Danger! Zombies! Run! 5k (October 28, 2012)

We had so much fun running this race last year, that there was never any question about us doing it again this year. My only dilemma was that I thought I had a pretty good costume last year, and didn’t know how I could possibly come up with a better one for this year’s race. Kurt had already decided he was going to be a Domino’s delivery driver zombie.

The weekend before the race, Kurt and I were trying to come up with a costume idea for me. We were saying that a golfer or tennis player zombie could be pretty cool. We decided to stop at Goodwill to see if we could find anything that would work. Less than twenty minutes and $8 later, we were driving home with my complete costume.

Race morning, there are professional face painters available to do your zombie makeup if you’re willing to pay the extra fee.

We just do our own.

We could tell right away that Kurt’s costume was a big hit. EVERYBODY was pointing to and talking about the Domino’s guy.

One lady really liked my costume, though. She said her boyfriend is a big tennis player, and she thought my costume was great.

Several people asked to take our picture. We even posed with some humans.

It’s always fun checking out all the different costumes.

The race field is split up into “humans” and “zombies”. The humans are given a head start. Last year it was 90 seconds, this year it was cut to a more manageable (for the zombies!) 60 seconds. The humans all have red ribbons tied to their backs. The zombies try to catch up to and “kill” as many humans as they can by collecting the red ribbons from the human’s backs.

Last year a preacher gave a mock sermon at the start of the race, but this year there was just a mass count-down after the humans were released.

We knew from last year that if we didn’t take off sprinting, we wouldn’t catch any humans that were still alive. Kurt, however, was running stiff-legged like a zombie. I had to stop and wait for him to catch up. I guess he wasn’t very interested in making any kills.

We caught plenty of humans, but none of them still had ribbons.

We weren’t racing, but we were still working pretty hard. I was definitely sweaty and tired at the end.

I left my Garmin at home both years. The big watch just doesn’t go with a costume, and this is just a fun race, so I’m not really concerned with my time. The race is not 5k, though. The second year they did the race, they moved the finish line to the opposite end of the downtown mall (adding almost a half mile). They still call it a 5k. For a Halloween race, I think that’s just fine (even kind of cool!), but I do wish they’d acknowledge somewhere that it’s not 5k.

Even zombies need coffee.

Kurt won the best costume award!

I’ve already started thinking about my costume for next year.

Steamtown Marathon (October 7, 2012)

I wanted to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon this fall. I had been feeling sluggish and out of shape, so I knew I would need as much time as possible to get in Boston-qualifying shape. I was looking at Rehoboth Beach Marathon and Three Bridges Marathon, primarily because they are both the first week in December, and would allow ample time for training.

Kurt was planning to run Steamtown again. I was torn. If we were already driving up to Pennsylvania and paying for a hotel, I really wanted to run it this year, too. Well, what I really wished was that Steamtown had a half marathon too, but it doesn’t. I had gone the past two years to cheer Kurt on, but the first year I was in my walking cast, and the second year I still hadn’t recovered enough to train for a marathon. So, If I was going back for a third time, and would be physically capable of running, I definitely wanted to run.

I told Kurt to go ahead and sign me up. At the time, I was thinking that I would just jog it nice and easy, and use it as a training run for my goal marathon. I was overestimating my restraint, and forgetting that “easy” and “marathon” do not belong in the same sentence, regardless of pace.

Early in the summer, Kurt and I both signed up for Mark Lorenzoni’s marathon training program. I had told Mark that I wanted Rehoboth to be my goal race, but that I wanted to run Steamtown as a training run. He only wrote my program leading up to Steamtown. He told me that if I wanted to use Steamtown as a training run, I should only run the first 20 miles. I was pretty sure I couldn’t do that, but didn’t tell him that. I was still thinking I would just jog the whole thing, nice and easy.

As the training progressed, and the days got cooler, I started to feel better. I was nailing the shorter fast runs, and the long, slow runs, but was struggling and not able to maintain the paces I was supposed to be hitting on the workouts that were supposed to be long and fast.

