Sunday, April 23, 2017

Blue Ridge 1/2 Marathon 2017

Another fabulous Blue Ridge race experience!  The Blue Ridge team really knows how to put on a good race, from the volunteers, to aid stations, to finish line festival, to the prizes.  And of course the's unbeatable for beautiful scenery and a tough challenge.

It was a gray and rainy morning, but thankfully in the high 50s/low 60s, so I didn't have to worry about staying warm.  I had actually bought arm warmers with this race in mind, but ended up not needing them at all.
pre-race photo

I was very grateful to have my friend Mollie along for this trip!  I had to stay at school late on Friday, and didn't get home til about 6, at which point I still needed to shower, eat, and finish packing.  I didn't hit the road until almost 7:30, but when I picked up Mollie 20 minutes later, she was able to do the rest of the driving for me, which was much appreciated as I was exhausted, and don't feel comfortable driving in the rain or dark on a good day!  

Saturday morning I was slow getting ready and just barely made it to packet pickup before they closed at 7 am, but thankfully I was able to jump out of the car to get there and leave Mollie to go park!  I ended up not really having time to warm up, and ended up jogging for about a minute before standing on the starting line waiting for the start.  I wasn't worried about the lack of warmup however, because I knew I needed to start slow, and figured it would be good for me to use the first mile as a warmup.  

I did my best to keep my pace relaxed during that first downhill mile, not concerning myself with who was ahead of me or passing me.  When we reached the bottom of Mill Mountain, I picked up the effort a little bit, but still made sure I stayed focused on keeping my breathing deep and relaxed.  I knew that I could make or break this race with my lung power, and was determined not to break it.  I often notice that I am not fully expanding my lungs when I breathe in, unless I really concentrate on my breathing and force it.  I tend to concentrate for awhile, and then time will pass and I realize I am not breathing deeply anymore.  During this race, I was focused enough to think about my breathing almost the entire way, and it really helped!  

So, the whole way up Mill Mountain, I was running only as fast as I could run without tiring my lungs.  I kept the same effort going back down.  I used to really push the uphill, and then try to fly down the other side to make up as much time as possible.  Now I know it is smarter not to coast down the hill so that I have plenty of energy to pick up the pace at the bottom.  I also wanted to make sure I saved plenty of drive for the later climbs.  On Mill Mountain, I knew there was at least one woman in front of me.  I got passed by 2 more as we neared the bottom of the hill, but I let them go.  Shortly after reaching the flat, I was told I was in 6th place.  Now that I was almost 6 miles into the race, I was ready to start pushing harder.  I gradually picked up the pace, and passed the 2 who had passed me on the downhill.  

Almost off of Mill Mountain. 
Feeling relaxed and running strong.

At mile 7, the course started going uphill again.  I used my inhaler shortly afterwards, on a flat spot, when it was easier to control my breathing and make sure I would get the full benefit from it.  At that point I knew I was running a really strong and smart race, and wasn't going to risk losing it because of lung trouble.  I know from past races that if I wait til I'm sure I need the inhaler, it's too late for my legs to recover from the oxygen debt.  I kept myself strong up the long steep climbs to the top of Peakwood.  It's a brutal climb, and a few people ahead of my were walking.  At some point on that hill, I passed 3rd place.  2nd place was within sight as I reached the top.  There was a turn around, and we were close enough that we were both on the turnaround at the same time, so that we didn't actually face each other going up or down.  I passed her a minute or two later, as I opened up and pounded out the downhill.  There was less than 4 miles to go, I was done holding back.  I gave that downhill as much as I could give it without getting hurt, as everything was slick from the rain.  There were a few smaller uphills after that, which hurt since I was now running as hard as I could, but every time I started to slow I dug deep and surged forward again.  The hardest part was the last two small inclines.  There was at least one bridge, (my memory is getting fuzzy on this part) there may have been 2, and those short inclines were hard!  But I made it up them and down the other side.  With less than a mile to go, I gave everything I had until I crossed the finish line with a chip time of 1:39:27.  2nd place female and 10th overall.  

last quarter mile sprint to the finish

The photographer stopped me as I was gasping for air and trying to keep moving to bring my heart rate down slowly.  Having to stand still and attempt to smile for a photo was possibly more painful than the run had been, but I managed!  

I love the addition of the sparkly blue letters this year!

I waited to catch my breath and find Mollie, and then did my cooldown.  I could feel my right calf starting to cramp before I started, but I hoped the cooldown would fix it.  It didn't, and as I was jogging I realized that the thing I forgot in my hurried packing was my stick. But lucky me, there was a massage tent set up in the finish line area, so after my cooldown I headed straight there and let someone roll out my calf for me.  

The race organizers and sponsors outdid themselves on the prizes this year!  I got a goodie bag full of stuff from Fleet Feet Roanoke (pictured below), I got my feet scanned for a custom pair of orthotics from Foot Levelers (they won't be designed with my tendonitis issues in mind though, so I may or may not be able to use them for running...either way they'll be useful in non-running shoes though!), and I got a $150 gift card to WalkAbout Outfitters.  I usually spend the gift card on a bunch of stuff, but this year I decided what I really needed was a good rain jacket with a hood, so I got one of those and a t-shirt.  (Few things make me feel old quite like my new-found acceptance of hats and hoods.  I've always hated wearing both hats and hoods, but now being warm and dry is so much more important...I almost enjoy wearing hats now! I still hate how hoods rob me of my peripheral vision, but having a dry head in the rain is nice.)

Now I'll have to learn to like trucker hats, so I can show off this one!

While getting my feet scanned for the orthotics from Foot Levelers, I enjoyed talking to the 1st place female runner, and to the 3rd place male runner, who I met at the Hill Challenge race back in August.  I wish I could get to Roanoke more often to spend more time with all these great people and train with them!

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