Blue Ridge Double Marathon – Roanoke, VA (2017)

It’s taken me a few days to wrap my head around this race, but as I finally got out on my first recovery run and my legs are finally feeling normal again, I figured it was a good time to reflect on last weekend. I didn’t get off to a great start, hitting major traffic on my way out of Charlotte, so a drive that should have taken just over 3 hours was close to 4 by the time I got into Roanoke which meant I was hitting the expo around 4:45 – just in time for everyone to sneak out of work early and pick up their packets. The setup for figuring out which lane to go into to make sure I got the right packet was super easy – lots of big signs and ropes took me directly to the volunteers handing out the marathon packets. They pointed me into the building next door to get my race shirt and free socks. I got inside and it was crowded! When I walked inside, I went to the first upstairs I saw and ended up in a section that was wall-to-wall people that had all of the race merchandise for sale. Luckily I asked someone in line if it was just to purchase merchandise and they were able to direct me back downstairs on the other side of the hall to get my free socks and then up a different set of stairs (you know, where the giant “race shirts” sign was) to get my race shirt. Since it was already almost 5:00, I didn’t even look at the merchandise because I knew I couldn’t afford to wait in that line if I wanted to get sleep before my first race and I was already out later than I had wanted to be. So, back down the stairs and up the other side to get my race shirt (super soft and I love the dark blue / teal color!) and bag for gear check.

I quickly made my way to Carrabba’s to pick up some chicken parmesan before heading to my hotel room to get all my gear ready for my midnight wakeup call. I did one last weather check and realized it was going to be a rainy race, though it was going to be warmer than I had originally expected. Since this was my first ultra, I packed an entire extra set of clothes with the intent of changing in between races. I also added extra food and a portable charger and my watch charger for when my watch decided it was too tired to keep going on. I ended up in bed a little after 7:00 and got about an hour and a half of sleep before the music festival (which was two blocks away near the finish line) woke me up. Even with my ear plugs in, it felt like we were on top of the drum section, so I was awake until about 10:00 when the concert finished which meant I got about 2 2-hour naps before my midnight wakeup.
Since my hotel was so close to the start / finish line (maybe 2 blocks), it was an easy walk over to the start line where I found a bunch of people hanging out and waiting for our 1:00 am start time. We did an official check in and I tried to get a picture of the group, but for some reason my phone wouldn’t turn on. Soon enough, we were lined up in the street and Molly, the Race Director, did an official countdown and then we all took off. I was surprised at how many people were at the 1:00 am start – I really expected the majority of people who were crazy enough to do the double would have been much faster and start at the second double start time at 2:30 am. It was nice to have so many people to start with as it felt like a super early group run. I traded off and on with several groups of people as we climbed the first hill to Roanoke Mountain and just tried to keep a steady hike up the hills and running the flats and downhills. The top of Roanoke Mountain is right around the 7 mile mark and is the highest point on the course at 2,144′ with some 13% climbs on the way up. On the way up, I had the opportunity to talk with Kevin Green who is the brains behind the double marathon – he came up with the idea several years ago when he was coming down to run the race, but since he was training for a 100 mile race, he decided a marathon wasn’t enough and convinced some of his friends to do the course at night before the official race start and thus the Blue Ridge Double Marathon was born. This was the first year where the double was an official part of marathon weekend, so the field was limited to 60 participants and 50 people showed up in the middle of the night to take on the challenge.
After a quick check in at the top of Roanoke Mountain, we headed back down the mountain and retraced our steps heading towards Mill Mountain and the giant star that sits above Roanoke. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get my phone to turn back on during this first lap, so I couldn’t get any pictures of the star at night (it was awesome). As we went through the parking lot at the top of Mill Mountain, we took a small trail around to the front of the star and for some reason I had thought we were looping back around to the “front” of the aid station, so I didn’t go off-course to fill up my water and it wasn’t until I was headed back down the hill in the opposite direction that I realized we weren’t going past that spot again and I had missed my opportunity to fill up. I still had some water left in my other bottle, so I figured I would be fine until the next stop, but it was the first mistake where I wasn’t quite thinking clearly. Heading up to Mill Mountain, we “only” hit an 8% grade and 1,733′ before heading back down which was certainly steeper, getting up to 10% grade with tree / moss covered winding roads down. The last of the mountains is Peakwood Mountain and while it’s not quite as steep as Roanoke Mountain, there’s a false top where you climb up more 10% hills to 1,484′ before going downhill a bit and then up what seems to be the steepest part (though it only registers as 11.5%) to 1,605′ for the final mountain climb just before mile 19. The last 10k winds around downtown on and off an urban greenway and this was the hardest part for me mentally in the first lap. The “hard” part was over – I had conquered 3 mountains, but there was still so many miles left before I would finish! By this point, I was on my own, having lost the others I was running near, but about half a mile before the finish, I could hear someone coming up from behind me and I could tell they had to be from the second start wave – they were running fast and strong – as he passed me, he told me good job and was quickly out of sight. I could hear how close he was getting to the finish line as the cheers got louder and I knew I was getting even closer. (He ended up finishing the course in 4:16:08 and ended up as 4th overall double finisher.) I made the last turn and made my way through the crowd (lots of cheers for the double finishers) and finished my first lap in 5:48:45, which is just barely my slowest marathon (by about 4 minutes).
After I finished, I grabbed by drop bag from our Double Marathoner tent and headed to the VIP area (I was given VIP access because I was a ambassador / blogger for the race). It was great to have a dry area and real bathrooms to change in, along with chairs to sit in and someone even had an iPhone charger for me to try to get some battery life into my phone before lap #2. I had almost 45 minutes before the next race started, so I took my time to organize my pack, reload with fuel / water and eat some more snacks before I headed off to the start line. While I was sitting in my own little world, Julie (another ambassador / blogger) came over and found me! I was on her team at Ragnar Trail WV a few years ago and we’ve kept in touch through social media over the years. She posted about this race last year which put it on my radar for this year.
After refueling, stretching and putting my bag back down at gear drop, I headed to the start line where I found the 6 hour pacer, Kristin, who ended up being one of the bloggers as well! I told her my goal for the race was just to finish the second lap, so we talked through strategy and she promised she would help keep me on track. As we headed up our first of the many hills to come, Kristin kept telling everyone around us that I was running the double and I got lots of cheers from everyone around me – it was a great boost to kick off the race. Kristin explained that she had two pace bands – one based on even splits and another based on even effort. Even though we were walking a lot of the uphills at the beginning, we were still on pace for an even split (running the same time for each mile) which meant we were a few minutes ahead should we end up slowing down on the steeper hills later in the race.