As Steamtown approached, I stopped in to talk to Mark about what he thought I should do. He looked at my training log and came to the same conclusion that I had. It didn’t look like I was quite ready to maintain the pace I would need to qualify for Boston. His advice was to try for a pace I’d be happy with, but if I was struggling in the final miles, to stop and try again at Rehoboth. He said if I ran the whole thing and was really struggling at the end, I wouldn’t be able to recover in time to run another solid effort two months later.

The week before the marathon I felt like I was coming down with a cold. I had a slight sore throat, and was having trouble getting in a deep, full breath. A combination of carbo-loading and PMS conspired to leave me with an insatiable appetite and some major water retention. I made it a point not to go near a scale, but I was pretty sure I’d gained a couple more pounds on top of the five or so I’d gained over the summer.

Packet pick-up was kind of exciting, because I was actually going to run this year. The weather, however, was not looking good at all. Forty degrees and rain. I was surprisingly calm the night before, and slept really well.

Race Morning:

I was breathing a little better, until I put on my sports bra. It felt like it had shrunk several sizes. When we stepped outside, we were happy to see that it wasn’t raining, and it didn’t feel terribly cold.

It did, however, feel terribly cold on the 45 minute bus ride to the start. I pulled up the hood of my raincoat on top of the winter hat I was wearing and tried to keep from shivering.

As we got off the bus, high school volunteers greeted us with bottles of water and good luck ribbons. I had my empty coffee cup in my hand and was eyeing a trash can by the front door of the school. I made a bee-line to the trashcan and proceeded to throw my coffee cup and newly acquired good-luck ribbon into the receptacle. As soon as I did it, I realized what I’d done. It did not feel like a good sign.

All runners are allowed to sit inside the school to wait for the start of the race. There were volunteers everywhere, directing runners, and handing out water and snacks and coffee. Kurt and I found a spot on the gym floor and waited for the start. I’d decided the night before that I would run the first half at about a 9 minute/mile pace and then, if I was feeling good, I would pick up the pace from there.

Early miles:

It was cold waiting for the race to start. It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere, so I was surprised how many spectators were lining the streets as soon as we left the school parking lot. I was also surprised at how slowly everybody around me was running. It’s always hard for me to judge pace in the first few miles of a marathon. Adrenaline makes me feel like I’m running slower than I am.

As I passed the first mile marker, though, I saw that we really were running at a fairly relaxed pace. My first mile was actually a little slower than my 9 minute goal pace (9:10). Mile 2 (9:09) was as well.  After that, I slowly picked up speed. I was having a lot of fun running through all the little towns with people lining the streets, cheering us on. In one town, there were people in church clothes and a priest in full robes, standing out in front a church cheering on all the runners. That made me smile. A “Big Bird Loves You” sign in another town gave me a good laugh. At one point, somebody was playing “Footloose”. The song really pumped me up, and I wished I could take the entire soundtrack with me. I knew it would come in handy later.

At mile 8, I was feeling really good, except for an occasional pain in my hip flexor, and wondering when it would start to get hard. At mile 13, I was thinking the same thing. Except by this point, some muscle on the side of my hip (gluteus medius?) was burning. I’d never had muscles burn in a marathon, and was curious how long a person could run with burning muscles.

Middle Miles:

Around mile 14, we hit the trail section. The trail is dirt/gravel and mostly flat and shady along the river. I love trails, and got a little bit of a mental lift here. Miles 14-17 were all at about an 8:30 pace. Around mile 17, there is a section that skirts some soccer fields. Kurt had told me that this section was mentally hard for him, so I hadn’t been looking forward to it. As I started this section, Kurt was just finishing. We were surprised to see each other, as the timing had to be just right. If either of us had been faster or slower by 10 seconds, we would have missed each other. He was about 3/4 of a mile ahead of me at that point.

