As I promised earlier, here is my first ever race report (I also posted from my mobile, can be found here). From what I understand this race has been ran in previous years in only other cities and this was the first time Atlanta was added to the line up. There were a couple of other 5k races happening around the same time, but the party atmosphere and the costumed themed 5k really had me hooked on the idea of running this as my first race. As well, I loved the idea of running a 5k through the streets of down town Atlanta. Besides a 5k they also had two chip timed events, a half marathon and a 10k distance race.
I smartly followed the Team Ortho, the organization putting on the race, Atlanta Monster Dash facebook page and they seemed very responsive and tried to be helpful regarding peoples questions. Also, they tried to post last minute notifications regarding race course changes, which happened three days before the race.
One of the biggest complaints was they had set up packet pickup in downtown Atlanta on Friday afternoon. If you are not familiar with Atlanta, there are numerous issues with this. First off is the fact that not that many people work in downtown Atlanta, most of us live in the suburbs. Second issue is parking is expensive at 10-20 bucks a pop and that would have to be paid on Friday and Saturday. Thirdly is the fact that Friday traffic in Atlanta starts at 2:30-3:00 PM everywhere. The solution was to have your packet sent to you for 20 bucks or so. Something I definitely will do next time.
Once those obstacles were overcame then came the short shortsightedness in bringing the proper number of shirts and jackets. The 5k had a nice long sleeve tech shirt and the 10k had a nice running jacket. Showing up an hour or two after packet pickup started I was told they did not bring enough shirts in my size and it seemed like they did not bring many shirts in different sizes as everyone was having to put their names down to have our merchandise sent. If I was a programmer I would not have had as big of an issue, but pre-registration asked for shirt sizes, how hard is it to bring the proper number based on pre-registration and then a few extra for everyone signing up at packet pickup. So I had to pay to come to down town Atlanta to get my race number. I felt pretty upset in having to spend time off of work to come and pick up a piece of paper and not the shirt. Oh well, I got over it and said I was not going to let it effect my first race.
The next morning I was back and there were costumes all varieties and sorts.I got the greatest kick out of seeing how some of the costumes were made more running friendly. They smartly separated the start times with the 5k going at 9, about an hour and half after the half marathon start and an hour after the 10k start. As the time for the 5k drew near I was getting pretty excited. I played around with where to place my number and listened to some marching bands as the Gerogia Dome was being used for a state marching band competition. I tried to decide if I was going to listen to my MP3 player and in the end decided I would have it ready in case I decided to do it. The start line was smartly set up with flags indicating suggested start positions based on pace. The only problem was that the paces went to eleven and then walk. Allot of us fourteen and fifteen pacers were trying to find the perfect place to start as we did not want to be stuck behind walkers but did not want to be mashed with the faster eleven milers.
Once the chaos of figuring out where to start from was over I decided right before the race started I was going to go ahead and put in the MP3 player. As I look back now, I am glad I did. It helped calm me down a little bit. I was a little worried about knowing when to start,but once it started the sea of humanity I was jumbled with began to move and there was no question about knowing when it started. I was anxious to say the least, I had no idea what to expect running with this many people in an event in downtown Atlanta.
Once the throng got moving I lost track of pacing and everything I had told myself to do once it started. I was swept up in the flow of runners around me. Once the crowd started to settle into groups I realized my legs were feeling a little bit more tired than normal. For the last two weeks I have been running a 5k distance as the bulk of my training, I knew how my body felt after covering certain distances, obviously something was not right. I looked at my watch and realized right away what was happening, I was running at an eleven minute pace and had been doing that for a quarter mile. I knew I had to slow down if I was going to last the distance.
But the adrenaline was pumping through my system, I was running my race, even though it was too high of a pace, and doing my thing. I was having a blast, enjoying every footfall and feeling good, I was running a race, I was doing what I had been told was impossible my entire life, I was running! I was not trying to keep up with anybody or go fast. I started to try and slow down and saw that I was having a hard time doing this. Eventually I got myself down to around a 14 mile pace but by then it was almost a mile. So I tried to pace myself, going slower when I felt tired and a little faster when I was feeling fresher, just like I had when running my normal routes.
This lasted for almost two miles, but the third mile proved difficult. I only had a mile, but the 14 minute pace and then some was starting to wear my endurance down. I had only been running the 5k distance for a couple of weeks and usually 55 minutes with a 15:30 or higher pace was the norm. I had seen some increase in my three mile times in the last couple of weeks but that had always been around all three miles being close to 15:20 or so pace. Here I was running in an event or race or whatever, running past land marks and buildings I was familiar with when attending university down town several years ago, and my pace was around the low 14:00s. My first mile was finished in 14:0,second 14:30. So on the third mile I started to hit some slight hills, my legs were shot and I was unusually thirsty. I hit an aid station and walked into it. Then a few other times I still had to stop and give myself ten and twenty second walks. But I did not give up, I was determined to still finish around 45 minutes.
The last quarter mile was tough. My pace had prematurely worn my legs out and unlike all the other times I have ran three miles, I was truly feeling it. But I pushed to go faster to get to the finish line. As I came up to the finish line I could hear Mrs. Chatter shouting and I pushed harder, even though my tank was empty and I was nursing a stitch in my side I had ran with for a half mile. I crossed the finish line and was tired. I unfortunately left my watch running and turned it off a little later at 46 minutes. Turns out it was 3.2 miles long. Using my online software I put my workouts into, it figured my 5k race time was 44:46 with a peak pace of 14:25. This is what I am taking as my race time as it was not chip timed and I started my watch early and stopped my watch late.
My best previous 5k time was 55 minutes. My previous best 1 mile was 14:51 with a 15:25 pace, my best mile was 14:01 and my average pace was 14:32. Granted the previous numbers were not race conditions, but I felt like I was going as fast as I could on that workout. So I am very happy and pleased with improvement. Yes I had to walk a couple of seconds, but heck, for me I was flying.
Initially I felt tired and amazed, I had ran a 5k race. I truly had completed an athletic event, something I never thought would be associated with me…. I was an athlete. Yes there was work to be done to get better, but I had done it, I had completed one of the major milestones I wanted to complete and set out to do back in May. There was music an such there but I just grabbed a bottle of water. The afterward snack were mediocre, some bananas, garbage Quacker granola bars and candy. I mixed a sports drink for myself and ate one of the organic bars I had and my wife was ready to leave. She did not feel comfortable around all the fit people and we were both tired.
As we started going home on the Marta (Atlanta mass transit) and through out the rest of the day, I started to get more emotional as the adrenaline wore off. I had done it. I still needed to lose weight and pictures confirm I am still an over weight heavy guy, but heck I feel strong and healthy, I am improving, pants are getting bigger all the time and for once I truly had achieved one of my major goals. I had done it! One cool thing is that they gave a finishers medal to all participants, I feel I truly earned mine, that and my bib I will always hang onto. It is hard to believe earlier in this year back in February and April I was on the verge of physical collapse, I was one foot towards a stroke, my diabetes was out of control and I was doing nothing good to fix it, I was hypertensive. and I was extremely out of shape and overweight. Here I am now, participating in a 5k and working to weekly improve myself. I now workout 10 hours a week pushing towards my goal of racing in a triathlon, I now run an hour when I could not run more than 30 seconds when I started. It is truly amazing how far I have come since things seemed so dire in the beginning of the year.
Besides the emotional, it was a good event. It was great fun to see everyone in costume and the entire fan fare of the event. I truly would race this again and I am sure that next year with the inaugaral year event done with , will be much smoother. So for now, I can call myself a runner and definitely an athlete. Next major goal: Triathlon, just 3 more months. Til next time.