Free race picture! Always an awesome perk for runners.

Overall I was feeling pretty good as I started, though I did have some pain on the outside of my right ankle. I wasn’t sure what that was about, but it was new, so I decided to just keep an eye on it to see if it got any worse. We made our way up to Roanoke Mountain again, making friends with Chip, who was also planning to stick with us as far as he could.

Totally different view than in the middle of the night!

After a quick stop for my first pictures of the race, we all headed down the mountain. At this point, my right knee had gotten pretty grumpy and overall the downhills just hurt. Soon Chip and I were behind Kristin, but we were sticking together pretty well as we headed up Mill Mountain. At the top, I took advantage of the plethora of volunteers who were offering to take pictures and got one in front of the giant star.

Still smiling!
Course markings pointing us away from the Roanoke Star

On the way down from Mill Mountain, it was like running through the rain forest – it was pseudo-rainy / foggy but we had gotten above most of the clouds on our climbs, so as we descended, we were going back down through them.

I lost Chip around the half-way point as he was able to go down the hills faster than I was – so I just kept trucking along, making my way past the Moo Mosa table (and taking a free drink) and winding down the steep hill.

After Mill Mountain, there was a little reprieve before heading back up Peakwood Mountain. I hadn’t noticed all of the signs on the climbs as I made my way up the first time, but the second time I saw them and they gave me a chuckle, even though I knew what was coming up next. I was still passing people going up the hills and actually was feeling pretty good hiking up them – to me, the uphills were much easier than the downhills, which I guess means I did something right in training.

Signs from front to back: Keep going only one mile to the top of Peakwood!
Pain today great status update tomorrow
Don’t stop champagne at the top! Run! Run!
It will be flat in half a mile

At the top of Peakwood they had champagne (which I declined) but one of the volunteers filled up my water bottle as I made my way around the short loop at the top before heading back down what I considered the worst part of the race. By this point, I wasn’t feeling well – I don’t think I had been taking in enough calories and my legs absolutely hated me going downhill, so miles 19-20 were my lowest point. I tried going down the hills backwards, but I couldn’t handle more than a few steps before getting nauseous, so I had to turn back around. On the way down from Peakwood, I got passed by the two guys I had been leap-frogging with for most of the race (including Chip) and saw them quickly head out of sight as they took advantage of the downhills.

