Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"You Run Hills, I Run Mountains" Double Blue Ridge Take 2

I'm pretty behind in my blogging/social media stuff so forgive the delay.  After finishing the double blue ridge on April 18th, my sister called to say our mom was in the hospital.  Mom actually just came home this past Sunday.  It was a long, tough week especially for her.  She was in a tremendous amount of pain that they could not figure out.  As I do not want to turn this into a post about that whole story, I will get to the point.  Ultimately they found a significant femur fracture for which she had surgery. She never fell or had any trauma which caused the difficulty in diagnosis.  As it turns out it was caused by taking a medication called fosamax which is taken to prevent osteoporosis. Pretty ironic isn't it?!  Anyway she's home now and on the mend so I'm finally able to focus on a little blog writing.

It really didn't take much for the kind people of the Blue Ridge Marathon to lure us back.  Emir & I had discussed maybe doing some different races and also ones that wouldn't require us to leave the kids for four days.  Don't get me wrong my family actually looks forward to these short little trips so they get the kids to themselves but we don't want to overdo it either.  We had committed to not running Blue Ridge this year and then the second I got a message asking me to come back as a blogger, I found myself not only shouting "yes!" at my computer screen but asked if Emir could join me as a blogger.  As quick and as easy as that we were headed back to Roanoke to tackle "America's Toughest Road Marathon."  And now that we had already done the double last year there's no way we could go back to just running it once.  It's actually smart training as we not only are both attempting our first 100 this year but also have a crazy hard ultra in Croatia in June that all the mountains of blue ridge would be helpful to train on.
We knew the people that run Blue Rudge Marathon love the doublers and support us 100%.  As it turns out they love it so much they were trying to get the double approved as an official race for this year.  Unfortunately not everyone agrees with them and they could not get the necessary permits.  While this was disappointing, it really did not change anything.  Our now friend Kevin Green started the double a few years ago and it's always been unofficial, no timing, no aid stations.  Last year the RD started us at 2:30 and they announced us coming in from our first loop and even had a special medal for us at the finish but it was still not an official event.  And honestly, isn't cooler that we were like a secret society on a mission to complete the course under the cover of darkness?!  Ok, maybe that's a bit dramatic but official or unofficial, the double is AWESOME.

Being experienced doublers now, we decided to head to Virginia on Thursday after sending the kids to school and running our own little shakeout.  We met up with my cousins Pat and Rob in Roanoke about 5:30 and headed to their house up the mountain.  Their house is about 30-35 minutes from downtown.  I cannot say enough about how beautiful it is there.  I really wish we could make it down more than just for Blue Ridge but at least we are able to come at all.  We spent the evening eating and catching up with them.  We decided not to wake up early to go to the official shakeout run.  While it would have been awesome to meet Dick Beardsley, we decided it was best to get extra sleep plus we wanted to spend time in town with friends and it would have been a pain to go back and forth a few times. 
our personal shakeout at home before hitting the road
cousin Patty!!!
Who are these friends you might ask? Well finally I got to meet my #brf (best running friend) and fellow #bibravepro Angie!  It's been a long time coming and actually I should have met her last year at Blue Ridge but having the kids, my mom, my uncle there plus being a double newbie, we just couldn't swing it.  We had a great time stuffing our faces at lunch and then visiting the Mill Mountain star.  Angie had brought her husband Josh and two friends Theresa and Laura.  Fun times!  After that Emir and I were going to go relax at the house but realized if we drove all the way back, it would be time to turn around to meet Pat and Rob for dinner.  So instead carb loaded at the bar for an hour before enjoying a delicious Italian meal.
fun with friends on Mill Mountain

Add caption
Carb Loading!

We tried our best to go to bed around 8.  Everyone running the double, which turned out to be a pretty small group, had agreed we should start at 2 so we would have time to deal with our gear in between the two loops.  The first loop, Kevin, was driving around as our mobile aid station (did I mention how awesome he is?! he sacrificed a good night's sleep before his own marathon to help us).  After coming in from the first lap we knew we would need to change shirts, apply sunscreen, fuel a bit and probably potty.  Last year we literally started as the last people in the official race and did not feel like we had enough time to do what was needed and since Kevin needs to get ready for the official race, he leaves us with about 4 miles to go which is why we all opted for an earlier start this year. 

