Blue Ridge Marathon

RECAP: Blue Ridge Marathon

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!


About a week or so before heading to Roanoke for the Blue Ridge Marathon, I published a preview of the things I was excited for and a few things I wasn’t as excited about for this particular race. Figured it would be a good idea to recap my race weekend experience and revisit that list. I will recap my overall travel and lodging experience in a separate post soon, but spoiler alert – my AirBnB host was AWESOME.

RACE RECAP

The only thing I will say in THIS post regarding my travel is that 6 hours in a car followed by not nearly enough sleep isn’t helpful for a successful marathon. Sure, one can finish the event, but maybe not as well as one would like!

My homebase through AirBnB was less than a 10 minute walk to the start/finish line. This made race morning so very easy because I was concerned about crowds at the pre-race bib pick-up. My fears were incredibly unfounded, as I picked up my bib at 5:30am and was the only one there! I had time to walk back to the house, drop off the shirt I received (which I didn’t order – bonus!), re-evaluate what I was going to have with me as far as nutrition, music, etc, and head back to the start to meet up with some of my fellow BibRave Pros.

Even though I was traveling alone, it was awesome to know that I had a group of people that I could instantly bond with upon arrival. And while most of us had never met in person before race weekend, we hit it off as if we’ve known each other for years! Team BibRave was in full effect in Roanoke and one member of our crew attempted the DOUBLE MARATHON! After running the regular marathon, I think I’m good.

Once the race got started, we were CLIMBING (more like walking) no more than a mile into the 26.2 mile journey. Those mountains mean business and they take no prisoners. Woefully under prepared might be an understatement to describe my experience on those mountains, but I managed to get to the top of each one and the reward was well worth the effort.

Entering the Blue Ridge Parkway section of the race

 

Making our way up Roanoke Mountain – the 1st of 3 mountains on the Blue Ridge Marathon course

 

The reward that waited at top of Roanoke Mountain

The thing that got me through the race (aside from having some level of training for the distance) was the camaraderie with other runners. Ran with a handful of runners throughout the event and got the chance to learn where they’re from, why those individuals came to Roanoke, what motivates them to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Chatted with Lauren whose dad is challenging her to earn a BQ so they can run together at Boston in a year or two. I ran with Ron who was a local and was running his FIRST MARATHON EVER (pictured below).

Ron Butler (bib 668) and I as we approached the Mill Mountain Star near the halfway point of the Blue Ridge Marathon – his first marathon EVER!

 

My new best friends – the “moo-mosas” station at the halfway point, just after the Mill Mountain Star.

A few miles after Ron and the moo-mosas – right around mile 16.5…and at the base of what I would consider the most mentally and physically draining sections of the entire race…I linked up with Katja and Marion. We started talking…because it was easier than running at that particular point…and learned that we had a shared experience – living in North Carolina! Okay, I lived in NC for a few years and they live in NC now, but who cares?! That led to the next 5(ish) miles of having some pretty awesome people to share in the pain we were putting ourselves through! Ultimately, I had to drop back and let them push onward, but thanks to their humor and motivation (“let’s run to those three little shrubs!”), they made the hardest section of the course MUCH more bearable!

Tried to take a group photo at what we thought was the top of the Peakwood section. 1) Katja wasn’t quite ready – sorry! 2) It was DEFINITELY not the top.

 

Katja & Marion – darn good people! 

From about mile 20.5 onward, the rest of the race was more of a walk for me. Mentally, I could have kept going and kept running. Physically, my LEGS were having none of that. There were glimmers of energy here and there, but for the most part, my running ended about 10k from the end. In any other race, I probably would have been devastated. At Blue Ridge, I accepted it and knew that I did what I came to do – get from point A to point B and FINISH.

Speaking of the finish, with less than a 1/3 of a mile to go, one of my fellow BibRave Pros, Brenda (2nd from left in the photo below) – who I thought was WAY ahead of me the entire race – snuck up on me, passed me, and egged me to go with her! Caught me completely off guard, but it definitely helped me get across that finish line with a smile.

Some of the BibRave Pros and some other new friends in the post-race VIP area. Thank goodness for free pizza.

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REVISITING MY PRE-RACE PRO/CON LISTS

Not-as-excited #1 – The inevitable BONK.