Right after I saw him, the running started to get harder. I had planned to take a gu at every other water stop, but there were so many people out on the course handing out water that I couldn’t tell which ones were the official race water stops and I got off schedule. At mile 18, I’d only taken 3 of the 4 gu’s I had planned to take by this point.

Final Miles:

My pace was slowing. Mile 18 was 8:40. Mile 19 was 8:50. Mile 20 was 8:52. I told myself that all I had to do was run each of the remaining miles at a 9 minute/mile pace. No slower! That should be easy. Mile 21 was 8:58. Crap! Push! Mile 22 was 9:15. Right now is when I should stop if I want to run another marathon this fall. That isn’t happening. I really need to pick up the pace! Mile 23 was 9:21. Seriously?! Mile 24 was 9:24. Hang on!!! Ok, 9:17 for mile 25. From looking at the profile map, I was expecting mile 26 to be 1/2 mile uphill, then 1/2 mile downhill. It was more of 1/2 mile up, 1/4 mile sort-of up and 1/4 mile down. I don’t know exactly what my final split was, because I pushed the wrong button on my Garmin at the finish, and didn’t realize it until I hit the refreshment tent.

I finished in 3:52:36 (the clock shows gun time, not chip time). A new PR by about 3 minutes. I was hurting enough to think I probably wouldn’t be running another marathon this fall. In fact, my muscles have never been so sore after a marathon. The food didn’t even look appetizing. I’ve never not had an appetite after a marathon. I grabbed a half a banana and a couple of orange slices, but didn’t eat anything. I went to look for Kurt.

I was really hobbling. It took a great effort to step up and down from the curb. I circled around for a few minutes before I found him. He told me he’d been hit with calf cramps in the last few miles, and ended up finishing only about a minute ahead of me. We both had PR’ed, but were still somewhat disappointed with our performances. Kurt had, admittedly, been running  quite a bit faster than me for the past few months. He felt like he was capable of running a faster time. Still, he’d shaved 7 minutes from his PR.

I was feeling like my 3 minute PR probably wasn’t worth giving up the chance to try to qualify for Boston this season. But stopping at mile 20,  just because I wasn’t running quite as fast as I’d hoped, didn’t feel right. It felt like quitting. I ran the best race I could on that particular day, and I’m ok with that.

It was really damp and cold when we stopped running. I was shaking uncontrollably as I tried to hobble back to the car. We ducked into the mall and found a Starbucks. I ordered a pumpkin spice latte and Kurt got a hot chocolate. Warmed up, and with some sugar in us, it was much easier to make our way back to the car.

Splits: (1) 9:10 (2) 9:09 (3) 8:51 (4) 8:18 (5) 8:22 (6) 8:18 (7) 8:51 (8) 8:20 (9) 8:38       (10) 8:28 (11) 8:43 (12) 8:46 (13) 8:47 (14) 8:35 (15) 8:39 (16) 8:36 (17) 8:31                 (18) 8:40 (19) 8:50 (20) 8:52 (21) 8:59 (22) 9:15 (23) 9:21 (24) 9:34 (25) 9:17 (26) ??

Course:  B
I like that the course is point-to-point, and that it goes through so many little towns. I also love the rails-to-trails section. I really do not like all the down-hill running.

Organization: A-
This would have been an A++ if it weren’t for the scarcity of port-o-johns near the finish line. The race is really well organized, and the volunteers are amazing. The assistant race director’s weekly e-mails are awesome. It’s worth running the marathon just to get those e-mails.

T-Shirt: A- 
A long sleeve, technical t-shirt. At first I was a little disappointed about the blaze-orange color, but than I realized that it will make a spectacular don’t-shoot-me shirt to wear for trail running during hunting season.

Finishers Medal/Schwag: A-
I thought the medal was really cool. There wasn’t much in the way of free stuff in our packets, but the race has so many little perks that seem more important than free granola bar samples and coupons to stores that I’ll never be able to visit, that I’m giving it a high score anyway.

