Blue Ridge Marathon Entry Winner

FLICorpLogo_4CBefore I announce the winner, I wanted to say how much I loved reading what you are thankful for. There are definitely inspiring stories of runners and I always love to read them. Whether you won or not, I hope you continue to strive for challenges and beat the odds. I used random.org to select a winner.

random
Congratulations Jacy! I hope you enjoy running the race with your husband. I’ll get you in touch with Pete for the entry code.
Winner BRM

Oh and guess what? Jacy is also giving away an entry. I swear I did select her at random. I just happened to see that on her blog. So hop on over to her blog before Saturday and you’ll get another chance to enter the race.

Of course you can also register on the website of the Blue Ridge Marathon, don’t forget that the rates go up at the end of the year.

 

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Running one of the World’s Toughest Marathons

 There is something incredibly rewarding in finishing your first marathon. All the months of training, sweat, pain, commitment come to fruition in that moment. It’s hard not to have the NYC marathon runners hopefuls in mind as I write this. While also means even bigger thoughts about all the people who are struggling to rebuild their lives after the Hurricane.

But yes, running a marathon is a big deal. I was proud when I finished mine. I had tears in my eyes as I told myself I was now a marathoner. To see how far I was able to push my body. I feel like I’m a better person from it. It taught me things beyond putting one foot in front of the other. It taught me that I can achieve a lot of things when I put my mind to it. We can achieve so much more than what we credit ourselves for.

I would have had those feelings no matter what course I had picked. But this morning I feel well, both a little crazy and yet even more proud of myself. Of course I knew I ran a hard course. I’m sure the organizer of the Blue Ridge Marathon didn’t nickname it “America’s Toughest Road Marathon” just for fun. I felt it, my legs felt it. But this morning it was written for the English speaking, weather loving people to see. Yep, in the midst of the whole controversy surrounding the NYC Marathon, weather.com asked some big names of the running community for what they thought were the toughest marathons in the world. Now mind you, this is not a scientific study. I am sure there are really tough marathons out there that are not even on the list. But still, according to this article: The World’s 15 Toughest Marathons, The Blue Ridge Marathon places as #8. In front of Grandfather Mountain, which I hope to run one day, in front of the rival Mt. Lemmon too.

So I have to say, this morning I feel a little bit crazy. I’m kind of glad this list was not published before I ran the Blue Ridge Marathon. I am not entirely sure I would have had the guts to do it. But looking back… I am a mountain girl, I do love the hills. I feel incredibly proud and strong to know that I finished a marathon that some big names of the American running world call the toughest. I felt it after running that first marathon, and I still feel it: I want to run more. Not to mention that I did a pretty decent time for a first marathon, on a tough course. So I want to know if I can run one in less than 4 hours on something a little more standard.

Now for the fun part. Are you as crazy as I am? Do you love challenges? Do you love the mountains? Because on Thanksgiving week I will be giving away a free entry to the Blue Ridge Marathon. That’s my way to say I’m thankful for running. You will then be able to claim that you ran of of the world’s toughest marathons. It’s ok, you can thank me later, you know, once you recover from it and all…

Official Blue Ridge Marathon Blogger

You remember the Blue Ridge Marathon? My very first Marathon and one of the toughest road marathons you can do in the US. Well, I loved this marathon enough that when I was offered to become an official blogger I said yes.

So what does this mean for you? It means that I’ll get to share some tidbit about the race and special offers including a chance to win a free entry which can be used for the marathon or the half-marathon. This is how I got to take part in the race last year by the way. In exchange I was offered an entry as well but I will not be using it in 2013 due to my Little One being expected this Winter. I would have loved to but it will have to wait a little longer, 2014 maybe?

Why I think you should run it?