Truthfully, this could have been worse if this race were a more typical marathon with rolling hills and a more average change in elevation. However, because of all the elevation change and the changes I had to make to my race day strategy, the BONK itself didn’t really rear its ugly head as it has in the past. It was more of a consistent process rather than a sudden smack in the face at mile 18-19. I guess that’s a good thing?

Not-as-excited #2 – Hills…I mean, FREAKING MOUNTAINS

Again, MOUNTAINS. And the excitement of the challenge was definitely GONE about midway up the first mountain incline. Knowing I’d have to do it again TWICE (even though on smaller mountains) was not something I was looking forward to doing.

AND LET’S TALK ABOUT PEAKWOOD. This is the last section of the course with a significant uphill (a la mountain) and it GOES ON FOREVER. AND EVER. AND EVER. This is, without a doubt, my least favorite section of the entire course. Thankfully, there is an end to that misery (and champagne!) and then it’s mostly downhill to the finish – but don’t be fooled, there are a FEW remaining hills (HILLS not mountains) before you’re done.

Not-as-excited #3 – The drive.

“This one, I did to myself.” -ME

The drive TO Roanoke wasn’t too bad. Almost exactly 6 hours door-to-door with no issues or delays. The drive BACK home took…well, a little bit longer. That’s not hard to imagine considering I just ran 26.2 miles and covered over 7000′ of elevation change! Pretty sure I stopped every hour or so, just to get out and walk/stretch. Think it took me almost 9 hours to get home!

In both legs of the drive, my GPS was spot on the whole way, listened to more podcast episodes than I ever have in one sitting, and jammed out to some classic 90’s pop – don’t judge. Major props to the BibRave Podcast, Joe Rogan Experience, The Negative Splits Podcast, and The Morning Shakeout Podcast for helping me pass the time

Excited #1 – New State.

This was the easy part  – adding another state to my list of states in which I’ve completed a marathon. On top of that, Virginia certainly did not disappoint with its hospitality, friendliness, and stunning scenery!

Excited #1a – Running on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Wow, amazing, and unique – three words that barely scratch the surface of how awesome this experience was. The photos I took don’t even do the scenery justice. Go and drive part of the Blue Ridge Parkway if you have the opportunity to do so!

Excited #2 – Hills…I mean, MOUNTAINS

“I know – this one seems out of place. Hear me out though. What good is a race if it doesn’t offer a challenge? This course offers some pretty tough hills that will absolutely challenge my climbing ability as well as probably make my quads feel like someone took a meat tenderizer to them when it’s all said done.” -me, about 2 weeks before the race

Yeah…about that. Naive is an understatement when I look back on that quote. Those “hills” were freaking mountains and challenge me they did – like nothing else before them. The reward at the top of every climb was well worth the pain to get there…and trust me, there was pain…but damn it was hard! My legs, specifically my quads, felt as if someone took a baseball bat covered in aforementioned meat tenderizers and beat me up one side and back down the other. BUT IT WAS WORTH IT!

Excited #3 – Bojangles Bo-Berry Biscuits.

I think the photo speaks for itself. 🙂

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Final Thoughts

Simply put, this would normally be a race I would avoid if only because of the massive elevation change. This is slightly reminiscent of why I chose to avoid a particular race in Cincinnati for so long before running it as well! However, I am so very glad I took a step out of my comfort zone – figuratively and literally – because there is just so much GOOD about this event. Don’t mistake the mountains for hills – trust me, they are mountains and they are tough. However, this race – while challenging – is rewarding in ways that are truly hard to put into words. A huge THANK YOU to Team BibRave for affording me the opportunity to run the Blue Ridge Marathon! 


If you’re looking for a race that will challenge you and a race that has big race amenities, but a small race feel – head to Roanoke and run the Blue Ridge Marathon!


In the days following the Blue Ridge Marathon, I was able to head over to Athlinks and claim my race results. Athlinks allows me to keep all my race results in one location, compare my stats across multiple distances, download a digital finisher certificate (shareable on social), and even see how I compare against friends (read: followers) who might have been in the same race with me.

Check out my Athlinks stats and learn more about how I claim past results as well as why I enjoy using Athlinks. It’s incredibly easy to use and it’s a lot of fun to see races you might have forgotten about pop up in your results feed! So while you’re taking a look around over there, set up your own Athlinks account and start claiming your results!

