Hotlanta Half Marathon 2017 Recap

Hello fellow runners! I hope everyone has had a wonderful week.  Last Sunday, I ran my 7th Half Marathon: The Hotlanta Half.  This was my first half since August 2015 and the longest distance I ran the Rock N Roll Savannah Marathon in November 2015.

This was the 3rd time I ran the Hotlanta Half.  The first time I ran it was in August 2014. My time was 1:58:58.  I ran it again in August 2015 however it was the first race where severe weather snuck in and dumped heavy rain about halfway through.  I remember trying to run in the rain, dodging puddles and makeshift streams. My time for that race ended being 2:00:36.

I started training for this race 13 weeks ago after struggling to get back on a weekly running program. I deployed to the sandbox in the first half of 2016.  While I was there, I tried to keep on a running schedule however it was difficult. After returning from my deployment, I was doing good during the Fall of 2016 but slacked off after the Christmas holidays.  Around the later part of March 2017, I said I needed to get back on track and that’s when I decided to train for the Hotlanta Half as a goal.

My original plan was to drive up to Atlanta EARLY in the morning because (at the time) I had difficulty finding a hotel room downtown that didn’t cost an arm and a leg. However, at the last minute, I was able to get a hotel room about 10 minutes walking distance from the starting line.  It was a little expensive but not as much as some of the other local hotels were charging. Plus my wife was happy we didn’t have to get up at 3 in the morning. We drove up on Saturday and toured the CNN studios and ate dinner at a Pizza restaurant. Before a major race, I always eat Italian or Asian.  It was delicious!

After a (somewhat) good night’s rest, it was race day.  We went to packet pickup about an hour before race start to grab my race bag and get ready for the race.  Of course, it never fails but I had to use the bathroom twice.  I ran into a runner that I met at a 5K race several weeks back. We wished each other good luck and headed to the starting line.

I was in corral D and I attempted to locate the 2:00 pace group.  My goal was to finish no matter what time, however, I did have a desire to finish under 2 hours or even beat my previous PR of 1:54:29.  I couldn’t find them but right before the start of the race, I found them way ahead between corral A and B.  I moved up to get closer to them.  Soon the race officially started. It took me a little while, but I managed to catch up with the pace group.  They must have been flying because the average pace for the first 3 miles was 8:15 a mile.  I went ahead of them and managed to keep a consistent pace trough mile 8. However, I started to run out of gas.  Why?  Because it was practically uphill for the remainder of the race.  I knew that Atlanta had some hills but I apparently forgot how hilly it was.  They should rename the race to the Hilllanta Half.  Here is an elevation chart of the course:

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I was getting tired but I was determined to finish.  For whatever reason, the final 2 miles was the longest.  However before I knew it, the finish line was in sight.  I normally make a mad dash for the finish line but not this time. I received my finisher’s medal, grabbed some water and sat down to recover. I was burning up and sore.  I found my wife and we walked back (slowly) to the hotel. I rested a little bit and took a nice hot shower.  Even though I was sore, I decided to go and try to walk it off at Ikea before heading home.

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Later on in the day, I found out my official time: 1:56:34.  This is my second fastest time for a half but my BEST time for the course.  A PR would have been nice, but I will settle for 2nd best and course PR considering the hilly terrain.  I believe if the course was flatter, I could have PR’d.  Statistically, I have significantly improved overall and in my age group from when I first ran this race in 2014:

Date Total Time Pace Overall Overall % Divison Division %
8/24/2014 01:58:58 9:05 per mile 284/1175 24% 43/87 49%
8/23/2015 02:00:36 9:07 per mile 280/1083 25% 28/75 37%
6/11/2017 01:56:32 8:53 per mile 262/1524 17% 24/98 24%

I am very pleased with what I have accomplished last Sunday.  I couldn’t have done it without the support of my wife and my new Run For God friends that I have made in the past couple of months. Even though I am a somewhat experienced runner, I too need encouragement and support.

I really don’t have a training plan for the next couple of weeks, however, I will begin training for my 3rd marathon the first week of July. For the 3rd time, I will be running the Rock N Roll Savannah Marathon.  I ran the race back in November 2015 but the race was cut short due to the unseasonably hot temperatures. Even though I got the finisher’s medal and jacket, I never had a chance to PR my first marathon.  I feel confident that I will PR this November.

Well, that’s about it.  Thanks for reading and happy running! Cheers!

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Retro Night 5K Glow Run

I think this is the first time since I started running where I began and ended the week by running in a 5K race.  In my blog post titled Marathon Training – Week 9 9/1/2014 – 9/7/2014, I talk about how I ended up closing out the week with a 5K race.

The 5K I ran in yesterday evening was called Project Giving Retro Night Glow Run. The race proceeds will benefit families in the local community who are suffering from chronic illnesses. This marks my second glow run; the first one I participated in was the Rocking into the Night Glo Run on the 4th of July.  My original intention was to run it for fun.

