This year's Varmit Half Marathon, located way out in the picturesque town of Burkes Garden, VA, happened to fall on my husband's birthday. To celebrate, he decided to invite down a group of friends so that we could all run together. This race is known first and foremost for it's beauty and second for its difficulty... Either way it's a must do race if you live in southwest Virginia!
Going into the race, I had pretty low expectations. It was a long, rough week of work/travel coming off last week's race and my energy levels were pretty low. Really, I wanted nothing to do with running another half marathon! Friday, though I should have been resting, I was busy catching up from two days missed work (from a conference I attended) followed by preparing our house for visitors and baking the hubby's birthday cake. After not nearly enough sleep, we woke up and hit the road for a very rainy two hour trip to the race site. Luckily, the rain subsided with our arrival and we were greeted by this:
|No rain clouds in Tazewell County!|
My "race strategy" was pretty conservative. Since I averaged 7:25's last weekend, I knew I had no business going out any faster than that on a harder course (especially with the first few miles being mostly uphill). Plus, I barely got in a warm-up, so I knew I had better ease into things. I stayed relaxed and was able to average 7:28 for the first 4 miles which are definitely the hardest in terms of climbing. At that point, things were clicking along pretty good, but I was worried I still started out too fast. I paid a little better attention to my perceived exertion and decided what "feels like" marathon pace for me is probably actually half-marathon pace, at least on a course like this one.
5-6-7... the miles quickly flew by and I was enjoing the rolling terrain and beautiful scenary. I was slowly tracking down the people in front of me, focused on running steady and relaxed. By mile 7 I was growing a bit more anxious, not sure if this is where I would start to kick into a higher gear or fade like the week before. I was feeling good but not quite sure when would be a suitable time to kick into a higher gear.
Mile 9 came and I was still feeling strong, so I decided it was time to pick up the pace. I figured if I could hit sub 7:00/mi to finish I could potentially PR. Honestly, I thought that was a bit ambitious but I really had nothing to lose. All I knew is that I didn't want my final miles to be like last weekend's race (which felt more like a death march than a fast finish). I kicked it into high gear and started passing a lot of people, which was fun! We climbed a hill between miles 10-11 and I pretty much felt like my heart was going to jump out of my chest. There were only two miles left though and I so I put my head down and kept pushing forward.
All this time I really had no clue regarding the girl's competition. I had no intention on running for placement because I knew I could go the entire race without seeing or passing another girl. Around mile 11.5, an aid station volunteer informed me I was in 3rd place. After this point is a long out and back section and I was able to see that 2nd was not too far ahead. This kept me going through those last two miles! I don't know if I've ever pushed so hard at the end of a race...
The last mile was quite a struggle but I was still running strong. I wasn't even able to give my husband my usual smile as I ran by him. At this point, I wasn't going to catch 2nd so my eye was on the clock with hopes of at least breaking 1:36. I was close, finishing with a net official time of 1:36:05! A PR of about 1:10 from the previous week! Even better, this time is a full 16 minutes faster than when I completed this same race in 2011.
More finish pics of the gang:
I love that our family and friends run too!
Fun times...I'm so glad everyone could come out!
|The birthday boys!|
|One-on-One Endurance crew... thanks Tanya for the pic!|
One thing that I haven't yet mentioned is that this race is also notorious for its unique awards...
|The Kenya pup with her friends (aka. our collection)|
I'm so happy that I could celebrate my husband's birthday with our family and friends doing something we both love. I blame him for a lot of the crazy things I do... it's true! He helps me step outside my comfort zone in so many ways and I love him for it.
This one's for you babe!