Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Asheville Half Marathon at Biltmore Estate Race Recap

Where, oh where do I begin… 

I began training for the Asheville Half Marathon at Biltmore in December. A friend of mine that I began running with suggested this race and thought it would be a fun one and a beautiful course to run so four of us signed up to run it and we began training together through the week and on the weekends. 

We trained with intervals which was great since I was recovering from a running slump so to speak. We ran 4 miles on Tuesdays and Thursdays and ran long on Saturdays working our way from 5 to 12 miles leading up to the big race. We trained on flat courses and hills. We stretched. We did a much better job training for this race than I did for the Diva’s Half last year.  I also shared earlier this week that I also worked on my electrolytes and have been using compression. 

After our 12 mile training run I did have something happen to my left ankle. I actually an not 100% sure what is going on since I have not been to see a physician however I think I may have either a peritoneal tendon tear or peritoneal tendonitis. I began doing a few strengthening exercises and began taking ibuprofen and the swelling and pain had reduced a little but not much. 

Aside from that and my bout of nervous nellies I felt ready for the half and was getting excited! We planned to camp in my in-laws RV for the weekend in Asheville and so we all packed up and headed there on Friday afternoon. The weather was a bit questionable so I was packed for whatever Mother Nature sent our way.

We got to Asheville Friday afternoon and went straight to the Expo. All my runner buddies were coming up separately so we planned to meet up at the Expo at some point. It was a great Expo! Lots of vendors and goodies! The race packet pick up planning team were very strategic about the Expo. First sign waiver, then get your bib, then head out to the Expo section to pick up your race bag/gear check bag, then you must walk all the way through the Expo and past all the vendors before you can pick up your shirt. This was not a big deal to me because I LOVE a good Expo, but I did hear some people complaining. The race bag had a lot of fliers, a pair of gloves with the Asheville Marathon/Half Marathon Logo (they are one size fits most and by most I mean mostly bigger hands so they do not fit me but I can use them in the garden or something) and a logo Buff which I absolutely love! I love a good buff! They must be the ones that avoid spending money by avoiding the Expos lol. They had just about anything you could need that you may have left home. I picked up a new headband because I had done exactly that. I also got a bottle of the Commemorative Biltmore Wine. Roots was giving away free containers of Hummus so I picked up one of those as well! The coolest thing was seeing our names on a map of Biltmore that had the race route outlined and intertwined with all the runners! I give the Expo an A+!

The ladies all arrived and after the Expo we enjoyed a delicious pre-race carb load at Carrabas. Delish! My family and I headed back to our camper to hunker down for the night. I stretched a bit, rolled a bit and tried to get some sleep. A good night’s sleep was nowhere to be found that night. I woke up about every thirty minutes checking the time or going to the bathroom. Finally at 4:40 am I was up for good and got myself ready for the race. I had my banana, orange juice and coffee and we left the RV around 5:40 am and headed to race. The info said you have to be through the gate at Biltmore by 6:30 am so we felt the need to get through around 6:00 am!

We picked up my friend Kathleen and her son Levi on the way to the race at their hotel and had no trouble getting through the gate around 6:00 am as planned. The traffic was pretty spread out at the time we arrived and we got through the grounds within 20 minutes or so, parked pretty close to the start and walked over to a small parking area sprinkled with vendor tents and port-a-potties. We were able to head up the hill a bit to use actual restrooms and so we took advantage of that while we waited on our other running buddies, Bridget and Alisha to arrive. They were driving up from our home town which is only about an hour away. Once every one was there we had a few minutes for some quick photos and then into the race line we went! 

The temperature was nice, about 58 degrees and so I felt well dressed in my shorts, long sleeves T-shirt and compression socks!

We all have had some sort of running related injury so we all agreed that this race we were not expecting any PR’s and we were just going to enjoy the run. Alisha has six bulging discs in her back that have been a nuisance for her our entire training and in addition she had just been diagnosed with the flu about a week before the race, Bridget has been experience some pain in her ankle that we are trying to figure out, Kathleen was diagnosed with a stress fracture about two weeks before the race and I have been having what I think is an issue with my left peroneal tendon(s) (pain and swelling under my left ankle). But we are bad ass so we ran it anyway! Ha!

