Race Recap: Downhill at Dawn Half Marathon

As someone who is racing the states, I try to find races that are geographically convenient to where I live as well as factor in the price.  When a friend from a local running group suggested I join her and one of her friends on a quick weekend race trip to North Carolina, I didn’t need any convincing.  Downhill at Dawn was held in Ridgecrest, NC which was less than a 2.5 hour drive for us.  We made the trip up on a Friday and spent some time shopping at discount stores and outlet malls.  The start takes place at the Ridgecrest Conference Center and fortunately they have several housing options directly on campus that are also tax exempt so you don’t have to pay extra for fees.  We had a little dorm that was directly next to the start line (see photos below) and since it had one big bed and two sets of bunk beds then we each got our own sleeping area.  I will note that the bathrooms are very small and there is no TV in the room so be aware of that if you plan to do this race.  IMG_8456

There's the start line from our room.

There’s the start line from our room.

sleeping quarters

sleeping quarters

We ate at an Italian restaurant for our pre-race meal.  I had pizza (judge me) and it seemed to sit okay on my stomach.  The race began at 6:01 so we had to be up early but it was SO nice having the start line literally right outside the door so that you could take as long as you needed to get ready and then use the bathroom one last time.  I headed to the start at 5:57 and had plenty of time.  Such a rebel, I am.

I stayed near the back because I knew this race would take me quite some time since I had only ran once since the marathon and that run was a race.  We started and I expected lots of downhills since the name has downhill in the title.  I was wrong…BUT I did look at the elevation chart so I knew they were eventually coming.

can you find me??

can you find me??

The first couple of miles featured an out and back section so I was able to stay distracted by looking at the other runners and cheering for them.  I met two super nice Half Fanatics.  One ran up and high fived me as he was doing the “back” portion and then I was able to walk and talk with another for some time.  Around mile 4 the race begins to go downhill which was such a relief.  I was scared they wouldn’t come.

After going downhill on a main road for a bit, we cut onto this gravel/sandy road to continue the downhill portion.  Jennifer had warned me about this so I was expecting lots and lots of gravel but it was mostly compacted sand which was a welcome relief to my legs that were hurting.  Since we were in the mountains there was a lot of shade so I never really felt the sun.  I was sweating buckets but at least the brutal southern June sun was not shining on me.  I wish I could remember the exact point but around mile 9 it started to flatten out.  I enjoyed the change of pace and continued to do a walk/run although there were no set intervals.  I tried not to look at my watch because the last thing I needed during the race was pressure but I did become increasingly convinced that I was not going to make the 3 hour time limit.

There were aid stations about every two miles and the workers at them were FANTASTIC. So nice and fun and motivating.  I’ve never been the type of person to wish for a certain type of drink on a course because I’m just thankful that they have hydration at all, but the orange Gatorade they had was the BEST thing I have ever put in my mouth.  Maybe I was delirious but mannnn it was so good.  My stomach never felt “bad” but it didn’t feel enough to handle one of the two gels that I packed in my belt so I decided to solely rely on liquid as my fuel source.

running next to a geiser

running next to a geiser

I saw a dead snake at mile 11 which was a little scary.  A quick glance at my Garmin told me I was good on time and before I knew it I was making the turn onto the sidewalk to head to town.  Eventually I saw the finish line in sight and began to run a little faster.  My last two miles were the fastest of the day.  I crossed and grabbed my really awesome medal and immediately made my way to the food table.  I was desperately looking forward to chocolate milk but they ran out so I settled for some bite size Nutella packets instead.  Have you ever seen these?  They were the perfect size and I had to keep myself from grabbing a huge handful.

heaven

heaven

It should also be noted that since the race finished at a church, they had INSIDE bathrooms.  How many times does that happen after a race?  Almost never.  We waited in line for a school bus back to the start line but we got SUPER lucky and this fancy church shuttle pulled up that had cushioned seats and air conditioning.  It was wonderful.  Bonus: I had the front seat and no one sat next to me so I had lots of room to stretch out and rest for the trip back up the mountain.   IMG_8453 IMG_8468

My final time was 2:45:29 which I was extremely proud of. I had told my travel partners to start looking for me around 2:45 and I totally nailed it.  What’s crazy is that for so long I tried to get under 3 hours at a half marathon and was never able to and now I feel as though I’m in the worst shape of my life and I know I’m at my heaviest weight yet I still did a 2:45:29.  Not too shabby although I have lots of room for improvement over the next couple of years.

If you need a NC race then I highly recommend this one.  It may be completely in the boonies but it was great in terms of being next to the race start and just general race hospitality.  Thankful to have state 8 under my belt and to have completed 20 half marathons.

 

Race Recap: Knoxville Half Marathon 2013

The Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon holds a special place in my heart.  It is the first half marathon I ever did after ignorantly signing up my freshman year of college.  It was the race to show off my hard work after being a contestant on the Biggest Winner.  It was the race that I PR’d on last year and the race that I ever ran eight consecutive miles in.  I also happen to be on Race Staff and work alongside my dear friend Robyn doing goody bags.  We stuff bags for about six hours the weekend before the race then hand them out on race day.  Needless to say, this is my race.

