Thursday, November 17, 2011

Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon: Race Recap/Review

Before I get into the nitty gritty I just wanted to say that this race deserves all of the kudos that it gets. A well-organized event, beautiful course, great volunteer support. Truly could not have asked for more. Sooo...if you are looking for a marathon in the the southeast (GA, for you 50-staters)...skip the overcrowded RnR Savannah and get thee to Ft. Oglethorpe, GA. I do not think you would be disappointed.
Before the Race
This was probably the *least* stressed I have been leading up to any longer race that I have done (13.1 and above). Don't get me wrong, it was a BUSY week leading up to the race, but knowing that the expo was open until 9pm Friday and that packet pickup would also be available Saturday morning before the race, eased my mind tremendously.

I worked until about 2:30 and then we dropped off the dogs at the vet for the night and finally headed out of B'ham around 3:45 Friday afternoon for the 2.5-3 hour drive to Ft. Oglethorpe, GA, which is actually just outside of Chattanooga (the race is sponsored by the Chattanooga Track Club). We actually "lost" an hour going from CST to EST which had me a tad concerned about the wake up call the next morning, but it turned out to be no biggie.

We got to Ft Oglethorpe no problem, they had a marquee at the entrance of town welcoming the marathoners which I thought was nice. We headed to packet pick-up/expo which was being held at the local HS...nice and easy to navigate through. Not that this is a bad thing, but it had a VERY small town feel to it and I was surprised to see more than a few vendors set up...including one with TONS of race day nutrition (Gu, honey stinger, etc) and another very creative booth that sold cowbells :) I have never seen/noticed a cowbell booth at an expo before and thought that was pretty cool.

Checking through the swag bag, I was quite impressed given that is a small race (capped at 700 half and 700 full marathoners). In addition to the l/s gender specific tech tee, there was a nice neoprene waist pack branded with the marathon info, key lanyard, mini-moon pie, muscle cooling stuff, and a couple of discount coupons ($10 off at Dick's? yes, please)

After the expo, we were on a mission to find dinner. Yes, we were not far out of Chattanooga, but we did not feel like driving back that direction so we decided to see what was available in town. Let's just say...TONS of fast food, plenty of Mexican, and about 3 sit down chains that we could identify (Applebees, O'Charley's and Logans) Each of the chains was equally packed so we finally settled on Logan's where there was not a pasta dish to be found. There WERE however, rolls the size of my head, so I had more than my fair share of those and then tried to pick the least stomach-averse dish on the menu.
After dinner it was on to the hotel. We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Ringgold, GA (which is basically the same town) which was actually a really nice Hampton Inn, IMO. Hampton Inn was one of the "host" hotels where the race would have free shuttle pick up in the morning which (among other reasons) made it especially attractive so Matt would not have to get up at the ass crack of dawn to drive me to the start. They also offered a marathon discount which seemed to be $25 or so off the published/Priceline/etc rate which was another bonus.

I set my alarm for 4:45, put in a wake up call for 5 and had no problem crashing soon after we got checked in.

Race Day
I slept incredibly well and woke up easily with my alarm. A(nother) check of the weather revealed that it was right around 32 degrees outside, so I was definitely going to need some extra layers.

Tired but not overly nervous this time around

I wrapped up a bagel with PB, grabbed a banana from the hotel breakfast buffet (which opened an hour earlier than normal to accomodate the very nice!) and hopped on the 5:45 shuttle with no problem. I read actually read blogs on the way over to keep any nerves at bay, the bus was generally pretty quiet at that hour.

We were dropped off with no real instruction, at the edge of what was a dark (and frozen) field which was a bit freaky until we were finally able to glimpse the start line and the tops of tents at the other side. The ride over had not taken long and the start was not until 7:30, so we had a LOT of time to kill and it was really cold. In addition to what I had on in the picture above, I had a l/s cotton shirt that would be my "toss away", along with gloves and a bondi band. Considering I also had on capris, that is not a recipe for warmth while you are standing still. Luckily, there were heaters inside the main info/reg tent and the ground was warm (and dry) in there so I found a warm seat and hung out for about an hour chatting, eating b'fast and relaxing. There were plenty of portapotties and I got in line before the lines got incredibly long and found out at some point that they were going to be delaying the start until 7:45 b/c of traffic being a major cluster. I guess it's nice that they were accomodating but this is a 30+ year old race and I would think that they would have figured out how to route traffic by this point (it's not as if the battlefield has changed locations!!!) Maybe I was just pissy b/c I was absolutely frozen and could NOT feel my feet at all.

