Run the Valley…..and the Mountain

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most photos by Christy Crisco and used by permission

In my quest to run a race a month for all of 2012, I came across the little gem of a race called Run the Valley.

Since my training mileage is increasing every week, I knew I wanted to look for at least a half marathon. If I was going to miss my Galloway training run I knew I had to make it worth it. However, my stipulations were many. I wanted a race destination that was not too far away. I wanted a low entry fee. I wanted a medal. And, most importantly, I wanted a cool race shirt. Run the Valley met and far exceeded all my expectations.

Run the Valley begins in the town of Badin and runs to the top of Morrow Mountain and then back again. I had never heard of Badin but I knew Morrow Mountain. My niece got married there so I knew it was close to my sister’s home in Mt. Pleasant, NC. Total distance from the Raleigh area was only about 2.5 hours away. Perfect. I knew I could either drive early the morning of the race day or I could spend the night with my sister. No hotel costs for me. Huge Win!

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The entry fee was only $35.00. I could not believe it. At first I just knew that you’d never get a medal for that price and if you got a shirt, it would be a” rotten” cotton one.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. For the very low price of $35.00, somehow they provided us with the most amazing race you could imagine. Nice medal. Very cool shirt. A long sleeved technical one and you even had the choice of a man’s or woman’s fit.  And we even got a sweat towel.

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I was sold! I knew I wanted to do it but I knew that running a race alone (no matter how cool of a race it is) is never as much fun as when you share the adventure with a friend. My only problem was that Ron hasn’t been training as much lately and he isn’t prepared to run that far right now. I knew I’d have to drum up a buddy to run with from my Facebook friends. I posted on my FB page and I didn’t get any takers so I also posted on my Galloway pace group page. That’s where I met up with Dottie.

Dottie has been running for over 30 years and is an inaugural member of the Raleigh Galloway Program. She said there couldn’t have been more than 20 or 30 members when they began and now our Raleigh group is over 500 members strong. That makes us the largest Galloway program in the nation. Dottie has 10 full marathons under her belt and too many half marathons to remember. She saw my post and was also intrigued. She decided to register that day.

This year, Dottie mostly runs with the 11:00 pace group and I run with the 10:30’s. We kept missing each other on Saturday mornings and remained FB only friends for about a month. Early race day morning, we met for the first time face to face and became in person friends instantly. Isn’t it so cool how a common hobby such as running and racing can help you find a new friend!? One of the group leaders in the 10:30 group told me that all of her best friends now are people she met at Galloway.

I’ve thought about how I was going to put my thoughts into words all week and how in the world I would ever give you a glimpse of the beauty of the valley and the mountain.

I knew it was going to be hard. Especially hard because I had only one photo to share with you. My phone has officially bit the dust. It hasn’t really worked well at all since I ran with it in the rain back in March. I had charged it all night but before I could even snap one picture on race morning, it was dead. This photo of me and Dottie with our medals was taken by a nice person I met at the awards ceremony. Her name was Kara and when I told her my phone had died, she didn’t hesitate to snap a picture and email it to me. Thanks Kara!

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What I really needed were all the cool pictures that the race photographer took. So, I found her on FB and sent a message to her. I asked for permission to use her pictures and luckily she agreed. I’m not positive that she took every single one of these pictures but since she seemed like she was the head race photographer, I’m hoping that it will be ok. Please visit their FB page for a complete viewing of all the wonderful race day photographs. 

Early Saturday morning, I drove into Badin. It was still dark and when I approached the town limits and I could just make out the lake that Badin is famous for. Badin Lake is very popular and the boat dock was quite busy that morning as are most Saturday mornings I am sure. There was a slight mist rising from the lake and that mixed with all the lights from the trucks and boat trailers gave me a sense that I was in for quite the adventure.

Just around from the dock, my Garmin told me to turn and I found my way to an Elementary School that runners were supposed to park at. One foot out of my car and I knew something was different. It was Saturday. It was dark. But it was cold. I have been running all summer and every Saturday I faithfully apply sunscreen while it is still dark and try to find something to wear that will camouflage all the sweat that I will be swimming in moments after I begin running. Today was different. It was cold. I couldn’t believe it. Fall was actually here and the horrors of this challenging, humid, HOT, Summer were finally coming to a close. I was SO happy.

Dottie and I met up at the bib pick up area and quickly became friends. We then started planning our Mountain strategy. Dottie doesn’t normally run her Galloway intervals on race days anymore since she is so experienced. However, I really wanted to. She didn’t think twice and agreed to run them with me. I set my Garmin to the run 3 minutes – walk 1 minute interval and just like that we were off.

Note…that’s the one small suggestion I have for the race directors. It was fine to just say, “On your mark, get set, Go!”   I liked that part a lot. I didn’t miss the gun start at all. I did miss the singing of the national anthem. I did really miss the prayer. I’m sure there was someone in Stanley County that would have loved to showcase their voice with the singing of the national anthem. And, with all the Run for God t-shirts that I saw in the race, I’m sure others missed beginning the race with a prayer.

