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Blue Ridge Marathon–Been There, Run That!

This past weekend, I headed up to Roanoke, VA, to run in the mountains for the Blue Ridge Marathon.

While the trip was a blur (flight up Friday afternoon, race Saturday morning, fly home Saturday evening), I think I might have developed a little crush on the city of Roanoke and really want to head back for a longer visit soon. If you’ve never been in that part of the country, I can’t encourage you enough to go for a visit.

The race was advertised as the “Toughest Road Marathon in America”, and while I haven’t run every road race in the country (yet!) I can’t imagine finding one that is more difficult than this one.

I knew before the race started that the hills (let’s be honest, mountains) were going to be a challenge. I mean, living in Florida means we run on flat ground only. Sure, we have a couple of “hills”, and we can always run the overpasses, but we basically only run on flat surfaces.

And the only surfaces we didn’t run in Roanoke were flat.

Oy vey….

The race started out with a bit of a climb. And by a bit, I mean 7 miles. Straight up.

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Not Even Half Way Up!

Getting to the top of the first 7 mile climb was nice. Coolest thing, bagpiper at the top.

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There’s Nothing Better Than Bagpipes. Nothing.

Coming down the mountain provided a much needed break. I used to think that going down hills was harder than going up them, but that perspective changed long ago. I was flying down the hill, and I kept hearing people complain about the down hills.

I actually had to be reminded to slow down.

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Easy, Speed Racer

That first 7 mile climb was the biggest hill we ran, but it was far from the last. We kept going up and down for the entire race, which sucked, but there were some awesome views and gorgeous neighborhoods that we got to experience.

Looking Down on Roanoke

Looking Down on Roanoke

And since the hills never stopped coming, there was no shame and stopping or walking on occasion. No matter what the signs say.

So I Stopped. Do Something.

So I Stopped. Do Something.

Not a PR, But Still a Great Race

Going into the race, I knew that a new PR was out of the question. My A goal for the race was to be sub-4:30. A more realistic goal was to be sub-5:00, and I crossed the finish line at 4:52:10.

Not too shabby.

In Race Commentary

Looking back on the race, I’m really glad I took the trip north and ran the race. I got to meet some of my cool twitter friends in person, and knocked another state off of the list.

But during the race, I wasn’t quite as excited about what was going on. Check it out for yourself.

Did You Run the Blue Ridge Marathon This Year? How Did You Do?

If You Didn’t Run It, What Do You Think About Running a Marathon in the Mountains?

It’s Almost Race Time

Three days from now, I’ll be finished running America’s Toughest Road Marathon.

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How’s that for self confidence?

The Blue Ridge Marathon is happening on Saturday, and I can’t wait! I’ve been looking forward to this race for awhile now, though if I’m honest, I’ve been a little nervous about this race as well.

You see, as a naturalized Floridian, we don’t really have many hills to train on. In fact, the (only half-way joking) legitimate hills we have are actually road/highway overpasses.

No offense, but overpasses don’t quite measure up to the Blue Ridge Mountains. There is an advertised 7,500 feet of elevation change over the course of those 26.2 miles.

You could say that I’m slightly unprepared for this race, but I’m not sure that would accurately portray how this race is going to go. I know I’m capable of handling the miles, but the hills are going to kill me. If I can make it in less than 5 hours, it’ll be a win for me.

Just Having Fun

No matter how the race goes, the goal for this weekend is to just have fun. I’ll be flying up to VA on Friday morning, running the race Saturday morning, and flying home Saturday night. The travel itinerary isn’t ideal, but it is what it is.

And this way I can blame the lack of a PR on the condensed travel schedule! Hehe.

If any of y’all are running Blue Ridge this weekend, I’d love to meet you guys! Let me know, or give me a shout on twitter, and we can meet up at the expo.

And if you see me curled up along the side of the road on Saturday in the fetal positions, just keep going.

I’ll be ok.

Altra Shoe Review

Being an Altra Ambassador is pretty sweet.

I Was Excited For the New Kicks.

