Friday, February 28, 2014

Love Rox 1/2 Marathon

When I registered for this race, way back in the Fall of 2013, I was running well, uninjured and excited to plan a fun girl's getaway weekend with my best friend, Michele.  She was able to find a race exactly mid distance from where we both live: Richmond, VA.  We each would have a 4 hour drive, the race looked "flattish" and the best part was that your race entry included tastings at the Virginia Wine Expo after the race. Perfect!!
  At the end of October I developed an injury which lingered well into the end of the year. I was finally able to start running again in early January.  That left me only 7 weeks to train for the 1/2 marathon.  I tried to stay positive, just reassuring myself that I would just run as well as I could, not to be concerned about any time goal.  Luckily, Michele has had on and off training as well, so she was willing to go in with a "do what we can" attitude.
  The longest run I was able to complete in training was a 9.5 mile run 9 days before the race. I felt pretty good, I ran slowly, but I was able to run the whole distance. That was somewhat reassuring. But I still had another 3.6 miles to run.
  I drove to Richmond Saturday morning after dropping my son off at ballet and leaving the other two at home with a sitter. My husband was not so conveniently coaching his swim team in their final swim meets this weekend.  The drive to Richmond was without incident, and Michele and I met at the packet pick up.  The pick up was low-key, with just a couple of vendors, no lines to pick up our race bibs.  We were in and out in just a few minutes and off to check in to our hotel in downtown Richmond.
  We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn which was the host hotel for the race.  It was conveniently located across the street from the Convention Center where the Wine Expo was taking place, and only a block away from the start/finish area of the race.  And did I mention that the race didn't start until 10:00 am the next morning? How easy was this going to me?
  I had been to Richmond several years ago while dating my husband.  I don't remember much about that trip, so the city seemed new to me. Michele and I walked around a bit after checking into our hotel.  We walked along next to the James River on the Canal Walk. Part of the race route would be here the next day.  The weather was great, much warmer than it had been for me in PA.  It was nice walking around in short sleeves and enjoying the sunshine. 
 We stopped at an English Pub on the way to dinner to have a drink. The Penny Lane Pub is a cozy bar, which was quite crowded when we arrived.  The older man at the front told us to head to the bar, and to make sure to show our ID's.  I took this as a joke, but Michele thought he was serious and quickly got out her driver's license to show the bartender. I hated to break it to her that he was joking, and trying to flatter us. We each had a "pint" , and then headed to dinner.
 Dinner was at a restaurant within walking distance, Cafe Rustica. It is a small restaurant, with good food and friendly service.  Dinner was good, relaxed and not rushed at all.  It reminded of us of being in Europe again.  After dinner, we headed back to the hotel and watched Olympic highlights.  It was nice knowing that the race didn't start until 10 am and that we were within a 5 min walk to the start.
We did, however, have to walk down to the parking lot where our cars were to pay for daily parking in the morning.  It seemed impossible to pay for the whole weekend, and our parking space was expiring at 5:59am. We had spoken to "Angela" the voice who answered the telephone when we called the info line and she assured us that we could park there, we wouldn't get towed, as long as we mailed her a check on Monday for the Sunday parking. ????? We decided it was probably best to pay for the parking on Sunday and head out early Monday morning to avoid having our cars towed.
  Sunday morning we paid for parking, then stopped at Starbucks on the way back to our hotel.  I was feeling apprehensive about the race.  My body felt tired, my legs tight.  Would I be able to run the whole distance? What about the temperature? It was already approaching 50 degrees. I hadn't run in anything warmer than 30 degrees during my training. I shared my concerns with Michele, and we just hoped for the best. We were able to catch the end of the Olympic Hockey game, with Canada beating Sweden for the gold medal. I proudly sang my national anthem before heading to the race.
    We walked down to the start and realized this was a much smaller race than we thought.  (We found out later that there were only about 400 runners for the 1/2 marathon).  There was a moment of silence for Meg, a local woman who had been killed by a drunk driver while running recently.  Then the national anthem was sung beautifully.  I began to calm down, and get ready to run. 
  We started right at 10am. The course was 2 loops, with the 10K runners running one, the 1/2 marathoners running 2.  Within the first mile this "mostly flat" course was anything but. We started to head up a long, gradual hill.  Thankfully, for every uphill, there was also downhills. We tried to make up some time on the descents.  I actually enjoyed running through downtown Richmond for the most part.  I like passing the sign that said "U R Downtown" twice.  Crossing a small bridge into Brown's Island was nice. Running along the Canal Walk and seeing some of the cool graffiti/art was interesting. I debated stopping to take photos, but as Michele stated on the second loop "I want to save my energy for running". Good point. We were definitely feeling it on the second loop.
  Crossing the 14th street bridge seemed to me to be the most boring part. It was mostly an industrial looking area. All the runners seemed to have become quiet on the second time around.  We were about 8 miles into it by then.  The hardest part, physically, was the second time up and over the Lee Bridge.  There had been a water stop at about mile 8.5, and not another one until almost 11 miles.  We were wanted to take our last Gu and had to wait until that water stop.  We were both struggling, and I think we both considered walking, but we somehow kept going.  Speaking of water stops, we did walk through all the water stops, drinking each time and taking Gu's at approx. miles 5 and 11.  Michele also ate some Sportsbeans while going up the Lee Bridge. She said it helped her get through it. I have never really liked them, and the energy it would take to chew and run was just too much for me at that point.
  Passing the mile 12 sign as a good feeling.  We were able to finish strong, with a slight uphill finish.  We ran mostly even splits, with the last mile being one of our fastest (9:20).  My watch time was 2:09:30. The official time was 2:10. I think that is my slowest 1/2 marathon ever, but I was just proud to be able to run the whole distance, feeling good without evidence of my injury.  Running the race with Michele was really fun. I like that we can support each other without even saying a word.  She kept me running when I really wanted to walk.  And I know I did the same for her.
  We took a couple of photos at the end of the race, even though we were tired and sweaty.

