Last week I ran my third half marathon, the Oak Barrel Half in Lynchburg, TN. Of the three I've run, this is my favorite half. This is a cheap race to run; there aren't a ton of runners; there are more recreational runners, than elite runners - lots of interval runners; the course is hard, but diverse & scenic; Mach Tenn does a great job organizing; & there's awesome swag!
The first thing you need to know about Oak Barrel is you won't PR, so only register for the fun of running it. The reason you won't PR is a little thing called Whiskey Hill. Whiskey Hill is a mile long hill that takes you up to the top of a ridge line. It's so intense that A) they ask that you do a preview run & B) it has it's own Facebook page.
I was worried about Oak Barrel because it's super hilly, my other two halfs were flat & I'm a month out of a knee injury. After NOLA, I talked to my PT about training for Oak Barrel & she had me slowly incorporate hills into my training runs. It worked. We spent the month between NOLA & Oak Barrel running the hardest, hilliest routes we could find. We ran The Nasty (twice), the 5.8 & 11.2 trails in Percy Warner, plus the preview run. My knee held out & my body got accustomed to running uphill for two hours straight. Also, not for nothing, but you could cut glass on the definition in my quads right now.
Race Day! The race started at 8:00am & Lynchburg is about 1 hour & 45 minutes away, so I got up at 4:00 & left Nashville at 5:15. Got there just in time to check in, make a pit stop & get to the start line. Oh, & talk to the County Mayor, obvs. When we started running, it was around 40 degrees, but it got up to 70 by the time we finished, so there was lots of shedding of layers. This is where Mach Tenn really came through. They put a cardboard box at every mile marker, so you could throw your jacket, etc. into a box along the course. Then, at the finish, they had a well organized system for retrieving your items. So smart! I can't believe other race organizers don't do this!
I run better in cooler weather, so it was perfect for me. We all started out together, but slowly separated as we hit Whiskey Hill. Lana & I stayed together for most of the race though. I had a great race. The weather was perfect, I knew the course & I felt good. Lana & I plowed up every hill like it was our job. Thanks, hill training! Also, every time I needed water, I'd look up & there was a water stop. Mach Tenn nailed this aspect of the race, too.
I felt strong & Lana & I were trucking along, then we hit Mile 11. I hit a wall & needed to stop, eat some energy chews & get a drink of water, so I stopped & Lana kept going. I looked ahead & could still see her, so I tried to catch up to her. My energy chews kicked in, so I picked up the pace a little. I had been running a 12:30-13:00 minute mile, but ran the last two miles at a 9:30. DUMB. I was about a half mile from the finish when my calves locked up. I limp-sprinted through the finish & then my body completely turned against me.
All in all, I loved this race & am definitely planning on running it again next year. I recommend you do the same. Keep an eye on it & register early because it sells out fast.
Yay, Lynchburg! Yay, Mach Tenn!