Running up and over the beautiful Vermont hillside. The fog lifting up off of the peaks of mountains in the distance. Cool, crisp fall air and overcast skies made for the perfect running weather. All around me, the colors of fall gently painting the leaves of the trees-rusty oranges, deep fiery reds and sunny yellows. The Vermont Leaf Peeper Half Marathon was the perfect finale to an incredible weekend at Rise.Run.RetreatWhen ten women, including myself, get together for a four-day retreat because we love to run and blog about running, it seems only fitting to end the retreat with a scenic, but hilly half marathon! Our mutual love of running brought us together, so why not celebrate each other and the retreat with a 13.1 run, up and over hills, dirt roads and a grassy trail. Of course, after having spent a majority of the four-day retreat-eating, drinking wine and having some serious fun, I am not sure we were over zealous to run on the final day of the retreat! The comfortable house overlooking the mountains,on a cloudy chilly morning seemed to be inviting us to stay and chat a bit longer.
Sunday Morning-Late Race Start!
Wow! An 11:00am race start! I have never started a race that late in the day! However, I am not a super, duper early morning riser, so it was okay. It allowed for time to eat a great breakfast and slowly get moving. I chatted with everyone at the table about their race plans/goals. I remember talking with Sandra about race fueling, which I must say, I have not been very consistent with for my half marathons! My plan was to focus more on refueling -carbs/glycogen, during the half marathon! I knew that I wanted to use this race as a strong long run, keeping some strong and steady paces throughout the race. I wanted to take advantage of being able to run so many hills!
Packet Pick-Up and -Ready.Set. Go-My 9th Half Marathon
So. . . packet/race bib pick up went smoothly. That’s the beauty of small town races, tucked away in quaint little mountain towns. No crazy long lines! Every runner received a long sleeve cotton shirt and a “made in Vermont” jar of pasta sauce! Since it was a bit chilly and overcast, many of us chose to stay warm in the cars-Allie and Sandra had driven us all to the race that morning in their cars. There was plenty of time for dashes to the porta potties and some easy warm-up miles and dynamic stretches! Ten-to fifteen minutes prior to the start of the race, we all gathered at the start line.
Here Come the Hills!
The first mile went smoothly and I was holding a steady 9:00 minute pace. I had Christine just to my left. She looked strong as we headed into mile 2. The temps were perfect! I think I have finally learned not to overdress, I alway warm up within the first mile, even on really chilly days. I felt comfortable with my pace. I focused on on not going out too hard in the first two miles, because I knew there would be some hills early on in the race.
The road ahead started to curve and wind upward on a steady incline. Runners around me started to slow, a run/power walk form going into mile 3. I looked ahead of me and saw Christine still powering through the hill. So impressed with her grit on those hills! I kept pushing up the hill, I didn’t feel alone though in that struggle up the hill. I could hear heavy breathing and other runners encouraging each other to keep pushing through the hill. My lungs were burning and my quads were straining! I just kept telling myself, “what goes up, must come down”! It seemed like a never ending incline up that hill, which actually had a name-Perry Hill!! That is some serious hill status-to be named!Slowly Christine began to pull away from me. I tried to keep her in my sight through mile 3, but my pace had slowed significantly. I was struggling to maintain a strong pace. Then, my garmin beeped at mile 3-12:14. Wow, super tough hill!!
This quote sums up my feelings of the hills on this course- “It’s easier to go down a hill than up it but the view is much better at the top”-Henry Ward Beecher, American Writer
There was so much beauty around me on this course. The fog hanging along the tops of the mountains in the distance. The vibrant colors of fall scattered throughout the leaves on trees. It was all so breathtaking. I couldn’t resist the chance to snap a few pics along the course. I didn’t have any time goal for this race, I just wanted to use it as a strong training run. Some of the course was hard dirt and gravel. Somewhere between mile 4 and 5, was a dairy farm with black and white cows grazing in the field, against a backdrop of rolling hills and mountains in the distance. Just so much beauty on this course!
Mile 4 beeped on my garmin-9:08- I was cruising along a good pace now, just taking in the beauty around me. I was starting think about seeing Jes somewhere near mile 6. She is 6 months pregnant and had run up ahead earlier, before the race started to get a good spectator spot. I knew I only had about two miles to go before seeing her along the side of the course!
