My 8th time running this race! It has been my favorite ever since the first year. I'll never understand how I decided to come back after that miserable experience in the rain, but I guess the course was just that awesome. And it's even more awesome since they added extra hills a few years ago.
I wasn't really looking forward to the race this year, since my training has seemed like nothing more than one setback after another since November. However, there is no way I was going to skip my favorite race, so I showed up hoping for the best. I hoped to run a good race and hold my own out there, but knew that I couldn't push too hard for a fast time since I have the Pittsburgh Marathon coming up in 2 weeks.
As always, this was a superb event! The Blue Ridge Marathon always does a top-notch job of putting on the race. Packet pick-up was a bit confusing in the new location (Patrick Henry Hotel) this year, but I figured it out. Everything went smoothly on race day, the volunteers were great, and there were plenty of aid stations with volunteers at the ready (though I personally did not take advantage of any of them).
It was around 40 degrees at the start of the race, I believe. It did warm up to the high 50s or low 60s later in the day, but it was pretty chilly for most of the race.
I chose not to warm up, so that I would be forced to use the first mile or 2 as my warm-up. I started out at a comfortable pace, not too slow, but not at all pushing the pace either. I didn't concern myself with who was passing me or who I was passing. The first mile marker comes at the beginning of Mill Mountain, (the first climb) and I let myself open up just a little bit on the hill, as uphills are where I am most comfortable. I still didn't let myself push too hard, but I did let myself work a bit, and start to pass people one by one. I passed Coby around mile 2.7 where the half marathon splits from the full, and he got some great photos of me as I passed by. There was about one more mile of climbing left, and then I headed down the back side of Mill Mountain. The road is pretty steep there, with several switchbacks. I took it pretty easy, knowing I would get passed by quite a few people, but I know it's not worth the risk to my knees and hips to pound down the mountain. When I reached the Greenway after the descent I picked the pace back up. I didn't really gain on the 2 women I could see ahead of me, but I don't think they were growing the distance either. When I reached the bottom of the next hill - a long, mostly gradual one, I started pushing harder. I think this hill has become the place I generally pass most people. It is the perfect hill for my strengths. I passed two women on the long gradual part, and then as I went up the steep part of Peakwood, I gained on another woman, who was alternately walking and running. I was unable to catch her, but I could tell I was much stronger on the hill, so I knew there was a still a chance I could catch her before the finish line.
My lungs were feeling pretty tight after Peakwood, so I used the downhill coast to use my inhaler. And then I was headed up the last steep hill. I continued to gain on the woman ahead of me, but still couldn't catch her. I started to really push myself on the last long downhill, knowing there was less than 3 miles to go, and most of it downhill. There were 2 bridges in the last 1.5 miles or so, and I dug into my reserves of strength to push them and to finally catch up to the woman in front of me. By then, I knew that she was in 2nd place, and I could see 1st place in the distance, though she was too far to catch.
There was a time clock shortly after the 12th mile marker, and I was surprised to see that it read 1:33, which meant I actually had a chance to beat my time from last year, which I had thought would be impossible. That plus the woman in front of me gave me the final edge I needed to dig deep, and I caught up to her. We traded back and forth and ran side by side for a bit, and then on the final bridge I finally pulled ahead. With a quarter mile to go, I pushed as hard as I could, sprinting to the finish and just hoping to come in 2nd place and under 1:39. I held on to my 2nd place, and finished with an official time of 1:39:01. (last year was 1:39:27).
I could not believe how well this race went, and that I was able to beat last year's time despite a much worse training cycle, and not actually trying to race until somewhere in the second half of the race. It is confirmation of something I have been picking up on for awhile now--I run best when I am not trying so hard. It's hard not to try to train hard and race hard, but clearly it's not what my body wants right now. As I'm getting older, I'm slowly learning to let go and just see what happens. I'm still going to have races where I try too hard and crash and burn (because let's be honest, I'm a total control-freak...), but hopefully I'll manage to mostly just let the races run themselves...!
1st place : 1:38: 37
2nd place : 1:39:01
3rd place : 1:39:08
It was a close year for the top 3!
I couldn't believe how good I felt after this race! I'm usually hurting pretty bad afterwards, and this time I wasn't hurting at all. I didn't do a cool down like I normally do, and maybe it really was better for me to stop first. I probably should have done a cool down after a brief rest instead of skipping it entirely, but oh well.
Check out those splits! Fastest two miles were the last two! I usually don't have enough energy left to pull that off... I looked back at splits from the past 2 years and my last mile was around 7:20 for both of them.
This is the Strava segment for the 1.5 mile Peakwood climb, the toughest part of the race. Nice improvement this year!
Chicken : Bake in a glass dish at 425 for 25-30 minutes (until an internal temperature of 160+ is reached). I did not put any seasonings on the chicken this time, it was baked as-is.
Risotto : Chop 1/4 onion and saute in olive oil until it begins to brown, then add rice, and stir to coat with oil. Add enough chicken broth to cover, and simmer. Add more broth as needed, until the rice is cooked. When the rice was about done, I added about 6 chopped radishes and 4 oz chopped mushrooms. I also added a dash of salt and a generous amount of garlic powder.
The veggies : Steam the broccoli with some olive oil and garlic powder. Remove the broccoli from the pan to cool, then chop the carrots and steam them with olive oil and garlic powder.
I had been on the fence about whether or not to run the 10k this year, but in the end I decided that it would be beneficial for me to run it as a tempo run, since I haven't had much speedwork lately. I knew that it would absolutely not be a smart idea for me to all-out race it, and thankfully I was able to keep my competitive side in check and keep myself to tempo effort rather than race effort. I ended up coming in 2nd place female.
Pre-race chat with my former running buddy Jim and the female winner of the day.
and we're off!
My finish. Coby and the girls got there just in time to snap this pic!
After a quick post-race shower, we headed back downtown for the Chocolate Festival. It was fun to do it with the kids. I think our favorite was the chocolate-covered bacon. The weather couldn't have been more perfect, and once we had spent all our chocolate tickets, we headed out to the barn for a picnic lunch and time spent with Pony.
Ready to eat some chocolate!
Pony was loving all the attention!
It was too nice out not to take some photos!
Gray Kitty photobombed us, and Pony was not very cooperative about joining us...because she just wanted to devour grass.
As usual, do 3 sets with 15 seconds rest between each exercise and 2 minutes rest between each set.
My workout class switched back to Monday's this week, and I ran 20 miles on Sunday, so I took it pretty easy on this one. I also tried not to put in too many leg-strength exercises so as not to overburden my legs any more than they already were!