My Asheville Marathon Results ~ Spoiler Alert

We are not going to talk about my curious absence from blogging this past month.  I just haven’t had enough time on my hands.  There is a ton to recap about each of the individual races I paced last weekend in Asheville, but I just don’t have the time right now to do a recap justice.  I guess we’ll settle for snippets, and results…..

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Btw…I am still trying to gather pictures from the event, which I have to search for and grab/copy before my long recap posts.  But, isn’t this an awesome picture of the Biltmore Estate from a cool spot on the race course?

I had an awesome weekend in Asheville participating in the Backyard to Vineyard Challenge.  What is that, you ask?  Well, this year the race doubled down, and held the events on two consecutive days.  The Half Marathon on Saturday, and the Full Marathon on Sunday.  I ran both!  I paced both!

This weekend was all about having fun, and running my heart out.  Giving back to my fellow runners by pacing them to a specific time goal.  For the Half, I paced the 2:00:00 finish group.  A very popular group, containing all of those runners out there trying to get the sub 2.  The weather was perfect, maybe just a tad on the warm side, but me and my pacing partner Louis brought those runners in at 1:59:23.  Just under the mark!

I then refueled, and spent five hours working an expo table for the marathon the following day.  All the while chatting up marathon runners, taking gulps of Gatorade along the way.  Yes, I had a chair, which I requested!  After having run the Half, and having another 26.2 miles the following day, I needed to be off my feet.

Marathon Sunday came so very quickly.  Back at it, I felt good.  I was pacing the 4:00:00 group for the marathon, and the weather?  Not so good.  It started raining about 20 minutes before the race began, and would rain intermittently for the entire race.  I don’t often run in the rain so it was an interesting twist.  Pace the hills for 26.2 miles, in the rain, and mud.  All after having run a Half the day before.  I felt good though, and knew I could manage it.  About 10 miles into the race, my pacing partner Andrea fell off the pace.  Now alone on dirt and rock trails, I had to dig in.  Climbing, climbing, the often washed over mile 11-12 was grueling.  I maintained pace somehow without a helper, and in the quiet.  Runners around me, but no one with me.  I carried on…..

Mile 12 is when she appeared.  A 23 year old medical student from Iowa.  Payton was her name, and she was my angel.  She sidled up to my left side, and said, “I want to break 4:00:00 today, so I am going to run with you to the end!”  I desparately needed the company, so welcomed her with open arms.  We traversed the difficult trails on the backside of the Biltmore Estate through the vineyards, past historic barns, up and down, through the rain, the mud and muck.  Payton kept me honest.  We both almost fell a few times due to slick muddy spots, but I kept on pace.  On pace!  13, 14, 15, the miles we left behind….

We stayed together up to mile 23 when she began to fade just a bit.  I willed her to keep up, She just couldn’t.  She silently started lagging further and further behind me.  I had to keep going however.  I had a schedule to keep.  I had a date with the finish line and would carry whoever I could to cross with me or in front of me.  The rain ebbed and flowed, but my shoes kept moving forward.  3:59:32 was my magic number on the day.  Made it perfectly to the end, urging runners to beat the clock.  It was a magically wet marathon, one I will remember forever.  I absolutely loved it.  Both days!

39.3 miles, two epic days at the Biltmore.  Two spot on pacing days, to boot.  One day sunny, one day rainy.  Perfect!  More details and pictures to come, including why I love pacing, and more on Payton.  :). Happy running!

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Asheville Marathon Maniac & Fanatic Discount

The world is full of all sorts of challenges.  Inequality, extreme weather and climate change, economic collapse, oil and water shortages, hunger, among many, many others.  Over the last 50 years the human population has nearly tripled, and with that come epic challenges that we all must face as inhabitants of this beautiful planet.  These challenges though cannot be overcome in a day, or two for the matter.  It will take years and years of hard work.  We may never see full solutions to these challenges.  Ever.

Wait…. this post is meant to be light.  It’s about challenges.  So let me change the focus of our challenges to the good kind.  Challenges we look forward to, challenges we take on with gusto.  Challenges we set out to conquer!

I am a runner.   My main goal today is to let you know about a new challenge for the running community. As the population grows, naturally the runner population grows.  We are an ever growing and ever changing group.  We are challenge seekers, and often find ourselves setting higher and higher standards for ourselves.  We can, we will.  Never give up.  A few mantras I’ve heard lately.

