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.

 

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…

15th Bilmore Kiwanis 15k Classic

This is the race that introduced me to and motivated me to run. Albeit the first time I ran it, I did the 5k. Last year, due to the recently added Antler Hill Village, the race took place on the trails of the NC Arboretum. While the trails were fun, it hurt the Kiwanis association since very few people ran the race last year. I think what makes it such a big race is that it takes place on the ground of Biltmore Estate. While visitors and Twelve Month Passholders can hike the Biltmore Estate trails, the roads are off limits which makes this race pretty unique. No one can practice on the course.

Now this is not the race for crowds of spectators. Race entry provides the runners with a ticket to the grounds but not the Biltmore House. Spectators need to purchase tickets as well. As a result there are only volunteers on the course. Runners gather at the end to cheer each other. But what the course lacks in spectators it makes up in beauty. 8000 acres of unspoiled and well managed land, pasture, and forest along with a 250 rooms historic mansion are part of the course.Fellow runners Eve and Bart made a great video that shows most of the course (exception made of the loop behind the parking lot since the runners take it in reverse from the parking lot shuttles).

This year the race was sold out. 567 people finished the 15k and and 232 for the 5k. My husband’s sister and brother in law were supposed to run the race, but unfortunately due to a last minute trip to Canada they had to cancel. But my husband did join me to be my official photographer…

The race start was in Antler Hill Village. Because it is an area people tour there was no port-a-potties but real bathrooms instead and the lines weren’t bad. The 15k started about 5 minutes before the 5k. Chips were embedded in the bib which made things easy. The first mile was easy and flat following the river. However because there is no pace group it was crowded. It took me a good thirty seconds to pass the start line and I felt like a mouse trying to get out of a labyrinth by dodging many, many runners to find my pace.

We turned left going towards the Deerpark which also meant a light uphill. I came across a girl from my running group which was fun. I also passed my former HR director so I slowed down a little to chat with her and then went up my way. The hills didn’t bother me much. I have to say that after a 7600 ft of elevation change marathon I see hills with a different perspective.

Past the Deerpark it was downhill again toward the Welcome Center (mile 3). Then we took a right up the approach road. 3 miles of meandering beautiful road. We went by many rhododendrons in bloom. I have seen that road many times by car but to be on foot was a real treat. This is also where I passed most of my fellow runners (thank you hill training). I did started to have a side stitch on my right side but I managed to keep it under control. We went by the additional parking lot and a back road that I’ve seen used by shuttles. There was a little surprise uphill there but I knew the reward was close: the Biltmore House.  Oh what a treat it was to run by the Lady on the Hill, seeing the Blue Ridge Mountains in the back!

After the Biltmore House we ran around the Walled Garden (mile 6), barely getting a glimpse at the summer flowers then it was down to the Bass Pond. At that point the side stitch started bothering me more. I really had to work on my breathing to keep myself from walking. I’ve learned that embracing the pain works better for me. I just try to accept it and somehow it seems easier to deal with.

We were back on flat grounds after the Bass Pond. We still had to make our way to the Lagoon (where the 5k turnaround was) and speed to the finish. Until then my left leg had been fine. I could feel the shadow of my injury but it was not bothering me. But in that last mile and a half the pain suddenly flared. I went through several spasms going through my knee where I honestly thought it would buckle under me. I could have stopped but I decided to just grit my teeth through it and make it to the finish line. My stupid competitive self wanted to finish under 1:20 pain or no pain. I did have to slow down however and was passed by a few girls.

On the last 1/2 mile I came across my husband who was sitting under a tree and enjoying the view of the runners. He managed to get a picture of me sprinting to the finish.

The finish line is at the top of a small uphill. I could hear some of my colleagues cheering me. I finished right behind another runner that I almost caught up with. I had a moment of shock looking at the clock when I saw that it said 1:10 but I quickly realized that was the 5k clock and that I had finished in just over 1:15. No wonder my knee was hurting, I definitely pushed that one!

As soon as I started not feeling so good. I thought I might throw up, so I sat down for a few seconds and that was enough to make me feel better. However, if my stomach settled, my knee did not. It hurt to walk. I limped back to the finish line to cheer fellow runners and then signed up for a post-race massage which only helped mildly.

We then proceeded to check the results. Turns out that I finished in 1:14:58 chip time. I was beyond thrilled. This was my secret goal, the goal I would have had if I had not been injured. My husband then asked me if I had placed. I wasn’t sure as I knew a lot of ladies were ahead of me. But I went back and looked through the list and thought that I could be and if so might be 3rd of my age group. The bad news to that was that we were hungry and now had to wait for the results. And yes I was 3rd of my age group.

The award is pretty cool, a piece of clay with the Biltmore House on it. I’m a little worried about breaking it but I think it will look great on the Christmas tree. Although I might change the ribbon color to something more cheerful. It is in any case a huge improvement from last year’s award which could have been from any events. It definitely made a difference for them to have a sold out race.