  • The race is April 20th 2013. Which means a spring race. I don’t know about you but I don’t care much for a 22 mile run during summer, however training during the cool winter months? Absolutely! It worked wonders for me.
  • The course is stunning. There aren’t many race where you get to run on the Blue Ridge Parkway with no cars around. The view from Roanoke Mountain (see picture above) is worth every single of the 7 miles of uphill you start the race with.
  • This is not your average marathon. With 7,234’ of elevation change you can call yourself tough once you finish it. Not only that but I truly believe you can tackle any marathon after that.
  • The volunteers are amazing.
  • You remember Bill Rodgers? He was the official guest last year and I got to receive my award from his hands. Well he’ll be back this year to run the Relay and I hear a rumor that there will be a chance to be part of his team…

So stay tuned for more information. I hope to be able to share what I learned about the marathon, some special information and tips on where to stay. If you have any questions along the way, let me know.

Here is the first special: The Discount Roulette. Here and there the organizers will be offering discounts which may be more or less than today’s. So if you register today, September 18th, you’ll get 18% discount.

Register online using code “HAPPY18”

For more information visit www.BlueRidgeMarathon.com.

Learning From the Marathon

I learned a few things running my first marathon, things I hope to remember next time I run one. Oh yes because the first thing I learned from the marathon is that I like it. Yes some miles were tough but I very much want to run another one.

The Training Plan

I decided early on not to be too concerned about my pace while training. I ran by feel instead. Oh I’m sure I ran some workouts too fast and some too slow but overall I did great and I don’t regret my choice at all. Now if I was trying to break a certain time then I may want to look at my times a little more, if only afterward to learn from it.

The Taper:

I frankly enjoyed it. It was good to give a rest to my body and have more time for myself. I’m glad I followed the training plan for it.

Carb Loading:

It’s impossible for me to carb load according to what I found I’m supposed to do. I simply can not ingest 400g of carbs a day. I did however get a lot of snacks that I munched on for the last two days prior to the race. Kashi’s oatmeal dark chocolate cookies, homemade trail mix, pretzels, etc. It worked out great.  I choose to cut off dairy a few days ahead. I missed it,  but I think that was a good thing for me to skip it prior to the race.

Pre-Race meal

I think I’d rather have a homemade meal before a race since it’s easier to control. I feel that I should have practiced a little more on what works best and kept a log of pre-long run dinners. I’d love to avoid an other porta potty break during a marathon (downhill didn’t help either). I think a little more plain food would have been better. I had pasta alla vodka which I think contained cream, that wasn’t my best decision.

Banana, bagel and almond butter worked out great in the morning

Race Fueling and Hydrating:

I think I did good when it comes to hydration. I didn’t care much for the electrolytes drinks when came the time. I was very thankful I had my hand held bottle with me. I could drink when I wanted and refill it at the aid stations. I learned that I can’t rely on meeting my husband on the course and it’s best to have everything I need with me.

Fueling I didn’t do so well. I’m terrible at eating gels when I should. I never eat as many as advised on the packaging. I did good for the first half, starting around 45 minutes and taking a sip every 20-3omns. But after mile 15 I just forgot to take some. I don’t know if I need to set myself reminders or practice taking them better during training race. I do think however that 1)I like Clif gels better than GU.  2)I do better sipping a little gel at a time rather than a whole packet at once. I am honestly surprised I did as well as I did with the little fuel I had during the race.

My the end of the race I was craving sliced oranges and icy cold water.

Chaffing

It will happen. I used a natural version of body glide. Most of my body part were fine. Some light chaffing on the lower back but nothing that I even noticed or felt until a few days later, so the SkinFood Topical Nourishment worked. I did experience some chaffing from a poorly designed seam on my sports bra. I could feel it at the beginning so I knew it would be a problem. Somehow my body tuned it off and I only realized it at the very end.

Post-Race Fueling and Stretching

Having my husband bring me a smoothie was one of the best post-run fuel idea I had. It was easy to drink and I know helped with the good protein/carb ratio.

Making use of the massage table is a must. I’m also glad I mostly followed my usual cool off/stretch routine.

Post-Race legs

Overall they felt good. However after 20 minutes of walking, during the first two days after the race, I had to sit down. It’s good to know your limits.

Recovery week

That would be my other failure (first one was fueling during the race). It’s not because you feel good that your legs have recovered. Recovery week is not the time to try out a new trail, especially not a technical one. I feel very stupid because my first two recovery runs went very well, so I was a lot more careless on my third and the result is injury. Lesson learned: no new trail (easy smooth trails are ok), no new shoes post race. I think I would have been better off logging a few more miles on my old trail shoes while my legs recovered.

