So it was my first marathon and ING Atlanta's
also. I set a personal record!
Anyway, just to get my stats out of the way I ran it in just over 6 hours and according to my watch ran 27 miles (they changed the course to side roads after the fast guys went by). Yes I understand that 6 hours is unbelievably slow, but it was all I could muster.
I dont have any good excuses for my speed other than lack of experience and training. The most I had ever run in a race before this was a 5k. I dont think being 220 helps, but I dont have an inordinate amount of body fat, so its not a good excuse. I came in just over the time I expected. I was expecting to run 13:30 miles which I was beating until things on the course got bad (I'll explain later). I trained between 13-14:00 miles on long runs. My goal for next year is 10-11 minute miles.
So now to the review. First off I want to remind everyone that this was ING's first marathon in GA and Atlanta's first major marathon - so we have to give them some credit. The morning started off nice around 64 and the race had 15,000 to 20,000 people for the half and full combine. The half and full started off together and I started near the back of the pack, but it still took me about 10 minutes to get across the start line after the race had started.
The first 4 miles the half and full ran together - this was rather crowded, but there was plenty of room in the street. The water stations had waiting lines for the first 4 miles though, so I skipped them. I felt well prepared nutritionally and water wise. (I trained with and brought a GU pack an hour and a ran with a bottle of water that if I drank an hour I always felt good - I carried motion tabs to drop in the water at each refill) So on mile 4 I was confident skipping the first few stops because I had plenty of water and nutrition.
Then it got interesting - they were supposed to have a Powerade/water station every mile or two for the rest of the race, and at mile 4 I could go another mile or two before refilling.
I was feeling great and running a 12-13 minute mile well below my target running heart rate. With a low heart rate and the 6hr pace group running ahead of schedule I was confident in my pace. Although, I have to admit I did get frustrated with the pace group after a little while - see I had this goal I may be slow, but I AM going to run the whole way - even if its a slow run. Well, they did a run/ walk. They ran 60 seconds then walked 60 seconds and repeated which is fine, but they were a big group and by now they had already closed the big running paths and moved to smaller roads or just one lane and they kept running full speed ahead of me and then stopping as a pack and blocking everyone. They always seemed to stop right in front of me and a couple other people and forced us to keep running off road around them. To their credit some of them did finish before me so the strategy definitely works, I was just cranky about the lane blockage!
So anyway, I got to mile 5 and was just about out of water and ready to finish my bottle before a refill and did when spectators said the water station was just over the hill. We crested the hill and found signs saying water station and Powerade, but there was nothing there! So we kept running at mile 6 the same thing happened but this time we were instructed water was around the corner. Again, signs, but no liquids. At this point I started to get nervous it was already about 70 out and the average temperature this time of year is a high of 68, but today we were going to get over 80 (it turned out to be zero clouds and a record high of 86).
I knew I needed water and I was going to feel it later. Thats when the southerners really turned out to help. We were running through Druid hills (as hilly as it sounds, but well shaded) which was gorgeous with multi million dollar homes and the people who came out to watch had heard about our trials and come out with their personal cups, pitchers, and hoses. This continued through mile 14 and really made for a great first half. I was running on pace to finish in 5:40 including a 5 minute wait in line for a bathroom (I later decided bushes would suffice). The locals were hydrating and even providing salt tabs, pretzels, ice, and anything else they thought would help (life savers).
Mile 15 is where everything started to collapse. All of the sudden we were out of the trees and parks and running towards downtown on open asphalt roads with no shade and no locals! It was now over 80 degrees and people were starting to drop out. I was prepared for the heat and had been drinking plenty and staying cool so I still felt fine and continued to run under my target heart rate. Then I really started to heat up and run out of water.
I was out by mile 15 and stopped sweating by 17. I started to get frustrated and negative because I knew I needed water and it was supposed to be there, it didnt help that everyone around was reacting the same and starting to panic. I knew my wife was at mile 18 with extra supplies just in case, so I sucked it up and kept running to 18 without water. She refilled me and then a half mile later on a out and back loop we were met by Mizuno who was on both sides of the road with their water and lots of support passing it as fast as they could even pouring it on people. This was perfect timing because they were on they way back 1.5 miles later so I got as wet as I could and drank as much as I could both times and refilled my bottle.
Then feeling better though now at 85 degrees picked my pace back up - I had dropped to a 14-15 minute mile as my heart was skyrocketing in the heat and lack of water. I felt like I was getting a second wind until mile 23 at which point I was again out of water and the water stations by ING/Publix were empty just as on the first half of the course. This time though, there were no homeowners and no shade and the next 3 miles are all up hill. There were some spectators offering their water bottles or giving up water they were buying at gas stations, but it was very sparse.
I drank as much as I could find and when I found someone with a hose or ice did what I could to cool down. I had stopped sweating again, but knew I only had a few miles to go and was not about to stop running. I quit looking at my heart rate as it was into the 180s and I needed to be at 155. At this point I started to pass people, which at my slow speed is surprising. Everyone was really hurting. I saw the split times of many of the people who finished around me that had them doing 20-30 minute miles at the end, but consistently running 10-12 for the first 22. You could see the heat and water and final 3 mile hill killing people. I kept running and finished with a short .1 mile sprint through the finish and then spent the next half hour hydrating.
All in all I enjoyed the race - I expected some problems and hope they over come them next year. They never could have predicted record highs, but should not have even come close to running out of water and Powerade - I never saw one drop of Powerade on the whole course. If it were not for the nutritional information I get from all the Ironman guys I wouldn't have had a well rehearsed plan and backup plan for nutrition and hydration which is what saved me! You just cannot run out of water on a hot day at a marathon! The course could use some help too.
The first 2/3 were great, but there were some areas in the last 1/3 that just sucked. Once section a 2 mile out and back loop had no view, was just up a up hill and down a big hill and totally exposed to the sun - they should run more in the suburb area with the shade and spectators and less exposed to the elements with no view.
I'm sure they will get plenty of complaints about the water and will fix it next year and some course adjustments wouldnt surprise me. This could be a really great race and I believe ING can do it - they just have to work out the kinks.
Thanks for reading to my overly descriptive race report!