Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, races are being canceled. Some of them are looking to postpone to the fall, while others are simply canceling and offering runners deferrals to next year. There are a few who are offering a virtual race option. With this option, runners usually have a date range to complete their virtual race and they submit their results to the race directors by sharing their GPS data. My running buddy, Kim, and I were registered to run the Hungry Mother 25K on April 4.
As expected, the actual race was canceled but the organizers did offer a virtual option and Kim and I decided to participate. I’m pretty sure this was my first true virtual race.
About a week and a half before the race, Kim and I planned to go down to Hungry Mother State Park and run the actual course for our virtual run. Then it became clear that traveling two counties away to a different community wasn’t the best course of action in the midst of the pandemic. So Plan B was to run locally at Pandapas, where we could run a course comparable to the Hungry Mother course. However, most of the trails in the Jefferson and George Washington National Forests got closed the week of the race, including Pandapas. After that, Kim’s friend ‘A,’ who lives nearby, provided us with a Plan C: Run a loop from Kim’s house up the mountain, along the ridgeline trail, down the mountain, and loop around on the roads back to Kim’ house. Barry has run up there a lot and he said we would love it. Sounded like a fun adventure to me!
We decided to run our virtual race the same day as the originally scheduled race, and headed out from Kim’s house at 8 AM that morning. It was a gorgeous day, sunny with temperatures in the upper 40’s.
Kim’s friend ‘A’ met us on our way up the mountain so that she could make sure we didn’t miss the trail at the top and show us the way along the ridge line. I was grateful for her help!
We had a steep climb up the mountain. It was tough, but not awful as I was fearing. With the good company, it wasn’t long before we found ourselves done with the climb and on top of the mountain.
We got on the trail at the top of the mountain, and this was definitely my favorite section! It was really pretty running up there and ‘A’ showed us two really great overlooks along the way.
The two overlooks were so cool. We spent a little time at each overlook just taking in the view. I’m so glad we had such a clear day! We marveled at how small and close together things looked from up on the mountain – things that normally feel very spread out when you’re down there driving from one spot to another. We could see the whole loop we would run and the roads we live off of from up there.
‘A’ accompanied us until we hit the gravel road that would bring us back down the mountain, about 5 miles into our run. This was the steep downhill part that you can see on the elevation profile above. My left knee has been giving me some intermittent trouble, and I was worried it would hurt a lot coming down this hill. Luckily, it felt fine the entire run.
Once we got down the mountain, we began the road section of our loop. The roads were curvy, two-lane roads that don’t have shoulders and this part was definitely not our favorite. There seemed to be a lot of people out and about, since it was such a gorgeous day. We had to deal with a lot of cars and several dogs.
I really started suffering the last third of our run, and I walked more than I should have. The ball of my left foot had become pretty painful. I have a callus there that really starts to bother me when it gets too thick. But mostly, I was just feeling really tired and not enjoying the road section. I was relieved when we finally turned back onto Kim’s road, as the traffic decreased significantly.
From there, we had a little over 2 miles to go. We weren’t sure exactly how long this loop would be. But it was here that I started to realize our mileage was going to work out perfectly! Trail races are never exactly the distance they advertise – they’re usually just close to that distance. I had figured since this was a virtual run for a trail race, as long as we were in the ballpark it would be fine. But it looked like we were actually going to hit the nail on the head.
I sprinkled in a few more walk breaks before we finally turned onto Kim’s driveway, with about 0.8 miles to go to our finish line. We had one more mean little hill to conquer, before finally finishing our run with 15.66 miles by my watch (a 25K is 15.5 miles). How about that!
Kim’s husband forgot to throw us a virtual race finish line cookout – probably because he was busy chasing their two small kids around 😉 . So instead I just took up residence in their driveway for a little while until I recovered.
All in all, it was a fun adventure. Kim and I agreed we would definitely love to do the first part of this loop again in the future. Instead of running the actual loop, with the road sections, we would just do it as an out and back from her house, up the mountain, along the ridge, and back. We may not have had reason to explore up there had it not been for our current circumstances, so I guess that’s one little positive to this whole COVID-19 situation!
