Today I ran the Peachtree City 50K race. I did this race as part of a weekend double with the Soldier Marathon. This was the third time I’ve done this race, and it was the second consecutive year that I did it after running the Soldier Marathon.
The Peachtree City 50K is sponsored by the Darkside Running Club. I’ve been a member of the Darkside since 2007, and this is the sixth time I’ve done one of their races. Besides the Peachtree City 50K, I’ve done the Darkside 8 Hour race twice. I’ve also run one of their marathons.
The race started at 7:30, with race morning packet pickup from 6:00 to 7:00. I was staying at Hilton Garden Inn, which had a breakfast starting at 6:00. I got up at 5:00, so I could get ready first and then eat breakfast before heading to the race. I don’t usually eat much on the morning of a race, but this was an ultra, and I was depleted from my race on Saturday.
The race started and finished in Luther Glass Park. The parking lot isn’t large enough to accommodate all the runners, but there’s a shopping center across the street with plenty of parking.
The weather was similar to Saturday. It was 37 degrees at the start, but would warm into the 60s by the time I finished running. There wasn’t any wind. It was going to get sunny, but most of the course is shaded. When I got to Luther Glass Park, there was wispy fog on the pond.
Peachtree City has a network of golf cart paths, and many of the residents get around town in golf carts. The course was a loop that strung together several of the golf cart paths. Most of the course looked like this.
You could tell when you were nearing the start/finish area by looking for this white gazebo.
At the end of each lap, we did a short out-and-back. Including the out-and-back, the loop was 5.18 miles. We did six laps for the 50K. There was also a 25K race that did the same loop three times.
At times you could see houses, but other times you only saw trees. We also ran by a lake and a few ponds. It feels more like a nature run than a race through a city. Where the paths crossed major streets, there were tunnels. You seldom saw the street. If you don’t know the area, you might not have any idea which street it you were running under. There were only two places where we crossed streets at street level. One was a residential street with very little traffic. The other was a two lane road where you had to watch for cars. One of the aid stations was located right by this crossing, so the volunteers can look out for you.
The aid stations had water, Gatorade, and a variety of food. There were also port-o-potties at each aid station.
My legs were pretty stiff after my all-out effort on Saturday, so I didn’t know if I could run fast enough to stay warm in the early laps. In addition to shorts and a short-sleeve tech T-shirt, I wore gloves, a warm headband suitable for winter weather, and a light-weight jacket. I kept a gear bag in the start/finish area, so I could change clothes during the race.
I knew I would be slow, so I didn’t have any time goals. I knew from past experience that I had a realistic chance of placing in my age group, so my goal was to win an age group award.
There aren’t any mile markers, but I didn’t bother wearing a Garmin watch. I didn’t need to monitor my pace. Seeing my time at the end of each lap was more than enough.
I knew I was in trouble when the race started and I couldn’t run in a straight line. My legs were so stiff that I wobbled sideways and bumped into another runner. I went out slowly and my legs eventually loosened up. I didn’t try to run fast. I ran at a pace that felt sustainable, knowing it was going to be slow.
I didn’t know how many runners were in my age group or who they were. I just ran my own race and hoped it would be good enough. Mostly, I didn’t want to wear myself out in the early laps.
I wasn’t going to look at my watch until the halfway mark, but there was a digital clock in the start/finish area. I finished my first lap in 49 minutes and change. That put me on pace for a five hour finish, but I knew I might slow down.
Although the course is mostly shaded, there are a few spots where you can feel the sun. Midway through my second lap, the sun felt good, and I could tell it was starting to warm up. After that lap, I stopped to remove my jacket and swap my warm headband for a light running hat. Even before stopping, I could see that I was a few minutes slower in that lap. Changing clothes cost me another minute or two.
I also slowed down a bit in my third lap. I reached the halfway mark in 2:36 and change. I hadn’t had any solid food yet, so I walked for a few minutes while eating a chocolate chip cookie.
Midway through my fourth lap, I made a bathroom stop. Not surprisingly that lap was also a little bit slower. It was continuing to get warmer, so I took off my gloves.
At times, I felt like I might be able to run faster, but I wanted to wait until the last two laps. It’s easy to run out of gas in a 50K race. I’m used to pacing myself for 26.2 miles, and those extra five miles make a difference. With two laps to go, I decided to pick up my pace a little bit. My hope was to run faster in the last lap. It didn’t work out as I hoped. Midway through my fifth lap, I felt myself running out of gas. When I reached the end of that lap, it was slower than the previous four.
All through the last lap, I was struggling to keep moving. There wasn’t any hope of picking up the pace. I was just trying to get to the finish. When I reached the out-and-back section, there weren’t any other runners near me. There wasn’t any need for a finishing kick. There was nobody I could catch, and there was nobody who could catch me.
As I came within sight of the finish, the volunteers were all cheering. I did pick up the pace at the very end, but it wasn’t going to make a difference in the standings. I finished in 5:25:41. That’s a disappointing time for a 50K, but it’s faster than I ran last year, when I did the same double with a pulled hamstring.
After I finished, race director Heather Shoemaker, gave me my trophy. I won my age group. I guess persistence pays off.
Heather also gave me a Darkside Running Club bag with my finisher medal and a Darkside Running Club coffee mug.
Someday, I should do this race with fresh legs and try to run fast. It’s a paved course with no major hills. It should be a fast course if you haven’t already trashed your legs the day before.