Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Like A Kid On Christmas Morning

Greetings everyone. It's been quite a while since I've done a blog posting. I tell Lauren that I let her handle the blogging because, in my opinion, she does a much better job. Since this post is all about me, though, I figured I'd handle it.

As faithful followers of our blog know, Lauren has become quite a runner! I think it's great that she's found a hobby that lets her get outside and exercise. In fact, her enjoyment of running encouraged me to find something I could do for exercise and for some outside active fun as well. I ran track and cross country in high school and, as I like to say, that got running out of my system. I also have a knee that will hurt sometimes, so I was looking for something a little "lower impact". I've always enjoyed biking and did a lot when I was a kid, so I decided to look into that route, but with a twist. With the exception of an old Schwinn I had in middle school, I've always had mountain bikes. This time, I'm going to try out road biking.

I did research on different brands, different frame materials (aluminum, aluminum and carbon fiber, carbon fiber, titanium and carbon fiber), different components. I did some shopping and test riding at different bike stores. Yesterday I got one! A new bike for a new adventure into the world of cycling on the road!

Many of the online forums I read advised "you're new... buy used;" and so I did. I purchased a very gently used 2009 Specialized Allez Sport. The name is apparently French for "go". It was owned by a friend of the people at the bike store who is very meticulous with his bikes and so it was well cared for and never even ridden in the rain. In fact, they said he came in and bought a slightly lower end bike to use as his "rain bike" and couldn't even bring himself to ride that one in the rain.

The people at Cardinal Bicycle were very helpful in getting me a good bike and helping pick out my necessary accessories (seat bag, spare tube, mini pump, patches, tire tool, computer, and water bottle cages) and even put it all on for me while I waited. I was really pleased with the fact that they were not pushy at all. They knew I was just getting started and helped me pick what I needed for my level of experience. Unlike other bike stores, the salesman I talked to Saturday never even attempted to "close the sale". He gave me his card and told me to mention I talked to him if/when I came back. I really appreciated the fact that they recognized I was shopping around, and getting a feel for what was out there and didn't try to sell me that day.

Here it is!

My plan is to start on the Greenway and in the roads around our house. My goal is to be able to ride to the top of Mill Mountain (where the giant star is) by the end of the summer. We'll see how that goes! Right now though, on this cold and rainy day in Roanoke, I am "like a kid on Christmas morning," waiting for the weather to be nice so I can go outside and ride my new bike!

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Taste of Spring

Yesterday Andrew and I got out and enjoyed the warm and sunny weather, despite my strong desire to take a nap since we lost an hour of sleep the night before (I have a bittersweet relationship with the start of Daylight Saving Time...). We decided to take a walk up the "old road" to the Mill Mountain Star.

The old toll booth on the way up

This is one of the switchbacks on the way up. It's worth mentioning that the Blue Ridge Marathon and Half Marathon courses come down the mountain this way.

The view from the top!

The Star (duh!)

Me at the top!

I think we're both ready for spring and summer to be here and ready to spend more time doing things outdoors. So needless to say, we're hoping that this warmer weather is here to stay.

Friday, March 4, 2011

It's Official: April 16, 2011 - Blue Ridge Half Marathon

It's official. I signed up for the Blue Ridge Half Marathon. Yep, that's the one that goes up Mill Mountain. If you're not super familiar with Roanoke, that's the one with the neon star on top:

This is Andrew and I standing under the star (this is from our engagement session a few years ago. Don't we look tall?)

It's also the same mountain from which you have this amazing view:

You can also check out live views from the Star from the StarCam!)

So yes, we're running up Mill Mountain. Call me crazy, but I'm really excited about this race. Training for this half marathon has also been much better because I've had a wonderful running buddy to talk to through most of my long runs and during some training throughout the week. It's amazing what a difference it makes! And I honestly have to say that I'm loving the challenge of training for this race because I know I'm pushing myself to limits that I've never pushed myself to before (specifically, running up mountains!), and in the process I know I'm making myself stronger.

Here is a little bit more about the half marathon from the race's website:

Runners will start in the heart of the city in front of the magnificent Taubman Museum of Art. The course begins easily with one mile of rolling hills, before taking its first turn upward as runners begin the two-mile climb up Mill Mountain. While full marathoners will continue on to the brutal but beautiful climb up Roanoke Mountain, half marathoners will ascend Mill Mountain to the famous Mill Mountain Star, overlooking the beautiful Roanoke Valley and — much of the course still to be run!

From the Star, runners will encounter a major 2-mile decent down Prospect Avenue – also known as the “old road” to Mill Mountain. Back on the valley floor the final seven miles is rolling with several challenging hills, but no additional significant climbs.

The terrain flattens out for the next 3 miles as you emerge from the neighborhood and make your way along the Roanoke River on a portion of Roanoke’s greenway system. After a few miles on the greenway the course will head toward the finish line. The final two miles return you to downtown where the course takes you past the Virginia Museum of Transportation and back to the Taubman Museum of Art.
And a video from the race's website:

Another exciting thing about this race is that my brother will be doing it, too! But I'm sure he'll finish much faster than we will. Also, the route for the full marathon goes right by my parents' house. I wish we could be standing there to cheer people on, but I guess some encouraging signs will have to do. The full marathon is also "challenging" the Mount Lemmon Marathon in Tucson, AZ, which has 6,000 feet of straight climbing, for the title of "Toughest Road Marathon in the World." Some say that the Blue Ridge Marathon's 7,234 feet of elevation change is worse than just 6,000 feet of elevation gain. Apparently they are going to let the runners decide.

Personally, I'm just excited about being a part of the HALF marathon portion of what could be the World's Toughest Road Marathon.

I'll let you know how it goes!