No matter how sentimental this race is to me, this year went a little bit different.  I’ve struggled with my weight really bad the past few months and have really packed on the pounds since last year.  I’ve stopped running and prefer to just take shorter walks.  I am finishing up my senior year of college with lots of hard credit hours.  I had to work 13 hours at the expo the day before the race and got minimal sleep on race eve.  And yes, I am complaining about all these things when most people have it way worse.  I was really tempted to drop to the 5k and just cheer my mom and our friend Yvonne on while they did the half.  But that seemed like a cop-out to me and I wanted to cross that finish line with two very special ladies especially since my Momma was doing this race for her birthday.  The decision was made to suck it up and just walk the entire 13.1 miles with them.

Expo was long and tiring, but so very fun.  I got to work with some amazing volunteers who really brought a special spirit to my day.  A blogging friend, Layne, came down to do the half marathon and I’m so grateful I finally met her in real life.  Lots of people came through my line that I only see once a year so it was a big reunion party.  It was just lots of fun and even though my legs and back hurt like crazy afterwards, it was worth it.

wrong number at expo

wrong number at expo

I tried so hard to sleep on race eve, but tossed and turned with no luck.  Race morning came and I snoozed as long as possible.  Fortunate for me, I literally live about four blocks from the race start, so I could afford taking my sweet time.  Momma and Yvonne met me at my apartment for the walk to the start line.  We got there just as the wheelchair division took off.  Nothing like easing pre race anxiety like showing up three minutes before the start.  We eased our way to the very back just as the gun went off.  Footloose was blaring as we crossed the start line and there were lots of cheers and high fives being passed around.  About a half mile into the race we passed my apartment and started the walk through campus.  There sure was a lot of camaraderie in the back and lots of people motivating each other.  I wasn’t full on complaining but I had no problem telling my Momma that I was already over it.  My legs were dead, my mind was shot, and my heart just wasn’t in it.  But it was important to me to finish.

We made it another four miles or so before making it to the Boulevard and Sequoyah Hills-a very important part of the course.  Momma and Yvonne often got a tiny bit ahead of me so I could slow down, then on the downhills, I would shuffle to them to catch back up.  There were a few people on bikes that kept on making random appearances, cheering us on, offering advice, and being so wonderfully kind.  One guy even had a Channing Tatum sign.  Thanks for the motivation, sir.  We trekked and trekked.  Around mile 7 we hit Noelton, the most famous course on the hill.  This is where Momma hit the wall last year.  Noelton has two parts…one big incline, then dips down and goes back up one more time for a smaller hill.  We made it to the big dip in the middle and Momma turns around and says “There is Kingston Pike, WE ARE DONE”.  I’m thinking to myself that no we are not done, we are just done with Noelton.  It was still a big feat getting up that hill but we all felt much better after making it to the top.

Once we hit the greenway all was well and it felt like being in Townsend again.  We welcomed the miles as we passed them and just tried to talk and have fun and make the most of our experience out there.  Towards the end of the greenway section, we passed two pregnant women…one of them was two weeks from due date!  What an amazing thing to be out doing a half marathon so late in pregnancy.   Kudos to her.

The last part of the course was extremely tough mentally.  We had less than two miles to go but they went so slow.  The hills were hurting, my feet were hurting, and my hips could barely move.  But we pressed on.  I can honestly say that it would not have been possible if my Momma and Yvonne hadn’t been there with me.  After finally making it to the course split, I could hear the cheers and see the stadium.  FINALLY.  We decided to just take it nice and easy across, savoring every moment of being on the field and having all attention on us.  We held hands and lifted them high as we finished in 3:336:42.  All of us had the exact same time on the results page.  Some very tall and very large UT football players handed us our medals and all was well.

the coveted finish line

the coveted finish line

Afterwards, I felt sick after stopping and my leg muscles started to cramp like crazy.  We took just a few pictures before meeting up with Yvonne’s husband and kids and my boyfriend.  Luckily for all of us, Yvonne’s husband had parked directly by the exit gate and drove us back to my apartment.  He had drinks and everything for us.  I’m really thankful for that and thankful that I didn’t have to walk back.

like mother like daughter

like mother like daughter

After a nice long nap at my apartment, TJ treated me to a large cup of red velvet ice cream at a local ice cream parlor.  The cold taste was amazing after a long hot day on the race course.  I tried to share it with him, but I devoured it.

the animal cracker on top made it special.

the animal cracker on top made it special.