At this point we still had no idea what we had gotten ourselves into but we had heard the night before at the Expo that this was a slow course and very hilly. OK. We can handle that…

Splits (as told by Strava)

1 – 9:51 – Mile one was lovely, pretty flat and we were surrounded by hills and natures beauty, I saw a family of deer jump pasture fences as we ran by. I felt like we started out well, not too fast and at a comfortable pace. I thought I overheard people say the first six miles were killer hills. This is not so bad after all…

2 – 10:50 – Oh dang! Here are the hills. Ok we can handle it…  

3 – 9:35 – And down again, ahhh feeling good

4 – 10:16 – Oh jeez, up again

5 – 11:18 – I don’t think I will make it! Make it stop! Seriously these hills are RIDICULOUS! Rolling hills my @$$ Well since I am walking at this point I decided to have a few Gatorade chews that I brought with me 

6 – 10:53 – The hills are alive with the sound of my silent cries lol! Luckily we ran past some volunteers who assured us we were almost to the top and then it would be downhill from there. Thanks be to God. 

7 – 9:47 – We topped out and headed past the Biltmore house and the Azalea Garden. This along with the first mile was my favorite part of the race. We of course stopped for a quick photo op!

8 – 10:24 – We were on gravel, this is where I began to get worried. I didn’t know there was gravel. I began to feel like I was running on the beach. It was an out and back which I do not love.

9 – 10:17 – I began to notice a blister emerging on the bottom of my left foot. I wore my Skora Core’s which are minimalist shoes. I had never ran on gravel in them so the gravel was pretty uncomfortable. 

10 – 10:05 – This was a nice relatively flat section of the course. I think I'm going to make it...

11 – 10:51 – What is happening? Is this the end? I see the finish line, I hear the announcer but no we keep running in the other direction. 

12 – 11:04 – Oh no, no, no another out and back. On another gravel road and by gravel road I mean Jeep road and by Jeep road I mean rugged gravel road designed with the intention on making for a very exciting and bumpy ride for Jeep excursions aka  a road with very large gravel chunks to run on. Can someone please carry me??? I am pretty sure my blister has ruptured. I seriously did not know if I would make it. I walked more than I ran.

13 – 10:35 – One mile to go, you can do it, ouch, ouch, ouch all the way to the hill you have to get over to get back to the finish. No my blister did not rupture but I am certain it is HUGE!

.1 – 10.51 – Finally pavement and we ran on in to the finish!

So my Strava was a bit off overall it shows elapsed time at 2:45:12 and moving time at 2:25:26 so somehow I lost 20 minutes there... It shows that I ran 13.8 Miles and an average pace of 10:28/mi. My Chip Time was actaully 2:44:34 with a Gun Time of 2:45:18 with a 12:36/mi. The race shows my 10K Split to be 1:10:40. The Hills weren't what killed me it was the end of the course on the gravel!!

At the finish we were given our medals and a lovely fleece blanket embroidered with the event logo.  By the time we finished it was HOT! Or we were HOT! I am not sure which so the blanket will just go home with us for another colder time. The finish was well worth all the pain and suffering! 

The post-race food was abundant. More food than I have ever witnessed at a race. The beer line was soooooo long so I didn’t bother. We grabbed our plates and fell onto the ground for a bit of a stretch, rest and replenish!

On a side note, I didn’t mention earlier, the mid race fuel was also in abundance! There was Gu, cookies, fruit, etc. at every single water station along with Nun and Coke.  

The volunteer support was incredible! All the turns were well occupied and the water stations were manned with lots of folks and lots of spirit!

I did have a few disappointments with this event. I had to pay for my family to be spectators. It was $50 for my husband and youngest daughter to come watch and they were only allowed at the start/finish. They did walk down to the 11 mile mark which was just down the hill from the start/finish. Another disappointment was that my friend Kathleen’s son finished 5th overall of the ENTIRE race and 1st in his age division and while the race was over by like 11 the awards ceremony was not until 5pm. He had a plane to catch the next morning back to college in the Midwest so they could just not stick around that late so he didn’t get his award! I am hopeful that they will send it to him. That is a HUGE deal! I wish they would have done awards right after the race. 

My Race Recap and Training Take Aways: 

1. I will from now on read the course description and look closely at the elevation map for every race so that I am better prepared for the terrain. I will be picking up some Tempos for the rocky races in the future.

2. I did GOOD on my nutrition and leg care this time and will keep up the good work!

3. Coconut Water is a miracle!

4. I will add more hill work into my training plan.

Will I run the Asheville Half Marathon at Biltmore again? Maybe. Even though it was a hard, slow course and it was tough on my spirit I had an amazing time!! I am really glad I did this race! 

Now on to the next! 

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