April 10, 2012

Oak Barrel Half Marathon April 7, 2012

This was my first race that I actually planned, traveled to and enjoyed with friends only. No family. So it was cool to experience a race where everyone is excited and nervous and needing to make sure they get in a PRD (pre-race dump). You know, so I'm not the most demanding one, which always happens when I'm with my family. My husband has told me several times that I turn super diva during races, which I totally get if you aren't running and don't care about all the little stuff going on with prep and body issues. Like I must be within 10 yards of a toilet at all times the 24 hours before a race. Intestinal diva. When you've got it, own it.

My fellow racers and I started our planning sometime last December, when I was in my marathon training frenzy, so all I could talk about was running. Nothing has changed there. I still try to make every conversation about running. We chose Oak Barrel because it was pretty close to home (Birmingham, AL), and it was not crazy expensive. The food looked good, and the medals carved from oak barrels seemed like a pretty cool touch. Also, they had Saturday morning packet pick-up in case for some reason we couldn't make it the night before and wanted to drive up the morning of the race. 

Turns out that we needed that last one even when we thought we wouldn't. We left on Friday with plenty of time to make it up to pick up our packets, but the traffic on I-65N was cray cray. We were stopped for about a solid hour on the interstate, and we ended up being ten minutes late to packet pick-up. Frowny face. On the brightish side, we had time to take lots of self portraits. Who needs a professional when you can get this all on your own? Also where is my do-rag when I need it?

We grabbed some Arby's on the way back to our hotel, and we each got the $3 (with coupon!) special: Arby's roast chicken club sandwich and fries. Hot, cheap, and delish. Only a group of four moms eating out together could possibly get that excited about eating out for $3. There was some serious giddiness going around the table. 

Back at the hotel we had to get down to business. I felt underpacked because all of my roomies brought a cold and warm outfit just in case. I had one outfit that I was going to wear no matter what because I bought it for this race. Icicles could be hanging from my chin, and I would still wear it. This is also the time when I discovered how creative my running partners are. 

Danella, below, made this running shrug from a short-sleeved Brooks running shirt. She cut up the body and sewed it onto the arms to make them long. And added thumb holes! She also sewed in a reflective strip on the arms to cover the seams. Genius! So cute and easier to just tie around your waist than just sleeves. 

More of the craft sesh. I was finishing off the silver, no-slide headbands for our team, and they worked! Courtney, on the left, was cutting up her shirt so that it wouldn't touch her neck. Danella was adding some final stitching to her shrug. 

On to the most important part of the show, the race! We got up around 5:30 because the race had a late-ish start at 8 a.m. We still just barely skidded into our parking spot in time to grab our packets, use the porta-pot (where they had some massive lines), and head over to the start.

Race swag: Nike Dri-Fit shirt in lady sizes, hat, and recycled Jack Daniel's oak barrel medal.

Volunteers were holding up pace signs to help sort out the start, so I tried to line up around 8:00. That was pretty hopeful considering I hadn't run in a week and wasn't even sure if my leg would hold up. I got to my starting spot just before they belted out the national anthem. Phew.

Mile 1 7:51

Smooth start. Only have to do a tiny bit of weaving to find a comfortable spot. No pain in my leg. I already feel out of breath. It's like not enough oxygen is getting in with each inhale. What's up with that? Are we even in the mountains? Can I blame it on that?

Mile 2 7:33

Still smooth. I feel like taking some pics of the beautiful scenery. It gets prettier later in the race, but I am too tired to take pictures at that point. This is the first time I've been able to get even slightly presentable race pics, though for some reason the self portraits make my head look warped. I wish I could blame it on speed. Though this is almost my speediest mile. This is also where I feel a slight twinge in my injured leg. Oh crap, will it be the end for me and my leg?