After the worst of the downhills were over, I knew the rest was mostly flat-ish with some small rolling hills back to the finish line. At one of the road crossings, a paramedic was directing traffic and told me that the race was being called due to bad weather in the area and that I should stop at the next water stop. Still feeling pretty terrible, I said okay and as I approached the next water stop, they tried giving me stuff and I asked them, “But I thought I was supposed to stop here?” to which I was told “No, you can keep going, they’ll come pick you up” – okay… so I kept run / walking and before long I could see a cop driving up the road towards runners, stopping to talk to each one. When he got to me, he asked if I knew the race had been cancelled and I said yes to which he said “Okay, the bus will be coming up behind you to pick you up” – okay… so I kept going. As I got into downtown, there was another race official who was stopping people and he said we all (there were a few of us around at this point) had to make a decision about whether to continue on our own with no course support or take a shuttle back to the finish line. I asked him to just tell me in a official voice that I had to stop, which he obliged and then I asked where to pick up the bus!

Where my race officially ended, 47.8 miles and 11:18:26 after I started

I ended up going to an awning beside the hospital to wait for a bus and was joined by another runner before we saw the bus come down the road a few minutes later. The bus made a few more stops, including picking up a huge group of people a few blocks later under a building overhang. The race official’s radio was buzzing as we made our way back towards the finish line and eventually got dropped off. By that point, it was raining heavily again and the temperature seemed to have dropped. Luckily the gear drop area had a tent for us to sneak under to get our bags and heat blankets to keep us semi-dry and warm. I even got one of the volunteers to help point me in the right direction back to my hotel so that I wouldn’t spend time wandering around trying to figure it out.

It’s not where I wanted my day to end, but given all of the tornado warnings that kept interrupting my afternoon hockey watching at the hotel, I’d say the race officials definitely made the right call.

A couple of final thoughts:

  • If you want a really funny analogy / race recap from a marathoner who has done over 400 races, check out this Facebook post.
  • Some runners have terrible luck – the guy who joined me to wait for the bus at the hospital has run this race 3 times and has only finished once. He ran the race the only other time they had to pull people from the race, back in the early 2000’s when they had to stop because of flooding! We joked with him on the bus that it was his fault the race was called this year.
  • The Hampton Inn was a great hotel location-wise since it is so close to the start / finish line, but noise-canceling headphones or a white noise machine would be good to bring with you if you need an early night Friday night due to the concert that is just a few blocks away.
  • A lot of the talk on our blogger page in the days leading up to the race was concern about the rain – I was actually excited about having rain / overcast weather instead of hot temperatures. This course would be absolutely brutal with full sun and a hot day – there are a lot of sections that are completely exposed. I’ll take rain over heat every single time!
  • I was 100% fine with not continuing the race at the time and wholly believe it was in my best interest – even though it only rained in Roanoke, the temperature did drop throughout the day and I wasn’t moving fast enough to generate much heat. I also didn’t have my rain jacket with me since I was so hot overnight in the rain, I certainly didn’t think I would need it during the day.
  • I was not happy when I saw the final results and saw that runners who opted to continue “on their own” were given finishing times, some over an hour after the race was officially cancelled (the race was cancelled at 4:52 from gun time and there were 28 people who had finishing times over 6 hours, some even over 7 hours). I sent an email to the race regarding this and Julia very quickly responded and said she understood where I was coming from – it was a learning experience for everyone as this was their first year having to institute their emergency management protocol. For awhile, I was upset that all of these people had official finishes even though we were told everything was cancelled and was being taken down much earlier, but the reality is, finishing would not have been a good decision for me in those conditions. Yes, I could have probably finished within those times – I had a little over 5 miles to go when I stopped – but it would have been a rough finish even without the downpour and in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter. It may not have been the ultra I thought I was going to do, but I finished an ultra, running 21 miles more than I have ever done before!
  • I really would have benefited from someone acting as race crew or at least a checklist for my switch between races. I did really well at: changing clothes, charging my somehow dead phone and restocking my fuel supplies, but I also made some easy mistakes: I put my portable charger in my pack, but not my watch charging cord, so it was at less than 10% battery when I stopped, I didn’t have an iPhone charger in my gear bag because I left it at the hotel and I didn’t realize the temperature was going to drop as the day went on Saturday afternoon, so I didn’t take my rain jacket with me (since I was sweating in the rain overnight).
  • This race hurt! I think my hiking background and all my long runs certainly helped with all of the uphill sections, but my legs took a beating on the downhill sections – for awhile I thought I may have actually done something to my right knee as it felt really swollen by the time I finished and it was really hard to move for the rest of the day on Saturday. Luckily after some long rest periods, it ended up being fine.
  • I need to take in more salt – I was struggling with nausea in miles 19-20, so I just slowly ate my baby goldfish which really seemed to help. I used up all 4 of my Nuun tablets during the two races, but because it was rainy and really humid, I was drinking more than I thought I would, so I should have brought more Nuun tablets with me too. I did fill up with SKRATCH at my last water stop since I was out of Nuun, but didn’t end up drinking much of it before stopping.
  • I swore when I was on the course and after the race that I would never do this again… then I said never the double… now I’ll say maybe. Enough time has passed for me to ignore how hard this race was, plus, I still haven’t technically finished 50 miles yet, so we’ll keep it as a maybe.
I was an Ambassador for this race and as part of that got a free race entry and VIP access in exchange for writing and posting pictures about my training and race experiences. You can catch up on all of my posts related to this race here

