Sunday, April 22, 2012

Oh What A Day @ the Blue Ridge Marathon

Oh what a beautiful day! 
 On Sat. April 21, 2012, I completed "America's toughest road marathon",  the Blue Ridge Marathon in Roanoke, VA. 
pre-race - pumped up & ready
You may recall several months ago, I won an entry to the Blue Ridge Marathon from Marcia's Healthy Slice  I came across Marcia's blog when I started training for the 2010 Boston marathon and I've been following since that time.  I was thrilled when I received the news from Marcia about the free entry.  

 When we entered the expo for packet pick up, I mentioned to a volunteer,  that I’m from MS,  and she called someone over to tell him with wide eyes, “she’s from MS and running the FULL!”  The man had run the marathon, and the marathon course many times.   He gave me tips which included walking and be sure to start walking early in this race.   He also recommended to be sure to walk some of the down hills.   During my training, I trained on the best that my area has to offer,  which really doesn’t compare at all to mountains.  I felt well trained for our area, but had no idea what the course would be like.  After the expo, we drove one section of the course.  After speaking with the expo workers, and the pre-race drive, my OPTIMISTIC thinking that 4:15 was a realistic goal was fading fast.   I prepared my Mom and sister for the possible 4:30-5:00 hour finish time.  but.......  
walking on Friday, we came across this on the side walk

The start temp was around 58 and would be near 70 degrees before my finish.   As we started out, I replayed the advice that was recommended several times.  “Go out conservative, walk early, walk often in the early miles.  Be careful on the down hills, or you will destroy your quads early in the race. ……    I took the warnings seriously.   The first mile was mostly flat, but I decided "to chill” in hopes of saving myself for later in the race.  The first climb started around mile 1.  I kept repeating "save yourself, not too fast, don’t push on the early hills."  

Just before the ½ and 26.2 marathoner split, I noticed a runner up ahead who had on a “Run Chat” sticker pinned to the back of his shirt.  I thought it was David.  I called his name and was happy to meet “@RunningBecause” from Twitter and Run Chat. ( We had a quick chat, and then he headed up Mill Mountain (for the ½) and I proceeded on toward Roanoke Mountain (the highest climb, but not the hardest climb of the day – IMO).  
the view from the top of Roanoke Mountain
 By mile 6 and 7, I’m at 12:10 and 11:02 pace.  Trying to save my legs for later in the day, I walk the steepest part of the hills.  As I start down one of the steep downhills, I hear the recommendations to "walk some of the down hill sections" playing in my head.  I was surprised that it was actually hard to stop my body (in motion) to begin walking.  I take a quick walk, and start back running down the mountain. 

By mile 10, we have made it up, and down the first of 3 major climbs in the race.  I’m feeling good at this point, but wondering (& slightly worried) about the “wear and tear” of the hills, and how I will feel in the later miles.   My hill experience includes the downhill course at St. George, Boston, and Mt. Desert Island marathons.  As advertised, Blue Ridge is tough.   I wonder if, or when fatigue will set in, but keep moving forward, feeling good and hoping to finish with no major issues, but truly expecting "the bear" to jump on my back at some point in the race. 

The 2nd major climb is up Mill Mountain.  This is the mountain that has the famous Roanoke star. 
The Roanoke Star - to the left of the power line
  As I begin the climb toward the star, “We Three Kings” starts playing on my Ipod.   My mind ponders this for most of the climb.  I have a few Christmas songs on my Ipod that I instruct I-tunes NOT to send to my Ipod, but it does anyway.  I find it so strange, but neat, the perfect timing of the song. 
 "Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to Thy perfect light"

 The song of the day on my shuffling Ipod, has to be “I get Delirious.”  Thankfully, I ended the day without this occurring, but the song played early in the marathon, and I could totally picture being “Delirious” before the end of the 3 climbs. 

Favorite lyrics of the day:  
(From - This Woman's Work lyrics Songwriters: Bush, Kate)

"I know you have a little life in you yet
I know you have a lot of strength left
I know you have a little life in you yet
I know you have a lot of strength left
I should be crying but I just can't let it show"

At mile 15, I'm greeted by my Mom and sister who are on the course to support me.  At this point, I’m heading down the hill, feeling good, and hoping it will last (14-8:35, 15 – 8:41).  I smile for a pic and keep moving forward.   We have a couple of miles of relatively flat, before the final climb up to Peakwood.  The course runs along the Greenway (a paved trail) beside the river.   As expected, around 16-17ish, even small  “ups” become challenging .  My mind wonders “how will I make it up Peakwood and still have anything left for the last 6, which is reported to be flat.   (16 – 10:15. 17 – 9:55, 18 – 13:11 slowest of the day, 19 – 10:47)
Favorite "overheard" words of the day 
(I heard this around mile 19, as were making the last, tough climb to Peakwood)
"we women get better as we get older"
As I made it to the top of Peakwood, I get excited and start heading down the hill toward the finish.  It’s a LONG downhill.  I seriously wonder if I will pull or tear a muscle as I go down.  At this point, it’s hard to “break”, and it feels like I’m on the edge of danger (20 – 8:39). 

