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Echoguy's Virginia Marathon/Highpoint Adventure

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Echoguy's Virginia Marathon/Highpoint Adventure

Post by echoguy on Thu Mar 24, 2016 8:06 pm

Race/High Point Report – Virginia Creeper Marathon/Mt Rogers 2016

When Steve and I met at BAB for breakfast on Saturday with the ECHO gang before heading to Abingdon, VA for the race, I whined about the weather forecast for the next morning which predicted temps all morning ranging from 38 to 40 degrees with a 30-70% chance of rain. Rain at that temperature can make for a miserable race. I had been fretting all week about the weather. I had never stopped to consider that the prediction also meant that we had a 30-70% chance of NO rain and stable temperatures in the upper 30s. For folks coming out of winter training in SW Ohio, nearly PERFECT weather for a marathon.

By the next morning the prediction was the same for temperature, but the chance of rain had dropped to zero for the duration of the race. It is a flat, pea gravel surfaced, small marathon with nearly perfect overcast weather. If only I had trained for this to be a goal race!!

Now that it is over, I realize that this course is really divided into five, subtly different sections. Here’s my mile splits, average HR and comments on each section.

Mile 1-2 - 16:41– The race starts with a short out and back on rolling country road. I told Steve that I would like to run about 8:30 pace so to look for me at the finish around 3:45. My chest strap was too loose so I did not get good HR data for these miles, but I felt very comfortable at 8:15. The nice thing about the early out and back was that it made it easy to size up the competition. I could see way too many 50+ guys, including Steve, ahead of me to dream of getting the single age group award. So the pressure was off. I came off the trail about 20th place in a group of 85. Should I think of trying for top ten?

Mile 3-6 – This section heads west on the Virginia Creeper Trail. The trail is mostly pea gravel with very few wet areas and several wooden bridges. The trail mostly follows a small river and going west is upstream, so this bit was slightly up hill.

Mile 3- 8:10
Mile 4- 8:33
Mile 5- 8:29
Mile 6- 8:09

All with the plan at this point. Expecting to finish with miles just like this for the rest of the race.

Mile 7-14- At mile 5.5 we did a 180 degree turn on the trail and then ran the next eight miles east back down the trail. All slightly downhill.

Mile 7- 8:00 - 127
Mile 8- 7:50 - 128
Mile 9 – 7:49 - 129
Mile 10 – 8:30 - 128
Mile 11 – 7:59 - 130
Mile 12 – 7:41 - 131
Mile 13 – 7:44 -133
Mile 14 – 8:14 -134

The slower mile 10 was because I stopped at the central aid station to drop off my stocking cap and had a hard time with the zipper on my bag. Otherwise these miles were very easy and I started thinking that maybe I could add Virginia to my states with a BQ (3:40).

Mile 15- 22- At mile 13.5 again with a 180 degree turn and back uphill for the next 8 miles.

Mile 15 – 7:55 - 138
Mile 16 – 8:16 - 139
Mile 17 – 9:10 -133
Mile 18/19 – 16:30 - 136
Mile 20 – 8:20 - 139
Mile 21 – 8:49 - 136
Mile 22 – 8:12 -139

In this section of the race I realized I had a pretty good one going and noticed that even though the uphill was very subtle, I was having to work much harder to keep close to previous pace. I decided to switch my Garmin to show me my heart rate rather than time and I tried to run the rest of the race by heart rate. I counted runners coming back to me at the turn around and when I crossed the 10th runner I yelled to him “you are tenth and you better not slow down because I am coming after YOU”. Probably better not to taunt the fellow runners, but I hadn’t had much company for most of the race and wanted to add a little excitement for both of us.

Mile 23-26.2 – The next to last turn around at mile 21.5.

Mile 23 – 8:01 - 136
Mile 24- 8:01 -137
Mile 25 – 8:37 -137
Mile 26 – 8:18 - 136
Mile 26.2- 1:47 – Finish 3:35:56

I hit this turn around in 12th place by my count so I needed to find two runners to pass to make the top ten (not like there were any awards for top 10, but it gave me a goal!). Within a mile I passed a guy walking so I only needed to find one more. Just before the final turn around I passed a woman jogging very slowly and because she was almost crawling, I convinced myself that she was either an early starter or was one lap behind me. So I finished the race feeling good, but convinced I had finished 11th. I found the guy who I had taunted and congratulated him for holding me off and he thanked me for giving him a kick in the butt. After I got home and looked at the results I saw that the woman was on my lap so passing her did put me into 10th. Yippee!