It seems like it’s been awhile since I wrote one of these. To be honest, I had my doubts that this race would even happen since we are in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. And I can’t believe I just wrote that… how is this real life? Anyway, major kudos to Josh and Gina of Mountain Junkies for managing to pull this one off. They had some added precautions both pre- and post-race, at the aid station, and for the runners. But it was nice to sneak in a little normalcy and find some peace in the woods at a race event before further tightening of the belt occurred.
Kim and I carpooled up to Montvale early on Friday morning. I was excited to be headed up to run my favorite Mountain Junkies race, but also a bit apprehensive. Due to some other circumstances going on, I hadn’t gotten a long run on trails in three weeks.
We arrived at the park and picked up our shirts and bibs. Then we hit the bathrooms, grabbed a few photos with our Trail Sisters group, and listened to the pre-race announcement. From there we had about a quarter mile walk to the race start. I was happy to find large rocks in the creek this year – as I think I’m still cold from wading through the creek before the race start last year!
The 10 mile and 5 mile races have a staggered start, so the 10 milers gathered for our start while the 5 mile runners waited to cross the creek. It was a great day for running! It was partly cloudy with temperatures in the mid-40’s. Before I knew it, we were off and running!
The race starts off flat for about the first half mile before starting to climb. Then it’s primarily uphill until the first water stop around mile 1.8ish. Overall, the course has about 1,000 feet of gain, but it truly feels like rolling hills. The trails are also very twisty turny singletrack, which makes it fun because everywhere you look there are runners in the woods. They might be right in front of you, or they could be a mile ahead or behind you.
Pretty early into the race, I settled in with a group of three: Lauren, Lacy, and myself. As it turned out, we ended up running the whole race together. I enjoyed the company and the camaraderie kept me moving.
About two miles in, we started getting passed by the front runners of the 5 mile race which had started 10 minutes after us. The trails are pretty narrow, and it was hard to constantly step to the side of the trail to let them pass. I was so glad when we finally hit the split around mile 4 where the 5 milers headed for the finish and the 10 milers started on our second loop.
We hit the halfway point and I started voicing out loud how I was just not feeling it. I’m usually pretty good about not being negative during a race and not giving a voice to those negative feelings. But I just felt so sluggish. I’m so glad I had my little group to keep me moving! Before I knew it, we were making our second pass by the water stop at mile 7ish (??). I’m not sure exactly what mileage we were at by then. But from there we got to enjoy another downhill.
We hit the split again and this time we got to go left towards the finish! Around this time is actually when I started settling into the run – nearly two hours in! Go figure. I actually felt good and really enjoyed the final two miles.
We rolled along the last two miles and it wasn’t long before we were back down at the creek. Lauren went through the water, but I opted for the large rocks. Then we ran down the grassy area and the paved path to the finish. This stretch always feels a little longer than it actually is. We crossed the line in 2:13 and change.
Almost immediately after crossing the finish line, I was called for third in my age group. Talk about quick turnaround service! Hah! Then I met back up with Kim, who totally crushed it out there. So far this year, she has run two races and both of them were trail races. I think I’ve almost got her converted.
We enjoyed some post-race food and then hit the road to head home. Overall, it was a fun day. I’m so thankful we were still able to participate in this event, as I think it’s going to be awhile before any other races can be held. Time will tell.
The Frozen Toe 10K trail race in Roanoke was the first race of the year for me, and an excellent way to kick off the new year if I do say so myself.
My friend Kim decided to sign up for Frozen Toe as her second trail race ever (her first one was a 12 hour trail race, because she’s all in like that!), so we carpooled up to Roanoke together on race morning. We arrived about an hour before the start time, with plenty of time to pick up our race packets and attend the pre-race meeting. I also met up with my Trail Sisters. Our group had a great turnout for the race!
Just before 9 AM, we lined up to start the race. I think this was one of the warmest Frozen Toe’s on record, with temperatures in the mid-50’s. I chose to run in capris, but I definitely would have been comfortable with shorts.
At 9 AM we were off and running. We did a short section on the road before heading onto the singletrack trails of the Chestnut Ridge Loop. Things spread out a bit, but Kim and I still encountered a bit of a bottleneck when we got onto the trails. Neither of us minded, though. We were out there to have fun and kick off the new year.
