Friday, April 27, 2012

Blue Ridge Half Marathon Recap

Races are always learning experiences for me. I learn a new lesson every time I race. Whether it’s something positive to remember to do for the future, or something to change for next time, races always teach me something.

In my first half marathon (Star City, November 2010), I learned that I shouldn't try to fuel by only drinking water at the water stops (no GU, no nuun - nothing = horrible). In my second half marathon (Blue Ridge, April 2011), I learned that I can run a great race in pouring rain with major elevation changes. In my third half (Martinsville, March 2012), I learned that I can run (and PR) without my Garmin when I just “run by feel”. In my most recent fourth half marathon, I learned that I need to always, always, always respect the mountain.

I went into Blue Ridge slightly undertrained for the course. In comparison to last year, I am faster on flat ground, but I haven’t done as much hill training as I did last year.  I’ve run up and down Mill Mountain several times this year, but I didn’t include it in every single long run like I did last year. This is in part due to the fact that pounding up and down hills isn’t very well-received by my overly sensitive back. So when I have run up and down Mill Mountain recently, I’ve taken it very slowly. So I honestly did not know what to expect this year.

Due to the difficulty of the course, your time at Blue Ridge is not one that you compare to your time on other courses, but one that you compare year to year. So naturally my goal this year was to beat last year’s time of 2:14:49 (you can read last year's recap HERE).

The night before the race I had everything ready to go. I was nervous so this helped me to at least feel somewhat prepared.

Thankfully I slept fairly well but I still woke up feeling a little tired. Andrew and I got ready and we were on our way by 6:30ish. Andrew was one of the half marathon course sweeps, which meant that he got to ride his bike behind the last person walking in the half marathon and make sure that everything was okay. I was glad that he could participate and help out with this race. He felt bad for not being able to watch me but I was happy to lend him out as a volunteer since a race wouldn’t be possible without volunteers! And I think he had fun helping out, too.

Soon after we got there I managed to run into some fellow Team Tough Chik members, Tonia, Erika, and Rene'! We had planned to try to meet but I wasn’t really sure if I would be able to find them since I’ve never met any of them in real life. I was glad that I was wearing my Team Tough Chik top so that they could find me!

I checked my bag and headed for the porta-potty line.  On the way I also very briefly met Cécile, who was running her first full marathon at Blue Ridge (she ran a great race and got first in her AG, in case you're wondering). I wish I would have gotten a chance to talk to her more but I was on a serious mission to the porta-potty line!

Thankfully the lines weren't bad at all.  I only cycled through twice because they wanted everybody lined up by 7:15 (even though the race didn’t start until 7:30). My stomach felt a little upset but I figured it was just nerves.

After some opening remarks, were were finally off and running. The first mile felt a little crowded and I sort of stayed with the other Tough Chiks. I felt a little fast for the first mile but I knew the mountain would slow me down so I didn’t worry too much about it. After a mile we hit Mill Mountain and then we all sort of ran our own race at our own pace after that. I ran/walked up the mountain...not only to save energy for later, but I don't think I could run the whole way up if I tried.

Mile 1 - 9:29
Mile 2 - 10:12
Mile 3 - 12:20
Mile 4 - 12:23

On the way up I saw Kemper (he is a fellow runner and he was also our wedding photographer) and he snapped a few shots of me…I actually look like I am enjoying this torture!

I think this is my best race photo ever.  Thanks Kemper! 
Still no competition with the Ridiculously Photogenic Runner, though.

I feel like I might have drank a little too much nuun on the way up because my bottle was only 1/3 full when I got to the top. I had them pour in two cups of water and I dropped in another nuun tab (another lesson learned: bring two extra nuun tabs instead of just one). I also grabbed an orange slice and then ate my first GU since I was just over 40 minutes.

And then I started flying downhill.

Mile 5 - 8:47
Mile 6 - 8:39

I NEVER run this fast down Mill Mountain. This was where I got a big head and didn’t respect the mountain. I knew I was going too fast (but didn’t know how fast because I didn't look at my watch) but I just said whatever, I’m racing! and kept going. I tried to keep my feet under my body but I simply went way too fast.

