Sunday, March 10, 2013

Inaugural Asheville Marathon on the Biltmore Estate:::: Recap & Review

inaugural asheville marathon on the biltmore estate, asheville north carolina
my first full marathon
time:  4:58:42 (PR)
overall:  646/1004
age group:  55/96

the race expo was held saturday at the double tree hotel in asheville. 

it was one of the smallest expos i've ever been to. i was hoping that iFitness would be there because i want an attachment for my belt, but no such luck. i was also hoping that i could get a 26.2 sticker but no one had those either. i did purchase this shirt from recover brands:
all their shirts are made from recycled cotton and plastic bottles and they are so soft! i liked the design too, i'm pretty dang proud to show off those hills i ran!

i wasn't really impressed with mizuno's race apparel. the shirts were cute but the tech material was practically see through. no thanks. i did chat with the sierra nevada rep and am now totally excited for their brewery to open this fall. 

i was trying to figure out where to buy a spectator ticket [spectators had to purchase a ticket to watch the race since it was on the private estate, $32] for brad when i saw a woman with tickets. i walked up to her and asked for a spectator ticket. the tickets she had were actually for runners and we needed them to get onto the estate. it was total dumb luck that i stopped to ask her! i'm not sure why the weren't with our bibs or why we weren't directed to get a ticket from her. 

other cool things at the expo::
  • balega designed a special sock for the race and the proceeds went to the race charity [leukemia and lymphoma society]
  • the biltmore estate put out two special edition wines for the event. 

.:packet pick up:.
packet pick up was a bit unorganized. i got my bib okay but then everything got confusing. there was a wristband stapled to our bib and we were told we had to have this on to get onto the west side of the estate during the race. i thought this was super weird. if we have a bib on, we're obviously racing, so why do we need a bracelet? [side note: no one ever checked this bracelet so i'm still unsure of the point]. 

after i got my bib i walked over to get my shirt. i was told that they were out of the size i registered for. this is one of my racing pet peeves. if you're going to give away shirts first come, first serve, announce it before hand. when i pre-register for a shirt, i expect to be guaranteed the size i chose. i know this might sound silly, but this was my first marathon and i paid good money to race it. i wanted the shirt to prove it and i wanted said shirt to fit. [later the volunteer got my attention and let me know that they'd found some more shirts so i actually did get a shirt that fit.]

when i went back to get the correct size shirt i saw another volunteer giving out gloves [i hadn't been offered any]. i went and asked for them. i thought they were a wonderful idea and a great thing to offer considering the weather forecast for race day, but i'm not sure why they weren't being given out to us all. 
this is the shirt. i was really impressed with all the graphics on the website so i thought the shirt would be really cool. while i really like the graphics, i was bummed by the lack of color and once again, the mizuno shirt is practically see through. even in the picture above you can see the sponsors on the back of the shirt. 

.:race morning:.
i got up around 430am and started getting ready. i had some natural jif on a slice of ezekiel toast. i coated myself in body glide and got dressed. 
i was having a worse time that usual figuring out what to wear! i wasn't sure if it was going to be snowing or raining so i had to prepare for everything! here's what i ended up choosing:
brad and i left the house around 545a and got down to the biltmore at 6ish. the line was backed up out of the gate. i took a detour and got us inside the gate a little quicker, but once we got in the line it traffic was creeping! i immediately start freaking out because i knew i'd be cutting it close to get to the start line on time. after about 15 minutes traffic started moving more quickly and apparently it was because they quit checking tickets [so much for the $32 spectator ticket we purchased]. 

after that traffic moved pretty rapidly and we made it to the parking lot. i took the shuttle to the start line and brad stayed in the car to try to get a little sleep. when i arrived at the start line i joined the restroom line. 

i cannot even express to you all how cold it was!! my fingers and toes were numb within a matter of minutes (with gloves on!). when i exited the restrooms around 655a i knew the race had to have been delayed. no one was even heading to the start line. i kept my jacket on and tried to get close to a furnace. start time was delayed to 715a. i waited until the very last minute and ran over to drop off my jacket and bag at the bag check. it was all i could do to get my playlist up on my phone [i had a second when i considered pitching it across the field because i couldn't get it to work and my fingers were so numb!]. 

