical tent and decided I should ask them if I was okay.

Apparently not because the next thing I knew I was laying on a cot getting my pulse and bp taken. Then they placed ice on me and on my hands and propped my legs up. When I wiped my face I brushed off salt and realized that I was covered in it. They kept asking me to eat or drink and if I was going to throw up. And they must have asked me my name about 15 times and after the first few time of telling them I just started pointing to my bib. I tried to tell them that I was feeling much better now that I wasn't running. 3 different medics also asked me how hot it was. I kept saying I don't know the temperature. I felt like I wasn't understanding the question. But looking back on it now I think they were asking me how hot I felt it was. At the time though? I thought they were just trying to make small talk about the weather with me and all I wanted to do was close my eyes and rest for a moment.

I don't know how long I was there when Wes found me in the tent. I was feeling better by that point and told him to tell Ryan where I was but not to come since I didn't want the kids to see me on a cot surrounded by people with IV's and in wheel chairs. They took my pulse and bp again and moved me to a blanket and had me sit up. Lala and Pookie showed up then and helped me take my shoes off. We all marveled at how swollen my feet and hands were and put more ice on them. Bubbles and Poppy came by and took pictures and then left. Shortly after I was feeling better even though I was starting to have bad stomach cramps but they passed and I was able to walk to the car.

Ryan and I went to Sarah's and I tried to use her restroom but still couldn't pee. I was feeling like I could finally eat something so I had an olive and cream cheese sandwich on toast. I know that probably sounds gross but it was just what I needed.

After that Ryan, the kids and I left. My Dad drove my car home since I felt too shaky to drive. Once I got home I was finally able to pee-- and I know you really wanted to know that. Then I took an ice bath and had a big glass of orange juice and Motrin and felt eight million times better.

Today I am feeling tired and my quads are sore and I think I have tendinitis or possibly a stress fracture on my right foot.We'll see. Sometimes these things just take a few days to work out and are not really injuries. I am feeling well enough that I may go to the gym for some cross training to work out this soreness in my quads later today. I don't know what is up with Peachtree but the only time my quads ever feel like this is after I have run a race that has Peachtree Road in it. Bitch. I'll kick her ass one of these days.

Thank you to everyone for your support and well wishes. ING wasn't what I had hoped it would be but I am glad I finished and I don't regret running it.

And I do recommend this marathon. It is a challenging and beautiful course (except Freedom Pkwy) and yesterday was unusually warm. It is normally 20-30 degrees cooler. I believe we set a record high of 87 yesterday. So don't let yesterday's heat detour you from signing up for next year's ING. I am sure they will have the start logistics worked out by then. And maybe even tweak the course a bit and stagger the half marathon and start times so the marathoners--especially the winners--don't have to dart around the half marathoners.

And you know, next year, I may be one of those half marathoners since I'll be doing Boston as my spring marathon.

Lastly, props to all my friends who ran:
Poppy--half-- 2:02
Paige--first full!--4:33
Toby--first full!--4:53
Also Wes and James

I am so proud to have such great runner friends. You guys did fantastic!


  1. Nice report, Nat! I swear I saw you standing at the front of the line when I scooted down the sidewalk between the pee'ers and the portopotties on the way to the start. I didn't stop cause I didn't want to embarrass myself if I was wrong :-) I'm a bit pissed that they haven't got my chip time up yet! Those bastards!! I wanna know! I hear ya on the walkers. Next year they can do a better job of placing us. I have NEVER had to weave like that and I was flabbergasted that there were walkers in front of me! Geez! I think the idea for Freedom Parkway was to include the Carter Center on the route. I didn't mind it, but I agree with you on the heat. The sun was just beating down there. I thought I might see you on the way in and could run with you a bit, but Dee Dee came in just before you, and she was all I could handle. Besides, even after doing 25 miles, you still would've kicked my arse :-) Nice job! and yes, we'll be back. Maybe we'll swap and I'll do the marathon next year!

  2. good reports. i am still working up to writing mine. i finished in just under 5 hours and it was the most gruelling run i have ever done.

    i am still trying to figure out what happened to the powerade on the course. and also still a little dehydrated today.

    i'm with you on freedom parkway. surely we can find another two miles to run somewhere?

  3. way to go, Nat. I agree on the logistics. More water (seriously?!), better starts, why was the clif shot station AFTER the water station, freedom parkway wasn't that great (several friends who also ran the marathon said it was hell, lucky for me and the other half-ers, we hit it early and still "cool" ... 70+ degrees?), etc.
    But still overall a good race. I look forward to joining the full distance Ga. marathon club next year.