Mile 3 8:03
Mile 4 8:24

Suddenly I have a horrible stitch. I can't even remember the last time I had a running stitch, and it's a bad one on my right side just under the top ribs. If I was on a training run, I would have definitely walked it out. Most of these miles I spend pushing my fist into my side to possibly help alleviate pain. It doesn't work. Then I start a bite-my-lip campaign. Surely if I bite my lip hard enough I won't feel that stitch. Somewhere close to mile four, when the road started to turn upward into a hill, I forget about the stitch. Also, the stitch distracts me from my leg pain. Good, maybe? This is also where we got into some serious country with the smells to prove it. The super southern guy beside me says, in the thickest southern accent I have heard in recent history, that the cows and manure remind him of home. He adds to the country atmosphere. If you come to this race from outside of the South, you are in for a really authentic southern treat.

Mile 5 9:48

Holy hello. Whiskey Hill is like climbing my bedroom wall. Sort of impossible. It is honestly straight up. At the switchback and the water station, I walk for a second to try and conserve energy. The hill really saps everything I have, even though my time is super dup slow. I also feel my injured leg a little bit more on this mile. Nothing too intense, but the climbs seem to be the hardest for the leg to handle.

Mile 6 7:48
Mile 7 8:32

We're over the hardest hill. Now just hang on until mile 9 when you get your downhill. Take a GU from my pocket in mile 7 to give me some energy for the upcoming downhill.

Mile 8 7:59

A kind fellow runner informs me that we were coming up on the last biggish hill. Now every hill feels small compared to Whiskey Hill, but I'm still trying to hang on with each incline. After that last hill, the GU kicks in, and I am feeling on top of the world, which is made more beautiful by the ridge we're now cruising along. "Good Life" by One Republic came over the headphones, and I was really feeling the lyrics. Oh, this has gotta be the good life. This has gotta be the good life. This could really be a good, good life. I say, "Oh, got this feeling that you can't fight." Like this city is on fire tonight. This could really be a good life, a good, good life. I feel energized knowing that the downhill is coming and I am over halfway. No leg pain at this point too. Just feeling super grateful to be alive and running with all my heart at this point. This is the highlight mile of the race for me.

Mile 9 7:25
Mile 10 7:34
Mile 11 7:48

Once we hit the downhill, I am in heaven. I love, love, love running downhill. I have a super short stride, so it's all about just turning my legs as fast as I can to get down the hill. I think I feel faster than I really am, but it feels so nice to just fly, sort of, down the hills.

Mile 12 8:00
Mile 13 7:59

Don't look at your watch. Don't look at your watch. Just hang with that dude. Just hang with that dude. These miles are all about hanging on. Surprisingly, they are the most even miles of the entire race. Looking back I wish I had looked at my watch so I could try to get it under 1:46, but going into it with an injury, I just want to finish in one piece. I try to kick after the last mile marker, but that really isn't happening. I guess that hard effort at the beginning has sapped all of my kick, so I just put it on cruise to the finish. Cruise is not really the appropriate word. I am getting pretty darn fatigued and ready to stop, but at least the fatigue lets me know that I have given it a full effort.

The two songs that are instrumental in pushing me to the finish are "Stonger" by Kanye and "Give Me Everything" by Pitbull.

Mile 13.1 7:34

Seriously, there's still more? The end of the race cannot feel any longer. We are out of the beautiful scenery and back to the main, flat roads. I could use some of that descent during this last .1.

My chip finish time is 1:46:35, 107th overall, 20th woman, 5th place in my age group.

And some pics from the day. All on my phone because I forgot my real camera.

Husband and wife team with our group. Aren't their matching strides cute?

Danella finishing strong. And smiling!!

All of the crew. Check our matching headbands.

Jazz hands in full effect. Nike top, Lulu skirt, Pro Compression socks, Karhu Fast2 shoes.

Enjoying the after party. We also had one husband join the group.

After the race, we got started on some major refueling. The finish line had tons of water, and then you could veer off into a food and music party. They had ho cakes, stew, pizza, fruit, scones, and tons more drinks of various varieties. Ho cakes* are basically cornbread pancakes in case you were wondering what was happening there. My mom always called them johnny cakes when she made them, but I guess Lynchburg is just a step more scandalous in cornbread naming. There was plenty of food at the finish line and a lot of volunteers handing it out.

