Tuesday, September 28, 2010

2010 Blue Ridge Relay Race Report - Part 2

12:07am Saturday morning and Van 2 was starting up again. Surprisingly, we seemed well rested. Dave started out for us again - Leg 19, Runner 7. He had an easy downhill 4.3 miler with no turns. 138' down/69' up. Nice little 30 minute run. Having no turns is a good thing, particularly at night.
So - here's where it got a little bit more interesting for us. Yes - we bent some rules, but it's not like we were breaking any course records or anything. Kerrie was worried about her remaining legs (7.5 very hard and 9.4 very hard), so we moved things around a bit. I moved into runner 8's slot on Leg 20, Kerrie took Chris' spot as runner 9 (Leg 21), and Chris got my spot (Leg 24 as runner 12). Got it?
So now it was my turn as Runner 8, Leg 20. 7.5 very hard miles, 476' down/673' up. Todd said it was a fun route with rolling hills and he was right. I really enjoyed it! It got the worst with going up from mile 4.75 to 6.25, but I walked when I needed to and made good time otherwise. 2 guys FLEW past me early on and were gone! There was one team car that kept passing me and stopping ahead to wait (their runner wasn't too far behind me; team name was Who's Your Momma, with kid's photos on their windows). They gave me encouragement every time they passed - it was appreciated! I was glad the road wasn't foggy like last year, but I tried to enjoy it all. Calves were a little tight still, but no major issues. I finished that leg in 1:09. So 15.4 miles (in 2:21 with a 6 hour break) and one more run left.
I passed off to Kerrie for an easy 2.4 miler (Runner 9, Leg 21, 338' down/ 23' up). We couldn't wait around so we headed off to Ingles in downtown Spruce Pine, NC for the next transition zone.
Kerrie still cruised even with not feeling her best and Todd headed out. We took the opportunity to clean up some in the store, brush teeth (so refreshing!), change clothes, and buy some food (pop tarts for me).
Todd's run as #10 was 5.6 hard miles with 282' down and 535' up. Similar to my leg, rolling with the worst of it at the end, finishing at the Penland School. Parking was always a breeze with people directing us at almost every location. I was starting to wind down at this point. It takes about an hour for me to calm down after my run and the lack of sleep was starting to hit me. I thought about laying down in the back, but decided it was pointless and went out with Kelly and the others to wait for Todd. It is quite a bit different here (as we can attest from last year) than other transition zones as the runner coming in is on an uphill turn and the handoff is immediately on the runner's left, plus it is 3:48 in the morning, so you have about 10 seconds to realize your runner is coming in before you head out. We always tried to notice which runners left around the same time as our runner, or who was ahead of them as we drove by, but we weren't very good at that. Knowing what your runner is wearing in terms of what color/number/type of blinking lights, kind of reflective vest, etc always helps. Kelly was pretty easy as she had a green light on her wrist (I think that's right).
So we waited just a few minutes (always expect your runner sooner than you think) and here comes Todd with his blinky lights (no safety thong this year).
Kelly was now off on her 5.6 mile hard leg #22 as runner 11. I did this last year in the Heavy fog, seeing halos as I ran down a long downhill driveway before realizing I was off course. This year was much better with just a little fog, but still, for safety's sake and to make sure she went the right way, we kept close to her until she made the last major turn. 423' down/463' up for this leg. The gravel on this leg is tricky at times too.
Chris finished off our 2nd legs as runner 12, leg 24, 3.2 easy miles, 515' down and only 52' up, finishing in Bakersville. There were a handful of turns, and sure enough, similar to Terry last year, he missed one. Cost him at least 5 minutes, but he showed up in good spirits and Alex started his last leg.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

2010 Blue Ridge Relay Race Report - Part 1

This is my perspective being a runner in Van #2 for Team DNR (Do Not Resuscitate). We have two vans that leapfrog each other every 6 legs. 12 runners total doing 36 legs. Started in Grayson Highlands State Park, VA and ended in Asheville, NC 207.1 miles and 30+ hours later.
Part 1: Pre-Race

Joel, Jeff, Chris and Kerrie (laying down the law)

Misc shot of NC

Van 2 met up at 4pm Thursday and headed up to our hotel in Blowing Rock, NC. Pretty uneventful ride. Caught up on each other's lives and races, commented on the construction that slowed us last year, had our Subway dinner and arrived around 8:30? (Oh, we did drive a bit of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the reverse direction of which I and Kelly would be running). Got our rooms straightened out and just hung out.

The Todd, Kathrin, Alex & Kelly

 Stayed up too late for no real reason, but we slept in - skipping the start line and the beginning of Van 1's legs. Todd saw Van 1 off at 6:30am and didn't really sleep after that. We ate, mingled with other teams, and got antsy enough to leave at 9:30am for the 10 minute drive to our starting location. Didn't do much there. Kept track of van 1's progress and watched the cloudy sky eventually turn into sunshine.

