Misadventures with wine, weights, and running shoes.

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The Blue Ridge Marathon - It Takes a Village...or at least a small town.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Last Saturday, we ran the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon and there is a lot that I could say about it. 

I could give you a play by play that echoes the similar sentiments of runners that have come before me; how it will destroy your quads, tackle your hamstrings, and send your caves and joints screaming. 

I could tell you about the three mountains that make up the race - Roanoke, Mill, and Peakwood - and how one will invigorate you, one will empower you, and the last will humble you beyond words. 

I could also tell you about how an increase in temperature can rob you of what energy you have left and turn an already difficult race into one that is simply brutal.

Yes there is plenty to be said about what makes the Blue Ridge Marathon America's Toughest Road Marathon but anything that I have said has been said numerous times before. Instead, I will focus on what makes this race worth coming back and doing again. The reason I wanted to ambassador for it in the first place. The reason I'll probably return in 2016 to do it all over again.

It is the people - the unsung heroes of the Blue Ridge Marathon.

Like most races, the Blue Ridge Marathon would not be possible without its volunteers. From runner check-in to medal distribution, volunteers maintain the structural integrity of a race; however, BRM volunteers are a class all their own. They are the heart and soul of this event infusing it with their personalities. The event boasts between 400 and 500 volunteers. That is about one person per full marathoner or per four runners (approximately 2000 between the three events.) 

In addition to the volunteers, there is another key ingredient to this race; the community. The community comes out in force. Sure the majority of volunteers are members of the community, but there were an awful lot of people supporting the race that were not wearing the signature "You Run mountains ... I Help" t-shirt. The Roanoke community peppered the race throughout the 26.2 miles along with the volunteers.

Volunteers and community combined, they provided well over 21 aid stations - both official and unofficial ones. They set up scaffolding made up of ladders and hoses creating "misting" and "rain" stations. They played music, sang, and danced us through the miles. They shot pictures for us, provided loads of goodies, held our fuel belt when we made a "pit stop", and offered us words of encouragement. They handed out adult beverages, iced coffee, and ice cold soda. Oh, and who can forget the entertainment - both live (hello finish line festivities) and recorded / played along the course - our personal favorite being the delightful gentleman that played "First Call" on bugle. 

Of course, they also directed us along our journey especially when we were having problems determining our right from our left - "Stay left... no, your other left." 

This post would not be complete without also acknowledging the emergency services personnel that were on duty. The people that kept us safe, directed/stopped traffic, added to the encouragement, and offered to rent me their bicycle - I need to stash some cash in my sports bra. 

Finally, the organizers. The ones that had the ridiculous idea in the first place and the people that make the magic happen behind the scenes. I personally imagine it being a conversation over a few drinks - the adult kind - and that it started out as a joke, went on to be the crazy idea that no one will ever go for, and has grown into the successful race that it is. 

To everyone that makes this event possible, Thank you! 

Special thanks go to the following:

Photo courtesy of the Blue Ridge Marathon
  • The wonderful woman at Volunteer Check-in who ensured us that we would look AWESOME in our yellow volunteer shirts. She was right! 
  • Hope and  Jones Racing Company: You and your crew are total rock stars.

  • Greg and the Fleet Feet Noke water stop around mile 21. You were there where we needed someone the most.
  • Clay, my brother, who was there waiting for me at the finish and laughed at me for being so delirious and saying.."Hey, I know him."

  • The wonderful ladies that took the time to explain our right from our left so we headed to the finish line rather than back out on the course for a second lap.
  • The officer that offered to rent me his bike - again money goes in the sports bra.
  • The EMT that smiled and said "SURE THING" when I asked them at around mile two to meet me at the intersection of Jefferson Street and Bullitt in about five hours. 
  • Our bugle player on Mill Mountain that turned up again on Peakwood with a huge smile and a "HEY GIRLS!! REMEMBER ME?!!"
  • The awesome gals with the iced cold coffee towards the end of the race.
  • The awesome guys with the iced cold soda.
  • DUDE, Marsha, Chad, and the Marathon Maniacs for the conversation along the route.
  • Pizza Pasta Pit for having one hell of a gluten free menu.
  • Finally, thank you to Cindy for taking this ridiculous adventure with me. 

Run the Blue Ridge Marathon for the challenge, but come back for the people.

Love, Theresa

Disclosure:  This is a sponsored post.  As a race ambassador, Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon provided me with a free entry into the Marathon, along with my packet goodies.  Hotel accommodations, travel, and other expenses related to the race were paid by me and as always, the opinions are 100% my own.

Two Days Till Blue Ridge: Road Trip

Thursday, April 16, 2015

It seems like yesterday I was packing my car and heading out to make this very same journey. Last year, however, I was en-route to run the half. It amazes me how far I've come.