Food: A
There was pizza. It looked like it was the Old Forge style so famous in that part of Pennsylvania, which I thought was very cool.  I just wish I’d been able to eat it. There was also soup (perfect for the cold morning) and some pretty yummy looking cookies, fruit and whole wheat pretzels. I think there might have even been coffee.

Essex 1/2 marathon (July 29, 2012)

A little more than a week before the race, the bottom of my left foot started hurting. I took a day off, then ran 8 miles on Ridge Road. My foot did not seem to hurt any worse as my run progressed, but as soon as I stopped running, I could really feel it. It was quite sore for the rest of the day. When I woke up the next morning, it was still sore. I was up all night that night worried that I had a stress fracture and wouldn’t be able to run the 1/2 marathon, or climb Mt. Marcy, or do pretty much anything we were planning to do on vacation. I didn’t run for three days. I was scared to run again, but knew that I should probably test my foot out on a short run, instead of waiting to find out while running the race. So, Thursday after work I ran three miles on the treadmill and my foot felt fine. We drove to Danbury, Connecticut on Friday. I ran three more miles on the hotel treadmill and my foot still felt fine. I love it when my injuries are really in my head. Ever since I hurt my foot two years ago and couldn’t run for six months, I am absolutely paranoid that every little pain is going to turn into something major, that will keep me from running.

We didn’t sleep too well Saturday night, as we were in a lean-to at Little River State Park and neglected to drag our foam mattress out of the car, so we were essentially sleeping on a hard board. We were planning to leave the campground at about 6:45, so that we could stop at a bagel/coffee shop in Waterbury for breakfast, but we were both awake and ready to go by 5:30 (long before the bagel shop would open), so we got breakfast in a gas station, instead.

I was happy to find some instant oatmeal with freeze-dried fruit and no added sugar. I paired it with a gigantic butter-and-sugar-laden locally made granola bar and a cup of Green Mountain Coffee (which is roasted less than 1/2 a mile from the gas station where I purchased it).

I was not feeling at all energetic as we stood around waiting for the race to start. It was a late (8:30) start, and I could already feel the heat from the sun. Things did not improve once I started running. The first couple of miles weren’t completely miserable. My legs felt heavy, but my foot and knee felt fine and I thought I might start feeling better once I was warmed up.

I never did. After mile three, we started climbing and I just started feeling worse and worse. After the turn around at about mile 7.5, it was down hill for a little while. Mentally, I was having a hard time. I was hot, exhausted and frustrated. I considered stopping several times. I couldn’t imagine running any slower and my pride was keeping me from slowing down. Eventually, exhaustion overtook pride and I slowed down. After slowing down, I had bouts of not feeling like death. Around mile 11, there was a long, shaded down hill stretch. I actually passed somebody. That didn’t come close to making up for the dozens of people who had been passing me for the last 6 miles, but hey, it was something.

I could see one person in front of me. For the last three miles, I was trying not to let him get further ahead of me. I was just willing myself to keep moving, and not slow down too much. As I turned from the road back into the high school parking lot, I thought I was almost there. I looked at my Garmin and realized that I still had almost a half mile to go. I also realized that it was very unlikely that I would break two hours. The race finished with a lap around the track. It was miserable. I did not feel at all proud of my performance, and I didn’t like everybody seeing me struggle. Blechhh!

I was really frustrated and disappointed. My only goal for the race was to break two hours, but I never really imagined that I wouldn’t be able to do it. It just seems like if my problem is that I got out of shape, I should be seeing some improvement now that I am running consistently again, but I just seem to be doing worse.

Time: 2:01:04

Kiwanis 4th of July 5k (July 4, 2012)

It was another hot, humid morning in Charlottesville. The race started at 7:30, which felt late to me, as I’ve been waking up around 5  most mornings lately.

As we were walking from our car to pick up our numbers, there were several hot air balloons floating overhead.

Registration/packet pick-up was quick and easy.

Kurt and I went for a short jog down to the lake while we were waiting for the start. Not even a mile warm-up and I was already quite sweaty standing at the starting line. I could tell from our warm-up that it wasn’t going to be a good run for me. My legs were heavy and I was feeling pretty exhausted.