Ready to go!
Emir and I left Pat and Rob's a little after 1am.  I definitely did not feel as exhausted as I did last year and we had prepared way better with bagels and coffee.  Sometimes we do learn from our mistakes ;-)  We were able to park right across the street from the finish line so that it would be no problem to hit up the car after loop 1.  We walked up to the starting area to see Kevin and only 4 other runners.  Honestly that was a couple extra than I was expecting based on the conversations in our FB group.  It really didn't matter to me.  Running the double was such an amazing, crazy experience last year that I really couldn't wait to do it again.  Don't get me wrong, there were times that it was absolute hell but so awesome at the same time.  I would have still happily run the double even if it had ended up being just Emir and I. 

small but great crew this year
Since RD Ronnie was not there this year (the race officials were not allowed to be present), we sort of unceremoniously just started to run.  It didn't matter though.  There's something really cool about running at night especially with other runners.  It's calm and quiet.  I could tell we were all excited and happy to be on this journey.  We all stayed together for the most part with the exception of one runner, who we lost pretty quickly.  Kevin informed us that he had just run a 100 miler the weekend before so he was going slower (slacker! ;-p).  We chatted, took in our surroundings and took pictures at the top of the mountains.  I always find it interesting and fun to learn about other runners and their stories.  The first loop of the double Blue Ridge is the perfect opportunity to do just that.  I still feel this special bond to many of the people we ran with last year and now I've added a few more to that list. 

It's so beautiful at the top at night

Eventually it started getting lighter out and Kevin filled our water one last time and I couldn't believe we were already on the homestretch of the first loop.  It wasn't that we were any faster than last year in the first loop but it felt like it was going by faster.  I think alot had to do with the fact that Emir and I felt way better than last year.  With a few miles to go, I wasn't screaming inside "is it over yet?!" I remember at this point last year, I just could not wait to reach that finish line because my legs were killing me.  In those last few miles we lost another runner to fatigue.  His wife did post on our double FB group that he was able to finish both loops which I was very happy to hear.  So the four of us remaining, finished the first loop through the official finishline together.  It was not as spectacular as last year since no one announced us coming in.  However, Angie and the gang saw us coming and started screaming and Angie captured a few great pics.  Other people started noticing and began cheering for us as well.  It was a great feeling.  We had a few pics taken and then Emir and I scurried off to our car. 

Finishing lap 1!

Met Patrick Sweeney who is currently running across America and you know finished 3rd in the marathon that day

As planned we changed shirts, we ate a bit, used the potty and apparently did not do a good job with the sunblock (after we got back to the house, I discovered I was pretty sunburnt on my arms and shoulders).  Emir had a weird pain near his ankle but other than that we felt really good.  It seemed so strange to me.  My legs were not even close to killing me.  They were maybe a teensy bit sore but I almost felt like I hadn't just run a marathon.  Not that I'm complaining, I was just shocked as was Emir.  For a couple seconds he wasn't sure if he should do the second loop due to the ankle pain but decided he would regret not going back out.  As it turns out the pain faded away pretty fast so it was nothing serious.  Next thing we knew, we were lined up in the corrals for the start of the official marathon and off we went. 
ready for lap 2!
The weather was truly perfect.  It was so beautiful out that morning.  The thing about the double is that even though you can appreciate the beauty of Roanoke and the Blue Ridge mountains even more in the brilliant sunshine, you also can see just how big the uphills are from miles away.  It's funny how they all look MUCH bigger in the daylight than they did in the moonlight, might also be because we already had a full marathon on our legs but I think the hills actually grew taller since the first time we climbed them.  During our official marathon, we definitely walked more hills than we did the first go around however overall we did ALOT more running than we did last year in our second loop.  We were definitely enjoying it way more than last year as well.  We ran into Angie and Laura as we started up Roanoke Mountain.  It definitely made the climb more bearable bantering and joking with them, Angie with the Gopro on her head, definitely good times.  We HAD to pose for pictures at the top of the mountain before heading back down. 

Thanks for the pics Angie!

PS race pics are free!!!

By the time we reached the top of Mill Mountain, I was feeling a bit weak.  I had Tailwind in my pack, had been doing gels and ate a Cliff bar between loops but that was about it.  Now I found myself at mile 39ish needing more.  One of the best things about Blue Ridge Marathon is the aid stations at the tops of the mountains.  There are tons of regular water/gatorade stops all throughout the course but as a reward for climbing each mountain there is usually a buffet of snacks awaiting you especially Peakwood.  I knew I would find some goodies at the top of Mill so I wasn't too worried.  I downed some oranges and pretzels and definitely felt better.  We posed for more pictures and off we went.  I did decline a Moo Mosa on the way down Mill Mountain as at 40 miles with 12 more to go in 80 degrees I was afraid of what might happen ;-)

