Race Recap: Atlanta’s St. Patrick Day Parade 5K aka Running in the Green

I was recently in Atlanta (for work) and decided to try out my new age group legs in a local 5K.  There were several races during St. Patrick Day weekend and I toyed with the idea of doing one, the one closest to my AirBnB, until the last minute, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade 5K, the 4th annual.  The weather first predicted rain and then thunderstorms so rather than register in advance, I decided to wait until the morning so see what the weather brought.  I was also motivated by the picture of the cool medal that all finishers were to receive (more on that later).

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Isn’t this a cool enough medal to motivate one to run a race?

The morning came and the streets were damp, but no rain.  So I walked about 30 minutes, downhill,  to the start of the race.  It was early when I got to the start, close to 8:45, the race started at 10 so there were not a lot of people milling around.  Being a New Yorker and always schlepping with something, I brought a bag with a raincoat and water.  I asked if there was a bag check.  No bag check. WTF.  I guess most people drive so they leave stuff in the trunk of a car? Even the races in Calgary have bag checks.  Unheard of.  I was about to not run the race (the lady who was doing the registration was not helpful in that regard) with a bag flapping around my back.  So I was going to head back home when the other woman under the registration tent offered to watch it. Nothing valuable to anyone else except me and someone who might want a jacket and/or a bag.  I paid my fee, got my number and green t-shirt and was ready to wait for the start.

It was  sea of green.  Everyone went all out with the St. Patrick’s Day green for this race and I felt out of place in my navy blue shirt, so I switched into the green race shirt an also got decked out with some of the green party favors:

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The area was well-decorated for the later St. Patrick’s Day parade with clovers and little glittery hats filled with green Mardi Gras beads (the beads will figure again later in this story).

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There were green tutu’s, green socks, green running kilts, green everything, even green-sprayed dogs.

IMG_4752Traditional Irish running kilt and fuel belt

 

IMG_4755 (1)Sea of green to start the race

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The race started with a relatively steep downhill towards Piedmont Park. I went running there the day before so was somewhat familiar with the park.  It has a nice lake in the middle and gentle up and down slopes around.  I started the race at a nice pace knowing that my misbehaving hamstrings would not hold the pace for the entire race, but it felt good to pass people for a change (rather than getting passed).  We looped around the meadow and past the garden and around the ball fields.  This is where hammy said, “no mas” and I had to stop, stretch, walk a little and slow down.  I reduced my pace but still tried to keep pace (or at least within eyeshot) of others who I’ve been running with for the first 2 miles.  And, as cruel fate would have it, the last part of the race was up the same hill that we ran down at the beginning (it was a loop so duh).

IMG_4841St. Patrick’s Day loop and hill profile it was plus 144ft 

I did a lot of shuffling and trotting up the hill.  I did not feel like pushing, after all I wasn’t going to win money or anything.  I encouraged a couple of runners that a passed (they were walking) while feeling all robust and things because I passed them.  Once we reached the top of the hill it was actually a gentle downhill slope to the finish line! I took a little advantage of that slope, this means my trotting became jogging and then a slowish run.  There was one dude who tried to pass me but then I “muscled up” and out ran him across the line.  I was done.  My first race of the season.  I was exhausted but pleased that I actually made the effort to make it to that race.  I was looking forward to the medal.  However the actual medal was basically the same Mardi Gras beads that were sitting around in the glittery hats before the race.  Because of my effort, I made sure to aim for one that still had the cardboard tag.

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I milled around with other finishers and realized that all finishers receive a free beer.

Decked out dog 

I am not a beer drinker, I like wine.  Red wine. Fruity red wine.  But I was thirsty and the beer was free. I did not want a bitter beer so I asked the servers for a suggestion.  Their suggestion was good, Reformation Brewery’s Cadence:

 

It was sweeter (to me) that most beers, almost weiss-like (according to the website, it’s a Belgian-style ale).  I actually enjoyed this beer and would order it if I were to see it on a beer menu.

As I was drinking my beer an older gentleman asked me if I won a medal.  They did not call the race yet and I assumed that because I slowed down I didn’t get anything.  He suggested that I should hang around to see.  It was then about 10:30, the medals would be awarded at 11:15.  Because I don’t particularly like beer, even this relatively pleasant one, I was sipping it slowly.  Beer does not go down easily for me.  I said to the man, “I will leave as soon as I finish my beer.” My beer took me close to the 45 minutes to finish.  I was down to my last sip when they started the awards and I though, “might as well.”

I heard them call my age group and then the third place name. Not mine. The second place name. Not mine.  “Oh well, let me hit the road,” I thought. First place, “Jennifer Adams!” I. Cannot. Believe. I won a medal, it has been years since I won a medal or trophy in a race.  I racked them up in my 20s but, like I said, its been decades.  I walked up, received my medal, took a picture with Gumby and then looked for an Uber.

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Overall, it was a well organized small race.  There was a water station and ample water and food (bananas and snacks) at the finish line.  The staff and volunteers were friendly.  My main disappointment was that the medal was not what was pictured on the website.  Would I have still ran without the medal? Probably, but the cool medal was a strong motivating factor. The Publix Marathon and Half would be the next day.  This seems like it might be a good “shake out” run for those inclined to do those.