It had rained in the days leading up to the race, and we hit some significant mud on the trails during the first mile. I was glad I wore my most aggressive trail shoes, as I was able to run straight through the slick mud without any problems. From there, the trail got rockier and was much drier.
Around mile 2, my feet went completely numb. I think I had my shoes tied too tight. It made running on the rocky trails really tricky, as I couldn’t feel my feet at all. I rolled my left ankle several times, but somehow managed to stay upright.
A little over halfway, we came into the water stop on the course. I drank some Skratch and also tried to loosen my shoe laces. My feet were still completely numb, and I couldn’t run the downhills as fast as I would like. I’m such a slow hiker on the uphills, so I need those downhills to make up time!
A little past mile 4, we arrived at the main climb on the course. In total, the race has about 800 feet of elevation gain. For me, the course has two hills that stick out the most, and the second one past mile 4 is the biggest one.
We switched to hiking and after about half a mile we made it to the top, with roughly 1.2 miles to go to the finish. Kim and I had stuck together during the whole race, and even though I was on the verge of destroying my left ankle I was having a blast running with her.
My feet finally started to wake up during the final mile. But instead of feeling normal, they were a mix of pins and needles and feeling like rubber. It was a really weird sensation to run on. We encountered another section of very sloppy, muddy trail. Once again, my shoes did their job and I was able to run straight down the trail through the slop.
We came out onto the road, hung a right and made our way up to the finish line. We finished in 1:19 and change, which is a 4 minute course PR for me. After the race, Kim and I enjoyed the traditional Mountain Junkies post-race food spread. Always a treat!
So that’s a wrap on my first race of the year. My next race on the schedule isn’t until April. I’m looking forward to spending the next few months running and hiking with friends and exploring some new places.
The Crooked Road ultra took place from November 23-24. Since it was a 24 hour event, it started at 8 AM Saturday and finished at 8 AM Sunday. The course was a 1.17 mile loop at Waid Park in Rocky Mount and the objective was to run as many loops as you could or cared to within the time limit. Anything goes during that time- you can stop whenever, you can take a nap in the middle, or you can go the whole time.
I arrived at Waid Park on Friday evening with plans to car camp. It was my first time ever doing so and it worked out pretty well. The only issue was the book I brought along with me. Turns out a summer camp murder mystery isn’t the best reading material when it’s dark and you’re alone and about to sleep in your car for the first time.
I slept well enough and was up the next morning around 6:30. I did my usual pre-race routine and got ready to run. The atmosphere definitely felt more casual than other races. At 8 AM we were off and running!
8:00 AM – Noon
The first four hours of the race were very pleasant. It was overcast and in the low 40’s. For some reason, I had a headache early on in the race. I got some coffee from the aid station to see if that would help, but it wouldn’t ease off. Mo’s wife, Leah, was set up next to my crew area and was crewing Mo. She also looked after me until Barry got to the race later in the day. So she gave me some ibuprofen, which took care of my headache.
You would think running the same loop over and over again would get boring. But for some reason, I have never gotten bored at the two timed races I’ve done. Maybe they’re just ‘my thing.’ We did have some entertainment at this race in the form of a few objects that kept moving around the course throughout the event.
One of the objects was a little cat statue. Throughout the race, I developed a deep hatrid and resentment of this inanimate object. He was mocking me everytime I ran by because he was all curled up and cozy and could sleep whenever he wanted. I hated that cat. And I still do.
I did have some challenges figuring out fueling early on in the race. We would run by the aid station every 1.17 miles and that was throwing me off. I’m used to having 5 to 10 miles between aid stations and using them as cues to fuel. Since I didn’t need to fuel every time I went by the aid station at this race, I tried to fuel every 3-4 laps. But I kept forgetting when I had eaten. I’m also really bad about hydrating in cold and rainy weather. Both of these would eventually catch up with me.
Noon to 4:30 PM
The forecasted rain arrived around noon and would stay for the rest of the day. At first it wasn’t too bad. I had my rain jacket on and I felt okay.
About five hours into the race, lunch arrived in the form of Papa John’s pizza. I never anticipated eating a slice of pepperoni pizza during a race, but it went down just fine. There’s a side story I have to tell you about the pizza….
