I had a work meeting (tradeshow) scheduled for this weekend in Asheville since January. As the date got closer and I tried to figure out where I was going to run that weekend, I realized there was an inagural 1/2 marathon. I didn’t love my first North Carolina race and I knew this one would be hard, but figured, why not?
I had every intention of running this race as a long run until I got my goals/paces from Coach Jess Thursday night. I was shocked and slightly nervous of her plan…but figured she had a reason and I needed to follow it. The plan was first 3 miles as a warmup, 3-10 in the 7:30s, and then all out for what was left of the race. Lots of hills and turns…not sure it was doable, but again, had to give it a shot.
Rich and I drove up late Thursday afternoon and I had to be at the conference center at 7am Friday for setup. We went for a run, had breakfast, I worked for a few hours and then picked up my race packet.The race expo was pretty uneventful. My shirt swallowed me and they didn’t allow exchanges (spoiler-it’s ugly so I didn’t really care) but the amount of vendors for such a small race was impressive. The nice part about being in a green city? Most vendors were organic/vegan/gluten free type things.
I went back to work for the next session and then we had dinner and it was back to the hotel for an early night in.
I woke up and did the usual, Nuun Energy, toast and almond butter, got dressed and headed out the door for a one mile warm up. The hotel (Aloft) was 2 blocks away from the start/finish so it was perfect. There were around 1500 registered runners for the half and the 10K and I lined up towards the front. It wasn’t really crowded at all.Miles 1-8
My goal for the first 3 miles was to warmup and then settle into a 7:30 pace until mile 10. I immediately knew I started too fast. The first 1.5 miles was all downhill and I was hauling it. Pretty soon into the race the 10K split off and the half marathoners turned towards UNC Asheville’s campus. That turn brought the first hill. Here’s the thing…I didn’t look at the elevation chart. I just knew it would be hard. No plan. Yep, super smart. The first hill was HARD. I decided I was wasting too much energy trying to run up what seemed like a mountain at a fast pace so I walked for a minute (probably less than that but felt like it). I wasn’t the only one to walk, either. If this was a sign of what was to come, this race was going to SUCK.
Well, as with any hill, what goes up, must come down. And we did. I made up for time on the downhills. They were just as steep as the uphills. The race flattened out for miles 3.5-5 and we merged with the 10k runners. They were walking but staying to the right. The downside was that the roads weren’t closed. I was legit running next to an 18 wheeler. Scary! I knew Rich would be at mile 5 with my Nuun so I just stayed focused on that. I saw him, he told me I would turn and head up hill.As usual, I entertained the cops with my expressions, pretty sure it was an, “Oh, F!” when I saw the hill. And, so I climbed. And climbed (walked again and took my first Huma gel). These hills were not rolling, they were steep and sharp. It was really hard to get in a groove and this went on and on for several miles. The neighborhoods were cute, but truthfully, it was hard to enjoy any of it. I was focused on staying on pace, dodging cars (for real had to yell at other runners that cars were coming), and pushing myself where I could.
The course hit an insane downhill (back down from mile 5) and I was hauling it. I knew I would see Rich at mile 9.5 (where I saw him last) and he said I was killing it. I grunted a bit and kept on. The course was pretty lonely and aid stations were small, so I just stayed as focused as possible (took second Huma gel).
Around mile 10, a spectator said it was the last hill. I asked him if he was for real, and he said yes. A little ways down the road, I passed another runner. She informed me that the last mile, including the finish, was all uphill. GREAT.
Mile 11.5 the climb started again. I walked a bit (probably less than 30 seconds but felt like forever). It was hot, I was tired and wanted to be done. But, it didn’t stop. Hill, hill, hill. There were more spectators in this area since we were back downtown, but I was focused and didn’t really notice them.
I could see the turn for the finish and was surprised to see Rich there. He warned me before I could look that it was straight uphill.
More cursing, grunting, and a bad attitude and he told me to suck it up and do it. This was it. So, with the ugliest race form (and photos) of all time, I did.
I literally felt like death when I finished. I could barely walk. I was THRILLED with my time, even though I didn’t hit my number goal and the race wasn’t actually that fun for me. Garmin Results
I apparently ran the course short. You can see where the hills killed me. Post Race
I literally didn’t even have time to go to the post race party/festival (it was a few blocks from the finish) so all I could do was grab a water and go. I finished around 9:40 and needed to shower and leave my hotel no later than 10:15 for work. Yes, I totally pushed it. I had time for a banana, picky bar, nuun, shower, threw my hair up and did my makeup in the car.
I worked the tradeshow and then Rich and I had brunch followed by all the beers the rest of the day. Asheville is SO much fun for beer drinkers (more in my weekly recaps soon).
That night, the results were posted. I was SHOCKED to find out I actually got 3rd in my AG (one of the girls in my AG got top 3 overall so I was bumped up). I wasn’t able to get the award since I missed the finisher party, but I called and they will mail it to me.
It was a great way to end my night. I literally jumped up and down as I waited in line to treat myself to some post race chocolate goodness.
The race had a lot of issues that I apparently (and luckily) missed. I know inaugural races have hiccups and first year race problems can be expected. But, the race director is also in charge of the Cooper River Bridge Run so you would think that a lot of these issues would not have come up, and they still did.
They ran out of water for most of the people running. I met one girl who said they ran out at mile 4 for her. That is not okay. Some runners were also stopped for 7 minutes on the course by a train. I would’ve lost my mind and energy and effort if I had to stop for 7 minutes.
There were tons of comments and questions on the race facebook page and no response from anyone. As an inaugural race, I don’t that is okay either. If you are trying to build a race and a brand, respond to your runners and supporters.
- the city
- having my own cheerleader
- placing in my AG
Not So Much:
- the course (really? That much of an uphill finish?)
- lack of course support (aid stations, cars on course)
- Same medal for 10K and half marathoners (not okay considering how hard you worked to earn that thing)
The medal is actually pretty cool. It spins and has the city of Asheville on it. But like I mentioned above, the 10K runners received the same medal. Not to be rude, but they didn’t do the same race we did. The shirt is also huge and ugly. The facebook page said there were supposed be hats at the finish but I didn’t get one (lots of complaints on facebook about this right now).
I’m really happy with how I ran this race. There was 1000 ft elevation gain on the course, and a huge change in general elevation from Atlanta to Asheville, so, given the circumstances, I think I did well compared to the goals that Jess set. In my 33 half marathons, this is easily the hardest one I’ve done.
So far, I’m two for two on not loving the races I did for North Carolina. This race has inaugural growing pains, but hopefully they can work them out. If you don’t like hills or a challenge, avoid this race at all costs. It seems that Thunder Road or one of the Outer Banks races are a better option for this state, but I’m giving up on North Carolina. I wouldn’t do this race again, but I will happily visit Asheville again!
Have you been to Asheville? In this social media driven world, should races focus more on facebook and twitter? What’s the hilliest race you’ve done?