In working with the running community and getting to know so many of you through running races and social media, my love for our sport has grown and grown.  When I run a great race, I want to tell everyone about it.  It’s really the reason I started blogging about my running in the first place.  So, let me share with you some news about the Asheville Marathon & Half at Biltmore Estate today.

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This race has grown and grown in popularity in the last few years.  Why?  Location, swag, race course, yes, all of those.  An amazing event which has sold out each year.  For 2016, the races will be held on separate days.  An exciting weekend event.  The Half Marathon on March 12th.  The Full Marathon on March 13th.  But wait!  (Herein lies the challenge I’ve eluded to) Run both!  The Backyard to Vineyard Challenge.  Run both races on back to back days.

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IDaph Events, which puts on this fantastic event (among others), recognizes the need to reward runners of all kinds.  They welcome the first time Half Marathoner, they welcome the very seasoned Marathoner.  They don’t discriminate.  This year they are recognizing those of us who love a challenge.  The Asheville Marathon & Half is now offering special discounts to Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics who may just want to descend on Asheville and take on a new and exciting challenge.

Here are is details….  and discounts…

If you want to run just the Half, save $10 by using code “2016AVLHALFMARATHONMANIAC”

Want to run the Full?  Save $20 using code “2016AVLMARATHONMANIAC”

Run both races?  Take on the Challenge and save $30 using code “2016MANIACCHALLENGE”

I think it’s very cool when a race recognizes the running maniac/fanatic in each of us.  These two groups consist of approximately 24,000 runners worldwide, and growing.  So?  What are you waiting for?  Jump on the bandwagon and score some awesome discounts to run at the Biltmore Estate next year!  They are celebrating us runners, so let’s take them up on it!

Check out all of the details on the race here:  https://www.ashevillemarathon.com

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New Promo for @AvlMarathon

Are you already signed up, or considering running the Asheville Half, Marathon or both next Spring?  On March 12th and 13th, Asheville, NC, and the Biltmore Estate are welcoming runners for a weekend of running.  The past three years the Half and Full Marathons were run at the same time on the same day.  In 2016, the Half is on Saturday, and the Full is on Sunday.  Running both means you will be running what they’ve coined the Backyard to Vineyard Challenge!  This level of challenge will bring in all sorts of running fans for an amazing weekend in one of the most beautiful and hip towns in all of North Carolina.

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Right now, through September 15th, they are offering a free “In Training Tee shirt” for those that sign up with a new registration.  The picture above shows you where to go to register, and please let them know I sent you!  In the referral box at checkout use “INVITEDBYPAULAMA”. In the discount code box enter code “2016EARLYBIRDTEE” and the good folks in Asheville will send you an awesome shirt to train in.

Come run with me in Asheville next year!  I’ve run the Half and Full at this amazing destination race, and let me tell you, these folks do races right!  Since the regular cost of the training shirt is $25, for every person that signs up between now and September 15th, I will make a personal donation in the same amount to my NYC Marathon charity, the James Blake Foundation.

Run a great race, or two!  Get a free shirt, and I donate to charity.  How awesome is that?

Ahhhhh…. To run at the Biltmore

The clock is ticking.  It’s getting closer and closer to the third annual Asheville Marathon & Half at the Biltmore Estate.

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The race sold out early again this year and for good reason.  The Biltmore is an absolutely exquisite property, and running on the grounds there is phenomenal.  Beautifully manicured gardens, large old trees, winding paths and roads, wildlife, vineyard, old barns.  What’s not to love?

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The perfect run surrounded by endless views of the mountains.

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You can’t put a price tag on running at a place like the Biltmore Estate.

Just try not to love it!

33 days to go!

Sell Out Alert!! Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate

Quietly whispered….

…..and then it soaked in…..

Wow!  The Asheville Marathon & Half at Biltmore Estate set to run on March 15, 2015 is heading toward a record early sell-out!  It was announced yesterday that with an overall cap of 1,300 runners, there were less than 200 spots remaining.  I guess word is spreading far and wide about this truly unique boutique-style race.

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I ran the inaugural event back in 2013.  It is truly a majestic and beautiful bucket list event.  Well organized, with a great expo and plenty of runner perks, this is a race you don’t want to miss!  I mean, who wouldn’t want to run here?

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Check out the race website for current pricing, but act quickly.  http://ashevillemarathon.com

Follow the race on Twitter:  @AvlMarathon

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13 in 2013 complete!