At one time, running the the Blue Ridge Marathon was a joke and a dream. A joke because it seemed impossible and a dream because I secretly wanted to run it even though I'd laugh it off and deny everything.

Despite that, here I am with a car loaded with enough clothing and gear for a month of races, a cooler with my standard pre-race food (gluten free sweet potato protein pancakes,) and ample amounts of PlowOn gum.

Now I'm off to go grab the other half of this crazy adventure, Cindy. Misery most certainly loves company.

Wish us luck!

If you are not doing so already, you can follow on instagram here.

Disclosure:  This is a sponsored post.  As a race ambassador, Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon provided me with a free entry into the Marathon, along with my packet goodies.  Hotel accommodations, travel, and other expenses related to the race were paid by me and as always, the opinions are 100% my own.

Training for Mountains: Putting SAID to Work

Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Theresa’s love of hills combined with her blogger /social medial talent got her the opportunity to be an official blogger for the Foot Leveler’s Blue Ridge Marathon (BRM).  As her partner in crime, I of course signed on as a new victim participant in the race.

“America’s Toughest Road Marathon” is definitely worthy of its title. The elevation profile is enough to cause even a seasoned marathoner to question their sanity.
Courtesy of Blue Ridge Marathon

Following the SAID principle, we should train on mountains but we didn’t have mountains readily available.

Instead, we ran hills.

Over and over and OVER AGAIN we ran hills.  

We ran little hills and big hills, bridges and overpasses. You name it, if it had an incline we ran it; the steeper the incline the better. We began to even see hills as we drove and thought, OHHH we need to run that hill!  

Training during bad weather? No problem! We hit the treadmill and cranked up the incline. 

Over time, I have definitely gone from loathing hills to actually (shhhh, Don’t tell anyone) loving them. The change in terrain was something this Florida girl never knew she was missing.

Last year, Theresa used the stair monster and said it made a huge difference in tolerating the steady climbs of BRM.  By pure luck (if you want to call it that) we stumbled across something even better; treadmills with a 30% incline.

We had just finished treadmill interval sprints when she noticed the treadmill had a 30% option.  She of course goes to try it out and comments that it felt more like the hills at Blue Ridge than the stair monster did and suggested I try it. So I did.

My pace slowed to a crawl and I hung on for dear life; afraid I’d fall off.

All the while my feet, shins, ankles and calves screamed out in a wave of expletives that would make a sailor blush.  I am sure the look of disdain came across my face as I turned to her and simply stated, “I really don’t like you right now.”

We tried to add the 30% incline training in as often as possible.  Since terrain doesn’t go higher than 13% we hoped that training on a steeper incline would make 11% at mile 18.5 slightly more tolerable. Even our weight and core training was focused on strengthening our hill ascending and descending abilities.

For an extra treat, our taper began with the Marine Corps 17.75K race. It has challenging hills on the course and served as a great 11 mile training run. We each ran our own pace but the Blue Ridge Marathon came to mind with each hill.

This weekend when we reach each mountain top, I will be confident we did everything we could to prepare for the race we are running.

Wish us luck!
Love, Cindy

Training with Purpose: The SAID Principle

Friday, April 10, 2015

There are those people that are blissfully happy following a given training plan without question.

Then there’s those other people; the OCD ones. The ones that need to know ALL THE THINGS. They research every website as much as possible to know the hows and the whys.

Yeah, I can relate.

In a resent a conversation with my former training partner, Hope,  I asked how I can get better at running.  Her response, “the SAID Principle.”

SAID: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands

To put it bluntly;  if you want to get better at running, you just have to run.  

Cross training aside, one will never develop the correct muscle memory, impact adaptions, and body mechanics of running if most of the training time is on an elliptical trainer, spin bike, or the like.

Once you have that basic principle down, it can then translate to a more specific event.

Training for a hot desert marathon?  Then train in hot desert conditions. Our friend Mosi wore layered black sweats with a hood in the heat of the summer when training for Bad Water.

Training for a technical trail race?  Get out on technical trails. 

Doing an obstacle race?  Build up your climbing muscles to get over the walls and ropes.  

Find a place close to you to train and mimic the race scenario as best you can.  It can truly make the difference in your race.

One of my best marathons was finished with a 15 minute PR.  It was a hilly marathon compared to my previous flat races and so I trained with lots of hills.

Likewise, one of my most challenging races was finished with a slower than expected time and was humbled by every bit of elevation change on the race course. This is because I trained primarily on level roads and few hills.

The point: Know the course you are doing and train specifically for it.

So how do you go about your training?

Love, Cindy

Ramblings: My Feet

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

This image came across my Facebook feed the other day and I couldn't help but stop and take a look at my feet.

They are a bit beat up after over two years of running but they tell a story of dedication with a pinch of crazy. 