What lessons do you take from race running? Any wisdom to share?

 

 

Post Marathon Recovery

We’re now a little over ten days after the marathon and I’m still supposed to be in recovery mode. It’s both relaxing and weird to have such  low weekly mileage. I’ve been attempting to follow the McMillan Running recovery program. And yes, attempting because I’m not always doing such a good job at it.

I remember when I first looked at it, before the marathon, I was just thinking there was no way I would only run 20 minutes right? Ha! I quickly found out that past 20 minutes of walking in the first few day, my muscle hurt. I should probably say that I was also crazy enough to go back to Mill Mountain and the true summit of Roanoke Mountain the afternoon of the race. Yes I went on a mini hike the same day I ran 26.2 miles. Did it hurt? A little. Do I regret it? Nope, it poured the next day and I would have missed it altogether.

But I did avoid to run until 3 days after. My first run was scheduled for 20 minutes and that is exactly what I did. I was completely ok with it. I wasn’t hurting per say, just sore and fine with taking it easy. The next run after that was an easy one too, on trails with my new trail shoes, perfect. Both were around a 9:30 pace. But not the third…

Nope, I made the mistake to pick a trail run which while short turned out far more technical than I expected. While on the trails I had a blast. Jumping up and down, walking where needed, speeding where I could. My average pace 10:14. Once would think that’s taking it easy, but it really doesn’t take into account the trail itself. I almost twisted my ankle a few times and my husband actual sprained his. While I felt fine at first I realized all the ankle twisting had actually pulled on the knee. It’s not a make you want to stop running feel, but I definitely did something. I’ve been stretching it and it’s getting better, but looking back I think that trail was a mistake. My muscles were better but still weakened by the marathon. I should have stuck to easy known trails.

I still probably run too fast on most of my runs, but I just can’t help myself. It’s hard not to when you feel good.

Recovery Week 1: 12.36mi

 Day  Run  Miles  Time  Pace
04/29/12
3.66
00:28:40
07:49
04/28/12
3.48
00:35:37
10:14
04/26/12
Untitled (Trail)
3.05
00:28:50
09:27
04/24/12
2.17
00:20:26
09:24

I’m slowly going to continue to increase my mileage. I miss the long runs. I miss the trails too. Plus I need to start getting my body back for the Biltmore Kiwanis 15k on May 20th.

Now I just need to resist signing up for another marathon. I’d love to run another one but with some recent car repairs it would not be a sound financial decision.

Blue Ridge Marathon: My First 26.2 (Part 2)

After the Mill Mountain Star the course went back downhill. It wasn’t as steep as Roanoke Mountain thankfully. So I was able to pick up a little speed. Again a beautiful section, going along a pedestrian road, then under the old booth. This section had several switchbacks and entered a residential area so I started seeing more spectators. This is also were the volunteers started handing out GU gels. They did a great job at it, staying on the side and calling out what flavor they were holding. I grabbed one just in case but ended up not touching it. I sipped on my Clif citrus gel from mile 6 to 15 instead since I don’t care for a whole amount of it at once.

At the bottom of the hill we entered the Greenway for the first time. It went right by the hospital and had a cool section with three bridges: the pedestrian bridge we ran on at the bottom, made of wood, right above the metal  railroad bridge and above it the concrete car bridge.

Roanoke has done and amazing job with this Greenway. As I was running it I honestly thought it was better than Asheville’s. It goes all along the river with easy access and it’s very scenic.

I was supposed to meet my husband around my 15 to exchange water bottles, but I never saw him. It turns out that I went a little faster than he had expected and he missed me. I did however come across the Peakwood Base-camp, right after the water station and the third relay transition area. It was hard not to smile. Some locals had set up a true base-camp, Mt Everest style with tents, backpacks, hairy dudes and signs announcing the elevation. I think at first I wondered if it was some sort of occupy Roanoke. But when I realized it was for the runners and just smiled. Great sense of humor and good distraction before the last uphill! I wish my husband had seen it and taken a picture so I could show you.

mm14 8:26:56
mm15 8:31:28
mm16 9:02:82

I knew there was a crazy hill around mile 17.  Crazy as in you just ran 17 miles and you now have to go up 600 feet in 3 miles. Right around mile 17 some great spectators were handing out orange slices. The kids were great holding out trays for easy access. I happily grabbed one, oh the sweet juices! From then on I grabbed water at almost every aid station to refill my water bottle since I didn’t think I would see my husband until the finish.