I got to the race about 45 minutes to gun time to pick up my race packet.  While I was waiting, I ran into some friends from Run For God and Run Fit Sports.  I didn’t have any “Glow gear” however one of my friends gave me a couple of bracelets to wear.  I wanted to ensure I was visible for parts of the course that was not illuminated by flood lights.  While I was walking around killing time, I found vendor that was selling Glow accessories.  One thing that intrigued me was a “lightsaber”.  Now that would have been funny if I did by that; I could find another runner that had the same toy and we could have duels while we were running on the course.  However, I didn’t want to accidentally kill anyone either so I settled for a Mohawk headband.

8:30 rolled around and the race finally started.  The course was 1.5 miles and back.  In addition, it was like a roller coaster with multiple hill climbs and descents.  But despite the difficulty of the course, it was very enjoyable.  There were multiple groups of people lined up cheering us on as we ran by.  A couple of freelance guitar players were on hand playing “Don’t Stop Believing” and “Living on a Prayer.”  The course had floodlights at key points and we even ran under a tree light canopy that was put up for the race.  Some parts of the course were dark however you could see runners who were wearing glow gear.

Screenshot (04-11PM, Sep 07, 2014)

Screenshot of elevation of the Retro Glow 5K course

Even though I originally said I was going to just do this as a fun run, it was hard not too.  My racing adrenalin kicked in.  My only complaint was that the Mohawk was pressing against my head so after a while it became uncomfortable.  It was hot and I was getting drenched in sweat.  Soon the finish line was near.  And it was downhill. I literally made a mad dash for the finish line.

My (unofficial) time was 26:20.  To date, it is tied as my 4th fastest 5K.  I placed 4th in my age group and was 46th overall. Even though I didn’t set a new 5K PR, I did set a glow run PR! My last glow run time was 27:38.  After the race, there was a little dance party going on so I had to join in and do the “Cha Cha Slide”.

I had a really great time at the Retro Night Glow Run.  It was a great race to close out the week with and I still can’t believe on what I pulled after running 4 miles earlier in the day. Thanks for reading and happy running!

Troy

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Hotlanta Half Marathon 2014 (and a surprise)

Good morning fellow runners! Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend! Yesterday, I had ran my 3rd half marathon in Atlanta GA.  I primarily did it because the marathon training plan that I am using (Hal Higdon Novice 1) calls to do a half marathon on the Sunday of Week 8.  About a month ago, I researched to see what half marathon’s were available and the closest one I could find to line up with my training plan was the Hotlanta Half.  I just completed Week 7 so I just switched Week 7’s 10 mile long slow distance run for Week’s 8 half marathon.  One thing I have learned about marathon training was flexibility; I have had to shuffle my training around to accommodate my schedule.

My previous half marathon was the Run for God Run at the Mill Half  which I ran this past April.  My time for that was 2:04:32.  I ran my first half marathon the week prior and my time then was 2:08:53.  When setting up my goal PR, I was aiming for 2:03.  I didn’t know what the course was going to be like plus this was the first time running a long distance race in the Summer.  My running buddy’s mother predicted I was going to get a sub 2 but honestly that wasn’t my goal and if I ended up doing that, i would have considered it a bonus!

I live about 90 minutes south of Atlanta however I had to drive up on the 23rd to pick up my race packet.  For some strange reason, the event had race day registration (a last minute addition) but no race day packet pick-up.  Packet pick-up was located at the Downtown location of a running store called The Big Peach Running Company.  After I picked up my packet, I decided to do a little shopping.  I ended up purchasing some socks, KT tape, and a belt to help secure my bib (no more safety pins).

After shopping at the The Big Peach Running Company, I checked into the Embassy Suites.   It would have been a crazy idea to drive all the way back to Warner Robins just to turn around (very) early Sunday morning for the race.  I settled in and checked the contents of my swag bag.  Out of all the races, this one was loaded with a bunch of goodies!

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It was still early afternoon (around 4pm) so I decided to get out and check the area around the hotel.  I walked through Centennial Olympic Park (Atlanta was home of the 1996 Summer Olympics). I got some pretty good photos of the park and the downtown skyline.  Walking through the park was also a great cross training activity before the race. After touring the park, I jumped in the car and headed to Duluth GA (about a 25 min drive NE from downtown) to check out a store called Fry’s Electronics. My favorite hobby after running happens to be technology, so whenever I am in the Atlanta area, I try to stop at Fry’s.  Fry’s is an electronic superstore that is bigger than Best Buy.  I bought a couple of things, grabbed some dinner (Chicken Hibachi). and headed back to the hotel.  After I ate my dinner, I made the last minute decision to take the MARTA (Metro Atlanta Rail Transit Authority) to Underground Atlanta.  My original plans was to drive my car and park in the parking deck however I wasn’t sure how traffic was going to be around the race area (probably congested with streets blocked off).  So, I got back out and did a “dry walk” to the MARTA station.  After locating it, I purchased a Breeze Pass (a re-loadable riders card).  It was $5 dollars round trip which wasn’t bad considering that parking at Underground Atlanta would have cost me $3.  On the way back to the hotel, I managed to get some pretty awesome night shots of Centennial Olympic Park and the downtown skyline. Before I went to bed, I got my running gear together.  Then I tried to go to sleep.