After we got off Mill there is a section of a few miles before hitting that damn bastard Peakwood.  It was starting to heat up and we were really starting to feel it.  We also knew the 6 miles around Roanoke after Peakwood would be tough as there is no shade whatsoever.  Don't get me wrong, I felt like hell by the time we got to Peakwood but considering it was like mile 43 or 44, I was doing pretty good.  But I knew I was about to be mentally and physically beat down on this last mountain.  They say Peakwood is the smallest/easiset but it's not.  Maybe it's the least amount of elevation however it's definitely the steepest and when you are climbing it at miles 18 and 44, it sucks.  Peakwood is also full of mind games.  It seems as though the people in that neighborhood have cooled it on the "you are almost there" " just turn the corner and you are at the top"  Maybe too many of us know the truth now.  After a long, steep climb, you begin to descend and you are excited, happy that the mountains are over.  Nope, after a few minutes BAM more long, steep climbing.  It never seems to end.  The part that makes it worth it?  The AMAZING people that live there.  They are all out.  It would be plenty if they were just out cheering and supporting but that's the least of what they do.  They set up tons of their own aid stations with water and all kinds of goodies.  They have hoses and sprinklers set up to cool runners off.  They make LOTS of signs including a new banner this year "Welcome to Peakwood Y'all" and huge stereo systems set up to pump you up when you are feeling down.  And then when you reach the top, it's the biggest party of the day.  A huge spread of food and snacks plus beer and champagne.  And of course tons of enthusiastic people encouraging you to keep on to the finish.  It's the hardest but the best!
Angie got a pic of us leaving the party as she and Laura headed up to it
I would have been happier to be done the mountains however I knew there were several more tough hills coming.  I wasn't feeling awful but I just didn't want any more tough climbs.  I was at the point where I felt better if I could just keep running.  Everytime we had to walk, I felt kind of weird and then it would be SO HARD to start again.  I just wanted to not stop running until the finish but those last few hills interspersed at the end just made it impossible.  Emir really started feeling nauseous with a few miles to go.  I was feeling funny myself but couldn't put a finger on it at the time.  We stopped for a minute to drink a bunch of water and pour some over our heads.  We started feeling better and continued on.  Once we hit the one mile to go mark.  I had a huge grin on my face.  I was so happy we had done this again.  I kept saying "that sucked so bad at times but it was so awesome, I'm so happy!"  Emir kept looking at me blankly, maybe in a daze, who knows.  Once we turned that last corner and the finish line was in view, we grabbed hands which has become our Blue Ridge tradition to finish holding hands.  Josh saw us and he started screaming for us.  People began cheering for us as we crossed.  I was fist pumping and screaming.  It was just a surge of emotion that came over me. 
Thanks for the high five Ronnie!!!

We received our medals and water.  I just wanted to sit for a few minutes so we went over to the park and sat down.  My feet all the sudden were KILLING me!  I'm pretty sure it was swelling and now that I had stopped they were throbbing.  I had noticed my hands swelling like sausages when we were climbing each of the mountains so I'm sure the same happened to my feet.  After a bit we saw Angie and Laura finishing so we "rushed" over to cheer them in.  Then we decided to hit up the food tent.  I grabbed a piece of pizza but I was just not feeling well.  I saw an empty mat in the recovery tent next to the food tent and flopped down as I no longer had any quad control.  I propped my legs and head up on giant foam rollers.  I forced myself to eat the pizza even though I didn't really feel like it.  I was feeling a bit better but not that great.  Emir said we should get up and get our free beer and maybe find shade to sit under.  After a long walk up a HILL I had my beer and found Angie and gang in the shade.  After sitting in the much cooler shade and a few sips of beer, I felt amazing.  As it turns out I had been baking myself in the sun without even realizing it.  After that, life was good.  Note to self, "don't sit in the hot sun after running 52 miles...." 
yeah this might have been a bad spot to collapse .....

Overall I'm really happy with how we did in the double Blue Ridge.  We completed it about 30 minutes faster than last year.  Our official marathon time was good enough to put us pretty much in the middle of the 400 runner pack, not too shabby.  Most importantly we felt way better this year.  We are definitely better trained and our legs recovered way faster.  Gives me hope for my 100 miler in October!  It also made me very happy that I didn't abandon my ultras to rush into trying to lower my BQ.   We did well, had fun and really it just confirmed for me that I was ready for a break from racing marathons.  I'm really looking forward to our next race in a couple weeks which is the Dirty German 50 miler.  It takes place in Pennypack Park the same place I ran the Sloppy Cuckoo 12 hour in September. 
Angie is the best, miss you BRF!
I couldn't be happier that we decided to go back to Roanoke again this year.  Every year that we run Blue Ridge, makes me love it even more which I didn't even think was possible.  The cute little town of Roanoke and gorgeous Blue Ridge Mountains are certainly enough reason to come for this race however it's the people that make it the best.  I don't know how many times we heard over the course of the marathon "Thank you SO much for being here!  We are so happy you came!"  For such a small city, it has a huge heart.  It makes you want to run "America's Toughest Road Marathon" again and again and again!

Makes it that much better that I get to do these things with this guy



  1. What a wonderful treat to read this afternoon. Thank you...both of you!