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Running For More…

The personal blog and website of Kristen Cincotta

Archive for the ‘Race Recaps’ Category

Race Recap Flashback: The 2013 Peachtree Road Race!

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

Welcome back to Race Recap Flashback week! I have already recapped my Run for the ROC at the Publix Georgia Half Marathon, which you can read here, and the Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure, which you can read here. Tonight, I’m wrapping up this short series with my recap of the Peachtree Road Race earlier this month!Peachtree Road Race Logo

When I first started to get an inkling in my brain that maybe I wanted to give this running thing a shot, I knew that I had to run The Peachtree. I mean, you aren’t truly an Atlantan, let alone an Atlanta Runner, until you’ve run those six sweaty miles down the center of our fine city. For those who aren’t familiar, the Peachtree isn’t just a local 10k. It isn’t even just a big holiday 10k (it takes place every 4th of July). It is the world’s largest 10k. It is MASSIVE. And it is the one holiday event across the entire calendar that Atlantans truly rally around. The whole city is buzzing about it for weeks in advance. So yeah, before I even knew what a race bucket list was, this race was on my race bucket list. I also wasted no time crossing it off my race bucket list – just two months after I finished my first “running” 5k at the 2010 Race for the Cure (I had walked others), I ran the Peachtree. And I’ve run it every year since and I plan to continue to build my streak for as long as geography and our finances allow.

The 2013 Peachtree was our fourth straight Peachtree, and this one was a little special – my brother-in-law Matt (Mike’s brother) came down from New York to run it with us ahead of his birthday and a weeklong art course at SCAD. So even though the Peachtree is getting to be old hat for Mike and I, this year, we got to experience through the eyes of a newbie once again.

[Sidenote: Have I mentioned that my BIL is a crazy talented artist? Because he is. Click on over to his Facebook page and look at some of his work. It is truly phenomenal!]

I also decided that for the first time, I wanted to incorporate a fundraising component to my Peachtree efforts. I thought about using Crowdrise to support one of the “official” Peachtree charities, but none of them really clicked with me. So when I was putting together my goals for 2013, I decided that I would use the Breast Cancer Research Foundation‘s Time for Research model to raise money for something very close to my heart – breast cancer research. I posted about my fundraiser in mid-June and called it, fittingly enough, the #Run4Research.

From there, it was time to train (which I did a lot of!) and it was time to spread the word about my fundraiser (which I didn’t do enough of, it turns out). And then, it was suddenly time for the race…

Pre-Race

As savvy veterans of the Peachtree, Mike and I chose to have our race bibs mailed to us. It might cost a little extra, but it’s worth it to avoid the crowds at the Expo. Plus, you get that fun surprise in the mail in mid-June when you find out your official start wave. In the past, I’ve still wound up at the Expo because I usually volunteer there with the Atlanta Track Club. However, because the 4th fell on a Thursday this year, the Expo was on Tuesday and Wednesday – both work days for this girl. So that meant no volunteering this year. All in all, I was pretty resigned to not making it down to the Expo…


Rows of race bibs at the Expo!



… and then my BIL decided to come run with us and my good friend Julie generously leant him her number (she has been dealing with a heinous case of plantar fasciitis and was saving her feet for the Boston 3 Day at the end of the month). However, Julie chose not to have her number mailed to her which meant that after work on Tuesday, I still found myself fighting traffic to get to the Peachtree Expo. As it turned out, it was fortuitous that I had to go down there because we also needed MARTA cards to get to the race start. And Nuun. And I picked up a new tank top on clearance from Big Peach. And I splurged on my first ever Sparkly Soul headbands. Among other things. Like I said in my #Run4ROC recap post, I should NOT be left unattended at race expos. After about an hour of wandering around in my high heels from work, I headed back home to finish cleaning before my BIL got there the next afternoon.

The night before the race was COMPLETELY different than the night before the Publix Georgia Half. Before that race, I was a nervous wreck. But this time, I was confident. I knew I was well trained, I know the course very well at this point, and I’d been running great all year. Our only real concern was the forecast – all of the weather folks were forecasting not just rain, but torrential downpours right at starting time. So, just like everyone else in the city, we were a little worried, although more about the race getting canceled than getting rained on. But, not being capable of controlling the weather, we instead set out our stuff for the next morning, peppered Matt with all of our best tips for the race, and headed to bed at a relatively early hour.

The Race!

Well, actually, first we had to get to the race. We stepped out the door to begin the 1.5 mile trek to the nearest MARTA station around 6am and were not terribly surprised to find it sprinkling. So staying dry for the race lasted about three minutes. Oh well. We took our short cut through the post-race area in Piedmont Park which we WERE surprised to find we had to show our race bibs to enter. The ATC had notified all of the runners that they were increasing the security presence around the race following the events at the Boston Marathon and they were not kidding. The entire finish line area was absolutely lined with uniformed policemen, which honestly, was sort of comforting to see. We took our annual pre-race peak at the finish line itself, then zipped across Peachtree to the MARTA station.


Peeking down at the finish line!

Usually at this point in the morning, we end up standing in a hot, sweaty MARTA station waiting for a jam packed train to come by for about 45 minutes. But, someone was looking out for us this year. Just as we walked onto the platform, a completely empty train pulled up and we were able to walk right on. I mean, I got a seat on the train. A real, whole seat. That NEVER happens on Peachtree day. So up we went to Buckhead where we deboarded into the flood of racers. Security again was noticeably tight. They were letting people out of the stations in waves in order to control the crowd and keep an eye out for anything suspicious. We’ve never seen them do that before.


Riding MARTA to the race in my patriotic Sparkly Soul headband!