Part 2: Our 1st legs

The 1st Exchange Zone
Dave finishing his 1st leg

Dave was our first runner (Runner 7 on Leg 7) getting the hand off from Joel at 12:42pm. (On these handoffs - they can be tricky. Many occasions to lose valuable seconds if you are actually racing. We dropped them, over-ran them, some teams weren't ready for the handoff and had to wait for their next runner).
We still use our handy-dandy spreadsheet that shows each leg, elev change, predicted and actual start/finish times, and some general notes on each leg. His leg was 5.4 moderate miles, with some decent climbing (594' down/367' up). He made excellent time as usual (being one of our fastest/strongest runners).


Kerrie got the handoff and set off for her 4.6mi easy run. 361' down/148' up.
Runner 8 on Leg 8. We noticed on the drive to the next exchange zone that the course was slightly different. We ended up at the same little store in Todd, but arrived from a different road. It was already getting warm out (can't possibly call it hot after surviving the Palmetto 200 this year). Will have to remember in future years that the New River the run goes along has an access point by the store (across the field). Kerrie came in not feeling the best (She'd been having injury issues for a while now) and we soon realized we'd have to adjust our plans on the fly.

Our ever-positive captain (Chris)

Chris left on his scenic 5.2 mile easy run. 85' down/226' up. The climbs seem bad even when driving them. We parked at Green Valley Community Park (very nice, real bathrooms, covered shelter with picnic tables) and waited for Chris. He came in at 3:15pm quite warm (mid-to-upper 80's I'd say), but feeling good.

Leg 10 (for runner 10) was next - the longest and hardest ("Very Hard" according to the race directors' guide) so far at 8.2 miles, 417' down/551' up. This was Todd's leg that started out by the river and eventually crossed a highway and ended just short of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We typically give  the runner some time to get down the road, so if they need anything as we pass, we can help them out. It's also a good idea to have water bottles available for other runners needing assistance. We learned alot from the Palmetto 200! Todd did just fine, no surprise there.

Todd looking strong
Just before Kelly's run on the Parkway

Leg 11, runner 11 = Kelly. She ran the BRR last year for another team as runner 8 and we needed a replacement for Mike. She fit in perfectly. Todd sent her off on her way, onto the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) for a very scenic hard 6.3miles. 407' down/551' up. Finally I was seeing the alternate driving section for this leg I ran in 2009. She cruised as we knew she would and I got the handoff after her final uphill.

Leg 12, Runner 12. 7.9 very hard miles with 482' down/663' up. Back to the BRP, there were a number of runners behind me. I was not going to give it my all on this first leg knowing my last leg was going to be tough. Some may say it is playing it smart, but I felt kind of bad resigning myself to walking quite a bit of the hills so early. I'd do a walk/run thing with the lines in the pavement while 4 people passed me on this leg. I could tell I did not fuel enough as I took a Gu 25 minutes into my run. Not sure what it is, but I usually do not get side stitches. Here I do though (even last year). Can't explain it, but not even 3 miles running and there it was. I am thankful it went away. The views were wonderful, especially with the moon just over the mountains. 
Won't forget that sight for a while. I borrowed Dave's handheld bottle holder for a 2nd bottle of water and I was glad I did as the sun was up and warm. Calves were a little tight, but otherwise felt ok. I must have made decent time as the exit for the parkway came up quicker than I was expecting. I actually thought the mileage was short as my time was about 1:12. I passed two people in the last stretch coming into the Tanger Outlets. I just kept thinking about the burgers I had there last year. Yum! I overran Alex but got him the wrist band and Van 1 could now rest. It was 6:34pm and we had about 5-1/2 hours to rest and be ready for our 2nd legs. 1st stop - Food!

New River, near community of Todd
View over the Blue Ridge Parkway

Part 3: Rest #1

After a nice meal, some light stretching for me and a change of clothes, we got in the van and headed to the next Transition Zone. We didn't get lost this time and got there pretty quickly. Parked and tried to sleep, Dave and I headed outside for a grassy area where others had set up "camp". Grass was wet, but we managed with that minor inconvenience. Our other teammates got some rest in the van. Being outside had it's problems. Headlights of the vans coming in and going out would hit you in the face depending on which way you faced. It eventually got pretty cold out for some (I was fine with a fleece blanket over my jogging suit. Longer socks would have helped). The volunteers helping park the vans had walkie-talkies, so I heard all of their conversations as we were close to the entry. Van horns kept going off too. The worst part of being outside was the noise from other teams. So much for the rules of having Quiet Hours. Teams would cheer loudly every time a runner came in. I heard about this one girl who ran her fastest 5k pace ever and this was closer to a 10k distance for her. I was happy for her and could appreciate her excitement. However, I decided that our team was now virtually in first place as every other team there was "Disqualified" for noise violations. After an hour of lying there, we gave up.
(No photos during our night legs)

