We arrived with only 30 minutes until race start. My husband was kind enough to wait in the long registration line while I got myself ready and warmed up. We pinned our numbers, said a few hello's and waited for the start. Typical me, I remembered about my gels about a minute before the start and raced back to my car to retrieve them.
My "race strategy" was pretty conservative. Since I averaged 7:25's last weekend, I knew I had no business going out any faster than that on a harder course (especially with the first few miles being mostly uphill). Plus, I barely got in a warm-up, so I knew I had better ease into things. I stayed relaxed and was able to average 7:28 for the first 4 miles which are definitely the hardest in terms of climbing. At that point, things were clicking along pretty good, but I was worried I still started out too fast. I paid a little better attention to my perceived exertion and decided what "feels like" marathon pace for me is probably actually half-marathon pace, at least on a course like this one.
5-6-7... the miles quickly flew by and I was enjoing the rolling terrain and beautiful scenary. I was slowly tracking down the people in front of me, focused on running steady and relaxed. By mile 7 I was growing a bit more anxious, not sure if this is where I would start to kick into a higher gear or fade like the week before. I was feeling good but not quite sure when would be a suitable time to kick into a higher gear.
Mile 9 came and I was still feeling strong, so I decided it was time to pick up the pace. I figured if I could hit sub 7:00/mi to finish I could potentially PR. Honestly, I thought that was a bit ambitious but I really had nothing to lose. All I knew is that I didn't want my final miles to be like last weekend's race (which felt more like a death march than a fast finish). I kicked it into high gear and started passing a lot of people, which was fun! We climbed a hill between miles 10-11 and I pretty much felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest. There were only two miles left though and I so I put my head down and kept pushing forward.
All this time I really had no clue regarding the girl's competition. I had no intention on running for placement because I knew I could go the entire race without seeing or passing another girl. Around mile 11.5, an aid station volunteer informed me I was in 3rd place. After this point is a long out and back section and I was able to see that 2nd was not too far ahead. This kept me going through those last two miles! I don't know if I've ever pushed so hard at the end of a race...
The last mile was quite a struggle but I was still running strong. I wasn't even able to give my husband my usual smile as I ran by him. At this point, I wasn't going to catch 2nd so my eye was on the clock with hopes of at least breaking 1:36. I was close, finishing with a net official time of 1:36:05! A PR of about 1:10 from the previous week! Even better, this time is a full 16 minutes faster than when I completed this same race in 2011 !!
Here's a few more finisher's pics of the gang:
One thing that I haven't yet mentioned is that this race is also notorious for its unique awards...
I'm so happy that I could celebrate my husband's birthday with our family and friends doing something we both love. I blame him for a lot of the crazy things I do... it's true! He helps me step outside my comfort zone in so many ways and I love him for it.
This one's for you babe!
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and endurance athlete residing in southwest Virginia alongside her husband and dog. Through this blog she aims to share favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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