Sunday, April 17, 2011

Blue Ridge Marathon (not really a race report) / 3.2 for 32 Run in Remembrance / Smith Mountain Lake 4 miler

I did not run the Blue Ridge Marathon (or half marathon).
At the bottom are listed some links to others who did run it and wrote about it.

My goal and purpose here is to provide information to others about the races in my area, and I really want to provide info on this high profile event, but I did not run in it.

Why diddnt I? Well, I panned to, I really did.  If I were to enter, I would have run the half, not the full. As the weeks grew closer to the event, I was studying the course and I admit that I was disappointed that the course for the half diddnt go up Roanoke mountain. I just assumed it would have, and I really want to run that loop. So, that loop got on my to do list and it still hasnt been checked off yet. When it came time to register I had missed the mark for early registration, and the cost was now $80 instead of $70 which I still think is high and so with all I had going on in life, I decided to opt out. It's that simple.

Then with all the rain that occurred, It would have been kind of fun to have been forced to run in that mess, but I think I'm glad I diddnt sign up. I want this event to be successful for the directors, and I want it to be successful for Roanoke! So, I considered volunteering. In fact my pregnant wife planned to volunteer, knowing I'd be there all day. Once I backed out of running, and decided to run a different event (see below) she backed out of volunteering to walk the 3.2 for 32 Run in Remembrance with the baby in a stroller. That's my story of not participating in the Blue Ridge Marathon.

There was a couple other events going on this weekend too.
The Smith Mountain Lake 4 Miler

This was the first year for this race. Unfortunately it is bad timing that it is on the same day as the Blue Ridge Marathon. This race begins at Mariner's landing in Huddleston, VA

The event raises funds for 2 causes. One cause is to create a college scholarship for a high school senior in Bedford, Franklin, Roanoke of city of Lynchburg who as been significantly impacted by cancer. The other cause is to fund The Strongest Link Service Program. Post race food was provided by Benjamin's at the Pointe, a local restaurant at Mariner's Landing, and I would have liked to been a part of that!

Another event on the same weekend
The 3.2 for 32 Run in Remembrance.

This event is a run / walk to remember the 32 Virginia Tech students, staff  and faculty who lost their lives on campus.

This was a free event, and the first 4000 got T-shirts. After the 3.2 is a huge community picnic. I cant find online where I got the information before, but I recall reading that in the previous years this event brought well over 5000 people on VT campus. Can you imagine what a group photo would look like? check image 27 on this page. That was the group in 2010. Along the course you get to go through the tunnel Lane stadium and tap the CLASSIC Hokie stone that the football team taps on the way on to the field. Well, sadly with all the planning that goes into this community event, the rain cancelled the race, but some other events still went on. I had planned to attend this with family and friends not attending the Blue Ridge Marathon, but of course the early morning rain and still pending storm, kept us at home.

There's not much I can say, really about the Blue Ridge Marathon, as I diddnt run it, nor did I volunteer for it, so I'll let the words from others who did legitimate race reports on it speak for it. If you know of a report for this event, please add it in the comments below.

Links to Race reports for the BRM
Running Nicki
Marathoning Through Mid-Life
Gear Junkie
Philip Settle's Daily Mile report

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Race Report: Mill Mountain Mayhem 10k

Today I ran the Mill Mountain Mayhem 10k, another excellent event put on by Mountain Junkies LLC.
 Mill Mountain is a Roanoke landmark, the mountain with the star overlooking the Roanoke Valley.

The weather, like other previous Mountain Junkie events, was rain before, and rain after but not rain during... How Josh and Gina Gilbert pull that off is beyond me! The weather was perfectly chilly, and when you got to the top it was quite foggy. Making for not-so-excellent views, but it was surely peaceful and misty.

So the crowd was around 130+, a smaller crowd than has been at recent events, possibly the smallest event of the RNUTS series (Roanoke Non Ultra Trail Series), but understandably so. There was even 180+ that ran the Frozen Toe 10K in January, in the snow.

The elevation profile says there is 1305 ft. elevation gain, and 1461 ft. loss. Which explains that you walk a short distance up the mountain before starting the race, but run all the way to the bottom. The total length of the event was just over 10k (6.2) and was a total of 6.4miles.
Despite that increased length, the overall woman leader still broke the women's course record, which now stands at 49:20. Way to go Lisa Homa!

The parking was challenging, but went well and I heard no complaints. The small parking lot for the trail head to the Star Trail, just off of Riverland Road in Roanoke is smalls and was reserved for race directors and volunteers. There was a small lot across the street, but most had to park just down the road on the far side of the grocery store (IGA) parking lot. Ideally avoiding any interference with IGA customers. I parked on the far side of that lot. After walking to the lot where pre-race announcements are soon to occur, I’m reminded how thankful I am that port-a-potties are available.

As I left my car, I brought with me a bag of my “comfort items” that I feel I need to have access to before and after a race, and placed them in a plastic trash bag, then stashed it to the side before the race began. Things like, my usual race food, phones, camera, gloves hat, extra socks and race shirt…just things I feel I need if something goes wrong or if it is too cold. I was also able to throw some clothes in the bag, and have them to change into for after the race… much needed in chilly weather. I just hate to have to go back to the car and miss out on some of the post race festivities and excitement.