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Way back at the beginning of the year, I wasn’t sure I would be able to put together a racing season like I just completed.  I was coming off a few injuries, including a broken foot from a car accident back in March of 2012, and pretty severe PF.  Last year at this time I took a full month off from running after the Skinny Turkey Half Marathon last Thanksgiving Day.  I was tired, broken down, and desperately wanted to heal, and feel good again.  This was the best thing I could have done for myself.  After I began to slowly train again after Christmas, I felt renewed.  I wasn’t sure what the new year would bring, but I was cautiously optimistic.

Last January, after completing many successful short runs, I decided it was time to set some goals.  My body was starting to respond well to training, so I thought, what the hell, lets’s set some lofty goals.  What came to mind was this.  My favorite number is 13.  I was born on the 13th, and so was one of my sons.  It just turned 2013.  Why not try to complete 13 Half and Full Marathons combined throughout the course of 2013?  I felt good about this goal, I felt it was doable, lofty, yet not over the top.  So there it all began, and my planning was about to begin.

My goal would kick off with the Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate, a race I had signed up for back in the Fall of 2012.  I also had an entry for the Blue Ridge Marathon already booked at that time, so I just needed to fill in the blanks to get me to the magical number thirteen.

Planning for race seasons is so much fun.  I wanted to try some new races this year, but also run some tried and true races from previous years to see if I could better my times.  The following list is my races that got me to my goal this year, and even beyond!

March 3- Asheville Marathon 4:08:47

March 17- Tobacco Road Half Marathon 1:41:10

April 14- RunRaleigh Half Marathon 1:40:21

April 20- Blue Ridge Marathon 4:04:59

May 19- NCRC Invitational Half Marathon 1:45:50

June 1- Lookout Capital Half Marathon 1:46:22

August 8- The 35th Tromptown Run Half Marathon 1:44:43

September 21- Johnson Lexus Half Marathon 1:43:43

September 27- Asheville Citizen Times City Marathon 3:45:12

October 6- RunRaleigh Fall Half Marathon 1:42:09

October 20- Bull City Race Fest Half 1:44:05

October 27- Hallowed Half Marathon 1:39:00

November 3- Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon 3:32:24

My goal was completed here at my hometown marathon!  13 in 2013!  And a new marathon PR to cap it off.  I did it!  But just for good measure, I decided to add another race to the mix, in case.  So, 14 days later, I completed another marathon, and joining an exclusive club along the way.

November 17- Rock n Roll Las Vegas Marathon 3:41:41

Just an amazing year.  I completed 9 Halves, and 5 Full marathons on my way to smashing my 2013 goal.  All I can say, is how in the world can I top that in 2014?  Time will tell.  Back to the drawing board, the planning stages.  Here’s hoping that 2014 will be injury free and fun as hell.

What are you planning for your 2014 running calendar?

Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon – Race Recap

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What at can I say about my first attempt at this hometown race?  So much to say, so many thoughts, so much fun to remember.  I gave myself a couple of days to digest this experience before recapping so that it would all sink in.  Let me just say that first and foremost, it was just an incredible day!  Let me start from the beginning…..

Several months ago, when I started mapping out my year, I put this race on the “maybe” list.  As we all know, unless we shell out a lot of money at the first part of the year, a racing schedule typically ebbs and flows, and options are weighed throughout the course of the year.  As my plan was coming together for the Fall, I ended up signing up for the Asheville City Marathon.  It was a deal I couldn’t pass up on, because on National Running Day back in June, for one day only, the race was 50% off.  At that point, I just wasn’t sure if I could, or should, run another marathon in the Fall.  So, I listed this race on my finalized list, even though I hadn’t entered it yet.  I was offered an entry from a friend of mine, so this was an easy decision.  Done!  Signed up for my local marathon.  Cost?  $0.  Hard to beat that.  No overnight stay in a hotel, and a quick 20 mile drive to the start.

Jumping ahead a bit (we won’t talk about the minute details).  I will start with the Expo.

I planned on helping a friend of mine, if I didn’t have to work, at the Expo, which was located at the McKimmon Center on the campus of NC State.  As it turns out, I had Friday off from work so I volunteered to help.

