Today I ran the second race of the Appalachian Series. Today’s marathon was in Bluefield, VA. It was actually the same course we ran yesterday. We started on the West Virginia side of the parking lot and finished on the Virginia side of the parking lot.
Did I mention that this is a hilly course? The hills are small, but there are a lot of them. When I was on my final lap yesterday, I was celebrating as I ran each hill for the last time. Then I realized I would be doing them 12 more times today – with sore, stiff legs.
Ideally, I should have taken an ice bath yesterday. I didn’t because I was cold and wet when I got back to the hotel. Today I paid a price for that. Yesterday was actually the only day this week I would’ve had time for an ice bath, since I didn’t have to change hotels.
I finally got a good night’s sleep, so I didn’t feel as tired as I did yesterday. Of course, I was still going to have tired legs, and it was the same hilly course. The weather was actually worse. It was about 10 degrees cooler, and it was raining hard when the race started. It was also incredibly windy.
Not knowing if the rain would stop, I dressed for the temperature, but also wore a plastic rain poncho. The puddles were bigger than yesterday, so my shoes got drenched within the first mile.
I wear orthotics, so I also have to use replacement insoles. If my shoes get too wet, the insoles can slip forward. This is most likely to happen on a steep downgrade. This course has about 100 short steep hills, and I started noticing problems with my insoles after the first hill. By the second lap, the insoles in both shoes were all the way under my toes. Not only is that uncomfortable, but it also meant I had no cushioning under my heal, as I ran up and down all those hills. Once it happens, there’s not much I can do about it. I had to live with the discomfort for the whole race.
I started a little slower than yesterday. From the beginning, I was right on pace to break four hours. The only question was whether or not I could keep up the pace. The wind was tiring. It didn’t help that I was wearing a rain poncho. The wind caught it like a sail.
After about two hours, the rain stopped, but the wind seemed to be getting stronger. I had to continue wearing the poncho, because I was still cold. I was running a consistent pace, but it took more effort with each lap. At the halfway mark, I had serious doubts about whether I could break four hours again. I couldn’t afford to slow down more than a few seconds per lap.
In the second half, my laps times got slower, but only by a few seconds. That was OK as long as I didn’t continue slowing down. I wasn’t optimistic, but I kept fighting to hold onto my pace. In my 10th lap, I managed to gain a few seconds. Then I was more optimistic. I really picked up my effort in the 11th lap.
Then the sun came out. It was still windy, but I started getting hot with the rain poncho. After the last hill, I took off the poncho and carried it for the rest of the lap. Despite pushing much harder, I only gained about 10 seconds that lap.
In the last lap, I poured it on. At the turnaround, I saw that I had already gained 30 seconds. I knew I had it, but I kept pushing. I finished in 3:57:15. For finisher medals, we once again had our choice of Virginia or West Virginia. I chose Virginia this time.
It was 11:30. The latest checkout I could get was 12:30, so I had to rush back to the hotel. I didn’t have time for a bath, much less an ice bath. I had to shower and get dressed with only a minimum of stretching. I checked out on time. Since I didn’t have time for post-race snacks, I had lunch in Bluefield before getting on the road. I still had a 180 mile drive to get to Morganton, NC for the next race.
I’m going to be stiff tomorrow, but I’ve heard the next course is flat. The forecast looks familiar – 57 degrees with a 50 percent chance of rain. Hopefully the shoes I wore yesterday will be dry by tomorrow morning.