At least that is what 19,000 runners claimed as motivation at the inaugural Hot Chocolate Atlanta 15K/5K. 19,000 runners. People, that is the definition of a sugar rush. As you can imagine, it was throngs of humanity, all racing – in 90%+ humidity (hello, January?) up evil hills toward a sweet finish line.
This is one of the fastest growing race series in the country – and for good reason. It’s well supported, fun, challenging and features a unique distance. I’d actually never raced a 15K – woot! Instant PR! It’s a great distance.
I was not in it for the sweets. I’d registered months ago, thinking it would be nice to get a jump on the Spring race season with a cold weather competition. Alas, not so cold.
And when we got to race day, motivation to run had changed dramatically from the reasons why I’d initially registered. For one, I swapped the usual pre-race, “I hope I do well” jitters with some honest curiosity. What would these past weeks of marathon training do to my ability to kick in some speed? I figured that 9.5(ish) miles would feel shorter than they would have if I was still in normal training mode. But I figured that swapping out some of my regular speed work for more distance threatened to wreak havoc on my pacing.
I set my Garmin to try to stay at a 7:40 p/mi. Here’s what happened instead.
- 7:11 (felt lucky to be in the front corral – tried to go out slow but I’m not so good at that.)
- 7:20 (okay! feelin good. music is good.)
- 7:23 (settled in. nice pace.)
- 7:10 (cheering section? yes!)
- 7:04 (ouch. felt that one.)
- 7:29 (see?)
- 7:19 (found a rabbit to chase!)
- 7:34 (curse you, hills!)
- 7:34 (I’m getting tired.)
And the last .4 mile was 2:31 because I saw the Olympic rings! That meant the finish line – and it was downhill! God love you, race organizers. I dug deep, found just a little more gas and…Take that, rabbit. Not that I’m competitive or anything.
Overall, my pace was 7:18 per mile. This is the first time I’ve run with a Garmin and it was so interesting. I learned a few things.
- I can count on adrenaline for a little speed help. (Wasn’t so sure.)
- I’m not as consistent as I’d like to be.
- My goal 7:40 per mile pace would have been much more comfortable.
- When you’re running hard on big old southern hills, it doesn’t matter if your normal miles are high, because those nine miles were tough.
When all was said and done, I’d earned a PR for my 10K time (by about 20 seconds) so that was cool. I came in 122/7348 total – 8th out of 1154 in my AG (listed as 6th because TWO of the women in my AG were overall top three winners – man, I can’t wait to turn 40), and 29th female overall. Not bad for a training run.
Most importantly, I ran this race in honor of my Nellie. My sweet dog who, for 14 years, was a constant. She was the reason I started running regularly (she was a border collie/lab mix who loved to run and hike in your younger years). After a battle with splenic cancer, she passed away on Saturday night and I knew that running hard could help with my grief and also be an expression of joy in her memory. (If you saw me crying on he course, we’ll just call them tears of joy.) Every time I started to get tired, I gave it to her. The exhilaration of crossing the finish, I gave to her. I’m not ready to write about her yet, but I will. Maybe just for me, but a dog like Nellie is rare, and she deserves every form of honor and memory I can create.
And so. If someone asked me to fill in the blanks in the phrase “Will Run For…” my answer would be not be chocolate. My answer would be Nellie. Her leash still hangs by the door.