That night, we headed back to Townsend for some more fun.  TJ and I sat outside for a nice long while and hit some golf balls and just enjoyed the perfect springtime weather that Tennessee is finally being blessed with.  Moving around definitely helped get rid of some soreness.

sitting on tailgates make for good post race recovery

sitting on tailgates make for good post race recovery

This race was my 11th half marathon.  After PRing last year and riding high, I had very big hopes for this year’s race.  I knew that I wasn’t prepared to run it and looking back probably shouldn’t have even walked it, but I did.  It was worth it.  The half marathon distance has been important to me for some time, but I think I’m going to take a break from the distance events and work on getting back (slowly) into running and maybe even doing the couch to 5k program.  I want to be a runner again and I specifically want to work on my 5k times.  Hopefully by the end of the year I can be back into running consistently and working towards getting faster at short distances.  Oh, and next year if I work expo all day I will not run the next day.  Lesson learned.

I’m still very happy I did this race and wouldn’t take it back.  It was great to see so many different types of people out there working hard and being strong for this sport.  Distance ain’t no joke and I’d like to say congrats to all the walkers, runners, and wheelchairs that finished.

Race Recap: Women’s Half Marathon Nashville

If a half marathon wants to get my attention it needs only one thing…the color pink.  Kidding, but kinda not.  I did this race two years ago as my second half ever, and this past Saturday brought my half marathon tally up to 10.  I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work the expo in an effort to promote the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon.  However I have a major commitment phobia and could not quite bite the bullet of registering for the race until the week before.  I knew that I would more than likely be walking it and enjoying the crowd and socializing but I just wasn’t sure if I could mentally do it alone.

Fast forward to three days before the race when our marathon director emails me and asks me to find a friend.  Yes, please.  I frantically called my Big Sis and begged her to join me so she could do her first half and so that I would have a partner in crime.  Thankfully she said yes and Thursday evening we hit the road headed for Nashville.  But not after going to Wal Mart and stocking up on some yummy peanut butter goodness.  

We were so lucky to get to stay at the host hotel so everything was in the same place. We spent Friday at the expo talking to so many lovely women and having fun with some of the other vendors.  Vanessa and a few of her friends stopped by the booth for a quick chat so it was great to see a friendly face.  Vanessa went on to break 2 hours…great job!  I wore my classy overalls to represent Knoxville the best way I knew how. The boys from the booth across from us decided that there just wasn’t enough pink on me and crowned me with a feather boa.  

After a hard day’s work we walked a few blocks to Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant for some delish pre race BBQ and live music.  

Thanks to a time difference from Nashville and Knoxville we were able to gain an hour of sleep even after going to bed fairly early.  I slept like a baby and was on my feet easy when my alarm went off.  We spent way too much time worrying how we looked and before we knew it, we were off and headed to the start line.  I had been emailing and texting blog friend Jordan in the weeks leading up to the race and we were able to meet up with her before the gun went off.  Sweetest gal ever AND she had a major PR.  Loved meeting her.  She also introduced me to another blogger, Lisa and we had a group picture.  Please excuse me being a tower.  

We knew we were going to be walking the whole time so we needed to line up way in the back.  The corrals were all gated off so instead of fighting our way through the crowd, we just let the gun go off and waited for our corral to pass us before hopping in.  I didn’t bring my Garmin so I knew we wouldn’t have an accurate reading on where we were pace or time wise the entire way but I was okay with that.  Sometimes it is good to enjoy the moment.  We started picking ‘goal people’ to pick off.  The main objective was to just keep walking.

We hit mile 3 at a really good time and we were both feeling good.  Yvonne mentioned that we could shuffle the downhills to make up a little bit of time and that is exactly what we did.  Shuffle shuffle scoot scoot.  We stopped for a bathroom break around mile 5 and waited in line while our goal people passed us.  After that we power walked our butts off to make up time and catch up.  Then around mile 8, Yvonne had to use the bathroom again.  We were in a neighborhood at this point and the sweetest young ladies actually let Yvonne go inside their house and use the bathroom.  The other girls offered me mimosas while I was waiting.  Southern hospitality at the absolute finest.  We picked it back up and boot scoot boogied all the way until mile 10.  Our original goal had been to simply walk it in under 3:30.  As time went on, we set new goals. After mile 11 I knew that we had a big chance of breaking 3:15 and this was motivation to walk even faster and shuffle more downhills.

We made it down one final hill and I could see the 13 mile marker with the time clock above it.  Holy moley we were about to break 3:10.  This was major.  We had one last tiny walk then we shuffled through the finish line with time to spare.  Final official time (for both of us) was 3:07:08.  Not bad for Yvonne’s first half and for some major power walking skills.  

After finishing and flat out sitting down on the ground with pretzels and Powerade it was hard to believe we were done.  It was so much fun and I kept telling Yvonne that if it wasn’t for her then I could not and would not have pushed myself that hard.  Just goes to show that having a friend to keep you accountable and push you as much as you push them goes a long way.  No pun intended.  We listened to some music for a bit before heading back to the room and showering and packing up to head home.  It was a great trip and I’m so thankful that I got to finish half marathon number 10 while Yvonne finished her very first. And I’m totally okay with our time too especially since we were women walkers.