Friday, July 10, 2015

Peachtree Road Race - Race Recap

   The weekend started Friday morning when Dudley and I headed down to Atlanta for the Peachtree Road Race (PRR). Unfortunately, the trip took a bit longer than expected because it was the Fourth of July weekend and I think everyone in the Southeast was also heading to Atlanta - traffic was terrible. And so was the weather. Nothing is more fun than traveling over Monteagle in a blinding rainstorm with tractor-trailers speeding around you.
   Fortunately, we made to Atlanta a little late, but safely. We decided to go directly to the expo because traffic was a insane and we wanted to make sure we got there before it closed. The expo was held in the Georgia World Congress Center, which I guess is their Convention Center. It's a huge complex next to the Georgia Dome and very near to Olympic Park, The Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola. All of this is great if you're a tourist and have the entire day to spend in downtown Atlanta, but it's a logistical nightmare if you just want to pop in and out of the expo. Sure, we could have gone to the hotel and taken the MARTA (subway) down there, but we were naive and didn't know how bad traffic and parking would be. And it's BAD. Furture Peachtree runners, learn from our mistake - take the MARTA down to the expo.

Expo - this way! 

   However, once you got into the expo, it was pretty cool.  I mean, it's the "World's Largest 10k." It should be cool. It had the same stuff as most expos and a ton of PRR Swag, but you generally don't see an expo this big for a 10k.  It was well-laid out and never got too congested. Packet pickup was really easy too, and I expected a cluster with so many participants. Well done, Peachtree!

One of the many shirts I didn't buy.

   
The route. Probably should have really looked at this before the race.

   After the expo, we headed to the hotel which was located near the race start in Buckhead. Generally, I'm really detailed about the logistics for out-of-town races, but I've been so busy that I really haven't had time to do anything other than book the hotel. For me being totally clueless about Atlanta, we really lucked out. I was really happy with our hotel (Doubltetree). It was really convenient, especially for the Fourth of July. It was right at the race start and about two blocks from MARTA station. I recommend staying there if you go down for the race.

I was in Corral C.  I saw people with Corral X.  That's insane.

   As mentioned, I didn't do a lot of planning for the race. Not only was I crazy busy, but it's also just a 10k. Yes, that can be far if you're not running a lot, but both Dudley and I are in the middle of marathon training, so six miles is a short run for us. Nothing to really stress about. And I have to say - it's FUN to not stress about a race. Triathlons have SO MUCH STUFF and I have about 10 lists of everything I need. It was fun to just throw on my running shoes, walk out the door and be ready to go. And that's exactly what we did.

Good Morning!!

   Our plan was to get to the corrals about an hour before the 7:30 am start, so we could soak up all of the PRR atmosphere. Unfortunately, it was raining when we started to head out, so we stayed in the hotel for a bit until it passed. Being that we were so close, we still made it to the start with plenty of time to spare, even with the delay.


Me, D and a GIANT flag.  GO USA!

   PRR started something new this year - the Peachtree Cup. They invited six elites from varying continents / countries to make up four teams: USA, Africa, Asia and Europe. The team with the lowest cumulative time would win the cup. Shalane Flannigan was the captain of Team USA. Not that I saw her, but it was cool knowing she was there. (Team Africa won, BTW - USA came in second, but Shalane won for overall female.)
   The elites went off right on time. I was a little concerned about how long it was going to take for us to reach the starting line because there were so many people. Even with us being in one of the earlier corrals, there were still a ton of people in front of us. However, this isn't PRR's first rodeo. They were ON it. I think they let a corral go every two minutes. They were very efficient and we were running within 10 minutes of the starting gun.
   I was a little claustrophobic for the first mile or so. Big races are always congested during this period, but this seemed worse. It was also really steamy, as the rain had stopped and we were wrapped in a blanket of humidity. Dudley seemed OK with everything, but there was about a five minute period where I was about to lose my mind. It passed before I had a total freakout though, which was nice. Because that wouldn't have been embarrassing AT ALL.
   I should have really looked at the elevation map I took a photo of at the expo, because I was surprised at how hilly the course was. I knew about Cardiac Hill (never a good thing when there is something called Cardiac Hill on the course), but I thought the race flattened out after that. It didn't. I had been nursing a minor calf injury for the past week, but, thankfully, the hills didn't anger it too much. 
   I tried to really look around, have fun, and take in the race. Probably 30% of the people there were decked out in Red, White and Blue. There was a guy running in a patriotic, blow-up sumo thing. I have no idea how he was running in that. I also saw three guys dressed as Founding Fathers, complete with the white, powdered wigs. Way to commit to the theme, guys! And I went a little out of my way to run under the Holy Water provided by a local Catholic Church and was blessed by their priest, who was cheering along side the race course. Every little bit helps, right? 
   The rain returned around mile two and didn't let up until the after our race was over. It was pretty bad for a bit. Apparently, the race organizers delayed the start of the later corrals due to lightning. Though I heard thunder, I didn't see any lightning, which was good because we had no place to go for shelter. The big bummer about the rain was that we didn't get to hang out and enjoy the post-race festivities. We pretty much got a bit of food and our finishers shirt and left.