Soon enough, though, we made it to our start wave. Because Matt was using Julie’s number, we ended up starting back with him in Wave P. The later start afforded us plenty of time to stretch, go to the portapotties, snack on some Clif Bars we brought, and just generally take in the scene. We were a little concerned that with the weather, a lot of people had decided to stay home, especially when we were able to get on a train so easily. That fear was completely unfounded. The portapotty lines and the crowds in the corrals were just as huge as always. Plus, the rain had basically stopped by the time the later waves were approaching the start. Before we knew it, we were passing underneath the huge flag marking the starting line and were on our way.


The crowds at the starting line, which is all the way up there under that American flag



Our little group before the Peachtree – Matt, me, and Mike

The boys both took off pretty quickly once we got across the start, which I expected. Mike is MUCH faster than I am, and Matt wanted to try to run with him for as long as he could hold on. Thinking ahead to the big hills in miles 4 and 5, I chose to start a bit conservatively and just enjoy the easy downhills of the early parts of the course. I also was doing something I don’t do often during races – I was running entirely based on effort, rather than a pace tracker. Because of the rain, I didn’t want to chance it with headphones, so I left my phone (and with it my RunKeeper app) off. I just settled into a comfortably hard pace that I thought I could hold and moved along through the first part of the race. I waved at the giant red tube dude that’s always in the middle of Peachtree early on, yelled out a greeting to Newbie, the New Balance mascot in front of their store, dodged the flying freebies from Moe’s (t-shirts and frisbees, not burritos, I promise!), and just generally enjoyed the kookiness of the Peachtree spectators. Like I said, Atlanta always rallies around the Peachtree, and even with the rain, this year was no exception.

Going into this race, I had some pretty big time goals. After clocking progressively slower times the last three years, I REALLY wanted a Peachtree PR (that would’ve been sub-1:06). As this is my only planned 10k for this year, I also knew that if I wanted to reach my goal of setting a new 10k PR this year, this was the race where I would have to do it (that would’ve been sub-1:05). And the one big thing standing between me and those goals was Heartbreak Hill. Heartbreak Hill is a sneaky beast of a hill. For the first three miles or so of this race, you’re cruising mostly downhill. Then, just before you reach the Shepard Center, you come upon a blind curve. And around that curve is Heartattack Hill. It comes out of nowhere, you’re usually tired because you went out too hard on the early miles, and, just when you think you’re at the top of it, there’s a second peak just beyond it. It’s a mental challenge, to be sure. I’ve never made it up it without walking… until this year. I made it all the way to the top of not just that first peak, but the second peak as well. I made myself hold onto until I reached the next water stop before I gave my legs a short breather while I hydrated.

From there, the race covers a series of rolling hills that basically don’t stop until you reach the finish line back at Piedmont Park. My legs were really tired by this point, but I felt like I was having a strong race and that I was probably within reach of my time goals, provided I didn’t let myself wuss out over the last two miles or so. Once I spotted the sign for 17th Street, I knew I was getting close. The race turns off of Peachtree and towards the finish on 10th. I started counting the cross streets, willing my legs to keep going. I also kept reminding myself that this part of the course was more of my home turf – just like I did during the half. As I pushed down 10th Street, I could just barely make out the numbers on the clock, which read something like 2:11 and some odd seconds. I distracted myself with some quick math based on the clock at the start and suddenly I knew: I was WELL ahead of my PR pace. Once last kick to the end and it was locked in. A new, HUGE 10k PR of 1:01:02!!


Walking into Piedmont Park after crossing the finish line!

Post-Race

After the race, I did what I always do after the Peachtree. I grabbed a not-at-all cold bottle of water from a volunteer (hey, you try icing down 70,000 bottles of water all at once!), and headed for those coveted t-shirts. However, it became quickly apparent that this trip across Piedmont Park was a little different from in past years. You see, while we had all forgotten about the rain during the race, the ground at the park had not. And after 60,000+ people had tromped across the same swatch of grass in the span of just over two hours, it had become one giant mud pit. It was ridiculous. It was also a good thing I had already decided to replace my running shoes post-Peachtree, because there was no way they were surviving all of that mud!


Matt and Mike after the race

Because of all of the mud, we didn’t really stick around too long after I met up with Matt and Mike. They gave me a quick run down of their races (Mike had finished in a speedy 50:46 despite a nagging injury that would sideline him for over three weeks post-race while Matt finished in 53:37 despite relatively little training) and then we decided to start making our way out of the part. We made a quick stop at the ATC Member’s tent to pick up our finisher’s gifts (aluminum water bottles with the shiny new logo!) and then walked up the Beltline to the post-race party at Phidippides. I don’t even think we really grabbed food at the park this year. We just wanted to get out of the mud and get to the party, especially since the rain was starting to make a reappearance.

The Phidippides party was great fun, as always. Hundreds of sweaty runners (who were also all caked in mud), free food and beer, good music… what’s not to like? I even won a giftcard to the Hard Rock Cafe! Which, honestly, I forgot we even had one of those here in Atlanta. But hey! More free food. Plus, I got to geek out when I spotted Jeff Galloway (Olympian/winner of the first Peachtree/founder of Phidippides) giving a tour of the store and catching up with Bart Yasso (the “Chief Running Officer” of Runner’s World Magazine). All in all, a great way to finish the Peachtree and start our 4th of July celebrating!


Bart Yasso and Jeff Galloway at the Phidippides Post-Peachtree party

Fundraising Results

Yeah, about that fundraiser. When I posted about my #Run4Research in June, I had every intention of pushing this fundraiser to make it just as much of a success as my #Run4ROC fundraiser in March. But life just got in the way of this one. Not to make excuses, but about a week after I launched this fundraiser, I developed a severely infected tooth that required a root canal a week before the race. I was in a ton of pain and I wasn’t really in the mood to cheerlead my fundraiser. The donations were also slower to come in than in the past, which was discouraging. Altogether, I kind of lost my juice for this fundraiser, something that I really disappointed in myself for. I will be writing an additional, more detailed, post about what I think went wrong and the lessons I learned next week. I also have every intention of making my last fundraiser of 2013 even bigger to make up for my woeful effort on this one. But as far as this fundraiser is concerned, I dropped the ball.

