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Saturday, October 2, 2010

Freedom's Run Fun!

The last couple of days have been a fantastic vacation and a time of nostalgic reflection. I've returned to all my old youth haunts and seen my dear childhood friend. But I'm saving all that for later in order to post a quick race recap!
First off, let me report on the results of my dedicated scientific experiment. I have personally discovered that hills > heat. FYI. So if you plan on training in a hot clime in hopes that fighting humidity will prepare you for fighting hills, allow me to burst that bubble for you.
Now having said that...Freedom's Run was a GREAT race. Fantastic. Gorgeous. I mean, literally breathtaking. The hills were killer (the advertised "rolling hills" included three particularly brutal climbs, including a vertical mile long toil at miles 15-16). But it was absolutely worth it to experience the splendor of the Potomac and sense the valor of soldiers passing through the cornfields of Antietam.
The night before the race David and I met up with Abbi for packet pick up and the pasta dinner. Abbi is cute in her pictures, but in real life she's just adorable and I wanted to stick her in my purse and take her home. See?

We enjoyed her company on the walk back through Shepherdstown to our cars, and she even safely navigated us out of a graveyard that we got lost in. Once we reached our hotel, I pulled out a granola bar and ate a late-night snack as I laid out my stuff. I totally forgot to take my meloxicam, resulting in joint swelling later!

I set the alarm for 4:00 - seriously - and when I got up I ate breakfast twice. Our host hotel offered continental breakfast starting at 4 am the day of the race! I had oatmeal and coffee twice, then prepared my nasty goopy baggies of salty oatmeal. We were bussed to the start, and I got on the bus early - good thing, because the bus filled up and they had to send another. I felt bad for lots of panicked runners! :(
It was chilly at the start, and I must have looked cold, because a good Samaritan gave me gloves and someone else found me a trash bag to wear! Finally we started (after singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic. At this point I decided that this was the COOLEST RACE EVER). We started on a slight uphill, then a slight downhill. By the end of the downhill I knew my muscles were in foreign territory! The course starts near Rumsey Farm (dirt and mud road), heads to Harpers Ferry, then crosses a petrifyingly narrow and high footbridge over the Patomac, culminating in metal mesh stairs that were wet, slippery, and awful. And everyone walked down so we came to an abrupt traffic jam. The stairs led to the flat C&O canal, where I've walked many a time - so I expected ten miles of stones, gravel, rocks, etc. It was pretty rough terrain; I had decided to wear my lightweight, thin soled New Balance shoes which turned out to be a mistake. My feet got quite the beating on all the rocks, stones, and roots on the canal. I slowed down a lot here, feeling the need to conserve energy for the hills to come. In retrospect this was not the best strategy, but I certainly enjoyed the superfluously beautiful Patomac sparkling in the rising sun as a sheet of mist rose above it. This part of the race had some of the most spectacular views I've ever seen! I had a slight incident at mile 5, right at the beginning, as I rolled my ankle badly...stepping on a mole. Not a hole. A mole. Poor mole. Poor me (the ankle is sore but didn't hinder my running at all - just ached a little). I ate some oatmeal at mile 6 and nibbled more every 45 minutes until the finish (plus one gu). I felt fantastic as we left the canal but stayed slow as I turned off the canal onto a ginormous hill. Mile 15-16 was one enormous vertical climb! I actually walked parts of the hill and continued to do so on big hills: I had promised myself to enjoy this race and I was determined not to finish feeling like crap. The hills continued through Antietam, and I had one bad mile around 21 or 22. There were very few water stations on the course and I decided for some reason to eat a Gu at this point. It made my mouth feel dry and gross and I realized my water bottle was almost empty. I started feeling dehydrated and parched, but right before it became critical I reached an aid station. I drank 2 cups of gatorade and one of water, plus grabbed a fresh water bottle. I realized I had been underhydrating because without the humidity I'm used to my thirst sensation was blunted! Before I knew it, we were turning into Sheperdstown towards the finish. For some reason I kept thinking there were more hills ahead, but really it was just rolling hills to the finish. But all the way to the end I kept reserving strength, unsure why...but I crossed the finish in about 4:01 by my watch (longer by gun time but it isn't posted) and I felt totally refreshed and happy and could have run another 10k no problem! No wall this time, no awesome finish either - just a solid, enjoyable run on a beautiful fall day.

There was pizza at the finish and I wolfed some down before we headed to the after party for a beer.
David ran his first half marathon and was waiting for me at the finish. He felt great, too - he also said he felt like he could have gone on farther. Take-away lesson for both of us: We could both stand to expend a little more energy out there!

I'm having a cup of coffee now and getting ready for a bonfire with my friends. It will be a perfect end to this trip!
Up Next...
- David guest-posts his experiences training for and running his first half-mary.
- I wore my CEP recovery socks after this race for an hour or so ...will they combat soreness due to hills? Check back for a review!
- This post was a recap of my race, but I'll be posting a race review so you can assess the pros and cons and see if you want to run it yourself!


  1. Argh...Blogger keeps eating my comments. Starting over - it was great meeting you and David yesterday. I'm so glad you both had great races - congratulations!! That is funny about the mole. I saw a dead-something on the trail around mile 8 and it completely startled me. Have a great evening at your bonfire and have a safe trip home!

  2. Awww so glad you and abbi got to meet! Way to go girls, so proud of you both. Especially for running a HILLY marathon!!

  3. Congratulations! Sounds like quite a challenging course. And I totally laughed over the mole thing - that's sort of mean of me I suppose? I am glad the ankle injury wasn't worse than it could have been!~

    Congrats on a successful race to both you & David! Hope you aren't too sore today!

  4. Congrats and nice finish! I did a hilly marathon a year or so ago and I was just thinking "never again will I do a hilly marathon" around mile 20. It was such killer on the legs and mind! Rest up.

  5. 4:01 is fantastic! Loved the report, great job!!