Another shot from Kemper of me coming down the mountain

My legs and body were about done at the bottom. And I still had 7 miles to go. That was stupid, I thought. My stomach wasn't very happy either after all of that bouncing on the way down the mountain.

There is about a mile of flat ground before you hit the Broadway/Avenham hill. As I had planned, I ran to this hill and walked up a lot of it. Then we turned downhill into South Roanoke and I ran past my old elementary school. 26th Street does have a very slight incline to it…since I just felt tired I did slow to a walk a few times. I ran down Stanley Ave, where I saw what I think was my favorite sign of the race.  It read "Make Mill Mountain your B****!" definitely made me laugh. I turned left onto 24th Street and then ran down Jefferson until I hit the bridge. Then I walked up and over the bridge while I ate another GU. I even completely stopped to bend over and stretch once because I just felt so tired. Once I crested the top of the bridge, I ran down the other side and onto Reserve Avenue. I wanted to walk so badly at this point but I just kept trudging a long. I think I walked a little when I got to Franklin road, but then I made myself run some more since we were approaching the Greenway.

Mile 7 - 10:57
Mile 8 - 10:31
Mile 9 - 10:09

Once on the Greenway, I just wanted to be done. I did a lot of walking, and a lot of slow running. Every time I started running I wanted to walk again. Every time I started walking I told my self that I should be running. My legs were tired and I just felt blah. This part of the course was not very exciting because there was hardly anyone on it, so it was a little rough for me. I tried to convince myself that it was just another great run on the Greenway (this is where I do a lot of my running) and that I was almost done, but it wasn't helping. I also tried to tell myself that I could meet my time goal if I just kept running, but that didn't work either.

I was very happy when I saw Grace and her husband waiting around mile 10. Grace snapped a picture and cheered me on. Oh how I wished she was out there with me!!

We left the Greenway after Mile 11 and we ran through the Norwich neighborhood and headed back towards downtown. I was still stopping to walk every now and then but I knew that I was so close. Even when I was running I felt like I was going so slow. By this time I knew that I wasn't going to meet my time goal so that didn't really motivate me to keep running or run very quickly.

Mile 10 - 10:51
Mile 11 - 10:52
Mile 12 - 11:29

When I got to the Mile 12 marker I told myself just one more mile…no walking in the last mile! And I ran the rest of the way to the finish. When I turned the corner and the finish was in sight, I was running next to the railroad tracks with two moving trains going in opposite directions…it was loud and annoying!

Mile 13 - 9:37
Mile .13 - 9:55 (forgot to stop the Garmin when I crossed the finish)

Approaching the finish and looking beat

I finally crossed the finish line in 2:17:54. I wanted it to be faster but I was also happy just to have finished. I ended up 7th out of 20 in my age group, 96th out of 284 women, and 239th out of 515 total runners.

I grabbed water and a REAL coke (I never drink real Coke but this was the best, cold, most refreshing Coke I have ever had…) and I also snacked on a bagel. They had a nice spread of food at the finish line but I wasn't really all that hungry.  I waited around for a little bit and caught up with the rest of the Tough Chiks

Left to Right: Erika, Tonia, Rene', me

I also caught up with and congratulated Jamie, who finished in 1:53 and got 3rd in her age group! She is a great runner...I hope to be as fast as her one day!

After I was done at the finish line I left with my parents to go to their house and I decided that I would just wait for Andrew to come get me there. The marathon course goes by their house at mile 18ish, so I wanted to watch some of those awesome, super tough people. My mom had set up her own little unofficial table and we handed out some pretzels, Gatorade, and water. After a while I also convinced my dad to drag the garden hose down to the end of the driveway and I offered to mist the runners as they walked by if they wanted it.

After a good bit of standing around, I started not to feel so great so I went inside to lay down for a bit. My head was pounding and I felt like I was going to get sick. So I curled up on my bed with a trash can and stayed there until Andrew came and got me. I felt so awful and I just made it home when I finally got sick. I just kind of layed there for a while and waited for the awfulness to go away.  I got sick like this after my first half and it is NO fun! I finally felt good enough to get out of bed and eat some real food and stretch out a little bit. I showered and we headed back to my parents house to celebrate my Dad's birthday. It was a fun evening, but I was tired!