Sometimes during long races, I get weird and I lose common sense. Why this happened to me just five hours into this race, I do not know. Maybe it was all the loops. But I had just picked up my pizza and had run with it down to the crew area. Leah was under her tent and I was standing in the rain eating my pizza and talking to her. Then I started getting mad because my pizza was getting wet. Leah kindly suggested I simply step under her tent to get out of the rain, which very quickly solved the problem. I don’t know why that didn’t occur to me… but that’s a good example of how I get during races. I basically become five years old.
Around 2 PM the rain picked up and it seemed like the temperature dropped. Even though my core was warm and dry with my raincoat, my gloves got soaked and my hands started freezing. I changed to a new pair of gloves and then put latex gloves over them to keep my hands warm and dry – an excellent tip I received from Barry. It worked great and I stayed that way the rest of the race. My legs and feet also started to get SO cold, even though I was moving. I thought I would be okay as long as I kept my core dry, but I was finding out I really needed my pants dry, too. I didn’t anticipate how cold I would get from that.
Luckily, Barry would be arriving in the next two hours or so to crew me through the night. So I asked Leah to text him with a request for waterproof pants. I was so cold and wanted to change my pants. But I reasoned that anything I put on would just be soaked within minutes, so I decided to stay in the wet pants until Barry got there.
It seemed to take a long time to reach the 26.2 mile mark. But once I hit that, the next benchmark at 50K wasn’t too far away. Plus I knew Barry would be there soon. I hit 50K as he arrived, a little after 4 PM.
4:30 PM to 11:00 PM
I was so happy to see Barry. I met him at my crew area, where he showed me the Frogg Toggs he had purchased for me. They were exactly what I needed! I picked out the dry pants and socks I wanted to change into and then completed my loop and met Barry over at the bathrooms.
It took me awhile to get changed. It was the first time I had stopped for an extended period of time and I was really stiff. It was also hard putting on dry running tights over wet skin. While getting changed I suddenly felt very nauseous and dizzy. I also used the bathroom for the first time since beginning the race nine hours before and what little urine I produced looked like Coca Cola. Not a good sign during an ultra, especially with 15 hours to go.
I had a game plan going into the race of pacing myself by running no faster than 18 minutes per lap. Thus far, all of my laps had ranged between 17:00 – 20:00. But the lap where I changed clothes took 40 minutes. After that, I completed another loop and stopped back at my crew area again. I was about 34 miles in and still not feeling well at all. Barry was worried about my hydration and wanted me to drink a bottle of Powerade. The plan was for me to sit and drink. But I got really cold and started shivering like crazy sitting there. So instead, he walked a lap with me while I drank. I was mostly staying warm as long as I was moving. I also enjoyed getting to show him the course.
After taking it easy for two laps and drinking and eating, I started to feel better. But then I had to pee every single lap for 4 or 5 laps in a row. I had a lot of slower laps between miles 33-39 due to this. One good thing was that my hamstring started to feel better. It had gotten aggravated at Old Glory and it flared up during the early miles of Crooked Road. This worried me, but I kept going. Finally, sometime between 50K and 40 miles it quit bugging me. I guess sometimes if you ignore something long enough, it does go away. The sun had set during this time and we were plunged into darkness for the next 14 hours. And yea, it was still raining. But they had glow sticks set up around the course and it looked pretty cool.
After the sun went down, things suddenly got very quiet. Dinner arrived at the aid station and I ate half of a McDonald’s hamburger. A lot of people left at this point, probably because of the weather. Sometimes it sprinkled and other times it absolutely poured. There was flooding at the aid station and along the trail where most people had their crew stuff set up. We were going through ankle deep water along this part.
The rain was supposed to stop by about 10 PM, so I focused on that and used it as motivation. My feet were soaked and pruned and they were so tender on the bottom. Every step felt like I was stepping on hot coals on the balls of my feet. And that went on for hours. Barry changed my socks again sometime during this stretch and I almost cried. It wasn’t so much from the pain, but more because I was upset and frustrated that my feet were so painful.
The stretch from miles 40 to 50 was really rough. I had been on my feet for awhile and things were hurting. I was also in a weird no-man’s land where I had covered a lot of distance but my 100K goal still felt really far away. Plus I was SO sick of the rain! There was a lot of grumbling and complaining during this stretch and I was not very pleasant to be around. I think somewhere in this stretch is when my friend Dean flagged me over to the aid station because they had hot potatoes with salt. They were warm and delicious, and definitely helped turn my mood around! Finally, I hit 50 miles a little before 10:30 PM.