My legs were heavy, but I still felt OK (not great, but not horrible either) when I hit the first mile in 7:49. For a hot, muggy day, that’s pretty much what I figured my first mile split would be, then I figured I would pick up the pace to about 7:30 for the last two miles.

That, however, is not what happened. There was a short out-and-back with water at the turnaround at about the halfway point. Going down the hill to the turnaround, I started to get a side stitch. Then, after pouring a (warm!?) cup of water on my face, I started running back up the hill. Slowly my side-stitch got better, but I started feeling more and more fatigued.

As I passed the second mile mark, the volunteer called out 16 something. I didn’t hear my exact time, but this is the point where I slowed down considerably. There was a short hill and I stopped halfway and walked to the top. More than a dozen people passed me.

I started jogging again. It felt like I was slogging through quicksand. More and more people passed me. When I could finally see the finish line, I tried to pick up the pace, but each time I did, I felt like I was going to vomit.

I crossed the finish line and was concentrating on trying not to puke, so I did not tear the number off of my bib. This seemed to annoy Mark Lorenzoni. After a volunteer had to tear my number off for me, he called out “Tear off your numbers!”.

After the race, there was plenty of ice-cold water, Propel, fresh fruit and bagels.

Several young ladies (I didn’t hear who they were) sang the National Anthem and a few other patriotic songs.

The race host was giving out door prizes. Just as I was taking this picture, he called my number.

I won a $25 dollar gift card to Belk. I told my husband it was my consolation prize for running such a horrible race. He didn’t seem to find that amusing, but winning the prize did make me feel a little better, so it worked just fine as a consolation prize.

I’m not sure why I’m running so slowly lately. It doesn’t make sense to me that I’m running 5ks slower than I’m used to running half marathons. I’ve been wondering if maybe my iron is low. Whatever it is, it’s frustrating.

My own disappointing performance aside, this was a very cool 4th of July event. There were many families running, and lots of patriotic attire.

Time: 26:24 (That is an 8:31 pace, which is 30 seconds slower than my fastest half marathon pace. I really shouldn’t be running 5ks slower than half marathon pace, even on a hot day.)

Splits: 7:49, 8:15, 9:23 (I would say that I did a bad job pacing myself, but there’s no reason why I shouldn’t have been able to keep up at least a 7:49 pace. I didn’t go out too fast.)

Placement:
96th out of 246 finishers
30th out of 119 women
6th out of 20 in my age group

Course: B
The course follows the roads and trails in the Forest Lakes subdivision. I used to live there, so I enjoyed running in my old neighborhood.

Organization: B
It wasn’t very clear where we were supposed to park, and we ended up parking behind the shopping center. It wasn’t a big deal. I was happy that there were port-a-johns.

T-Shirt: D
Ugly and cotton, but I’m giving it a slightly higher grade than the T-shirt at the Charlottesville Sprint Triathlon, because it’s at least comfortable, so I can wear it to sleep in.

Finishers Medal/Schwag/Prizes: B
No finishers medal for 5ks. Each participant got a coupon for 20% off shoes and 15% off clothing at Ragged Mountain Running Shop. They gave out door prizes, which I thought was very cool. My grade for this category is not entirely fair, as I did not stay for the awards ceremony and don’t actually know what the prizes were.

Food: B
Oranges, bananas, watermelon and bagels. I’m pretty sure the Bagels were yesterday’s Bodos bagels, which are still much better than today’s grocery store bagels. The watermelon was sliced and packed in a cooler full of ice. It was absolutely the most perfect food for a hot 4th of July race.

Grandfather Mountain Hike with my Dad

Drive time from Charlottesville: 4hrs & 45 minutes

My dad had driven up to the swinging bridge and hiked over to MacRae Peak on Grandfather, but he had never climbed the mountain from its base. We had been talking about doing it for years, and earlier this week, we finally found the time for the hike.

