Saturday, April 21, 2012

2012 Blue Ridge Half Marathon: Pt 2: The Event

     I split this race entry into two parts because my Foreword, available HERE, got a bit lengthy.
 2012 Blue Ridge Half Marathon
The Event: Pt2
     I like to wake up every day and do an hour or so of something to promote my own good health. Sometimes its run and sometimes its cycling or swimming or lifting weights or even a stretching routine. Rest and recovery time doesn't come particularly easy for me, but I've seen the benefits of allowing adequate recovery time prior to a race and/or a challenging weight lifting set and I knew it was going to have to play into my buildup for the Blue Ridge Half Marathon if I wanted a strong finish.

     So with just about a half hour of moderate swimming on Thursday and just one more half hour of very low intensity stretching on Friday I prepared myself for this mornings half marathon. This is about twice as much rest as I've done prior to any of the trail races I've done this year and possibly even 2.5 to 3 times more rest than the most recent trail race, the Mill Mountain Mayhem 10k, last Saturday.

     I usually follow a general fitness routine to just stay in good general health, but for 1 or 2 Half or Full Marathons each year, the ones I call my "A" races,  I like to follow a specialized training plan of my own creation. For spring 2012 The Blue Ridge Half Marathon was my "A" race. My goal was simply to beat my time from last year...1h 37m 22s. The training plan I laid out, on THIS post, was a gamble for me because I had never specifically trained using "brick" workouts in lieu of longer "long" runs.

     Approaching the start line I felt good. I knew I had a potentially strong pace in me, but in my last race I felt good too and eventually succumbed to complacency. That's ok for a warm up race, but for an "A" race things need to click. It's probably a good thing my last race worked out like it did. A fresh reminder that PR's can't be taken for granted undoubtedly provided me some extra and much needed motivation today.

     The Blue Ridge Half Marathon course is easy to split up into 3 sections. Start to Star, Star to Greenway, and Greenway to Finish. So I will address each section separately.

     Start to Star: Shortly after the announcements the start horn blasts. I'm on the front line and not tangled up in any congestion at all. Seems like there were 4 in front of me for most of the first mile, but the Full marathoners and us Half marathoners were still mixed together, so the best I could do was estimate my position. I wasn't surprised that I was being systematically passed all the way to the star because I knew that I was starting out at unsustainable speeds. By the time we Half marathoners cut right and head to the star on Prospect Rd I believe I had counted 17 in front of me. I had no idea how many had gone straight and how many had cut right, but I knew I was knocking the torturous uphill miles out at a sub 9 pace which is exactly what I had trained for.

     Shortly after cutting right and heading to the Star I got passed by whom I assumed was the lead female and that turned out to be where my race stayed for almost the remainder of the course, with the one I assumed was the lead female. I hit the star feeling intense burn in my calves, but I knew relief was coming. I was familiar with fast descents following murderous inclines and I wanted to log a sub 6 on my Garmin. It was time for the chase!

     Star to Greenway: Taking advantage of the descending elevation I wrapped up enough speed to pace the remainder of the mile that started at the bottom of Prospect Rd and had drifted into the low 10's all the way back in to the mid 8's then it was time to find a stand alone sub 6. It would have been easy to just try to hold my spot at this point, but I really wanted a sub 6, so I caught up to and re-passed the female who had passed me. I got back to the Sylvan Rd water stop and saw Randy B., who said I was in 7th or 8th. Yeah! Exactly the best I could have hoped for! AND I looked at my Garmin and saw a 5:59...Perfect!

     The passing had about all but stopped at this point. I could still see 2 male runners ahead, but I didn't want to risk burning out just to catch them and the "lead" female was never more than just a few steps back. I wanted the spot and every time I thought I was hearing the foot steps get closer I tried to pull away. I wasn't having much luck widening the gap so I figured it would come down to burning each other out or pulling each other forward.

     My energy level was staying consistent throughout this neighborhood section of the course, which consisted of miles 5-9, but my tempo training had only been to 10 miles and my 12 mile long runs had been in bricks, so I wasn't sure how well my energy level would be able to continue to serve me.

     Greenway to Finish: The flat greenway miles went by fairly fast and uneventfully except for the sun was starting to shine brightly and beat down in a less than comfortable way. Exiting Vic Thomas Park at mile 11 there is a slight incline for about 1/8th mile and I could see one of the runners in front starting to pull away from the other one. He was still making a healthy go of it, but I knew the course had a lot of downhill in its remaining 2-ish miles, so I held my steady pace to the top of the incline and decided to gamble a surge to the finish. I overtook the slowing runner, was finally able to pull away from the one behind me and blasted all the way to the finish at a sub 7 pace.

     My first glimpse of the clock showed a 1h 35m and change, so I knew I had my PR, but I gave it all I had to finish strong and I ended up with a 1h 35m 29s.

     I caught my breath, spoke with Richmond Runner and fellow dailymiler, Jay H., got a bite to eat, enjoyed a short massage, looked at the results to discover that I was 8th overall, 7th place male, and 2nd place Master. Turns out I had been keeping pace mostly with the 2nd place female. The first place female finished at a sub 7 pace! Amazing!

   While waiting for the awards ceremony, I went back to my car, grabbed my headphones, and walked the course backwards until I found my wife just past mile marker 10 and I walked with her and another walker she had met to the finish.

Kneesee taking it to the finish!

Me getting the 2nd Place Masters award from Hall of Famer Bill Rogers

Me and Kneesee.

    Final Results: 2012- time 1:35:29 (chip) 1:35:29 (gun), Pace 7:17/M, Place 8/515 overall, 2nd place Master, 7/231 among men. GARMIN data: HERE


  1. I can't believe our paths didn't cross at some point. Congrats on a great race. Top 10 - AMAZING!

  2. Thanks! I'm sure to remember it as a highlight. Must have just missed you when I went back to find my wife. We'll see you at the next one though..., maybe at that "muddy trail" you mentioned a few posts back, eh?