BUT! That is not to say that I didn’t have any donations at all. In fact, four donations were made to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation via my fundraising page, which together with my starter donation brought the total raised to $155 – about 15% of my overall goal! Each of those donations lifted my spirits immensely and I’m sure will be used by BCRF in the future as they continue to wage the war against breast cancer. So thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to the following people for making donations to this fundraiser:

  • Andy Carr, an ATC staff member that I got to know while volunteering at packet pick-up for the Women’s 5k and who’s become one of my Twitter buddies.
  • Crystal Elster, one of my #3DayTweeps friends who’s father has run the Peachtree (FAST) every year for something like 35 years. After four years of trying to catch up with her at the race, we finally saw each other at the Phidippides post-race party this year!
  • Katie, Jesse, and Alice Schank, some of our closest Atlanta friends and their adorable daughter. The Schanks are moving back to Georgia at the end of this year, so maybe we can run this together next year!
  • And lastly, Laura Scholz and her husband Tim Long, who ALSO donated to my #Run4ROC. They’re good peeps, truly.

My muddy post-Peachtree legs say THANK YOU!!

Closing Thoughts

 All in all, this race was a huge success for me, running-wise. I had a great race from top to bottom and truly felt like a veteran racer the whole way. However, I would’ve loved to have capped that victory off with a fundraising success as well. I have no one to blame but myself for that and I intend to do better next time. This was a good reminder that to be a successful charity runner, you need to put the effort into both parts: the running AND the fundraising!


Commemorative finisher’s medals that we were able to get for a little extra at registration. LOVE them!

Note: If you would like to see all of my pictures from the Peachtree Road Race 10k and the surrounding events, please click here. Also, the link to donate to BCRF is still active and will remain so until I choose to take it down. If you would like to make a donation to this great cause, please either click here or on the big clock up in the left hand corner of this page.

Race Recap Flashback: Atlanta Race for the Cure

Thursday, July 25th, 2013

Welcome back to Race Recap Flashback week! I have already recapped my Run for the ROC at the Publix Georgia Half Marathon, which you can read here, and I’ll be posting my recap of the Peachtree Road Race over the weekend. Tonight, it’s all about the Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure, which took place over Mother’s Day weekend back in May!

Every year, the Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure is on Mother’s Day weekend. Because much of my breast cancer advocacy is inspired by my mom’s fight with breast cancer, that makes it especially meaningful for me. I was even able to walk last year’s event with Mom, which was a whole new experience for me. The Komen Race was also my first EVER road race that I actually ran, again making it an extremely important event for me all around. If I had run the race this year, it would have been my seventh event here in Atlanta and my ninth (tenth?) Race for the Cure total.

But, of course, I didn’t run the race this year. I didn’t walk it either. Instead, for the first time, I was actually on the race planning committee, where I served as Safety Chair. And because I was committed to making sure everyone else had a safe race, that meant I couldn’t run the race myself. However, because as Safety Chair I wasn’t anchored to a particular area of the race site, I was really able to take in all of the aspects of the event. So, since this isn’t a traditional race recap, I’m going to do this recap a little differently too. It’s going to be a photo recap!

(Sidenote: If you want to see any of the pictures here in a larger view, just click on the pics themselves or on the link to the album at the bottom of the page.)

So, to start, I had to be at the race site at an absolutely heinous hour of the morning. However, I love this event so much that I was wide awake long before my alarm went off. My first order of business after I got to the site was checking in with my girl Julie who was responsible for assigning everyone their walkie talkies. I also had to get a picture of us together (even though it was still totally dark) to mark our three year “In Real Life” friend-a-versary (and our 4th Race for the Cure together)!

Pre-race shot with my girl!

From there, I did a quick tour of the race site and helped get my Grady medical teams ready to go. Then, it was back down to Julie at “Central Command” to fetch one of my favorite little people: her daughter Niblette. I was also able to capture this beautiful little moment of them:

LOVE THEM

My next “assignment” was to hand out our special Pink Honor Roll t-shirts (and coffee!) to our top 100 fundraisers, which Miss Niblette was kind enough to help me out with:

Pink Honor Roll shirts!

With my super helper Niblette

With the rest of the volunteers assigned to the Pink Honor Roll tent

I also had some visitors while I was working in the Pink Honor Roll tent:

Some of my #3DayTweeps before the race, including my friend Pam (in blue), Anne Marie (in the bandana), and Anne Marie’s daughter Liza. Niblette walked with them during the race.

Mike came and hung out with me before he went to actually run the race. Since I had to be there so early, he actually ran TO the race before running IN the race.

Not long after that, Mike headed down to find some of his work colleagues who were also running the race while we broke down the Pink Honor Roll tent. From there, it was time for me to make my way to the starting line, checking out the sights along the way:

Mike with his colleagues Lisa, Brandon, and Justin before the race. Go FFG!

Some last minute stragglers picking up their race numbers.

More of our great volunteers working hard before the race.

I also made one last check in with some of my medics, where I commented that things had been really quiet on the safety front thus far, including during the one mile fun run. They told me to me to NEVER say that because it’s basically tempting fate. As you’ll read later, I really should have listened to these guys:

Some of my phenomenal team from Grady, waiting for the race to start.

After that, I headed right to the front of the crowd and made my way up onto the starting platform. I’ve ALWAYS wanted to see the race from up there and I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity. I was able to get some GREAT pictures!

