I knew going into this one that it was going to be tough. It is a hilly mountain marathon near Boone, NC. It is a Boston Qualifier, but with the hills in the second half of the course, it would make it a long shot. Either way, Boston or not, I was going to go into it with a positive attitude and was going to have fun with it. It would either be Boston, or a good, tough training run, most likely the second of the two...
I left town on Friday and drove up to Todd, NC where the race start was. (middle of nowhere, NC). It was a restaurant with a big field around it where everyone parked. I did not know anyone who was going to be there so I just took it to be a weekend away. I went inside to start my usual pre race carb loading. I sat at a table by myself, well at least for a while, until Lesli came up and asked me to join her and her family. That was really cool. I was able to sit and talk with them for a good long while bout running. They asked me a lot of questions about marathons and beyond once they heard about my ‘history’. Her 15 year old son Jon was asking a lot of questions as tomorrow was going to be his first marathon and he was looking for any advice I could give. It sounded like he had done great training and tomorrow was going to be a good day for him. Lesli was running her first half and was excited about it too. We talked for a bit more before they left and I finished my 3rd plate of pasta n salad ;)
I went upstairs to listen to Zika, a running coach from Zap fitness, talk about running, training and a little about herself. It was a really good talk with great information and I am glad I went. Most of what she said I already knew, but knowing that I am doing the right things, and am on the right track with my training, is an encouragement.
After the talk, I went back downstairs and outside. The sun was beginning to go down and I needed to go get the Jeep set up for the night. I chose to camp out right there at the start finish with about 25 other campers. It was a great option. I didn’t have to wake up super early and drive in. I was already there!
I woke up before my alarm at 5:00. People were already starting to arrive and the lights had woken me up. I started my pre race routine - braided my hair, ate breakfast, and figured out what to wear. I am glad I put my long sleeved shirt in there at the last minute, because it was colder and windier than predicted. I was planning on wearin a tank, but it was too cold for that (least for me).
Before too long they were calling the 235 marathoners to the road for the start. (I like the smaller events like this.) They tried to get us to line up from fastest in the front to slower in the back, but not sure that was too accurate. It was kinda busy for the first half mile or so, me passing slower folks and faster folks passing me. In the busyness of the start, I heard Will from MTC call out “Amy” and I saw him for that brief second… He was running the half.
I wanted to take the first 3 miles as easy as I could. In the first half mile I kept thinking, “take it easy, then back off”. The pace felt great, but when I looked down and saw 8:00, in the first quarter mile, I backed off more n more. I knew there was a good size hill coming up and I did not want to use all my energy in the first few miles and have nothing left in the end. “Take it easy, then back off”.
Sure enough, there was a good size hill right around mile 2. I took it easy going up, then thanks to my Hokas, and Bobby teaching me how to stride it out, it was “time to fly”. Took the downhills at a fast pace, but managed to drop my heart rate and keep it feeling easy. *awesome*
My plan was to take a gu and an s-cap every 4 miles, and alternate between caffeinated gus and those with no caffeine to avoid being too jacked up. Mile 4 came and I stuck with the plan. Bout that time I got passed by the lead half marathoners. Wow… 15 minute head start for the marathoners, and they were haulin!
I settled into a steady pace on the flats, took the hills a little easy and killed the downhills. Folks were starting to take notice at the girl who was flyin down the hills. Some would catch back up as I was going up the hill, but inevitably I ended up staying ahead of them all ;) I ran with several folks throughout the miles, but our pace didn’t ever quite match.
|Chick - n ;)|
I was running along with another gal from TN, when a half marathoner came up on my left and passed me. He was quiet and quite honestly startled me pretty good! She and I got a good laugh out of that one.
I think it was around mile 8 or 9 that I caught up with Jon – that was awesome! We ran and chatted for several miles. He was running strong and smart. It was really cool to pass his family who was cheering for him along the course and they even said “Go Amy”. Nice to have someone out there who knows your name!
I ended up running just a little faster than Jon’s pace so eventually I pulled ahead of him. He was doing good and was not worried that he wouldn’t finish. He seemed to be running a smart race!
|top of the hill! Bobby took this pic.|
Right at the half way point is where it started getting tough had a ¾ of a mile climb with a short decent, then miles 14 – 16 ½ were a steady long incline. It was reminiscent of Turkey Creek – you know that one hill that starts at the bridge? Yeah, that one, and it keeps going up!! I ended up power walking some of the steeper sections to conserve energy. I had to keep in mind that I still had 10 miles to go after this hill! 16 ½ to 17 was a nice downgrade, but then another steep hill from 17 – 17 1/3. Best part about this uphill? Bobby was there at the top! First reason to smile in several miles – lol! He snapped a few pics and said he would see me at the finish line. It was good to see him – gave me a little boost of energy as I started flyin down the mountain. 17 1/3 – 20 ¼ was mostly a downgrade with only few minor up sections.
