Asheville Runway 5K Race Report

I wasn’t able to run the inaugural race last year because I was being treated for an ectopic pregnancy the day before and forbidden to run the race by my Dr. Thankfully given the circumstances, and although the race was normally non refundable, the organizers offered me a 50% credit for this year.

While I had originally signed up for the race in 2011 to see how fast I could run a 5k. I knew it wouldn’t be the case this year! The course is a perfectly flat loop starting from the hangars, going down the taxiway, up the runway and back down the taxiway to the hangars. I don’t think it’s possible to find a flatter course in Asheville.

My goal was to run it for fun. Well ok, as I told a colleague that I met at the start I would be thrilled to finish under 30minutes being that I was 20 weeks pregnant. But if I didn’t, I knew I would be perfectly ok with it.

The race was well organized with plenty of special event parking (free) and shuttles to take you to the start. Although most runners chose to walk to warm up in the “balmy” 50 degree! I had switched to long sleeves at the last minute because it was just too cold for me.  Thankfully the start area was well protected from the wind and I was able to warm up a little.
I had gotten there with plenty of wiggle room because I still needed to pick up my race packet. As it turned out, that only took a minute or so. So I just walked around to keep warm, went to the port-potties a few times, signed up for a chance to win free airfare and checked-out the aviation day tables that would open up later.

The sun rose and things warmed up a good bit. It wasn’t supposed to be very warm that day, but it turned out that the sun broke through the clouds right around race time and that I could have down a T-shirt after all. We lined up for the race and waited… the start was delayed about 15mns due to a plane landing. And then we were off. At first everyone seemed together but quickly the line started to stretch. I was still far from the first turn when I saw the first runners on the other side. The benefit and drawback of a flat open course is that you know exactly how far you are for the top runners. It was really cool however to see all the runners and walkers stretched out around the runway. I found my pace and stuck to it. I was passed in the beginning but started passing people half-way through. Baby was doing good, not jumping on my bladder or sitting in a weird uncomfortable position.

I took the second turn and headed back towards the hangars. I surprised myself by finishing just under 27 minutes. Yeah for flat courses, I had not been this fast in a month. The finish table had whole oranges, apples, bananas and water which I helped myself to. Overall it’s a well organized race when you see how many people participated. And let’s be honest, how often do you get to run on a runway right? I hope to do it again when I’m not pregnant and see if I can get a PR.

I finished 21st/105 of my age group (25-34) and 215/708 runners.

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13th Asheville Citizen-Times Half-Marathon

A Little Someone made an appearance on the picture 🙂

So race day came. I was ready. Mentally at least. I had not had to wake up that early in a long time. So I made myself get up at 5am to have breakfast then went back to bed for another 45 minutes. We did cut it a little close to the race and did not have time to use the port-potties prior to the start. This of course meant that I already had to pee by the time the gun went off. Oh well. At least the weather was perfect, foggy and cool in the mid 50’s.

I was planning on starting along with the 2:15 pacers but somehow found myself a little ahead of it while my Sister-in-Law went for the under 2 hour pacers. I didn’t have a true time goal in mind. I was thinking that I would finish somewhere between 2:15 and 2:30 but had no real expectations. I warmed-up and hugged my husband and off we were in the blasting music. I missed the silent communion of the running feet from last years start. It wasn’t as peaceful to my ears.

I knew I was likely going a little fast in the beginning, but I felt fine, and I knew I would have to take a potty break soon anyway. Well the first mile and port-potty came but there was a line. Same for the second one, right at the beginning of a heavy climb. I knew that hill, I walked it. This was no time for PR and uphill has been a lot harder on me since I got pregnant. I finally stopped at the 3 mile port-potty and stopped my watch during that time.

I went off again and within a mile I wanted to pee again. Seriously?! I held it until mile 5 and took another break. Thankfully things got better after that. On the steep hill before the Country Club Golf Course, I caught up with and passed the 2:10 pacers. I had been ahead of them before my first break and it was very comforting yet surprising to see that I could still catch up. As we went along the golf course (around mile 6) I felt the need to walk and questioned myself. Did I wanted to walk because I felt pregnancy tired or because my legs were not agreeing with the hill. I found that it was my legs so I kept on running. I ate a Cliff block around mile 6.

Around mile 7, a runner called my name. I finally got to meet Laura with whom we’ve exchange a few words over the last year or so on daily mile. It was nice to see her in person. I passed her then, but she caught up later.
Right before Beaverdam Lake someone else called me. My eyes caught sight of a fellow Diamond Brand running buddy. I screamed back that I was pregnant and she jumped up and down screamed “Run for Two! Run for Two!” That was a great confidence booster and I definitely had a big smile on my face after that.

