Wednesday, May 14, 2014

New River Marathon Recap

This was my second marathon, and I registered for this race knowing that is was extremely hilly compared to my first marathon (Seven Bridges in Chattanooga, TN). What appealed to me about this race was it's location: fairly close to home and rural scenery. (It was a little over three hours driving to get to Boone, NC.) We have visited the area before, so we already had a couple of restaurants and shops in mind to visit before packet pick-up Friday evening. We got in to downtown Boone around 12:30, and went immediately to Our Daily Bread, a place I describe as Panera Bread on steroids. If you are ever in the area, you must go here for lunch! I had a black bean burger with pumpkin curry corn chowder, and Ben had a roast beef and blue cheese sandwich with roasted tomato and Gorgonzola soup. Both were incredible!

We (I) browsed one of my favorite antique shops for about an hour and found a Hollie Hobby doll to add to Lottie's collection, plus a super-cute set of retro plates and saucers. I also bought a few gifts for upcoming birthdays, graduations, and babies. 

We found an Earthfare to grab some last minute things to complete our pre-planned dinner at the cabin, then headed over to the race site where we met up with Chris and Buck for packet pick-up. 

Since it's such a small race, there was no "expo" like big races. You just grabbed your packet and left! My kind of pre-race! They did offer a vegan spaghetti dinner with a guest speaker, but since we had an awesome cabin and friends to hang out with, we chose not to go. 

We immediately started dinner when we got to the cabin. Chris made whole wheat penne with meat marinara, and I made whole wheat angel hair with artichokes and sun dried tomatoes. We also had salad and french bread, plus some blueberry lemon bars that I had made ahead and packed in a cooler.

I ate a HUGE amount of the angel hair that I had made. I usually try to not over-eat before a long run, but for some reason, I wasn't too concerned.

We got in the hot tub for a few minutes after dinner, talked about our plans for what time to get up, what time to leave for our 20 minute drive to the race site, etc., then headed off to bed. I realized that I was so concerned about having the right clothes for the race and dinner out after the race that I forgot to pack any pajamas!

I slept fine anyway... even though it did take me a little while to settle down... I had to get up and pee three times thanks to all the water I had been drinking all day! 

My alarm went off at 5:30, and I had set the coffee maker to brew around 5:15 so we could wake up to coffee ready-made! [If you are in the Boone/Blowing Rock area, look for Bald Guy Brew. It's a great local coffee spot that we discovered on our previous visit a couple of years ago. We had gone in on Friday afternoon and bought a bag of their Colombia roast to have at the cabin. It was great!] My go-to breakfast before a long run is almost always a mini cinnamon raisin bagel with just a little bit of peanut butter. BUT, Chris had gotten an assortment of Panera bagels for us to all share for breakfast. I couldn't resist, so I ate one of the amazingly delicious (and dangerously sweet) cinnamon sugar ones with honey walnut cream cheese. I ate the whole thing! The. Whole. Thing! Before a marathon! Again, I don't know why I was making these off-color decisions, but at the time, I didn't really think much of it. I never felt overly full. [Keep reading to see how all those calories worked out for me.] ;)

We headed out about 6:45, which was about 10 minutes later than we wanted to. We did get stuck in some "traffic" when we got close to the race site because the parking area is literally right off the road where the race begins. No biggie, though... Chris and I jumped out of our cars near the portables to take one last bathroom break before the start. There was a line, but it was not much of one. We even got to hear the pre-race prayer after our pit-stop. I was pumped from that moment on! I felt an excitement in my soul that gave me more confidence that God was going with me. They started making announcements that the start time would be delayed a few minutes so that they could get all the cars parked. (The road had to be closed eventually because the starting line is in the road where people drive in.) 
Full and half marathon starting lines

Ben snapped some pics at the start line. It was not a big group of full-marathoners. 

My ponytail is doing a happy dance here!

The first mile was pretty and flat. Between miles 1 and 2 there was a section of some steep rolling hills that quickly had us shedding our long sleeves. Once we got over the last big hill in that section, there was a race photographer waiting on the generous downhill. We were running along the river (I assume it is the New River) a lot of the time, and we had a nice long flat section for quite some time after that zinger. There were aid stations approximately every two miles with water and gatorade and portables (and encouragement). All of the volunteers seemed happy to be there. There was another hill that wasn't as steep around mile 5, and that's when I knew it was going to be a good run for me. I started feeling really good, not just physically, but mentally and spiritually. Early in the race, we were behind a man that had Isaiah 40:31 on the back of his shirt. Ben and I memorized verses 29-31 a while back, and I quoted it our loud when I saw it. I've never felt so energized as I did when I was speaking God's Word while running. It was awesome! 
"He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint."

We went back by the race site around mile 11, and the next aid station had Hammer gels. I grabbed several esspresso flavored ones, and was disappointed when I saw them. I love coffee, but I wasn't sure how I would like that flavor as an energy gel. It turned out to not be so bad! I made sure and drank plenty of water with the gel, and it sat fine on my tummy (whew!). 

Ben and Buck were able to drive around the course, and the first place they waited for us was at mile 12. They refilled my sport drink bottle with Advocare Rehydrate. (Chris and Buck are Advocare distributors.) Ben gave me a kiss and asked how I was feeling; I told him I was feeling great, and I went on my merry way...

