This past weekend, Juneau and I journeyed to Charlottesville to visit my parents for a few days. I am a pretty compulsive follower of my training schedules so earlier in the week my sweet Mom offered to help me find a route where I could fit in my long run of 16 miles.
I have mentioned before that I wasn’t much of a runner back when I lived in Charlottesville so the only route I am familiar with is my old neighborhood. Well, my neighborhood loop is a grand total of 2.5 miles and there is no room to add on distance outside of it unless you think dodging cars on a highway is an enjoyable way to spend your Saturday morning. Well, it’s not my idea of fun and neither is running the same loop eight times in a row so I was happy that my Mom was willing to talk to some of her friends in the area who run and the local running shop.
Turns out the focus of most of the local runners was on the Charlottesville Fall Classic Half Marathon and 10k taking place on Sunday the 13th. Well, after discussing logistics with my parents and deliberating about it for a few days I ended up signing up for the half marathon 3 days before the race.
I enjoyed the first part of my weekend (I’ll post a few pictures from the trip later this week) and thought little about the race until Saturday evening when I got myself organized and ready for the morning.
After my last race day fail (aka being late) I was able to redeem myself by getting to Downtown Charlottesville in plenty of time to pick up my number, use the bathroom, and do a little warm-up jog before lining up at the start.
I didn’t have much of a goal for this race. I just planned to run it however felt correct in the moment. If I got there and felt great and wanted to race the thing, I was going to race it. If it seemed more correct and comfortable to take it easy and look at it as a training run, then I’d do that. Well, considering I have never gotten to a race and not felt revved up and ready to run I guess I should have known how that approach would turn out.
It was baffling to me how many roads and paths the course covered that I never even knew existed. I lived in Charlottesville for eighteen years and still somehow didn’t know where I was for 75% of the race. It is amazing how running can give you a new perspective and a chance to explore places that you may have thought you knew like the back of your hand.
The course definitely had some great moments. My favorites were the portions running the Rivanna Trail right alongside the river and starting and finishing in the center of Downtown Charlottesville. The coolest part by far was the final half mile where we ran straight through the Downtown Pavilion and then down the length of the Downtown Mall.
When it comes to terrain, this course was HARD – probably the hardest and hilliest course I have ever run. Flat stretches were extremely rare. It was hard to get comfortable both mentally and physically because it seemed like every time I rallied myself up one hill, even if there was a nice downhill that followed, I could already see the next hill just on the horizon. It may not have been nearly as challenging to the next runner, but I am willing to admit that hills are a huge struggle for me.
I was really proud of myself overall, though. The hills were defeating me pretty handily for the first 7 miles or so. But then we entered a residential neighborhood full of a lot of rolling hills and I had to give myself a mental pep talk. I told myself that I needed to stop thinking the hills would stop because they clearly weren’t going to; I had to stop waiting for them to go away to get comfortable and go ahead and get comfortable with them. Luckily, around the same time my legs started feeling really loose and actually DID start to feel pretty comfortable with the hills. Suddenly, I was passing people going up each hill instead of struggle-bussing up each of them. And it felt pretty awesome.
My parents and Juneau were a huge motivator in this race. On Saturday night, we had found them a perfect place to stake out along the course that I passed by twice (at mile 4.5 and 11.5). It turns out that spot was right at the top of a hill both times. It is always a huge boost to see people cheering for me during a race, no matter how worn out I feel. And they had brought Juneau along with them and seeing her get SO excited when I pass by makes me smile.
After seeing my parents and Juneau for the second time, the hills finally stopped coming. I was extra motivated by a pack of 4 women ahead of me that were a good distance away, but still passable. I managed to pass all but one of them and stay ahead all the way to the finish. The last mile or so were super speedy (at least for me).
My chip time was 1:43:30 (a PR!). I placed 4th out of 25 in my age group, 14th out of 110 women, and 45th out of 232 overall.
I am excited about my new PR time, but more than anything I am excited about how I handled the second half of the race mentally. Those hills were a big challenge for me and I am beyond happy with how I told myself to tackle them when I was tired and then just did it.
I have been recovering well with no aches or soreness to speak of. This is probably thanks to my very particular post-race schedule. I got home and immediately got in my parents’ hot tub with my favorite smoothie. Then came a hot shower, comfy sweatpants, stretching/foam rolling, delicious pasta for lunch, and an hour or so long nap before packing up and heading back to North Carolina.
I took yesterday as a rest day and will be back at it today with the first run of a much-appreciated step back week.
I know lots of races happened this weekend! Did you run in a race? If so, how did it go? Are you a pro at running hills or do you struggle with them like me?