Sunday, April 29, 2018

A Big Tear Drop (WW # 143)





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Tear Drop Half Marathon
Chatsworth, GA
April 28, 2018
Half Marathon # 56 

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I ran this half marathon in 2016 and knew it had a continual steeply graded downhill section on the back side.  I'm training for a downhill marathon and haven't found long downhills to practice on. Even though I knew the first 5 miles were harder than hard, I adored this scenic course and thought it was worth the travel effort to practice not braking while running down a mountain. The course drops 2100 feet in only 7 miles.   Yikes.


Being in the middle of marathon training, I couldn't afford a traditional taper.  But after last weekend's challenging 17 miler, I shortened my Tuesday race pace run to 6 miles and struggled with my cranky hip through a short easy-paced 4 mile run on Thursday.   None of that mattered as I was simply going to use this race for downhill speed work.  After a long, nerve wracking traffic-jammed commute and sleepless night -- it was go time.



I caught one of the first shuttle buses for this point to point race and thus had plenty of time to enjoy the sunrise atop Fort Mountain.  The race started 10 minutes late as we waited on the last bus to arrive. My Garmin recorded 43 degrees and no wind.  Perfect race conditions.  The first 5 miles circling the top of the mountain were just as tough as I remembered with places so steeply uphill, I walked...four times.    Mile 6 was the transition to downhill running.  My  pace through 6 averaged 9:39. 

My one goal was to keep my pace below 9:00 when the downhill started.  I found Believer by Imagine Dragons on my iShuffle and let the training commence down that spectacular curvy ribbon of pavement through Fort Mountain State Park.  The shaded canopy of spring green trees was beautiful as were the occasional overlooks down to the valley below.  My paces for miles 7 to 12: 8:19, 8:25, 8:18, 8:33, 8:17, 8:17.  Average = 8:22.   

An overlook in Fort Mountain State Park (not my picture)

As a nod to the downhill section, I also repeated these favorite running tunes: Don't Bring me Down (ELO)  Get Down Tonight (KC & the Sunshine Band) and Way on Down (Elvis).  And just for kicks the ever amusing and motivational -- I simply refuse to be old -- I Don't Need my Rocking Chair (George Jones).  

I realized around mile 10, that I should be under 2:05 and even closer to 2:00 if I could keep the last uphill mile from chewing me up.  I was definitely pacing faster than I did in 2016.    But the race had been marking long, so I didn't put much stock in my thought.  I reminded myself to keep running the mile I was in.



Just before mile 12, we popped out of the shady state park.  Sadly, the downhill was over.  In fact, there are two long uphills to navigate before reaching the finish.  The sun was bright and I was hot.  I walked twice on those hills back into town recording a 9:31 for mile 13.  When I made the final turn, I could see the chute blocks away.  I still had a 1:57 on my watch.  I can do this!  With a tiny bit left in the tank and cramping feet, I pushed with an 8:05 for the final leg. When I got close enough, my old lady eyes saw 1:58 on the clock.   OMG!  I just set a new PR, replacing one from 2014.  How did that happen?  At my age?  I shed a few big ol' tear drops.   My official time = 1:58:51.



A nice change to this race was the finish location and after party in lovely Chatsworth City Park instead of a random parking lot used back in 2016.  There was live music as well as delicious BBQ and craft beer on tap among the usual post race fare.  The sun was shining and I enjoyed soaking it up a while before heading home. 

I've had a lot of thoughts floating in my head while processing this race.  After struggling through two fractured-feet-comebacks since 2015, I didn't think a PR was possible.  After all, I've been aging every.stinking.day.  Since I love racing, it truly didn't matter what the time showed on the clock.   It still doesn't.  I will continue to run and race because I enjoy it.  After injuries, I will always appreciate the ability to run first and foremost.

But I will say...it felt damn good to have the effort I put into this crazy sport validated.


And that's a wrap!


Downhill courses.  Love them or hate them?

 Tell me about your week!


84 comments:

  1. Uphills are tough but downhills can be tricky too (at least for me on the knees)! Congrats on setting a new PR that is awesome! Will you run this race next year?

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    1. Thank you. I'd definitely like to have another try at this race next year!

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  2. 100% agree with you that it really doesn't matter what shows on the finish clock. We're out there running and we get to do this. But validation feels DAMN GOOD! And who doesn't love it when the legs show up with some youth left in them. Who's old? Not us! Congrats my friend (as I kick myself for not taking you up on this one!)

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    1. Thanks! I can attest that I'm feeling pretty old today. LOL. But, it is well worth the effort I put in yesterday.

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  3. Dang! You spanked that race!!!! Wow...and with some walking, none the less ;-) Awesome job!!