11:00 PM to 4:30 AM
This is where things start running together a lot, but I’ll do my best. I was getting a little loopy as we headed into the middle of the night. The course was very simple to follow, especially with the glow sticks. But even so, I missed the left turn onto the bridge and went off course several times. I even did this once with Barry and another time when I was doing a lap with my friend Suzy. Luckily I never went far.
Sometime around midnight, I wanted to go home so badly. I was hearing people talk about how the wind was going to pick up once the rain stopped and I’d had enough. I was too focused on the current conditions and was losing sight of my goal. Luckily, Barry is a rockstar at crewing me. He doesn’t argue with me about what I’m saying and thinking. But he has this way of steering me away from those thoughts and refocusing me on my goal. Sometimes he would simply give me a hug and that was enough. This time it was with some encouragement that it wouldn’t be raining much longer.
The rain did finally stop around midnight and I had a big sigh of relief, believing that we were in the clear. Barry and I gave it a few more laps to be sure, and then I stopped to change into dry socks, dry shoes, and dry gaiters at 1 AM. My feet were totally covered in blisters and they were hurting me a lot. I was also still having the problem where I was instantly freezing the moment I stopped moving. But Barry had a little foot warming station set up for me. Once he got my wet shoes and socks off, he wrapped my feet in a dry towel that also had hand warmers in them. It felt lovely. I think I may have also been drinking a cup of hot chicken broth at this point. I’m not sure, but that definitely happened sometime between midnight and 2 AM.
Just after getting my shoes on, we had another pop up rain shower and it almost broke me. I was so fed up with the rain and I informed Barry that I was not leaving the EZ up canopy until it stopped. Luckily the rain was short lived. I think I also used one of those waterless toothbrushes while I was sitting there, and it was so refreshing. I was worried about how I would handle getting through the night, but I never felt like I struggled with sleep deprivation.
With my dry shoes and socks on, I headed back out. I started playing a game where I grouped loops into sets of 3, while working towards my 100K goal. It made it feel more manageable. My neck also started cramping from using my headlamp so I switched over to a handheld light.
As promised, the wind started to arrive once the rain finished. It wasn’t awful, and I was so grateful to be done with the rain. The wind was just breezy at first, and it was fairly pleasant to run in. But later on we did have some gusts around 15 mph that wreaked havoc with some canopies. I had about 6 laps to go to hit 100K, and I kept playing my 3 lap game.
For the first set of three laps, Barry came with me on the first one. Then I did two more on my own. He joined me on the first lap of the second set of three, and then I had him run the third lap with me as well. I had one more partial lap, and as I made it around to the aid station I hit 100K, just a little after 4 AM.
Reaching 100 km (62 miles) was my A goal for this race. There were definitely times throughout the day where I did not think it was going to happen. Heck, there were times where I didn’t think I was going to reach 50 miles. The weather was just so miserable.
I was having increasing issues with staying warm. So once I reached this point I decided I would stop for a break to try and warm up and to rest my feet.
4:30 AM to 8:00 AM
I was freezing when I stopped at my crew area and my teeth were chattering so hard. Barry wrapped me in foil and had me lay down in a sleeping bag on a beach lounge chair. Leah also loaned us her buddy heater and he set that up in front of me. A big gust of wind came and flipped another tent nearby. Barry and Leah ran over to help get it under control. But all I could do was lay there, shivering uncontrollably, and hope another tent didn’t come flying and hit me.
Once Barry returned and saw that I was still so cold, we decided to put me in the back of my Explorer. I needed to get out of the wind. He ran my car for 5 or 10 minutes with the heat blasting and then I climbed in the back just a little before 5 AM. Barry got me this jump start/power inverter battery as an early Christmas gift and it was a total life saver during this race! He plugged an electric blanket in to it and wrapped me in the blanket and some sleeping bags. We agreed he would get me up at 6 AM. I finally warmed up and stopped shaking and dozed, but never totally fell asleep.
