Race Day!

Back in April, when I found out the race entry lottery Matt entered me had indeed yielded me a Peachtree Road Race number, I immediately wished I'd entered the Powerball lottery instead. I kid! I was excited. I haven't run a race since the last Peachtree I ran eight years ago with Matt and my dad. And after watching Matt train so diligently for his half marathon and become quite the runner in the process, I wanted a turn to lace up my own shoes and hit the pavement.

I've slowly been transforming myself into a "runner" of sorts. There was the downloading of the Nike+ Training app, the trip to Big Peach Running to get professionally fitted for the proper shoes, the purchasing of running related accessories like the ear buds and flip belt. There have been runs around the neighborhood (hilly) and runs at the Greenway (beautiful) and runs in the rain. I even managed to squeeze in runs while both girls were in the water at swim practice. I've done squats and more squats to try to fend off runner's knee injuries. I've picked up a random yoga routine here and there and marveled that I was ever able to do this three times a week - yoga is hard!

And all this effort, the work, the knee pain... it was all leading to July 4 and the famed Peachtree Road Race 10k. My knees had been bothering me (I sound like such an old lady) so I hadn't been on anything long than a one mile jaunt around the 'hood for the last two weeks, and I'd only managed two or three of those as it was. The longest distance I'd ever hit was four miles, and every big distance had always led to protesting joints. Hit 5k, take two weeks off to heal. Hit four miles, end up on the coach for ten days, etc. While I knew I could go the distance, I wasn't sure I'd be able to do it without crying into my kneecaps. So it was with a bit of trepidation that I watched the days tick down on the calendar.

On Marta, heading to the expo for our numbers. Game faces on.
We decided to take Marta to the expo as our dry run. We bought our tickets for the next day as well, which proved to be a wise decision when we saw the lines trying to navigate the ticket machines the next day. The expo was crowded, with offerings from running clothes to "energy" jelly beans. Matt picked up his number in the Wave A booth. It had a few fast, fit looking people lined up. I picked up my number in the Wave W booth. The people in line with me, lets just say they didn't look like the people waiting with Matt. Although I figured they would be good company for me and my knees. We took our numbers, signed the wall and headed home.

The road would prove to be as crowded as the signatures on the wall.

Staking my claim.

It pays to be prepared the night before.
Matt set the alarm for 4:45. That would give us enough time to get up, have our coffee and breakfast (half an English muffin with almond butter, in case you're wondering what an elite athlete like myself eats on race day), get dressed and get to Marta. It was shocking how different the station looked than it had the day before. It was clogged with runners of every shape and size. Families, couples, random dudes, it was packed. Everyone had their race bib on, so it was easy to spot the top runners (seeded, yellow bib, no wave) from my fellow W's. Everyone seemed awake and excited, despite the early hour. We stuffed ourselves into the first train that showed up, packed almost as tightly as we would be in the race later, and took off.

Waiting for the train.

Going up!
Once we spilled out into the sunshine, Matt pretty quickly had to ditch me. His wave was called in one direction, the rest of us were herded in another. We took a picture and then he was off. He would be done running before I even got started! I waited for my friend Sheri, who had graciously agreed to run with me once she found out that I was in need of a friend at the race.

Good luck, Matt!
Things back in Wave W were decidedly less serious than I'm sure they were in Wave A. Back here there were plenty of costumes, tutus, crazy headbands with streamers. It was definitely more of a party atmosphere. Which was good! It helped me relax and realize that ultimately my goal was just to get to the end and no one really cared overly much about technique and form from where we were. Sheri decked me out in shades and beads, which turned out to be so helpful as we ran - the beads kept clicking together and made it easier to keep track of each other. I could always hear Sheri next to me!

My running partner and bling bringer!
We were still hanging out in our staging area when I got the text from Matt that he was already done and hanging out in the Atlanta Track Club members-only tent with his free beer. Jealous! At this point what had dawned as a fairly pleasant morning was rapidly becoming a typical Atlanta summer scorcher. But as we finally starting walking towards the starting line, I got excited that this show was finally on the road.

Passing under the giant flag at the starting line.

Let's get this party started!
The actual running part was part jogging, part dodging the professional walkers all around us, looking for holes in the masses to quick-step through... I probably logged an extra mile just trying to get around people. I one point I turned to Sheri and pointed out that we were pretty much the only people running - everyone else was walking! But that also served to make me feel super accomplished - look at how many people we're passing! While I had warned Sheri that my training had been mainly intervals (run three minutes, walk one), we ended up running three miles straight before taking a potty break. As we told Matt later, the two hours we had to wait before starting meant nature came a'calling in the middle of the race. Had we started when he did, we would have made it to the end without a problem. But we ended up stopping at the perfect time. By the time we made it through the line and were back on the road, we were rested enough to tackle Cardiac Hill. We did make sure to grab water at every opportunity and walk while we drank it so as not to waste a precious drop.

For all my worries that I wouldn't be able to make it, I feel rather proud of myself. I managed to run basically the whole race, minus our water walks. There was enough going on around us, from the guys dressed as space men and the random dude that offered us beer from the rolling cooler he was running with, to the cheering spectators and encouragement along the way, that it carried me along. I texted Matt as we rounded the corner onto 10th Street and knew that the finish line was coming up. We finished strong and headed through the masses to pick up our shirts, snacks, and finally reunited with Matt. I was tired, but more from the 5 a.m. wake-up call than the actual race. The race kind of kills your holiday, but I would definitely do it again. I better get a higher wave though!

The finishers!
Many thanks go out to Matt, for getting me my race number and encouraging me to go out for a job while he watched the girls. Thanks to Sheri for running with me on the big day. Thanks to Virginia and my mom for texting me these last three months to check in on my training progress and my knees. Thanks to Nike+ for all those squats. Thanks to the amazingly organized race and its countless volunteers who run the show. Thanks to America for being born. Thanks everyone!

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