After dinner we headed back downtown to check out the Twilight Criterium. Just think NASCAR on bikes in the dark and you've got the idea. It was a lot of fun to see the professionals…they are so fast and I don't know how they did this for over an hour.

crappy iPhone picture turned cool

Afterwards we went home and I went straight to bed and slept for a good 10 hours. I woke up feeling sore, but not as awful as I thought I would considering that I gave myself such a beating on the way down the mountain and the fact that I didn't do a very good job stretching and refueling when I was done.

Even though I'm slightly disappointed that I didn't meet my time goal at Blue Ridge, I am happy and proud that I finished.  I made some mistakes along the way that didn't make my race experience quite as enjoyable as I had hoped.  With that said I am always thankful for learning experiences like this because they ultimately help to make me a better runner.

I love this race SO much.  The course is challenging yet beautiful and the race is very well organized and supported.  The volunteers were friendly and numerous and the crowd support was just right! If you are thinking about doing this race next year...mark your calendar for April 20, 2013 and sign up!

There weren't any real problems with this race at all, but I will make two suggestions for the future (if anybody important happens to read this)... First, the shirts.  If my memory serves me correctly, after the race last year several people requested technical race shirts and the race organizers indicated that there would be technical shirts for 2012. I was slightly disappointed when I picked up my packet and received another cotton race shirt (on a positive note, the design was cool).  I received a gender-specific technical shirt at the Martinsville Half and I really love it. The price tag for Martinsville was half that of Blue Ridge, so I don't really know that it was a matter of cost.  In any case, this is my request for gender specific technical shirts for next year (if it's not gender specific I'd rather have a cotton t-shirt because unisex technical shirts swallow me more than cotton shirts and I really never wear them). Secondly, I really LOVE the is absolutely beautiful.  But, with the exception of the date on the ribbon, it looks exactly like last year's medal.  It would be cool if there was some way to distinguish the actual medal from year to year, like having the year engraved into the actual medal. Other than these two (picky, personal) things, Blue Ridge is pretty much a perfect race!

If you want to read some other great race recaps, check these out:
Full Marathon Recaps:
Cécile @ Trail Running Chik Part 1 and Part 2 (first full marathon)
Audrey @ A Mama's Goals Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 - (also her first full marathon!)
Ginny @ Happy Feet 26.2
Dave @ Mungerruns
Doug @ I Run Because...
Emily @ Run. Eat. Nap. Drink.

Half Marathon Recaps:
Tonia @ Racing with Babes
Erika @ MCM Mama
Nicki @ Running Nicki
Phil @ Cardioholics Anonymous Part 1 and Part 2
Beer Runner
David @ Running...Because I Can

I know I have read some more recaps so if you did a recap let me know in a comment and I'll link it up!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mill Mountain Mayhem 10K Race Report

I signed up for the Mill Mountain Mayhem 10K for a few reasons.  

First, it's one of my goals this year to do more races.  As this was my third race of the year, I have now successfully met that goal since I did a measly two races last year. 

Another goal for this year is to do more trail running. While I still haven't done a ton of training on trails, I am slowly finding my way through the world of trail running, with the biggest difference so far being that I am much slower (not that I was particularly fast to begin with...). 

And the final reason I signed up for this race was to do some last minute preparation for the Blue Ridge Half the following weekend.  The course for MMM, like the name suggests, is on Mill Mountain, which is also where the big climb is for the Blue Ridge Half.  On the MMM course, the first climb up Mill Mountain goes up on the road along the same path of the Blue Ridge Half, while the second climb is on the trails. So I figured the hill training couldn't hurt, provided I didn't hurt myself along the way.  With that said, my only goals for this race were to have fun, finish, and not get hurt. 