The race began very quickly and before I knew it I looked around and Dottie and I were dead last. Not a single person behind us. That has never happened to me in a race. I could not believe it and was sort of freaking out. Dottie wasn’t irritated in the least and just told me to stick with the intervals and that we’d catch up to some other runners soon enough. Her easy going attitude calmed me down and we settled into a good rhythm. The run down Valley Drive was so tranquil. Dottie kept pointing out different houses she liked and how nice the landscape was. It was a very pretty run.

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Not long after we started up Morrow Mountain Road, I spotted some runners in the distance. The mountain was tough but with the intervals it was doable.

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Here’s an elevation graph so you can get an idea of what we were facing.

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We kept chugging up the hills and then there was this huge hill and a sharp horseshoe curve. There was a race photographer right there in the curve so I told Dottie that we had to run and smile for the picture.

Here’s a shot of me in that curve.

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Here’s my very favorite picture of the entire race. Two runners giving each other a high five as they pass one another.

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And here’s another great mountain shot:

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We made it to the top before we knew it and then we began the descent.  We met up with a two other runners and chatted with one of them a bit.  It was his first half marathon and I told him that he really picked a hard one.

We trailed 2 other runners the entire way back into Badin.

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We finished up just behind them and when we met up with them at the food tent, they just smiled and smiled and told us that we were really challenging.  They said we were relentless.

This race was one of my very favorite that I’ve ever run.

Dottie won 1st in her age group and I won 3rd in mine.

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My very first trophy ever.  I am so proud of it but I promised myself that I’d come clean tonight and reveal that there must have only been 3 women in my age group.  LOL

85 total participants.  The smallest but most wonderful half marathon I’ve ever run.

Way to go Vac and Dash!  Next time I’m  in your next of the woods, I’ve got to visit your running store.  Well, running and vacuum cleaner store that is.  I’ve got nothing but the highest regards for you all!

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Deep in the Meadow

What a wonderful day.  I skipped my Galloway run so I could take care of Mason this morning.  He is so smart and such a blessing and joy to me.

Here he is with his mower at his 1st birthday party.

Mason with mower

Here’s another good one.

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Around lunchtime, Andie and Jonathan came and took him to the pool.  Love this shot of Jonathan and Mason from last week’s pool outing.

Mason at pool

After that, Lydia and I had a lunch date at New Japan Express.  We shared a Hibachi Vegetable and an order of King Crab Rangoons.   Delicious!  Lydia spent a little of her BoJangles earnings and got the cutest Vera Bradley wristlet.  I’m so excited that she is enjoying working and appreciating learning how far a dollar goes.

Next on the agenda was a slow and easy 5 mile run with my good friend and best running partner ever.  Didn’t get a shot of us today but here’s a good picture of us in April when we ran the First Flight 5k at the Wright Brothers’ Memorial.

Lisa and me

Today, Lisa agreed to brave the heat with me and we covered 5 miles in 53 minutes.  We did the run-walk-run method and we really must have been bookin’ it during the running parts.  The Neuse Riverwalk and Buffalo Creek Greenway is pretty nice.  The part near the water treatment plant had a slightly unpleasant odor for a bit but other than that, I liked it a lot.  It is really secluded so if you decide to go, take a buddy.  We even saw a snake.  Thanks Lisa for pointing it out to me.  I would have run right over it if you hadn’t.

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Lisa and I reminisced about our 2 marathons each and many other half marathons.  Lisa talked to me about an interesting thing that can happen to runners:  distance disorientation.  Made a lot of sense to me because sometimes when you’re out there on a long run, nothing plays with your head more than not knowing exactly where you are in your mileage.  Even your Garmin can play with your head sometimes.

When I got home from the run, I whirled up a delicious green monster.  Earlier in the week I had made one with spinach / arugula mix and it was disgusting.  The arugula is not meant to be blended up.  Today’s version was all spinach, one banana, 1/2 cup of milk, ice, and one scoop of vanilla protein powder.  Just what I always want after a run.

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The last thing I needed to do was to water my neighbor’s garden and flowers.  She goes to Florida one time every summer and she asks me to do this chore for her.  She makes a big deal about it and goes on and on about how much she is grateful to me for helping her out.  I try and try to tell her that it’s no bother at all.  I love it!

I turned on her sprinkler and sat on her awesome deck and read.  I’m re-reading Hunger Games and tonight I was on the part about Rue.  So sad.  Now that I am reading it again, I can just see the little actress that played her in the movie and I was crying big fat tears as I read.

Here’s Rue’s song performed by none other than one of my favorite singers in the whole world – Sting.

After a bit, I got up and took the watering cans to the rest of my neighbors flowers.  Aren’t they all just gorgeous!

I’ll sign off with this cheesy shot of a hopeless romantic and loony runner.

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Wanna Race?