Blue Ridge Marathon – 3 days to go!

72 hours from now I’ll be at the starting line for the Blue Ridge Double Marathon.

I’m actually feeling pretty good about the race, though I’m sure I’ll regret that statement at some point over the next few days. I did 2 marathons as part of this training cycle, New South Marathon and Rock ‘n’ Roll Raleigh 8 days apart, and while they both were tough races, I wasn’t completely wiped out by either of them, so I’m definitely stronger than I was for last year’s marathons. This week I’ve been focusing on the logistics for the race, including how far my hotel is from the start line (less than a quarter mile), what time I need to be at the start line (12:45 am), all the required gear for the first lap (headlamp, reflective gear, blinking light, hydration, nutrition and cell phone), and any gear I want to swap between the two races (I’m going to pack for a full outfit and shoe change).

One thing that is certainly still up in the air is the weather… currently the forecast doesn’t look too terrible. I’ve done a marathon in the rain before, so I’m sure I can make it through another one if I have to and frankly, I’d prefer to have an overcast day than the original 75 degree day they were forecasting last week. I’m just going to keep my fingers crossed that we don’t have any thunderstorms until we get through the races.
The only other thing I’m still mentally trying to wrap my head around is the elevation change – 7,430′ over the marathon, which means 14,860′ change over the entire distance I’ll be covering on Saturday. I did a training run last Saturday at one of the local trails that had 4,491′ elevation change and it kicked my butt, so that may have been the one area I’ll look back on and say I should have done more, but nothing I can do about it now!
So for now, I’ll focus on what I can control – packing all my goodies (and probably way too many extra things since I’m driving up there), hydration and good sleep leading up to the race. I’m sure Friday will bring on some anxiety, but right now, I’m just ready to run!

Blue Ridge Marathon – 1 month to go!

As of my last update post, I was working on two upcoming race weekends (Indiana and the yet-to-be-written Arkansas races) and was working through some tough training weeks. Now we’re only 1 month out from race day and I still have 2 more races on my horizon, though these are much closer to home – this weekend’s race at the Whitewater Center in Charlotte and the following weekend’s race in Raleigh. This month has certainly flown by and a lot of that could be due to the fact that I was traveling 3 of the last 4 weekends, including a trip up to Asheville to work at the expo for the Biltmore half & full answering runner questions and sharing my experience with the Backyard to Vineyard Challenge from 2016.

My running totals have been increasing each week and while I’m still doing a terrible job at including strength training / core exercises and stretching into my weekly routine, the miles do seem to be getting easier. I’ve been averaging 40-50 miles each week, and while mentally that doesn’t seem like enough considering I’ll be doing over 50 in one day in one month, I can definitely feel myself getting stronger.

I had my first real deviation from the training plan this past weekend – it called for a 50k on Sunday, but after looking at some local races and deciding it wasn’t fiscally responsible to fly out to Utah to do the Antelope Island 50k (someday!) – I ended up just splitting the mileage between Saturday and Sunday instead. Sunday’s trail run was tough near the end and I started feeling myself wander into the “how am I going to do 52.4 miles in one day” territory, so I slowed down, ate some more food and kept going. My legs were tired when I finished and I absolutely took a nap, but I felt pretty good when I woke up and haven’t really been sore after my runs which has been a really amazing transformation from my previous marathon training cycles. The next two weeks are big mileage weekends calling for marathon distances both weekends and then I’ll start to officially taper!

It’s crazy to think that the double marathon is coming up so quickly. I’ve got my hotel secured and I know about when I want to leave in order to do the 4 hour drive to Richmond, get to the expo and then get to the hotel to rest, so now it’s all about finalizing those details – fueling, race strategy (something more than ‘don’t die’), pacing, how to get enough rest for a 1:00 am start time and then stay awake and moving through the second marathon that starts at 7:30 am… all the fun stuff. We’ve started getting some emails about the double marathon, asking us for our official start times and estimated paces. The goal will be to attempt to pair us up so that no one is running alone overnight, but with only 60 participants and two start times it will certainly be a quiet night.