The weather couldn't have been more perfect.  It was a little cool when we left the house (41) but it had warmed up to around 55 once we got there and before the start.  It was sunny so the temperature was great and I didn't have to second guess whether or not I'd be comfortable in a tank top. It hadn't rained in a while so the trails weren't muddy at all, contrary to the conditions at all of the previous Mountain Junkies events so far this year.

Before the race I spent the entire time in the porta-potty line as I find that this really works well for me.  I'm sure it's annoying for Andrew, who patiently waits in line with me and holds my stuff while I pee 10 times, but it works. I don't know why, but I always have to pee a lot before races. I'm also always anxious I will have to pee during a race (thankfully I haven't had that happen yet) because feeling like you have to pee while you're running isn't a lot of fun.  I know most races have porta-potties along the course (or in the case of trail races, there are generally plenty of trees), but that really seems like a hassle to me and I'm really bad at the pop-a-squat.  So my pre-race peeing strategy is to get in the porta-potty, go, and get right back in line again. I repeat this process until it's time to line up for the race. Ridiculous? Maybe. But it works.

Anyways, moving on from that TMI tangent...

After a few announcements we all headed to the start. The starting line was actually a good .4 miles through the woods and slightly uphill from where the pre-race headquarters and finish line were located.  This made for a nice little warm-up before the race started.

And after everyone had made their way to the start, we were off.

I was way in the back and short so you can't see me.

I know what you are thinking...I thought you said this was a TRAIL race?  It is, but the first mile is on pavement.  As you can see from the elevation chart below, the first mile (+) is also uphill. And by "uphill" I mean 344 feet of elevation the first mile. I took a walking the first mile.

This was taken a few months ago (the trees are full now), but this is the road up.  This is also the route that the Blue Ridge Half and Full takes up Mill Mountain.

Another shot of the road (taken previously)

Here I am at about mile 1 right before turning onto the trail. 
I tried my best to wave but this is pretty weak. 

After the first mile we turned onto the Monument trail. We kept going up (100 more feet of elevation) for .4 miles, then we started heading down. And by "down", I mean we lost 430 feet of elevation over the next mile.

Google Earth image of the race (click to view a larger version).  The start is on the lower right and the course winds up the back of Mill Mountain on the Fishburn Parkway. At Mile 1, the course turns onto the Monument Trail where it continues (briefly) up Mill Mountain.  The trail then begins to head downward and wind around the front of Mill Mountain.  

I had something weird happen to me on this downhill.  Usually I love going downhill because it gives me a chance to catch my breath and gain a little speed.  I was a good bit into this downhill section when my stomach started cramping really badly all of a sudden.  So I stopped to walk to let this feeling pass because I knew bad things would happen if I tried to run through this.  It didn't go away quickly at all and I felt super lame for walking downhill after I had just put so much effort into running uphill.  This has happened to me once before on the trails.  I think since I am new to trail running, I also get very nervous when I'm going down hill (fear of face planting and/or breaking an ankle). I think what happens is that I tense up and forget to breathe because I'm so focused on where I'm going to step.  Anyways, this finally passed and was able to keep running after about a minute or two.

The Monument Trail eventually takes you to the steep "Old Road" up Mill Mountain. 

The "Old Road" begins around mile 2.5 (In between Lap 2 and Lap 3 in this picture)

This is another paved section and I walked most of it.  The people around me who were running were going about the same speed as me anyways so I figured I'd save my energy and just walk (remember, I was NOT in the front where all the fast people were...they all ran this part). 

From the Old Road, you turn onto the Big Sunny Trail (and then the Riser Trail and then the Ridgeline Trail) and continue back up the mountain. 

Mile 3 starts over on the left on Big Sunny, winds along and up Mill Mountain to Riser and Ridgeline.

From Mile 2.5 (beginning of the Old Road) to mile 4.5 (top of Mill Mountain at the Star), you climb about 550 feet.  Parts are gradual and parts slowed me to a walk. I was just happy to finally make it to the top.  And I was happy that Andrew was standing at the top when I got there cheering me on.  

I really love how the photographer got the Star in the picture. I was pretty happy because I knew the rest was downhill.