Miles 5 and 6- 8:27 and 8:20- I gained some good momentum on the slight down hills. I was feeling strong. I walked/jogged through a water stop and chewed on some Gatorade Endurance Energy Carb Chews one of the sponsors of Rise.Run.Retreat I need to focus more on my fueling options during half marathons because I always feel like I sputter out in mile 10-11. I washed down the energy chews with some water.
I was so excited to see Jes as I turned into the end of mile 6. Seeing her out there on the course was so motivating! I waved and smiled as I past her and focused on the next several miles to come along the course. The course is an ‘out and back’ course, so I knew there would be a ‘turn-around’ at some point!
Miles 7 and 8- 9:48 and 9:04- There were some more hills in mile 7 and then some downhills in mile 8. I kept focusing on maintaining a strong and steady pace. I was feeling a bit tired from the hills on the course. I swear it’s the hilliest course I have ever run! Finally, I saw some of the first place runners coming back towards me, on the other side of the road! I started to keep my eyes open for some of the other Rise.Run.Retreat women! Sure enough, first I saw Allie and she looked strong and fast! She would actually win her age group! Then, coming towards me, from the other side of the road was Sarah, in her neon yellow shirt! This is one of the perks of the ‘out and back’ course, you eventually get to see runners who were ahead of you during the race!
Seeing the other women out there on the course was so motivating. Those are the moments that I cherish most in a race-the motivation, encouragement and support from other runners. Their energy and strength and determination are contagious!! I waved to Laura, Sandra and Angela as they past me on the way back, after the turn around! I think the orang turn around cone was at mile 8. I remember seeing and hearing Natalie and Sue cheering for me and snapping photos as I passed by them going into mile 9. They were so sweet to actually slow up and take pictures of all of us out there on the course!
Miles 9 and 10- 8:35 and 9:40 – Lately, in races, I have had bladder issues. I try to “hold it”, but it just gets too uncomfortable! It’s probably due to age, but I have had to stop and pee in the porta potty. So I dashed off to the bathroom for a quick pee break somewhere along mile 10.
Miles 11-12 8:28 and 9:37-I saw Jes again, waiting at mile 10. She was going to run/walk the last three miles of the race with Natalie and Sue. Then, I continued on through mile 10. I was feeling pretty good and energized to finish this race. I remember chatting with some other runners along mile ten and we encouraged each other to push hard and finish strong. Then, just as I am thinking that I will “dial in that last gear”, here comes one more uphill battle in mile 12. Mile 12 was an uphill that then turned onto a grassy trail. I had to really push to maintain a steady pace. I just kept thinking about mile 13, which be a great downhill to the start!
Miles 13 and .22-8:06 and 6:50- The final stretch of this course was a gently rolling downhill back to where the race had started. As turned into the parking lot of the finish line, I picked up speed and finished strong through the finish shoot! I could see Sarah, Laura, Christine, Sandra and Allie waving on the other side of the finish line! My final finish time was 2:01:30-The Finish Line- It was cloudy and chilly. My long sleeve shirt felt moist and chilled with sweat. It didn’t matter though, because my heart was warm from being surrounded by strong, talented and amazing women at this race. We had all gone out there on the course to run our own race, at our own pace, but we still were there for each other. Cheering and encouraging each other on through the hilly course. At the end of the race, it was about celebrating each other’s accomplishments and inspiring each other. That’s what we do-lift up, motivate and inspire. For me, that was the theme throughout the whole retreat. The pics from this race, our final event together, sum up what the whole weekend was about-channeling each other’s strengths, talents and inspiration. Our hearts were full. We celebrated returns to running from injury, a huge age group win, nailing a hard tempo run during the race and sticking out the tough parts and finishing!
The Vermont Leaf Peeper Half Marathon was the perfect ending to an amazing four days at Rise.Run.Retreat All of us out there pushing hard and doing what we love-running. The very sport that brought us together and wove friendships! This race and being surrounded by these women, reminded my of why I love to run and race. It also reminded me of what I am capable of on a tough course.
How do you tackle tough hills during a race?