I Was Excited For the New Kicks.

Since becoming an official Ambassador at the start of 2014, I’ve been able to “meet” a ton of other Altra Aficionados via Facebook and Twitter, and am looking forward to meeting a fellow ambassador in person at the Blue Ridge Marathon at the end of the month.

While my blog history shows that I don’t need an excuse to pronounce my love for this awesome company and their kick-ass shoes, allow me to expound a little bit about the 2 pairs of shoes that I received as part of being in the Ambassador program.

Altras in General

Running in Altras, or any zero-drop shoe for that matter, takes some getting used to. If you’re new to the zero or minimal-drop shoes, progress in them slowly. Altra does a great job of educating you on the best way to make the switch to their shoes from any of the “traditional” running shoes, but I just want to re-emphasize the importance of a gradual transition. I actually changed my running stride/mechanics BEFORE changing shoes, and I still dealt with tight calves for a while after making the switch.

But it has been totally worth it.

Instinct 2.0

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Instinct 2.0

The original Instincts were my first pair of Altras, and they will always hold a special place in my heart.

When I was choosing which shoes to get as an Ambassador, I figured I’d get the newer model of my favorites, and then try a different model with my other.

Let me just tell you, the Instinct 2.0s are not even close to the same shoe as the original.

Now, to be clear, the new model is a great shoe! It just wasn’t at all what I was expecting.

The newer model has a thicker sole and is much more cushioned than its predecessor. The toe box is especially wide (an Altra specialty), and the fit is super comfortable. There is lots of cushion available with this shoe (not just in the sole), while still being surprisingly lightweight.

The Instinct 2.0 would be a great option for your first foray into the Altra catalog. This shoe does a great job of maintaining cushion for us road runners, while still delivering the wide toe box and zero drop that I absolutely love! Click for the men’s or women’s models (women’s equivalent is the intuition).

Provision 1.5

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Provision 1.5

For my second pair of shoes, I decided to give the newer version of the Provision series a shot.

And I’m super glad that I did!

These shoes are, in my opinion at least, more like the original Instincts than the new Instincts are. Right now, the Provisions are my shoe of choice.

The Provision 1.5s have a slightly slimmer stack (sole) than the Instinct 2.0s, and I love that. It’s amazing how much of a difference 3 mm can make!

When ordering the Provision 1.5s, the Altra site suggests ordering a half size bigger than you’d normally wear. Take their advice! I didn’t, and when I got the shoe I was a little bummed. I hate being that guy that has to return something, but luckily these shoes came with a stability wedge that I could remove, and that made enough of a difference. The shoes are still a little snug, but they don’t bother without the wedge in place.

Check out the Provision 1.5s, or the Provisioness 1.5s for the ladies, and don’t be afraid to take the leap and give them a shot. I’m glad I tried the Provisions, because I think I might have found my new favorite model!

Overall Impression

Like I said, both the Provision 1.5s and the Instinct 2.0s are great shoes. While I absolutely prefer the Provisions to the Intincts, I’m actually debating which shoe to wear for the marathon I’m running next weekend.

I’ve done most of my long runs with the Instincts, so logic would say that is the shoe I should wear. But I just love the feel of the Provisions more, and I’m leaning towards wearing them. Odds are, both shoes will make the trip to Virginia with me, and my decision will be made on race day!

If you’re at all interested in trying any of the Altra Zero Drop shoes, but you’ve got a few questions, please reach out to me! If I can’t answer your question, I’m connected to dozens of Altramaniacs, and I’d be happy to ask them on your behalf and share their experience with you.

All I know is that I love these shoes, and I’m so glad I took the chance on them back in 2012. As long as their are Altras available, I know I’ll never wear another shoe again!

Have You Tried Zero Drop Shoes? What Are Your Thoughts?

FTC Disclosure–As an Official Altra Ambassador, I was given two pairs of shoes to wear and review. I was able to choose the shoes that I wanted, and the opinions expressed about each model are entirely my own, and have not been influenced in any way by Altra, its associates, or any one related to the company.