Race Recap: The 12th Annual Chattahoochee Challenge

Yesterday morning my mom sent me this much-needed text. A great sentiment for today’s race and for the month of February as well.

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My alarm went off at 5:30 this morning and I woke up, double-wrapped my left knee, and got my warm race gear on – compression pants, double layers on top, gloves, Thorlo socks, and a fleece headband. One bowl of oatmeal and two cups of coffee later, I was on the road to the Chattahoochee Nature Center in Roswell.

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This was a small race (<700 runners), and the vibe was much more relaxed than the past few races I have run. Although we did get turned around when we tried to enter Willeo Road from one side, there was no crazy traffic to deal with and parking at the Chattahoochee Nature Centerwas a breeze, not to mention free (looking at you, Hot Chocolate race). At 7 a.m., it was 25 degrees outside, so, along with the rest of the runners, we huddled in the CNC gym area and enjoyed baskets of apples and bananas (thanks Whole Foods!), water, and strawberry banana Power Bar energy gels. My mom had registered us in-store at Big Peach a few months ago, and our race bibs and d-tags had arrived in the mail yesterday, so we were able to take advantage of some of our spare time prior to the race and walked around to the sponsor booths – Big Peach, Publix Georgia Marathon & Half Marathon, Waffle House, 98.5 FM, and Aurora Cineplex all were set up with tables full of goodies.  We stretched it out a bit, and at 7:45, someone came over the PA system and basically said, “Alright, the run starts in 15 minutes, let’s move it.”

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After a 1/2 mile walk to the starting line and a slightly late start (no big), we were off, jogging along the Chattahoochee River on Willeo Road before making a right onto Azalea Drive after the first mile. We ran up Azalea and made a u-turn when it dead-ended into Roswell Road, going back the way we came. My knee was feeling at about 60-70%, so being stubborn and not wanting to walk while everyone around me ran, I ended up run-walking at a 3:1 minute ratio.

Despite the flat course, the race was uncomfortable at times (especially between miles 3-5) but not excruciating; most importantly, I never felt as if my knee was getting worse. I usually run somewhere in the middle of the pack, so it was weird being in the very back of the group; I tried not to get frustrated as I saw runners passing us on their way back while we were chugging through mile 2. Coming down a mild hill around mile 3 was particularly tough on my knee, but I had some comic relief as one of the volunteers covered the race clock to read 8:13, rather than 38:13. Bless him. I could have done without the cop car slowly creeping alongside me and asking me to move over to the Riverwalk trail so the road could be repoened though. Way to make me feel super slow, ya jerk!

Creeping cop cars aside, according to my Runtastic app, Mom and I crossed the finish line around 1:18, give or take a few seconds (I couldn’t figure out how to turn it off), averaging a 12-minute pace. For someone who wasn’t expecting to run at all, I was pretty pleased with this. My app also told me I ran almost perfect negative splits which I have never done; I’m still in the n00b-runner habit of charging out of the gate and then burning out later in the race. Woo woo! After picking up our reusable race bags that held our white cotton finisher’s tees and two mini bags of Mahatma brown rice (odd, right?), we celebrated with these delicious brownie-cookie-cake treats from Aurora Cineplex.

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We walked around the grounds of the CNC to check out the beaver habitat and the aviaries (owls!) before hitting up the East Cobb J.Christopher’s for a much deserved awesome breakfast and Back by Popular Demand for some thrifty retail therapy.

The Chattahoochee Challenge was a race of firsts for me: my first out-and-back race, my first race running with an injury, my first race running near-perfect negative splits, and oddly enough, my first 10K PR (my Peachtree time was 1:24). I’m definitely looking forward to seeing our official results and the race photos when they are posted.

This race was certainly a good lesson in patience, humility, and the importance of letting go of expectations. After an Epsom salt bath, a nap, a beer, and an Aleve, the knee is a bit tender but I feel fine, which is good because next month’s race is a big’un: the Georgia Half Marathon!

When was the last time you released all expectations – in running and in life?

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