Friday, March 23, 2012

My Georgia Marathon

     It was going to be a beautiful and very warm day in Atlanta, I could tell from the minute I stepped out of my hotel to walk to the race start in the dark morning hours.  It was already near 70 degree's and the sun hadn't even started to come up on the horizon yet.
I went through the normal routines and lined up in my corral, with thousands of runners.
I woke up that morning with yet again another cold coming on, luck just wasn't going to be on my side (this being now 2 races in a row being sick).  However, I was determined to try to not let it bother me.
The course officials placed several speakers throughout all the corrals, so every runner could hear the loud music, star spangled banner and then of course the gun start.  I loved that they put speakers all throughout, it really helped bring on the excited mood to run!

   
I realized within the first couple of miles that I was in for quite the run, hills, hills and more hills.  Other than the first half mile of the course, I don't think there were any flat running areas, you were either running up or down.  Normally I don't mind a hilly run (I am from Utah, I am used to hills.)  But when you have a bit of a chest cold coming on, lets just say the hills sort of zap your energy levels a little more than normal.

     After the issues I had with the race in Maui, I was determined NOT to let any dehydration or heat stroke issues take place.  We were already warned about the 80+ degree temps that would be on us for most of the race.  The officials and volunteers planned ahead and everything was great!  There was more than enough water early on in the race.  To avoid any problems, I drank double what I normally drink during the first 10 miles of the race.

About an hour into my race the sun was coming up, it was a beautiful sight.  The tree's and skyline took on an auburn color.  Spring was already in full bloom there, if the tree's didn't already have their leaves they were adorned in the beautiful cherry blossom colors.  Near the forest area's if you took a deep breath you could fill your lungs with the smell of the pine trees.
As most races do, they take you through some of the most beautiful neighborhoods.  There were so many huge houses lining the streets, several of which likely sat on a few acres upon steep hills.

     The hills were killing me far more than they should, I was seriously struggling quite a bit early on.  Which anyone who has ran a marathon knows this is not a good sign for what is to come later.
Around miles 10-14 we ran through a small town community of Decatur, they had come up with all these sign series that had little rhymed sayings for the runners.  Really cute, they practically lined all the miles of their town, and really took my mind off the hills, my stupid cold and the heat that was really starting to come on.
Lucky for me something happened between miles 14-15 and I felt like I ran the sickness out of me, I actually started feeling a little better.  Drained and tired, but that sick achy feeling was leaving, YAY.

     Miles 16-21 had some serious rolling hills, through some of the most beautiful neighborhoods.  I have to be honest, I was really getting sick of the hills.  Around the time we entered this beautiful park area, filled with a lake and dozens of walking/hiking trails my legs were starting to feel all the climbing and downhills from earlier on.
I could see the skyline of downtown Atlanta in the distance and had high hopes at this point that the hills were done.

    Well I was half right, the rolling hills were almost over.  But replaced by a couple of miles of crazy steep hills to get back into the city.  I remember after the long climb of 2 hills, and thinking "okay, good this has to be the top".  Only to have to turn a corner to face an even steeper and longer hill YIKES.
The heat felt insanely hot at this point too.  It felt well over 80 degree's, and there wasn't a breeze or cloud in the sky.  There was very little shade along the course either, it was just hot sun beating on you and BIG hills.
I was enjoying the race, but lets be honest I would have loved temps about twenty degree's lower...  Just saying...

     I would love to say that when I got to the last few miles of the race I got a surge of energy for a strong finish, but that didn't really happen.
I wasn't dehydrated, thankfully I played the water game very smart!
But I was hot, and really tired of drinking warm water and Gatorade all that was on my mind was getting an ice cold drink.  I loved the mist sprayers along the course, they helped a little to cool you down for a minute.  I always grabbed a 3rd or 4th water at the stops to dump down my neck and back to cool down my core a little.  I just wasn't finding the extra energy at the end, I apparently used up all my energy throughout all the miles of the course.

   When I rounded the final corner and I saw the finish line in the Olympic park I was so happy because it's that moment when you see the finish line and you know it's finally within reach and that you are about to finish another marathon.  All the hills and pain you went through to get to that moment were worth it and behind you now.  You can now take the proud fact that you finished with you forever.

