Just what I needed
I've walked away from every Blue Ridge Half without many words or thoughts. The race weekend brings together a variety of people in my life to one event -- this year included family with my sister running the half for the first time. It's been an amazing weekend every year no matter what happens on the course.
Leading up to this year's race I kept thinking about how I felt last year -- my blog entry was relatively pointless in reflecting my thoughts. Despite having a fun weekend overall, the race wasn't all that great. Peakwood -- the second major climb in the race -- beat me up. I was defeated. It made me question for a while whether I wanted to return to this event.
After switching from the full to the half a month ago, I was at peace with my decision. Then I thought a lot about how I would approach this race. I know I've always started too fast, trying to tackle the first climb of Mill Mountain, then fly down the front side for a couple of miles to make up time.
Having done that four times, I've finally learned I can't do that and be happy with my performance. This year I slowed way down for the first mile then shortened my stride and kept pushing all the way to the top of the Mill Mountain. It's the first time ever that I didn't stop to walk in that stretch.
Coming down the mountain I put on the brakes just a bit instead of going all out. Once I came off the mountain and hit a flat stretch for a mile or so, I felt really good. At the 5.5-mile split, I was 2 minutes slower this year than last year.
When I got to Peakwood, the unbelievably brutal neighborhood of hills, I was actually looking forward to seeing if I could improve my time from last year. I did a lot of walking up the extremely steep grades, took on as much water as I could, dumped a lot of water on my head and then let myself go a bit faster down the final big decline 10 miles in.
In the last stretch down Jefferson Street in Roanoke, I was a little disappointed the final two hills on bridges felt so tough, but it was nowhere near as bad as last year. It was warmer, but that didn't seem to bother me too much.
I crossed the finish line in 2:22:04, 1:19 faster than last year. Looking at it another way, I gained 3 minutes in the final 7.6 miles over 2014, which is what I'm excited about more than anything else.
I had such a bad taste in my mouth after Shamrock just 4 weeks ago that I seriously considered not doing Blue Ridge. I've been thinking about a blog post about how I wasn't going to race anymore this year and that I needed a break.
Now I'm finally excited about what's next. I don't know what that is, but I'm really looking forward to it.