Sunday, April 19, 2015

2015 Blue Ridge Half Marathon

Blue Ridge Half Marathon

History: Legacy Runner (Participant every year since race inception)
Former courses: First 6 miles were the same, last 7.1 had minor variances each year.
2010- time 1:49:27 (chip) 1:49:37 (gun), Pace 8:22/M, Place 58/450 overall, 10/30 in my age group, 51/216 among men
2011-time 1:37:19 (chip) 1:37:22 (gun), Pace 7:26/M, Place 10/368 overall, 1/36 in my age group, 9/176 among men
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 (PR)
2013-time 1:41:53 (chip) 1:41:55 (gun), Pace 7:47/M, Place 48/798 overall, 3/42 in my age group, 41/357 among men
 Finalized course: Added significant elevation change with the addition of Peakwood.

2014-time: 1:44:51 (chip) 1:44:52 (gun), Pace 8:00/M, Place 25/752 overall, 3/51 in my age group, 
22/330 among men

  2015-time: 1:45:29 (chip) 1:45:29 (gun), Pace 8:03/M, Place 23/840 overall, 1/54 in my age group, 19/355 among men

Once again, I entered the winter months hesitant to engage in a full 4 running days per week training schedule. Instead I opted to give my body extra rest and recovery between runs and trained almost identically to what I did last year with 2 runs per week. An 8 miler on Tuesday and a 12 miler or a race on Friday or Saturday.
Beginning 5 weeks out from race week, I used the same route for my 8 miler each week. HERE is a link to the Garmin data from one of the runs, but it is essentially a run along the Roanoke River Greenway with a trip to the Star thrown in. I was pushing to break 1h2m for this route, but couldn't quite pull it off.
8 miler times
 My Saturday 12 milers, when I wasn't doing a race, going back to January, were focused on the same route I created last year training for the Blue Ridge Half. The Parkway 12 Miler: Special Edition runs along the Blue Ridge Parkway from mile post 105 to mile post 101, back to mile post 103, back to mile post 101, then back to finish at mile post 105. (Technically I start and finish at the overpass just north of 105).  HERE is a link to the Garmin Data from one such run of the course. This route will not prepare a runner for the grueling climb up Peakwood, but it will come close.
12 miler times
 The Event

As is always the case, I only compete with myself. This was the first year that the Blue Ridge Half was using the same course as it had used the prior year, so I had last years Garmin data to scrutinize over. As I looked at last years Garmin data it jumper out at me that my first mile was in the 7's. I hadn't been training much in the 6's except during steep descents, but I had no reason to doubt I could go sub 7 for at least one rolling mile at the start. As I finished the first mile with a 6:46 I was grinning cause I knew it was time in the bank right from the start.
About 3/4 mile in.
Garmin stats: This year-vs-Last year
The ascent to the Roanoke Star was similarly confidence inducing with a low 8 and a low 9. I didn't specifically recall what my times were from those miles last year, but I knew they within seconds and that I wasn't in to my time bank.

Reaching the Roanoke Star about 1/3rd into the 4th mile with a pace in the 10's meant it was time for the strong transition. Chasing the pace down to the 7's was crucial for keeping time in the bank and for setting me up for the most important mile coming up. Seeing the 7:33, I didn't recall how it compared to last year, but I wasn't sweating it.

Mile 5. I love this mile. It brings out the best in me and captures the essence of my love for running. Last year this was my only stand alone sub 6 mile I had for the entire year. I needed it to be equally strong for this year, but when my training never suggested any potential for a sub 6 I figured I'd have to call up some banked time to stay on pace. I don't like withdrawing from the bank. I summoned everything I had looking for a sub 6, too much at stake to check Garmin for affirmation, I simply poured my being into the art of propulsion. Moved beyond pain, I could feel flight barely out of element of rage as I rebelled against the limitations of the human body. My wrist was finally vibrating with notification from Garmin that the 5th mile was complete. I looked down...5:56...

Snap out of it. Let it sink in later. 
Feeling strong after descending Mill Mtn and heading over to wards Peakwood!

Continuing a strong descent and then some leveling off for mile 6, I was confident that hitting a sub 7 was keeping me on my pace target. Miles 7 and 8, slightly ascending at the approach of Peakwood felt good and competitive in the mid to high 8's. A killer was coming up and I knew I'd be tested.

Peakwood kicked my ass again this year. Worse than last year actually. Last year I was just all "Peakwood, Shmeakwood. Its just another hill." This year I had some respect, but I didn't pay homage by actually training on the course itself. I arrogantly thought  I could take it for granted that I was in better shape and that a faster time would result. I was wrong. I lost all my banked time with a slower climb than what I thought I had trained for.

I wasn't fully aware of the math, but I emerged from Peakwood with about 3 miles to go and a quick glance at Garmin made it obvious I was barely breaking even. I could still feel enough competitiveness to fight to break even and I stayed relatively strong for about 1 more mile, then I started getting some calf cramps. I pushed through it for a minute or so and got my legs back under me, but I was now running more guardedly than competitively.

As I dug in to mile 11, I had another minor cramp and then the sun started to beat itself in to the atmosphere. I was just miserable all of a sudden and then the course slammed me up another short, but sweet 1/4 mile climb. I didn't even know who I was at this point, but I seemed to be chasing after some people as if it were important, so I kept at it.

Towards the end of mile 12 I was body slammed with a ferocious cramp/spasm in my calf that immediately broke my stride and had me debating a walk break. I had no idea what my overall place was, but looking at Garmin I knew I was still holding on to go neck in neck with last year. The biggest difference being that last year I was weak at this point in the race and this year I was weak, miserable, and pushing through random spasms and cramps. It wasn't pretty, but I lumbered through the last mile to the finish as if I had a shot. I didn't look at Garmin at all because I knew the confirmation of the suspicion would be de-motivational.

I had nothing for a sprint to the finish this year. Instead I saw the timer at the finish line, confirmed that I was slower than the year before and just held a steady effort. It was a memorable race and run with good and bad elements mixed in, but I finished feeling deprived.

Not one to dwell on the negative, I was equally excited that even though I had missed my time goal, I had still finished relatively well. The race with myself was lost, but the race with others is what awards are based on. Feebly making my way with the help of my lovely wife, Denise, to the rather good selection of post race food, then over to the results monitor to get an idea of where I had placed, I quickly noticed I had finished in the top 25! 

Too weak to stand there and monitor the screen to factor out the 3 overall winners and the masters, I opted to take my food over to the excellent post race venue of the Elmwood Amphitheater. The seating sections still had lots of shade at this point and some good local musicians were performing on stage while I ate. After I took a few minutes to eat and collect myself I finally had the energy to pour over the results screen and do the math. 

I was astonished! Somehow I managed to win my age group for 40-44 yr olds! I guess last year the race was just packed with speedsters and they had decided on other races this year. Finish times are all about the individual, but finish place are all about who shows up. I showed up and went the distance...I happened to get the award for 1st in my age group...I'll take it! 

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