The Museum of Aviation Half Marathon was a race on the projected 2019 calendar that managed to materialize. It looked like a pretty flat course on the elevation charts, kind of as if the US Air Force bulldozed 60 square miles for the base. Based on that intel I figured it’d be a good race, plus you know Danielle loves planes and military aircraft.
I booked a non-refundable hotel room at the Comfort Inn and Suites right next to the base. We debating going down the night before versus the morning of and decided on going the night before. A friend of ours was able to stay at our house and take care of our dog for us.
The drive down wasn’t bad. Naturally when you leave after work on a Friday you’ll catch rush hour traffic somewhere in Atlanta Metro. We got stuck in it at I-285 South (west wall) and I-75 South (just past the perimeter). I-75 traffic seems to last almost to Macon — who would want to commute that far to Atlanta?
Obviously the hotel wasn’t glorious, but it managed to meet Danielle’s standards. We got in at 8:00 p.m. and were in bed at 9. Having a king sized bed for two people is a huge contrast to our usual queen sized bed with two people and a dog sprawled out in between us. We cuddled for about an hour, but I can’t sleep like that because I’m always the one to fall asleep last. I was wide awake when 11:00 p.m. rolled around. I don’t know why, but maybe it had to do with the recent medication changes (because I certainly didn’t feel nervous)… I was itchy and kept scratching all night because my skin was dry. Eventually I’d fall asleep sometime around midnight.
Morning rolls around when the alarm clock goes off at 5:30 a.m. I haven’t been able to get out of bed that early in a very long time because of my depression, so this was going to be no easy feat. We ate some blueberry muffins and a little bit of the continental breakfast. We were on the road by 6:30.
The trip only took like 10 minutes because it was right across street. We managed to go into the wrong entrance, but once we parked I didn’t think anything of it (as I went back to the car during my warm up without any questions).
The race organizers take your driver’s license if you don’t have a D.o.D. issued ID. They want to make sure you make it off the base so they return it when you leave. The bathroom situation wasn’t bad at all; I’ve been to some races that were a real shit show.
It’s nearing the 8:15 a.m. race start so Danielle and I head over to the start line area. The race field didn’t look very big so it wasn’t mass chaos at the start. I managed to get out to a fast start — my first mile was 6:54. I knew before the start my legs might not be there that morning; they felt kind of funky in the warm up, but I was still going to try hard.
The next couple of miles were a little slower. The terrain consisted of gradual inclines and declines. By the time I hit 10k my heart was going to explode (maxed HR was 192). I walked the next tenth of a mile just to come back down to earth. After that I ran at a slower pace, which was about 45–60 seconds slower.
It had started to pour by the time I hit mile 10. I decided it was time to empty the tank and haul ass. I had the car keys in my shorts so if they got fried we’d have no way home!
Mile 11 was a 7:14, nearly a minute faster than the last mile, and that’s including the worst hill of the course. The tank was starting to run dry in mile 12 where I put up a 7:35. I was nearing the end of the race. I closed in on the last turn when I realized this race was going to be a little long (I knew because I warmed up from registration to the car and back. I didn’t have much of a kick unless you consider the last 2+ miles as the kick.
I finished at 1:42:39. It was the hardest I ever raced while being that slow. The depression really does have a significant effect on how hard you can go. It’s a boat anchor and you don’t have the ability to really push yourself to the edges of what you know you can do. Really it explains a lot of the outcomes of races for the last year. That high gear wasn’t there — it’s why I didn’t feel like I had the legs that morning.
I was second in my age group and 29th overall (again, it wasn’t a huge field or a major race). That push during the last two miles or so easily moved me up from being somewhere in the 50s. Would I do that race again? Yeah, it wasn’t too bad. Running around the military base wasn’t exciting and the only crowd support you’d get are service members (because civilians can’t get on the base, so anyone you bring can’t go anywhere outside the finish). The aid stations could use some work because they were a little under manned.
My quads were on fire. I had to sit on a truck tailgate for about five minutes before going to my car for my phone. Before I got to the car I was stopped by a service police officer. He asked, “Do you have a CAP pass for the base?” I replied, “No…I wasn’t given one when we came in.” The guy says, “You need a CAP pass.” I reply, “You’re fucking with me, right?” He says, “No.” I reply, “We weren’t given a pass, my car is the red one across the street. We were told to come here by the guard at the gate.” He says, “I’m going to have to escort you to your vehicle.” I told him on the way back there were going to be others like me parked there who’d also need escorts.
Anyway, I now had my phone and headed back to the finish to take pictures of Danielle finishing. When I checked her location the map showed her being in the lake. I assumed that meant she was about a mile out. She got to the finish line in 2:03 (really it was 2:01 but the course was measured wrong). She always thinks she’s going to be really slow because she’s hasn’t trained enough, but I learned early on what she can really do and try to encourage her as much as I can. She also managed to snag third place in her age group.
The nice thing about our hotel is they extended check-out time until 1:00 p.m. That meant we were able to grab a shower and change into fresh clothes before driving home (so I recommend staying there).