I had a great opportunity to write about one of my favorite races, the Little River Trail Run, for the October 2013 issue of Trail Runner magazine. And, I was thrilled to see a picture of my son Stephen (top left) and my Goat Hunter teammate, Candace (bottom center) when the article was published! This year my whole family is going to do either the 7K or the 10 miler, along with many of my Peep friends. And if you want a low-down of the course, read my 2013 race report. Hope to see you there!
I’ve been accused of being chatty and wordy. Funny that the social media outlet I love to scorn (Twitter: “everyone talking; nobody listening”) has become one that I enjoy as someone who struggles with conciseness. The 140 character limit is always a fun challenge, especially since I refuse to use text-speak, abbreviations, or bad grammar. With that in mind, here is my Richmond marathon report in a series of imagined tweets:
Mile 1-5: Drop behind Jeff/Kelly/Cheryl because I’m panting. Steve would be proud I have a plan: 8:45-9s for 20 then see what happens. #usuallywingit
Mile 6-9: Beautiful scenery; crossing the James River with flowing water, boulders, and fall colors punctuating the mist. Gorgeous. #roadrunsmaybeOK
Mile 9-11: There’s my friend Diane! Love running with my training buddy for the 2009 NYC marathon. She’s running for a BQ today! #shemadeitby4seconds
Mile 11: ”I could see Jeff for a long time but can’t see him now.” On cue Jeff tears out of a port-a-potty next to us and takes off. #catchthetarheel
Mile 12: An overweight man running next to me is alternately singing and muttering to himself. I see another man dressed as a turkey. #passtheturkey
Mile 13.1: 1:55 and feeling good. Just behind Jeff shouting “Go Pack!” Finally draw even and bust a move to get his attention as we hit the party zone.
Mile 14: ”I’ve heard a few ‘Go Packs’ along the way.” “That was me, you idiot.” Choke and spew Nabs everywhere at the 14 mi AS. #itwasnotpretty
Mile 15: Diane’s husband John is on the bridge as I come back over the river, then I see my pal Martin! Yeah! #lovemesomePeepsupport
Mile 18-19: Run with Cheryl, who’s focusing with music. Want to pull her past the wall but she tells me to go. Hate leaving my friend in a tough spot.
Mile 21: See Kelly and think how cool it would be to finish together. But she’s running strong and I’m not sure I can pick up my pace. #catchthatPeep
Mile 24: Momentarily discouraged, then realize I can likely make all 3 of my goals, including the secret one! #attitudeadjustment Woo hoo!
Mile 25: Looking for any excuse to walk and try every mental trick to keep moving. Like magic, Karla, Shellie & Doug appear, cheering! #thankyouPeeps
Post-race: Celebrating good friends, 4 first-time marathoners, a 50th birthday, many great races, and my new PR (by 19 min!*) of 3:51:12! #PeepsRock
[*Richmond was my 5th marathon and a new PR was my "easy" goal. Why? Well, my 1st, 3rd, and 4th marathons were the Umstead marathon and my 2nd marathon was New York City (where I blew up at mile 14 after running 8:30 miles the first half).]
Thanks to all who entered my contest for a free entry for the Blue Ridge Marathon next April. I would love to see some of your motivational signs on top of Mill Mountain (please read the comments on the last post for some great ideas). I pulled all entrants onto a spreadsheet, then let random.org choose a number. Lucky #7 was Andrea Loper!
When you reach the Roanoke Star, mile 13 on the Blue Ridge Marathon, what motivational sign would you like to see?
Answer this question in a comment below (just once) for an entry into my drawing for a FREE Blue Ridge Marathon or Half Marathon race entry.
Follow my Twitter feed at @scissorsrunning and you’ll get a second entry. All entries submitted between 11/4/2013 and 11/9/2013 will be put into a random drawing.
Q: Roanoke Star?
A: Of course. It’s the largest neon star in the world.
Q: I don’t think I want to sign up for the marathon.
A: That is not in the form of a question, but…And miss the 7200 ft of elevation change? OK, you can also win a half marathon entry. Heck, I might even switch to the half myself.
Q: Can I wear my festive patriotic tights covered in stars to the race?
A: You will rock the tights.
Q: I have a great idea but it is teetering on the edge of good taste. Can I play?
A: If your entry is profane or disgusting I will remove it and block you. Don’t be that creepy person.
Q: When is the race?
A: Sure, this is the FAQ, but use the link above to get all the race details. Or, go here.