We were told before the race, at mile 20.4 ish, “you will be done with the hills”  As we go up each hill , the spectators promise us "this is the last hill"NOT TRUE.  As a Southern girl, from mostly flatland, the last hill (incline) came in mile 25, not 20.4, or any of the multiple promised "last hill" along the way. 

At mile 22, the countdown is on.   Even after the major climbs, I’m feeling better than most marathons, at this point.  I can’t go any faster, but I’m happy with the pace that I’m maintaining at this point, on this course.  I’m just happy to be running (22 – 9:06,  23 – 9:33,  24 – 9:47,  25 – 9:27,  26 – 8:54)     Finish time – 4:16 (Garmin 26.07 - running hard tangents)  Thrilled With It!  Many times, I’ve finished around this time, or slower, on a “flat and fast” course.    I finished the day with time that I thought was unrealistic after driving the course on Fri. 

 As I reflect on the race, I have to say that I loved this race.   I prefer a small race and this one definitely is that.  (300 in the full, and 515 in the half marathon)  I finished 9th out of 80 females, and won the 2nd place masters award. 

I want to say thank you to Marcia for the spectacular marathon entry giveaway.   To date, this marathon is in my top 3 of 23, and it’s one that I may not have attempted had I not won the entry.  Several years ago, I avoided every hill while running.  While training for the St. George, Utah marathon (2009), I trained and started enjoying hill running.  Each year, my joy of hill running grows stronger.   As I reflect on this weekend, and my personal victory on the mountains, I have a new, much higher, love and draw to the hills.  

 I also want to say thank you to my hill prep crew in MS.  Hill repeats, up hills - hard, down hills -hard, hilly long runs with friends all helped to prepare me for the “America's toughest road marathon ”  I did it! 
(Terri – thanks for moving out of your comfort zone to help me train, and being eager to run "whatever" I needed to do,  Audrey – happy that we share the love of hills (mine has now grown much stronger), Kily – thanks for helping me finish my toughest “training” 20 miler to date) 
 more of the same this summer, after a few weeks of R&R

As always, thanks to my Mom and  sister for always being willing to travel to my crazy adventures.  I always appreciate the love and support. 
Linde (sister) and Mom touring VA

Finally, thanks to Chad for understanding my crazy passion for this marathoning life that I lead.  

 I do love a marathon…….
the data


Gracie (Complicated Day) said...

Wow, you crazy lady, way to show up that course! Really good job out there. I am so impressed! What speaks the most is that your slowest mile is under 14 - that's smart pacing and a strong body.

Scarlett said...

What a fantastic race! You're such a fun, smart runner to follow, Ginny.

Teamarcia said...

Wow! You were spectacular out there Ginny. I am over the moon that you did so well and ENJOYED IT! What more could anyone ask? Congrats on an amazing race!

Jennifer said...

So great Ginny! Of course I knew you would ace it it from the begining as you always put 110% into everything you do! Take a good break, you deserve it. Let's do Newk's soon. XOX

David H. said...

First off, congrats on an awesome race! I know this course very well since I helped shoot video for it, so it's very cool to get your take on the certain areas. That last major climb is nuts - far crazier than the mountains in my opinion.

As for people saying "last hill," I actually told someone "no it's not." That's what makes this race so much fun though -- those surprise hills that are so much smaller than the mountains, but just as tiring.

Lastly, THANK YOU for shouting at me Saturday. When I passed by you I was in a tunnel vision thinking about a whole bunch of nothing. It was great to chat for that half mile or so, which made this race even more fun.

Hope you come back to Roanoke!

HappyTrails said...

Oh What a Day, indeed! You are becoming a mountain runner! :-)
So glad you had a great day all the way around - felt great, enjoyed the course, and had the best cheering and support crew around. It made me smile to see your mom. Very happy.
You get a pat on the back for a job well done! Beautiful area, too. Is the new header from the race area???

misszippy said...

You are a rock star! Congrats on finishing such a tough, tough course in an amazing time. It's especially impressive since you don't get to run hills very often. Enjoy the post-race high!!

lindsay said...

Woohoo way to go Ginny! 4:16, goal of 4:15, can't hit it better :) you rocked it!

Lisa said...

You rock!

Tina @GottaRunNow said...

I visited the web site to read about all of the hills. Congrats on a great finish time for a very tough race!

Cécy said...

Glad to see you enjoyed it too. The course was so beautiful! I'm impressed of the pace you maintained at the end.
And yes, agreed Peakwood is harder. Roanoke and Mill Mountain are big hills but most of the uphill is gradual. Peakwood not so much, especially after so many miles.

Terri said...

Woohoo!!! on a fantastic time and on a hard course!!! Love the Blue Ridge Mt. area. Looks like a beautiful place to race.

Terzah said...

Wow! What a great introduction to you! You put in a great time on a tough course because you ran smart. I'm looking forward to reading about your training and future races.

Jill said...

Congratulations, Ginny! What a great time on a horribly crazy hilly race. You are so wickedly awesome!!

Anonymous said...

Awesome job! I hope to do as well one day!

Happy Feet 26.2 said...

@HappyTrails - yes, the header pic is from the Blue Ridge parkway. beautiful!

Dave Munger said...

Wow, great job! Given what you did on this course, I think on a flat(ter) course, your marathon PR would be in serious danger.