The last time I had climbed Grandfather, the mountain had been privately owned and you were required to purchase a day pass at one of several local retailers.  It has since become a  state park, and hiking is now free. Permits are still required, but they are provided free of charge at each trail head.

We decided to hike the Profile Trail up to Grandfather Trail, which follows the ridge (hitting several peaks along the way) to the swinging bridge.

The first 2 miles of the trail follow a fairly gentle grade up the side of the mountain, through heavy vegetation.

I love this quote by John Muir, especially the second paragraph. This was posted next to a bench at the first view-point (Foscoe View) on the Profile Trail.

The second (and most spectacular) view is Profile View. The grandfatherly profile etched in the rock is the mountain’s namesake.

Dad said that this grandfather profile will have to take the place of the Old Man of the Mountain, since the Old Man of the Mountain is gone.

We also both agreed that my grandfather (dad’s dad) really would have enjoyed the profile view.

Just before the junction of the Profile Trail and Grandfather Trail, there is a piped spring.

The sign advises treating or filtering the water, but if there’s a place I might consider NOT treating my water, this would probably be it.

It was a muggy start, but as we climbed higher, the humidity dropped and the wind picked up. It was almost chilly when we stopped to enjoy our first mountain top vista.

From Attic Window peak, we were looking down on MacRae Peak.

After climbing over Attic Window peak, we hiked through the Attic Window, and then worked our way down a rock scramble into the valley before climbing back up to MacRae Peak.

The Attic Window is behind us in this picture.

It was 12:30 when we arrived at MacRae Peak.

From here, we were looking down on the swinging bridge.

We debated turning around at this point, but I had promised dad a snack bar at the visitor’s center, and he said he wanted to walk over the swinging bridge. So, we continued on.

From MacRae’s peak, there is a series of cables and ladders to help hikers navigate the steep, rocky trail down to the swinging bridge.

It’s like a giant playground for adults. I love it!

When we arrived at the visitor’s center, we found out that the snack bar no longer exists. I guess I should have checked that out before I told my dad we could get lunch there. Sorry about that, Dad!

We crossed the swinging bridge and climbed out onto the rocks with a huge throng of tourists.

I had brought one almond butter sandwich, so we split that, along with some granola and trail mix that we had picked up at Earth Fare in Boone.

We refilled our water bladders at the visitor’s center, and then headed back the way we’d come.

We were moving slowly on the way back, especially up the rock scramble leading to Attic Window.

My feet were pretty sore by the time we returned to our car at 6:30pm, nearly 10 hours (and 10 miles) after we’d left it that morning.

We went back to the hotel and showered before enjoying a nice (late) dinner on the patio at Coyote Kitchen.

Good times climbing one of my favorite mountains with my dad!

Charlottesville Sprint Triathlon race report (June 17, 2012)

Course: A-
I think the race course is fantastic. There’s some slime in the water, but it’s such a beautiful lake that I really can’t complain. The bike course is a little hilly, but there’s hardly any traffic and I love the country roads. The trail run is also very hilly, but I love it!
Organization: B+
Overall, pretty good. I loved the pre-race emails. There could have been a little more supervision on the course, though. Near the end of the run, there wasn’t anybody positioned to tell runners to stay to the left and I saw two runners head in the wrong direction and have to turn around and backtrack, which is never fun, especially so close to the finish.
T-shirt: D-
Possibly the worst shirt ever. I liked the design and could even live with the color, but there were no women’s shirts and the men’s cut is uncomfortable and unflattering.
Finishers Medal/Schwag/Prizes: B
No finishers medal, which is standard for triathlons. I liked that the race packets came in a reusable bag from Ragged Mountain Running Shop. Inside the packets, there were coupons for Ragged Mountain and a local Vineyard, a water bottle from Blue Ridge Cyclery and a few advertisements. Age group prizes were bottles of wine from Delfosse Winery and products from Ragged Mountain Running Shop and Blue Ridge Cyclery.
Food: B
Standard post-race food: bagels, oranges, and bananas (although, I’m giving a few bonus points because the bagels were from Bodo’s). There were also some yummy looking trail mixes provided by Relay Foods, and some pasta dishes from Fry’s Spring Station. After a race, unless it’s really cold out, hot food tends to turn my stomach. I’m sure the pasta was good stuff, but it was not at all what I felt like eating.