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How to Travel: #BlueRidge Marathon Edition

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!


Let me get something out from the onset. This post was supposed to go live last Thursday night and I thought for sure I had hit publish late Thursday night. I did not. Boo on me. As a result, you’re now in for a treat – my pre-race travel tips…from the future…about the past. Don’t worry, I’m confused as well. Enjoy the post!


If you’ve been following me (here, Instagram, Twitter, etc), you probably know that I’m heading to Roanoke, Virginia this weekend for the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon. I won’t lie – I’m excited AND slightly terrified for this one, the reasons for which are best summed up in my OTHER preview post. However – and again, no big surprise – it really was only a matter of time before one of these race weekend preview posts inevitably focused on the travel aspects associated with such a trip. So, here are some of the tips, tricks, and best practices that put into action to make my race travel as easy as possible.

Plan Ahead

Once I’ve finally determined what race I’m going to do, I have to figure out two basic things: 1) how to get there, and 2) where to stay. Without these things sorted out in advance, the trip can get more hectic and more costly. For this particular trip – happening TOMORROW mind you – I sorted out both of these details more than a month or two ago.

First, how to get to Roanoke.could have opted to fly, but that would have involved leaving (and paying for) a car at the airport, being at the airport 2+ hours early on BOTH ends of the trip, checking a bag (I usually don’t, but depending on the trip it could happen), renting a car, and navigating from the airport to my accommodations. I’ll pass on all that, thank you very much! I’ve opted instead to drive the 6(ish) hours from my home just outside of Columbus, OH. It will allow me to travel on my terms and take breaks when I like, eat what I need/like, and so on. The obvious downside is being awake and driving for 6 hours, but I’ll take it. All it costs me is gas and a little money for the West Virginia turnpike – thank goodness my car gets pretty decent gas mileage!

So, how’d that whole driving thing go? It wasn’t too bad. The drive down felt like it went fairly quick. Minimal stops, no delays on the roads, decent weather. The trip BACK to Ohio, however, was the driving equivalent to watching a sloth – slow and not very exciting. LOTS of stops to stretch, hydrate, and walk. 

After making that decision, I have to figure out where to stay. The initial and probably more obvious option is a hotel relatively close to the center of the action. While this is great and probably offers more amenities, there’s also very likely a higher price tag that comes with it. For such a short trip and for as little as I’ll actually be in the space, I don’t need all that a hotel offers. For the Blue Ridge Marathon, I secured a really fantastic location via AirBnB. I’ve had really great success in the past – we used the service for our honeymoon in 2014 – so it was definitely worth a look. My rental is less than a mile (a 15 minute walk) from the start/finish line and for less than $90 for one night. This is HUGE for me because proximity to the start/finish, overall cost, and ease of access were paramount. Obviously, everyone’s preferences are going to vary and specific needs will dictate what type of accommodation work the best, so do your homework and find what works for you and your specific situation.

How was your AirBnB? It proved to be a GREAT decision. Perfect location in reference to the start/finish and super simple. There were the essentials and that was it – bathroom, shower, tv, bed. I was only there for a night, so that’s all I needed. Hands down, one of the best AirBnB’s I’ve ever booked.

Have a Plan? Good. Be Prepared to Throw It Out Because Things Happen

This piece of advice applies to many aspects of life – not just travel – but it does bear repeating. Whether you are a seasoned business traveler or a casual leisure traveler, being unfriendly or just plain rude can come back and bite you. If your flight is delayed or you get stuck in traffic, etc. – trust me, there are other people experiencing the same issue(s). Know your plan, but be ready to ditch it. Thankfully, I didn’t need to do this. I had things laid out in such a way that there were contingencies in place, but didn’t need them at all. The plan actually workout and I had an amazing weekend! Be patient even when your patience is tested to the max. Finally, be flexible. Sometimes the best experiences come when you have to call an audible. Keep these things in mind when traveling, because occasionally, you may find yourself being rewarded for it in the end!

Whether you are running the Blue Ridge Marathon, the Boston Marathon, or anywhere in between – here’s wishing you all a fantastic weekend of racing!

Blue Ridge Marathon Preview

Disclaimer: I received an entry into the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to find and write race reviews!

