Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Hard Cider Run 5K

I'm not sure what he was looking for, but Jon found this race about a month ago and suggested we do it.  5K.. sure!  At a cidery?  yes please!  And Jon is going to actually participate?  Absolutely!  Even better was that you can pick your wave start, and we picked 10:10am which means we didn't have to wake up at the crack of dawn to get to Charlottesville super early (though Jon might argue that leaving at 7am *does* mark the crack of dawn).
That's the white ceiling of U-Hall (old basketball arena) in the distance...
That's where we pick up the shuttle after standing in this long line!
This was a trail run and there was rain in the forecast accompanied by concern that there would be a ton of mud.  Not to worry, I still have my dirty shoes from the North Face relay a couple weeks ago!  But, despite a few sections of rain on our drive down, it stayed pretty dry.  We arrived at the new UVA basketball arena around 9am where we were to pick up the shuttle over to the cidery.  They told us to allow about 15 min for the shuttle ride.  Factoring in that time, plus time to pick up our packets, check a bag, blah blah... we figured we were in good shape.
Nope!  Over an hour in that dang line to get to the shuttle - and I really think the reason we made the most forward movement in that line is because people bailed and found other rides.  We didn't even get on the shuttle until 10:15, 5 min after our wave was supposed to start.  Of course everybody else was in the same situation and they assured us we'd be able to run.  Sure enough, we got there, got our stuff situated and made our way over to the 10:50am wave start.  Ready to go!
Photographer stationed midway up the long hill from hell?  Mean!
I told Jon that we shouldn't worry about staying together and would meet up at the end - run your own race!  So he took off.  The trail consisted of tons of tall grass and uneven terrain which made it really hard to run.  I noticed I was running about 11:30/mile pace and keeping up with Jon... until he started walking and I passed him.  He signed up for the Hungry Apple challenge to eat a donut at every mile marker, so I pulled a little further in front when he stopped for that first snack.  Right after that first mile marker the trail turned upwards.  It looked daunting.  I was doing a run/walk pattern by now and decided to shift to just walking for this hill, thinking it wasn't too long.  And then we turned a corner and realized we weren't even halfway up! 
I'm not sure how he did it, but Jon powered up that hill and passed me right back!  I might have been standing still and resting when he passed me, that's how bad this hill was!  And I was not the only person who stopped for breaks.  I didn't see anybody actually running.  I mean, seriously... this was a 5K race marketed at beginners!  At least, what goes up must come down, and finally we were on top of the mountain (yes, I am pretty sure whatever that hill was called, it starts with "Mount" something) and on our way back down. 
I started running again and really minimized the walking on that last half.  Luckily the rain held off and it wasn't muddy at all (except for maybe a small part on top of the mountain).  The course took us winding through the orchards on more tall grass and slanted ground.  I was in front of Jon again, but not by much and I was a little jealous of the little snacks he was getting.  I was starting to get hungry!  
Finally I came out of the orchard and ran through the finish line - done!  That was a really hard course for a 5K!  I got my medal and some water and waited for the 2 more min for Jon to come in - we really were pretty close on pace.
...and of course he was munching on his 3rd and final donut as he crossed the timing mats!  This was only his 2nd running race ever, and much more challenging than the Baltimore 5K that he did over 10 years ago.
We got our cider and sat around for a little bit before getting back on the shuttle and going to lunch in Charlottesville.  And as it turns out, Joann and Daz were in town celebrating their anniversary, so we ended up meeting them at a winery for a bit.  Not a bad day!