Race report:
The morning temperature was in the high 50’s, which made for a chilly start. The water was actually warmer than the air, but it was still hard to get in. I was in the fourth wave, (yellow swim caps) which was all women. We had to tread water for about 4 minutes, while we waited for the start. I got kicked several times, and accidentally kicked somebody once. Everybody was very polite about the kicking, which was pretty funny.

The swim was fairly congested until about the second buoy. I got stuck behind people a few times, and it was hard to get around. It eventually opened up, though, and I was able to sort-of settle into a pace. There were a LOT of yellow caps ahead of me. Even so, I was at the shore before I realized it, and everybody was out of breath and walking. Maybe I should have swum faster, because I felt fine. It took me a second to realize that just because everybody was walking didn’t mean I had to, so I jogged up the hill to transition.

T1 was pretty painless. I put on shoes and socks, tank top, sunglasses and helmet, un-racked my bike and was on my way. The climb out of the park was long and steep. I passed several people who seemed to be having trouble with the hill. The bike went by really fast. There were a lot of rolling hills, but overall it was a very manageable course. I felt like I passed more than I got passed.  Although, right before I turned back into the park, two ladies in their fifties (gotta love the ages branded on the back of our legs!), went flying past me. Way to go Ladies!

I went to the wrong rack in T2, and had to backtrack to find the right one. I’m pretty sure I heard some people laughing at me. Guess it probably was pretty funny! Afterwards, I realized that there weren’t assigned racks and nobody would have known the difference if I’d left my bike on the wrong rack. Oh well.

My legs were definitely heavy at the beginning of the run, but I still felt like I had pretty good energy. One 27-year-old girl went flying by me , but other than that, I did all the passing on the run. I felt like I was keeping a pretty good pace until mile 2, where I had to walk a few steps on one of the steepest hills and my stomach started feeling a little queasy. After a short downhill, I regained some energy and felt like I was able to pick up the pace to the finish.

Overall, I was happy with my effort and happy with the race. I think because there were a lot of newbie triathletes, this race had a much friendlier, down-to-earth feel to it than most of the triathlons I’ve done. I met some nice people, and even laughed a few times, which is not something that happens too often at a triathlon (triathletes seem to be fairly serious folk).

I won first in my age-group. I loved that they had a little olympic-type podium set up and took pictures of all of the top 3 finishers in each age group standing on the podium. I was the only one of the top 3 in my age group who stayed for the awards, though, and I felt too silly to stand on the podium by myself. Too bad, because I really thought it was cool.

I won a bottle of Merlot and a tech t-shirt from Ragged Mountain Running Shop. Wish I’d put my hat on for the picture!

Final Stats:
14th (out of 60 women)
1st in my age group (out of only 4!)

Out of 60 women, I finished:
21st in the swim
12th in T1 (transition from swim to bike)
18th in the bike
11th in T2 (transition from bike to run)
9th in the run

It breaks down pretty much the way I’d expect it to, except I feel like I’ve been doing a lot more biking, and therefore should be improving (which I’m not). Maybe I really do need to get the fancy shoes and pedals and an actual road bike.

Varmint 1/2 Marathon Race Report

This is another race my husband found online. The race gets its name from a coyote that wreaked havoc on the small community of Burke’s Garden, Virginia, back in 1952. The coyote killed more than 400 sheep and came to be known as “The Varmint” before it was finally caught.

Burke’s Garden is nicknamed “God’s Thumbprint”. From above, it looks like a volcanic crater. It is the highest valley in Virginia. The Varmint 1/2 Marathon course, known for its hills, traces the outline of part of the thumbprint.