.:the race:.
i just tried to tell myself that i would warm up when i started running. the first two miles i couldn't think about anything but how cold i was! i even stopped around mile two to check my shoe. i felt like i had a rock stuck in the tread of my shoes or something. thankfully it went away after about a mile. 

as you can see, the first  part of the race was pretty hilly. i didn't want to walk at mile 2 of a full marathon, but you know what, sometimes you've gotta do what's smart for you, and this was smart for me. 

i struggled to find my stride during this race. it took me about 2 miles for my body to warm up, but it took me FOREVER to feel like i was warmed up and ready to run if that makes sense. i didn't feel warmed up and ready to go until about mile 7 or 8. 

at the aid stations the water cups had frozen over on the top so you had to bust through the layer of ice to get to the water. my gu's had the consistency of peanut butter! all the aid stations were stocked like crazy. i saw Gu gels, chomps, roctane, brew, water, pretzels, coke, and cookies. it was great!

i was really excited to get to mile 10 because i knew i'd see brad and that it would help me. but i got to the cheer stop and i couldn't find him. i'm not going to lie, i had a small mental breakdown at that point. i'm not all co-dependent or anything, but i had it in my head for 10 miles that i would see him. at mile 10 we crossed a bridge over to the west side of the estate [not open to the public]. i tried to tell myself to enjoy it because i had never seen this side. i tried to enjoy the sights and sounds, but part of me was bummed because i knew we wouldn't cross back over to the spectator area until mile 20.  that was my first mental hurdle. 

around mile 12.5 we started down a hill and it was a crappy hill. it seemed like a dried out creek bed and it was full of loose rock. i couldn't look up at all because i was too busy watching where my feet were landing. so many people were biting the dust. to make it even better, it was an out and back so you couldn't pass. yuck. this was one of my slowest miles.

miles 15 and 16 weren't bad at all. i felt like i had found my stride and i was cruising along. mile 17 sucked a little because you entered a loop that you had to run twice. as i entered the loop i could see people who were on their second loop coming up a very steep hill, so i knew i had that to look forward to. luckily the loop was pretty nice. other than 'dam hill' which was aptly named. i was so happy to finish that second loop and head back toward the east side of the estate.

at mile 21 we crossed back over and i finally saw brad. i was so excited, and he said only 5 more miles! boy did that seem like a lot!! i start to it and then i heard someone holler my name. it was krissie! she asked how i was doing and i told her that i was trying not to die! :)

this was one of the hardest parts of the race for me. an out and back at mile 21. when i could see the finish line but i had to run away from it. right along the river = crazy wind. and in case you were wondering, it had not warmed up. so i felt like this was really a test of my mental and physical health. i just keep telling myself that i can do hard things. and i prayed. A LOT.  

once i turned around i was pumped. i knew i could do it. but dang it was cold! also i almost got hit by a car around mile 24 or so. the estate was open at this point so there was a little bit of traffic. the volunteers were directing it and as i was approaching they were letting some cars by. the volunteer was trying to let one too many cars by and told me to 'hold on don't get hit by a car.' i don't think that dude understood. if i stopped i was going to be done! so i kind of skimmed the car and went on. 

i saw brad again around mile 25 and he even ran with me for a bit. i loved it and he did a great job of encouraging me. it meant the world to me. he broke off as we entered antler village and told me he'd see me at the finish that i just had one little loop left. that last loop sucked! i could see the finish line but i had to run all around to get to it! 

there was an icy paved hill during this time and everyone was walking it, and i reluctantly did the same. i was afraid to stop but i was more afraid to slip. i knew i wouldn't have a quick enough reaction to catch myself! 