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    1. Thanks! The walking, and thus keeping the HR a bit lower, is probably what enabled me to finish with a PR. If I were exhausted from the uphills, would I have been able to sustain those lower paces? Just food for thought...

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  4. Wow way to go girl! You ran that perfectly! Looks like a gorgeous race site. I actually used to be afraid to run down steep downhills silly huh? Does it bother you knees at all?

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    1. Thank you! Funny, the only thing not sore today are my knees. But everything else below the waist is apparently fair game. HA!

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  5. Awesome time!! That's an incredible effort and reward for all your hard work!

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    1. Thanks! It was nice to be rewarded for hard effort.

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  6. I love race recaps like this! Enjoy that PR and shiny new medal. You definitely earned it!

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    1. Oh, thanks! It may never happen again at the half distance, and I'm OK with that as long as I can remain healthy.

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  7. Wow, congrats on that PR! Sounds like you ran a really smart race. I've done some races with an uphill after miles of downhill and its so hard to finish strong.

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    1. Thank you! You know, it's my experience after running downhill for a while even flat roads feel like they are very much uphill.

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  8. Congratulations Holly! What an impressive PR 😀 It’s always nice when things just click in a race!

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    1. Thank you! Everything did just come together, totally unexpected really. Approaching the run as training for my downhill marathon possibly took the pressure off to perform well?

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  9. Aw, I loved reading this, Holly! I'm so happy for you and your new PR! That's fantastic and I hope you're very proud!

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    1. Thanks! I am proud. It's been a long few years of struggling with my feet as well as other issues.

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  10. Wow, that's awesome! I think a downhill race would be harder than you might expect. You are smart to train for that aspect of it, but we knew that already! Hopefully this PR is a good sign for your full! :-)

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    1. Thanks! It definitely left me sore, as I expected. But I also hope this means I'll feel better after the full and recover quickly.

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  11. That's amazing!!! Congratulations on the PR!

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  12. Congrats on that shiny new PR!!! I've never run anything with that steep of a downhill but I love down hill courses. I think that is a great indication that you are ready for your upcoming marathon!

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    1. Thanks! This downhill grade was much steeper than the marathon I'll be running soon. Mentally, it was a confidence booster knowing I can handle this steeper grade - so the marathon should feel "easier"...if that's possible. LOL.

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  13. Nice job! Downhill can be so tricky, and they put uphills after that? That's not nice.

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    1. Thanks! Funny how with downhills, you usually always find some uphills too!

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  14. I had a nice post written congratulating you, but it got eaten. Hard works does pay off -- and on what sounds like a brutal course, too! Congrats!

    So far I enjoy downhill courses.

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    1. Thanks! They just feel so much easier on the cardiovascular system while you are running. Of course, DOMS sets in later.

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  15. Downhills are so tough on the quads! Great race. Congratulations!

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    1. Thank you! My quads held up better than expected. My calves took the brunt of this one. I didn't expect that.

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  16. Your title had me nervous until I started reading. Huge congratulations on your PR - that's especially exciting when you're not expecting it!

    Thanks for the linkup!

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    1. Thanks! I think part of the reason it happened is that I wasn't expecting one or even trying for one. My pace in the first 6 miles certainly did not indicate I was having a sub 2 race.

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  17. A thousand congrats to you! It's fun when our bodies surprise with a shiny PR, isn't it? Nice job on the downhill. Those are great paces. :)

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    1. Many thanks! I'm very appreciative of what the old body can do on occasion. LOL.

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  18. WooHoo! This makes my year! Huge congrats to you! I'd say this bodes very well for your upcoming downhill marathon. You've got those quads working for you!

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    1. Thanks! If I can just manage that altitude...

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  19. Yes! Yes! Yes!!! Congrats to you on an awesome PR!!!

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  20. WOW! What a great time and congrats on the PR. I'm not a big fan of downhill running - it makes me nervous that I'm going to fall. And of course it's challenging on your body!Were your quads or calves super sore the next day?

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    1. Thank you! My calves took the brunt of this race. Surprisingly, my quads held up pretty good.

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  21. Congrats on your PR! I love downhill races, but even downhill is tough after a few uphill miles jellify your legs.

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    1. Thanks! Downhill is so much easier on the cardiovascular system. But not so much on the entire lower body!

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  22. What a gorgeous course! Congrats on the smartly run race and shiny new PR reward

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    1. Thank you! I just love a scenic course.

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  23. So awesome! Congrats on the PR!! Love that song by Imagine Dragons! Fantastic paces on the downhill!

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    1. Thank you! That song definitely gets your heart pumping.

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  24. Congrats on the PR! What a beautiful course. Hope you have a great week.