     You cross the line, they give you your medal and a "warm" bottle of water...  That's what happens when you leave thousands of bottles of water sitting out in the hot sun all morning long.  I was thirsty, but have to be honest, I was not thirsty enough for something warm or hot.  I wanted ice, or something cold I had been thinking about it for miles.
Then this lady says, "we have chocolate milk and its cold, do you want one?"
All I heard was cold, and grabbed one.  Normally, after running 26.2 miles the last thing on my mind is "I want some milk" and "chocolate" for that matter.  But I didn't care, it wasn't really cold, but it was better than warm!
I was then told if I walked to the other side of the Olympic park I could get a boxed lunch.  I wasn't really hungry, but I knew eventually I would be.  So the thoughts of a possible sandwich or Popsicles went through my mind and I took the long walk (Which was going to add out and back another mile to my trip back to my hotel.)
They hand me a lunch bag and I look in it, and I seriously wanted to cry.  I walked all that way for M&M's and Oreo's and a Chocolate Candy Bar...  (There were pretzels and a banana too.)  But all I saw was the chocolate.  Okay, for those who know me, I have never liked chocolate, and I have never ate Oreo's because I HATE the smell of them, and I have never purposely put an M&M in my mouth in my life.
It was pretty ironic, and I grumbled my way thinking, "I walked all that way for chocolate...  Chocolate... When I could be back in my hotel by now getting off my sore feet..."

     Well eventually I made it back to my hotel.  But on my walk back I had so many homeless men come up to me asking me for change.  Okay, I looked like crap, might have even smelled worse than them.  I am in shorts and a race shirt.  Where the heck would they think I would keep money?
Okay, I was probably just upset about my bag of chocolate, but I got REALLY good at ignoring people as I took my mile and a half walk back to my hotel.

     The race was the highlight of my trip, but I took a day and visited the Atlanta Aquarium (largest aquarium in the world) and seeing the HUGE Shark Whales Beluga Whales were pretty awesome!  I would have loved to go diving with them, they were so beautiful!  They also had some pretty big manta rays in their tanks  and beautiful sharks which were graceful to watch too.

     I got hooked up on this trip actually.  Since I arrived at midnight when I got to the car rental place they were already out of the cheap cars, so they gave me a SWEET upgrade into a fancy car with a little muscle for free.
Then when I got to the hotel late that night, I walked into my room and they had put me into a HUGE suite.  I had several rooms and several big flat screen T.V's and several large spacious picture windows in each room that overlooked the city...
So I had some excellent luck in the accommodation and travel factors in this trip!

  I will always remember Atlanta as lots and lots of killer hills, and HOT temps...   I think I would like to visit Georgia again, but next time I am thinking seeing some of the southern coastal regions..  Hmmm I hear Savanna has a great marathon....  Maybe one day!!!



Monday, March 12, 2012

My Louisiana New Orleans Marathon

     I was really excited to get to New Orleans, I haven't been there before and it has always been a city I always hoped to visit.  So when I came down with a bad cold before the race I was somewhat disappointed.  But I wasn't about to let this be the first time a sickness kept me from a race.
The night before the race I was exhausted and then I had a sleepless night filled with some lovely coughing fits.  So race morning, I woke up to lungs that were already very, very tired.  But I got up and got ready anyway and took the short walk from my hotel to the race start.  Lucky for me it was a beautiful day, wind free and already in the 40's at the 6am hour.

Being a part of the "Rock and Roll" race series, this was one of the larger races.  I don't know exactly but I think over 20,000 runners.  I lined up in my corral (#17 of 27), and although the race started at 7am, I finally got my turn to cross the starting line around 7:29am.
First the race runs through part of the city, I was actually doing okay the first couple of miles.  Around mile 2, I noticed all the coughing the night before tired the lungs out worse than I thought.
We did an out an back into some beautiful neighborhood area's just outside of the city.  Large gorgeous plantation homes, and cute homes with wrap around upper decks.  Great community out cheering and supporting the runners.

By mile 6, I was already feeling done in.  I had no energy, I was exhausted and for the first time EVER I was contemplating pulling out at the 1/2 way point.  Anyone who's ran a marathon before knows, that thoughts like that are horrible and should be avoided...  Especially early on with 20 miles to go.

I noticed as I looked up in the tree's along the course, they looked as if decorated like Christmas.  Except they were covered, no littered and decked out in Marti Gras beads.  Just about every branch on the tree's had dozens and dozens of multi colored beads hanging from them.