Want to take on the challenge of “America’s Toughest Road Marathon” yourself? Click HERE to register and use the code BLUERIDGEBIBRAVE save 20% on registration.


In less than 2 weeks, I’m going to make the trip south/southeast to Roanoke, VA for the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon. It’ll be my first big road race of 2019 and, as a preview, I thought I’d briefly jump in and talk about the things I’m excited about for race weekend…and maybe a few things I’m less than thrilled about…so let’s go! Just a heads up: you can continue to follow my journey to Roanoke and how race weekend goes over on Instagram and/or Twitter.

Excited #1 – New State.

About a year or so ago, I laid out a goal to run a marathon in each of the 50 states. To date, there truly has not been much traction to get this goal knocked out. However, I did get state number 2 – New York – in 2017, which will make Virginia state number 3. It should be noted that I have been to Virginia before, just haven’t run a race there of any kind. Definitely still have a long way to go on this one, but the fact that I’m no longer at one anymore is definitely a plus.

Excited #1a – Running on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Did I mention we get to run on the Blue Ridge Parkway? I’ve never even DRIVEN on that stretch of road. I’m always up for visiting another iconic American motorway – even if I’m not necessarily going to drive it!

Excited #2 – HILLS.

I know – this one seems out of place. Hear me out though. What good is a race if it doesn’t offer a challenge? This course offers some pretty tough hills that will absolutely challenge my climbing ability as well as probably make my quads feel like someone took a meat tenderizer to them when it’s all said done. It should be noted though that my current marathon PR was on one of the hilliest marathon courses in Ohio…so, here’s hoping that hill magic carries over to Blue Ridge!

Excited #3 – Bo-Berry Biscuits.

Let’s be honest, this has NOTHING to do with the race itself. Having lived in the south (North Carolina) for a few years, I fell in love with FOOD. One particular treat my wife and I thoroughly enjoy is the Bo-Berry Biscuit from Bojangles. We love them so much that we picked up 3-4 cases of them on the way back from vacation on the NC coast a few years back. So, my apologies to the Foot Levelers Blue Ridge Marathon for this last one not really anything to do with the race, but we don’t have the privilege of Bojangles locations in Ohio AND you have to know I’m going to want to eat everything I can find after the race!

Not-as-excited #1 – The inevitable BONK.

Throughout January and February, my training was pretty on point. I was diligent as far as ensuring that I got a workout in and, for the most part, stayed on schedule with the training plan. Then March arrived and the wheels came off and the plan got pushed aside. No definitive root cause here, just a lack of discipline this time around. With that in mind, I know that at some point on this course I am bound to experience a pretty gnarly BONK which does not excite me. However, I’ve run enough races at this distance to know how my body reacts and how to overcome. It’s not so much that I’m anxious about the BONK (trust me, I am) – it’s being anxious over how I’ll tackle it.

Not-as-excited #2 – HILLS.

Speaking of things to tackle at this race…HILLS. Let’s be honest here, they aren’t hills so much as they are MOUNTAINS. Look at a map of Roanoke – they’re called MOUNTAINS and there are THREE of them on this course. This race has the most elevation change of any road race in the US – 7,400 feet! I thought a certain marathon in Cincinnati was a good primer, but everyone I talk to says that’s not quite a valid comparison. If my training had gone a little more according to plan, I may not be as concerned, but it hasn’t. Now I just have to wait and let the race play out.

Not-as-excited #3 – The drive.

This one, I did to myself. I opted to drive to Roanoke, which I’ll do the day before the race after a full 8-hour shift at work. However, it didn’t make sense to fly and all the hullaballoo that goes with it would just add to my stress level. Driving, though, allows me to make my own course corrections en route if needed and allows me to travel at my own speed – not dependent on an airline schedule/delays. It’s not exactly a short drive, but far from the longest amount of time I’ve spent in a car at one time. On the brightside, it does allow me to stop and snag up some biscuits…

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So, there you have it – my brief mid-afternoon preview of my trip to Roanoke next week. I’m looking forward to keeping you updated on prep leading up to the trip next week as well as all the happenings of said trip.

Until next time – keep striving!


Want to take on the challenge of “America’s Toughest Road Marathon” yourself? Click HERE to register and use the code BLUERIDGEBIBRAVE save 20% on registration.