From the top, the Star trail takes runners on a "screaming fast", twisty, ROCKY, and rooty 1.5 mile decent (about 750 feet of elevation loss over that distance).  

The downhill starts in the middle where the switchbacks are and winds down to the finish on the right.

I made sure to breathe this time and my stomach didn't cramp up. I felt like I was recklessly flying down the mountain. I know my goal in this race was to finish without getting hurt, but the competitor in me always seems to come out.  I stayed focused and I didn't fall, and I passed a few people on the way down.  I turned on the afterburners a little bit too early and I slowed up a little bit right before the finish, but not enough for the people I passed to catch up with me.  I could hear that I was approaching the finish and I was glad when I finally turned the corner and it was there.

Looking BEAT

My final time was 1:10:23 (11:05 pace). I was 6th out of 8 in my age group, 40th out of 69 women, and 142nd out of 185 total runners.  

Nowhere near fast, but I was proud of my run considering the elevation changes and the terrain. And I was very glad that I didn't get hurt...because there were plenty of people who had some nasty falls.  

And while I didn't win any age group awards, I did win a door prize! I won a CamelBak Insulated handheld water bottle! I already have two handheld water bottles, but I'm excited about this one because it's insulated, which will be great for the summer when my ice is usually melted within 5 minutes.

So all in all, the Mill Mountain Mayhem was a winner of a race for me.  It was fun, challenging, and there was great weather, a great atmosphere, and great people.  The race shirt was cool, too (sorry, no picture because it's upstairs in my never ending pile of clean laundry waiting to be folded and put away...). Mountain Junkies really knows how to put on a GREAT race. Which is why I'm now signed up for the Trail Nut 1/2 Marathon on May 5...just 2 weeks after the Blue Ridge Half! Gulp. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

March in Review

I really should do my month in review posts before the next month is almost half over...hmmm.

March was a good month.  I ran in my first trail race at the Explore Your Limits 5K and I set a new PR at the Martinsville Half Marathon. My running mileage was up from February but my cycling mileage was down.

As you can probably tell from my severe lack of blogging lately, I have been way busier than normal thanks to work.  In order to get my mandatory overtime done, I've been working a lot of 9 (or sometimes 10) hour days instead of 8 hours.  I still run, ride, or lift most days after work and then I come home, shower, fix and eat dinner, and get ready for the next day.  After I finish everything, it's pretty much time for bed and I'm generally tired of looking at the computer anyways, so blogging has definitely gotten pushed way to the side. The only reason I have been able to write this post is because I have this week off from work!

Running Miles in March: 84!
Cycling Miles in March: 64

Running Miles YTD: 180 (20 miles off from being on track for meeting my "B" goal)
Cycling Miles YTD: 303 (72 miles off from being on track for meeting my "B" goal)

In addition to crossing off my 2012 goal of breaking 2:05 in a half marathon, I can also cross off my (well, Andrew's and my) goal of saving up money for our emergency fund. If you are at all familiar with Dave Ramsey, we have finished Baby Step #3!. We have now started saving up money to sell our current house and eventually buy a new house! Yay!

On the schedule for April:
  • Mill Mountain Mayhem 10K (trail race) on 4/14...I'm kind of nervous about this one because the trails are pretty rocky and there is a lot of elevation change. Since I'm running a half the very next weekend (which, oddly enough, goes up the same mountain on a different route), my goal is to finish without hurting myself!
  • Blue Ridge 1/2 Marathon on 4/21...I love this race! But I haven't been as diligent with my hill training this year because hills aggravate my back, so I might have a hard time with this one. I know I will have fun though! 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Martinsville Half Marathon Report

March 24, 2012

If you couldn't tell from my previous posts (here and here) I wasn't going into this race with the most confidence and I didn't have very high expectations. To be honest, I didn't have very much confidence or any kind of expectations for this race until about mile 6.  The week before the race my back was feeling a little off.  A few days before the race I also realized that the course was hillier than I thought. The forecast was calling for rain.  So my plan was sort of just to do my best and enjoy half marathon #3.