So the race begins a short distance up the Star Trail, where it crosses Fishburn Parkway… the road that people always call “the one that goes up to the star” After some pre-race announcements by Josh, we began walking up the trail to the starting line. At this time I enjoyed conversations with Brent from Fleet Feet, met his friend Andy, and joked a bit with James Decker at the starting line as well.

The race began on the road at this crossing. It finished at the parking lot we just walked from. Once the race begins on the road and runners get almost to the top, you turn sharp right and hit Monument Trail, this ends at Sylvan Rd. taking us to the “Old Road up to the star”. Runners are on the old road about half a mile and then take a trail on the right Big Sunny Trail (where we lass the mysterious old black car), to Riser Trail (they all seem to be rising trails), then Ridgeline Trail. Once you think you’re at the top and realize that you’re not really at the top, you are then on sidewalk going from the zoo up to the star. Runners go right in front of the star (where on a clear day would be a very nice view of the valley but not today, only fog) around a bend to the top of Star Trail, and go a little over a mile, possibly 1.5 on what is affectionately called a “screaming fast downhill”. So true!

The terrain was rocky at times, of course roots and much clay underfoot. I really enjoy this style single track trail. Passing other runners was not an easy task in most places.
Picture borrowed from the Mountain Junkies Facebook page

I started what may have seemed a little fast for me, but I kept up my effort. I Ran to catch up with Kemp and chat with him a moment, to only realize, that no one else was chatting as in many other races. I suppose oxygen conservation was important to everyone as you’re running up a mountain. I was excited to be running with familiar faces once again, and soon focused on my own effort and trying to keep up my pace. Kemp was disappointed that he never caught back up with me, but he was never far behind. I felt that overall I ran much harder than most races I’ve run lately. Soon after getting onto the Monument Trail I found myself behind other runners in a row of about 5. I wanted to pass, but I allowed the single track hinder me. Reminding myself that this is really a good thing. When risking running too fast too soon. It is good to get “stuck” behind someone for a little while, run at a slower pace and let my heart rate drop just a little… keeping some gas in the tank for later.

The climbing seemed to never stop. I had run this course once a few months ago, and felt that I climbed 3 mountains. Once you get almost to the top, you go down just enough to get you excited, but then you go back up again. It’s like climbing Mill Mountain twice.

Here is the elevation profile so you can judge for yourself. 
Mill Mountain Mayhem 10k elevation profile

Close to the top, I chatted a bit with young runner of 17 years old, Dillon Anderson he was struggling to keep his pace up and just needed to stay far enough ahead of his dad for bragging rights. Loving the spirit of that competition I did what I could to encourage him and press him on. Later learning that his dad Mark was a runner that I had passed earlier and commented to him about his “fast hike” stride that seemed to embody what I was aiming for in my own pace and stride when going up hill. Mark and I spoke briefly about this after the race. It was nice to meet you, Mark and Dillon!

Running right past the star. This give you a good idea of how foggy it was at the top.
 This picture borrowed from the Mountain Junkie Facebook page.

During the screaming fast downhill, I’m running almost as fast as I safely can and I feel that there’s a good distance between me and the person behind me. There is no one in front of me in sight after Dillon took off. I’m thinking to myself, “I wonder how in the world people run this terrain any faster than I am right now” but I know they do. I really need to see how faster runners navigate their footing on steep rocky downhill, I could learn a lot from that. Strangely enough I hear the person behind me gaining on me, and it keeps pressing me forward as much as I can go. He never caught me, but Henry Schaefer and I had a nice talk about it after the finish. We both appreciated the competition and was using one another to push ourselves a little harder. I thought for quite a while that he was going to catch me.

I finished the race at 54:51, an 8:39 pace. I am very pleased with that, as I hoped to make it under 55 minutes. I had to run harder than I had imagined I would have to for me to make that time. I still placed at my usual position in my age group 7th of 11. I’m always getting around 7th
The finish line after the "screaming fast" downhill. the old course came down the gravel road you see, This year it changed and a the trail comes out of the woods just before the finish gate.

After the race was a vibe that was noticeably more exciting than previous races. I think this was because of the intimidation that many felt running up Mill Mountain. There was a sense of exhaustion and accomplishment that was shared among all.

Post-race chatter and excitement

Post race I was able to make a point to meet a few runners that I see at every race, but hadent talked to yet, one of whom was Philip Settle. I wanted to introduce myself to him for a variety of reasons.
It was nice to meet you and I look forward to talking again at up coming events.

Chocolate chip pumpkin bread, Dru’s cookies Salazon Chocolate, bananas, apples, bagels with peanut butter, cream cheese or Nutella, and a tray of broccoli and carrots in addition to Gatorade and water were all spread out for us to enjoy in typical Mountain Junkies fashion.

What an excellent race. I think the weather added to the excitement, making things just slippery enough to increase the intimidation of the course. The camaraderie and conversations just keep getting better too.

Thank you to all the volunteers and sponsors that help make these events happen. I’m excited to be a part of it.

Here is another local runner that wrote a blog about this event: Doug Falls's blog