The MASSIVE crowd of racers waiting to start…

And with a word from the Komen Atlanta Executive Director Cati Stone (in the pink shirt), our racers were off and running!

Racers making their way towards the start as the large crowd pushed forward. And hey look! Even though I didn’t see him AT ALL, I totally captured Mike in my picture (left side, blue t-shirt, behind the folks in the pink “Thing” shirts)!

Racers flooding across the 17th Street Bridge

And of course, making their way along the crowd were my bike medics! Go team!

Once everyone was safely out on the course, I took a shortcut back through Atlantic Station and down to the finish line area. I met up with Julie again and captured this great shot of her with the banner she designed for our Survivor Tent when we went in to grab water bottles:

We love our survivors AND those who are surviving!

Like I said: Survivors AND Surviving!

I also took some time to check in with some of our local community grantees:

As a Community Grants Review Board Member, I felt extra proud of this group!

At this point, I figured I should head to the finish line and try to catch Mike, who I missed by a couple minutes. However, it didn’t take me long to find him and we were able to catch up for a few minutes. Unfortunately, though, that was all we had because my walkie talkie suddenly started barking my ear – someone was having an asthma attack at the finish line and I needed to head over there. So off I raced into the crowd, thinking I’d see Mike again in a few minutes. By the time I got there, my Grady folks had already taken care of things. So I stopped to chit chat with one of the bike medics to find out what happened and have her fix my walkie. As she was taping up my radio, I commented to her that it was probably the most first aid she’d have to deliver all morning, which, of course, jinxed us AGAIN.

As it turns out, while we were chatting, things were getting ready to go a little crazy on the safety and medical front. Over the course of the next 45 minutes, my medical team had to provide additional care for the person with the asthma attack, as well as a woman with a broken arm and FOUR people with severe dehydration. Apparently, since we had been expecting rain and overcast skies, folks weren’t prepared for what ended up being our warmest morning of the year to date and failed to hydrate properly before and during the race. Needless to say, I was QUITE busy during this period and didn’t take any pictures. You don’t really want to see pictures of people scared and in pain anyways.

Thankfully, my volunteer medics from Grady were true professionals and handled everything VERY smoothly. In the end, everything calmed down and, eventually, I was even able to help everyone else break down the race site post-event. I am also really glad that I ignored the repeated reassurances from the experienced members of the planning committee that “there’s never really any incidents, so Safety Chair is an easy gig” and made sure I had a solid emergency response plan in place BEFORE the race. We had more incidents in this one 5k than they’ve had in the previous three Atlanta Race for the Cure events combined.

Our race chairs, Jess and Liz, celebrating the end of a successful event!

From there, it was off to brunch with Mike, Julie, Niblette, and some of my #3DayTweeps friends and then home to a well-earned nap. It was a long day, but a very fun and fulfilling day!

Posing with some of my team at the end of the race. I really can’t say enough about how great they all were to work with! Thank you Grady EMS!!

So that pretty much wraps up my 2013 Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure experience. It was definitely challenging in new and different ways, but it was also fantastic to get to experience so many aspects of this year’s event. I am ABSOLUTELY planning to come back and take part in the Race Planning Committee again next year. Our new Executive Director has some big goals for us to grow and improve our event and I could not be more excited to help her make them a reality.

See you again in 2014, Atlanta!

PS – If you would like to see ALL of my pictures from the Race for the Cure, you can find them here.

Race Recap Flashback: Running for the ROC at the Publix Georgia Half Marathon!

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Publix Georgia Marathon and Half Marathon display at the Expo!

If you read my mid-year running recap, then you know that I’ve been doing a great job in my races thus far this year. However, I’ve done a terrible job about writing about my races here, even the big ones. So, I’ve declared this Race Recap Flashback week. This week, I’ll be recapping both the Komen Atlanta Race for the Cure and the Peachtree Road Race. But first up, my Run for the ROC at the Publix Georgia Half Marathon!

Throughout most of 2012, I had a little voice nagging at my brain and at my heart. It kept saying the same thing: “I want to run a half marathon. I KNOW I can run a half marathon. I need to run a half marathon.” As I got more involved with the Atlanta Track Club and the local running community, that voice got louder and more persistent. So, sometime in November, I decided to bite the bullet and register for the Publix Georgia Half Marathon, right here in Atlanta. This race course comes within blocks of my house. I’ve cheered for many friends over the years as they’ve conquered these miles. The race is almost always on my birthday weekend, which also happens to be St Patrick’s Day weekend. If any race was going to be my first half, it had to be this one.

So I was settled on the race. I also knew that I wanted to jump back into the fundraising game and raise some money for a breast cancer charity, something I’ve gotten away from more than I’d like over the last two years or so. After considering a few options, I ultimately decided to dedicate my efforts to a specific cause that was near and dear to my heart: the Give Hope a New Home capital campaign to build the new regional oncology center at Upstate Medical University (aka “The ROC”). For those who are new around here, the ROC is where my mom has gotten her breast cancer treatments since 2007. The team there has been fantastic and I was ecstatic to have this opportunity to support them in something this important. It took me a bit to figure out how I was going to run this fundraiser, but eventually, a great woman named Terry Shenfeld helped me set up a fundraising page on the campaign’s website and I was off and running (so to speak…)!