Martinsville Half Marathon Elevation Profile

My expectations were lowered even more when I woke up the night before the race with a headache.  I had this happen a few days prior (not sure why?), and it wasn't good.  So I got up, took 2 ibuprofen, and went back to sleep.  Thankfully I slept pretty well, although I was nervous.

We had to leave ridiculously early because the race was an hour away, so I was up at 4:30. When I woke up, my headache was gone (thank goodness).  However, it was raining. HARD.

I got ready without a hitch, although my stomach was a little upset due to nerves. We hit the road at about 5:50, which would allow plenty of time to get there and have a good amount of time to go to the bathroom and stretch out.  My husband is an awesome driver, but sometimes I have anxiety when we're in the car...especially when it's raining and dark (and really hard to see) and we're on a curvy road going 55+ mph. I was so tense on the way to the race and my legs were literally shaking uncontrollably.

About 20 minutes down the road, I gasped when I realized I FORGOT MY GARMIN. Andrew said we could go back, but I knew we didn't have the time. I would be running this one sans Garmin. This also made me feel less confident about the race.  How would I pace myself?  What if I started out way too fast and I bonked?  And dang it, these miles aren't going to count towards the Strava Gu 100,000 mile challenge and I won't get my free peanut butter GU!  

When we got there we found a parking spot and went inside the YMCA, which was the headquarters for the race.  I am so thankful that we all had somewhere dry to stay before the race.  This also meant we had REAL bathrooms to use before the race.  Since I like to go to the bathroom 928 times before a race starts, this was so nice! My stomach was pretty upset, which only made me more nervous because I didn't want to have to go to the bathroom out on the course.

8:00 finally came and everyone made their way outside into the rain to line up for the start.  They had a short delay which allowed me to make one last pit stop in the port-o-potties by the start/finish.

I was a little indecisive about whether or not to keep my long sleeve on. I had it on but took it off literally right before we started and gave it to Andrew (side note: my husband is seriously the BEST ever. He drove me to the race, waited with me and calmed me down before the race, sat in the car the whole time while I ran, and was completely there for me when I was done.  He's pretty awesome).  Anyways, I'm so glad I ditched my long sleeve because I was comfortable the whole time and I know I would have been so hot with it on.

waiting for the race to start

And finally, we were off. I started in the back and tried to keep a very slow and comfortable pace at first.  I just wanted to loosen up and not go out too fast.  I kept this easy pace for about the first 2 miles and then I just seemed to find a slightly faster but still comfortable pace, but I wasn't really thinking about it too much.

The course started in the downtown area and then went to the Dick & Willie Passage Rail Trail. The course entered the trail in the middle, went to one end, made a U-turn, went to the other end, made a U-turn, then came back and went back through downtown.  Since there was a lot of out and back, there were runners coming towards you most of the time, too. I really liked this because it was nice to have faces to look at and it was fun to cheer on other runners who were clearly way in front of me (and occasionally get cheered on by them, too).

It was also particularly interesting when one of the runners coming toward me ran over on the side of the course, pulled down his shorts, and took a poop. I turned to the guy running next to me and asked him if this was really happening right now.  Apparently it was.  The pooping dude finished his business before I got to him and explained to me and other runners coming toward him that there weren't enough port-o-potties on the course (there were plenty, in fact).  I guess when you gotta go, you gotta go.

Moving on...

Thankfully Andrew was wearing his watch, so I borrowed it so that I could know when to take a GU (every 40 minutes!). I figured they would have mile markers along the course, but I know you can never really trust those completely. Since I run around a 10 minute per mile pace (and was hoping to keep it at or below that), I figured the math on the pacing wouldn't be too hard to keep track of.  By mile 2, I knew I was around a 9:45 pace.  I kind of stopped looking at the watch so much after that and I tried to just run by feel and keep a steady, comfortable pace so that I would have enough juice to push it a little harder in the second half of the race.