15 weeks in:
  • Total mileage: 474.4


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Winter Trail Frosty half marathon – Indianapolis, IN (2017)

 I signed up for this race after seeing the medal in an ad on my Facebook account. Last year I did the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot half marathon in North Carolina and I loved my big red WTF 13.1 sweatshirt, so adding another WTF race this year sounded like a good plan, especially after I realized it would let me check off state #25. This weekend called for a 22 mile run, so originally I was planning to run from my hotel to the race venue and then back to the hotel, but with the drastic weather changes (and after I saw the roads I’d have to run on), I decided to forgo that plan and just head to the venue early to get some miles in before the race started at 10:00 am.

When I picked up my rental car, I laughed a little when I saw they had included an ice scraper in the back seat. Race morning came and now it wasn’t so funny… the high 60’s from Friday had turned into some nasty thunderstorms followed by an extreme temperature drop and some overnight snow / ice accumulation on the car. The roads ended up being fine, but it took me several minutes to get the car ready to go. It was snowing as I got to the venue but being there 2 hours before the race started allowed me to get an amazing parking spot near the finish line and gave me plenty of time to get out on the trails before the race actually started.

The race was held at Eagle Creek State Park which has a lot of different trails. My goal was to get 9 miles in before the race, so I headed out to take the trail on the farthest perimeter, following the Red loop to the Blue loop back to the Red loop, then back to the Blue loop, more Red loop and then a detour onto the Orange loop before finishing up on the Red loop back to the starting line. I ended up seeing mile markers 3, 2, 6 and 1, as well as the guy who was marking the trails with orange ribbon, on my way to getting 8.5 miles in before the race. I had started to run out of time, especially since I wanted to hit the porta-potties before the actual race started, so instead of getting that last .5 in before the race, I just added it onto the end (definitely not the way to go!).

Here comes the snow!

Snow caught in a spider web

The race itself was capped at 600 participants and they did sell out. This was only the second year for this race, but the turnout was impressive – the super awesome finisher medals may have something to do with that… I know I signed up after seeing the medal and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one! I got a little cold waiting around for the start, but it wasn’t too bad until I got back to the land bridge around the bird sanctuary where there was very little to break up the wind. I was glad I ran the loop the opposite way the first time, keeping the wind at my back instead of running into the wind 3 times.
Views from around the Eagle Creek Reservoir bird sanctuary

After we got to the land bridge, the race spread out quite a bit as the trail was a little wider and allowed more people to pass and get into their own running pace. I had run through most of the race course before the race actually started, but one of the sections that was new to me was around the Ornithology Center where they had a plaque where you could test your wingspan against the various birds that call Eagle Creek Park home.

As I was doing my first lap around the bird sanctuary, I actually saw a bald eagle flying across the lake. Unfortunately it was flying away from me and by the time I realized what it was it was too far away to get a picture, but it was really cool to see in person!

This was somewhere in the first lap – you can see the snow whipping through the trees!

Even though thunderstorms had come through the day before and it was snowing on and off throughout the race, most of the trails were hard packed and there were only two sections that were really muddy, like running through peanut butter muddy. For my second race lap (third lap total through that section), I just walked through it trying not to fall!

Overall, I think this was a very good race. The trails weren’t very technical, and I actually ended up with my fastest trail half time (2:28:54) which was pretty awesome considering I did an 8.5 mile “warm-up” prior to starting.

The not-so-good
Too many people starting at the same time. There are pseudo-wave starts with the announcer letting a group of people go, then stopping and waiting for 30-45 seconds before letting another group of 30-ish people go. In theory this would work, but in reality, the first half of the trail (at least the full first two miles) was really congested. Since there is a half and a quarter marathon and it seemed like most of the people were running the quarter marathon (though I did hear the announcer say there were still about 70 people left on the half course when I finished), I think it would be great to split the start times for these races to allow the half marathoners to get 2-3 miles in before letting the quarter marathoners start. There’s a lot more room to get around people from miles 2-5, so that would theoretically spread out the field a bit more.

The only other “complaint” is really more of just a trail hazard that can’t be avoided – there are several sets of wooden stairs on the course which turn nice and slick with snow and mud covering them, so they were a bottleneck at the beginning of the race and certainly an area where most people slowed to a walk to stay upright. I heard a few people went down on these sections and that will certainly be a hazard in future races (it is February in Indiana after all), so that’s certain something to be aware of when checking out these (and any) trails.

