Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Ridge to Bridge Marathon

After making the decision to pull out of Cheat Mountain 50, I realized my "racing" calender was sort of empty for the fall so I started looking for possibilities and remembered that Dennis and Doug were running Ridge to Bridge Marathon. They had both run R2B in 2010 and highly recommended it. I wasn't all that thrilled with my run at Grandfather Marathon in July so I thought it might be nice to once again try and break 3:35, but this time on a course more suited to my running preference (mostly all downhill) and with much cooler weather.
Waiting at the Start Brrrrrr - Photo: Randy Smith
Dennis and I drove down to Morganton,NC (race headquarters) Friday evening to pick up our race packets and grab one for Doug and Eva as well, giving us one less thing to worry about Saturday morning. We met up with the crew at  the Jonas Ridge Marathon gas station just as the buses full of runners arrived, I jumped out and quickly hit the port o john before they unloaded. We were lucky that Eva's friend Chris was going to meet us at the finish, so we loaded up our post race gear for him to shuttle to the finish and after standing around freezing for a while I got up the nerve to shed the puffy jacket and head to the start. 
It was a beautiful fall morning and I enjoyed chatting with Doug for the first bit as my feet began to thaw. My toes were seriously frozen! We ran through rolling rural countryside, no worry of traffic and did a short out and back (about 5.5 miles) before turning left on an unpaved road for the 9 mile descent! I took it easy on the road section and tried to take the advice of the RD: 
 Miles 1-6: Run comfortably within yourself here. Your early-miles adrenaline will carry you through but don’t be tempted to overdo it. Take your goal time and break it up into 26.2 equal bites (your pace per mile). Don’t worry if you find yourself 10 seconds per mile behind goal pace over the first six miles. You’ll easily make this up over the next nine miles with no additional effort. Stay calm, conserve your energy, and remain comfortable. 
The Downhill Section Photo: Willie Lowe
I did stay very calm and comfortable and enjoyed passing the other runners on the out and back section, cheering people on and seeing some familiar faces. I knew being conservative on the first road section wouldn't be the problem, but I had been warned of what could happen on the long downhill stretch and I needed to focus on not being to overzealous and killing myself on the downhill. Sounds easy enough, settle in a comfortable pace, soak in the the beautiful scenery, nice and it. 
I was rolling along thinking how nice it was just to let gravity do the work and my assessment was that the grade was not so steep that it would completely trash my quads so I floated along waiting for the aid station that had gels so i could restock when enter into the equation being passed by another female. She quietly came out of nowhere looking very strong and focused, I had seen her on the road early on and now she was back pushing the pace on the downhill, checking her watch often, she had a plan. I was feeling good and wasn't going to let her go without a bit of a "fight" so we exchanged a few words about how beautiful the course is and how perfect the weather was and then it was back to business, we yoyo'd back and forth until eureka! the table with the gels! I had to grab a few as I only started out with two in my pocket (not enough), just enough of a pause for her to move ahead. I looked up and saw she was in pursuit of two other females up ahead. I took a gel and settled back in and before too long we hit the bottom and were back on the pavement (ugh)  
Wilson Creek Photo: Willie Lowe
We turned left for a short out and back and my legs felt like lead. Great, I had overdone it, I had been warned! Dennis had told me about this section and that he died there last year but after a couple miles his legs came back and things turned around so I kept hope and plugged along, seeing the ladies I had chased down the hill on the out and back and hoping they were feeling just as sluggish (or more) :) Luckily that must have been the case as I caught them going down the road along the banks of Wilson Creek. It was breathtaking running along the water with the sun glistening off the surface.  After a couple of miles of flat road things began to pick up again and I wondered what kind of pace I had going? unlike most races I had a watch on and decided I would try and figure out the lap feature, what better time to experiment than in a race :) 
I had noticed at the half I was around 1:35 so maybe there was still hope in breaking 3:35??  I punched the lap button at the 17 mile marker and prayed I would remember to do the same if I saw the 18 mile mark. Much to my surprise it all worked and in a fog I think I saw a 7:48 split?? no way? under 8 min pace? couldn't be? check it again at 19? you should have figured out how to do this before the race.... I passed the aid station at mile 18.5 and saw Chris waiting there for Eva with Annie (her beautiful, non-barking! dog) hit mile 19 and checked the time, again under 8 min pace? can I do this for 7 more miles? each mile I checked, shocked me more than the last and fueled me to keep digging deeper. I had secretly wanted to qualify for New York Marathon, a 3:23 qualifying time for me, which I felt was outside my reach, but I kept thinking maybe, just maybe...what do I have to lose, if I crash in the last little bit at least I tried... 
Final Miles Photo: Willie Lowe
Mile 23 came up quick and then I switched to the just a 5k left mentality, almost there.. then up ahead more motivation to push, someone to catch.  I slowly gained ground, passed her, and then maybe a 1/4 mile down the road, a guy with a camera spotted her behind me and started cheering and taking pictures. he began running with her and coaching her along and soon they passed me, no problem, I'll just pretend he is my "pacer" and stick to them like glue! they won't be able to shake me, haha. that lasted all of about 3 min. and they dropped me, argh. I tried so hard to catch her at the end but it just wasn't happening, (you can see in the photo above, I'm in pink) I could see her just ahead but my legs would not move any faster. I crossed the finish line 26 seconds behind her, but couldn't be upset for long when it sunk in that I finished in 3:16! I was happy as a clam. I ended up 4th Female, 30th overall and got the course record for female age group 30-34- 3:15:56 (chip time) way beyond anything I had expected.

Photo : Bobby Aswell
Photo: Randy Smith

We had a blast eating, drinking, soaking in the river, laying in the sun! it's the perfect post race hangout spot along the river. David and Rhonda do such a fantastic job with this race! Dennis, Doug, Eva and I all made 1st in our age groups and each got a nice piece of pottery. Annie (the dog) ran her longest distance ever with Chris and supported Eva! It was a great day!


  1. WOO HOO! super awesome job!! very very extremely sick and fast!!!! very proud of you and I really think that is an excellent indicator of your fitness level:) really excited about our adventure in the woods the second weekend in DEC :)

  2. Totally loved your report! What a great job! Congratulations! Last year I crashed and burned just past that second out and back section. R2B is a strangely hard race! You did great!!!

  3. You looked like you were hauling arse in the finish line photo. Well done my friend.

  4. What a special run. I knew you were very happy about your run, but I did not know there was the competitiveness going on during the run. You now have qualified for NYC. I know it conflicts with Masochist, but I think you need to go. It will be a great trip for you and Dan.