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I drove up to the Expo on Friday, and helped out at the Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate booth from 4-7pm.  It was so much fun talking to runners about this event that I ran earlier this year.  I had to pick up my packet for the race anyway, so it made perfect sense to lend a hand.  If you are looking for an absolutely beautiful marathon to do in early 2014, think about this race.  It is truly a one-of-a-kind, bucket list race.  The booth was so well put together, very inviting and professional.  Kudos to Daphne, the Race Director!   We had a great time talking shop, and all things running, Biltmore Estate, and Asheville with runners from all over that evening.  Here is a shot of Daphne and the booth.

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I had to work on Saturday, so I spent most of the day on my feet.  Not really what I wanted to be doing, but because the City of Oaks is local, I could actually work, and not take vacation time during a marathon weekend.  Bonus to running local!  Work ended at 4pm, but instead of spending the rest of the evening on the couch with my feet up, I ended up being out until 10pm.  My eldest son had a soccer playoff game, which I had to attend and support.  Then a late carb loading dinner of pasta and garlic bread.  Once home, I did finally put my feet up for some much needed relaxation.  That is, of course, after getting my race morning gear ready, and the Garmin charging.  I got to bed around 11:30, and with Daylight Savings Time, got an extra hour of sleep, even though it didn’t feel like it when the alarm when off at 3:50am.

Race morning was here.  It was a dark, chilly morning, but very promising from a marathon standpoint.  The temperature was about 48 degrees when I got up, and was supposed to be around 50 degrees and sunny at the 7am start time.  I had my coffee, and stretched, and loosened up.  The morning went off without a hitch.  I was parking my car right at 6am, an hour before the start.  Some more stretching, and trying to stay warm, I finally made the half mile walk to the starting area at NC State.  I didn’t have to use the bag check, and it was just warm enough that I was only shivering for a short while before the start.

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The race starts on Hillsborough St., right in front of the Bell Tower.  Unfortunately I dropped my bag of Sport Beans somewhere during the half mile hike to the start.  Probably because I was trying to keep my hands warm.  I didn’t realize this until 15 minutes prior to the gun when I went to grab them from my fuel belt.  Gone.  There went my pre-race jolt.  I sucked it up, and made my way into the starting area.  I managed to get into a fairly open space, behind the group going out for a 3:30:00 finish.  There were tons of people there.  One of the biggest race starts I have been in without a staggered start.  The City of Oaks race also has a Half Marathon and 10k option.  So people were wearing different colored bibs, but we were all starting together.  The Half had 2,245 runners, and the 10k had 1,038 runners.  A big crowd!  As we all sang our National Anthem, while respecting our flag at the Bell Tower, I readied myself for the 26.2 miles ahead.  I was at peace, and thankful to be there, on a beautiful morning, in my State’s capital.

Having not run this race before, I had to do a bit of homework about the course.  The first part of the course, run in and around the city of Raleigh was fairly familiar to me.  I work downtown, so many of the streets that the course is run on I am familiar with.  I usually don’t run on them, so this was going to be a treat.  The later parts of the race are run on a greenway that I was completely unfamiliar with, but had been warned about the difficulty of.

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I wish there was a map that was a little clearer to see, but this is all I can find.

The gun went off after a 10 second countdown, and the race was on!  The sun was out, the sky was blue, and runners were everywhere.  I took off at a fairly decent clip, moving in and around tons of runners.  Heading toward downtown for a few different loops, one decent sized hill is tackled early on, then a good bit of flat for the next two miles.  I kept my breathing and strides in good harmony.  I felt good.  Coming off from my really good finish last weekend in the Half marathon, I knew I wanted to try to keep my pace around 7:30 in the beginning part of the race in the city.  This worked only for a few miles.  Closer and closer to the Capital Building, I started to hear snare drums.  As we made our way right up to the center of the city, there was a great drumline giving us a beat to run to.  They were awesome!

As I approached the 5 mile point I took my first GU, and continued on.  I made a turn, and encountered a really strong cold wind.  My nose began to run a bit, and I think I lost my pace focus here.  I was paying more attention to the sights of downtown, the wind, and my nose, and not focusing enough on maintaining my pace.  I crossed the 10k mark in 47:35, a 7:40 pace.  I wasn’t off by too much, but knew I couldn’t afford to let this slip a lot lot more on this portion of the course if I wanted to PR.  The downtown portion of the course was cool because there was plenty of crowd support for the early hour.  When we turned onto Glenwood Ave., there were even folks outside riding stationary bikes at a health club.  They moved the bikes outside to the sidewalk so that folks could get their workouts in while cheering us on.  How cool was that?  I loved it!  Turning onto Peace St., we headed down toward Cameron Village.  This area is very spectator friendly, and there were tons of people.  This is also where the 10k finish is, and the first of the marathon relay exchange points is.  It was crowded, and also uphill.  I lost a bit of focus here as well, but had to enjoy the crowd.