The highpoint part.

So the weather for the race was perfect, but the forecast in Abington for the afternoon was still a significant chance of rain with temps in the low 40’s. I almost asked Steve if he cared if we ditched the hike and just scooted home. But, I knew it would be years before I would get this chance again so I decided to hold my tongue.

I failed to consider when I looked at the weather report that while we would be only about 40 miles east of Abingdon, we would be at significantly higher altitude. So when we arrived at the trailhead we were not greeted by rain, but by light snow. Sweet!!

After a quick introduction to the use of trekking poles we headed out in the light snow, chilly temps and blustery wind. We started a little after 3 pm on what I was expecting to be an 8 mile hike. Sunset was scheduled for 7:40 so I figured with just 1,500 feet of elevation gain that 30 minute miles should be doable. I had a headlamp this time just in case. My legs had loosened up by this point and they never became an issue.

We stopped along the way to take some photos with the wild ponies, always a highlight of this section of the Appalachian Trail. We also met a few other hikers along the way, mostly day hikers, but a few long distance hikers too. Most of the route was in the open hiking up and around boulders so it was nice to have the poles to push. The snow was just beginning to stick when we entered the pine forest for the last half mile to the summit.

When we reached the summit, we snapped some photos and had an energy bar and drink to celebrate. Because it is covered in trees this summit does not have much to offer compared to the hike, so we headed back with about 2.5 hours until dark. As we came out of the woods we noticed that the snow had picked up and now was pretty much covering the ground. Light snow may not seem like a problem until you remember the AT is marked with white blazes and most of the way back those blazes were on rocks on the ground. I got a little nervous about losing the trail. Steve and I comforted each other every time we came to a familiar landmark by saying “I remember this on the way up”. Fortunately, the trail was still obvious enough without the blazes to make it all of the way back.

We made it back to the trailhead with time to spare before dark. Happy to not need to break out the headlamps. Happy that we had snow and not rain. Happy that our legs did not give out on us after running pretty hard in the morning. And I was happy to have company for one of my silly marathon/high point adventures. Thanks Steve!! This was my 13th state marathon/highpoint and one of the most challenging. I’m hoping you can come along for one in the future!

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Re: Echoguy's Virginia Marathon/Highpoint Adventure

Post by RoadKillBill on Fri Mar 25, 2016 5:18 am

Well done, Mr Durable! These post-marathon hikes of yours are more stressful than I had realized. Let's see -- growing list of equipment includes head lamps, GPS with breadcrumb waypoints, cold weather gear...

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Re: Echoguy's Virginia Marathon/Highpoint Adventure

Post by Dave Tuttle on Fri Mar 25, 2016 4:42 pm

Another great marathon adventure Brian!! I'm always in awe... Thanks for sharing it.

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Re: Echoguy's Virginia Marathon/Highpoint Adventure

Post by twal on Sat Mar 26, 2016 9:59 am

I can't believe you went hiking after a marathon.

After a marathon, I usually slip into a nice comfortable coma (or at least a nap).

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Re: Echoguy's Virginia Marathon/Highpoint Adventure

Post by jerseyguy on Mon Mar 28, 2016 7:50 pm

Brian, I'm not sure what impresses me more....your splits or your literary skills. You are the Ernest Hemingway of marathon runners! Congratulations on the accomplishment. I am looking forward to your next adventure!

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Re: Echoguy's Virginia Marathon/Highpoint Adventure

Post by DonSoule on Sat Apr 02, 2016 1:42 pm

Well done Brian!! How many miles a week are you doing to be able to BQ and then still do a hike like this ?? What are you doing for cross training to keep your legs so strong?

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Re: Echoguy's Virginia Marathon/Highpoint Adventure

Post by echoguy on Sat Apr 02, 2016 10:06 pm

Hey Don.. I am running 40-50 miles per week for most of the winter and spring. No real cross training, just my back PT exercises and some core work that takes about 40 minutes. I do those 4-5 days a week.

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Re: Echoguy's Virginia Marathon/Highpoint Adventure

Post by jerseyguy on Mon Apr 04, 2016 8:29 pm

That is some pretty darn good mileage for the off season. Am curious any of it on the treadmill? I have found core exercises work wonders for my lower back.
Have my first half of the season on Sunday and first full May 8th....though don't think I will be in any shape to hike after either of them!

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