Friday, March 08, 2013

2013 Asheville Marathon Race Report

The Marylin Monroe Effect:
I know my race report is a bit late but I needed some down time after the race and since we extended our stay in Asheville, I simply felt nice and lazy about writing up my report. So, the inaugural Asheville Marathon. There was a lot of good, a lot of bad, and a lot of in between. Since this will likely be a long-winded report, I'll jump right into it.

My wife and I used to live near Asheville and would make regular trips to the Biltmore Estate. I'm talking twice a month or more. We loved visiting there. We've seen the estate transform over the years and do our best to go back as often as we can. We've taken the kids there twice now and they both enjoy it. This time around, I signed up for the marathon just because I wanted to see the other side of the estate where the public usually isn't allowed and I've never been. Yvonne felt the same way even though she's never gone over a half marathon before. So while she expected to not finish I was afraid of missing the cut-offs myself (six and a half hour time limit). Despite this, we opted for a nice, long weekend without the kids.

Turns out, our kids and Au Pair came with us. No, it wasn't what we planned but we figured it would be nice for everyone to just stick together as a family unit. Turns out it worked out for the best. Oh, and our Au Pair was actually my father and he called himself the Male Nanny. Anyway, travel day arrived and William spiked a fever. He puked before lunch. And he got to make a trip to the urgent care upon arriving in Asheville. For nearly the entire trip his fever would fluctuate but not really go away. We put him on a round of meds and it helped some but didn't really kick it like it usually does. Which means it was probably viral. Thankfully he appears to be back to normal now.

So with a sick kid, a healthy kid, and an old man, Yvonne and I trooped around the estate and saw what we could manage. We enjoyed the hotel's pool and hot tub and ate breakfast there nearly every day. We took Elizabeth on a horseback ride as an early birthday present, we got to see snow, and we tried to squueze in as much stuff as we could. Maybe too much.

The expo for the race was okay. Not great, not horrible, but okay. Based on other race expos, I expected to see more vendors but it was smaller than some half marathons that I've been to. It was very tight in the expo with lots of people and not a lot of room. I did like that the expo was open pretty much all day. They had a pre-race dinner but we didn't go. There weren't that many freebies to be had and you didn't get much in your swag bag from the race. Really all you got was a shirt and a Sierra Nevada pint glass.

Since I booked the hotel directly instead of through the race website, I had to shell out an extra ten dollars to ride the shuttle from the hotel to the race start. Ouch. Not to mention that they sold spectator tickets for way more than you'd expect to pay and it didn't even give you access to the house later that day. I think this, the price gouging, would be my biggest gripe of all. You had to pay $125 to register for the race and all you got was a shirt, a glass, and a day pass to the estate. For $80 I can register for a 50k and get a shirt and a sweatshirt. And paying for a shuttle? Yes, it was convenient, but $10 seems way too much, especially since I only rode it one way. I'd really like to see them add a season pass, a sweatshirt or jacket, a pair of socks, a bottle of wine, or even a Biltmore book of your choosing. Something, anything to make it feel like a better deal for your money.

Since we're talking about the bad things about the race, how about we dive into the weather. Clearly this was outside of the race official's control. It's something every runner needs to deal with unless you're running an indoor marathon. And really, the temperatures weren't that bad. I think it was 25 degrees at race start and warmed to maybe 30 or 35 by the end. But the wind, it was killer. Of the 1,000 people to start, nearly 50 dropped and I'd venture a guess that nearly 90% of those that dropped did so because of the wind chill. I mean, I warm up pretty good after a few miles but when I look at my race photos, you can't even tell it's me. The only exposed skin is my eyes. I looked like a damn ninja running in a kilt. I unzipped my wind breaker halfway all of two times, each lasting about 30 seconds. I couldn't tell you how many miles I ran with my neck gaiter up around my nose just so I could breathe. Twice I was stopped dead in my tracks by a strong wind gust. So yeah, it was freaking cold out.

Then we have the route. Which was good and bad. The worst part of the route was the gravel. I wore my Altra Superiors but figured I'd be on fire roads and wouldn't need any rock plates. Turns out I was wrong. Many of the sections were nicely runnable with heavy vehicle traffic that packed the road down. But many sections were loose rocks that were large and pointy enough to feel like Jack the Ripper was going to town on your soles. Yes, they had control over where the race went on the estate but I think it was worth the pain. It was no worse than running on the DRHT and the views were way better. I mean, how often do you get to run past the front door of the Biltmore? Not often. Well worth it. Plus on the other side of the river you got to see a few abandoned houses that you never knew existed. And while I did nearly cut three miles off the course by almost making a wrong turn, the course was well marked. Plenty of signs out and plenty of course marshals to keep you headed in the right direction.