I easily picked up my key that I had dropped off two minutes before the race start, and they had a lost and found from the course as well. At one point a dude on the course was asking us if we wanted to hand him anything, and we could pick it up at the lost and found. That was nice.

We used the restrooms in the stores around the square. I didn't see any porta-pots right at the finish, and I'm assuming you had to go back to the start line (a couple minutes walk away) to find them.

After the grub, we took off to take advantage of the late checkout that the Best Western in Fayetteville had given us. Thank you, Best Western. We were much nicer to be around after showering.

Using compression to decompress. Rocking the sock/sandal combo.

Amy's cool blending cup. It has a whisk inside that mixes as you shake it (shake, shake it).

We had heard that the Jack Daniel's distillery was worth touring, so we drove back to Lynchburg for that. Because of the influx of race tourists, there was an hour and a half wait to start the tour, which was crappy, but we just chilled out on the grass, stretching and talking. The tour was worth seeing at least once to hear the history of the area and see the unique processing. None of the people in my group even drink at all, so that was kind of ironic. We did freely partake of the endless lemonade offered at the end of the tour. Thanks, Jack.

Before our tour of the Jack Daniel's distillery.
Jack Daniel's welcomes runners as they drive into town.

The only improvements I could ask for on this race would be adding GU or some type of gel to the food lineup during the race. At around mile 8, they had bananas and oranges, but I needed something less chewy and more GU-y.

Also, there seemed to be a toilet shortage. The lines were huge, so we had to sneak into a toilet that said Out of Order. But I think the sign was to fake us out because every restroom door had one. 

This race is the most beautiful that I have run. What makes it amazing is that it is almost entirely on beautiful, curvy, scenic roads. With the exception of the start and finish, this was almost exclusively on country roads. There was not much traffic, but occasionally there seemed to be some confusion over which side of the road we should run on to avoid traffic. We switched from left to right lanes to make room for a car more than once. 

The volunteers were super friendly and helpful, and I love the smallness of this race. It is the perfect size for the location. Any bigger could be a hot mess, so I'm glad they cap it at 1,000. 

My only other sadness is that I missed seeing my fellow bloggers Suz and Paige. I will work harder on that next time!

* My awesome father-in-law informed me that it's actually hoe cake, not ho cake. I think this calls for a sign near the cornbread booth so unsuspecting tourists don't get caught up in a scandal.


  1. Looks like a lot of fun! Great job!

  2. Wow, you were rocking the times! I can not believe those times,,,,that is my dream to hit that mark. I must say I have found it so rewarding to work down 30 seconds and then 30 seconds and then another. You cant buy it or have someone give it to you, only you have control of improving it. I love running! Erica

    1. So true! The smallest little fragments in running give us something to strive for.

  3. ahhh I WISH I could've done that with y'all SO BADLY! Please please let's do another one sometime! Your time is rockin with all those hills! good job!

    1. You HAVE to do this race next year. It is so fun! Have you thought about running Statue to Statue? Danella and I are signed up.

  4. I think I'm high maintenance too when it comes to pre-race rituals.
    Congrats on your 1/2!

  5. HOORAY! Great race. I'm a total race diva too. It can't be helped!! How fun to be able to do it with friends who get it!

  6. A few comments:
    1. Congrats on a great race
    2. The blue race kicks are sweeeeet
    3. Your girl's Blender Bottle is the best invention in the world. I have 3. They are in daily rotation.

  7. PRD. Love that acryonym.

    I also have a super-short stride (perhaps because I have super-short legs? Yeah. Rocking a 27-inch inseam over here).

  8. You ran a really great race! I really enjoyed your recap because you picked up on things I didn't see or wasn't looking for. I wish Allan hadn't been flying back in so soon or would have been there so we could take the Distillery Tour. On the list for next year!

    Side note: Is that Brian and Annie in your group shot?

    1. Yes! How do you know them? Seriously a very small world. One of my best friends married Brian's brother. We grew up in the same town. They were so cute running together!

    2. We were at Auburn at the same time as Brian and he and Allan went to the same church so that's how we all met. We didn't get to meet Annie until the Huntsville Half this past November when all three of us ran our first half. They are so cute and so fast!


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