I sat on the sidewalk after crossing the finish line of the Downhill at Dawn half marathon, sweat dripping over my chocolate milk, and I started to cry. As the last race in a year’s worth of half marathon training and running, there was no better way to close out my running season–before the sweltering months of summer–than to break the 2-hour mark with a PR of 1:58:13. I can now die happy.
The race kicked off at 6:01 am–the precise moment of sunrise in Ridgecrest, NC–and it was the most beautiful course I have run so far. While the beginning and end of the race were on paved roads, the middle miles took us through the woods on wide gravel and dirt paths. The air smelled like fresh honeysuckle and the mountain views were breathtaking. I could hear the water of streams running through the area and we passed a few beautiful spots, including Andrews Geyser. Why I don’t run trails more often is beyond me.
The volunteers were super friendly and accommodating, the porta-potty line wait was less than 5 minutes, the Gatorade was mixed correctly, the runners were supplied with GU Chomps at the aid stations, and the weather was perfect. This is why small races are amazing. Despite the monster hill at mile 3-4 and a few stretches of slight uphill grind from mile 10 to the finish, I felt like I was flying on miles 5-9. If you’re looking to PR and you have strong ankles, knees, and hips for fast downhill running, I would highly recommend this race. I decided to dust off my Brooks PureFlow 2 because they have more cushion and support. I’ve been favoring two different styles of Altras since November, but I knew it would be smarter to have a shoe that could absorb more shock. My left knee complained a little the next morning, but hasn’t bothered me since. Another day of injury-free running calls for absolutely zero complaints about these shoes.
149th overall (out of 453 finishers), 9th in age division 30-34, 9:01/mile average pace
I told my husband at the race packet pick-up that I thought the x-small shirt looked a little too extra small. Just when I had decided it didn’t matter and I was going to wear it anyway, a mass email went out saying that the x-small shirts were the wrong size and everyone would be sent their correct shirt by mail. Now, that’s the way you take care of your runners. (I didn’t realize that one of my corgis, Chewie, was in the background while I was taking this. As you can see, he enjoys life on the road.) Having some roots in NC growing up, we HAD to eat Bojangles breakfast on the way home. My husband struggled with ordering the silly-sounding Botato Rounds aka “Bo Rounds” on the first try. But, he conquered his shame with a perfect delivery when we stopped at another Bojangles later down the road, where he ordered the EXACT same breakfast for a second time (Haha! sorry honey). When it’s good, it’s good. Pre-race Meals:
Lunch – Pulled Chicken platter w/ sweet potato mash and corn pudding, 3 ribs, 6 oz. Shiva IPA at 12 Bones Smokehouse
Dinner – Zaxby’s chicken salad w/ lite vinaigrette dressing (no bread), 8 oz. white wine, 1 liter water
(3:00 am) Large banana, 1 liter of water – back to bed
(4:00 am) Large banana, 4 oz. coffee
(4:30 am) 8 oz water w/ 1 GU Brew Electrolyte Drink Tablet, flavor Lemon Lime
(5:00 am) 2 Succeed S-Caps
(5:30 am) 5 CLIF Shot Bloks flavor Citrus – sipped on very strong coffee from Waffle House until the start
(6:01 am) Race Start!
As we were driving back down the Blue Ridge Parkway, we saw a black bear scoot under the railing on the side of the road! My husband and I were transformed into girls at an Adam Levine concert and could not control our squealing and jumping up and down in our seats. Then, a few miles later we saw a big wild turkey walking into the woods. It’s just so magical seeing animals in the wild.
Last but not least, a HUGE thank you to my husband and family members who were there for support and encouragement! You were my motivation and I could not have done it without your cheering faces and love.