FINALLY it was time to line up and get ready to run. There was a presentation of colors, the national anthem and then a cannon start...and we were off!

(borrowed from the Chickamauga FB page)

(borrowed from the Chickamauga FB page)

Aiming for a 5 hour marathon, I tucked myself right behind the 2:30 half pacers hoping that this would keep my pace in check. Given that I'd run a brisk-for-me 10K the Saturday prior I was wondering if my legs were going to default to that pace...which is definitely not something I could sustain over the long haul. (Side note: they had various half and full pace groups but in the full it went from 4:30 to a 5:30 Galloway group with nothing in between, kind of a bummer but for such a small race, I was surprised to see pace groups at all) I kept creeping up on the pacers and by mile 2 I was right alongside them. I told them I was trying to stay with them and why, and made some small talk but little by little I pulled away and never saw them again after about 3.5 miles. Maybe against my better judgement? I'm still not sure. I was averaging in the low 11's at that point and did so comfortably until the half way point even considering that I was taking 60-90 second walk breaks every 2 miles. (I actually forgot to walk at mile 2 and started this at mile 3, so I was walking on the odd miles for a while)
Just after mile 1 about to head into the national park/battlefield (borrowed from FB)

Headed onto the trail

It took nearly 2 miles for my feet to totally unthaw and we were seeing frozen breath for at least 5 miles. I tossed my l/s shirt at mile 4, gloves around mile 8 and tied the arms sleeves to my fuel belt around 12-13. I was trying to shed layers when I felt comfortable but before I actually started to feel warm. The miles were ticking by and I felt really great. We came to our first half/full split and I got a surge of adreneline (the course would split and converge at different times) but that first one made me realize that there was no "going back".

First split (borrowed from FB)

Sometime within the first loop (before mile 8...I still have the gloves!)

The course was so incredibly beautiful...and for me, the best of both worlds. I had "trail run" scenery but with the benefit of running (mostly) on pavement. Open fields, woods, cannons EVERYWHERE, tons of monuments and signs that would point to "XYZ general died here", "Union guns captured here". I am a sucker for that kind of stuff and wished I had the time (or extra energy to expend) to read more of the details.

Borrowed from FB (again) :)

I actually saw a runner run up to the tower and go it! (yes, again from FB)

The middle miles are kind of a blur and got pretty lonely. The marathoners around my pace were so spread out, sometimes I felt like I was on a supported training run. I got REALLY sick around mile 15.5 and felt better after that (amazingly, my pace wasn't really affected by that stop, lol) and actually never got passed after that point. I would come up on little clusters of runners and for the virtue that I was pretty much still running most of the time (I was now on a run 1 mile, walk .1 cycle), I was able to pick people off one by one. Volunteers and other runners were really encouraging to each other...I have never experienced so much genuine camraderie on a course before. Also, I should mentioned that the course was HILLY and really took its toll. I knew it was not "fast and flat" but I don't know that I fully anticipated the rolling nature of the course. However, I felt like I was really well prepared for it, given that I had specifically incorporated hill training into this cycle.

Missing a few layers! (That's an arm sleeve hanging off my hip)

I must admit, I had a mini break down at mile 23. I called Matt to let him know I had a little more than 5K left and he told me he was proud of me and I was really wanting to be done at this point (I'm not sure if this was my "wall" but I know I did not hit one the way I did in Memphis) and I almost started crying and told him how much I loved him. I was TOTALLY alone at this point (no runners in sight in front or behind) and in between aid stations (they were every 2 miles after mile 4 and had water, powerade, fruit and Gu at each one!) and Matt told me I needed to focus on getting it done. I found a second wind within a few minutes and got myself together. (Consequently, mile 23 was my slowest mile of the race).

One of my fav signs (FB)...another was a giant Justin Bieber cut out

The photographer I had seen on the first 2 loops (the marathon was 2 loops of the battlefield plus the entry and exit roads) was now at mile 24. I joked him it was cruel to be there and he laughed and said that his battery was dead because he had been blasting his music at the other spot and his wife was the finish line photog so he had to wait to get someone to come jump his car. HAHA! Then he took some highly unflattering pics of me and wished me luck...I thanked him for being out there. That gave me an added boost to the end.

