Thursday, April 27, 2017

2017 Blue Ridge Half Marathon

2017 Blue Ridge Half Marathon

Not a strong run by historical standards, but a solid display of fitness.

 GARMIN Stats : HERE

Prep/Training

It's no secret that the Blue Ridge Half has a sentimental connection to my decision to run recreation-ally, year round, for as long as I am able. I wrote about it intensely in my 2012 race report. I enjoy the annual continuity of life's passage and documenting the notable changes. I didn't document the 2016 race with anything but the enthusiasm of a slug. I ended up walking 10 miles to finish that one and personally the experience struck me as something I'd just assume forget.

2017, in a semi-stark contrast, has invoked more of a cerebral consequence. Enough to prompt a paragraph or so to relay a moments consideration for future years. 

1) I decided to shake the 6th congressional representatives hand. Goodlatte has announced for the event every year since its inception. I have ran the event every year since its inception. It was not the time to discuss politics. Many people may have reasons to want to shake a politicians hand and I wasn't going to hold a line up. A simple "Just wanted to shake your hand. My Dad says he went to school with you." I proceeded away, but Bob asked me about which distance I was running. I told him "the half." and then carried myself along...


2) The pre race preparation was very familiar. It was like 2013 in a lot of ways. 2013 saw me doing most of the Mountain Junkie events as hikes with my daughter, Faith. Other than that, 2013 had me doing a March FULL MARATHON, training at less than full intensity for a half, and somewhat lacking in enthusiasm for running in general..., but going through the paces all the same...

A weekly 8 and 12 miler with the occasional 4.20 miler, running every 2nd or 3rd day until about 2 weeks out when I started running every other day. Then, a full 2 days of rest before the event. Did I time it out for a peak performance? It felt right...thats all I'm sayin'.

Race Morning

Nutrition consisted of oatmeal and coffee followed by an energy drink shortly prior to race start. The temperature was comfortable and the threat of rain was in the forefront of my mind. Not that rain ruins a race, but it can make the finish festival a bit less cozy.  Approaching the start line was a bit different this year, some familiar faces were absent. 

The mission was clear. Keep the railroad spike medals in the Roanoke region. Out of towners need to understand that this race is going to favor the hometown. Training on the actual course is the only way to be psychologically prepared for what is about to happen.


To the Star

The bulk of the first mile is just for fun. A slight uphill, an easy downhill and a turn to ascend the mountain. The leaders are out of sight by the time I make it to the top of the first hill at about 1/4 mile in. I'm fondly remembering being able to keep the top 10 in my sights until at least the end of the first mile. Its ok.
I can't explain my expression here. Startled that anyone would take my picture I guess


My uphill has been weak for years. I'm getting passed steadily all the way up the mountain. Most of the ones doing the passing seem solidly in the "Under 40" crowd, so I'm not stressing much. Every now and then I see a potential podium spot rival as evidenced by a splash of white hair, but many are in the red or blue race bibs, so no stress their either. A few super elites looking almost 60 blaze past me from time to time too  and its difficult to determine everyone's race distance. I'm just there to run my own race, so no stressing on that either.

No idea what place I'm in by the time I reach the Star. I would have guessed top 50 based on averages. The Half and 10k are still running the same route at this point whereas the Full had split off to continue up Roanoke Mountain, so any guess of my position would be largely for amusement purposes only. My legs were ready to change gears and start the decent to the valley floor.

The Great "U"

Down Mill Mountain, kiss the greenway, and plod along to the top of Peakwood.

I was happy with my decent. I steadily re-passed a good handful of people who had passed me on the way up. I never felt like I was at my top end, but I could tell my downhill effort was unsustainable and immature for a seasoned runner. I didn't care. Odds of me logging a single sub 6 mile are at their greatest point of the year for mile 5 of this race. Recent training stats did not suggest any significant probability of me achieving such a statistic, but I wasn't about to let probability dampen my intention. I gave it everything I could find and even though it felt strong, I could tell it was missing that little something extra necessary for a sub 6. I refrained from looking at Garmin until I felt the signature vibration indicating the end of a completed mile...6:18...no tears, I'll get another one eventually...

The price paid for even attempting a sub 6 quickly materialized upon reaching the Roanoke River. My body was ready for a good mile or so at a 9-ish recovery pace. I fought like hell not to accommodate my lack of training and push past it, but the further along I ran the more I realized I was missing my goal of beating last years 3rd place finishers time of 1:49+. By the time the ascent up Peakwood  was upon me I was disheartened and contemplating a walk/run strategy.

I just wasn't getting passed much though and what few people had been passing me I found myself frequently passing back. I decided I wasn't so weak as to warrant a walk/run, so I fell into a short stride pattern and continued to chug away at the mountain before me. Sometimes ahead and sometimes behind, but solidly in a pack of about 5 or so.

Final 5k to the Finish

Coming down off Peakwood I started gauging up for the final 5k. I was seeing a 1:55 or 2 in my head and feeling like I was going to have to fight even to see that. I wasn't seeing the podium at all, I just didn't want to embarrass myself with a slower time than the 2:03 I picked up at the 2013 Lynchburg Half Marathon.

Finishing mile 11 with 1:35 already on the clock and keeping the math simple at a 10 min mile (disregarding the final 1/10th) estimated me across the finish line with a 1:55. With last years 3rd place 45-49 finisher logging a 1:49 and change,  I wasn't even prepared to find a spike.

Apparently I was selling myself short. I locked in a mid 7 pace for the final 2 miles and had my spirits buoyed by familiar faces during the last half mile compelling me to find a solid sprint for the dash to the finish. Not really having looked at Garmin since mile 12, I was only vaguely aware that I was going to wrap up in under 1:55 with maybe a 1:53. When the finish clock came into view with a fresh 1:50 I was elated. I looked at Garmin for some confirmation and found it. It was going to be close, but I poured everything I had into the final straight a way and came away with 1:50:59 on the clock and 1:50:55 chipped!

Still, finishing about a minute or so slower than last years 3rd place AG finisher had me not quite ready to expect a spike getting thrown my way. Unknown circumstances must have conspired to contribute to slower times across the board for the AG this year. Somehow a 1:51 was enough to bring home a 2nd place award with 1st having been several minutes ahead and 3rd several minutes behind. A 1:51 would not have placed in the 50-54 AG, so I'm not entitled to bragging rights, but I am glad to have earned another spike.
Thrilled to have earned another spike for my efforts. Sheer luck or devotion to purpose, either way. Long way to go to get another Masters spot.