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    1. Thank you. I definitely prefer a wooded course over urban streets. There were no spectators...other than the volunteers at the water stops. LOL.

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  25. Congrats on a new PR! The race sounds wonderful. I love hills! Maybe I should add this race to my bucket list races.

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    1. Thanks! This race shouldn't be too far from you. It would make a nice weekend trip.

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  26. Congrats on the PR! I’ve never run a downhill race but reading about yours makes me want to give it a try!

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    1. Thanks. They are definitely easier on your cardiovascular system. But the lower body is another story...

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  27. Congrats on the PR! This sounds like a really cool race.

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    1. Thank you! It's only in its 4th year. I suspect it will grow to be a large race.

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  28. Yay!!!!!! A huge congrats to you!!! That race sounds TOUGH!! Downhill running is much harder than it sounds! Anyways, I'm so glad you got a PR, I'm sure it's been a confidence booster and serves as validation that you're training is paying off! And yes I agree that running is about so much more than the time on the clock. The fact that we have the ability to run is amazing but seeing a PR on the clock just puts an extra feeling of satisfaction, as if the stars align and the running gods smiled upon you 🙂

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    1. Thanks! Yes, everything came together for me on this particular day. It doesn't happen often which makes it even more special.

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  29. Great work! I ran a downhill course last summer - 8500 to 7500 in the half marathon. For me, the elevation is what got ot me later in the race...but we got it done! Awesome PR!

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    1. Thanks! The altitude is not high in North Georgia so I didn't have to worry about that aspect of it. Just the steepness.

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  30. WOW! Congratulations on the new PR! Downhills are no joke - it always surprises me. I LOVE your themed music mix.

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    1. Thank you! I liked to be amused by my playlist. It's eclectic for sure.

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  31. congratulations! That is so cool! I prefer uphills and downhills :-)

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    1. Thank you! Long or steep uphills have always been a struggle for me.

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  32. Downhills are TOUGH on those quads! I was the most sore I've ever been after a marathon at the Big Cottonwood marathon in 2016. The downhill helped me BQ but it left me very sore for longer than usual.

    Congratulations on the PR and on such a beautiful course! WOW!

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    1. Thanks! I was the most sore after a REVEL half in 2014. At least I know what I'm getting into with this marathon.

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  33. Way to go Holly! A downhill course can be a quad shredder for sure. Congrats on your PR!

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    1. Thank you. Yes, they do make you sore but at least that pain is temporary. LOL!

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  34. Congrats on the PR! I love downhill races! I have a half in October that I am thinking about changing to a full in hopes to BQ.
    Hope your quads aren't angry. :-)

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    1. Thanks! The downhills feel so much easier on the cardiovascular system. And then later...you realize how much they affect the lower half of your body! OUCH.

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  35. Congratulations!! So excited for your PR, though I'm not surprised one bit! That looks like such a tough race, great work!

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  36. A huge congratulations to you!! WEll executed race :)
    I adore downhill running, it is one of the only times i feel like the "old me" now. Learning not to brake is huge to make the most of downhill running and avoiding injury, and it looks like you mastered it!

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    1. Thank you! You hit the nail on the head. I feel like my old self! Gravity helps so much!!

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  37. Finishing at an 8-minute pace!!! AND a PR, sub-2:00-hr half time! Some tear drops were definitely called for. WOW. Congratulations on huge race success and all of your hard work paying off, Holly!

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    1. Thanks. It was a very pleasant surprise.

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  38. Huge congrats on the PR! That is so awesome - and you ran a smart race!

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    1. Thank you. I held back so much in the beginning (and walked) that I can't even believe I turned it around in the end!

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  39. Congratulations on your PR and running a smart race! It is always good to read about someone who PRs after coming back from injuries- to me that's super inspirational because injuries provide so many reasons and opportunities when people can and will just quit, or will give up on their dreams of PRing.

    I have never done a downhill race. The closest thing I've done was the Bridge Run, but you do run up the bridge before coming down, so it's not a net downhill. I think it might trash my quads to run steady downhill, but it's definitely something to incorporate in training, too.

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    1. Thanks! I think that's what made me tear up the most...I've been through so much in the last few years. It felt good to set a PR after all of that!

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  40. I like a downhill finish, but it can be tough on my knees. More importantly: I had to come by to say congratulations on the sub 2!!! You were flying in the last half! Looked like a beautiful day for a PR!

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    1. Thank you very much! I see you ran a fantastic half as well!!

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  41. Congrats on the PR! I got a happy tear mentally cheering you on as I read!
    That song Believer is one we use in Body Pump and it always gets me pumped up!
    Hope you have a great weekend :)

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    1. Thank you! Isn't that such a motivation, heart-pumping song?

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