I had to take one last pee break around mile 9. Then it was all about running. I felt that I could do then next 4 miles without a bathroom break and was happy about it. I met Laura again right before “The Hill” (as my SIL would later refer to it). Lookout road is a little over a mile of uphill, yet I don’t dread that section because it’s a smooth, “gentle” uphill full of nice curves. I did walk at one point however.

While last year we went down trough the university, this year they had us take an other route. One that few runners like: a “you feel you’re going to tumble down” steep downhill. Seriously it was steeper than anything I remember from the Blue Ridge Marathon. Thank God I’m used to run on trails and knew how to handle it. But I was fearful of a fall non the less. This was followed by a much longer run along Broadway. The most boring part of the race in my opinion. Slightly uphill and on a large road. Meeh! I saw a girl walking on the side, not looking too good and a policeman caught up with her to check on her well being. I took a walk break once more but still caught up with one of my co-workers.

Downtown Asheville came in sight. We went under the bridge and I smiled big time when I saw a sign saying “You were born to run Baby”. How appropriate! There was still one last hill to tackle though, my least favorite because after almost 13 miles my legs were ready to chill: Walnut St. A steep uphill followed by about two blocks to run to the finish line. I ran it last year, I walked half of it this year with no shame. I picked up running again and ran all the way to the end. Unlike last year I didn’t accelerate much at the end. I didn’t care if I was passing people. Instead I put my hand on y belly and dedicated my run to my Little One. To beating the odds. To getting pregnant after an ectopic pregnancy. I thought about the same run last year, I had been pregnant but didn’t know yet that it wasn’t a safe pregnancy. This year was a victory for me in many ways. I was still shocked when I saw that the clock read under 2:10. Really? With all my breaks I had still managed to make it that fast?

Thank you for a good race baby!

Well as my husband said, I had three times this year: the gun time of 2:09:38, the chip time of 2:08:30 and the watch time (dubbed Port-Potty time by Hubby) of 2:03:02. I finished 736/1366 overall and 60/131 in my age group. Not so bad for a pregnant girl.

Now I did have to take two short nap that afternoon, but weirdly enough I was actually less sore this year than I was last year. I’m not sure if it’s due to the easier pace, that I’m in better shape or both. In any case, my SIL said we’re going to have to put a 13.1 sticker on the jogging stroller we’re planning to get. After all this was baby’s first race 🙂

Asheville Chamber Challenge 2012

Photo Credit Olivia Marone

I’ve done this race annually since I started running. It’s put together by the Chamber of Commerce with the goal to promote physical health within businesses. While some people sign up as individuals, this is mostly a group race. Teams sign up and while there is a Female and Male winner overall, the rest of the awards are given to teams only. But this is not about who runs the fastest (well only a little bit). This is about everyone, from the fast racers from the local running stores (I’m pretty sure they went home with all the top prizes) to the  stroller running mom and dads. This is about having fun and gathering at the end of the work day.

It’s both a blessing (early work release) and a curse (it’s hot!) to have the race starting at 4:30pm. The course starts at the parking  lot of the Chamber of Commerce, goes down one hill and then the uphill starts into the Montreat Historic District. There are a few downhills, but the last mile of the race is all uphill on Montford Avenue. It’s always a tough finish.

Thankfully this year we were greeted with rainy and cloudy weather. Temperatures in the high 60’s made this race perfect for once. The sun broke through the clouds right at the end, but not early enough to make it too hot.

I started somewhere towards the front. I new I was starting fast, but I still tried my best to find my pace once we passed the first downhill. I was still shocked to hear a volunteer reading 7 minutes as I passed the first mile marker. With the few seconds it took me to step on the start line I knew this was fast for me. At that point I decided that what the heck, if I’m going crazy, I might as well go for it. Now mind you, that first mile was the one with the most downhill, so I did not go any faster than that. Actually I slowed down after it.

Past that first mile I could tell that a lot of runners around me had started way too fast as I started to pass them. We hit the halfway point before I even knew it, then headed on a slight downhill towards Montford Avenue. Suddenly it was mile 2 already. Wait how did that happen? Oh yes, I know I’m used to do longer runs now 🙂

Montford Avenue… I love hills, but this one is tough, and long. This is not a course to break records! As we started on Montford Avenue I found myself with a group of runners going about the same speed as I was. There was this guy in particular, wearing a grey shirt whom I would pass and who would pass me again. It was annoying me a little. I could hear his breathing, I could tell that he was struggling, so why did he insist on passing me every time? He couldn’t stand being passed by a girl? At least I managed to leave him behind in the section of the hill and I raced to the finish. I knew I would not pass anymore girls in front of me.