I had to pee pretty badly at this point, and I had tried to stop a couple of other times, but I wanted to be able to run right in, and they had all been occupied. Finally, right before mile 13, I was running up to a portable, and someone came out! YAY! I think I might have lost 15 seconds at the most! I was really glad that I had been able to go because right at mile 13, there was a big hill. People were walking all over the place. I was temped to walk too, but I knew that mile 16 was going to be brutal, so I was saving my walking for then. I told myself I was just gonna try to have fun up the steep hill... so I made friends. As I was passing a group of guys who were walking, I asked them "Didn't you guys hear the rules? No walking on the hills!" Thankfully, they were friendly, and they laughed; then said, "Oh, we thought the rule was you HAVE to walk on the hills." I said something (don't remember what), then they said "Sorry, we don't have an entourage following us around and cheering for us! You're lucky!" I said, "Yes, I am. They are awesome!" And then I was at the top of the hill! It was about here that I started noticing that my Garmin was .3 miles ahead of the race markers. (I had doubled back early in the race to talk to Chris, but it was only a few feet, I thought.)

The "entourage" passed me as they drove on to mile 20 as I was approaching mile 14 on a steep downhill. I told them that had been my slowest mile, asked how Chris was doing, Ben blew me a kiss, and then I was alone on the course for quite a while. It was really pretty. It looked a lot like home: country, backwoods, mountain roads. I was thinking a lot about how blessed I am to be able to run; I was praying prayers of thanks and praise several times in this section. Toward the end of mile 15, we started a gradual uphill; the higher up the hill I got, I started seeing people ahead make a 90 degree turn to the right. Little did I know that not only was mile 16 a very long and steep hill, but it was dirt and rock!
Photo Credit to Chris here

When I made the turn to head up the hill, I knew that now was the time to walk, and everyone in front of me was walking too. So, I channeled my inner speed-walker, leaned slightly forward, and started swinging my arms and walking as hard as I could. I came up with my own breathing rhythm that I kept focusing on the whole way up, and I managed to pass a lot of people with my "power-walk!" I caught up to a younger girl at the top of the hill where we were greeted by some not-very-friendly dogs in a not-so-nice neighborhood. We came to another steep hill at mile 17, where I walked again and so did my new friend. It was a little shorter, and there was a nice downhill when it was over. We also got back on pavement somewhere around there too. There were some beautiful views in the next section as well, and it was nice to be having conversation again. The girl I was running with was 24 years old, and it was her first marathon. Her goal time was pretty much the same as mine, and we were both very happy with our current pace. It was hard, but we were making it easier for each other by staying together. 

My cheering section was waiting for me at mile 20, and again replenished my drinks this time with a Rehydrate/Spark (energy) mixture, and Ben gave me his hat: the sun had become really strong and it was in our faces. My friend stopped for a drink at an aid station, then we started running together again. We were talking about how it was getting harder, and I could tell she was slowing down. Somewhere between miles 21 and 22 she said "See you at the finish line," and started walking. I kept going, but very slowly. My feet and hips were tired. But I couldn't believe that I didn't feel like I needed more fuel. Even on 16 mile training runs, I sometimes need two energy gels. It was awesome! AND, I didn't need to go to the bathroom either! Praise the Lord! (Really!) I ALWAYS have to "go" during a long run. 

The course got monotonous. It was getting hot. I was by myself. People ahead of me were walking. There were no spectators. At least the scenery was pretty. I kept saying in my head over and over, "Even if you walk, it's still going to hurt. Even if you walk, it's still going to hurt." So I tried my hardest to not walk. (I was so proud for not walking during the last six miles of my other marathon, and for some reason, I wanted to be able to say that again. But, I can't say that.) I did walk. But not much. And never for very long. I knew going into the race that the last six miles were very flat; so I was kind-of hoping for some speed. But it never came. I realized around mile 24 that a PR was not really possible, but that I was going to finish close. It was frustrating that my Garmin was measuring so far ahead too. Despite all that, though. I am even more proud of this race than my first because of the level of difficulty. My time was just less than 6 minutes slower than my first marathon--- with all those big hills! And I enjoyed it more. 

My overall experience of the New River Marathon was very good. God blessed me with a great run that day. I think all of those extra calories from my bigger-than-usual dinner and breakfast kept me from relying so much on energy gels, which my tummy appreciated (I think). I was well rested, well hydrated (and well-staffed!). The race was organized, small, and super friendly! I would definitely run it again. And they have the most unique medals: reclaimed wood, pressed to look like the race logo, which is a historic farm symbol that you've probably seen on old barns before. Very pretty! Oh, and the t-shirts are great too!

Praise God for a healthy body and His beautiful creation that we can enjoy!

So... at the finish line area, while I was resting in the grass, Ben overheard some guys talking about this perky girl wearing purple pants who had a car full of people following her around, and he knew they were talking about me. He didn't hear exactly what they were saying, but they found me later. It was the guys that I had been joking with on mile 13! They told me that they had nicknamed me Peppy Purple Pants! So now when I'm acting feisty, that's what Ben calls me. ;) 

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