This past Sunday I ran the inaugural Asheville Half Marathon at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. For those who don’t know, the Biltmore Estate is a large, private estate. The main attraction at the Estate is the Biltmore House, which was built between 1889 and 1895 by George Vanderbilt II, and it is the largest privately owned house in the United States. When I was in college, I took a trip with Barry, his mom, and his sister to tour the house and grounds, and it is unbelievable. The fact that this race takes place entirely on the private estate is what makes it so special.
Now that we’ve got the background out of the way, I can recap the race. WARNING: there is a picture of blood towards the end of this post. If you are squeamish, you have been warned.
Barry and I arrived at the Biltmore Estate (about a 20 minute drive from our campground) around 6:00 AM for the 7:30 AM race start. I was expecting bumper-to-bumper traffic, but surprisingly getting onto the estate (they had to check tickets at three different checkpoints) and getting parked went very smoothly. We hung out for a bit, did some final race preparations, and used the restroom before heading over towards the race start. It was in the low-40’s with a forecast of rain. Just before the start of the race a light rain started to fall on us. As luck would have it, it would continue to rain throughout the entire race and would become increasingly heavier as the day went on.
There was a long climb from miles 3-5 as we made our way to the Biltmore House and it was tough going at times. I never gave in to a walk break, though, and just focused on taking the road one curved section at a time. Just before mile 6 we arrived at the gate to the house.
We turned the corner and ran straight towards the Biltmore House, making a horseshoe around the courtyard area. It was really neat to run right by the house during the race and it gave me a little boost! Lots of folks were stopping for photo op’s, but I just snapped a few as I ran by and kept going.
As we left the main house area, we made our way briefly through the gardens and down to the French Broad River. The downhill felt wonderful, and I caught my second wind. We ran over a bridge and past a waterfall as we ticked off mile 7 and made our way towards mile 8.
This is when the race switched from pavement to dirt and gravel roads, which I enjoyed. For the most part, it never got too sloppy even with the rain. Around mile 8 I started to feel a bit of fatigue creeping in, but I just focused on running a steady pace and taking in the beautiful scenery of the Biltmore Estate.
We passed mile 10 and the full marathoners split off to run on the West Side of the Estate. The West Side is the primitive side of the Estate that is not usually open to the general public, so this was a special treat for the full marathoners. Barry told me the dirt roads on that side were a bit sloppier and slicker due to the rain. I kept running along and headed for one final out and back on a gravel road before making my way up to the finish line. Just before I hit the turnaround, a group of folks canoeing cheered us on.
It felt like it took so long to reach the turnaround, but the return trip did not feel as long. From miles 10.5 through the finish I broke the race down by half miles and took a sip of water at the end of each segment. There was one final uphill and then it was on to the finish!
|Elevation profile from my Garmin. The uphill from mile 3-5 was no joke!|
I crossed the line in 2:16:33, which is a 10:24/mile pace. I am very happy that I ran the entire way, and that I ran such an even race.
|The rain was coming down pretty hard at this point|
Are you wondering where the blood part comes in? We’re getting there. After I crossed the finish line, a fleece blanket embroidered with the race name was draped around my shoulders (which felt wonderful in the cold rain!) and I was handed my finisher’s medal. I made my way over to the bag check, which was conveniently located next to the food tent. I quickly made a loop through the food tent (basic post-race spread) and then hustled over to a porta potty to change into dry clothes. Mile 20 on the marathon course wasn’t too far from the finish and I wanted to be down there in time to see Barry go by.
I got changed, grabbed all of my stuff, and hurried down to mile 20 with my cowbell in hand. I had a good time cheering on other racers while I waited for Barry. He came by just over 3 hours into the race. He looked strong and said he hadn’t had any issues with cramps! I ran with him briefly and then he headed out for a final 6 mile out and back prior to the finish.
It was around this time that I realized I had cut my finger with my enthusiastic cowbell-ing. Apparently ringing a cowbell is hazardous when your hands are numb and you can’t feel anything. I couldn’t get my knuckle to stop bleeding and the rain was making it run all over my hand, so I reluctantly made my way up to the medical tent at the finish line. My first time ever going to the medic tent! I felt ridiculous walking in there and asking for a bandaid, but they were really nice about it and the lady assured me that that’s what they were there for. They got me cleaned up and even gave me a sparkle bandaid!
|Before & After|
With that minor crisis averted, I made my way over to hang out with some chickens while I cheered on the full marathoners (there were no more cowbell incidents) and waited for Barry to appear.
|I borrowed the chickens’ roof overhang for some shelter from the rain, and they were cool with that.|
I continued cheering and cowbell-ing all of the runners. I had a fun time yelling things (Beautiful day for a run! We love running! Well done!! etc.) to get small smiles out of the grimacing marathoners, and honestly really enjoyed myself despite the rain and being freezing. Then I saw Barry! The way the course was set up, I was able to get a picture of him as he came up the last hill and as he went through the finish chute. He crossed the line in 4:06:56, which we think is close to his PR.
We didn’t spend much time in the finish area once Barry was done, because it was cold and raining heavily and we were both soaking wet. Once he collected all of his finish line goodies, we made our way back to the truck (a short walk!) and headed back to the campground. That hot shower never felt so good.
This race concludes my three long distance races in as many weekends. I feel like I’m in a pretty good place as far as my endurance goes. I was a bit worried I would crash and burn on one of these races, especially the last one, but things went well. I’m definitely ready for a cutback week now, though!
What are the worst weather conditions you have run a race in?
Do you prefer small or large races?
I’m really digging the small races! Yet, I’m planning to run the Marine Corps Marathon this fall.
Have you ever been to the Biltmore Estate?