For my 5th new state for 2015 (8th new state so far) I had the pleasure of participating in the Jeff Galloway 13.1 in Atlanta Georgia on December 13th. Doing this race was a last minute decision. I’d known about the race since September, when I met Jeff and his wife, Barbara, at the Disneyland half marathon weekend’s expo. I’ve done a lot of traveling this year and didn’t want to spend another weekend away from my husband, Ed. About three weeks before the race though, Ed, who plays the bagpipes, found out he had all day band practice on the 12th and 13th. So I signed up for the race.
In August I finally met Carey Kauffman face-to-face at The PCD Foundation’s Move 4 A Cure conference. We’d met over the phone about five years earlier when I was putting together the second Keep Waving event on the National Mall in Washington, DC. She told me at the conference to let her know if I did a race in Atlanta and she’d do it with me.
After I signed up for the race I contacted Carey to let her know. I didn’t expect her to do the race with me, but I thought we could at least meet up somewhere for coffee, tea or lunch. She asked if I was doing the Jeff Galloway 13.1. Not long after responding “Yes” she let me know she’d registered for it. I really hadn’t expected her to join me. Cool!
I’m somewhat of an anxious flyer. It seems like no matter how much I pack and prepare ahead of time I always forget something. As my anxiety levels were rising Friday night, I calculated what time I needed to leave the house for my 6:15 am flight. The printer decided to stop working, so I wasn’t able to print out the car reservation or schedule for the expo. I had my boarding pass texted to my phone.
I was up at 4 am and out the door according to plan. As I sat in the car about to start the engine, “S**t” came out of my mouth. It was 5:15 and my flight was in an hour. I wanted to be at the airport by 5:15, not out the door by 5:15. How did this happen?
Panic was setting in and I drove as fast as I felt was safe to the long term parking, mumbling to myself a combination of swear words and praying not to miss my flight. I wasn’t checking bags, so I was hopeful that if the security line was short I could make it.
Everything worked out in my favor. Even the fact that the flight was not full. As the last person to board, I didn’t have to do the walk of shame down the entire length of the plane to get to my seat. There was also room in the storage compartment above my seat for my bags.
Unfortunately though, I realized I’d forgotten about the required note from my doctor to use oxygen on the plane. And even if I’d realized this Friday night, I wouldn’t have been able to print the letter anyway.
The flight was quick and after navigating out of the airport, made it to the car rental center and picked up my car. There was a thick fog over the city. It was a little weird driving in a strange city when I couldn’t see anything.
At the expo I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with my first running hero, Bill Rodgers. It was Bill’s “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Running” that got me running 3-5 miles at a time at the end of the last century (makes me sound old, doesn’t it?). I also got to hear Bill, Jeff and Amby Burfoot at a panel discussion on running. To be in the presence of that combined running history and level of accomplishments is quite inspiring.
After the expo I headed to Murietta, about thirty minutes north of Atlanta, to spend the night with my friend Laura. Shortly after I arrived at her house I started experiencing intestinal distress. This is not uncommon for me, with all the antibiotics I take. I usually just take one or two chewable acidophilus tablets and I’m fine. 6 tablets later and after multiple trips to the bathroom I decided that eating dinner might not be the best plan.
I got up early Sunday morning to drive to Carey’s house. My stomach still felt “iffy”. I had to two bites of a bagel and decided that would be good enough. At Carey’s I meet her adorable three children and her husband, Todd. He was able to drop us off a block away from the starting line.
The weather was perfect. You would never know it was December. It was a little chilly at 55 degrees and a slight breeze for the start. It was supposed to warm up to the upper 60’s by the time we would finish.
Carey agreed to carry my extra portable oxygen concentrator battery, which weighs about 1.2 pounds, and to take pictures and video along the way. It was really an honor to do the race with her. It was nice to get to know her better and to have her as my tour guide as we walked around Atlanta. I am usually just focused on what is right in front of me and putting one foot in front of the other when racing. She was pointing out the different views and landmarks as we went by. I also got the “Carey” tour, seeing where she and her husband first met along with places she’s lived.
Galloway has designed this race to minimize the total elevation gain and claims it as the best course in Atlanta. With a generous 4 hours and 30 minutes to complete the race, this is a great race for walkers. At the expo I asked Jeff about the hills. He mentioned the hill at mile nine. OK I thought, if that’s the worst hill I’ll just have to make sure I keep some energy in reserve for it. By mile 2.5 though, I was thinking “This course is all hills! What must mile nine’s hill be like?”
I knew this course had hills and I’d been doing hill training, even before I registered. Maybe it was the lack of fuel (no dinner and minimal breakfast) that started taking its toll. I enjoy hills. No seriously, I do. They really make me feel like I’m accomplishing something. And, hill training helps me run longer and faster. I can’t run up hills though. The exertion and stress on my lungs is too much to include running. And often times I can’t take advantage of the downhills because I’m recovering from the climb up and trying to catch my breath.
Mile nine’s hill didn’t seem any steeper than the others. Maybe it’s just that it was long, and so late in the race. I will say by the end of that hill I didn’t feel like I had any running left in me. I felt kind of wobbly too. Not terribly wobbly though. Just enough to want to finish the race but not push it too much.
The scenery along the race course is very nice. There’s a great variety of from gorgeous views of downtown, to residential neighborhoods to the finish in Piedmont Park.
I always want to set a personal record (PR). That was my goal for this race too, even though I knew there would be hills and my PR was set on a pretty flat course. I gave up on that goal by about mile 4. Given the lack of fueling I was able to do before the race, I decided making it to the finish line was the best I could do. I did have six miles that were faster than my average PR pace, two miles were just slightly above my PR pace, and five miles where a minute or more above my PR pace, especially the last two.
I was both grateful and amused by the race director stopping us just short of the finish line. I guess if you are finishing up around 4 hours after the start you must not be worried about your finish time. He saw Carey’s shirt and asked if we were running for the PCD Foundation. He asked her about the Foundation and asked me about the oxygen. All this was over the PA system. More PCD awareness happened when Kari Gormley of “The Running Lifestyle” podcast asked if she could interview me.
One of the things I like about Jeff Galloway is how personable he is. He was very friendly at the Disneyland expo; greeting people, signing books and having his picture taken. It was the same at his race. He greeted finishers, put their medal around their neck and posed for photos with them.
I would highly recommend this race. I know in December the likelihood of having weather this nice might be rare, but even if it’s a lot colder, this race has great scenery, and music and cheering sections scattered throughout. There is good support keeping you on the course and plenty of water stations to keep you hydrated.
If I lived near Atlanta I would make this a yearly race. I would just train harder for those hills.