Q: I heard that this race has been rainy in the past. Will it rain?
A: I checked the Farmer’s Almanac and the weather will be perfect.
Q: How will I claim my free race entry that I know I will win?
A: Ummm…stay tuned. I need to get in touch with the real sponsors of this giveaway, the Blue Ridge Marathon Peeps.
Q: Won’t you just pick Ann to win?
A: Well really, I’d like to, but to be fair I will do a random drawing of all legitimate entries. Ann could certainly win and I hope she enters.
Q: What if I just write a comment about how worthy I am of a free race entry, instead of what I would like to see on a motivational sign?
A: Play my little game or no entry for you.
Q: I had midterms this week and it’s Sunday! Can I still play?
A: Read the syllabus. No entry for you.
Q: If I live in Raleigh, can we do hill repeats together?
A: Hill repeats are my favorite! Sometimes I even bust out a few lines from the Sound of Music.
I was super-excited to be chosen as an official blogger for the Blue Ridge Marathon, which is April 26, 2014. What this means for you is that I have a free race entry to give away next week! I am still thinking about the contest and will post details on Sunday or Monday.
The race entry can be the half or full marathon. Come run America’s Toughest Road Marathon with me next spring!
Race details can be found here: http://blueridgemarathon.com/
About a month ago, the cool folks at the Medoc Trail Races announced that they were making special prizes for the top three men’s and women’s, and the top master’s man and woman. The pottery plaques were so gorgeous that I actually checked past race results to see what kinds of times were placing. In a small trail race, I can sometimes squeak into an age-group or master’s win. I quickly determined that I had no real chance of getting a plaque and promptly forgot about it.
I was really, really looking forward to the race, though. Friends have raved about how well-organized, fun, and friendly the race is, plus all the great stuff that runners receive. In addition, it was my first trail race of the season, and a chance to take a break from marathon training. With 13 miles on my training plan, I figured I’d race the 10 miler, which I’d heard was not too technical, and do an easy 3-4 on Sunday for recovery.
Eight Peeps and Friends of Peeps departed early from the coffee shop. Janine drove her Suburban so we would blend in once we left city limits. Picked up our race packets, said hello to some friends doing the marathon, and cheered them as they took off. Then, we got ready. In the pre-race excitement, Becky changed from “cheering” to “walking” and Steve was debating whether to go short or long sleeves. I suggested that he might want long sleeves since he was planning to walk. “Wellll…I might run a bit…” he said. I shot him a look. “Don’t be an idiot!” And Becky hadn’t even brought running shorts. Clearly this group is all about pre-race planning.
Our race started with a 1.5 mi out-and-back on the park road before running through a field and into the woods. I felt a little uneasy when I realized I was toward the front, but my trusty Timex said I was running a reasonable pace; no sub-8s of foolish exuberance here. Jumped onto the trails and felt the joy of cutting loose and flying through the woods. As I’d heard, the trails were extremely runnable–mostly gentle grades, many flat sections, and only a few places with lots of rocks and roots. Mostly I like being pokey on the trails, running a longer distance while looking at flowers and trees (I can’t help it) and spending time with friends. But it’s also fun to race. So I did.
I realized, though, when I hit mile 3, that gasping for breath while running is a poor strategy when you have 7 miles to go, so I slowed a bit and chatted with my fellow trail runners, who are always fun. Beautiful trails meandered along the creeks and went past pretty large trees for the logged-over Piedmont. I wondered about leaves obscuring the trails but the paths were mostly clear. Sometimes, they were narrow single-track but more often they were wide enough for chatting and easy passing. Perfect trails and perfectly cool, overcast running weather.
It’s easy to get complacent while trail racing. Often, I’ll fall in behind someone and ride there comfortably, catching my breath, chatting a bit, and realizing somewhat later that I’ve significantly dropped my pace. This happened a few times, most notably in miles 3 and 4 where I posted >9 minute pace. Time to bust a move.
It was around mile 7 where a woman I’d traded places with twice turned off on a spur with another guy, screeched to a halt next to the river, and turned around just as I came by. She jumped back on the trail behind me but slipped and fell. I slowed and turned around. The other guy was with her and she said she was fine, so I motored on, sure she’d come flying past any minute. I felt bad because I know first-hand how much momentum a fall can take out of your race. Miraculously, I didn’t fall at this race–having fallen at Uwharrie, MST 50K, Running of the Bulls and the Blue Ridge Relay, ALL IN 2013, I was glad to end that particular streak.
