Last Saturday Nick and I ran the Blue Ridge Half Marathon for the second year in a row. We thoroughly enjoyed our 2014 experience and were looking forward to running again in 2015. The folks of Roanoke definitely did not disappoint :)
The race claims to be "America's Toughest Road Half Marathon" with approximately 3,790 ft of elevation change. If you're not running up in this race, you're running down. There are very few flat sections. The change in elevation is what makes this race challenging.
elevation profile using MapMyRun
We went into this race very prepared. We had been doing specific hill workouts every week as well as adding hilly routes into our long runs. I noticed a huge difference between 2014 and 2015. We planned to do run/walk intervals up both mountains. The intervals were sort of vague going into the race. We didn't know exactly how much stronger we'd feel running up the mountain so we decided to play it by ear. The first walk break ended up being somewhere around mile 2. From that point until the top of Mill Mountain we planned to run a minimum of 4 minutes, longer if able, and walk 1:30 minutes.
strong and steady up Mill Mountain
view from the top of Mill Mountain
totally worth the run up :)
grabbing some gummies!
Nick looking awesome.. me looking way out of breath
I felt so strong the entire run up Mill Mountain. It seemed to go by relatively quick. Before I knew it we were at the top-- ready for the glorious downhill. The downhill sounds like it should be easy. But it really does end up being just as difficult as running uphill; but in a different way. You're heart rate isn't necessarily high running down, but you fatigues muscles that you don't use quite as often.
perfect day to run a half marathon!
Partway down the backside of Mill Mountain there was a stand of Moomosas. Nick stopped for one, but I didn't. I was in a rhythm and wanted to keep moving.
We took our next walk break between mile 5 and 6. It was around this time that we saw our friend Jackie!
running for a bit with Jackie
It was also around this time that we started the slow ascent towards Peakwood Drive. You know going into the race that Peakwood is going to be killer, but there are a lot of long hills leading up to Peakwood Drive. At one of the aid stations Nick grabbed me some pretzels. I only ate a few of them and ended up carrying the rest until the last mile of the race. Not sure why I did that-- seems kind of silly now :)
For fuel on the second half of the course I was drinking the Gatorade/water mix Nick was carrying in the CamelBak. I also ate a few orange slices, pretzels, and gummy bears. Nick had a Gu from one of the aid stations and a few other treats. Blue Ridge does an awesome job stocking the aid stations!
Overall, the race seemed to be moving along much quicker this year. I think it was mostly my attitude. I didn't feel quitty. I felt strong and steady. But I was also not in any pain. Last year I was having a lot of IT Band pain throughout the race and walked way more than I would have liked.
Welcome to Peakwood!
Pretty quickly we turned onto Peakwood Drive. This year there was a sign welcoming runners to Peakwood! I was in a solid 4 minute run 1:30 minute walk at this point. I attempted to keep that up on Peakwood, but it didn't last. We were doing 2/1, and then 1/1, and then at one point I remember running for 30 seconds and saying "F it. I'm walking." I don't know if the Gatorade wasn't sitting well in my stomach, or if it was because it was the warmest conditions I had run in so far this year (70+ deg), but I thought I could have thrown up on the last stretch up Peakwood. Thankfully I didn't :)
We made it to the top! The turnaround was in a cul-de-sac. I remember thinking, "I wonder how the home owners feel about the race turning around in their driveway." There was champagne again this year. I didn't have any because my stomach was feeling off.
That was Peakwood
nothing makes you smile more during a race that little kid high-fives!
I was thankful to start running downhill again for a little while! I was thinking "it's all downhill from here." Silly me forgot that there was another relatively large hill left in the race. I was ready for Mill Mountain. I was ready for Peakwood Drive. I was not ready for the ~250 ft climb after descending from Peakwood. I might have gotten a little grumpy at this point-- another adamant "I'm walking" statement comes to mind.
Even though I got a bit grumpy I was doing so much better than the previous year where I walked a lot during the last 2 miles. After getting over the final hill we planned to walk at mile 12 for 1 min, then run it in the rest of the way. From just shy of the mile 12 marker there is an overpass bridge that is somewhat of a hill. There were a lot of people walking. Nick was super encouraging and I ended up passing a ton of people over that last mile. I stayed strong and steady.
When we reached the 13 mile marker it was time to kick it in gear. I still had a little bit of energy left and ended up zooming past a few people on the final stretch-- finishing the race in 2:19:04! Just over 10 minutes faster than 2014 :) Pretty cool.
a smiling finish
definitely earned that medal
The Blue Ridge Half Marathon continues to be one of my favorite races. Nick is not so subtly dropping hints that he wants to run the full marathon next year. I'm still unsure how I feel about that, but who knows what will happen over the next year :)
If you are looking for a challenging race on a beautiful course with the best small town hospitality-- I highly recommend checking out the Blue Ridge Half Marathon. You will not be disappointed.
Did you race last weekend? If so, which race? I'd love to hear all about it! Feel free to share in the comments below :)
All photos were taken with the GoPro HERO3+ unless marked with Fleet Feet Sports and Blue Ridge Marathon across the bottom (those were provided free!).