The 2016 Augusta Half Marathon

This was an awesome race.

2016 Augusta Half MarathonI haven’t been purposely trying to keep you all in suspense by lagging on getting this recap posted. Work has just been insane lately and meant that there was a ton of stuff I still had to get done outside of normal office hours (i.e., in the time I normally reserve for blogging.)

For the sake of catching up, I’m going to skip the week 5 recap of marathon training. Basically, I got some runs in before Augusta, but I kept them pretty easy and boring.

My mom and I flew into Atlanta on Friday evening last week and my aunt came and picked us up from the airport. Saturday, we enjoyed a relaxing morning of sleeping in and visiting before making the drive down to Augusta. We arrived at the expo a little on the later side, and you could tell some of the vendors had already packed up and left. They still had some pretty great stuff though!

2016 Augusta Half MarathonWe picked up our swag, which I have to say is some of the best I’ve ever received at a race. Instead of the boring (and typically ill-fitting) race T-shirt, the race organizers had adorable, cozy sweatshirts for all half marathoners. I got almost a little too excited about this. They also had nice canvas bags with the local university’s logo.the 2016 Augusta Half MarathonCurrently living in this sweatshirt 24/7.

Fleet Feet was one of the vendors still at the expo when we arrived, and my mom and I were excited to see they were doing a sale on all their winter apparel – buy 1, get 1 free! You can pretty much count on Massachusetts having some chilly days until the end of April, so we each picked out nice long-sleeve running tops. We also checked out the new GU flavors! Maple Bacon sounded a little weird to me, so I went with chocolate coconut (which I highly recommend).

Augusta Half MarathonThe rest of the day was pretty much spent taking it easy and doing a little beading. My mom is pretty talented at making jewelry and worked on some fun necklace and earring designs with my aunt and niece who were joining us for the weekend. There was also some fantastic afternoon coffee.

Augusta half marathonThat night, we went to bed on the earlier side hoping to get a good night’s rest before the race. Unfortunately, that didn’t really happen, at least not for me. The hotel was NOISY. Our room was next to the parking lot and there were a lot of crazy intoxicated people coming and going until at least 1:30 in the morning. Every time I’d start to drift off, people would start making a racket again. The kicker was the guy who set off his car alarm because he couldn’t find his car…

Augusta Half MarathonIt was probably one of the worst nights of sleep I’ve ever had before a race. My mom was smart to have brought earplugs and she slept fine.

FINALLY, our alarms were going off and it was race morning! Start time was 8 am and our hotel was only 1.7 miles from the start, so my mom and I jogged our way down as a warm-up. It was a little chilly in the morning (probably in the 40s), but sunny and bright and the temps were forecasted to reach the high 60s. Basically, perfect running weather.

Augusta Half Marathon

Augusta Half MarathonDespite a little confusion finding the bag check area, the start was well organized and very scenic, located along a paved trail right on Lake Olmstead. The 10k went off right on time at 8 am and we lined up right behind them to start 10 minutes later. I felt excited and ready to go.

My mom and I wished each other luck and lined ourselves up in the corrals, which were self-seeded. I found myself relatively close to the front with the 8:00/mile group. Before I knew it, we were off! It was the start of lucky half marathon #13!

My plan was to go out conservatively (between 8:15 and 8:20/mile) for the first 3 or so miles, and then steadily increase the pace as best I could. I knew the hills were going to be tough, so I didn’t worry about those.

Mile 1: 8:14 ♦ Mile 2: 8:10 ♦ Mile 3: 8:09

Right on for my pacing. I was glad that I held back on these first few miles, even though it felt like everyone was passing me.

Mile 4: 8:08 ♦ Mile 5: 8:03 ♦ Mile 6: 8:25

Mile 4 was right around the time I started passing some of the folks who had gotten out a little too fast. Miles 4 and 5 were still pretty flat and I felt good picking up the pace. Then, I hit the hill that was miles 6-7. This was definitely the toughest part of the course. You can just see the hill rising up in the distance ahead of you. Then, you reach what you think is the crest, go around a curve and BAM – more uphill. I focused on maintaining a steady effort on this section and didn’t worry about my split. I knew everyone was struggling. I felt particularly bad for the 2 wheelchair athletes who had to struggle up those hills – I can’t even imagine how painful it would be to rely on arm strength to power up that kind of incline.

Mile 7: 8:46 ♦ Mile 8: 7:33 ♦ Mile 9: 7:46

Yes, that uphill section between miles 6 and 7 kind of made me want to kill myself. But PRAISE THE LORD for the downhill section that followed!!!!!

Augusta Half MarathonI knew I was seriously cruising on the downhill, but I was still kind of shocked to see the 7:33 split. I knew that was going to go a long way towards making up for the slower pace on the uphill. Another girl wearing a Oiselle shirt who looked to be in my age group passed me just before the downhill began and I chased her for a while. I didn’t end up catching her (though she stayed within sight for a long time), but I think she gave me the extra oomph to really give it my all on this stretch of the course.

Mile 10: 8:13 ♦ Mile 11: 7:33 ♦ Mile 12: 7:48 ♦ Mile 13: 7:32

Mile 10 had another hill, though not nearly as intense as mile 6-7. I knew it was coming and I knew it was the final hill between me and the finish. I managed my effort up it and then I was really ready to kick it in. The final stretch brought us back to a loop around Lake Olmstead where we had started. It was one of the prettiest parts of the course and gloriously flat. Going into the final 3 miles, I knew I had a PR in the bag, but I could not for the life of me do the math on what that final time was going to be. In the last mile, I could see 2 girls ahead of me who seemed like they might be in my age group (different than the Oiselle shirt girl) and I focused on reeling them in. I managed to catch them both. 🙂

I’m thrilled I managed to run my fastest mile in the very last mile (even if it was only by a second). Not only that, but I’m more used to seeing this pace when I race 5ks – the fact that I was able to run this after having already run 12 tough miles is pretty exciting to me. I ended up crossing the finish in just over 1:45, shaving 3 minutes off my PR, with an average pace of 8:00/mile according to my GPS watch.

The post race food was pretty good, though not super exciting. The cookies were probably the best part!

Augusta Half MarathonI was able to watch my mom finish a few minutes later, claiming third in her age group!! She was also very excited to see that she ran faster than all the women in the next youngest age bracket. We actually checked the results before we left this time so my mom was able to claim her plaque!

Augusta Half MarathonAnd a big thumbs up from my cousin!

Augusta Half MarathonOverall, I thought this was an awesome race and very well organized. The crowd support was definitely minimal, but that tends to be the case with smaller races. I just love the little touches the race organizers went with to really make this event stand out, from the sweatshirts, to the gorgeous medals, to printing our names directly on the bibs. I loved the race and most importantly, we’ve got another state down. 🙂 40 to go!!

Maple Bacon GU – would you try it (or have you tried it)? Do you prefer small, well-organized races (that may lack spectator support) or the bigger events that can be a little more hectic and stressful, but have that big name recognition and cheering support?

 

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