Saturday, June 20, 2015

Enka Tri (5 years of "tri-ing")


Way back in 2010, the Enka Triathlon at Biltmore Lake was my very first triathlon. I had been wanting to try it for a while, but I had to get up the nerve. I  had no gear to speak of, except some running shoes and a hybrid bike I had bought. :)
I don't remember many details about that first race- the bike course is beautiful and I remember just being so happy out there, and I remember how glad I was to have finished. And I learned - the only 2 pieces of "gear" that I consider absolutely essential are a neoprene strap for my chip (the hospital bracelets some races use cut into my ankle) and a race belt (no more pinning my number onto my shirt and pulling it on after the swim). And, I wanted to do it again! And faster!

Today, I did the Enka Tri for the 3rd time, and it's still one of my favorites. The course is still beautiful, and Glory Hound and Set-Up do a great job. In fact, this year I joined Glory Hound's "registration team" because they do so many of my favorite events. 

I haven't been training as much this year as I had last year, so I really wanted to just enjoy it and not put too much pressure on myself. And I think I did that. 

I usually don't remember the course clearly enough to write a good description, but lots of people were asking me about the bike course before the race started, so I'm going to try. 

The water was warm but not hot, and the air was cold, so I was kind of freezing before the start. I spent the last few nervous minutes chatting with some great gals from Greenville. The lake is beautiful and clean. It was a bit foggy and hard to see the far-off buoys, but there were lots of kayaks to keep us mostly on course. I managed not to get kicked much and stay pretty straight, and I was only slightly slower than last year.

The course description says "rolling hills." Let's just say that's a relative term. If you're used to riding in western NC, or even in Greenville, it's not extreme at all. But there are definitely some challenging climbs and if you're from somewhere flat you might want to find a few bridges. There are basically 5 big hills that I remember, with the worst ones being close to the lake (ie at the very beginning and towards the end). I pushed hard on the hills and descended as fast as I could make myself and ended up basically the identical bike split to last year.

The run is mostly relatively flat and shaded on the path around the lake... except for the same big hill as at the beginning of the bike course. At about the 1 mile point, the route goes off the path and up the hill for a loop in the neighborhood before returning to the trail. That hill is super tough running or on a bike, but it doesn't last forever. Again, just a little slower than last year.

So overall, I was about 1:30 slower than last year and I really enjoyed myself. And I was 2nd in my age group!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Asheville Marathon ambassador-ing

Guess what? I'm an Asheville Marathon Ambassador (AMA) again this year! AND, I have a discount code for 15% off that's good through July 31. Use ELIZABETH2016AMAROCKS when you register and come join us for this beautiful race at Biltmore!

If you want to read more about how awesome this race is, here are my recaps from the last 2 years: 
2015 race recap
2014 race recap

Ironman Raleigh 70.3 relay

Since I'm not training for anything big this year, 2 of my friends and I decided to do Ironman Raleigh 70.3 as a relay team - Steph would swim, Kristin would bike, and I would run. We were in the middle of  registering and we needed a team name, so Kristin suggested "Wonder Women" and doing the race in costume. Why not?

When race weekend came, our friend Kim decided to come with us to cheer, and she even offered to drive so none of us would have to drive back after racing. 

This was my first Ironman brand event, and they definitely do a great job. When we checked into the hotel there were volunteers in the lobby with directions to packet pickup. So we walked over there and got our stuff and explored the Expo. 

After we checked Kristin's bike in at the lake, we settled into the hotel room and planned dinner. Great view of Raleigh from the Holiday Inn downtown!

Since I went to NC State I had a few places I wanted to take them. Unfortunately, my all-time favorite restaurant, 518 West, had recently closed, and everything in walking distance is new. So we picked a pizza place that looked close and easy, and then tried to go to sleep early. 

Since there are 2 transitions, they have shuttle buses from T2 back to T1, and they encourage people to take them due to limited parking, so we did. However, I would encourage relay teams to at least bring one car, and maybe even leave the runner at T2. It's 45 minutes to the lake, and the timing can get tight. We made it (but mostly thanks to new friends - one who gave Kim a ride out to the lake when they didn't have enough shuttle space for spectators and another who drove us back to T2 while Kristin was biking so I wouldn't miss her).

Jordan Lake is beautiful. 

Ready to race!

Relays were the last wave, so we had some time to wait before Steph started, but eventually it was time! and then once Kristin was out on the bike it was time for me to start to get ready. 

When we got back to T2 I tried to sit in the shade as much as possible. I knew it would be very hot on the run. Once it seemed like she was probably pretty close, I went into the relay area in transition to wait. 

She came in and I was off! It was super hot (and obviously the costume made it even hotter), but I really enjoyed making people smile. 

The run is 2 laps - from downtown, past NC State on Hillsborough St, turn around at Gorman and back x2. Not much shade. I'm not gonna lie, I was feeling pretty rough at the end of the first lap. So it was perfect timng to see my best friend and her daughter cheering. :) 

Quick hug and off on the second lap. I felt so much better once I had passed the turnaround and only had 3ish miles to go. 