Until then I had been running all the way except for two aid station so as not to choke to death. But as we started the uphill toward Peakwood I knew this would not last. Truth is I almost started walking on a first steep uphill but at the corner were a bunch of spectators cheering us with music and I felt I owed it to them to run a little more. After that I started a walk/run interval to give my legs a rest. Let’s just say I was not alone. Most of the runners around me just walked. No shame here, we were tired and this was one hell of an uphill. I found out later it wasn’t on the original course but was added because it wasn’t “hard enough”. Well challenge met organizers, that hill is tough especially after already completing that much. The trick is, there is actually two hills. The first one is reached just after mile 18, so you think you’re done as it goes downhill but then it goes right back up and even steeper to reach the true top at mile 19 were a turnaround and great aid station were at.

mm17 10:23:43
mm18 11:18:72
mm19 10:37:16

From then on it was mind over matter. A mix of downhill and flat to the finish. I still felt good though. I even joked with a spectator holding what looked like a bloody mary. I think I said something like “This looks good, will you have one for me at the finish line?”. A girl passed me fast around mile 21, in a tutu, I cheered her, impressed. She smiled and explained she was “only” doing the relay. I told her it doesn’t matter, running is running.

Mile 22 brought me right by our hotel and I finally got to see my husband who got a few pictures.I got to steal a kiss but left him his bottle. I had not trained with his (a Camelback when mine is  Nathan) and at this point refilling at the aid stations had worked great. It was awesome to see him though. To the right was our hotel and a tiny part of me was so tempted to just go there… But thankfully I still felt good and kept on going.

Once I passed the 22 Mile Marker sign I knew that I was now running longer than I ever had. What an amazing feeling! I only had a 10k left, I could do this. We quickly left the road and entered the Greenway again. Things started getting tough after that. I suddenly realized that except for one slice of orange I had not fueled since mile 15! Fool! I stopped right there and swallowed half of my chocolate Clif gel. The next 15 minutes were some of the hardest for me. I think I went pretty close to hitting the wall. In some way the now flat course was harder than the uphill. I had no excuse to walk but needed to. And let me tell you. After 22 miles, walking hurt. I could only walk for so long because it was frankly so painful. We were also now pretty exposed to the sun which made thing more difficult. The first half of the course had been in the 60’s and cloudy. A runner’s dream, but as I hit downtown the sun came out and I was no longer protected by the shade of the residential neighborhood’s trees. I invite you to look at the Mile Marker 24 picture of A Mama’s Goals recap. It summarized exactly how I felt at that point. Oh so close and yet so far to go. A few ladies passed me at this point and I couldn’t care less. I was happy to grab another orange slice at the MM24 aid station.

mm20: 10:05 06
mm21 10:34:63
mm23 (2 miles) 20:14:28 @10:07 pace
mm24: 10:25:53

This is when the quotes I researched became so useful. “You’ve gone too far to quit now I told myself”, and then like a mantra “Run with your heart, run with your heart, run with your heart”. But then we hit mile 25 and I was back. I’m sure it was a mix of adrenalin and the gel hitting my system. I wanted to finish strong so I picked up the pace. While I had been averaging a 10:25 pace in the last two miles, I ran my last mile at an 8:40 pace! The local police was awesome at stopping the traffic and I never had to slow down. Then volunteers announced that around the corner we could see the finish line. I was thrilled. I ran my little heart out. Ahead of me, some of the girls who had passed me had now slowed down, as if they wanted to finish together. So I went for it and passed them all except for that one lady who had passed me a little while ago and was going way too strong for me. But it didn’t matter I wasn’t there to win, I was running my own race.

mm25 10:24:97
mm26: 8:40
mm 26.2 ?? Didn’t stop the watch. When I did it read 4h12’56”

The last hundred feet were lined with spectators cheering us. I didn’t hear it but my husband said the announcer said my name perfectly (which pretty much never happens). I could hear the cheers, but mostly I could see the finish line. I was surprised to see I was going to make it under 4:15 with all the walking too. And I will tell you, I had tears in my eyes as I passed the banner. I was telling myself “I am a marathoner”. Tears of joy and pride. I had made it.