 I was proud to represent not only Oiselle, but also, Team Nuun, which I was selected to be  an ambassador recently.
 I really like the medal that we received. It is in the shape of a wineglass, which I thought was cute and original. I thought it was a bit silly to have the little check boxes on the race bib: "Available, Taken or It's Complicated". Were we really supposed to check one? ;)
After indulging in a couple of Oreo cookies and some hydration, we headed back to the hotel for a very welcome shower.  My face was covered in salt. The temperature was in the 60's. Luckily, it had been cloudy for most of the race.  Under normal circumstances, this would have been an ideal temperature to race in, but my body was not quite acclimated to the higher temperatures. I made sure to fill our water bottles, and we added some Nuun to replace the electrolytes that we had surely lost during the race.
 Next was the Wine Expo.  We made it just in time to have some veggie chili that was being offered from the race. They were packing up as we arrived, but we were able to get a bowl, thank goodness. Then we headed into the expo, which was much larger than we expected. There were countless vendors, with I believe 450 different wines to taste!! All the tastings were included in our race entry.  We alternated between wine tastings and the free samples of food (crackers, cheese, cheese sticks, salad dressings with bread, chocolate).  There were several good offerings of wine, but our favorite was the last one we went to: Chatham Vineyards.  I enjoyed their Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Vitner's Blend.  We began speaking with John Wehner and his wife, who have been operating the winery since 1999.  They asked where we had travelled from, and when I said I was from Pennsylvania, John stated that his wife's family lives in Boiling Springs, where I live!  What a funny coincidence! It is tiny,  actually a village, with a population of only 3,000 people. I asked John's wife for her parent's contact information, and I hope to run into them in the "Springs". What a nice way to end the tastings. We grabbed a delicious crabcake before heading back to the hotel before dinner.
   We had decided to return to The Penny Lane Pub for dinner, but found it to be closed on Sundays.  We quickly checked our phones, and found another "yelp" recommended restaurant just a couple of blocks away, Tarrant's.  It ended up to be a lovely choice.  We both had the fish tacos, which were more than enough, and delicious.

  By the time we returned from dinner, we were both exhausted. We headed to bed early, knowing that we would have to move our cars from the parking lot by 6am, and head home. 
  The next morning, we were both tired and a quite sore from running up and down those hills. We both had to return home to our families, back to "reality", so we checked out early and headed our separate ways.
 All in all, it was a great weekend.  I would definitely recommend this race, especially since it includes the wine expo. Well worth the price of the race entry.  I had a great girl's weekend, and got my first race of the year in.
 Next up on the calendar: Shamrock 1/2 Marathon in Virginia Beach.  I'm looking forward to this race. I ran it a few years ago, going under 2 hours for the first time with Michele.  It is also going to be a Oiselle Team meetup.  I will finally meet some of my team-mates that I have been corresponding with via twitter.  I am also hoping to run well, getting closer to the 2 hour mark.