The stairs don’t actually look as steep from the bottom, but they were very steep and slippery!

The good
The trail was extremely well marked. It’s a two-loop course for the half marathon, coming through the finish line area around the halfway point before heading back out again and even when I was running backwards on some of the course before the race started, it was really easy to tell which was the race was going to go. I think you would have to actually try to get lost on this course.

There were several times where the course crossed the road within the park and there was always at least one volunteer flagging traffic and making sure runners had the right-of-way. I was cold while running, so I really appreciate those volunteers staying out there for several hours to keep us safe.

The awesome
Cake! They had tons of cake for runners at the end of the event, and I’m not going to lie, it was definitely a motivator for me in those last few miles. It was delicious!

Free race photos! Who doesn’t love free race photos? It’s actually kind of funny scrolling through the pictures because you can see how much the weather changes and how heavy the snow got at some points.

As I’ve mentioned a few times already, I did this race for the bling. The shirt and medal for this race were really nice. The shirt is actually a long-sleeve thermal shirt that’s more like long-john material which is really appropriate considering the likelihood of cold temperatures.


Blue Ridge Marathon – 2 months to go!

Last month’s update was about everything new – I had just officially registered to run the double marathon, so I was finalizing my training plan and getting energized with the prospect of running over 50 miles in one day. This month has a bit more about really getting into the rhythm of training, and the highs and lows that come along with that.

Last week was a rough week for me. I felt pretty good finishing the Fellowship of the Idiot run, but I didn’t do those extra few miles to get up to my planned 22 miles for my long run and then had a lot of trouble getting back into the swing of things Sunday and Monday. I’ve been trying out some new shoes, trying to break them in to use in the second marathon, but it’s a new brand and a new drop (with a ton more cushion), so it’s taking a little longer than I hoped it would to transition into these shoes and it’s more painful that I was expecting.

My calves have been tight when I first start running and usually give me some pain, but these new shoes seem to be exacerbating that issue. So after the major elevation on Saturday’s run, I took it really easy Sunday, only going out for a mile and a half and then following up with some yoga. I felt better on Monday, so I headed out around the neighborhood again and did another 2-ish miles. My legs still felt really tight and after some pretty good 800 repeats on Tuesday morning, my Wednesday night was another flop coming in at 3 mostly painful miles. Thursday started a turnaround as I was able to get almost 8 miles in with my running group followed by another rest day on Friday. Saturday was the last of my taper week and only called for 10 miles, but since I had skipped quite a few miles throughout the week, I decided to do the full group run and hit 11.6 and felt really good throughout. It still fells really funny to say that my “easy run” is in double digits.
Having gone through this process multiple times, I know that there will inevitably be highs and lows throughout the training cycle and it’s just a matter of getting through them to the other side. Having a group to meet multiple times a week has helped with that accountability – even when I don’t feel like getting out of bed or running loops, I know I need to go and at least give it a try and then once I’m out there, it’s a lot easier to keep going when you’re with a group of people!

The next few weeks will be busy with races the next two weekends which will then take me to another taper week, before the final big push at the end of March. I’m excited about the next two races – I’ll be checking off two new states, Indiana and Arkansas – and since I’ve got to add 10+ miles onto each race, I’ll definitely have some exploring to do. I still need to add in weekly yoga / additional stretching and core exercises, so I’m going to work on making those a priority over the next few weeks to really get into a routine as my mileage continues to increase. I’m also thinking of adding in a sports massage or two to really help loosen everything back up – sitting at a desk all day certainly doesn’t help my sore muscles.

10 weeks in:

  • Total mileage: 262.1
  • Expected mileage: 292



February is here!?!

I can’t believe we’re already into February! January was packed full of activity and I didn’t realize just how much until I completed my calendar for the 30-day Ragnar Training challenge. Ragnar provided a calendar and asked everyone in the challenge to submit a picture of their completed calendar for a sticker touting their accomplishment. I’ve been playing with a lot of digital pictures lately on another project and decided to fill out my calendar digitally as well.

I definitely had fun looking for pictures to differentiate the things I did in January, especially the tongue-in-cheek nature of the 50’s woman cleaning to highlight all of my January Cure work. I ended the month having completed 9 of the 20 January Cure assignments, so that will certainly roll over into February before I can completely check that off my list, but it’s going to get done! I’ve also really ramped up my training as I count down the days (77) until the Blue Ridge double marathon. I ended up running just over 136 miles in January which is 50 miles more than I ran in any month in 2016. I’m still feeling really good on my runs, though the early mornings are a little bit of a struggle.