I passed a few more people (mostly men at this point) and then came to the gravel trail. I saw a male/female duo ahead (I had noticed them on prior out and backs and they had seemed to be keeping pretty good pace ahead of me until now) The woman was tired and mentally done and the man turned around and saw me and I could tell did NOT want to get passed. I was actually cracking up a bit because he told her "Bri, we HAVE to run...NOW" She had NO CLUE what was going on and he took her water bottle and said "I'm leaving!" And she was forced to chase after him! (I felt so bad for her!) I was getting ready for a scheduled walk break anyway, but once I started running again I caught right back up. Dude, KEPT turning around and I kept a few paces behind. I probably COULD have passed them, but it would have been a struggle to maintain to a strong finish and I did not want to be a total bitch, b/c I knew he was bothered and there was no need to do that. I had lost my 5 hour goal by this point too so it's not like I was fighting for that and I knew we would be looping the post-race party and wanted to save my energy for that kick to the end.

Thankfully it was downhill to the finish and the spectators were very encouraging. I could see Matt waiting at the finish and I was so happy to see him and be done :)

Coming in to the finish

How the heck did Matt actually miss me crossing??? It's not like there was a crowd! LOL I do have toned calf muscles though, if nothing else!

After chatting with Matt for a few minutes, I headed over to the runner's food zone where I got a REAL fountain coke (no diet right then), a bottle of water, and some snacks to go (an apple and granola bar and a couple of cookies). They also had pizza, homemade soups, banana pudding, moon pies, bananas and of course more sports drink but I'm not one for tons of solid foods after a long run anyway, and if I never saw anything that resembled marathon hydration again I would have been happy.

Marathon #2 in the books :)

The Aftermath
We headed back home immediately after the race. We stopped at a gas station so I could change clothes and I got violently ill while in there. Forget a post-marathon splurge meal, I got the largest fountain Sprite known to man and nursed waves of nausea the rest of the day while laid up on the couch :( I fueled exactly according to all of my long runs (powerade/water, honey stinger chews, basically the same pre-run meal), so I am really not sure what happened here. My only guess is that is it was much colder than any of my training runs and that maybe my sweat rate was lower and that my electrolytes got imbalanced.

My hips and achilles held up much better than last time and this time the real lasting soreness was in my quads (likely due to the hills). I can't avoid stairs in my home so I had some creative ways of getting up AND down for a couple of days following and a couple of times while I was out and about running errands/at work, it actually felt like my legs were going to buckle underneath me. But that is totally better right now and I'm feeling ready to get back into some low impact cardio...

BUT, Sunday night I started coming down with a sore throat which turned into a full blown cold by Monday. At first it was just my nose/sinuses and now it's turned into a lovely hacking cough. I haven't missed work but I have been exhausted and have actually had to get this post up in segments due to my energy levels. I feel maybe I'm finally on the mend and I feel ready to ease back into things. I guess being sick made really took away any guilt I may have had for lounging on the couch and catching up on much needed sleep.

Thanks for sticking with me! Please feel free to ask any other questions about the race or experience or even my training...I am happy to answer the best I can :)


  1. Congrats! This race sounds great (except the hills, ha ha), especially the cool temps. I think I love smaller races, but like you said, it's a bummer when there is no one around!

    I wonder if the weather is what made you so sick! Are you still feeling pretty meh today? I hope this weekend sees some relaxation for you!

  2. Nice pics, it was a cool and exciting race. Congratulations for a great job well done and looking forward always.

  3. Thanks to both of you!! I actually tried to comment back last week but once again my own blog continues to lock me out from commenting!!! (Time for a platform change?)

    I actually still cannot seem to kick this congestion/cough though tonight (Monday) I did go for a 3 mile run. I also didn't rest this weekend. I actually traveled about 5 hrs to my college alma mater's Homecoming (FSU)! But it was totally worth it to see my friends, campus and go the game even and extremely fun, even if not traditionally "relaxing"!


  4. Hey great race review. Thinking of doing it this year. Still doing marathons?

  5. Crazy, I ran this marathon last weekend, and had the same issues post-race. I was too busy socializing at the finish line & didn't eat soon enough I think. Spent the entire afternoon puking. Then came home and got strep throat.
    It was a tough race, but I'll be back!

    1. So sorry to hear you got sick after the race :( But hope otherwise you had a good time on the course