It looks like I chicked a guy right before the finish too… As it turned out the girl in front of me was a member of a relay team… Lovely girls in bright volunteer shirts and with a crown announcing their Miss status congratulated us as they place a finisher’s medal over our heads. It is a beautiful medal too. The word marathon actually shows the course of the race. I will likely treasure this one for years.The finish line was wonderfully organized. They had an area set up for runner’s only with plenty of food and fluids. I went for the orange slices again. Nothing else appealed to me. But I also saw: bagels, shrimps, biscuits, peanut butter, pretzels, chips, chocolate milk and more. I think some of the treats would be great after a half marathon, but after a full I just can’t handle solids. I grabbed wonderfully icy cold water (they kept all the drinks in kiddy pools full of ice cubes) and met my husband who didn’t mind a sweaty kiss. Again I felt proud.

I did take a few minutes to cool off by jogging/walking around the plaza. Someone turned to me and asked: “You’re still running?” Hey, it hurt less than walking to be honest, plus I needed the cool off. I then asked my husband for the Greek yogurt smoothie I had planned on. This was a good call. Easy to drink and a perfect ration of sugar and proteins for me. I will plan to do this again.

I took a few minutes to call my Dad in France to share the news, he said he was pretty sure he had seen me at the StarCam. Then I got to shake hands with the wonderful Pam who seemed as shocked as everyone else that I was running my first marathon. She asked where I was from  and I explained I live in Asheville, so I get to train on hills too. She was excited, it turns out she’s thinking about running the Dupont 50K this year. After that I waited in line for a massage. I was hurting at this point, feeling every bit of lactic acid in my muscles. I was also a little light-headed and thankful to be able to sit. A sweet therapist checked on me to make sure I was ok. I guess the muscle pain was showing but I knew I had not torn anything so I told her I was ok, just tired. It was actually the same therapist who massaged me. And OMG! It was bliss! It hurt at first but I could tell the pain was receding. I had waited longer to get the table massage vs. the chair massage and I’m so glad I did. Can you tell how good this felt from the picture below? I wish I could take those ladies with me at every race!We hung around a little bit after that. Cheered a few people who were finishing around the 5 hour mark. We checked out the Down by downtown music fun and I downed some Vitamin Water and we checked the results that were coming live on a screen. I looked for my name based on my finishing time and saw a 79 next to my name. Wait, what? I finished 79th overall? No way! I told Hubby we had to go to the Award Ceremony because at that point I thought I had a chance for to place in my age group. As you know, it turns out I got 1st place of the 25-29 female. I love the award too:They have a little story behind them. Roanoke is a railroad town, it made it through tough economic times thanks to the Norfolk Southern. It is still a big part of the town today. Well the awards are custom made, little piece of Dog Spike that were used to hold the railroad tracks together. As they were removed they all twisted a little. A local high school has turned this into their welding class project,  adding legs and arms and turning it into this awesome runner piece of art. I remember seeing a picture before the Marathon, thinking how could it would be to take one home. But never in my dreams did I think it would happen.

Things I loved about the Blue Ridge Marathon:

-The course. Challenging but beautiful

-The volunteers. Totally awesome, all 400 of them! Well organized too. I saw this kid volunteer at mile 9ish picking up all our trash in keeping it clean.

-The organization: top-notch. The race started on time. There were plenty of aid stations, food, water, recovery fluid and food, massage therapists, etc.

-The runners I met and the memories I made.

I don’t know if and when I will be back, but I smile every time I think about it. Of course that may have a little bit to do with the runner’s high.