   
We're drenched. 

   Speaking of the finishers shirt...this is a big thing for the PRR. It's the only shirt you get with your entry, so if you don't finish, no shirt for you. For people who have been doing the race for 40 years, these things are a true badge of honor. Considering the shirts are SUCH a big deal, you would think that they would want as many people as possible to wear them. Apparently not, because they only had unisex shirts and they ran WAY too big. Seriously. I have a men's small and it can only be used as a sleep shirt because it just swamps me. PRR won't let you exchange the shirts at the race either. (They do have an exchange in ATL the week after the race, but that doesn't do out-of-towners any good.) PRR was so on point for everything else, I was surprised and kind of bummed about the shirt. 

The shirt I will never wear.

   Medals are not part of the package for the race, but you could buy one if you wanted. I figured since this was a bucket list race for us, I'd pony up the $20 and buy medals for the two of us. I'm glad I did.

Because medals are fun.

   Even with the shirt situation, I'd absolutely do this race again. There were only two other things that irked me about this race, which had nothing to do with the PRR itself: 1) the girl who ran with the selfie stick. NO! Stop it! You're running with 60,000 other people! It's dangerous. Put the stupid selfie stick DOWN! 2) the kid at one of the water stations who decided that pelting runners with fruit would be a good idea. I'm not sure if he was mad that no one was taking his orange slices or what, but I really didn't appreciate being hit with a piece of citrus.
   Other that those little things, the race was pretty much perfect. Running with 60,000 other people wasn't bad because we were so staggered around the course. The water stations and food areas were fully stocked, at least when we were there. The food vendors at the end of the race were almost begging us to take more food with us. That never happens! The race organizers even had dry towels for us at the finish. Granted, they were probably originally intended to be for sweat, but they work after a storm, too. It was really nice to have something to dry off with after running in the rain for four miles. 
   Here is where I geek out a little bit - the stats from the race:
  • Accepted participants: 60,000
  • Finishers: 54,553  (Men: 27,004 / Women: 27,549)
  • Our finishing time: 59:41 (9:13 average)
  • My placement: 13,383 overall / 379 out of 3,179 AG / 4,188 overall female
  • D's placement: 13,396 overall / 991 out of 3,096 AG / 9,203 overall male

  Is this not hysterical? So many people!! The overall (non-elite) male won in something like 29:00 and the overall female (non-elite) was 32:00. Crazy fast. This race should also serve as a warning to those speedy runners who win races. The man who was winning the non-elite race thought he had it in the bag, and he slowed down to cross the finish line...only to be passed. He lost by 9/100s of a second. Check out the video. It's heartbreaking. 
   If you have the chance, you should do this race. It was extremely well-organized and additionally, everyone in Atlanta was just so nice. I think Dudley and I had to have said that about 10 times throughout the weekend. "Everyone is SO nice!" It kind of became a running joke between us, but they were. The volunteers, the other participants, random strangers we asked for directions - everyone. And as a bonus - Buckhead has one of the best Fourth of July Fireworks celebrations in Atlanta (who knew?). We just had to walk out of our hotel and BAM - fireworks. 

BOOM! 

   If you're interested in the PRR, remember - it's a lottery, so plan ahead for when it opens in 2016. It's an easy drive from Nashville and a fun weekend away. I don't know if we'll be back next year, but I'd love to do this race again in dryer conditions. Thanks PRR and Atlanta for a great race!