Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Mount Jefferson Challenge and New River Marathon

Mount Jefferson Challenge, June 13, 2015

With this being just a 6.6 mile event, I do not have much to reflect on.  I so, however want to at least document this experience and hopefully encourage others to line up at the start next June. Also, I have neglected to post about last month’s New River Marathon, so I’ll be including some thoughts and memories from that one too.

The two events are both organized by race director, Ken Sevensky owner of Blue Ridge Endurance LLC. He is also the founder and director of Blue Ridge Relay and several other endurance events. See his website for more information.

Mount Jefferson Challenge, nicknamed MoJe starts in the parking lot at Ashe Civic Center. It goes 3.3 miles up the mountain to the end of the top parking lot, and 3.3 miles back to the bottom. The finish line is a seam in the concrete and it is the same as the starting line. On Friday, about 30 people participated.
Our little group readying for the ascent.
Friday was a lovely day for the 6:30pm event: clear, breezy 81 degrees at run start and probably 10 degrees cooler on the mountain. I started out slowly and stayed slowish…appreciating the fragrance of the flowers and grasses and bird song en route to the turn around.
Slogging past Park Headquarters

Not sure if this is up or down?
Coming up on the pavement seam finish line...
The way down was much faster than the way up! I finished in 51:17, good for a $25.00 gift card to Boondocks and a new female course record. I didn’t stick around long, but got a jump-start on weekend chores by being home and working in the gardens by 7:50pm.

I hope next year’s challenge will bring more competition. This really is the perfect time of year for this run.

New River Marathon (Just a short blurb) May 2, 2015
Love these race shirts...the only ones I don't give away:)
Last month I ran this exceptionally fine run.  Race Director Ken Sevensky, appropriately used the word “charming” to describe the new course. The morning vibrated of The New River, yellow wild flowers, a suspension bridge, dirt roads and a couple steep hills on an otherwise pretty mellow, fun course.
Cool clouds near Todd, NC race morning
Just weeks before the event, the start/finish venue had to be changed and the new start/finish area is now right smack in the middle of the tiny hamlet of Todd, NC. Runners were asked to plan ahead and allow plenty of time to get to the race as some of the parking would be half mile away. Despite this, our start time was postponed by around 25 minutes. This was the only thing, in my opinion, that wasn’t perfect about the race course or the execution of the event.

Aid stations and helpful volunteers were placed at good intervals. Gel, and salty snacks appeared in all the right places. I carried a tube of Clif Shot Blocks, yet forgot about them and didn’t use as the race provided plenty of fuel.
Just a few miles left to go...
Towards the end of the marathon route, the half marathon course shared pavement with us and it was fun to cheer and be cheered on by the other runners. I met runners from all over the southeast, 3 ladies from Texas, and many local runners.
Winner Katherine Price and her son
All the way from Texas to visit the New River!
Remi Wingo. She's so cool-we go way back with Outward Bound
Scott and Sarah from Charlottesville, VA
I wound up finishing up in 3:23:34, 9th overall and 2nd woman. I had a fun and smart run and took away a homemade wooden bowl and a free 1-night stay to a local bed and breakfast: MeadowsweetGardens Inn.

Next up? I’d better get some nice training runs in to get ready for the 2015 Grandfather Mountain Marathon on July 11.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Blue Ridge Marathon: One of the BEaST: 4/18/2015

Finishing up a great morning
With the exceptions of the 3 World Championships I’ve participated in, Blue Ridge Marathon is probably the highest profile and most delightful road race I’ve experienced. The race announces that it’s “America’s toughest road marathon”…with over 7,400’ of elevation gain/loss. (Start/finish are in the same place). That on it’s own is cool, yet the Roanoke City, communities, police,volunteers and Park Service, made things go almost over the top. I felt like a rock star all day (except when I didn’t-and that was only for moments).
 I arrived in Roanoke about 6pm at my palace for the night: Rodeway Inn. This older, but clean motel was perfect for me (mircrowave, fridge, coffeemaker, desk, table, etc)  with Sheets and Wendy’s being practically across the parking lot, and the race start/finish just under a mile away, fully accessible by sidewalk. Friday evening, using a little hydration pack, I jogged to packet pickup in downtown. Very efficient and I walked back appreciating the open air café’s and art and pedestrian streets in the downtown of this outdoor friendly city.

With the event starting at 7:35 am, it was nice to sleep in until 5:30 and still have plenty of time to pack up the motel room, make a bagel, pour a mug of hot chocolate and walk downtown. Three events started at the same time:10k, ½ marathon, and our race. Runners were asked to “self-seed” according to our anticipated minutes per mile: Corral A=8:00 min and faster, B=8:01-8:45, C=8:46-9:30, etc.all the way through Corral F. I choose Corral B, and after the national anthem was sung by a member of Roanoke Opera, we were off.
Working our way "up" for the first many miles...
 I don’t remember many details about the first 10 miles. At first there were lots of people together on the roads as the different races all shared the same course for several miles. It wasn’t crowded. I remember running up, up, up and down, down, down. You could hear the cheers and screams of the different aid station volunteers sometimes from ½ mile away. I have run several events that either cross or utilize the Blue Ridge Parkway as part of their courses. BRM is the first that I’ve experienced that runners actually got the right of way. This element added to the “rock star” quality of the event. There was even a trumpet player on the parkway having his own personal endurance event. He played the “charge” melody for hours on end. The sound made me smile both approaching and returning from the steep Roanoke Mountain. I thought about David Horton on this mountain, if he designed road courses, he would have definitely included this portion (but he probably would have put it at mile 21).
I think this was taken running up Roanoke Mountain...

