Virginia Race week has come and gone.
Ahhhhhhh….my favorite week is over. Race week. This past weekend Nicole and I made the short 45min flight up to Ashland, VA in crystal clear skies for the Patrick Henry Half Marathon. This race was a tune up race for me but meant a state completed for Nicole. I had already completed Virginia with the Marine Corp Marathon so after the race Nicole got the honor of coloring a state while I just got the honor of rehydrating. I would love to tell you that this race was chosen for its picturesque views of the countryside or that it followed some historic journey that was made on horseback by Patrick Henry. NOPE. I picked this race and regretfully I am not as meticulous when it comes to picking races as Nicole. I usually look at only three factors. First, and most important, is it on the date I need to race? Second, is it the distance I need to race? And third, is it within reasonable flying distance for a weekend? If a race gets all 3 or at least (ah close enough) then I check the box and put it on the calendar. I know what you are thinking and you are wrong. I don’t usually even know the topographic layout of the course until the week before or sometimes I will toe the line without any knowledge of the course. I think it adds to the excitement of racing but some may call it laziness – tomato tomatoe. On the other end of the spectrum, if Nicole chose the race, thought out planning and attention to detail will be used. The town will be speckled with neat shops and cute eateries, all of which menus she will have read and already decided what to order. BUT equally as me would have no idea the course layout until getting to the race start.
The Patrick Henry Half start paralleled train tracks that were active with travel cars and cargo. Randolph-Macon college campus was the backdrop for the start and finish line and the location of packet pickup the day before. Don’t plan on arriving to a large expo with vendors and all the latest gadgets for running. Nah- our packet was handed to us by a college-aged girl who could not make the decision between her half filled bag of Cheetos and her volunteer duty of handing out packets. We got our t-shirt and orange finger printed numbers and headed out the door. We thought it might be nice to tour the campus. So, we stepped out the door, looked left and then looked right and decided that we just toured the campus. Instead, we crossed the street to sit at the student gathering spot complete with a fountain and adirondack chairs. After a few uncomfortable minutes in those wooden torture devices we headed back to the hotel to find options for an early dinner.
We had not done extensive research on the town but we saw that they had a Bass Pro Shop and many of the Bass Pro Shops are partnered with a Islamorada Fish Company restaurant. They offered light choices that were suitable pre race and would not produce the bloated belly feeling that usually does not equate to a PR race.
Early to bed and early to rise was the plan for the evening. Race morning started earlier than my brain was able to function. I stumbled around the hotel with confused wonder somehow managing to take in my pre race breakfast and start hydrating. We stayed in a hotel very close to the race and that made the trip to the race start easy. On Friday we had scoped out parking and the ways of getting to that parking without driving through the highly populated race areas. Once parked, I did my pre race warmup and took in my Huma gel 20mins prior to the start.
The start line at these smaller community races is humorous. This race had 1106 runners, which for a community race is a pretty high number of runners. The announcements were short and concise with the usual “have fun, don’t kill yourself” kinda arrangement. This race was a little different from many half marathons because it had a 3 hour time limit with checkpoints that you had to be across or they would pull you from the course. I am sure all of which was due to city race permits. I have to say the race course itself was very nice. It quickly within the first mile got out of town and into the country side following rolling hills and vast farms complete with all the smells of nature and cow S@!T. Aid stations were placed every two miles although I usually carry my own bottle and just refill as needed. Coach Beth had a simple plan for me at the race. Run hard and run fast. I tried to accomplish all those goals and feel like I gave it the college try. (see what I did right there- setting of race college campus- college try- I guess you had to be there). Any-who, I raced at the prescribed heart rates and my paces fell into place. Although at times during the race, I was able to talk too easily to make Coach Beth happy. I am sure those are the points in the race that I should have been pushing harder and keeping the pressure in my legs. The course, as mentioned was rolling hills with the exception of mile 11. At mile 11, you start up hill and it last until mile 12 leaving your heart rate jacked and the ability to press on a little more difficult. At the top of the hill you know you are just a few minutes to the finish and hold back the raging war in your belly. The finish line was as eventful packet pick up minus the Cheetos and you were adorned with a new race medal and a bottle of water and sent on your way as all race award would be mailed and results were posted online. I felt like this race was a great community race. I am not sure I would seek this race out again due to the lack of extracurricular activities in the surrounding town but if you are looking for a race on that day and can’t find anything suitable then it is a good option.
Great things about the day. Nicole finished the race feeling great with no issues that usually plague her in distance running (upset stomach, anxiety, etc). Anyone that has those same issues knows what a true success that can be. She was excited to now see where her running can go and knows with Coach Beth and Your262 that she should become even fitter and faster for her A race in December. I set a new PR for me on Saturday. I ran a 1:30:12 which was good enough for 36th place overall and 5th in my age group. I have come to the realization that I am just in a fast age group and no matter how fast I run there are going to be faster people. Although, I am excited and pumped to see where hard work and dedication, along with Coach Beth and Your262, will take me in December.
Thanks for reading – now go run!