As we headed out toward mile 9, racers were finally starting to spread out a bit more.  I had to take a leak for about three miles, but the only portopotties I saw in the city was a set of two, and there was a line to get in them.  Ducking into the woods wasn’t an option, so I had to bide my time until the opportunity presented itself.  I guess it was at about mile 10 that I finally found a spot in a residential area that I could relieve myself.  I am not shy when it comes time to take care of business during a long race, but either spectators, course monitors or my respect for privacy got in the way.  I’m sure I lost about a minute when I finally stopped.  This didn’t matter, because it had to be done.  I was at the point of discomfort by then, and felt so much better afterward.

The Half and Full split comes just before mile 11.  At this point we turn onto the greenway portion of the course.  Once again, the crowd now thinned a lot.  Runners were fewer and further between.  I kept my focus at this point on a few runners up ahead of me, and just maintaining a good overall pace.  My Garmin had me at about a 7:50 pace at this point, and I was going into the tougher section of the course.  It was about a mile onto the greenway portion that I fist felt a twinge of a cramp forming in my right calf.  I started to freak out a bit because I haven’t had any cramps lately, so I knew my electrolytes must have been off a bit, or my water consumption wasn’t enough.  I took note of this, and promptly added an extra GU into the plan, and drank more water at each aid station.  I never got a full on cramp, but it was enough of a worry that I thought about it a lot over the next several miles.  The twinges would come and go, but I think I managed them well.  I hit the 13.1 timing mat at 1:43:27, for an overall pace of 7:53.  Not bad at all, but slower than what my goal was.

The greenway was great, but also the most challenging portion of this race for me.  The out and back section was about 13 miles.  Rolling hills, beautiful Fall colors on the trees, overpasses, tunnels, sharp turns galore.  It was tough.  Many runners were reduced to walking in some sections that were tough, but plenty of top finishers still were in tip top shape when they ran past me already heading back in the other direction.  It is at about mile 17.5 that you u-turn on the greenway and head back toward the city and the finish line.  I was extremely happy to be half way done with the greenway, but knowing that the glorious downhill section was going to be a fierce uphill section at about mile 20-23.  This I was not looking forward to.  The intermittent cramping kept rearing it’s ugly head, and proved to be especially irritating the closer and closer I got to the end.  I hit mile 20 at 2:37:57, overall pace at that point of 7:53.  Nice to know that even with my struggles, and fueling tweaks, I managed not to lose any pace for seven miles on the greenway.  That was just as I arrived at the toughest section though.

I really think that this part of the course is what really could have killed my energy and focus, but instead I stayed positive, and kept going. I refused to give up, I kept my focus on trying to PR.  I knew that if I could manage to run even if I wanted to walk, that I could be successful.  I did.  I was still under PR pace after the tough section, and finally began to see the end of the greenway.  I had done it.  I was about to hit mile 24, and back onto Hillsborough St., with only a few short miles to go.  Folks were really beat up at this point, but I kept running.  I kept going, I kept running.  My Garmin clicked above 8:00 pace, slowly but surely I was losing my battle for that PR.  I knew though that I could do it.  I found that energy, that inner spirit.  I managed to pick up pace over the last mile.  The crowd support was back.  Full force, people were lined up along the streets, cheering.  They would call out my bib number.  “keep going 462, you’re almost there”.  3:30:00 slipped by, but I knew I had done it.  Those last tenths of a mile were hard fought, and so worth it.  Seeing the finish line, and the clock coming into view was so special.  I hadn’t PR’d the marathon distance in over a year and a half. I was about to do it.  I was elated to cross the finish, cheered on by the crowd.  The clock read 3:32:39.  I beat Myrtle Beach!!!  A new PR.

I had a beautiful medal placed around my neck, grabbed a few bottles of water and made my way over to the grass beneath the Bell tower to sit.  To absorb the moment.  I felt good, no limping, no cramping.  As I watched other runners coming across the line I got emotional. I actually teared up, I was so happy, and felt so accomplished.  I had set a new personal record.  I really could not believe it.  This truly was lucky #7.  I have worked so hard, and felt so incredible to have the self imposed PR monkey off my back.