Place Bib Age Name City/State M5.4 M9.8 M15.7 M22  ChipTime  CPace  GunTime  GPace
1. 342  28 Cecile  Asheville NC  48:39  1:33:22  2:26:22  3:31:01  4:13:54  9:41  4:14:07  9:42

Blue Ridge Marathon: My First 26.2 (Part 1)

I woke up early Saturday, unable to go back to sleep. I was far too excited at the thought of the race. Almond butter, banana and bagel made a 5am breakfast. At 6:40 we left the hotel and headed to the start line. We met runners in the elevators who were the first of many to give me a look when I said it would be my first marathon.

I was lucky to make it to the porta-potties before the rush, although they were numerous so I don’t the lines were bad at any point. A little before the start I briefly got to shake hands with Lauren, easily recognizable in her Tough Chick outfit. I then went close to the start line to see the double marathoners finishing their first loop. Yes, a handful of runners didn’t feel that 26.2 miles was enough so they timed a night run of the course to be back on time for the official start.

Bill Rodgers commented a little before the start, hinting that he may come back for a relay next year. My husband stuck around until the beginning of the race and snapped a few pictures for me. Right around 7:30 they blew the horn and off we went. There were many of us since the marathon, half-marathon and marathon relay all started at once. I knew I would have to watch my pace because some people around me were only going to run half the distance.

The first mile was fairly flat. We crossed downtown heading towards the Star which we could see up high on Mill Mountain. I averaged a 9:05 pace which was good. I didn’t want to start too fast. Then we hit the first uphill. A girl was holding a sign addressed to one of the runners, it said “It’s all uphill from here”. Err thanks lady! This is also where I first met Colleen. This salt and pepper hair lady had one of the most wonderful shirts I saw during the race:

Boston Marathon: 26.2 Miles of “Been there… done that”
Blue Ridge MarathonL 26.2 Miles of Serious Hills “Now that’s what I’m talking about”
Under that is an elevation course of the Blue Ridge vs. Boston.

She asked where I was from, I told her and shared that this was my first marathon. She did a double take at that point and asked why I had picked THIS one. I explained I won an entry… I would see her on and off later in the course but she started going faster than I was on that hill.

Miles 1-2 were a fairly gentle uphill heading towards Mill Mountain. We passed the first of many aid stations. At mile 3 the course split, the half marathoner went up to the Star while we continued and entered the Blue Ridge Parkway or really the Mill Mountain Parkway since it’s technically an offspring of the Parkway. What a difference in numbers! It turns out there was about 300 marathoner vs. 515 half-marathoner, not counting the relay teams. I took a sip of Gu Brew at the aid station, then joked to an other runners that this was the limit for “crazies only” since big orange cones marked the entrance of the marathon only course.

mm1 9:05:56
mm2 9:30:12
mm4 18:56:63 @9:28

I loved the next 3 miles. It was a mix of gentle downhill and uphill in the quiet of the parkway. There were a few spectators, but it was mostly the beauty of the mountains. At one point I spotted a photographer and realized he was there for a reason. I turned to my left and was caught off guard by the beauty of the view. Below was the valley still caught in the morning fog. I couldn’t help but smile.

At mile 5.4 I was surprised to see a crowd and a clock. I thought well, that’s nice to get an idea of where we’re at. But then I saw a bunch of runners with bib numbers. Why were they waiting? Had they already gotten back down from Roanoke Mountain? Were they waiting for us to get downhill? I was confused. It took me a few minutes to realize it was in fact the first relay station.My official time there was 48:39.

Shortly after that we took a sharp turn up Roanoke Mountain Rd. This is where things started getting serious. This is also were a lot of people around me started walking. I was feeling fine so I ran all the way. It wasn’t so bad to be honest as steep incline were followed by more leveled one. We had a nice view at a first overlook and another uphill before reaching the top of Roanoke Mountain a little after mile 7 were tons of volunteers cheered us. This was the last time I sipped Gu Brew. I just decided it was too much trouble after spilling some on myself and just stuck to the gels instead. This fun lady, whom I would meet later, stopped at the top for a great picture. The view was pretty amazing.