As I walked towards a space that where the streets were open ( there was a parade to start soon after the awards), it started to rain.  Pour.  But I had my medal so it was all good.

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Race Recap: Winter Indoor Tri

So I tried a tri.  It was the Repsol Centre’s 5th Annual 10 mile indoor triathlon. It consisted of a 500m swim, 7.8 mile (12.5K) bike and 3K (2 mile) run. I signed up for it in mid January as a challenge, knowing that it had been years since my last training swim (did the now defunct Brooklyn Bridge swim in 2015) and I have not cycled since early December or late November I do not remember.

I did a biathlon once with no training. It was in the St. John, USVI and entailed a .75 mile swim in Maho Bay and a hilly 5K run.  It was a low-key race so I was allowed to swim with a snorkeling mask and snorkel.  I am great at hanging out in the ocean–treading water and doing a little swim here and there, mainly to stretch out and/or get from A to B.  My swimming form is not that great and I remember a watching sea turtle with a missing front fin totally dust me.  By the time I got out of the water and started to run, my legs felt like two lead columns. At that time I was a well-trained runner, but after the turtle swim, my legs were not havin’ it. I did finish, in last place. My strength as an athlete is that I have always finished any race that I start.

For this triathlon, I did some training, I managed to get in two pool swims prior. Once in the pool I remembered how much I enjoyed gliding through the water (the after-chorine smell, not so much). It was also a welcome respite from running in the freezing cold. I saved my workouts from when I trained for the Brooklyn Bridge swim–I have them printed out stored in a big ziploc in my seldom used swim bag.  I used two of the shorter work-outs, about 1200 meters. I figured if I could finish that length of a workout I could finish the swim. I had to buy new goggles because I left my old and ill-fitting ones in Brooklyn and a new swim cap because my other one disintegrated.

However, I entered the arena with minimal training for this race and with the intention of enjoying it and finishing.

Enjoyment

The idea of enjoying athletic competition for me comes in the anticipation and afterglow.  Once I signed up, I looked forward to the race.  I was excited about doing my first triathlon. I was in Heat 1 Wave 3 (heat were slowest to fastest, I signed up for the slowest) and assigned number 18 which was Sharpied on my upper right shoulder and lower right calf.  I was also given a timing chip to strap around my ankle.

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This was after, but my number 18 lasted. 

I was not at all familiar with the flow of a triathlon.  You see it on TV and hear about this transition, but doing it is another thing.  I noticed that people had their sneakers (in Canada, runners) neatly placed next to their bikes along with towels, water bottles and other biking/running accoutrements.

After setting up my Keiser bike I neatly placed my stuff next to the bike–sneakers, capri running tights, socks, knee strap–and my water bottle on the bike.  With my swim cap and goggles I headed to the pool deck for the pre-race brief.

There seemed to be both a number of first timers and seasoned people in my slow heat.  Some had the gear–the triathlon kit while others were in beach swimsuits.  I was in the third wave of my heat, we entered the water in 5 second intervals.  We were off.

20 laps in the pool, the first couple of laps felt ok, but I quickly tired, partially because of the anticipation (the swim is my weakest link), having a person pass me and then when I was up to passing him, as what commonly happens with men, he kind of flailed and I just backed off, not worth it.  The swim was tiring, not enjoyable while doing it, but once I was out of the pool (I needed help getting out), I felt some exhilaration (but anticipation of the next event).

For the bike, the timing started once you entered the biking area.  The transition from swim to bike was included in the bike time.  My skin was damp and I had compression capris.  Putting tight clothing on a damp body does not make for swift changing.  I don’t know how long it took me, but some people who entered the biking area after me were “on the road” while I was still jumping up and down to get my running tights on. Victoriously the tights went up and I was on the bike for 7.8 miles.  Since I have only done Keiser bike in spinning class, I was not sure of the Watt/RPM balance that would get me to the goal faster.  I toggled between 9 and 11 (the sanctioned range was 9-12) and it took me what seemed like forever to get to 7.5 (to signal a tri staff) and finally 7.8 to finish.

I jogged over to the stairs that led up to the indoor track.  Fifteen laps.  You get a rubber band after each set of 5.  My legs were heavy and my hamstring was not behaving but I kept it moving.  I walked twice but kept it moving.  I wanted to pick it up for the last 5 laps but did not have it in me.

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The biking area, some brought their own bikes while others used the supplied Keisers. The upper level is the indoor track.

Finish

I was so happy to finish.  The enjoyment comes at the end, knowing that I finished the challenge, feeling proud of my accomplishment and well-deserving of the big Kirkland chocolate chip cookie at the end.

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I would definitely like to do a triathlon again and hope to do this one next year, with more training and probably compression shorts instead of tights, maybe even swimming in them to save transition time.  I have a baseline so I can aim for faster times.  At some point I would like to do a full-on outdoor one, but need to get the right gear for training and racing first; it is an investment, even used a decent bike is pricey.  Wetsuits are not cheap either, so it cannot be a “one-and-done” endeavor. Or I could just be like my cat and not give a crap about it all and stay on the couch and wait for someone to feed me.

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Who is smarter, me or Mitza?