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It never fails; I hardly get any sleep before race day (too much excitement).  I got dressed and headed to Underground Atlanta via the MARTA.  It was a quick ride that took about a minute.  I found the bag drop off point and dropped off my bag that contained my cell phone, hotel key card, and MARTA breeze card.  Since I had an hour to kill, I walked around to stretch my legs.  I tried using the restroom but for the first time since I have been racing, I didn’t have to.  Since the race didn’t offer pacing groups, I got a temporary tattoo that listed what time I should be at for every mile (used it as a guide to PR, not necessarily hit 2 hours).7:25 rolled around they asked everyone to report to the starting line. There was about 1175 runners participating in this event.  After the National Anthem, the race started.  Starting out is usually the hardest when you have hundreds of runners all around you.

The race course was very scenic that went around the heart of Atlanta.  We ran by famous landmarks like the State Capitol, Turner Field, Georgia State University, Piedmont Park, CNN Center, Georgia Dome, and Centennial Park. Part of the course was on a fitness trail called “The Beltline”.  There was spectators all over the place cheering us on.  Whenever I had a chance, I thanked the volunteers and police officers for helping out with the race.

Even though the temperature was about 79 degrees with 79% humidity (we had a heat wave earlier in the week), what really got me was the dreaded HILLS.  There were some around the perimeter but the majority was in the downtown area. Especially at mile 10; from there we ran up hill.  The hills were tiring and challenging but I have been running hills at least once a week so I was able to run up them without walking.

When I started out, I was on target for a 2 hour completion time.  There was water stations at every mile but my strategy was to get water every 4 miles.  I was getting hot and tired after mile 8 so I hit every water station after that.  I would drink a little and pour the rest on my head.  I don’t remember when I checked my Garmin but I noticed that my pace was slowing down but it looked like I was on target to at least beat my previous PR.  One thing I did noticed was that my mileage was lining up with the course so in a sense I was already off.

Before I knew it, I turned the corner and the finish line was in sight; UP A STEEP HILL Really?? I was getting tired and weary.  But I pushed myself.  I didn’t know what my time was.  As I approached the finish line, I could see that the time read 1:59:30 so I practically floored it.  I cross the finish line, got my finishers medal, a cool towel and some water.  I stopped my Garmin but the it was off because it read 12.65 miles.  I think the tall buildings may have interfered with the GPS signals.

So I just completed my 3rd half marathon on what turned out to be the toughest course I have ever tackled.  But how did I do?  Well here are my stats:

  • Half  Time: 1:59:39
  • Chip Time: 1:58:58
  • Pace: 9:05 a mile
  • 284 of 1175 overall
  • 43 of 87 for my age group (35-39)

So not only did I BURN (pun intended) my previous half marathon PR of 2:04:32 but I ended up getting my time under 2 hours!!! Not bad for a hilly course!  Must be all the running I have been doing..lol. All kidding aside, it’s the type of training I have been doing.  This is what I usually do:

  • Monday – Rest
  • Tuesday – Fast Tempo Run
  • Wednesday – Easy Slow Run
  • Thursday – Feel Good Run
  • Friday – Rest
  • Saturday – Long Slow Distance
  • Sunday – Cross

NOTE: My running buddy’s mother was spot on in her prediction of me getting a sub 2.  Appreciate her confidence! 

When I first heard these terms, I was clueless but now come to understand them.  I see the benefits (and results) plus it helps prevent injury.  I plan on continuing/adapting this type training going forward.

I don’t what number I am at but this is another race where I surprised myself.  If I set a small goal, I end up doing better.  That’s the way I think and it seems to work.  This will be my last long distance race before my marathon in Savannah this November.  My focus will be running the longer distances even if it’s a slow pace. My first 15 mile run is in a couple of weeks and trust me it’s going to be nice and slow!  I still plan to run some 5Ks for speed work though.  I start Week 8 training this Tuesday but I am going to call this week “Recovery Week”.  I still plan running my miles but at a slow pace no matter what day of the week it is.  I’ll return back to normal training next week.

Thanks for reading about my 3rd half marathon victory.  Tell me, did you set a goal for race and end up surprising yourself? What is the toughest course you have ran so far? Shout out in the comments below! Happy running and be safe!

Troy

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