My biggest time suck over the last week was completely re-building the Charlotte Women’s Soccer League website. We’ve used a few different platforms over the past few years and had moved to a system that allowed us to handle all of our registration, team building and basically all of the league management electronically which was great for me and the team captains, but the website user experience wasn’t very good, especially for anyone trying to access the site via a mobile device. So, last weekend I started building a new website based off of WordPress and as of the wee hours of Friday morning, the site went live and is so much more aesthetically pleasing and easier to navigate for all of our existing and prospective players. It was definitely a love-hate relationship building that site. It reminded why I got into playing with computers in the first place and also why I decided that a career in IT was not how I wanted to spend 8+ hours every day.

Today kicks off my first long run of February with 20 miles on the schedule. Here’s to another great month of getting outside and getting stronger!

Blue Ridge Marathon – 3 months to go!

Today I’m hosting a link up with some of the other official bloggers for the Blue Ridge Marathon. We’re all doing different distances and I thought it would be fun to see where everyone is at now that we have 3 months of training left. So keep coming back and check out the links below as others add their updates on how they are progressing on their training.

Until a few weeks ago, I was missing my weekly mileage pretty significantly. Lots of reasons why this is true – holidays, away from home, just getting back home, cold, work, etc, etc, etc. But, I officially started a new training group on January 12 and am definitely back on track. My weeks now include speed work on Tuesdays, tempo runs on Thursdays, long runs on Saturdays and shorter recovery runs on Sundays and Wednesdays. I still need to incorporate some strength training and core work, but I’ll definitely be adding that in as well.

After signing up for the Blue Ridge Marathon, I started thinking about a plan to join Marathon Maniacs. I’m already a member of Half Fanatics and would love to achieve Double Agent status this year. I’ve been working on a plan to qualify by doing 3 marathons in 90 days (Bronze Level), but as of this week, I’ve got a new plan…

Yes, it’s official – I’ll be joining the ranks of 59 other people who will be doing a marathon before the marathon. I plan to start my first marathon at 1:00 am and run the marathon course mostly self-supported, finishing in time to start my second marathon at 7:30am. Given the drastic increase in mileage and elevation, I’ve spent the last few days research how I should update my training plan for this race, including adding a new race in March to test out my legs on the trails at the Whitewater Center here in Charlotte.

52.4 miles and over 14k feet of elevation change! 

I mentioned this plan to a few people in my running group yesterday and got several “you’re crazy” responses, which might be true, but a lot of people just want to know more about it. There’s a lot to be said for surrounding yourself with people who will continue to push you beyond what you think you can do! Already the group has shown incredible support in the training runs and I’m excited for the journey and now I’ve got 3 months to prepare myself to run twice as far as I’ve ever run before…

7 weeks in:

  • Total mileage: 103.8
  • Expected mileage: 124



Training through the holidays

It’s always hard to keep training on track when your normal routine is disrupted, and the holidays are a great example of this. Technically I started my Blue Ridge Marathon training plan the week of December 4, mostly because I already had Ragnar Trail Alafia on the calendar, but after that race, I promptly had a big old goose egg the following week. I was traveling at the beginning of the week and then trying to get everything ready to visit family for Christmas, so running fell to the end of my to do list.

This week has been a little bit better – I was able to do a short run on the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail on Sunday to start off the week. I’ve hiked sections of the trail, so I wanted to get out and see what it would be like to run on them, but winter weather has a habit of putting you on your heels. There was snow left over from last week, Saturday brought a mix of rain and snow and Sunday was warm, slightly rainy and had even more melt-off. I knew the trails would be sloppy, but what I wasn’t prepared for was the trail turning into a stream and mid-shin high standing water where the trails flattened out!

Over the river and through the woods!
This section required an off-trail detour, but I loved the colors of the leaves trapped under barely frozen ice.

Shortly after that detour, I turned around and headed across Route 30 to see if the other side of the trail would be any better, and at first it was. The woods were foggy with misty / rainy precipitation and it was beautiful, but eventually I ran into another major section of unpassable standing water and figured it was probably in my best interest to take my wet feet back home to get warm.

So, Sunday I only managed just over 3 miles on the trails, but I took yesterday off of work so that I could get some shopping done and made sure to keep some time for myself in the morning to get in a 5 mile run on the Great Allegheny Passage. Again, it was just around 32 degrees when I started, so I bundled up (maybe not as much as I should have) and headed out. I didn’t think about the fact that I was in the mountains and even though the sun had been up for almost 2 hours, that didn’t necessarily mean it would be above the tree line on the trail I was on.