So now it’s onward and upward and most importantly, forward.  I have renewed energy that my training is paying off, and my enjoyment of the run is stronger now than it ever has been.  I know I have more in me, and that if I continue to set new goals for myself, that I can conquer them.  It will never be overnight successes, but earned successes.  That is what is most important to me.

As I continue to relish in my new PR, I will share with you a few stats……

I finished 76/770 overall.  (Top 10%) (in a marathon that is huge for me!)

I finished 7/89 in my Age Group.  (Thrilled with this, too)

Chip Time: 3:32:24 (a PR by a full minute)

Overall placement at the splits:

10k split: 85th.    Half split: 91st.    20 mile split: 83rd.    Finish: 76th

What these splits mean to me is that I hung tough, on a tough course!  I was consistent throughout, and finished strong!  I can only hope to do this in every race.

Thank you Raleigh City of Oaks Marathon for a wonderful experience.  The day was rounded out with a terrific finisher village.  Fantastic post race food choices, band, beer garden and lots of happy runners.  My post race hot chicken noodle soup, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and pepperoni pizza was just what I needed and craved after a 26.2 mile epic journey.  It was truly a fantastic day, and one that I will remember forever.  For now, City of Oaks is the new time standard I have to beat.  I am racing 26.2 miles again 12 days.  Maybe too early to set another PR, but I surely will be gunning for it in Las Vegas.

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I am already looking forward to returning next year!

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November Goals

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My my goals for this month are pretty simple….

Successful completion of two marathons in 14 days, and then relax through the end of the month, enjoying the holiday with family.  I will start ramping back up a bit on December for next year, but that’s another post altogether.

Full on taper mode has been a little tough, but I have to remind myself that the rest is good for me.  Coming off of my 5th month in a row with running at least 100 miles, the focus is now just on two races.

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My next marathon is on Sunday.  Just two short days away.  I am heading out to the expo in a few hours.  Bib #462 for my 7th marathon.  I will also be volunteering my time at the Expo at the Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate booth.  I am heading there to meet with the event director, and help spread the word locally about this one of a kind boutique marathon.  As an Ambassador for that event, it will be great to talk about the race with folks coming in to pick up their packets for the race this weekend.

Marathon #2, in Las Vegas is on November 17th, just two weeks from this Sunday.  I am looking forward to that race for a bunch of different reasons.  The challenge of two marathons in two weeks especially.  How will my body hold up?  I know I’ve put in the work, now it’s time for the payoff.

November – a month of new experiences, two new races, and one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced.  I am embracing November!

Half Full Half

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Less than a week since the Asheville City Marathon, I am gearing up for the final weekend of my Half, Full, Half challenge.  I have been reminding myself all week to recover, to rest, to take it easy.  Well, since Saturday’s 26.2 in Asheville, I have only run twice.  I ran a 3.1 a few days ago, and I just finished a 4.1 mile run tonight.   Just trying to stay loose and yet not overdo it.

On Sunday morning I will be running in the Fall installment of the RunRaleigh Half Marathon.  I ran this race just six days prior to the Blue Ridge Marathon back in April.  Now, permanently scheduled for the Fall racing season, the RunRaleigh Half is a great run.  It winds it’s way through city streets in Raleigh, and then through scenic green ways, and back again to Cameron Village, in the western heart of the city.  I know the race director personally, so I am always supportive of her races.

I stopped by packet pick up today after work, and got my bib, shirt and pilsner glass, reflecting one of the charities that the race will benefit.  The ASPCA of Raleigh.  For all of you dog and cat lovers, it is a worthy charity, for sure.  I also dropped off some promotional flyers for the Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate at Capitol RunWalk, the venue for packet pick up.  Daphne Kirkwood of iDaph Events, in Asheville provided me with some to distribute around the Raleigh and Triangle area over the next several months leading up to that race In March of 2014.  I hope to spread the word at the race this Sunday as well.

Looking forward?  I have several more races this season, and I am just going to take them one by one.  Overall goal of staying healthy throughout.

what’s next on your race schedule?

Asheville City Marathon Race Recap

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My 6th Marathon is officially in the books!  It was amazing in so many ways.  It took place in Asheville, North Carolina, winding its way through the city for 26.2 miles over rolling hills.  Beautiful views of the mountains, winding along the French Broad River, and along city streets.  An epic adventure that I will remember forever, and recommend to any runner looking for a great challenge.  This marathon is NOT flat, it is challenging, and for most, not a marathon if you are looking to set a PR.

