Monday, April 28, 2014

Blue Ridge Half Marathon Race Recap

2 days after the race.  My legs are just as sore now as they were when I woke up Sunday morning.  In other words, really, really, really, really sore.  Must have something to do with the fact that I raced a bunch of mountains after being unable to train seriously since December...  However, even though I'm hobbling around like I'm crippled, it hurts to sit down, and stairs make me want to cry, I have no regrets.  None.  It was a beautiful day.  The scenery throughout the course was gorgeous.  The spectators were wonderful.  The course was every bit as tough as it bragged to be.  There is nowhere else I would have rather been on that Saturday morning.  And I surely can't wait until next year, when hopefully I will actually be in shape, and will be able to power up those hills, race back down the hills, and leave them in my dust.

I was more excited for this race than I have been in awhile.  I always love racing, but lately I haven't always completely looked forward to each one until after the starting gun.  I think because there was so much uncertainty about whether or not I would be running this race, it made me all the more excited when I decided that I could run it.  

Sunrise on race day.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny, and warm enough to leave my sweat pants in the car rather than lug them around.  That in itself was enough to put a smile on my face, I'm so sick of the cold weather!  I did not do a warm-up jog for this race.  I wasn't sure how my foot would hold up for the mountainous 13 miles and I certainly wasn't going to waste any of its strength on a warm-up.  I wasn't expecting to win the race anyway, I figured it really wasn't necessary for me to be warm enough to sprint the first mile.  I started off the race at whatever pace felt comfortable to me.  I'm sure it was faster than ideal for a warm-up, but it was mostly a slight downhill anyway.
Matching shoes and fingernails...

Straight off the start line.  
I just want to say...take a look at my leg muscles!  
I have trouble understanding how my legs are that ripped after all my time off...

Last year, I remember powering up Mill Mountain like it was nothing more than a bump in the road.  This year, it wasn't super difficult, but it definitely required more effort than I remember.  I'm sure that had something to do with the fact that I hadn't done any hill training in weeks...or months...  About half way up the hill, last year's half marathon winner passed me.  She didn't pass me until the last 2 miles last year, so I wondered if I was going that much slower, or if she was starting out faster.  Then, we reached the place where the half and full marathons split, and she took the marathon split.  Before I got tendonitis in my foot, my goal was to beat her this year.  Turns out that wouldn't have been an option!  (And since the course changed this year, I couldn't have beat her course record either.)

At the top of Mill Mountain, I was in 2nd place, although I had absolutely no idea what place I was in, as there was no sight of any women ahead of me.  The backside of Mill Mountain, going back down, is extremely steep.  I knew if I flew down the hill like I did last year, I would destroy my foot.  So I ran more conservatively than I normally would.  I got passed by a woman or two, and lots of guys, but I didn't let it get to me.  I knew taking it easy on my foot with more than half the race left was more important than keeping up with the competition.  There was one woman who had almost caught me by the bottom of the hill, but I sped up once I reached the bottom, and didn't see her again for a long time.  After some time on the mostly flat greenway, the course eventually picked up its new course, sending us into a very steep neighborhood, called "Peakwood."  Peakwood has always been a part of the marathon course, but it has never been part of the half marathon before.  Peakwood was every bit as challenging as it was advertised.  It is one of the steepest hills I have ever run, and much steeper than the ones I run on a normal basis.  Many people alternated walking and running on this hill.  I maintained at least a jog, but I certainly wasn't going very fast on some of the steepest parts!  I passed a woman on this hill who I never saw again, but I got passed by someone else at some point, who went on to win 2nd place.  The downhill off of Peakwood was not as steep as Mill Mountain's downhill, but it was steep enough to strain my foot.  However, there were only 2 miles left in the race at that point, so I pushed a little bit harder than earlier, knowing that the race was almost over anyway.  In the last mile, I knew that I was in 3rd place, but I had absolutely no idea how much of a lead I had on 4th place.  I picked up the pace as much as I could, and when I passed the 13th mile marker, I sped up to a sprint to the finish, hoping no one was going to pass me on the line.  A guy caught up to me, but that was it.

While I would have loved to have defended my 2nd place title for the 3rd year, I am completely satisfied with 3rd place.  I know that I lost 2nd on the downhills, but it wasn't worth the strain that I would have put on my foot.  I'm so glad I was able to run this race and finish strong.  And even better, it didn't seem to make my foot any worse.  I went back to PT this morning, and was instructed not to run again for at least a week.  And after that, who knows.  I was also told that I shouldn't plan on running a 5k on the 17th.  I am putting my race schedule on hold for the time being.  I really didn't want to give up the Blue Ridge, but I will give up my upcoming races in order to get rid of the tendonitis.

Finisher medal. 
With elevation profile of the mountains I ran.
1:43:32, 3rd female, 21st overall

My family of Blue Ridge trophies.
2011 : 2nd in age group 20-24
2012 : 2nd female
2013 : 2nd female
2014 : 3rd female

This year's addition to the family.

I'd also like to mention how grateful I am to the wonderful people at the Hyatt Place in Roanoke, who let me stay 2 whole hours past check-out, for free, (even though they were booked solid), so that I could get a nap before my drive home.  Life-saving.

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