At about mile 6 (maybe?) I overheard two women behind me say that they were averaging about a 9:23 pace at that point. My first thought was OH. CRAP. I thought that starting out a half marathon with that kind of pace would certainly mean disaster in the end.  When I heard this I was in the middle of a gradual downhill section, and if I was remembering correctly, I thought the downhill would last for another 2+ miles. So I kind of just said oh well, and kept my same, faster-than-usual pace, rationalizing with myself that I was making up time at this point should I have to walk towards the end (on the 2+ mile uphill section that I was running down at that point).

This is not really the best race strategy at all, but I just decided to go with it. The really awesome thing is that, for the most part, I didn't feel the need to walk for long sections. I walked twice to eat a GU, and slowed down a little bit at a few water stops for people to dump some water in my bottle.  I also walked up one last very steep (and short) hill in the end.  There were a few points where I began to slow to a walk, but I immediately told myself to just keep running.

It was around mile 9-10 that I was looking at the mile markers, glancing down at Andrew's man watch, and doing some bad math in my head (I'm so bad at doing math with paces when I'm running) that I realized I was well on my way to setting a new PR (my previous PR was the time for my very first 1/2 in November 2010, which was 2:13:49, or a 10:13 pace).  So anytime I felt like walking for more than just a little bit, I kept thinking about how awesome it would be to PR in the rain on a hilly course without my beloved Garmin.  And I just kept running.  

In all three half marathons that I have run, the last 2-3 miles are always the hardest because they just seem to just keep going on FOR. FREAKING. EVER. I felt like we just kept taking turns through downtown and I felt like the finish line would be right around the corner, and then it wasn't. I kept slowly gaining on some people in front of me and I used them as motivation to keep running. I caught up with one girl and we both said something like WHERE IN THE WORLD IS THE FREAKING FINISH?! She slowed down a little at that point and I kept pushing my pace and praying that the finish line would be around the next corner.  Finally it was there and I gave it all I had with a good sprint to the finish.  I spotted Andrew and gave him a wave and then focused my attention on the clock. It was about to click over to 2:04 so I kept bolting towards the finish.

still heel striking

My final time was 2:03:58 (9:28 pace). A PR by nearly 10 minutes. In the rain. On a hilly course. Without my Garmin. Five months after I hurt my back and couldn't run for six weeks. I was elated.

I grabbed a few snacks, took a quick shower (thank you, YMCA, I love you), and put on some clean, dry clothes.  I stretched a little bit and stuck around for some of the awards just to make sure I didn't win anything. I was 4th in my AG by about 5 minutes, 39th out of 117 women, and 125th out of 254 total runners.

We hit the road for the hour long drive home. Just in case you're wondering, sitting in the car for an hour after running a half marathon is not a great idea. I tried to stretch and foam roll a lot when I got home, but I was still pretty sore for 2-3 days after the race.

 Nice technical race shirt (women's fit, too!)

I really loved this race.  The course was great.  Although there were some hills, they were very gradual. I loved the long downhills (for obvious reasons) and the uphills were gradual enough that they didn't require significant walking breaks. The portion of the course on the Dick & Willie trail was a little secluded so it wasn't very spectator-friendly (there were a few spots along the course where there were spectators, though). However, this portion was also very scenic and there were runners going in both directions, so I didn't think much of the lack of spectators (it was also raining, so I didn't expect much anyways). Of course getting a PR on this course also adds to my love for the Martinsville 1/2 course.

There were plenty of volunteers and everyone was very friendly. There were port-o-potties along the course about every 1.5-2 miles (contrary to what pooping dude said).  The water stops were plentiful, especially with the course being an out and back in two directions.  I also really loved how the race was headquartered at the YMCA.  It was so nice to be able to use a real bathroom and take a shower after the race.  The technical race shirt was very nice and the medal was also very well-designed.  We also got a small towel with the race logo on it which was also a nice touch (I'm holding it in one of the pictures above).  I really don't have anything negative to say about this race and I am really hoping to be able to do this race again next year.

Breaking 2:05 in the half marathon was one of my goals for 2012, so I can now cross that one off my list! My next race is the Mill Mountain Mayhem 10K (trail race) next weekend, followed by the Blue Ridge Half Marathon the following weekend on the 21st. I'm not expecting to set any new PRs during these races, but I'm definitely looking forward to both of them.