We started catching the marathoners still out on their first loop and in for a beautiful morning on the trails. As I passed one man, he said “third female.” I looked around to see who he was talking to, then said something suave like “Who, me?! HOLY SH*T!”
At mile 8 my legs suddenly got that cement-like feeling, and I realized that I probably should have eaten something before the start. I had a good breakfast of steel-cut oatmeal, milk and coffee, but that was at 5:15 am and I was now running out of fuel. As we neared the finish, I hoped there was not much of a field/road final sprint, because I didn’t think I could win one if someone came up behind me. I couldn’t really believe that I was as close to the top as the man had suggested, but thought I might have a shot at Master’s and didn’t want to chance it.
As I ran across the field, my vision started closing in on the sides, a direct precursor to passing out. Fortunately, I made it across the line and spent a few minutes trying to shake off some dizziness. I sat down for a bit and talked with John from Greenville, who I’d run with for awhile. Then somebody (? I was still woozy) came over and told me that I really had won third female! I couldn’t believe it! Woo HOO!
Shortly thereafter I went over to the finish and was having a friendly conversation with Scott of Tar River Timing, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a long-sleeved gold shirt approaching. “Excuse me, I know this guy,” I said. “RUN, YOU LOSER!!!” People stared. Scott said, ”Did you just call him a loser?” “Of course I called him a loser!”
“Well done. How did you do?” “1:26.” “Booo, you went too easy. You could have gone faster.” “Says who? You should have gone slower. You weren’t even supposed to be running! How’s your eyeball?” “The bubble broke into a million small ones.” “Cool, so now you see like a bug.” We grabbed cameras and sweatshirts out of the car and found a good vantage point to watch for our friends.
Everyone finished strong and smiling. I heard my name called and went to get my award. I had won one of the beautiful pottery finisher’s plaques, a sweet pint glass, and a $40 gift certificate to Raleigh Running Outfitters. Wow! I was so surprised and thrilled. I still am.
We took some pics, chatted with other racers, chowed down on some delicious red beans and rice, and cheered in the first and second marathon finishers, who posted amazing times. [Lorraine Young was 1st female and 2nd overall, with a faster pace for the marathon than all but the top-five finishers in the 10 mile run! Holy smokes!]
I learn things at every race, and this one was no exception:
1. Pay attention and make sure you’re running your pace, not someone else’s.
2. Oatmeal lasts for 4 hours or 8 miles, whichever comes first. Eat something before the start.
Another new favorite race! Huge thanks to the race organizers (Rocky Mountain Endurance Club), park staff, and the great volunteers. It was an exceptional race and I hope to be back–maybe for the marathon next time.
Thanks for reading. And, special thanks to my speedier female running buddies. For staying home!
Seeing this the other day triggered a forgotten, but crystal-clear memory of something my high school track coach told me. In running, we tend to emphasize the physical training and the mental discipline. Both are critical, but they don’t add up to 100%. Your heart has to be in it too.
The memory prompted me to google my coach, Mr. Warren Booth. I came across a fascinating interview with the public library, part of a new millennium project about changes in Monmouth County as seen by long-time residents. He coached track and basketball at Red Bank Regional High School his entire career (http://bit.ly/164ZGpP). He has since passed away, but I was glad to see that a scholarship had been established in his name.
The Coach Booth I remember had a booming voice and far more confidence in our small rag-tag team of girls than any of us had in ourselves. It never occurred to me to be surprised when he talked about his college days, but for a black man born in 1929, it’s notable that he and his three brothers all graduated from college. He always wore a suit and tie, although he traded the jacket for a navy blue shop coat when he taught shop classes.
He’d take anyone on the team who wanted to run, and a few who didn’t even want to do that. Our team was so small that each of us did the maximum number of events to compete against larger teams. I was an average runner, but versatile enough to win points where we had opportunities. [I'm pretty sure I was the only 5'4" high jumper at the Central Jersey Regionals in 1988.]
I wish I could remember the context–I can’t even say for sure whether it came after a good finish or one of the disappointing ones.
What he said was this: “Steph, you will never be a star. You’re tough and you run smart. But when I see you put your heart into it, you are unbeatable.”
When I was 16, all I heard was the first part of what he said, and I remember the sting. The rest didn’t make sense to me. Other girls out-ran me all the time, and only rarely did I finish first. Twenty-six years later, I recognize the compliment and understand what he was trying to tell me. Thanks, Coach.