The Asheville Half Marathon is run entirely on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate; which, if you have never been to the Biltmore needs to translate to hills and lots of them. What this also means is that you’d better start working your glutes for the first 6 miles are nothing but up, up, up.
I went into this race with the attitude of “I just want to survive.” After Disney I had a case of monkey-ebola-SARS-pox (aka: bronchitis) that put me on my rear for almost two weeks. I was even still coughing up “hair balls”. There is also the added bonus that Asheville sits at an elevation of 2000+ feet. For a “flat lander” like myself that’s high. Survival was my only goal.
Jewel and I were incredibly lucky that we snagged one of the last rooms on the Estate itself. This was probably the best decision that we made regarding this trip. Being able to roll out of bed and be at the start line made a HUGE difference. We got to get up at 6, have coffee, relax, eat breakfast and still have plenty of time to get to the start. We didn’t have to fight with a shuttle bus or deal with the 3 mile drive onto the grounds. It meant that our mood was relaxed and playful at the start vice stressed out. Ok, MY mood was playful, Jewel was still focused on the 3:30 sweeper. On the flip side it also meant that we could take our time at the finish line celebration tents (see: I could get a massage) without having to worry about missing the last shuttle bus back off the grounds.
It’s an intimate race with a little over 1900 runners. This meant that the start line nor the course were crammed full of people. It was bigger than a trail race, but much smaller than most road races. I actually liked the size. There were only two spots were you got any kind of log jams and they were at both U turn sections of the course.
I started the race with the 2:30 pacer. I figured after Disney I wanted to at least try to keep that overall time goal. However, between with monkey-ebola-SARS-pox and the elevation I figured I was being exceptionally ambitious. Slowly, though, I wound up pulling away from them. I realized that most likely they would catch up to me, but I wanted to go at my pace up the hills (aka; mountain pony) and not theirs.
As I said earlier the first 6 miles are nothing but up. It was the kind of up that every time you came around the corner you were really really hoping that you were finally at the top. We just kept climbing and climbing. Some of the volunteers started teasing us saying that
we were almost there (we weren’t). Two things went in my favor regarding hills; 1. I have mountain pony gear and 2. We’ve been doing LOTS of squats lately at CrossFit. Do you know what waits for you at the top of 6 miles of pain? This.
At the house you run the U shaped drive way and I saw the the 2:30 pacer was right behind me. Let me tell you, this little asthmatic runner found gears she didn’t know she had on the downhills. Can’t. Let. Her. Catch. Me.
What goes up must come down, which was wonderful. Once you got through the first half of the course the rest of the course was flat. I actually liked the gravel and dirt running we did on parts of the course. It gave my knees and legs a break. Especially after all of the up followed by all of the down. Lots of road runners who spend no time on trails were NOT happy campers. I just chugged along happy as an overheating clam. Yeah, it got HOT. Really hot. I was taking water from the aid stations just to throw on my face. (Note to self: DO NOT think about how hot it will be at the Outer Banks race in a couple of weeks.)
First the up hills. Then the down hills. Then the heat. If that weren’t enough the course designers then threw something awful at us. At mile 10 they threw us down a 2 mile double back after we saw and ran past the finish line. All of us were falling apart mentally. There were several folks who wanted to short the course and we warned them there was a timing mat at the 15k mark. Again, I really wish they would just lollipop us over on the western side of the estate.
I glanced down at Coconut on the way back up the double back. Not only was I still in front of the 2:30 pacer, but holy crap on a cracker I might actually break 2:30. While it wasn’t enough to put me back together after my mental collapse it was enough to light a small fire under my ass for the last quarter mile up hill section towards the finish line.
I flew across the finish at 2:28. Um. Um. What the what??? I was shocked. I still AM shocked. Some how, some way, I managed to cut 4 minutes off of my Disney time. How in the WORLD is that possible???
I stood at the finish line waiting for Jewel to cross. I almost walked away thinking that he was going to be coming across at 3:00 or so. I looked up at the 2:40(ish) mark and I saw his hat. I did a double take. WHA??? I started shouting for him to trot the downhill. Nope, not Jewel. He started waving like the Queen Mother as he was crossing the finish line and saying thank you to the spectators. BWAHAHAHA. Jewel definitely knows how to cross a finish line in style; I’ll give him that much. He cut nearly 20 minutes off of his Smokey time. I’m so unbelievably proud of him.
As I stood, ok ok lay in a heap, in line for the PT to work on my knees (they were on fire) Jewel went back to the room (again the benefits of staying on the grounds) to shower and have his reward chocolate milk. Having the PT and the massage folks there was AWESOME. They were able to work the pain out of my knees (from tight muscles) and I was able to walk nearly pain free back to the room!
After I took a quick shower we decided we were going to do Mount Mitchell again. Except this time we were driving almost all the way to the summit. Reward for a job well done!
I would totally do this race again. We are talking about it for next year. If I had to give them any feedback it would be to give us a lollipop on the west side of the grounds vice doing the double backs. Have I mentioned they were awful? He he.