By mile 8 we were back into downtown New Orleans.  As I passed my hotel my thoughts were, of how nice it was going to be in a few hours when I would return to it.
Then we headed directly into the French Quarter.  After passing some "quite interesting" looking sidewalk shops, we ventured into cute neighborhoods with antebellum type homes.
I don't know why, but I love the homes of the South, they just have so much character to them...

By mile 10 I made a decision, even though I seriously had no energy and I was miserably sick I wasn't going to pull out at the half way point.
As I passed that point where the half marathoner's turned to end their race, and the rest of us moved on.  I just kept thinking "I hope I made the right choice".
Around mile 15 my lungs really started to show the signs of what the race was doing to them.  It was like a sharp pain at times when I would breath in, and coughing was killing me.
So I slowed my pace a little.
The good thing about being sick and having other issues is it was taking all of my attention away from my hip bursitis that also due to re-injuring it recently was also painful.  But for the most part out of my mind during this race:)

When I got out to the lake (Lake Pontchartrain - the lake that's Levy's broke during Hurricane Katrina) I was  beyond tired but I was enjoying the views.  The lake was beautiful, huge and covered in white sailboats...  Kind of a different kind of shoreline, they were like concrete steps down to the water.
We ran through a beautiful neighborhood on the lake shore.  Massive huge plantation like homes, to just gigantic two story wrap around decks.  To be honest some of them were large enough they could be hotels, but I saw a lot of college kids in them, so maybe they are also rented out for spring break??
I even saw some real parrots in the palm tree's.  Couldn't figure out if someone just put them there for the race, but they were fun to see.

Mile 22 we headed back from the lake down the (what I called "pretty" but long) road.  It was in the mid 60"s so the temp was really perfect, and the skies were a beautiful blue.  I loved being able to get cups of ice at the water stops.  Since my throat was so sore and on fire from whatever cold I had that ice was fabulous!!!
That said, I also LOVED the Otter Pops they handed out around mile 23, in some ways they were a lifesaver on my throat.
I wont' lie, I struggled those last miles of the race, but being tired from running was one thing.  I was just sicker than sick and ready to be out of the misery!
When I finally came into the park, and circled around it to get to the straight shot to the finish, I was so thrilled I actually made it, and well let's be honest...  That nothing bad happened to me, since I was obviously too sick to have been running.
So it was a very happy moment to run through the finish line and have the metal that of course was Marti Gras colors with beads put around my neck!

This race was SO well organized, literally from start to finish!  After I finished I had about a half mile walk or so to get to the buses that were to take us back to Downtown New Orleans.   My biggest fear was that I would have to wait for hours to get a bus.  But nope, as soon as I made it there, there was a bus waiting.  Let me correct that, there were over 30 buses lined up waiting for runners.  Possibly even more than that, they were lined up through the entire park and then all down the freeway bumper to bumper.  So that runners didn't have to wait at all.  (NICE and so appreciated!!!)

I wasn't going to mention this, but oh well I am.  So on my bus ride back I was having such a difficult time breathing.  Actually I was having extreme difficulty getting a breath into me and only could do short shallow breaths.
When I finally got back to my hotel, I was still having a lot of trouble breathing.  Very annoying when you need a deep breath but cannot take one!
It took me several hours and well into the evening before I could breath deep again.  Probably gross to mention, but I had a lot of junk in my lungs that took actually an entire 2nd day to get out.

(On a side note: When I got back to Utah, I visited the Dr.  I had a lung infection, Bronchitis and a bad sinus infection.  No wonder the race hurt so bad!  I consider myself a lucky girl to be able to have finished!)

New Orleans was a beautiful city.  I enjoyed eating on the Riverwalk next to the Mississippi.
Even though I was sick I did get out and see a few things enjoyed the food and ate a few yummy Beignets.
I'd really like to go back to New Orleans sometime, when I am not sick, of course! :)
I am looking forward to my next race, just a few days away actually.  I am finally starting to feel better, all the medications and antibiotics are doing their thing.  I am hoping for a fabulous next run!

 - Sorry the pictures are poor quality this time.  I was an idiot and took off without my Camera charger, and ended up having to take all my pictures with my cell phone this trip:(