Tuesday, April 23, 2013

2013 Blue Ridge Marathon

I am still riding such a high after the Blue Ridge Marathon this past weekend! I could not have asked for a better day or a better race. It may not have been my fastest marathon ever, but it was definitely my best marathon to date. Months and months of training, planning and preparation came down to one day, and this time around, things finally fell into place!

My strategy for this race going in was to “run it like an Ultra”. By that I meant, run conservatively, walk if I needed to, take fluids at every aid station and try to get in calories every chance I could. If I could keep gas in the tank and energy in the legs, I knew I could run a good race.

Mile by mile, the race slowly chipped away. Short, quick, soft steps carried me to the tops of Roanoke Mountain and Mill Mountain. “One foot in front of the other” was my mantra for this race. I was passed by the masses as I lightly tip-toed down the descents, but easily overtook most of them once again back on level surface. As learned in years past, keeping the legs strong meant not throwing the race away on the downhill sections. It’s tempting to let gravity take over and fly down those mountains, but that hard pounding on your legs is what finally catches up with you in the last few miles.

13.1 miles ticked by just past the Roanoke Star and we took another long descent back into the valley. At this point, the “hardest” parts of the race are now behind you, but with still 11 miles to go in the city, better hope you still have something left! My legs were feeling great, so I plowed along to Peakwood. Here it was, at mile 17.5…the last climb. Time to see what you’re made of! I asked for a little more climbing power, and amazingly, my heart and legs gave it to me. Peakwood…up, over, DONE!! I was ecstatic heading into the last 10k of the race, still feeling strong.

This was when I started looking at my watch and calculating a finish time. If I could keep the same pace, I would easily break 5 hours. My time in 2012 was a 5:40, so a sub-5 hr would be incredible! At mile 23, I caught up with a girl who I’d been playing leap-frog with the entire race. We exchanged a few words of encouragement and she mentioned that we might actually break 4:45. I looked down at my watch, 4:12 with 3.2mi to go…(at the end of a marathon, mind you) it might be close. I texted Hugh and told him I’d be finishing in about 30 minutes.

A few minutes and several more glances at my Garmin later, I did a little physical assessment and number crunching. I was feeling absolutely amazing for having just run 23+ miles. My feet were a little sore, but otherwise I felt fine physically. “The wall” was nowhere in sight. I had been hydrating and fueling the entire race, and must have been doing something right. Mentally, I was raring to go, so I took off. Granted, “took off” meant dropping from a 10-min pace to a high 8-something pace. Not rocket speed in any sense, but I felt like I was flying! And even after all those miles behind me, my little legs just kept gettin’ it! I darted past one guy at mile 24 who yelled “you’ve been holding back!” My response, “I learned my lesson last year!”

It’s hard to describe that feeling I had as made the last few turns towards the finish. I was within half a mile of finishing the “Toughest Road Marathon” and still running strong. My training and race strategy had been spot on. I was about to conquer a race that had foiled me two years in a row. The finish line came into view and I found another gear. 4:39:24 was my official chip time! Unbelieveable!

Hugh was upset that he missed me finish. My ETA text of 30 minutes had actually only been 22 minutes. I caught up with him at the music tent and saw the tail end of Greg Bates’ show ( THIS is Greg Bates!). We spent the afternoon hanging out at the Down by Downtown Festival before having to hit the road and say goodbye to Roanoke.

The whole race weekend had been fantastic! I doubt Hugh had as great a time as I did, but he’s always a trooper for tagging along to my races! Next stop: Eastern Divide 50k Ultramarathon in June!!!!

Hugh and I with Greg Bates!

Another marathon on the books!

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