Pre-Race

I’m not going to go through all my training and fundraising leading up to the race. Suffice it to say, I ran a lot (including a course run two weeks before the race), and I pumped my fundraiser as much as I could, both through social media and fundraising emails. So let’s zip ahead to the weekend of the race…

The Saturday before the half was a big day for me – it was my birthday! I’m normally the type that wants to make a big deal out my birthday. However, with the half the next day, I opted to keep things quiet and running-focused. I spent the morning doing one of my favorite things – recruiting new members at the ATC booth at the race expo. It was really fun and motivating to talk to everyone about their race goals, especially knowing that unlike in previous years, I was part of this conversation. Once I was done with my shift, it was time to pick up my race packet and hit the rest of the expo. I’m always a bit “splurge-y” at expos, but this year, I was particularly indulgent; I mean, it WAS my birthday. All together, I left with some new socks, some new running tops, a race-themed t-shirt, Clif bloks for during the race… and lots more that I’m forgetting because it was months ago. It was a lot. I was feeling confident and very much like a “real runner”.

… And then I got home and I got NERVOUS. I wanted everything to go perfectly and I was suddenly worried about all of the details: would I make it to the start on time (because, hey, last year I mis-read our Peachtree wave start times and we got there late… )? Would I be too hot (what is this heat wave in March)? Would I be too cold (but wait, what are those pre-race temps doing in the upper 40s and low 50s)? Would I be able to find Mike along the course (because I had a problem with that at the Hot Chocolate 15k)? Serious pre-race jitters, I tell ya. I was also trying to make a shirt to wear during the race and the iron on transfer just would NOT work, which was really stressing me out (I ended up just printing the graphic below on paper and pinning it on). All in all, I was feeling super anxious about this whole thing. But here’s the great thing about running: the race starts whether you’re ready or not. And when it does, you either step over that starting line or you get left behind. And no matter how nervous I was, I was not getting left behind. So I headed to bed relatively early and did my best to sleep.

My shirt back (click to enlarge)

My shirt back for the race (click to enlarge)!

The Race!

I’m sure my alarm clock went off at some godawful hour of the morning and I’m even more sure that I was wide awake long before it started bleating in my ear. I quickly got dressed and had my usual pre-race breakfast (whole grain english muffin with peanut butter and jelly and a glass of Nuun). I pinned my race bib on the front of my shirt and my “Run4ROC” information on the back, wrangled Mike into the car, and we were off. Because we had such a hard time with parking before the Hot Chocolate 15k, we had planned for Mike to just drop me off near the starting area (Centennial Olympic Park) and then he headed out to his first planned spectating spot where he napped in the car until the race got to him. Out of my paranoia, I got to the starting line REALLY early. I wandered around the area, checking out the finish line chutes, taking pictures, and warming up a little bit. I even had someone mention to me, upon seeing my shirt, that they had family that had been treated at the ROC in Syracuse, something that was completely unexpected down here in Atlanta. I took it as a good sign for the race to come. A little more stretching, a quick snack on a Clif bar, and it was time to line up with my start wave.

Ready to go!

Going into this race, I had two time goals in mind: my “I won’t be disappointed if I at least finish in… ” time was to run sub-2:30 and my “I THINK I can actually finish in… ” time was to run sub-2:20. My plan for the race was to get in front of the 2:30 pace group early on and just focus on staying in front of them. Since this was my first half marathon, I figured trying to focus too much more on pace other than that was probably a recipe for disappointment. So when I got to my start wave, I positioned myself alongside the 2:30 pacers and was ready to go. After a short walk up to the starting line, we were finally off!

The first half of this half wound through downtown Atlanta, and then up through Old Fourth Ward, Little Five Points, and Inman Park, one of my favorite neighborhoods.  Those first few miles felt EASY and I was able to get in front of the 2:30 pace group right out of the gate, just as I had planned. In fact, I was running so easily that the first time I saw Mike, I commented to him that I was worried I had gone out way too fast. The temps were perfect, the hills were manageable, and the vibe was, honestly, somewhat peaceful. At one point, we were running towards the sunrise and was struck with the thought that while I had seen plenty of sunrises on St Patrick’s Day from celebrating my birthday over night, this was probably the first one I’d seen from this side of morning. It was a beautiful morning for a run, that’s for sure.

Cruising along mid-race!

The second time I passed Mike was just after the six mile marker, at which point I ate some Clif bloks. I tried Gu on one of my long training runs and HATED it, but the bloks I could work with. Luckily, I was ready to fuel right when I saw Mike because I couldn’t get the package open and needed him to help me. Lesson learned for next time – open the package pre-race! After that, we headed up into the Virginia Highlands and Midtown, the area of town where I live and do the majority of my training runs. Between the bloks and the mental boost of running on my “home turf” I was feeling GREAT as I headed into Piedmont Park. Even better, I knew that after I left the park, there were only four miles left. Four miles? I can do that!

Yeah, I only thought those four miles would be easy. It turns out, those four miles were pretty much all uphill. Or at least, that’s how it felt. Juniper Street, you are NOT my friend. However, I knew that I had been trucking along at a solid pace and hadn’t really walked at all outside of the water stops (which was big deal for me mentally). I definitely didn’t want to blow my strong first eight miles by wussing out on the last four, so I kept pushing even as my legs grew tired. I focused on the people who I had chosen to dedicate each of my miles to and let them carry me up those hills. I also starting searching for this family of three little girls that were giving out high fives every half mile or so. Each time I’d see them, they were lined in height order so that I could just run along and high five all of them. I must’ve been running near whoever they were supporting because not long after I passed them each time, they’d hop on their bikes with their dad and scoot up the course. I must’ve high fived these girls seven or eight times in those last four miles. It was a great distraction!

Before I really knew it, I found myself making the last turn onto Marietta Street and starting the last uphill climb towards the finish. My legs were exhausted by that point, but I knew I wanted to finish strong. Suddenly, I found myself behind a cop on a bike following someone pushing stroller – completely strange. Then I realized – this was the last “runner” from the 5K that had stepped off not long after the last start wave for the half! That was motivating – I really wanted to “lap” that last 5k-er. Just as I was passing the 5K caboose, I starting hearing sirens and the screaming at the finish line got noticeably louder – could this be for me? Yeah, definitely not. It was the FIRST finisher for the full marathon. As much as I wanted to pass that last 5k runner, I did NOT want to get passed by any of the full marathoners. So, I dug deep, gave it everything I had left and pushed across the finish line, approximately three strides ahead of the winner of the marathon. YES!