As I saw the clock, I knew I would not beat my last 5k time. However… I have doubts that my last 5k was really 5k and it wasn’t chipped. Which makes this my new Official 5K PR and on a rolling hill course as it is. Not to mention it’s a big course PR for me by close to 2 minutes. The Half and Marathon training have paid of.

I waited for my colleagues at the end. We all gathered up and cheered. Then I took a few minutes to go get some (free) beer from the local Highland Brewery. If you ask me it’s one of the best perks of this race… Other co-workers came in, including a new dad with his daughter in the stroller, the mom came a few minutes later. Good moments.

One of the best parts as I waited for my co-workers was when grey shirt guy came a few seconds after me and came to shake me hand to say thank you. It’s always so special to me when you know you helped someone push beyond what they think they could do. He told me he tried to keep up with me (I should have told him my husband learned better, HA!). I said you’re welcome and told him the thought had crossed my mind that he didn’t want to be passed by a girl in a skirt. He said that was part of it, but mostly he just tried to keep up. I feel very happy I was able to pace him.

We all hanged out a little longer to see how we did. You see, girl teams from our company have had a habit of placing in the first three for the last three years. They started the award as we got closer and suddenly we hear a name. Only two of us from the team were still there and we’re like, wait is that us? We didn’t know which name we had been registered under. And yes it was. We placed 2nd female group overall. Not bad at all. We finished just a minute ahead with out total time of the 3rd group but a good 20 minutes behind the first group (all from a running store). Not bad right?

Chip Time: 22:53, 7:24 pace
85th Overall
15th of the Female Overall
2nd of the Female Team

Photo Credit: Olivia Marone

Big thumbs up to the organizers this year: they had the water in the cooler (unlike last year). Nice cold water and bananas were awesome. I also grabbed some healthy goodies such as a 15 day free YMCA membership and two free pilates class. What a great way to inspire local businesses to be healthy. One of those years I want to do it in a costume.

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?

 

 

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…

12th Dupont State Forest 12k

Last year this race was my first trail race. The conditions were afterward deemed as hypothermia inducing. It rained and with temperature in the low 40’s I was shivering within minutes of finishing the race. But that didn’t stop me from wanting to race it again.

Truth is I really wanted to run the Dupont State Forest Half Marathon this year, but it’s the same day as the Marathon. So not an option unfortunately. I also signed up for the 12k because my husband was supposed to run it with me. But he backed out because he didn’t have enough time to train. I’m so glad I did. I had a blast.

No I didn't just wake up.

This spring has been unseasonably warm, so while there were risks of rain, I knew that at least I wouldn’t freeze. We got to Guion Farm with dark clouds above us and a light rain which turned into a downpour just before the race. I waited in the car until it eased off to go pick up my race bib and shirt.  I warmed up and hid in the bushes to pee (no patience to wait at the porta potties) But as the minutes went by the dark clouds moved and more and more blue sky came. Right before the start of the race all the runners clapped as the sun made it through. We didn’t see an other drop of rain for the rest of the race! Yeah!

Race starts as the last clouds go away

235 runners were here this year. That’s more than last year. We tried to listen to the speech but I frankly couldn’t hear a thing. The race finally started in the brilliant sun and puddles. Oh yes because puddles there were. At least I learned something from last year: fear no muddy water! Last year I remember being careful in the beginning, avoiding the water. However by the end it was running anyway and I did not care where my feet landed. So I took that approach right from the beginning. Probably a good thing because less than a mile into the race, still in the middle of the pack and with no visibility my foot landed in a giant one. I also felt some good splashes coming from my fellow runners. This would not be a clean race and I was okay with that.

I settled into my pace and slowly started passing some people. Uphills are really becoming my strength and that’s when I passed the most. One strong female passed me though, I never saw her again. I made small goals throughout the race to reach some runners ahead. The double-track were easy, the single-track required a little more energy but were also fun.

In the last mile.

I left my bottle in the car so I was glad to swallow a little water at the one water station. It wasn’t much because I have never practiced drinking while running but it was good enough. Over the last few miles a guy used me as his pacer. I could hear him breathe right behind me. As we hit the downhill, I turned back and joked that I was starting to feel like I was being followed. He answered that he was trying to keep up. Yeah right, he passed me right after that and finished a few minutes ahead of me! Who was keeping up with who?

