Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Running Through History, Part 1

So, what does a runner who spends her days around dusty old books do? Finds races in historic places of course!

Last fall I saw an ad in a magazine for an inaugural race in Williamsburg. I immediately knew I had to do it. I have loved the town all of my life. My parents took me there on vacations while I was growing up, and I was even lucky to spend a summer living there in college and working on the archaeological site at Jamestown. While at the Marine Corps Marathon expo at the end of October, the Run for the Dream folks were there and I jumped at the chance to sign up. Poor Megan, we'd only just met me in person an hour earlier, and she found herself signing up as well. I had at least one partner in crime lined up! Score!

May came, and along with Kim and Laura, we headed down for a long weekend in Colonial Williamsburg. Katie unfortunately had to cancel her plans at the last minute due to injury. Laura was sadly also ill, but didn't want to turn down an opportunity to go to CW, and came along as cheer squad, complete with her own colonial garb. The organizers of this race really set up a first rate race weekend. Half marathon registrants received weekend passes to Colonial Williamsburg and a one day pass to Busch Gardens along with a meal voucher. And, since we were staying at a host hotel, we had shuttle transportation race morning.

We arrived on Friday and hit up the small, but decent, expo and then headed to our hotel before checking out the restored area. We met up with Laura C., our ROTE buddy from NC, and went to Chownings Tavern for an evening of good food, drinks, and laughs at the gambols. If you ever go, pay close attention to the magician and try and figure out how he palms not one, but THREE potatoes. We're still talking about it two months later! Ha!

We also had the opportunity to meet a new ROTE member, Rebecca, and her husband, Brian. They were in town to run Saturday's 8K. We got up early for breakfast on Saturday and headed out to the race course to cheer them on. After we caught them near Merchant's Square, we went to the stadium on the William & Mary campus where the finish line was. It was fast becoming clear, Sunday was going to be a hot day to run a half marathon.

Race morning was indeed sticky. We boarded our assigned shuttle (we had to sign up for timed ones at the expo and got color coded wrist bands; I don't think they were ever checked) and headed to the start area. A fife and drum group played while everyone milled about. Since I had another half marathon the following weekend, I planned to take it easy and just have fun with Kim and Megan. The course started winding through the restored area, and was indeed beautiful. No matter where we looked, there was Laura, our little colonial, along with Rebecca and Brian, cheering for us. We never knew where'd they'd pop up in those early miles!

We knew this course was going to be hilly, but the elevation chart on the website was definitely no match for what we really encountered! As we chugged along, around mile 6 we made a new friend, Heather, who asked if she could join us in our 2:1 intervals. Before we knew it, Heather and I were talking and running along and steadily getting ahead of Megan and Kim. I looked back as we crested a hill, and both were waving at me to keep going. (They told me later they were glad I found someone to run with as I had been pushing the pace a bit.) The remainder of the race was enjoyable as I got to know a new friend. While we were going up and down the rolling hills of Colonial Parkway, we started doing 1:2's instead to help with the heat and humidity that there beginning to kick our butt. Fortunately, the parkway had a good amount of shade, except at the turnaround. Kudos to the race organizers for keeping what was a beautiful bit still kind of boring out and back interesting. Imagine our surprise when we saw a man playing a piano just around mile 8.

As we reached mile 11, we couldn't wait to get off of the parkway. Plus, I knew Laura was going to be just ahead with cold water and Gatorade. It quickly was apparent though that in order to get off the parkway we had to climb a ramp with a nasty incline and even nastier camber while in the full sun. We got to Laura, who still had Rebecca and Brian in tow (thanks guys for sticking around) and poured water over ourselves to cool off. Laura C. had seen me on the out and back along Colonial Parkway and told Laura that I had gone ahead of Kim and Megan. I was immediately chastised by both her and Katie (who'd she'd been txting with updates) to slow down and remember that I had a half next weekend. I assured them that Heather and I were keeping a good, but slower pace, and doing a longer walk then run.

The course took us onto the William and Mary campus. We were both overheated and exhausted by that point and walking moreso than anything else. After one more final hill, we turned toward the stadium, ran through a tent playing the Olympic theme, and were on the track. We had to run about 3/4's of the track before crossing the finish line. Our time was 3:02:36. Not bad considering the heat and hills. After getting our medals, Heather and I said our good byes and traded phone numbers in hopes of perhaps crossing paths at another race in the future. I found Laura C. and our awesome cheer squad. We cheered in Kim and Megan (who were delayed after heroically helping catch a runner as she went down due to leg cramps), and then headed to the post race picnic.

The post race picnic took place in the sunken garden at the college. In addition to the standard post race food, runners were entitled to 2 beers and a bbq sandwich. Yum! The only drawback was the lack of shade, which apparently they are addressing for next year.

Despite the heat and vast quantity of unexpected hills, this was a top notch event. I really felt like I got alot of "bang for my buck" and definitely loved the long weekend away with good friends in a place I love. I debated whether or not to do it again next year, but everyone's enthusiasm to do it again (and bring some other friends along) is definitely drawing me in.