I’m joining in on Debbie’s Wednesday Word link up this week, in conjunction with my Blue Ridge race recap. This weeks word is rewarding.
I think running races is very rewarding and it also drives my running. There’s nothing like crossing the finish line after a hard fought day out on the course. It is definitely rewarding and it makes me feel happy and accomplished. Really tough races, like the Blue Ridge Half Marathon, are even more rewarding to finish than other races.
We were up early Saturday morning to make the hour drive up to Roanoke. We were able to park in the same lot at Barry’s parents and meet up with them upon arrival. There was a construction porta potty in the parking lot and we took advantage of the short line. The lines at the race porta potties by the start line were really long this year, which we observed as we made our way up to the start line.
Barry and I lined up and got ready for the start of the race. The race ended up starting about 5 minutes late, because they were having issues getting the chip timing system ready. It was already starting to heat up, and it was really muggy with 98% humidity.
Just after 7:40 AM they fired the starting gun and we were off! As always, it was exciting to cross the start line and begin another 13.1 mile journey – my fourth with Blue Ridge. My legs felt a bit heavy and sluggish as we started out, but I told myself it would be find and they would loosen up. And they did.
Just before hitting mile 1, we began our climb up Mill Mountain. This year I decided to use a 0.1 mile run/walk strategy and it worked great for me. I felt good the whole way up Mill Mountain and I really enjoyed the climb and being out there.
I feel like I conserved energy on the way up. This wouldn’t be necessary if they hadn’t added a second mountain to the course last year, but they did, so I adjusted accordingly.
Before I knew it we made it to the top, a little over 3 mile into the race. It’s a great view from the Mill Mountain star, looking down on the valley below. Those tall buildings are where we started the race.
From there we began the two mile descent back into the valley. There’s a house we pass on the way down that has a little cow statue and they are always handing out “moo-mosas.” This year (can’t remember if they’ve had these before) they had Chik-fil-a themed signs advertising their moo-mosas, which I thought were really fun!
The final half mile or so down the mountain becomes very steep. The road looks really neat because it serpentines with tight switchbacks. This part is tough to run, and you have to try and relax and let gravity carry you down and stay right above your feet. I did find this year that my ribcage got really sore on both major descents. I think it’s because I’m still having my ribs worked on to get them right. The good news is I didn’t have any breathing issues during the race!
A little before mile 6 I made it off of the mountain and ran back by the bridge we ran over at the start of the race. My dad, sister, and Barry’s parents were waiting there to cheer me on. It gave me a boost to see them!
After Mill Mountain, we headed for the Greenway and ran along the river for a little bit. My quads were feeling pretty trashed from the two mile descent down Mill Mountain, but I kept plugging away. I did take a few short walk breaks, but walking didn’t really feel any better than running. There were a few rolling hills through mile 6, but nothing serious compared to what was coming.
Around mile 7.5 we began the climb up Peakwood. This was the second climb of the day and I think it is the tougher climb. Mill Mountain is a bigger climb, elevation-wise, but Peakwood packs in more elevation gain in a shorter distance. So I think the grade is steeper. Plus you already have 8 miles on your legs at this point, and one previous mountain.
I had hoped to do the run/walk thing again on the way up Peakwood, but I ended up power hiking a lot of it because it is just so steep. It’s a residential area and I can only imagine what it must be like to grow up on this road. Imagine trying to learn to ride your bike on this thing!
While I was climbing up Peakwood, the leader of the full marathon went by. He was at mile 17 or 18 at that point, and was climbing his third mountain of the day, and he was crushing it. He ended up breaking the course record by about 3 minutes.
I had some issues with my right calf cramping on the way up Peakwood. It was pretty hot at this point and my calf had become sore earlier in the week. We had a bit of a reprieve from the climbing (see elevation chart above) before making the final push to the top. Once again, there was a big party with champagne and all.
From there it was another descent down another mountain. This descent is about a mile long and honestly I kind of felt like this part was worse than the climb up. My quads had little waves going through them and I kept waiting for them to completely cramp up. I just hoped I wouldn’t fall on my face on the steep downhill grade if it happened. Luckily, I didn’t have to find out what would happen.
Back on the valley floor we faced another tough climb just before mile 11. It wouldn’t be such a tough climb, and I remember running up this hill when there was just one mountain in the race in 2013. But now there are two and this little hill feels like a third one at that point.
After that last big hill, it’s mostly flat and downhill for the final two miles. Except for the last two bridges you have to run back over as you make your way into downtown Roanoke. The bridges felt tough and I felt so tired at this point, but I kept plugging along. Around mile 12.5 Barry met up with me to run me in. He always comes back to collect me.
There was one final little hill into downtown and then it was downhill to the finish. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but my goal at this point was to finish sub-3. I squeaked in at 2:59:44 chip time. My little sister captured this picture of me making my way to the finish.
Once I finished my right calf and both quads cramped and uncramped in waves. It was never full-on Charlie horse type cramps, at least. Eventually my muscles chilled out a bit and I met back up with Barry, my dad and sister, and Barry’s parents.
Barry gave me the rundown from his race. He had a great day and ran a strong race, finishing in 1:51:52. He placed in the top 50 overall and 7th in his age group. My dad and sister (not sure who had the camera) got a great shot of him coming off of Mill Mountain, and my sister got another great one of him finishing.
I grabbed some food and we hung out for a bit in the finish are and enjoyed the live music going on in the park. We got to meet up with several friends and hear how their day went, which was fun. It was really hot outside and very sunny, though, and eventually we decided it was time to head home.
Blue Ridge is a really tough race, and it is definitely the toughest road race I have ever run. Which makes sense, since it is “America’s Toughest Road Half Marathon” (along with America’s Toughest Road Marathon). This was my fourth year in a row running Blue Ridge and what keeps me coming back year after year is the scenic course, great organization, and the mix of local and world class talent. Not to mention the challenge presented by Blue Ridge. It’s a really neat event to be part of. Added bonus: the local news station does live coverage of the race each year. This year I was on live TV, as Barry ran alongside me towards the finish, for a full 10 seconds. Just us all alone 🙂 How neat!
It was a hot one this year, and that definitely made things tougher. But I know there will be plenty of Blue Ridge races in my future. Hopefully I’ll keep the streak alive next year!
Have you ever been on live TV?
Who else raced this past weekend? How did it go!?