after that we looped around and ran downhill the the finish. i surprised myself that i had a kick left! i could see the clock and i wanted to beat 5:00:00. i knew i hadn't started right when the gun went off but i wasn't chancing a repeat of the hot chocolate 10K

i can't even describe how i felt when i crossed the finish line! elated. proud. blessed. thankful. excited. cold. tired. grateful. 

i got my medal and a finisher's blanket and then i saw my friend linsday and some of the other lulu girls. i tried to talk but i couldn't even put a complete sentence together! i think i was a little delirious. she snapped this pic of me:

i made it to the beer tent for my free sierra nevada, then wanted to go home. i honestly couldn't think straight and all i could think of was getting warm. i stretched a little while waiting on the shuttle and then again when i got home. normally i'd take an ice bath after this kind of mileage, but that was just not happening. i knew i'd hyperventilate. 

so i took a hot bath with epsom salts and dressed in some warm comfy clothes. 

here are the splits from my garmin:
definitely not the prettiest chart i've ever seen. i'm encouraged by several things on in though, mile 10, mile 19, and mile 22. and i'm proud that i had a little kick left in me at the end. 

and lastly, i have to include this... the volunteers made this race. i was blown away. the only reason i was out there in that crazy weather was because i had trained for this race for 18 weeks. they were out there to support and encourage us and it was totally selfless. they were AMAZING. so if you were out there cheering, working those aid stations, wrapping us in blankets after the race, handing out medals.... THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART. you all rock. 


  1. congrats on finishing your first marathon!!! I cannot imagine trying to race in those temps, and sorry you had to wait so long to see Brad.

    i think the most important question now is if you'll run another one or if you satisfied the marathon bug for now?

  2. Yay! Way to go on your first marathon & the strong finish! Some day I hope to join your ranks!

    I have the same pet peeve on the race shirts!

    I have never heard of spectators having to pay to spectate - I don't think I like that either.

    Congrats again!

  3. Great job girl! So impressed with your first marathon!
    I hope at some point I will make it to the marathon status!

  4. yay!!! Congrats for finishing your first marathon!!! You are a marathoner!!!

    And I would have been pissy about the shirt to! Pet peeve! Spend some $$ on the shirts people!

  5. Awesome job Courtney!!!!!! You should be so damn proud of yourself!

  6. You did amazing! I love that gray shirt with the hills on it. I'm thinking you should come to Memphis and run St Jude with me in December ;)

  7. Brrr! It seems the colder it is the longer they make us wait;) I am so proud of you Courtney! Way to push through and reach the finish, so awesome!!

  8. I'll say congrats but that's certainly not enough! You did so great for your first race in those conditions.

    Sounds like the race directors need to work some things out though. You guys paid a lot of money and had to go through too much hassle. A see thru shirt is a bust. What the heck! :)

  9. So, so proud of you! I cant imageine running 26.2 in that weather! You are tough! Isnt it amazing how emotional the whole experience is? I had tears in my eyes reading this post, and I bawled like a baby when I crossed the finish line of my marathon last November. Way to go!!!!

  10. Congratulations Courtney! I always enjoy your race recaps and I knew this would be a good one. I felt like I was right there running with you. Hopefully the race directors will work out some of the kinks you mentioned and this will be an even better event next year! I'm so proud of you with your sub-5:00 finish. That's impressive!

  11. Congrats girl!! You did it! And even more amazing because of the weather! You're my inspiration girl! This was such a great recap too. I loved reading. I felt all your aches, heartaches, and you joy! You did it!!

  12. That is some serious hills in there! Great job, I love all your great pictures and this repcap was so run to read. Glad you didn't get hit by a car. Bitmore Estate sounds like a cool place, sounds English.

  13. I'm getting ready to run my first full in May. I love love love your race report!!! Thanks for sharing!

  14. Sounds like they had some first year kinks, that is always a pain! We just took a race back and goodness was it tricky but in the end hopefully everyone is happy as can be. Hopefully this will help them prepare better for next year and bummer you paid for things that didnt seem to matter in the end. Great job, you are so inspiring!

  15. I love this post!! You look so happy.

    It makes a huge difference when you see the people you love throughout the race. Especially at the end.