Monday, April 11, 2016

North Face Marathon Relay

This was a tough race to pack for with rain and snow in the forecast (in April, mind you), knowing we'd be standing around for awhile before/after our turn to run, and positive the trails we would be running on would be a muddy mess.  So, we packed all the things!
Sure enough, Joann texted me first thing Saturday morning saying it was pouring rain with hail.  Awesome.  I stopped for a Chick-Fil-A breakfast (yum!) and drove out to the shuttle stop and met up with Jessie, Eileen and Henry.  We packed ourselves, our backpacks and chairs onto the shuttle and made our way to the race start.  Luckily it had stopped raining by this point, but we were sure the damage was done to the trails.  And it was cold.  Very cold.
We made it to the race start and started settling in, organizing our stuff, trying to figure out what to wear, how to stay warm.  The wind was really strong and made for some very cold weather.  We figured out our run order, and I was to be the 2nd runner.  I liked this idea, to let Jessie go and get a good start, and then since I'm slowest, Eileen and Henry could make up some time on the back end.
We met up with Paula's crew, and Paula told us that she was going to be her team's last runner because she was the slowest.  I asked about the rationale behind that and she said that there were cutoff times, and they aren't cumulative.  Every runner has 90 min, and if one runner falls behind, the rest of your team is screwed.  Hmm... OK... makes sense then that I also should be the final runner cause the last thing I'd want to do is DQ our team!  So now I'm going last, which means finding a way to stay warm all day until it's my turn.
Time for one more group shot before heading up to the start line to see Jessie off.  There were just over 100 relay teams, so it wasn't a super crowded start line, but a decent number.  Of course the other distances going on at the same time (started earlier) were the 50-miler, 50K and marathon, so we would see other runners out on the course with us throughout the day.
There they go!  You can Jessie in the blue hat just to the right of the guy in yellow who's blocking everyone's view.  Eileen, Henry and I actually lined up on the fence, thinking we were going to get a great view, and then at the last minute we realized the runners were taking a sharp left out of the gate... d'oh!
The first part of the course is a loop on grass.  From our current vantage point, it looks straight forward enough, but I would find out later that the back part of that grassy loop was basically a mud pit.
So, Eileen, Henry and I wandered around trying to stay warm.  Luckily, we stumbled upon the Top Golf tent who was giving away gloves and hats in exchange for liking them on social media - done!  And then, a good Samaritan offered us some much-needed toe warmers.  It wasn't too bad when the wind wasn't blowing, but when it was, it was freezing! 
Jessie crushed it, finishing her loop in exactly an hour, and suddenly Eileen was on her way!  I was super pleased with her time because everyone who finishes under 90 minutes gives me an extra buffer.  6.5 miles in 90 minutes is tough for me on roads in good condition... throw in trails and mud and it's a whole new ball game.  Jessie described the course to us, and it sounded like other than the mud, it wasn't too bad - mostly flat, some pavement, some gravel, some stream crossings.
I will say the waiting around wasn't too bad when your teammates are all super fast!  By the time we got a snack for the runner who just finished, visited the port-o-pots, stood around the fire pits, we didn't have too much extra time to kill.  Eileen came in at exactly and hour also, and Henry started his loop.  I was loving this huge buffer my teammates were giving me!
While we were waiting for Henry to get back, I decided to take a "before" picture of my pretty pink shoes.  I had a feeling they weren't going to be looking so pretty after my run.  Everyone was coming back so muddy!  I was wearing rubber crocs for most of the day to try to keep my feet dry, and it worked... not that the dryness would last more than 50 meters into my run...
Henry came in just under an hour.  I grabbed the timing chip and take off!!  I had been worried that I would have to walk most of the grass area, just because running on grass is so hard, and I'm not a great runner anyway.  I started off and was surprised that I felt really good!  In fact, I glanced at my watch and I was doing 11:30 min/mi, which for me is very very fast.  I knew I needed to slow down or else I'd be sorry later.  But I ran that entire grassy part, the first half mile of the course, including the parts where the mud got so deep that my shoes started slipping off of my feet.
Once off of the grass portion, we ran on pavement for awhile.  I did take a walk break but ended up running far more than I thought I would.  I finished the first mile in 13 min which I was happy about esp given the deep mud in the grass.  Then we turned onto the gravel portion, and I will admit I walked a little more than I should have.  I'm not sure why, I think it's a habit for me to take walk breaks and in this case I'm not really sure I needed it.  Gotta work on that.  Then the gravel ended and the single track trail begain.  Parts of the trail were really not that bad, and in fact, pretty scenic. 
And then parts of the trail looked like this.  I didn't even attempt to run through this.  I was slipping and sliding just trying to keep my balance while walking.  I really am surprised I didn't end up face down in the mud at some point.  So much for my 13 min/mi pace... my 2nd mile was 19 minutes long.  Oops. 
I really did enjoy running this trail, and as long as it wasn't muddy, I ran as much as I could.  After scolding myself for walking too much on the gravel, I got into the mindset of only walking when I really needed to.  On the way back, I was much better about the walk breaks.  Back over the bridge, through the mud, through the streams, on the gravel, and then the pavement.  For some reason I thought the pavement portion was much longer than it actually was, so I found myself nearing the finish line faster than I thought.  My "ON A BEER RUN" teammates were waiting for me with about a quarter mile to go, and joined me so we could all cross the finish line together!
I ended up finishing in 1:34:46 which I was pleased about.  My Garmin registered closer to 6 miles than 6.5 miles, but even with that, given all of the mud, I thought I would be slower.  And here is the "after" photo of my pretty pink shoes.  I kind of wish I had taken a "during" photo because after running through the final few streams of water, they actually got cleaned off quite a bit.  We were really lucky that it never rained on us, though there were some snow flurries at points during the day.  In April.  Not OK.
By now we were all starving.  I had wanted to wait and see Paula's team finish, but thanks to my super fast teammates, we finished a lot earlier than expected.  Paula and I are actually very similar speeds, but since I got to start so much earlier, I finished over an hour ahead of her.  And we were just so dang cold.  So we hopped on the shuttle back to the parking lot and then headed across the street for some post-race celebratory food and beverage.
Joann met us there for the celebration and the two of us stuck around for awhile after the others needed to go.  I am pretty sure we ate ALL THE FOOD.  I was so exhausted that I drove home, took a quick shower, and was fast asleep by around 8pm.  It was a fun day and I would definitely do this relay again.