mm5 8:47:87
mm6 10:37:94
mm7 10:28:06

I knew the uphill would be steep, I didn’t expect it to be that steep however. I took a conservative approach knowing we weren’t even half way through the course. My goal wasn’t to kill myself but finish. Several people went flying down around me, I just ran around an 8:00 pace and was ok with it. There is one thing I learned however, downhill isn’t just hard on the legs. It’s also tough on the GI tract. Before the end of the downhill I knew I needed a porta potty. Thankfully every single station on the course had some, pretty decent ones too since they were all equipped with hand sanitizer. I couldn’t help but chuckle while in there as I heard a volunteer say “Those porta-potties are really popular”. Obviously I wasn’t the only one who felt the downhill. I probably “lost” between 2-3 minute on my pit stop but frankly I wouldn’t have done it any different. I would have lost a lot more time had I pushed through.

mm8 8:38:38
mm9 8:10:46
mm10 8:30:07

We back back toward Mill Mountain. Hitting the relay station again which gave me 1:33:22 at 9.8mi. This section was again a delight. Quiet, closed to traffic; I found it relaxing to be honest. I was at peace. A little after Mile 12 we left the Parkway to head up to the Star. The second hill of the day. This is where I met Pam after hearing her speak with awesome shirt Colleen. Turns out Pam ran Boston Monday and since that wasn’t enough did the Blue Ridge Marathon a few days later. I was impressed. As I passed her I told her: “You are an inspiration” and I meant it. She smiled and said I was. Ok, so an inspiration, sweet and humble on top of it. I love meeting and talking with runners on the course. Colleen passed us as well and I did not see her again until the end.

A little later we hit the Mill Mountain Star. The one I could see from our hotel room. It was our half way point.

mm11 9:14:23
mm12 9:59:61
mm13 9:41:19

to be continued…

Pre-Race Day for the Blue Ridge Marathon

As the days and hours started their count down before the marathon, I started doubting myself. Could I really do this? Not only run my first marathon to the finish line, but run a tough hilly course?
I needed reassurance. So on the road trip I brought along my running book: Asheville Trail Running: Taking Bent Creek and the Mountains to Sea In Stride. I flipped through the pages on our way to Roanoke and I found my strength in it. I could do this. I had done some tough training runs already. I could do this.

I had been set on my outfit: my black Lululemon speedskirt, my fairly new grey Lululemon Race Tank, Saucony Guides 3, trail running socks and all. But then on Wednesday I received an email from my local Lululemon store  and found out they had a special edition of the same tank out. You see I had had to order the grey one online because they didn’t carry it in the store. Online the only one in my size was grey. I wasn’t too excited but I wanted a tank top in case the day was to be warm. When the email came out I said to my husband “I wish they had had it two weeks ago”. His answer was “Well get it then”. We were Thursday and I had to go to work. I told him if he wanted to get it for me that was fine. He didn’t. But then we talked about it again the next day. I didn’t think I would get it because the store opened at 11am and I was hoping to leave before that. Well we left late and it turned out the store had it in my size… I was probably the quickest purchase I’ve ever done. But hey, I figured it would be more visible for my family on the StarCam. No regrets there. I can already tell you the tank worked out great.

Unfortunately on my last two training runs (the 13 miles and 9 miles one, not the 22 miles) I started having chaffing issues with my bra. I hesitated a while on that one. But ultimately decided to take the risk to chafe in a new spot with the same bra but new rather than chafe where the old tag had been.

I had been nervous on the way to Roanoke, but our drive through a small section of the Blue Ridge Parkway put me at ease. The beauty of it soothed my fears and gave me energy. I am so glad we drove that way on the way up, it was beautiful and not too much of a detour for us.Mabry Mill, Blue Ridge Parkway

We got a little lost getting into Roanoke. The signs were not all that clear to be honest. So we turned up downtown instead of the hotel and decided to go ahead and get me all set up for the race.

Packet Pick up was at the Taubman museum. With some roads already closed for the marathon it was a little tricky to find our way around. But in the end we found a great spot by the Visitor Center and only had to go across the railroad walkway to get to the packet pick up.