8/12's of our team! (Van #1 + Kerrie/Chris)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Night and day; Blue Ridge Relay

I thought drastic differences in long runs 3 weeks apart was something. Amazing the difference one week can be. Too bad this was in the wrong direction. Was just starting to feel better when I woke up Sunday for my planned 20 miler, but it didn't show. I am blaming my head cold, but really, it could be anything. I like creating reasons just to make myself feel better. And that's what it's all about anyway, right? :-)
I knew from the start my legs weren't into it. They never really felt up for it. Not exactly heavy or tired. Maybe just weak? Even with taking Friday off from running (Friday was pretty miserable), my legs didn't feel "recovered".
I made it thru 14 miles or so before I let myself slow down. I had already dropped my pace after 2 miles to about 10 seconds slower than my planned pace, but at this point, I dropped it even more. I split each lap walking/running (5 min each). I trudged along though and completed 18.7 miles in 3 hours and 10 minutes. Ugh - that was rough. No real pains though, so I'll take that good news.

Blue Ridge Relay starts Friday...recap next week!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The head cold and a sore calf

Been taking it easy since Wednesday morning's hill run. Noticed my left calf was getting more sore as I ran, so I slowed way down the last 2 miles. That made it a little easier to skip my 6 mile tempo run Friday, but the main culprit was a head cold that started up, also on Wed. Friday was the worst so far...I needed the extra rest that morning. Still planning my 20 miler Sunday...calf seems better today.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Comparing two runs, 3 weeks apart

3 weeks ago, I ran 17.9 miles on my loop course (21 loops of 0.85mi each). It was Hot. 74° and 97% humidity, and that was at 5am. I did ok until the last 3 miles, where my feet were sore and just ran out of energy. 2:55 minutes. Fastest lap was 7:40, and that was my 2nd lap. Legs were getting heavy as the week progressed and I skipped a long run the following week while on vacation in Kiawah.
Fast forward ahead to this morning.
60° at the start (I didn't have to start super early either - 6:10am) and low humidity. Was quite cool - coolest it's been in many months. Even after a long day Saturday (5am wake up and all day in Atlanta, coming home at 10:30pm), I still felt rested as I started off. My plan called for a 9:10/mi pace (or 7:53/lap). I think I went over that twice - both times when I stopped to refill my water bottle. Other than that, it was typically around 7:30, with my fastest lap being my Last at 7:05! Legs felt Great. Only started feeling my hips the last 2-3 laps. Was tempted to add on a mile or two, but was so satisfied, I stopped when I was supposed to. My finish time: 2:42. Only 13 minutes faster than 3 weeks ago! Looking back - it was the exact time I ran back in March, but still 5 minutes Slower than just before my PR in the Spinx Half Marathon. Still, I like where I am right now.

Friday, September 3, 2010

1000 miles!

I almost forgot - my run on Sept 1st (Wednesday's hill run) made it an even 1000 miles for the year so far. That is even with 5 weeks of practically no mileage while I tended to my foot. Last year it took me until the first week in November to reach that mark. I just missed 1000 miles in 2008. I know some people set mileage goals for the year. Hmmm, did I? Doesn't seem like I did.
I have tentatively written down a schedule for the remainder of the year, building towards a 50k in the 1st week of January 2011. That plan would get me another 500 miles in the next 3 months. Probably a bit much, but it is always adjustable!

Any bets on when I will hit the 1000 mile mark in 2011? Or a total mileage guess? Your guess is as good as mine!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Legs are coming back

Another Speedwork session where I made my times! Tuesday saw 2x(6x400) @ 1:44 after a 2mi warmup, all follwed by a 1mi cooldown. Rest Intervals were 1:30 (well, supposed to be, I took another 10secs to start each lap on a marked line on the track). 1:40, follwed by 1:32 (what?!), 1:39, 1:43, 1:45, 1:44 to finish the 1st set. I must say they didn't seem that hard although I was working each lap. 2nd set: 1:45, 1:40, 1:39, 1:41, 142, and 1:42.
Hit my loop around ICAR before work Wednesday. Calves were tight after being sore on Sunday/Monday. Yoga must have helped some. I've had too many missed sessions this summer. So - the ICAR loop. My standard ~4miler, but this week's time was a good 80 seconds faster than last week's session. Actually - faster by at least that amount every time I've run that in the last few months.

I'm sure the weather has something to do with my improvement this week. Temps have come down to about 67° at night. Looking forward to my 18miler with a temp of 60° Sunday morning!