I got to mile 20 and I can’t remember if it was an aid station, or just folks who were there pointing runners on which way to go, but she said “it’s all flat from here” My response to her was “Thank God!” It made her laugh!
I knew these last 6 miles were make it or break it for getting a PR. I did well on the first 20 miles but I knew it was not a BQ pace. At this point I was hoping for a sub 3:55. I had to keep as close to a 8:30 – 9:00 pace as I could to reach that goal. Now the work began, it was indeed mostly flat. No more opportunities to kill any more downhills, just keep a steady pace.
I kept with my gu and s-cap every 4 miles, but ended up taking my last gu at mile 23 instead of mile 24. I kept little goals going, like catch the guy in the blue shirt. I did end up catching up to him. As I pulled up beside him, he said something to the effect of “sounds like someone is feelin good” I asked “you sure it doesn’t sound like I am dyin?” He said “no, you are movin along well.” Funny, his pace picked up for about a quarter mile, then he dropped back as he couldn’t keep the pace.
|ugh, camera at mile 24!|
Around mile 24 there was a photographer. Really?? Who puts a camera at mile 24? Seriously? LOL!! I was digging deep thinking of the vast stretch of road between me and the finish. I really didn’t care about posing for a camera, but I ended up pulling this really cheesy grin and told the photographer, “that is all I got”. He was laughing. Least it made him laugh!
About mile 25.5 I could see the parking lot, the cars, the campers and I knew it was getting close. It still seemed like an eternity away though! One of the spectators was clapping and said the famous “you are almost there” ugh… I know that but I CAN’T SEE THE FINISH LINE!!! Up on the left was the restaurant and the curve in the road which led right to the finish. The last few hundred yards were on the grass, but the grass was growing in soft sand. So instead of speeding into the finish, I had to watch each step as to not step in a hole or get too much sand in my shoes.
|where is the finish?? quarter mile to go.|
I looked up and was ELATED to see 3:54xx on the clock. I was SO HAPPY! I ran this tough course and in the process got a PR. WOW. I was overjoyed. I knew it wasn’t Boston, but this race was a strong training run for the next attempt. It proved to me that I can bring it, it doesn’t matter what the course looks like – seems I did better and had a great day on a tough course than the flat Tobacco Trail a few months ago.
I walked past the finish where they handed me my finishers medal. I took it and at first thought, “what is this?” It was really lightweight and I was not sure what it was! Upon further inspection, it was a magnet that was clipped to a lanyard. At first I was kinda upset as I just ran the best race of my life and got a magnet, but then thought – wow, that is a pretty cool idea! It was not the normal run of the mill medal that you get at an event, instead you can stick it to your car (or my jeep) and proudly display it – neat!!
I put a quick post on FB before walking back to the jeep without proof reading it… well…. I was cold, my hands were shaking, and I inadvertently put in that I finished with 3:44xx instead of 3:54xx. Needless to say, I had a LOT of happy people thinking I had BQ’d! Sorry for the mistype!! Wish that had been the case, but I was not at all disappointed with 3:54. Knocked a full 5 minutes off my time from when I blew up at Tobacco Road. Yeah, I felt great about this one – tough course, rainy weather and all!
I walked back to my Jeep to get some clothes. The temps had fallen throughout the morning and it had started to rain the last few miles. I was taking off my shoes by pushing my right toes on the heel of my left shoe, and sent my right calf into a cramp like I have never had before!! Oh wow was that painful! Rubbed it out and was a little more careful with the left leg. It tried to cramp, but I backed off the pressure before it could – lol!
Overview: New River is an awesome race. I would most definitely run it again. Volunteers and aid stations were top notch. I was able to hand my water bottle off to an aid station worker (well, it kinda was tossed on the ground in his general direction) while I ducked into the port o jon, and he filled the bottle with water. The course is beautiful and challenging. Did I say beautiful? I love the NC Mountains, and this place is so scenic. It runs along the new river for several miles. Gotta say, that this area is one of my most favorite places to be.
Later I found out that Jon finished his first marathon with a very respectable 4:12 and first in his age group. I think he has a promising future with marathon running J Lesli finished her half in 2:01. So proud of them both! Thank you again for inviting me to sit with you all at dinner – it was great to meet you!
Shoes – Hoka Bondi B’s (the ‘fast’ ones from Will)
Fuel – Gu’s – orange w/ no caffeine and chocolate outrage w/ caffeine, s caps, 20 oz handheld – started with coconut water, then filled it up 2x with water. 3x total.
Breakfast was Shakeology, banana, coconut water and a Frappuccino.
I felt that I hydrated MUCH better than I did at Tobacco Road. I had one pit stop at mile 8ish and another around mile 18ish. With the cramping in my calves and quads afterwards, I wonder if I should have been drinking more… ?
What is next? Well, this fit well into the training schedule for the Sunburst Marathon in South Bend, IN June 2nd. That will be my next BQ attempt and my sis will be there with me running the half! :D