Now there wasn’t much of a pre-race expo there. Mind you the race is still young, this was only it’s third year. I’m assuming they don’t have that many people aware of the race yet, because I would think it’s a great opportunity to promote your products. This is a great unique race and it attracts some tough runners!

The pre-race pick up took place in the museum lobby. To the left was the bib pick up itself. No wait there at 5pm. Then they had the shirts. And here is going to be my one and only disappointment with the race. The shirt was 100% cotton in men sizes.
Mind you my entry to the race was free due to wining it on Lil’s Runner’s blogs. However… with an entry fee of $80-100 I would expect at very least a tech shirt and hopefully women sizes. When are race organizers going to realize how many women runners are out there and that a lot of serious runners are not that big? Their shirt is going to turn into a garnering shirt or sleeping shirt at best. It’s a shame really because I would have been proud to wear a shirt of my first marathon. Proud to wear it on the run.  I also think that a shirt of the race is a great way to trigger conversations on group runs and therefore advertise the race. Heck I’d be willing to have a $5 extra option to get a tech shirt rather than a cotton shirt.

Other than the race tables itself they had a table selling Gu, Honey Stingers and Body Glide. Good in case you forgot something at home. They did have volunteers handing out some great race-bags stating “Conquer the Blur Ridge” which I loved and some awesome stickers with a skyline of Roanoke and the mountains and either BRM26.2 or 13.1 depending on which one you were running. That one is going to go on my car for sure!

They also had a table from the National College handing out calculator and pens, an area with their main sponsor Foot Levelers by which Bill Rogers was signing books and a table with Roanoke information with a downtown restaurants/shops discount card and course map. So we didn’t stay long but got enough information to be ready for the race.

We then checked in our hotel: the Cambria Suites, recommended by local runner Lauren from Sweat Junkie. I loved the place. While it was a little outside of downtown, it was right by mile 15 and 22 so a great spot for my  husband. The room layout was also perfect with a separation between the bed and living room area which allowed me to go to bed earlier while my husband watched TV.

Sal's BrushettaDinner wise we went to Sa’ls. An Italian restaurant a bit out of the way, located in a strip mall. It was recommended on Tripadvisor.com and I knew I wanted pasta before such a big race. The brushetta was amazing, very fresh and flavorful. My Pasta alla vodka tasted yummy,  Hubby enjoyed his Stuffed Shells and the Garlic Knots were perfect.

I went to bed full and ready to tackle my first marathon the next day.

A Sweet Steel Surprise

I finished my first marathon. Not only my first marathon but America’s Toughest Road Marathon. I am proud. Proud of reaching for the stars. Proud of training hard, listening to my body, listening to my legs and finishing strong.

I met my goal. I finished in 4:13:54 chip time. They had this great screen showing the results of the race as they came in. I was totally shocked to see that I finished 79th. Not sure how that happened. Yes it’s a small race, but still! So we figured we would go to the award ceremony just in case.

The overall winners did a great time. I was proud that I ran and talked with the Masters 3rd female. What an inspiration. She ran Boston Monday and then ran the Blue Ridge Marathon. A rock star in my heart.

Then came my age group. I thought I might have a chance at 3rd place, but it was a different name. The 2nd was a different city too, so I turned to Hubby with eyes that knew I didn’t get in. They weren’t announcing the times which I regretted a little bit. I wanted to know how close I had been.

But then the announcer said 1st of the 25 to 20 group from Asheville, NC…. And I was like OH SHIT! I turned to my husband for a millisecond. Him and I understood right away. There can’t have been that many Ashevillians here right? And then I heard my name. I was flabbergasted. Shocked beyond reason. Here I am, running my first marathon on a course that is advertised as the toughest road marathon and I finish first of my age group?!

The trophy is totally awesome and I also got to shake hands with running legend Bill Rogers.

Full report to come.

Visualizing the Course

When I training for the Half Marathon, I was on my own turf. So it was easy, one of my training run was on the course. However with a 4+ hours drive to Roanoke it was not an option for the Marathon.

Well it turns out the organizers have solved the problem by posting a wonderful video. I am very glad I did not see it prior to signing up for it. It looks both better and worse than I thought. So if you want to know how crazy I am check it out: