Training Tuesday: the electric one with the half-marathon PR

This is a twofer: a trip report from my first “real” road trip with my 2020 Bolt (in the same vein as Tony’s report) and a race report for the Tear Drop Half Marathon, where Erica and I both PR’d the distance.

The race is held in Chatsworth, Georgia, about 155 road miles away from me. Given the Bolt’s advertised 259-mile range, it seemed like this would be an easy trip… but then the complications set in. First, we weren’t staying in Chatsworth, but in nearby Dalton. We needed to go to Chatsworth, pick up our race bibs, go back to Dalton for the night, go back to Chatsworth to run the race Sunday morning, and then go home. That’s ~330 road miles, so doing it on one charge wasn’t feasible.

Second, there aren’t any public chargers in Chatsworth. PlugShare showed 2 in Dalton, but none near our hotel. I figured we could charge in Dalton while having dinner or exploring downtown, then plug in overnight at the hotel. Off we went, with the GOM starting at 210mi. Then about 50mi in, I realized that I had forgotten the factory EVSE, so we wouldn’t be able to plug in at the hotel. Then we realized that, if we stopped for lunch in Chattanooga and charged, we’d probably miss the race bib pickup window so it was time for another plan.

PlugShare showed a DCFC charger right off I-24, a few miles ahead of where we were, so we stopped there. The EVgo DCFC at the Hampton Inn on Starview Drive gave us 30min of charging for a good boost, a clean restroom, and some delicious free cookies, all for about $12. We then drove on to Chatsworth, got our race packets, and went back to Dalton for dinner.

In Dalton, we found the promised Blink charger at the Depot Street parking deck. The touch screen didn’t work (as noted at PlugShare), but I was able to use the app to start a charging session. (side note: Blink seems to have a lot of half-, mostly-, or completely-broken chargers. I’m not sure why this is but it’s not confidence-inspiring). We wandered around downtown, ate tacos (because of course we did), had a frozen yogurt, and came back to see that the charger reported giving me… 0.0 kW of electricity. The car disagreed, as did the Blink app’s billing screen, so I didn’t worry about that too much. Back to the hotel for an early bedtime, then it was RACE DAY.

The race course is an out-and-back-and-out-again, with a total of about 7 miles of complete downhill. If you haven’t run long distances downhill (and, really, why would you), you may not know how punishing it is on your quads. It seems like running downhill would be easy and fun compared to running uphill.. not so much. The course starts at the top of Fort Mountain, so there are shuttle buses from the finish line up to the start. This year, they assigned runners to buses based on their last names, and Erica’s bus was leaving at 6am for a 730am race start. It was chilly, windy, and dark when we boarded the bus, and after a reasonably frightening drive up the mountain (with a bus driver who took a fairly casual attitude towards the road centerline but said he’d been driving this bus route for 38 years), we were dropped off at the top.

Which was fun, because we all filed off the bus into the parking lot of The Overlook Bed & Breakfast. The owner immediately came out and started angrily shouting “THIS IS MY HOME. THIS IS MY PROPERTY. Y’ALL NEED TO GO OVER THERE” (with a vague arm wave). On the opposite side of the road, there was a bank of porta-potties and a small parking lot. No signs; no race personnel. Did I mention it was completely dark? And foggy? No? Well, ok then. We crossed the street and joined a huddle of people using the porta-potties as a wind break. That turned out to be a good decision, as we fell in with a fun group from Peachtree City and whiled away the time until the start.

Note the fog. Angle carefully chosen to obscure the porta-potties.
According to the TrainingToday app, my heart rate variability said I was ready to have a great race, and who was I to argue?

The out-and-back-and-out leg was interesting– a good downhill to start, followed by a few rollers, followed by a long, steady downhill. I was pretty conservative until about mile 6 and then started gradually trying to speed up a bit. Very unusually for me, I actually passed a few people, including one guy who was juuuuust out of my reach for nearly the entire back half of the race– I think he got tired towards the end and I was finally able to catch him. 2021 Tear Drop 13.1 | Run | Strava has the full race data if you care (although it’s short because I didn’t start my watch when I thought I did); I finished in an official time of 1:45:04. That’s about a 7-minute PR for me, which jibes with the RD’s estimate that most people will gain between 0:40-1:20/mile pace on the downhill leg.

a small slice of the gorgeous scenery along the downhill leg

Post-race, the organizers had two things that I wish every race had: amazing BBQ and a massage tent provided by PT Solutions. My quads didn’t feel too bad at that point (they sure felt worse later!) and I walked around to keep them loose while I waited to cheer Erica across the finish. After a quick BBQ feast, we drove back to the hotel to get cleaned up and head home.

We wanted steak, so Erica found us 1885 Grill. They have 2 locations in Chattanooga: one was about 0.5mi from a DCFC, and the other was right next door to a ChargePoint charger. We picked the ChargePoint (because walking an extra mile after a half marathon is just stupid) aaaaand… it was dead when we got there. (Pro tip: if you call ChargePoint support on a Sunday afternoon, nothing happens, so don’t bother.) We had lunch anyway, and it was delicious. On the way home, we stopped at the same DCFC on I-24 we used on the way in (where one of the two parking spaces was ICE’d), had some more cookies, basked in the sun for 40min while we charged, and made it home with 11mi showing on the GOM.

So what did I learn? Well, first, if we’d taken Erica’s gas-burning SUV, we wouldn’t have had to stop at any point. So there’s that. Second, there are still lots of places where there are no chargers. Third, just because PlugShare or whatever shows a charger is no assurance that it will be working when you get there. Fourth, keep your factory EVSE in the car and you can always get some amount of charge if you really need it. Overall, the race was a well-organized and fun race and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to try for a PR and/or who wants gratuitous punishment for their leg muscles.

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