And, of course, post-race Goodberry's. Yum. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Gateway to the Smokies half marathon

This race was on my list after I heard about it at the Blue Ridge Breakaway last year (both are put on by the Haywood County Chamber), but I was a little undecided about doing it so soon after the SMR, plus it was the same day as a few other events I was considering (plus a baby shower I was hosting that evening). But then my friend Keribeth asked about races people we doing and I mentioned this one. She had done a half marathon a week ago, so we decided it was just crazy enough to go for it. Plus, see how pretty the logo is? Good logo = good shirts and medals. :)

I really can't tell you much about the course except that it was beautiful but also hilly. Oh, and it was freezing at the start. I got off to a pretty quick start and then found out I was the third female around mile 2. I hadn't really planned to push it, but then I figured, why not? I passed the second female on a pretty steep hill and spent most of the rest of the race hoping no girls would pass me. The volunteers were great, and like I said, the scenery was beautiful, so I really just enjoyed it. There were a few out and back sections that let me see that the first place female was unreachable and to cheer for everyone.

The course starts on Main Street in Waynesville and has some climbing at the beginning in a loop around Waynesville Country Club. After mile 3 or so there's a nice downhill section into Hazelwood and a big loop around the countryside. Around mile 7 I was starting to feel really rough, just in time for the biggest hills up to mile 9ish. Thankfully, after the top of that climb I got to cheer for some fellow runners as I headed down and it was mostly flat after that except for the hill up above the elementary school. The finish was in historic Frog Level, which has been revitalized lately and is the home of a lot of the breweries in Waynesville (which provided a free beer to finishers). 

I was pretty pumped to (finally) see the finish!

I finished at 1:42:06 by my watch for a new half marathon PR, which is even more awesome because this course had 1020 feet of climbing and my previous PR was at the Cherokee Harvest Fest half, which only has 495 feet of climbing. :) 

AND, I had held on to 2nd place female for another pretty medal and a FootRx gift certificate. 

There was a decent finish area expo for a race this size (and I scored a new pair of running shoes for $50) and post-race food was excellent too - bagels with cream cheese, Bojangles biscuits, pizza and breadsticks, and all the fruit you could eat. I really loved the atmosphere of this race.

Haywood County did an excellent job with this inaugural event and I definitely plan to be back in the future!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Smoky Mountain Relay

Before I did the Smoky Mountain Relay last year I would have never thought I'd enjoy something like this. I like to sleep, and 212 miles with 12 people in 36 hours doesn't really allow for that. But I loved it anyway and I was excited to do it again. We had 8 returning Blue Ridge Bootleggers from last year and recruited 4 new members. Since we had some experience, we planned a few things differently- first, we got 15-passenger vans instead of minivans and second, we got a room at the Microtel in Franklin for Friday night during the race. Best decision ever - both vans were able to take turns using the room and they have great rates. (I highly recommend the Microtel if you need a place to stay in Franklin!)

We met on Thursday to drive to Brevard for packet pickup and our 6 am start time on Friday. We had a blast at packet pickup at Oskar Blues eating burgers from their food truck, decorating the vans, and (of course) trying a few beers. 

Friday morning came early and we headed out to the race start at Pink Beds. 

After a team picture, Sheila was off and it had begun!

It was a beautiful morning and I didn't run until leg 4, so I took a few pictures along the way... 

Before long, it was time to run. Leg 4 is not too bad. It's 3.7 miles (according to my watch) with one main hill in the middle. I felt pretty good and enjoyed the views. 

After my leg, our van had legs 5 (super hard but with great views) and 6 (Horseshoe Rock!) before the other van took over. 

With that done, we headed down to Caney Fork to Exchange 9 where my mom was volunteering (and bringing us pizza). 

I really love the Sugar Creek church. It's so restful to take a little break there before a long night. 

Once our team had regrouped, we followed the other van into Cullowhee for our official costume contest picture. 

Then our van took over again, with Kristin running the first part of Cullowhee Mountain Road and Tilley Creek and me climbing to the top of Tilley Creek and down the Ellijay side. Leg 14 is tough, 9.7 miles with almost 1000 feet of climbing in the first 2 miles, but gorgeous. I love the Ellijay valley by car, bike, or foot. I took entirely too many pictures. 

Also, at one point I thought a dog was chasing us, but it turned out to be a GOAT! So weird.

After we handed off to the other van, it was our turn to try to get a little sleep in the hotel room. We basically had from 12:15-3:15, so it wasn't much, but definitely better than nothing (aka last year). I couldn't really sleep, but it was still nice to lie down.

Bright and early Saturday morning (actually, still dark), we set out on our last legs of the relay. The sun came up during Kip's leg, so I got to run in the early light. 
My last leg was leg 27, 6.2 miles with another 600 feet of climbing. But again, it was beautiful, which helps take your mind off it a bit. My left leg was hurting pretty badly, though. 

The best volunteers in the world were at this exchange. Not only had they relieved my mom Friday night when she was cold and wet and hungry and had been there 2 hours longer than expected, but they set up a finish line "tape" for every runner finishing this leg. So fun. 

All done!

Undress, hoodie, compression tights and refueling like a pro.

I also love the scenery in the section just outside of Franklin... 

When we handed off to the other van for the last time, they kept talking about City Restaurant in Franklin where they had gone for breakfast, so we decided to do the same. I didn't order much because I even realize I was hungry until I started eating, but my fried eggs and blueberry pancake were perfect.

Once we were fed, we headed to the finish at NOC to wait for van 2. :)

Before too long, there came Jenny down the hill...

... and we were FINISHED!

This is an awesome race that just keeps getting better. I highly recommend it! But if you do this one or any other relay like this, choose your team wisely. You need people who are tough, who are positive, and who are just plain fun to be around. Thanks Bootleggers, you're the best!