All in all, it was fantastic race. I ran well throughout, took in everything I could along the course, and really enjoyed myself. Even better, I KILLED my goal time. My final time was a 2:14.10 – almost six full minutes faster than my big goal. I was ECSTATIC and ready to celebrate!

My Results!

Fundraising Results

As excited as I was about my race results, I was even more thrilled with how well my fundraiser went for the ROC. When I kicked things off at the beginning of March, I set my goal for this fundraiser at $1000. I challenged my friends and family to donate in various amounts corresponding to mileage or my time goals and had hoped to reach my fundraising goal by the end of March, two weeks post-race. Well, everyone responded so generously that I didn’t even need that long. By the time I took my first steps in the half marathon, I had already raised $518 – and that was in just two weeks! Even better, within a week of my race, that amount had ballooned to $1218, well past my goal. At that point, with an eye towards my planned fundraisers for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the American Cancer Society later in the year, I chose to stop actively promoting this fundraiser. However, even that didn’t stop my phenomenal support system from donating. As of April 15th (the last update I received from Upstate), I had raised $1513 for the ROC’s Give Hope a New Home capital campaign.

I can honestly say that I was blown away by everyone’s generosity. The ROC and their staff are near and dear to my family but I wasn’t sure how broadly this cause would resonate with others outside of the Upstate NY area. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about. Many people expressed to me that they were thrilled to have the opportunity to repay Upstate for the great care they’ve given to my mom, to Marcia, and to many, many others. I have no idea how far $1500 will go towards the new cancer center. I know it’s small potatoes compared to the donations from people who get whole wings named after them. But friends, together, we got Upstate $1500 closer to making the new oncology center a reality, which is more than most people can say. I believe strongly in paying it forward, especially when it comes to charitable endeavors. By helping to make the new ROC a reality, we are helping to give others a better chance at a cancer-free future.

As part of my fundraising challenge, I said that anyone who donated more than $100 would be able to dedicate one of my miles during the race to anyone they chose. I also said that I would wear their honorees name on my shirt during the race. While I received ten donations of $100 or more as part of this fundraiser, I received the majority of them after the race. Since I couldn’t recognize those donors and their honorees during the race (as you can see on my shirt image, above), I definitely wanted to give them a shout-out here. So, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to my $100+ donors:

  • Nicole Anderson – One of my #3DayTweeps friends. Nicole asked me to dedicate mile 11 to her aunt, Marilyn Duncan.
  • Julie Brock – My #3DayTweeps bestie. Julie asked me to dedicate mile 4 to her grandfather, LTC Walter P. Schlagel, who passed away earlier this year. During that mile, as I was thinking of him, I noticed I was running near a man carrying an American flag. I lost him after that mile and didn’t see him again during the race. I took it as a sign from Julie’s grandfather to keep pushing forward.
  • Kathy and Mike Cincotta – My wonderful, supportive, endlessly generous in-laws.
  • Kate and Joel Jackson – Another of my #3DayTweeps friends and an Atlanta running buddy. She swears she’s going to get me to run a full marathon with her soon.
  • James Lee – A friend of mine from graduate school. James is getting married this fall!
  • Pam and Sean McCormick – My mom’s youngest sister and her husband. Sean has recently started running too!
  • David and Laura Ostheimer – David is a long time colleague of my mom and he and his wife have been some of Mom’s strongest supporters over the years!
  • Claudia Reeves – My aunt on my Mom’s side. Claudia made her donation in honor of her friends “The Big Ladies”.
  • JT Shoemaker – A graduate school friend who is one of our rocks here in Atlanta. JT made his donation in honor of his mother Janet, a breast cancer survivor who has been incredibly kind and supportive of me throughout Mom’s journey.
  • And finally, Dr. Jonathon Wright, my Mom’s and Marcia’s long time oncologist at the ROC. Dr. Wright also sent me a lovely email about how tough and inspiring my mom has been as a patient. He has given my mom phenomenal care over the years and I will keep that email always.

I also would be absolutely remiss if I didn’t acknowledge my other donors, all of whom helped me to far surpass my fundraising goals: Anne Marie DeSimone, Dom Gambardella, Marsha and Dean Griswold, Jeff Kostusiak, Dawn Mazzanti (who was my first donor!), Jim McKeever, Jennifer and Bill Rabbitt, Faren Shear, and Laura Scholz and her husband Tim Long. This group represents a hodge podge of friends and family from all the various corners of my life. I am strengthened and inspired to keep running for more because of all of you and the wonderful mash up that is my life.

Closing Thoughts

Ultimately, this race and this fundraiser were phenomenal successes for me and have given me huge motivation to keep going with this type of “charity racing”. I can’t wait to get out there again for the AllState 13.1 half marathon this October, when I will be running for the American Cancer Society!

Victory!

Note: If you would like to see all of my pictures from the Publix Georgia Half Marathon, please click here. Also, as far as I know, the link is still active on the ROC website if you would still like to make a donation to this worthy cause!

2013 Mid-Year Check In Part 1: Racing Recap

Monday, July 15th, 2013

So, it turns out that finding time to blog while working full time is a little harder than I anticipated. But that’s ok, I love a good challenge. I promise to keep trying to find time to blog if you all promise to keep finding time to read what I write. Deal?

Running in the Publix Georgia Half Marathon!