I got this photo off a photo sharing site from day of of Roanoke Mountain...

Coming off the 2nd climb of the marathon. Lovin' the grass and blooms!
Aid stations stocked with GU Brew and water were no more than 2 miles apart and every few aid stations there was gels, pretzels, fruit etc. My favorite aid stations were in the Peakwood Community...

Great support and fun in this community

Doing my best to "Do the Locomotion" as the speakers were
screaming out while entering Peakwood
This was a turn-around for an out ‘n back and it was fun to nod and wave at other runners. There were cheering spectators, music, little shot glasses of champagne, pound cake on a platter and an overall celebratory energy. It was about at this point that the marathoners running around my pace started to mingle with some of the half marathoners.

Time passed quickly and I definitely took advantage of liquids and other fuel at each aid station for miles 12ish-24ish. I probably should have been fueling better starting around mile 8…but, when I return again, I’ll know better…Next time, I’ll anticipate the champagne and slow long enough make a quick toastJ

The race ended for me, feeling strong, well-fueled and honestly, glad to be done running for the day. Shortly after finishing, BrieJackson, an amazingly vibrant woman I met in January at Sandman Extreme ½ marathon and who recommended the event shared congratulations Thank you Brie for letting me know about this event…and congratulations to her too for her 3rd place finish in the 10km!
Psyched to feel good crossing the line!
After crossing the finish line I enjoyed 16 ounces of water and a Fresca within 30 minutes. Within the hour I enjoyed 2 little slices of cheese pizza and a yummy local IPA all included with the race registration. After socializing for an hour or so, I walked back to my car. Every time I touched my legs a cloud like baby powder would form…yet it was the salt from all that 75 degree-ish sweating!

I certainly consider this run to be among my favorites-the icing on the cake was the perfect spring day and multitudes of dogwood and cherry blossoms all over trees and bright bulbs throughout neighborhoods. I look forward to returning to Roanoke for both running and non-running fun.

Upon my arrival home, before dropping into bed, I tuned into the race website to learn I finished “America’s toughest road marathon” 23rd overall, 5th woman and 1st masters with a time of 3:41:58. (Average pace of 8:28 per mile-so the self-seeding was spot on.Yay)! The free photos came out on Thursday, hence it’s taken a week to get this post up.

Next? A run starting 25 minutes from where I live: New RiverMarathon on May 2, 2015.

Monday, March 30, 2015

A cold start to 2015 Virginia Creeper Trail Marathon 3/29/2015

Start of run.Women's winner in blue singlet: 2048, me securing my 2nd hat, far right.
All race photos courtesy of Brendan McSheehy.

Yesterday’s start to the VA Creeper Marathon was the coldest I can remember feeling during a run in a very, very long time. I think I’ve become a bit of a softie-last time I remember feeling so uncomfortable was during Bandera 100km in January of 2010.

To make things more fun before the start of the run, I got to see long-time "ultra buddy" Bryon Backer and Kevin Townsend. These fine men have been part of my entire journey of the world of ultrarunning since 2003.

I have run Virginia Creeper Marathon 4 or 5 times prior, so I should have done better at being prepared. The course is run from a central location with several out ‘n backs all coming through a central location where runners can easily access a bag to drop clothing or collect clothing.  I choose to be a Patagonia groupie and wore the new Strider Pro Shorts, All-Weather Zip Hoodie with the hood up, a beanie and Columbia’s Omni-Heat mittens, and sunglasses. I kept my Nano Air Jacket on for the first short out ‘n back, then like a silly person, threw it off as I passed my bag at mile two.
Two miles in. Not loving it. Frank in the background.

For the first 11 miles, all I could think about was running out of the shade and into the sun and trying not to trip due to having a hard time seeing with my eyes streaming cold weather tears. From roughly miles 9.5-11.5 I considered not continuing as the shivering and teeth chattering wouldn’t stop. I think it was the fig bars, wafer cookies and Gatorade at the mile 11ish aid stop that saved me. I took every chance after that to consume calories. Heavily fueling combining with the warmth of the sun brought me back to life and the run was fun from mile 18 until the end.
Warmth = Good Attitude
With a little more than a mile to go, I spotted Jessica the third place girl in the distance, I knew she was slowing as I could see her gap with the other lady leaders changing at the last Abingdon turn around. I saw Byron too and I knew that if I caught and passed them he would give me a good-natured hard time. I had a strong last mile and caught them both, finishing 12th overall, and third woman. Kevin finished very soon afterwards.