Six AM arrived and it was time to get going again. I wasn’t sure what I would do from there, as I really didn’t have any plans beyond 100K. I knocked out another 5 miles in the final two hours in what can only be described as a feat of pedestrianism.
Seeing the sun rise after nearly a full night of running was a spectacular experience. It’s hard to even describe what that felt like. It was a mix of relief, gratitude, and awe. The sun was up and I was still going. I found some untapped energy (or maybe it was that pancake with syrup I ate at the aid station) and truly ran the last three laps. I also got to see Lauren, who totally rocked her first 50K, and her friend out cheering me along!
As time ran down, every runner that was still on the course was given a popsicle stick with our bib number written on it. We were allowed to go right up to 8 AM and then place our popsicle stick on the ground at the sound of the final horn. They added the extra mileage on from partial laps, which allowed us to maximize our distance.
In total I ran 57 laps, plus a little extra, for a total of 67.418 miles. That’s 17 miles further than I’ve ever gone and by far the longest I’ve ever been on my feet for a race. Those extra miles I ran from 6-8 AM actually bumped me up into the top 20 and I placed 16th overall out of 170, and 6th woman. I’m pretty sure that’s the best I’ve ever done in a race.
Foods eaten during the race: honey stinger chews, oatmeal cream pies, ginger chews, Papa John’s pizza, boiled potatoes with salt, McD’s hamburger, chicken broth, a sugar wafer, half of a Cup O’ Noodles, and a pancake with syrup. Per usual, I did not eat or drink enough during the race and that’s something I need to continue to work on. I had several bouts of nausea during the race and a few times where Barry said I got super pale. But every time I ate or drank something, the nausea always went away and I always felt better.
I anticipated needing music or some sort of distraction at some point during the race, particularly during the “witching hours” from 1 to 4 AM. I had a playlist ready and several podcasts downloaded. Oddly enough, I never desired anything.
I’ve always thought it was funny how runners finishing 100 miles are often wearing such a hodgepodge of clothing. Most of it does not seem comfortable to run in. But after this weekend, I have a better understanding. Staying warm was essential to keep going, at least for me. At one point I had four different jackets on at the same time and it didn’t bother me one bit to run with all of that on. When you find a way to stay warm, you can continue to execute the plan.
The weather made this race really tough, and I’m proud of my accomplishment. But I’ve got to be honest, my curiosity is piqued. I can’t wait to do another 24 hour and see if I can go further, especially under better conditions. Don’t get too excited – nothing is on tap yet.
I actually did not chafe at all during this race, but my feet really took a beating. Running in the rain for so many hours played a big role. But I think other factors included going further than I have before and running for a lot longer than I have before. My feet and ankles were very swollen and painful after the race, and I had a lot of blisters on my toes, the balls of my feet, and my heels. I left all of the blisters alone after the race and aside from the one that ruptured during the race, they all went away.
I am getting better at recovery. I have a new rule of thumb where I take one day off of running per every 10 miles run. In this case, I’m in the midst of six days off. I will probably try for an easy run on Sunday if everything is feeling good.
Please let it be noted: It was crisp and clear on Friday night. Then we had undesirable, and sometimes downright miserable weather for much of the race. But come 8 AM Sunday morning? Crisp and clear again, naturally.
I had so much encouragement and a lot of really helpful advice from friends and family both before the race and during it. I cannot thank y’all enough and know that I could not have gotten through this race without you. Most of all, I definitely would not have finished this race without Barry. He is the best at crewing me, supporting me, and taking care of me.
——— We take on things like CR24 to challenge ourselves. But I’ve recently started to realize that the moment they actually start challenging us, we start wishing for the whole thing to end. What’s up with that? Isn’t this what we came for? To test ourselves? At CR24, I attempted to make a mental shift. I definitely still went through several lows. But instead of checking out, I tried to remember to embrace the challenge and stay with it. I reminded myself that I was lucky to have this opportunity, and to be grateful for the ability to do what I love. I reminded myself that this experience is what I came for.
Sometimes I simply asked myself: Where else would you rather be? Maybe somewhere warm, dry and comfortable… But those moments where everything hurt, where my brain was screaming at me to stop, where it’s taking all of my willpower to keep moving – that’s living. When else do I get to be in a situation like that, where I get to explore the outer reaches of my physical and mental capabilities? That was why I was there. The next time you hit a low in a race ask yourself: “Where else would I rather be?” I look forward to the next time I get to ask myself that question.