Let me try to start from the beginning……

I signed up for this race on National Running Day back in June.  There was a discount that day that was too hard to pass up.  I thought, ok, I love Asheville, so this would give me another opportunity to make the four hour drive from home and visit.  I would have a Fall marathon to train for during the Summer to keep my fitness level up.  Win, win.  I booked one night in a hotel in downtown, and planned on just taking Friday and Saturday off, drive up on Friday, attend the expo, eat some awesome food pre-race, run on Saturday, then drive home.  That changed over the Summer, as I ended up taking some family along, and we ended up renting a vacation home in Waynesville, about a 30 minute drive west of Asheville.  Here are a few shots of the house.

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That middle shot, is the view from the deck in the back.  Just a beautiful home, with stunning views.  The house was over 3,000 sq. ft., and included  a fountain and koi pond at the entrance.  We drove up Friday morning, and stayed until Monday morning.  Quite a relaxing weekend when I wasn’t running.  Certainly a better way to recover than spending four hours in the car after running 26.2 miles.  We thoroughly enjoyed it, and gave us opportunities to visit some other parts of western NC, and experience some really good food, and even gamble a bit.  I sat down at a slot machine on Sunday and turned 18 cents into $50.  Not bad!!!

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The race expo was on Friday.  I stopped in Asheville before heading west to the house.  Parking was really easy.  I spent some time in Asheville earlier this year when I ran another marathon there in March.  Because of this, finding my way around was fairly easy.  I still had memories of the city and streets that were fresh in my mind.  I expected a lot more people though at the expo, as it was fairly quiet when I got there.  Packet pickup was so fast, I really like the race shirt!

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I don’t know about you, but I love to have a regular cotton t shirt from a race, so that I can bum around in it for years to come.  So, while I was at the expo, I had a shirt screen printed for myself by Recover Brands, so quick and easy, and only $20.  I stopped by the information booth, to make sure I knew the best places to park in the morning, and reviewed the course map.  A quick trip back to the car, and I proceeded to the rental house.

We relaxed that evening, ate some really great Italian food at a restaurant named Frankie’s in Maggie Valley, and I tried to get to bed fairly early.  This race was starting at 6am, so my alarm had to be set for the unimaginable hour of 3am.

All was quiet on Saturday morning when I got up.  I made coffee, and sat on the deck overlooking the mountains and valley below.  There was a lot of fog in the valley, so I stressed a bit about that, but it turned out to be fine.  I felt good, I felt ready.

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I made it to Asheville very easily.  The 35 minute drive was a breeze at 4:15 in the morning.  I found parking very easily, and started my prerace rituals.  I ate a Power Bar, and nursed a big bottle of Gatorade.  The parking deck was about a 15 minute walk to the start/finish area, so at about 5am, I walked over.  I stretched and relaxed.  One final bathroom break, and I headed into the Corrals.  I was starting in Corral D, which meant a start at 6:08am.

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I am in this last photo, standing just behind the Audi sign.  The horn blew, and we were off.  Race temperatures were perfect!  I believe it was about 52 degrees at the start, and clear.  Because of the early start, the first hour of the race would be run in the dark.   Many of the streets we ran on were decently lit with street lamps, but there were some areas that were very difficult to see.  The half and the full started together, so the first several miles were pretty tight with runners.  Not bad, but crowded enough that you had to watch your foot strikes at times.  I found it a challenge to not start out to quickly.  Knowing that there were more than double the amount of half marathon runners mixed in, the pace was quick.  I got comfortable really fast, and felt good going over those first few hills.  The challenge to this course was the hills.  Inevitable, as Asheville is a mountain town.  I knew this going in, and had trained on hills all Summer.  Running in the dark was pretty unique.  I normally don’t train in the early morning, so 99% of my runs are lit by daylight.  I found it a refreshing change.

The early miles flew by pretty quickly,  the crowds thinned a bit, but I fell in to a comfortable pace.  Having run a Half Marathon one week prior to this event, I felt my pacing was really good.  My breathing was awesome, and my legs and feet felt strong.  The prior week, I had a bit of calf cramping at the very end of the race, so this was in the back of my mind, so I kept reminding myself to respect the distance, and hydrate.  I think the only water station I skipped on the whole course was the first one.

