On Saturday I raced one of the toughest half marathon courses I've ever done. I knew this race was going to be hilly when I signed up given that Asheville is basically in the Smokey Mountains, near the Blue Ridge Parkway and Appalachian Trail. BUT, I got a little bit more than I had bargained for.
The city itself sits at 2,134 ft and I swear coming from sea level I could tell a difference in the "thin-ness" of the air! The night before the race I took a quick look at the elevation profile of the course and was a little nervous to see that it had about 500 more feet of elevation gain than the Mistletoe Half Marathon, which is probably the last hilly half marathon that I've run (other than trail races):
|Elevation Profile of the 2014 Asheville Half Marathon|
Ok, so Saturday morning we were driving to the race start and talking about competition. Just as I was telling Kurt that the website wouldn't have boasted "world class competition" and a $3000+ prize purse if there weren't going to be fast people there, Susan Jerotich of Kenya ran by with some of her fellow countrymen. They looked ... really fast.
|Susan Jerotich of Kenya|
The first crazy hill hit at around mile 2. It started going up and it just didn't stop. And, it was steep. I didn't dare look at my watch to see how slow I was running b/c it felt like I could have been going faster had I been crawling. Finally, after a bunch of switchbacks, there was nice long downhill. Well, actually it wasn't that nice because when you "run the downhills" they are actually tiring!
Miles 4-5.5 were relatively flat and I was hoping to gain some time here. However I could tell my legs had taken a beating from that initial climb/downhill because they weren't springing back to full force. In my mind I should have been running around 6:45 pace on that flat section, but in reality was actually running around 7:05 pace. I didn't want to force myself to go faster b/c I knew there were more hard hills coming up.
Enter miles 5.5-7. More crazy switchbacks into thinner air. Around mile 8 or 9 there was a very long sustained climb. I had a mile that clocked in at 7:45 pace. I wasn't happy about this b/c it was a full minute off my desired goal pace. But at that moment in time, it was just about putting one foot in front of the other and continuing to move forward (and upward). I reached the summit of that hill and decided to tear down the backside of the hill, clocking the next mile in 6:27.
|Hurting big time!|
My total time was 1:34:25 (7:13/mile). Not close to my PR (1:25:55) or to the goal pace I had in my head (6:45/mi), but still somewhat decent considering the difficulty of the course. It was certainly a challenge and I was very happy to complete it! I walked back to mile 11 where I met Kurt & ran with him to the finish. It was amazing to see so many people tackling this course and refusing to give up! Congrats to all finishers on a job well done!
Kurt & I spent the rest of the day indulging in the offerings of Asheville. Yes, we basically ate and drank our way through the city. We found some pretty cool micro breweries and even a place called The Chocolate Lounge where all they serve are desserts made out of chocolate. YUM! We didn't make it to the Biltmore, but hey I guess that gives us a good reason to come back next year and run this race again! To quote the website, "If you're a runner, this is one to run!"
|Glad to be done!|