Yesterday Mathis and I both finished the Blue Ridge Half-Marathon, and it was one of the best days of my life!!! I'm warning you right now that this is going to be a loooong post because I want to soak up every memory of this race! :)
Friday morning Mathis and I woke up to a very sweet care package on our doorstep. Our amazing friends Jed and Stacie had given us a gift bag of vitamin water, power bars and an iTunes giftcard. Totally unexpected and also VERY thoughtful and generous.
I felt pretty nervous on Friday, and I could tell my stomach had butterflies for most of the day. I tried to take it really easy, drink plenty of water, and stretch. Around 4:00 in the afternoon we headed down to Roanoke to pick up our packets at that race expo. The race expo was BUSY! There were two different news stations set up to report on the race, and people were swarming everywhere. A feeling of nervous excitement hung in the air. We picked up our packets, and bought some new socks for Mathis. We didn't stick around too long at the expo, but it was really fun -- they had live music playing, and plenty of people were hanging out. I'm not going to lie... we weren't too impressed with the race shirts, but we did manage to pick up this poster, which I LOVE!!! I definitely want to have this displayed somehow! :)
We left the expo, and headed straight to Olive Garden. Carbo-loading is one of my favorite parts of running longer races! :) We had a great dinner, and I didn't feel guilty at all for eating 3+ breadsticks! After dinner we drove back to Christiansburg, and started getting things ready for in the morning. I pinned my bib on my shirt, set up my playlist, and set FIVE different alarms on three separate devices. There was NO way I was going to oversleep this race! :)
When my alarm went off at 5:00am I smiled. I don't think I was ever so happy to wake up that early. After my experience with the Shamrock Half-Marathon I think I will always feel happy and blessed to wake up at the right time! We got dressed, let the dogs out, and each had a bagel from Panera. By 5:30am we were off to Roanoke. We got downtown, parked and walked over to the Taubman Museum to pick up our chips. I felt cold, but I knew that I'd warm up once we started running.
It was fun waiting for the race to start. Here I am ready to go! I had wanted to go "blue" for Blue Ridge, and so in addition to wearing blue I painted my nails blue too. :) I ran with my Road ID, my Garmin, iFitness belt, two GU (Orange flavor), my iPhone and headphones.
We stretched, made our way to the port-a-potties, and then lined up for the race to start. I had a panic attack when my Garmin took forever to locate satellites. But eventually it got it's act together, and the race began!! I was so excited that I almost forgot to start my Garmin, but fortunately I remembered. Other than that I felt so great!
The race began downtown, and a portion of it was the same route I ran in the 5K last December. It was a really cool feeling to be running on the same roads after so many months of progress. We crossed a bridge, and I got a good look at where we were headed. The first few miles would be straight up Mill Mountain to the Star overlooking downtown. I remember thinking, "There's no turning back now!"
The course had mile markers at every mile, and I loved seeing each one. Although I had my Garmin to tell me the distance, it felt great to mentally check off each mile. The first mile had some rolling hills, and after that it got serious real quick. We headed straight up the mountain, and I alternated between running and walking. The total elevation gain for this race was 1399 feet. The total elevation gain/loss was 2779 feet. The views were incredible, and I remember that I felt so happy to be alive and be experiencing this race. For much of the race I had a big goofy smile on my face.
Here we are entering the parkway...
And just one of the many amazing views...
Around mile 3 I saw Mathis. He had long since ran ahead of me, but he had slowed down and decided to run the rest of the race with me. He said he had been pushing himself too hard for such little training, and so we stayed together the final 10 miles. I really enjoyed running with Mathis. It's something we rarely do, but it was so fun to experience all the miles together. We'd point things out to each other along the way, and I know we helped each other stay motivated to finish.