  4. I replied but for some reason it didn't show up.

    Anyway . . .
    If you saw someone in a pink visor, long ponytail with a bazillion rubberbands (to prevent my hair from the marathon dreadlocks), in a pink skirt and white shirt bitching at people then that was me. I really am a friendly person just not so good about waiting to pee. You should have said hi! And you? By the way did an awesome job yesterday. Cooler day and you would have had your sub 2hr.
    I know they wanted to include the Carter center but if they want to do that put it earlier in the race and know that when running past the Carter center I did not feel one ounce of the peace that Jimmy has tried to spread with all his good works. All I saw and felt was ugly concrete, bridges and heat. Good intentions do not the best race course make.
    Don't forget about Rocket City!

    James-- Awesome job. I can't even imagine what Peachtree felt like at 11 because it was hot as hell at 10. A girl at Big Peach had warned me that 70 was going to feel like 90 but I assured I could handle it. Excuse while I go remove my ass from my mouth. I should have listened to the the marathoner who has done 6 marys rather than go by my 2 in sub 60 degree weather. Uhm yeah, 70 is hot for a marathon. Kate you were right.
    There was powerade but I dont' think I was given any til the 20 mile and then again somewhere after. Both times it was so watered down it tasted nothing like powerade to me. Maybe if I had had some I wouldn't have crashed so hard. The aid stations were very unprepared. At every one they were still pouring water in the cups. Thank you to allt he little kids with their free water stands in the Atlanta hoods.

    Jason--great job yesterday! And wow, I am glad to know others had a similar race expereince. Makes me feel like less of a whiner.

  5. That borderline heat stroke experience sounds scary, but it still sounds like you ran a good race!

    Was this the first ING marathon? They probably get more organized and better prepared as the time goes on! 87 degrees is crazy!! (Im hoping for 60's in may)


  6. You did awesome Ms Natalie!


  7. You're my hero, Natalie. Seriously.

    Congratulations! Enjoy your well-deserved recovery.

  8. You are amazing. I am impressed with how you stuck it out and I hope recovery goes well this week. You are going to kick butt all over Boston next year!

    I will have to add The Devil Went Down to Georgia to my playlist, as I was also a Moc fan in '96. Did you know she attempted a comeback last year but USAG denied her petition to the National Championships? She also got married, but that's beside the point!

  9. Tiger--Thanks and yes it was the first year. I am sure it will be better next year.

    Charlie--as always, thanks!

    Angie--Hi and thank you. You are making me blush.

    Megan--Thanks and I did not know she was denied. Was it because she was "old"?

  10. Nat - you are my running hero. Glad you are feeling better today!

  11. WOW!! Fantastic race report!!! I was following you on the computer and your early pace was VERY fast: 10K, 7:44 minute pace, and half marathon you were still at 7:44 minute pace! Didn't realize you were trying to get away from the walkers at the start...Frustrating memories of my own struggles with walkers. Not only should walkers have a different start and finish, but maybe a whole DIFFERENT course! Half marathoners finishing with the marathoners is just plain WRONG. It is also scandalous that a race this size doesn't have enough fluids...VERY dangerous. You ran a gutsy race in the heat and hills and STILL beat my personal best by over a're my hero and mentor!!!! (I just hope I'm not in front of you during a visit to the potty!)

  12. Bruce! You crack me up! Thanks and you will be allowed up to 30 seconds to pee. More than that and it might get ugly. Better start practicing now before we get to Boston--you too Charlie. ;)

  13. It was kind of a fishy situation with Dom being denied a chance to compete at Nationals. She said she did everything asked of her by USAG(to go to at least one national team training camp and to compete at least one event at the US Classic meet a few weeks before Nationals), but they still denied her. USAG says the standards were different and that she didn't meet their qualification criteria. She could not qualify to Nationals based on an all around score at the US Classic because she was trying to qualify as a vault and floor specialist. She doesn't train bars any more due to shoulder troubles. I met her at Nationals last year when she was honored in a 10 year anniversary ceremony as part of the Mag 7 that won the team gold in Atlanta... :)

  14. thanks, nat. i finally got my race report up. i struggled to put this into words. i am so glad i did it.

  15. LOL Ms Natalie!...I have to get there first! :o( takes me a good minute to do my thing. During the Shamrock, I went in the port-a-lets about 10 minutes before the start of the race and then had the urge to go around the 5 mile mark...must have been my morning coffee..when I noticed runners running into the trees along side of the road. I finally decided to take a pit stop behind some parked buses and but when I dropped my drawers...Nothing happened for a good 10 seconds and I kept telling myself...Come on...Let's Go! Usually I can go on the drop of a hat...but not when I'm in a hurry!

  16. Well Charlie it sounds like you not only do you need to work on your time for a BQ but on your tinkling too. Really, it is all about just being more efficient, right?