Kurt had read somewhere that camping was allowed near the starting line. He emailed the race director to ask if this was true. She emailed back and said that there is a small camping area in a field not too far from the starting line. She said there’s no water or bathrooms, but we were welcome to camp if we wanted to.

We were under the impression that there would be more campers, but we were the only ones. There were very loud cows in the field behind us and the temperature dropped drastically overnight, but we managed to sleep quite well regardless.

In the morning, it was so cold that we had to sit in the car with the heat on to warm up enough to go back out and pack up the tent.

We drove the half mile to the starting line at the community center, and I made some coffee.

We were there well before the noncompetitive half marathon walk started at 6:30 am.

By the time we lined up for the start, the fog had mostly burned off, and it was starting to get warm. We couldn’t find any information about water stops, but we assumed there would be some. Neither one of us had brought a fuel belt or bottle to run with.

I was planning to treat this race as a long run, since 11.5 miles is the furthest I’ve run since November. Although… Kurt had told me that according to last year’s times, I would only have to run a 2:o5 in order to place in my age group. We had seen the prizes at the start/finish line:

I really wanted to win a sheep!

My plan was to just jog the first 5 or 6 miles nice and easy, and if I felt good after that, to pick up the pace a little. I wanted to win a sheep, but I also wanted to make sure that I didn’t run too hard and aggravate my IT band again.

The first few miles were very hilly. I took it nice and easy and just enjoyed the morning. I was amazed at how good I felt. I’d really been struggling for a few weeks, just feeling slow and out of breath during all my runs. But now I was feeling normal again, and as people started wearing out from the relentless hills, I started passing them.

On my last few long runs, I had been struggling to maintain a 10:30 pace, but each mile when I heard my Garmin beep, I’d look down: 8:41, 9:20, 8:47, 8:50. And this was on some seriously hilly terrain! True, these splits weren’t going to get me anywhere near my PR time. I had definitely lost some speed. But on hills, and with the very limited running I’d been able to do, I was feeling pretty good about my pace. I continued to feel really good until mile 10.

Right after the water stop (turns out there were plenty of water stops!) at mile 10, the running started to hurt. I had told myself that I would just treat this race like a long run, and that I’d just keep the pace easy. Up until now, I had done that. But now, I didn’t want any of the people I’d just passed to pass me back. I also wanted a sheep. I could see three women in front of me. I’d been gaining on them for a while. I was pretty sure at least one of them was in my age group.

I struggled up the hill. Just before the 11 mile mark, there is an out and back. I saw Kurt as soon as I started the out and back. He was more than a mile ahead of me! It was all down hill to the turn-around. This made it really hard for me mentally, because I kept thinking about how hard it was going to be on the way back.

Strangely, though, when I turned around, the up hill didn’t seem bad at all. I was exhausted, but I made myself keep up my pace. I realized that I wasn’t going to catch anybody in front of me, but I decided that I wouldn’t let anybody pass me, either. On the final stretch, I looked at my watch: 1:54. I couldn’t really tell how far I was from the finish line, but I definitely didn’t want to come in over 2 hours. I picked up the pace and crossed the finish line in 1:58:20.

It was my slowest half marathon in years, but considering the circumstances, I was quite happy with my time.

Kurt went and checked the results, which were posted by the finish line and came back and told me I’d placed 3rd in my age-group. Yay! I won a SHEEP!

There was a small local farmer’s market set up in the pavilion. I bought some homemade ice cream. Kurt got a hamburger.

Kurt went back to check the results again. I somehow got bumped to 4th in my age group. It was chip timing, so I have no idea how that happened. But, I didn’t get a sheep.

I guess we’ll have to go back next year for another shot at winning a sheep.

Mile splits: (1)9:23, (2)9:53, (3)8:41, (4)9:19, (5)8:46, (6)8:49, (7)8:45, (8)8:34, (9)8:53, (10)8:51, (11)9:07, (12)9:11, (13)8:36