Back in early March, I wrote about my goals for 2013 which included goals for running, fundraising, and advocacy. One of my advocacy goals was to get back into blogging, including both weekly fundraising updates and monthly training updates. To date, I have written zero of those blog posts. Whoops. So over the course of two posts this week, I’m going to try to get caught up a little on what should have been in those posts. Tonight, I’m going to focus on a general running update for the first half of 2013 and Wednesday night, I’ll have a post up looking specifically at my progress on those goals I posted about in March.

(Update: you can read Part 2 of my mid-year update on my goals for 2013 here!)

But First – A Recap of My Running History To Date

For those who are new, I sort of started running back in the spring of 2010, when I used a Coach to 5K program to train for the Atlanta Race for the Cure and then stretched myself out for the Peachtree Road Race 10k. And then I took a nasty spill on a run and got busy at work (I was still in grad school at the time) and well, I stopped running for about six months. Then I kicked things up again in January 2011 when I realized that writing my dissertation meant A LOT of inside time sitting on my butt. So I signed up for Atlanta Track Club’s Women on the Move 5k training group, which I rolled right into their 10k training group for the Peachtree. I also sprinkled a few other races in there as well. And then after the Peachtree, I realized I had to buckle down or I would never finish my dissertation. So I stopped running again. Ugh.

At the beginning of 2012, I made it my goal to sustain my running throughout the whole year. For the first half of the year, I trained regularly but took a fairly relaxed attitude towards my races. I had fun with friends at the ATC Grand Prix races and the Color Run, walked the Race for the Cure with my family, got muddy in the Warrior Dash, and just generally was laid back about the whole running thing. It was more about running consistently at that point, rather than running better. And you know what? I didn’t get better! I was consistently around the 32 minute mark for my 5Ks and I ran my slowest Peachtree ever that July. And the week after the Peachtree, I ran a particularly miserable 5k as part of the Beltline racing series. And that was when I got fed up with my lack of progress.

After that Beltline race, I starting setting some real goals for myself, starting with my first double digit race mileage – an early fall 10 miler that was part of the ATC Grand Prix series. I put actual speed work on my training schedule, starting running more regularly with the Phidippides running group on Thursday nights, paid attention to my diet and how different foods affected my running, and started mixing in some strength training and yoga. In short, rather than burning out in the fall like I had the previous two years, I kicked things up a notch. And slowly but surely, I started seeing some improvements in my racing – I set a 10k PR that September and beat my goal time in the 10 miler by more than 10 minutes. So, encouraged by my success, I put some big goals on my calendar for 2013…

Racing in 2013 – Suddenly, I’m Speedy!

So that brings us to this year, which has been by far my best running season to date. I continued to build on my hard work and success in the fall and have been shredding my PRs left and right this year. Seriously: I’ve set NINE new PRs so far in 2013. NINE. I’ve set PRs at EVERY distance that I’ve raced this year: 2 miles, 5K (three times!), 4 miles, 8k, 10k, 15k, and half marathon! Granted, a few were because those distances were new for me (2 miles, 8k, 15k, half), but five of them were legitimate, “I’ve never run this fast”, PRs.

Not only have I suddenly become a speedy little mid-packer (because let’s be honest, I’m still not setting land speed records over here… ), but I’m also enjoying running more than ever. I’m getting to know more people in the running community here in Atlanta and look forward to seeing new friends at my races. I don’t feel like I’m stressed out on my runs even though I’m clocking much faster paces even on my training runs. Everything has really been clicking for me this year and I’m optimistic that it will continue this fall. I’ve scaled back on mileage over the last couple months as I’ve focused on building speed going into the Peachtree (always a “benchmark” race for me), but now I’m ready to build distance again as I start training for a fall half marathon and a pair of 10 milers. It should be a fun fall, provided I can stay injury-free!

(Which, well, maybe not. I rolled an ankle on my run last Thursday and then somewhat stubbornly raced an ATC 4 miler on it on Saturday morning because I wanted the Grand Prix finish. I’ve been hobbling around ever since. The pain comes and goes and seems to be the most pronounced when my ankle gets stiff or I try to move side to side. Hopefully, a few days of ice and rest and I’ll be as good as new. But you never know.)

Highlights from the first half of 2013

  • Running my first sub-30 minute 5K in January
  • Finishing my first half-marathon in March
  • Taking part in the Phidippides Boston Tribute Run in April and hearing the stories from our local runners who were there. It was a terrible thing that brought us together but a powerful and meaningful event to be a part of.
  • All those PRs. I mean, seriously.
  • KILLING it at the Peachtree after three straight years of progressively slower finish times

Lowlights from the first half of 2013

  • Losing my racing partner to injuries, twice – Mike had an achilles injury that kept him mostly sidelined through March and is currently dealing with a knee injury that is likely to keep him out through the first part of August.
  • Two DNSs – we bailed on the ATC Resolution Run on January 1st due to amazingly bad weather and then the ATC Women’s 5K was canceled right at race time due to lightening.
  • SO. MUCH. RAIN. I’m pretty sure we’ve only had three race days with blue skies. Craziness.
  • And now this ankle thing. Hopefully it will be short-lived.

Quick and Dirty Race Recaps

FYI: You can find all of my race times on my race results/schedule page here and all of my race pics here. I’m also going to writing some “Race Recap Flashbacks” in the next few days or so in order to properly cover the Publix Georgia Half Marathon back in March, the Atlanta Race for the Cure in May, and the Peachtree.

Race 1: Hot Chocolate 15k (1:36.36)

While I had been targeting this race since last fall, I wasn’t able to secure a number until just over a week before the race. As a result, I hadn’t really properly trained and tapered before this longer race. It turns out that it didn’t matter – the weather was unseasonably warm for January, I loved the course, and I finished quite a bit faster than I was expected. LOVED all that chocolate at the end too, even though the temps were pushing 70 degrees!