The beginning of the trail

The trail is extremely flat and I had originally hoped to run to the Pinkerton tunnel and back, but the online maps didn’t quite line up with the actual mileage of the trails, so it would have been close to an 18 mile run to hit the tunnel and come back which was a lot more than I was interested in doing, so I just did a short 2.5 miles out and then back again instead.

My turnaround point

After I turned around, I took a quick detour off-trail to see the Cassellman River up close before heading back up to the trail to finish my run.

I did actually see two other people out on the trail as I was finishing up my run, but they were much better dressed for their winter walk – heading out in full winter jackets, scarves, gloves and hats. Really the only thing I missed on this run was my buff to take some of the chill out of the air I was breathing and better protect my neck from the wind, but I had my gloves and headband on and I did cheat and use a hand warmer for the run, but for the most part it worked out pretty well.

I didn’t feel great on this run – my legs just weren’t having it. I’m not sure if it was because it was so cold out or because it was just an off day, but I still got out there for some mileage, so I’m calling it a win!

Looking for some training help for the Blue Ridge Marathon?
The Blue Ridge Marathon and Fleet Feet Roanoke are offering two virtual training options tailored to help you conquer America’s Toughest Marathon (or half)!

  • Virtual half marathon plan: A 14-week program starting on January 16
  • Virtual marathon plan: A 16-week program starting on January 2
You can use the code TRAINSMART to save $5 off of either training program.

The fine print…
I am an ambassador for the Blue Ridge Marathon, so I have been given a free entry to the race of my choice (I’m doing the marathon) in return for promoting their events. I get emailed all kinds of details about specials for the race, including race discounts (use BRMFRIENDS to get 15% off), training runs, merchandise and other things runners might find beneficial. I will occasionally post on here or my Instagram account if there are things I think others may benefit from. I’ve never done this race before, but I’m looking forward to the challenge in April and will do a formal race recap (the good, the bad and the ugly) when I finish. 

Blue Ridge Marathon training – time to get started!

Even though I’m not quite done with my 2016 races, it’s definitely time to start thinking about next year. Taking on the “America’s Toughest Road Marathon” in 20 weeks means I needed to start planning! While I did pretty well on my training for the Backyard to Vineyard Challenge, I didn’t have a great execution of my training for the Grandfather Mountain Marathon and didn’t do much planning at all for the Marine Corps Marathon and it certainly showed. I’m still unsure about a lot of my race plans for 2017, but I know I’ve got this on my plate, so I’ve created a plan to get me started, especially through the holidays. I’m also planning to join an official running group again in January so that I will have some company on my long runs as the weather gets colder.

I’ve been slacking in my weekly training (let’s be honest, it’s nonexistent), my eating has been sloppy and I need to bring back cross-training. With so many races this fall – 8 races in 10 weeks – I’ve been going from one race to another and just trying to catch up with the rest of my life in between. It didn’t help that I caught the nasty cough that’s going around which stuck around for a few weeks after the Charlotte to Las Vegas trip. When just walking around sent me into coughing fits, I’ve spent a lot of time sitting on the couch with the dogs.

My goal will be to hit my training mileage each week and include at least two days of cross-training, focusing on core and stability. It’s going to require braving the elements this winter, but training in the south gives me a little bit of an advantage with more mild weather than other parts of the country.

Here’s to not following this advice in 2017!

Announcement: Blue Ridge Marathon Ambassador!

I’ve officially been chosen as an ambassador for the 2017 Blue Ridge Marathon in Roanoke, VA. This year’s races will be held on April 22, 2017 and there are multiple race options:

  • Foot Levelers Full Marathon
  • Foot Levelers Half Marathon
  • Anthem Star 10k
There will also be a newly created double marathon and a marathon relay, truly something for everyone!
This will be my first time doing this race, and after handling the elevation change at Grandfather Mountain Marathon in July (7,004′), I’m looking forward to another major challenge next year. This race boasts over 7,430′ of elevation change, including 3 mountains to ascend and then descend – Roanoke Mountain, Peakwood Mountain and Mill Mountain – and has the most elevation change of any road race in the US, hence the “toughest” road marathon status!
I’ll be posting more about these races and how I’m planning to train through the winter months for this early season race over the next 6 months. Ready to commit to one of the Blue Ridge races? Use discount code BRMFRIENDS for 15% any of the four race distances (10k, half, full, & double). Get registered today!