2012 Award

As soon as I grabbed my reward we headed to the hotel above Antler Hill Village: The Inn on Biltmore Estate. Our plan was to eat breakfast there so we had left the car at the top of the hill. Had I anticipated the state of my leg I would have parked at the bottom. I literally limped my way up. I freshened up and changed into the race shirt. It isn’t a tech shirt but is at least in a woman’s size and turned out to be a very light and comfy cotton shirt. The only thing is that the red color wasn’t the most flattering with my post-race complexion but thankfully I don’t race everyday. We then got sited outside on the Dining Room patio.

On the Dining Room Patio at the Inn on Biltmore Estate

Both Hubby and I ordered the Oscar Crab Egg Benedict. It was amazing. Think poached eggs on top of crab cakes, served with fingerlings potatoes, asparagus and roasted tomatoes. The perfect post race meal. The temperature was perfect outside and the view amazing.

Oscar Crab Egg Benedict

Once home I started stretching and icing my leg. Three days of no running and stretching later it feels a lot better. I’m definitely hoping to run this race again.

Oh and remember my big news about Asheville getting a marathon? Well turns out we are getting two! There was a flyer at the race pick up announcing a Marathon on Biltmore Estate (website to go live June 1st) coming up March 3rd 2013!!! Now the question is how much are they going to charge for those because I can’t see myself being able to afford two marathons in the same year.

Marathon Excitement in Asheville

Downtown Asheville From the Grove Park Inn

I’ve been asked by my family what my next marathon would be. I guess my enthusiasm was palpable. To be honest with you I have a list of races I’d like to do at some point or another: the Grandfather Mountain Marathon, the Dupont 50k, the Dupont Half Marathon, le Marathon de Paris and a triple trail series in our area.

I also should say that I had an interesting conversation with a runner during the Blue Ridge Marathon. That runner in question was going to run the Dupont 50k this year. As we discussed she mentioned she was surprised Asheville didn’t have a marathon. Sure there are several nearby like the Grandfather or the Black Mountain Marathon. But none for the town itself.

But then, yesterday came. A big, runner grin worthy announcement: Asheville is getting a Marathon!

It will be an extension of the current Asheville Citizen Times Half Marathon that takes place in September. First race schedule for 2013. The 5k will now be on Friday as a family event and the Half and Full would be on Saturday. I’m thrilled. Not only are we getting a marathon but it will go by North Asheville (like the Half) as well as our corner of the woods aka West Asheville and along the beautiful French Broad River. Registration opens September 15th and I just can’t wait to sign up. I also look forward to see what the course will be.

Read the Full Article

 

A Case of Post Marathon Blues?

I’m totally doing some self diagnosis here. But I think I’m getting a case of post-marathon blues. I told this to my husband and he laughed, he said “it’s B.S”. (trust a guy who works with kids to use a “proper” version of a swear word). Hey I don’t think it is. Why else would there be 11400 results on google?

So yes, I’ve been feeling a little down the last few days. Not as motivated. I’m sure the lack of running is not helping. Nor is the (almost) unexplained knee pain that had me decided to take a few days off running. But I can’t blame it all on allergies or car problems now, can I?

I think that going from the rigid marathon training for four months, followed by the runner’s high, followed by well, almost nothing, is mentally hard. Where do I go from there? While I would love to sign up for another marathon, I know it’s not in the books for this year. Bad timing for us. And let’s be honest with myself. While I would love to cross another 26.2 finish line, I’m not sure I want to put myself through the rigorous training so soon. I’d like to enjoy running for running. I want to feel the joy of the trails. I want to run more often and spend time running with my husband. Running for a marathon is a big time commitment. You think, breathe, eat marathon.

I’m hoping my knee feels better by next week. I’m ready to train for a fun 15k. I’m ready to shrug off the marathon blues and just feel the joy of the run.

How do you deal with post race blues?

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.

The Marathon Bump

It seems to be a tradition, every time I run a long distance for the first time I get a bumper sticker for the car. Or well, two really.

See the first time I ran a Half Marathon. I purchased a sticker at the expo, planning to put it on after the race. It turns out that my sister-in-law was also gifting me one, a magnet one. Well my car doesn’t seem to have as much metal as we thought, so the magnet is on the fridge and the sticker on the car.

As I mentioned, they were handing out stickers at the Packet Pick Up of the Blue Ridge Marathon. So I knew I had my 26.2 sticker. Well… I really have three. My husband handed me a little gift after the race, while I was recovering: a black and white 26.2 sticker. He wasn’t sure which one I would like best so he got them both. Needless to say that my car is now all decked up and showing my runner’s pride. Of course now it kinds of look like I ran two… I may need to work on that.

Do you have running bumper stickers on your car?

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.