So at this point I had this meaningful post written about the story my feet tell but let's just be honest -


No seriously, they do and it isn't like they looked great before I started running.

Heredity reeked havoc on them well before my choice in physical activity got to them. Well, heredity and clumsiness. I've broke a number of toes over the years and that has not helped the appearance of my feet whatsoever.

Naturally, there are feet that look far worse than mine, however, my feet have still seen better days.

To begin with, I've got a bunion on each foot - one being worse than the other. Then there is my Morton's toe. For those of you that don't know what that is, it is a hereditary condition that causes the second toe to be longer than the big toe. The fact that I've broken that toe a couple of times has not helped it any and, as a result, it is a quarter inch longer than it used to be.

Next, there are the lovely calluses located on my big toes, end of a few smaller toes, and on the balls of my feet. I have to regularly watch and maintain them; always being careful to not over or under care for them. Doing too little screws with how my foot lands and doing too much leads to blisters under the calluses. Ouch!

Speaking of blisters...

At any given time I can have one or more blisters on my feet. The reasons/causes vary but often it is because of socks, tying my shoes wrong, or experimenting with techniques to prevent other issues.

Typically, if you get blisters you also get the remains of the blister which often don't show up until long after a blister has seemingly vanished. You know..that moment when you step out of the shower to find those weird white patches of dead skin - or what I like to call - THE GHOST OF BLISTERS PAST.  (Make sure you use your deep echoing announcer voice when you say that.)

Source: Kicking it in Korea
Then there are my poor toenails. Some are a bit deformed due to damage to the nail bed. Many of you will be able to relate to that weird post run pain under your nail that leaves you wondering how long it will be before the nail falls off only to be surprised when it does not happen. Of course, what does tend to happen is a change in the thickness and/or texture of the nail.

Lest not forget the nails that have fallen off, which I'm surprised to say have all grown or are in the process of growing back. Either way, I'm patiently waiting for some level of normal to return to them. I am certain that my luck will run out at some point and I won't have the luxury of my nails growing back.  

So to reiterate, my feet look like crap. That is ok because they are mine and they are my record of the dedication and effort put in to each finish line I've crossed and you know what else...

I'm going to continue to have some damn ugly feet.

Until next time, show your feet a little love.

love, Theresa.

Now I'm off to write a letter of apology to the poor woman that does my pedicures. 

2015 Marine Corps 17.75k

Wednesday, April 1, 2015
So this happened...

but rather than get into details about how I'm not entirely vested in my decision to run the 40th Marine Corps Marathon, let's talk about another event: 

The 2015 Marine Corps 17.75k

Yes, I got in and I ran it again. 

This year I made it to the scheduled packet pick-up which eliminated the panic that occurred last year when I thought I missed the pick-up window.

It also gave us a a chance to talk to the operations manager and find out that they modified the course adding an out an back that was to make for a harder course. 

In typical fashion, Cindy and I pulled together our running gear the evening before and I discovered a new affinity for orange. 

On Saturday morning I woke up at o-dark-thirty, ate the first of what would be three breakfasts, got ready and rolled out the door into the cold. It was 42 degrees, which is relatively comfortable for me. Then I drove 25 minutes to Cindy's where it was about six degrees colder and a breeze started to pick up. 

What the hell?!?! If I'd have know that was going to happen, I'd have grabbed the winter tights. UGH!

Dumfries, VA provided no relief from the cold. In fact, it was colder and windier. We ended up huddled next to a generator with a group of other runners attempting to get warm. I am sure you can imagine our surprise when the Montclair Tabernacle Church took pity on us and allowed us to seek shelter inside their facility. 

Just before race start, we made our way back into the cold and shot a quick picture before the race start

and then huddled into the crowd to try and listen to the announcements that I couldn't hear over the chattering of our teeth. 

Soon after, we were off on our 11.03 mile tour of Price William's Forest. 

The early miles of the race were congested and I was thankful for my decision to wear my trail shoes since I ended up running alongside the trail in order to get past some of the masses. I also had to giggle at the crowd of runners that parted like the red sea in an effort to avoid some mud in the middle of the trail. 

Over the course of the race, there were three aid stations. Given the weather conditions, I was beyond grateful for their presence and support - especially the junior volunteers. They were real rock stars for being out there for us.

I can not say that I found the overall course to be any more or less difficult than last year. Don't get me wrong, it is a challenging course; one that should not be taken for granted. Having run this race last year, I knew what to expect and how to prepare. Although I only ran it as a training run, I still finished with a six minute course PR. 

As for Cindy, this was her first year running this event. She loved it- freezing cold excluded. We're both hoping to get in again next year and see what we can really do.

Oh...added bonus! They gave a finishers medal this year instead of the poker chip. I really wasn't a fan of the chip but the medal is pretty cool. 

Until next time - happy running.

Love, Theresa