We continued to alternate running/walking the huge climb up Mill Mountain, and before we knew it we had made it to the top. I think this was right around mile 5. We grabbed some water, took a few pictures of the view, and said hi to the alligator. Yes you read that right... one of the race spectators included a baby alligator! :)
The next few miles were straight downhill, and this proved to be just as much of a challenge as running uphill. We tried to pace ourselves, and at this point I felt like the race was going by much too fast. I was enjoying every single moment, grateful to be alive and to be healthy enough to run long distances. Around mile 7 we made it back downtown, and we spent the next 6 miles looping our way through the city neighborhoods. There were some rolling hills in these neighborhoods (welcome to Virginia), but nothing quite like the trek up the mountain. The weather was great throughout the entire race... cloudy and cool in the 50s/60s. I remember thanking the Lord that it wasn't hot and sunny!
There were plenty of water stops, and the volunteers were nothing short of amazing. I took a GU at mile 7, and never felt the need for another. I was excited to hit mile 10, because that was the farthest I had ever ran before. Once we hit mile 10, I knew it'd be an easy 5K left to go. I'm not going to lie by saying it was all easy... towards the end I was ready to be done. I was tired, and I remember having to push myself to keep going. I kept clinging to my verse for the race, and I prayed for the strength to finish. My feet and legs were starting to bother me, and the race had really spread out so there weren't as many runners around. This was when I was so grateful to have Mathis right there! I do remember noticing quite a few people behind us, and this really surprised me. For weeks I had envisioned myself as being dead last in the race... I knew this race would be TOUGH, and I think my 10 Mile Race experience has left me prepared for the worst case of finishing last. But this race showed me that I need to believe more in myself and not worry so much about others!
There were a lot of curves at the end of the race, and everyone just kept saying "You're almost there!" We kept looking for the finish line, and it was no where in sight! Finally we made our last curve and there it was!!!!! I started squinting at the clock, and I realized we would definitely finish in under 2:30. Going in to the race I had no goal other than enjoying every single second and finishing. Not only was this going to be my first half-marathon, but it was also being titled as one of the toughest half-marathons in the United States. I seriously thought it could take me 3-4 hours to complete the race, and I was alright with this! However, watching our time during the race I secretly began hoping we could finish in under 2:30. I tried to keep myself in check about the timing and not obsess over it, but how cool would that be to have such a great time?!?!!
We crossed the finish line together, and I threw my arms up in the air! I WAS SO HAPPY! After crossing the line, I felt like a rock star. One volunteer immediately started untying my shoelaces for me to get the chip timer. Another ran over and handed me a bottled water. And a third volunteer congratulated me by placing a medal around my neck. I had spent most of the 13 miles thinking about this medal and envisioning what it would look like. It is beautiful, and I wore it with such pride!!!
Here are my final stats:
Chip Time: 2:24:53 (11:06 pace) -- Mathis and I had the same identical finish time
Women's Age Division (22-29): 39/62
Women Overall: 118/234
Complete Overall: 292/450
Unfortunately, Mathis felt really sick after finishing the race. I think there were a number of factors that made him feel so sick, but we didn't hang around long after finishing. When we got home I made him snap a few more pictures of me, and I wish I had some of him too, but he was just not feeling it.
I am blessed to say that I felt GREAT after the race!!! My adrenaline was still pumping, and I had no problem making the 45 minute drive back home. I called my close friend/running coach Sarah and talked to my parents for quite awhile. Everyone was very excited and supportive! Mathis felt better after laying down for awhile, but we took it pretty easy. I got real tired in the afternoon (getting up at 5:00am and running 13.1 miles will do that to you), and I took a long nap. Both our legs started feeling pretty sore, but we eventually hobbled out to a celebratory dinner at Texas Roadhouse! My body was craving those rolls with butter, and I probably drank about 6 glasses of water.
Yesterday was truly one of the best days of my life. I feel so blessed and grateful that I got to participate in this wonderful, local race. I love that running is something Mathis and I are both passionate about, and we will no doubt be running this race again next year. Except this time we have our sights set on the full marathon. :)
Time: 2 hours 24 minutes, 53 seconds
Miles this Week: 16
Miles this Month: 64