The last person I passed was a FiveFinger dude who had run really strong until there. However I don’t think he expected the last hill. Last year that hill kicked my butt. I was not going to let that happen this year and just went for it. The guy told me to go get my medal. I laughed, thinking there were plenty of girls ahead of me and told him that I didn’t know if I would get one but it didn’t matter because I was running my own race.

Coming upon the finish

I came up to the finish line. I was a little disappointed to see it was just passed the hour mark. Somehow I had decided it would be great to finish under an hour. Not sure why I picked that, I wasn’t even really trying for it as hard as I could. But whatever I still finished in 1:00:58. That’s an 8:10 pace over 7.4 miles on trail. So my disappointment didn’t last long, I still beat last year’s time by almost 10 minutes! Can’t say I didn’t progress in a year 🙂

What's with the legs? And the dude in front of my time but well that's ok.

I am kind of surprised looking at the picture. I usually don’t lift my feet that much of the ground. Or at least I thought so. I may need to watch my form on the trails a little more. Unless it had to do with lifting my feet from the mud…

Mud? What mud?

It turns out that I had double reasons to be happy. All the girls in front of me, mostly Jus’Running girls actually, well they were not my age. Because I managed to get 1st place of my age group. No medals, but even better, I got a pair of running socks. I also love this year’s shirt although it’s as usual WAY too big for me. Women sizes wouldn’t hurt… In any case I quickly changed after the race and waited for the awards.

Yes I'm a goof.

 The first guy finished 44:05!!! The first female in 53:55.

My stats:

55/235 runners
9th/111 female

Gear: Saucony Xodus 2.0, Lululemon skirt, Brooks shirt.

PS: Can you spot me in a picture from a fellow local runner? Hint: it was after I changed clothes.

I May or May Not Be Running a Marathon

Ah the runner’s high! Finishing a Half-Marathon in great shape and realizing the body can do it. Days later, the thought starts to creep up. Could I? Can I? Will I? Could I face the symbol of long distance running? The Almighty Marathon?

When that thought came to my mind I first thought I was nuts. Come on people I took up running barely two years ago. But I’m a runner, we know how that works. As days and weeks went by it grew. As I heard other people talking about theirs, I wanted to join. So I started thinking: Ok, I could run a Marathon before I’m thirty or on my thirtieth year. Sounds fair, it gives me a little bit of time. Then I started looking at Marathons around the world. Flat or course was my #1 criteria. Why would I want to run 26.2 miles uphill after all right. Who in their right mind would do that?
I started thinking it would be cool to run it in France, back in my home country; make a whole trip out of it. Toulouse, meeh the course was all right. Paris then? That looks fun and I know many people who can welcome me there.

So can you tell me why I entered for a chance to win an entry to the Blue Ridge Marathon? I can’t have been in my right mind. The high of the holidays maybe? When Lil’Runner ran a giveaway for a chance to enter a marathon I had a talk with my husband about the pros and cons.

It would mean that I couldn’t run the Dupont State Forest Half Marathon that I really want to run.
But it would be free, and a marathon. My first Marathon. In the same mountain range I live in.
It’s freaking uphill!
But it’s not as far as Paris and does not require a plane ticket.
I love mountains.
I’m obviously a masochist.

He told me to enter and figure it out later. It was when I was in France that I receive the email that I had won. Can I admit it, my first though was shit! I’m the only idiot and masochist who entered for it. Seriously? What’s wrong with me.

Today we’re a 100 days away from the marathon and I signed up. But here’s the catch: I’m not committed.
Seriously. I’m not.
I’m training for it all right, I’m signed up for it all right, but I’m still not sure I’m going to run it.

There are many reasons why I’m not committed. One of them is the hills. I love trail running in Bent Creek. But running 26.2 miles with 3,620 feet of total elevation gain is daunting. I know that if I set my mind to it I can probably do it. The other reasons are more personal and kind of health related. So I here it is I’m training for my first Marathon, but not sure how many people I’ll tell yet (ok besides the whole wide world, but I don’t have to talk to you face to face thank you very much). If for any reason I feel that it is too much, I give myself until April 1st to switch to the Half-Marathon.

And now we need to find a place to stay at.

2011 Running Review

My goals when I started 2011 where based on a 101 in 1001 list.

I wanted to run a 10k and a 15k. I did not run the 10k, instead I ran a trail 12k race, I did run a 15k and to top it off I ran my first Half Marathon.

I wanted to run more on trails and I did. So I can say that I went beyond my goals.

I ran a 774  miles in 2011. I went from running twice a week to thrice a week.