Bagpipes at this early hour?  What?  Was I in Scotland?  No, I was racing in Asheville.  There were more than 15 music stations on this course, with everything from a bagpiper, to a DJ, to a full on drumline at the finish.  Just awesome, and so truly unique at this race.

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I loved each and every one!  Thank you to each and every one of you that took time out of your weekend to enhance my race experience in such unique and different ways.  My hat is off to you!  I can’t tell you how much it means to me to have amazing volunteers, and course aid available all over a course of 26.2 miles.  Music, cheer squads, families and locals supported this race from start to finish.  Your support is immensely appreciated.

Mile 7 came and went, and with it the peel off and course separation of the Full and Half marathons.  So the crowd lightened a bit, and some more serious hills began.  I felt really good at the split, but knew there was still a long way to go.  Miles seven through ten were mainly all uphill.  This was tough, but I pushed on.  There were a group of guys around me, and we all took turns passing each other.  Have you ever had an experience during a race where someone running near you is really annoying?  There was a guy during this stretch who had a very heavy foot strike, and was breathing louder than I have ever heard before.  It was driving my nuts!  How can I get away from this guy?  I just couldn’t.  I passed him, he passed me.  Uugh!  Eventually I passed him for good on the mainly downhill portions of miles ten through twelve.  I passed the halfway mark in 1:48:15.  A few more ups, and a few more downs, we headed back toward the French Broad River for a peaceful run along the river for several miles.  Here, at 17.5 miles in, I still felt great, and was maintaining a great pace.  I was optimistic, happy and taking it all in.

The miles along the greenway and parks along the river were mainly flat.  At this point in the race, runners were pretty spread out, and even sparse, at times.  There was one section along the river where I almost felt like I had made a wrong turn because there was just no one around.  Very quiet.  Then I saw a few course monitor chairs.  That was a welcome sight, even though there were no monitors there.  Maybe they were on a bathroom break, but I became nervous that this section was not well watched.  All I kept thinking was, I hoped that I was heading the right way.  Thankfully I was.  We crossed over the river at mile 20, and I knew based on the elevation map, that I was about to hit a very hilly section of the course.  Miles 22 through 25 were pretty brutal, and I lost a lot of time.  Until that point, I was maintaining a pace of under 8:20 per mile.  I had to take a few walk breaks of a minute or less on the last few miles.  I knew though that the finish back in downtown was just around the corner.  Closer, closer, come on.  There is a section on Depot Ave. where you double back on the course, so you get to see folks that are about two to two and a half miles behind you.  Many of these folks looked like they were struggling, so I knew we had to be getting closer.  I cheered on many of these folks, knowing that they were hitting the hardest section that I had just finished.

The final mile was sweet. Turning down city streets, getting closer and closer.  I finally started seeing more and more spectators, and the  caught a glimpse of the finish line as I turned onto Woodfin Street.  I pushed it as hard as I could that final mile.  Running into the finishing line is always a great experience.  Lance and Mom came into view, and were cheering me on.  I high fived my Mom on my way to the line.  The drumline pounding out beats, the cheer of the crowd, the announcer saying my name as I came across the line.  Brilliant!  I received my medal, and grabbed a water, and walked over to the curb to take it all in.

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Official results—-

Finished in 56th place overall.

Finished in 7th in my age group.

3:45:12 was my official time, overall pace of 8:36.

I am ecstatic about my performance on this tough course.  It was my second best finishing time for a Full.  We celebrated, walked around the post race finisher village, and fairly quickly started to head back to the cars.

The rest of the weekend was spent with family, enjoying some quiet, relaxing time in the mountains.  I recovered well.  Training works!  I gave myself two days off from running, and felt pretty good when I returned to work yesterday.  After work I ran a 5k so see how the body was feeling, and I think I did ok.  I have a Half Marathon this Sunday, so I will take it pretty easy the next few days.

A few days removed now from the race, I have great memories.  What I remember most will be how easy this race was logistically.  Easy to get to, relaxed environment, plentiful volunteers, and just a beautiful city.  The course was a huge challenge, but one well worth challenging yourself on.  The course is not flat by any stretch, but very scenic.  Hell, who doesn’t love running in the mountains?  My 6th marathon is memorable in so many ways.  Thank you Asheville!  Thank you Asheville Citizen-Times!  Thank you volunteers and locals for supporting me along the way.  It was truly an adventure and fun experience.