This was not a fast year for the women, yet look at these speedy men's times: Jeff Powers 2:39:48, Eddie Posey: 2:52:07 and Sam Allen rounding out sub-three: 2:58:49. Jeff wore singlet, shorts, gloves,  hat and ice on his beard. He was a thrill to watch. I wonder what he thought about yesterday morning?
Jeff cruising. He collected bigger icicles through his run.
Thank you to Frank Kibler, race director and all the volunteers helping us out to a very chilly early morning. Thank you too to whoever made those yummy white chocolate chip cookies at the finish line. Happiness in dough.

This is a USATF certified marathon course so I know I ran 26.2 miles, yet I wonder why my fit bit shows that during that 3:34:02 that I traveled just 21.5 miles? I wonder how the device converts miles to steps or vice versa? I forgot to turn the Soleus on. Oh well, my eyes were streaming so much I am sure I couldn’t have read the watch, yet it is nice to have documentation to reflect back on…

When I arrived home early afternoon after emptying my car of dirty shoes and clothes, I did some sun worshiping on our front deck. Such a delight to finally be warm again!

In closing with this post, I want to share a favorite picture taken the night before this run: Georgio and kittio love:
Loves of my life!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Charlotte Rockin' Relay Marathon 3/22/2015

Having fun with some super cool relay ladies!
This will be a short post with a couple cool pictures. Rockin' Relay Marathon, Charlotte.
I was a glutton this weekend. A glutton in the sense, I did more intense physical activity than I was ready for, and I loved if, not every bit, then most of it.

Saturday, trainer Andrea I worked together doing a challenging workout doing suspension training. This is one of the few sessions we do that I feel like shouting “help” near the end of the last set. Saturday was a full-body workout, yet a concentration on the glutes.
This photo was taken in a little over a year ago while doing "suspension training"
That afternoon, I enjoyed the mid-60’s sunshine and ran 11 miles around town, seeking out vacant lots and briar fields looking for daffodils to “poach” , I mean pick(I don’t really poach- I have learned that old home places, now very overgrown with bush and brambles and apparently untended produce very early season daffodils). I did return to one location that afternoon and plucked several flowers and earned bruised and scratched legs. Totally worth it. I have coined a new word: "daffodiling". 
Daffodiling results on display on our dining room table.
Sunday, I left home at 5:55am to Reedy Creek Park, just several miles north of Charlotte, NC. I have run in that location many years ago, when Jeff McConnell directed “Are We Having Fun Yet 50k?” on the more technical single-track trails of the park and neighboring reserves.

Rockin’ Relay was not technical or single track. It was all dirt and gravel and had a good share of ups and downs during it’s 1.3 mile loop. Easy for the first few miles and for me, becoming more fierce on tired legs as I continued to concluded 20 loops to complete the marathon.

Mentally I was in a better place than last week. I had fun! It was fun to see the dynamics of other teams, watch folks fishing and especially be introduced to the disc golf culture that was prolific that day at the park. I also really enjoyed a group of 12 fun African American women who divided their group into 3 teams of four. All teams were dressed alike with differences being the color of their top hats and bowties to announce their team. All wore tutu’s grand smiles. My day was made as a couple team members agreed to have a photo with me after I finished.

A second highlight of the day was during laps 8-10 when 31-year old  (at least I think that’s the age he shared-forgive me Rick if I am wrong) Richard, one of the owners of Trivium Racing, graciously shared a few loops with me. He is a life-filled person, a runner and triathete who shared some personal experiences and who has tons of passion for endurance sports. He is a great listener and a joy to be a trail partner. (Also, I must say, although we solo runners were in the minority, all the Trivium team went out of their way to be sure we all had what we needed). Thank you soo much.
Richard ("Rick) taking a break from his busy day to have a photo with me after finishing.
This was a more challenging course than last week’s Northern Trails Marathon.I finished almost 5 minutes later in 4:09:31
I wore my Soleus for both and came up with this similar data for 2 different courses.  (I know GPS units are not all that accurate in certain settings, thus, I am not trying to look too deeply at all this, yet it will be interesting to compare to this coming weekend...)

Northern Trails
Rockin’ Relay
Moving time
Pace per mile
Measured mileage
Chip time

Yesterday I learned I am off the wait list  and on the “Who’s Coming?”for the Virginia Creeper Marathon this coming Sunday. This is one of my favorite local runs, just about as low-key as they get. Our weather calls for light snow Saturday night and Sunday morning, I plan to attend if I can safely drive there leaving at 5:30am Sunday morning...

I am running more, yet not what I call TRAINING, (yet). It's awesome to run stress-free, yet I must admit, I am kinda getting the hankering to work hard again. I don't want running to turn back into a responsibility, yet I do love the physical and mental (and emotional) limit seeking of personal improvement and reaching goals. 

As we all are, I am a "work in progress" and as I move back towards ultras, want more than anything to find a balance between running, work and family that is way more balanced that it was before I was injured. I am willing to move slowly as I have gladly digested, that I am more than my running. Three years ago, I couldn't separate other parts of myself and life from running. I am doing better in that way now (Yay!) yet, I think it's getting to be time to trust myself and my experiences and see how ultrarunning can once again be a PART of a healthy and good life...