Race 2: Peachtree City 5K (29:09)

My first ATC Grand Prix race of the year and definitely one of my best. I was expecting much on this insanely cold morning, and out of nowhere, I FINALLY ran a sub-30 minute 5k. And not only did I run a sub-30 min 5k, I beat it by A LOT. Even though this was a low key, small race, I’m sure I’ll never forget it. This was a major, major milestone for me.

Race 3: Hearts and Soles 5K (29:11)

Second ATC Grand Prix and another wicked cold morning. Came super close to my PR from the previous race which was really encouraging – this race proved that my first sub-30 minute 5k wasn’t just a fluke!

Race 4: Publix Georgia Half Marathon (2:14.10)

I’m going to write a longer recap on this one soon, I PROMISE. But briefly: everything about this race went about as perfectly as I could have hoped for. The weather was great, I ran well throughout, I high-fived a ton of little kids, and I beat my A Time Goal (sub-2:20) in my first ever half-marathon. Add to that a smashing fundraising success and well, it was FABULOUS birthday for me!

Race 5: Northwestern Road to the Final 4 5k (28:47.19)

We had been planning to run the Color Run this weekend and then got shut out because I waited to long for us to register. It actually worked out for the best, though, because we got to run this 5k (which benefitted the American Cancer Society’s Coaches vs Cancer program) instead. As my 3-Day family had lost one of our own the day before, it just felt right to run a charity race like this in her honor. Bridget’s spirit carried me along and I was able to set my second 5k PR of the year.

Race 6: Spring has Sprung 8k (48:13)

After the half marathon in March, I had been hoping to run the 15k distance for this race, my third ATC Grand Prix. However, life intervened a bit and without any longer runs in the book since the half, I decided to scale back and stick with the 8k. Even then, I didn’t have high hopes, so I was pretty pleased with my final time.

Race 7: 420Fest 5K (28:32)

This was the first race in our self-styled “Festival” race series. All of the neighborhoods here in Atlanta have street festivals at various times during the year and most of them have some sort of road race as part of the festivities. We made it an unofficial goal to run as many of these festival races as we can this year. This was the first of those races and one I was particularly excited for. This course is very similar to the Atlanta Women’s 5k that was canceled back in March – a course I’ve PRd on twice before. Clearly, this is still my lucky course – I set my third 5k PR this year!

Race 8: The EIS 2 Mile Prediction Run (17:06)

Easily the least traditional race I’ll run this year (it was on a Tuesday night!). This tiny race was part of the CDC’s annual EIS Conference and started as an opportunity for the incoming and renewing EIS officers to get in their physical fitness requirements. For fun, this race was a prediction run, meaning the runner closest to their predicted time wins. Seeing that the course went partially off-road and forgetting I’m running faster this year, I predicted 19 minutes. Then I finished in just over 17 minutes. Whoops.

Race 9: Inman Park Festival Rocket Run 5k (29:39)

This was my 3rd race in eight days, plus I also participated in the Boston Solidarity Run and a charity walk for Lupus awareness in that same time span. So by the time we got to this race (the 2nd of our Festival Runs), I was EXHAUSTED. Plus, this neighborhood is particularly hilly. Mike and I took it fairly during this race. I didn’t PR but I was still able to stay sub-30 minutes. After all of that racing, I considered this a victory.

Race 10: Lauren’s Run 5k (28:55)

This was a charity race benefitting CURE Childhood Cancer. It was also REALLY rainy that morning. I logged my third sub-29 minute 5k of the year and happily headed home to warm up!

Race 11: Atlanta Race for the Cure

I didn’t actually run this race – I was the Safety Chair. I will be recapping my experiences soon though!

Race 12: Virginia-Highlands Summerfest 5k (29:45.9)

The third of our Festival Races. This course was CRAZY hard – hills after hills after hills. This was also our first really hot race of the year, which is actually really late for Atlanta. I was really frustrated by how poorly I ran in this race but felt much better after hearing that other runners struggled just as much. JUST squeaked in under 30 minutes for the seventh time this year.

Race 13: Braves Country Father’s Day 4 Miler (38:17)

After setting PRs at the 2 mile, 5k, and 8k distances this year, I REALLY wanted a 4 mile PR in this race. I also remembered loving this course last year – it ends behind home plate at Turner Field! – so I went into this race with high expectations. I also wanted redemption after my crummy Summerfest race. When I busted across that finish line and saw 38 minutes on the clock, I was STOKED.

Race 14: AJC Peachtree Road Race 10k (1:01:02)

I’m going to do a Race Recap Flashback on this race as well. After three years of progressively slower times in the Peachtree, I didn’t just set a Peachtree PR. I BLEW away my 10k PR, dropping over 4 minutes off my time. It was rainy and muddy and I loved every second of this giant party of a race!

Race 15: Dekalb-Decatur 4 Miler (38:34)

This was the race I ran this past weekend on a sore ankle. My race plan was to run as strongly as I could until my ankle couldn’t do any more and then walk the rest. As it turned out, my ankle held up for the full distance and I only missed my PR by 17 seconds, which was kind of shocking to me. However, my ankle really started to ache shortly after the race ended and it hasn’t been the same since. So while the race turned out great, it probably wasn’t my smartest move. Oh well.

So that’s the first half of 2013, in a nutshell. I had no idea I’d raced 14 times (plus the Race for the Cure and a Lupus walk) already this year until just now. That’s probably a few races more than is ideal but hey – I’ve been on a roll and I haven’t wanted to stop. Hopefully this ankle thing won’t lay me up for too long and I can get back out on the roads soon. Fall half marathon training starts soon!

With my brother-in-law Matt and Mike before the Peachtree!

Don’t forget to check back later this week for part 2 of my mid-year check in – my goals update!