Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Race Preview: The Blue Ridge Relay

After last year's triumphant mixed division victory at the Blue Ridge Relay, everyone on team Stache and Dash was ready to do it all over again.

As the race date approached, not everyone on the team could make it again this year, but we have assembled a solid team once again -- quite possibly more talented than last year's team. I have had a difficult summer, with unexpected deaths in the family leading to a lot more travel than I had planned in an already-busy season. My training hasn't exactly been ideally suited to what, for me, will amount to an 18-mile road race in three stages, but it hasn't been bad either. My focus race was the Pikes Peak Marathon, and though it didn't go as well as planned, clearly my aerobic conditioning and hill training was good and I crushed the uphill portion.

What I didn't know is whether I had lost my straight-up foot speed in training for a 6-hour mountain run. I haven't done a speed workout in over three weeks, so today I decided to test that with two miles at 10k race pace. That test went well, even on a hilly road (after a mile warm-up) I managed 6:20 and 6:07, so I still think I have the foot speed to do well at Blue Ridge.

This year I will be runner #11, which gives me legs 11, 23, and 35. All three involve some serious hills, which, if nothing else, I should definitely be prepared for!

Leg 11 is last year's leg 10, an 8.4 mile run with 758 feet of climbing. Most of the climb comes in one big push around Mile 3:


That's about a 350-foot climb in a mile. If I can handle that, everything else is comparatively flat or downhill. I'd like to complete the leg in around a 7:00 pace, so even if I slow to, say, 8:15 for that mile, then all I'd have to do is about a 6:45 for the rest of the leg. Tough, but doable.

Leg 23 is the "easy" leg, but it's still 5.3 miles in the middle of the night. It's also where JITFO's runner got lost last year, so I'll need to be careful to hit the turns correctly. I've been there before, though, so I'm pretty sure I know which way to go -- and I'll have a cue sheet with me, so I think I can handle this one. Total climb for the leg is a non-trivial 580 feet. I'm projected to do this leg in 7:05 per mile. I'd like to think I can do better than that, but I definitely want to save something for Leg 35, which is a real doozy:

Watch out for that first mile -- or two!
For some reason, the Blue Ridge Relay only rates this leg as "Hard" rather than "Very Hard" or "Mountain Goat Hard." There is 1,000 feet of climbing, all in the first two miles. It's steep, steep, steep, for a solid two miles. Yes, the leg is only 4.2 miles, and the last two miles are downhill, but that climb is insane! I'm projected to run the leg in 7:20 / mile. So, maybe 8:30 on the climb and 6:10 for the finish? No matter how you break it down, this is a real tough one. If I can just hang on for that climb, hopefully I will recover quickly and be able to run fast through the finish.

This is one of my favorite races, which I suppose is why I always come back, year after year. Here's hoping Stache and Dash enjoys the same kind of success we had last year!

1 comment:

  1. You're more than ready for whatever the BRR throws at you this year! Go get it, Captain!