Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Berry Half Marathon: A Success Story!

I headed to bed at 11:00 the night before the race, knowing that I was doomed to toss and turn during the 5 1/2 hours before my alarm was to ring.  I had set all my things out so I'd be able to function on autopilot at 4:30am.  The plan was to meet up with several of my Adventure Runners friends at 5:30 in the parking lot of the Kennesaw LA Fitness.  I had brought along a mug of hot black tea to help me wake up.  Two friends, Elise and Isabel, rode with me for the hour's drive up to Rome, Georgia.  Elise had brought some yummy, healthy muffins and bananas, so we breakfasted on the way up.

We arrived at the Berry College campus a little before 7am, and stepped out into the chilly air to search for the place where we could pick up our bibs.  I was so thankful that the rain was scheduled to hold off until after the race.  The cold was one thing, but cold and rain would have been totally miserable!

Even though we arrived early, we discovered that the packet pick-up location was a half mile's walk from the car.  We grabbed our race bags and headed back to the car where the heater and handy butt-warmer awaited us.  The short-sleeved tech tee-shirts looked very nice, and there were lots of other goodies, including chap-stick, a band-aid holder which keeps them from getting wadded up in a purse or running belt, several energy bars and gels, a magnet, and, of course, upcoming race advertisements.

At 8:15 we braved the cold again and waited in line at the porta-potties before hiking all the way back to the start line.  I ran into Tad and Chris, and was able to introduce them to each other and to Elise.  It really is fun when virtual friends become real-life, in-person friends!  Elise and I planned out our race strategy and decided we would each benefit by starting out together and targeting an 8:14 pace.

As the gun went off, I was very glad to be able to start warming up from the heat of exercise.  The campus was very pretty, and the crowd of locals cheered us on with great enthusiasm.  At the first sign of a down hill slope, I just let go and sprinted.  It felt really good since I was used to running on almost completely flat surfaces.

After running around campus for a couple of miles, the course led us down a long, straight flat path toward the mountain part of the campus.  I kept the pace steady and felt pretty strong.  As I passed about the 4 1/2 mile mark, I decided to go ahead and take a gel.  Even though it was a bit early in the race, I knew it would benefit me as I hit the oncoming hills.  Luckily a water station was not far ahead because I was already regretting not having hydrated quite enough.

More crowds had gathered at this part to cheer us on.  They has also planted inspirational and sometimes comical signs all along the way.  I had been bracing myself for a tough ride on the hills, but I was actually pleasantly surprised by how mild they seemed compared to the giant hill at the Tartan Trot 10K.  Also, there were lots of downhills to relieve me as soon as I ran out of breath going uphill.

On the two out-and-back places I ran into Tad as he was finishing and I was starting.  It was nice to know I wasn't embarrassingly far behind a really super-fast runner.  The two places were my least favorite because they were not paved.  The second one, in particular, was really tough because it had lots of sharp rocks embedded in the dirt, and the path led up to some rather smelly horses.  After that, we hit a rather extreme downhill patch where I could just let go because I felt I might tumble if I did.

Finally, we hit the paved road again, and I was very grateful to be sure of my footing once more.  This was the beginning of the long, straight stretch back to the main campus.  The crowd had thinned out by then, and I started feeling a bit more tired.  Luckily, there were more signs to keep me entertained.  These had senseless trivia on them - things like:  Did you know that the item most choked upon is a toothpick? and (something like) Termites produce 90% of the world's farts?  They were so silly, but then, my mind could not have digested anything more profound anyway.

The last two miles were very, very tough and lonely.  In looking back at my splits, I see that I carried them both at a sub-eight pace.  However, they took their toll on me.  I felt like a zombie and I wanted so bad to stop.  However, I wanted equally badly to just finish up, so I pushed on.  I once considered barfing on the side of the road, but I stuffed that impulse down.  There were no girls around me, and there were some college-aged boys nearby, so that made me feel reassured.

I looked at my watch at mile 12 and discovered that I had a tiny shot at hitting a 1:45 time.  This indeed motivated me to keep going strong.  In the last stretch where I could see the finish line, I might have sped up a little, but I had no true sprint left in me.  I also felt that my blood pressure was low and that I did indeed risk passing out.  Finally I crossed over the line and saw that I had indeed beat 1:46!  That made me so incredibly happy.  I never thought I could run that far, that fast!  It was such an unbelievable thing that I walked around in circles for a second, trying to shake the cobwebs out of my mind.

I was able to cheer on several of my friends who came in not long after I did.  Then we collectively headed over for some refreshments.  Elise and I picked up our time printout and were sad to see we had both landed 4th place in our age group.  Damn.  Must have been some really fast ones ahead of us!  What we did not consider, however, is that, unbeknownst to us, the 1st place winner in both of our age groups was named masters and grand masters winner, so that had bumped us each up to third.  Since our tired minds did not consider this possibility, we bolted early and missed our chance to receive our respective awards.

We finished off the morning with a group picture and a hearty lunch at Waffle House.  It had been a great day and a great race.  I'm thrilled with an official time of 1:45:54 (a pace of 8:06), even though I was really sad to have missed a Corral A qualifying time for the Peachtree Road Race 10K by 7 lousy seconds.

Today, as I rest my tired legs, I still feel that I ran the race well, shattering my goal of 2:00 and even my dream goal of 1:52, while setting myself up nicely for my very first marathon in two weeks.


  1. A great performance and a captivating description of the race and all the activities around it - well done! May you race this well in the full also! I shall look forward to your race report!

  2. Why thank you, Marius! I think these recaps will come in handy later on when I do the same race a year later. I am absolutely thrilled to pieces that I pulled this time off. Yes, now on to the big enchilada!

  3. Just you and the college boys ;) Nice job!!!

  4. Maybe it will finally let me comment now. :P You rocked the race! I can't wait to run with ya and then cheer for ya at Albany!!!