Another Richmond race and another Meg’s Miles weekend in the books! It’s a busy weekend from the time we arrive in Ashland on Thursday evening to the time we depart on Sunday afternoon. I’m always exhausted afterward. But I also always come away with a full heart, an invigorated soul, and a some new friends. The Meg’s Miles family is like none other.
My running buddy, Kim, and I hit the road for Richmond on Thursday evening. Friday morning was the group Memorial Run, followed by coffee.
From there, Kim and I hit the race expo to get our packets and later enjoyed the Meg’s Miles pre-race pasta dinner. Then it was off to bed in preparation for race morning.
Per usual for race morning, we were up super early. It was a cold morning, with temperatures in the 30’s, and we were expecting some windy conditions during the race. I hate being cold, but I was ready to run and looking forward to the race.
I’ve run Richmond at least five times now, so I’ve got my pre-race routine here down pat. It’s fun to go run a new race, but it’s also really nice to be familiar with a race and know exactly where to go for bag check, the porta-johns, etc. So I took care of all of that and then lined up in my wave for the start.
The race started at 7:30 AM. I was in the 7th wave, and was off and running at 7:44 AM. This race is so familiar to me and always feels like an old friend. As we started out down the road, I soaked it all in and enjoyed the camaraderie and excitement around me.
As we made our way through downtown Richmond in the early miles, the wind wasn’t a huge factor. The wind was around 10-12 mph and we would get blasted from the side by the wind at each cross street, but it wasn’t awful. My legs felt fresh and I settled into a very comfortable, conservative pace.
We headed down Broad and took a right on Boulevard. Then it was up a little hill over a bridge and towards the out and back in the neighborhood. I always like this little half mile out and back, which gets us to mile 4 in the race. But I don’t like the stretch between the out and back and Bryan Park. For some reason, I always feel a little bored. The spectators were out in force, though, so I entertained myself by looking at their funny signs: “Always give 100%, unless you’re giving blood” and “Marathon today, Netflix Marathon tomorrow,” etc. That helped pass the time so we could get to my favorite part of the course: Bryan Park.
As we headed into the park, we saw other runners headed out of the park. I like little sections of a race course like this where you get to see other runners and can cheer each other one and high five. From there we headed downhill into the park. There aren’t any spectators in the park and it gets really quiet and peaceful. That’s why it’s my favorite part of the course. We hit the 10K mark through here and then went up a couple of hills on our way out of the park.
I was using an 8 minute run/2 minute walk interval to keep my pace in check. With another big race this coming weekend, I wanted to finish Richmond between 2:30-2:35 to ensure I didn’t run too hard. As we came up out of the park, I started to feel a little fatigue. But I hit another walk break at that point and felt completely recovered after.
From here, we headed over towards the long stretch down Brook Road. This is a 1.5 mile stretch from mile 9-10.5 or so that’s just straight and always feels kind of long. But this year, since I wasn’t racing, I chose to take advantage of the various free libations being offered to those who were 21 or older. 🙂 That passed the time (and warmed me up some in the chilly, windy weather!).
Finally we were off of Brook Road and headed back towards downtown and the finish. The party starts to pick up again, and I was starting to smell the barn. I had to focus on not getting excited and keeping my pace in check the final 5K.
We made the final turn onto 5th street and hit the big downhill to the finish line. I let loose a little here and it felt good to run hard to the finish. I crossed the line in 2:34:15, right where I wanted to be. Then it was time for some pizza and dry clothes, because it was windy and freezing in the finish area!
Following the race, I hung out at the finish line with the Meg’s Miles group and cheered on other runners. We were all freezing, and after about 3 hours we walked back to the car and headed for the hotel. It felt so good to get out of the wind! We had a little downtime, where I watched the Hokies dominate against Georgia Tech, before a group dinner at the Hanover Tavern.
We ended the weekend with church on Sunday morning, followed by lunch. I’m not sure how we fit so much into one weekend, but at the same time it flies by and never seems like enough!
"I've opted for fun in this lifetime" -Jerry Garcia