Moving into the aid stations, we again have a mixed bag. The worst part of the aid stations was the frozen water. Beyond that, everything was great. They had water, GU, GU Brew, Coke, and other snacks. And everyone that I saw at aid stations was happy, called me by name, and cheered for me. I don't think I saw a single volunteer that was in a bad  mood, including the course marshals that were clearly colder than me. The aid station volunteers also did their best to keep the area clean, which was a pretty tall order considering the amount of trash my fellow runners left behind. Which was really a shame. I mean, I can see losing a top to a gel pack or a tissue or a even a gel pack that slips out of your pocket. But it was abundantly clear that many runners simply didn't give a shit and dumped their trash where they felt like it. Shameful.

The views along the course were great. Not only did we get to run the entire approach road and run past the house, we also ran past the gardens, around several horse and cow pastures, and the French Broad River. There was always something to look at, even though some sections we just looked to see where the rocks were. The dam and vineyards were neat and they even had signs out along the course where you could get a picture of the house or something interesting.

The start of the race started 15 minutes late which I wasn't too surprised by. With the weather, the long drive to the start, and this being the first year, I expected things to start slow. At the finish, the beer tent was clearly marked but the food couldn't be found. In fact, a lot of stuff at the start/finish area wasn't well marked. But it was small enough you should have been able to find what was needed. This was also the first race I've seen runners huddled around the exhaust of a generator just to stay warm. Yep, I told you it was cold.

Overall, it was a nice race. A bit expensive compared to others but the views were great. The weather was cold but expected in the mountains in early March. The finisher's medal was actually wood and the blanket was certainly worthwhile since it was, you guessed it, cold. I think if they dropped the price or increased the free swag, it would be a race to consider in the future. But for now, I think the travel expenses and cost of the race make it difficult to justify going next year.

I took over 100 photos along the course but I'll just post a few of them.

The Approach Road:

Selfies with the house:

The bridge from Last of the Mohicans:

Some of the fire roads on the west side of the estate:

* Edited - Forgot to include this photo of our race swag. The blanket and wooden medallion were for finishers. Best part of all this was the pint glass:

Did I mention it was cold? Temps at the start were 25F. By the finish it warmed to about 30F to 35F. Winds were high with sustained speeds of 25 mph and gusts of 40 mph. There was snow periodically but nothing accumulated. We did see the sun a few times.

Fluids and Fuel:
Pre-run fuel was a bagel with cream cheese. During the run I had a bottle of double-strength Hammer Perpeteum, five bottles of Hammer Fizz, one bottle of plain water, and two bottles of Coke. I also had at least three Hammer Gels, maybe four. Recovery was Hammer Recoverite and a single with cheese, fries, Coke, and Frosty from Wendy's.

Aches and Pains:
The soles of my feet hurt once we got onto the really large gravel. Outside of that, my quads were killing me on some of the hills but nothing too major. I felt well enough to go for a 4 mile run the day after without too many ill effects.

I wore my Altra Superiors with Smartwool socks (although I forgot my running socks). I wore T-Star Running shorts, pants, and my Sport Kilt. I wore my thermal shirt, a long sleeve shirt, and my wind breaker. I wore a ball cap, a winter hat, and my neck gaiter. I wore gloves with hand warmers but ditched the hand warmers after about 5 miles. I took along two Amphipod bottles and my GoPro camera.

Start - 1:30 (to cross the Start line)
Mile 1 - 11:57 (paved and mostly flat)
Mile 2 - 13:35 (paved and uphill)
Mile 3 - 10:35 (paved and mostly downhill)
Mile 4 - 13:01 (paved and uphill, running on the Approach Road)
Mile 5 - 13:42 (paved and uphill, started running through the parking lots)
Mile 6 - 13:38 (paved and mostly flat, going past the house)
Mile 7 - 14:06 (paved and mostly downhill, used the bathroom here)
Mile 8 - 10:40 (paved and downhill)
Mile 9 - 12:30 (paved and flat, leading into gravel)
Mile 10 -12:03 (gravel and flat)
Mile 11 - 10:09 (gravel and flat)
Mile 12 - 18:31 (gravel and leading into hills, I seriously think this mile marker was in the wrong spot, time seems way off)
Mile 13 - 11:49 (rough gravel and hilly)
Mile 14 - 13:32 (rough gravel and hilly)
Mile 15 - 14:09 (gravel and hilly)
Mile 16 - 13:15 (gravel and hilly)
Mile 17 - 14:04 (gravel and hilly)
Mile 18 - 14:05 (gravel and hilly)
Mile 19 - 14:50 (gravel and hilly)
Mile 20 - 13:13 (gravel and hilly)
Mile 21 - 13:05 (paved and flat)
Mile 22 - 14:21 (gravel and flat)
Mile 23 - 15:11 (gravel and flat)
Mile 24 - 14:45 (paved and flat)
Mile 25 - 15:40 (paved and flat)
Mile 26 - 15:36 (paved and gravel and flat)
Finish -  5:52:06


Kim said...

Gasp! I love that bridge shot from "Last of the Mohicans"!!!

Good report. I need to go visit the Biltmore some time.

Lauren said...

Congrats on another finish! Running in cold wind is terribly difficult for me. About the trash . . . I just don't understand it. I see trash left behind on trail races too. They have trashcans at every aid station -- so it makes no sense! Congrats again.