January

I got the flu and really picked up running right after that. Technically I ran when I still had the flu and I feel that it helped me recover faster.

February

I discover Shin Splints and the 10% rule when it comes to increasing mileage. I scale back and up it slowly.

March

I run 6 miles for the first time ever. I remember being so proud of myself. It’s funny now to think that a 6 mile run is a normal thing. I also run over an hour for the first time and run my first trail run: the Dupont State Forest 12k. The rain made for some not so fun condition (aka risks of hypothermia). But I loved the race and hope to do it again. This year my husband also wants to do it. I also start running with the Diamond Brand running group.

April

I decide to start a running specif blog instead of having it take over my expat/immigrant/life blog. I learn about speedwork and scare hikers on the trail.

May

I hurt my knee by starting too fast. I had to scale back on the running, it was hard. I realized that I hate not running. I also make the decision to sign up for a Half Marathon in September and start training as soon as my knee improves. I run my first 15k and love every minute of it. Given how much trail running has taken over, I splurge on some new trail running shoes and fall in love with the Saucony Xodus 2.0. At the end of the month I take a 3 day running break to go hike on the highest summits of our state instead with my husband.

June

I run the Asheville Chamber Challenge for the 2nd time and pull a PR in a hot day. I also have a really hard run in 91 degree whether and while I tell myself I won’t run in such temperatures again, truth is my body got used to it over the summer. I run Hickory Top in Bent Creek for the first time, I was proud to reach the top, to this day it’s my favorite loop in Bent Creek with 9.3 mi.

July

I train for the Half Marathon, reach 13 miles and realize I will have no problem finishing. A friend gets dehydrated on a run.

August

I make compromises when it comes to running and spending time with family. In return my SIL introduces me to Lululemon and I get my first running skirt. I decided to do a Detox week-end, cutting off most carbs, soy and sugar. To top off the month we get to run in Alaska and on a Cruise ship.

September

I get to run my first Half Marathon and pull a sub 2hour time. The rest of the month is followed by health issues unrelated to running and blogging becomes more difficult.

October.

Due to the health issues I am not allowed to run for two weeks. It seems like an eternity at a time when running would have been my escape. As a result I DNS a 5k I really wanted to do at the airport.  I ease back into running once cleared and run a virtual race to make up for it. It was a really had month for me mentally.

November

I run in the ice for the first time of the season. I skip the traditional Turkey Trot but go enjoy a nice relaxing trail run in Bent Creek instead. My goal was mainly to get my legs back but also train for a 5k to see how I improved.

December

I run the Jingle Bells 5k and get a new PR, jingling all the way which may or may not have cost me the 1st female place. Mid month my husband and I fly to Europe to spend Christmas with my family. We escape to Barcelona, Spain where we get two beautiful runs. I run in beautiful Toulouse, France; in my grand-parents town and on the trails at my Dad’s. While I cut back on the mileage to enjoy my family I feel very happy about finishing the year in such beautiful places. I end with one last run on the 31st, to get over the long flight back home.

Did you achieved your goals this year?

2011 Jingle Bells 5K in Pictures

I wanted to share a few pictures taking by our local newspaper for the Jingle Bell 5k. First of all my favorite team. The won the Best Team Spirit Award for Santa and his raindeer.  I just love the tutus, I look at this picture and I just want to hug the reindeer, seriously, how much cuter can you be?

I think next year I want to wear a tutu!

Santa and his Raindeers

Photo: Margaret Hester

I hear a lot about the Team Sparkle and sparkly skirts. What  better way to use them than dress up as Santa’s Little Helper with bright red colors and a happy smile.

Santa's Little Helper

Photo: Margaret Hester

Now back to business, this is a picture from the beginning of the race. The girl in green to the left won First Female Overall. I stayed fairly close to her the whole time, but she had more in her than I did. The dude in blue also finished in the top. Obviously I’d rather fly than run 🙂

Start of the Jingle Bell 5k 2011

Photo Margaret Hetcher

And the great finale: me acting like a goof. I was actually trying to wave at the photographer and smile. Instead I look more surprised that someone was taking a picture. I go from being way too focus on the finish to well looking like that. Oh and it also happens to be the picture that my HR team picked to put on their door to congratulate me for my result on the race. Which means every single person I work with has seen it. Brilliant! I’m not sure whether to be proud or totally embarrassed.
At least I’m wearing a costume, I think it helps with the goofy look. But I need serious lessons on how to look and act in front of a camera during a race.

Running like and Elf

Photo: Margaret Hetcher

Any lessons to share? Are you usually happy with your racing pictures or do you feel like me that you always goof off?