I was pretty nervous going into this race. Never mind that I lost about 4 weeks of training thanks to spraining my ankle in late February, and that my lungs were not being very cooperative. On Thursday, my allergies decided to flair up! So not only was I not quite in shape for a mountainous half marathon, but now my head was lost in an allergy fog and my nose was dripping down my face. Yay.
Nothing to be done but carry on and hope for the best! It had been a long busy week with not a lot of sleep, and I suspect that had something to do with my body deciding to succumb to the allergies. I worked a full day of school on Friday, dashed home to pack, and was on the road to Roanoke shortly after 4. Thankfully the drive was smooth and uneventful, even though it was rush hour on a Friday. I had no trouble finding parking and getting to the race expo, which was really nice. Once I had my swag, I headed to the motel to eat the dinner I had brought with me, enjoy a pre-race Guinness, and go to bed early.
Another awesome race shirt from the BRM!
Pre-race dinner of champions who can't afford to eat out.
I went to bed around 9, and though I didn't sleep particularly well (because I never do when I'm not in my own bed), I at least spent an adequate number of hours in bed. I know I got some sleep, because at some point I dreamed that I forgot to set an alarm and then didn't arrive at the starting line until an hour after the race started. Of course, I had not forgotten to set an alarm, so I woke up on time. My motel was about 1.3 miles from the start/finish line. Last year I felt it necessary to drive that distance. This year, I decided driving that small distance and trying to find a parking spot amid road closures was silly, so I used the distance as my pre-race warmup, and post-race cooldown.
I was worried that I would start out the race too fast, and then my lungs would die and I would be miserable for the rest of the race. I didn't want to run without my watch, because of course I wanted the data on Strava, but I didn't want to be able to see my watch during the race either. Thankfully (I guess) it was only in the mid 30s on Saturday morning, so my dilemma was solved by the need for long sleeves and gloves. My watch stayed inside my sleeve for the entire run and I never looked at it. This enabled me to run by feel, instead of attempting to run by the watch (which is never good anyway). I convinced myself on Friday night that given my current state of training and allergy fog, I was not allowed to "race" the half marathon, I was only allowed to "run" it. In other words, I was not, under any circumstances, allowed to try and keep up with Sarah. Nor was I allowed to sprint down the back side of Mill Mountain like I normally do, because it's just not worth the potential injuries right now. (Usually I hammer the uphill, and then run like crazy down the back side to try and keep the lead I got on the climb.)
I kept my pace very easy for the first mile, and then just tried to be steady going up the mountain. I was very impressed when I looked at my splits and discovered that I had run the first (mostly downhill!) miles in 7:17. That might be the slowest first mile I have ever run, but it is a pace I need to start out at more often. I was in second place going up the mountain, but moved into fourth going back down. I let the girls pass me and kept on telling myself that the only thing that mattered was that I run smart and strong. I would get whatever place I got. I mean, I really wanted to add a sixth trophy to my pack of railroad spike runners, but I figured surely I could at least manage an age category placing if not an overall placing...
The course hit the Greenway around mile 5.5, and I picked up the pace. I hate that flat stretch along the river, and it often saps my energy. So this time, I decided to attack it and get it over with as fast as possible. Since I hadn't been hammering already, and was feeling really good, it felt ok to start pushing harder. As I picked up and held the pace, I continued to feel strong, and started to get more optimistic about my run. I was headed up a long hill somewhere after mile 7, when I noticed that I was gaining on the third place girl, and the second place girl was not far ahead of her. Since I was still feeling good, I picked up the pace another notch, and gradually passed each of them. The hill continued to get steeper, but I focused on staying strong and powering up it. By the time I reached the top of that one, I think there was 3 or less miles to go. I had been carrying my inhaler the whole time, but still didn't feel like I needed it. With only a few miles left, I decided it was ok to start "racing." I ran as hard as I could for the rest of the race, even on the downhills, which hurt, but oh well. I was in second place and I really wanted to stay there.
I finished the race really strong, and really happy. I felt like I had run my smartest race in a long time. It wasn't a PR, but I wasn't expecting one. I was just happy to know that I had been able to run the distance while making good decisions, not injure myself, and finish strong. I was about 4 minutes behind first place, and third place was another minute and a half behind me.
Of course then I had to survive the cooldown jog back to my hotel. That was rough, but I managed to jog the whole way. Slowly.
After getting cleaned up and checked out of the motel, I decided that I should leave my car there for a few more hours, and walk back downtown for the awards ceremony and to watch a fellow SBC grad finish the marathon. By the time I arrived in downtown, I was rethinking that decision, but it was too late to do anything about it.
Another Blue Ridge 1/2 in the books.
Tired but still smiling!
And then there were six!