Asheville Half Marathon – Race Report

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.

The half and full marathon started together and ran together for the first 10 miles. Just after 7:30 AM someone yelled go, and we were off to the races! The first 6 miles were on paved roads with rolling hills. I felt a little off, but it usually takes me a couple of miles to get in a groove.

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?

 

17 Comments

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  1. Congrats to both of you for a nice finishing time! The rain and the hills would be a challenge, but the best part may be that the blood didn’t involve the running part of the race. Looks like a pretty place to run!

    1. At least my race was done before I shed any blood on the course 🙂 It is a beautiful place to run, for sure!

  2. Looks like it was a fun time and I wish I could have been there. Had I known I would get a Monday snow day…

    Action shots are great. I love the way you used that wide aperture to capture the true speed of your run. Oh wait, that was probably just the condensation on the lens.

    Haven’t been to the Biltmore since I was a kid, right after it was finished. I would have never imagined you could lay out a 26.2 mile course on a private piece of property. Event the MCM takes 1 state before it hits the rez.

    Good job to both of you. Looking forward to the 17.75. Shot of rum will be waiting at the end.

    LUD.

    1. If only you had known.

      I don’t know about a wide aperture setting on my camera, but I assure you I was absolutely flying as I snapped those pictures 😉

      I’m looking forward to the 17.75K, too! I didn’t know there was going to be rum at the end, now I’m even more excited!

  3. Seriously, you’ve got to let me know when you’re in my neck of the woods! We’re only an hour from Asheville! Congrats on a great race. Love that race shirt!

    1. I had no idea we were so close to where you live! Next time!!

  4. I have no idea how you get such great pics while running! The ones of the house are amazing. Congrats on the race and a great time!! I would love to run around the estate like that. And I want to live there. Isn’t Anderson Cooper related to the Vanderbilts somehow? I was totally going to marry him. Turns out he’s gay. That’s the ONLY reason I didn’t marry him. LOL

    I don’t know the worst conditions I’ve run in…blowing snow, I suppose. And the worst race conditions are probably more heat related than cold.

    1. I just get lucky, I guess, because I’m not very knowledgeable when it comes to operating a camera. I just have it on the “easy automatic” setting and just push the button as I run. Most of the time, I don’t even look at the picture after I take it… I just turn off the camera and put it back in my handheld water bottle pouch.

      I hadn’t heard that Anderson Cooper was related to the Vanderbilts. Too bad he turned out to be gay and you didn’t get to marry him, haha. 😉

  5. Congrats on a great race!!! I need to work on keeping a more even pace haha. I love that even though it was pouring rain, it’s not like you considered not running the race – runners are crazy! Congrats to Berry too!!

    1. I stalked the weather like crazy leading up to the race, but as long as the race was still being held I was going to run. We are a crazy bunch 🙂

  6. Congrats on great races to both you and Barry! I’m so proud of you for doing so well at all three back-to-back races! Relax this weekend; you deserve it!

    It absolutely poured rain during my very first marathon (MCM) and during my PR marathon (Steamtown). The snowiest was the Cloud Snapple Half that I told you about recently.

    1. P.S. Glad your trip to the medical tent was nothing too serious! Also, I forgot to mention how cool I think it is that you found chickens to hang out with while waiting for Barry!

    2. Thanks! I really wasn’t sure how the back-to-back would go, but I tried to keep any doubts out of my mind, and I’m happy with how it went. It’s nice to have an off weekend now, though!

  7. Congrats on finishing the last of your closely scheduled races! You seem to have really bad race day weather luck. Glad the blood was nothing serious (pretty funny race injury, actually). Now, get some rest 🙂

    1. Up until these past 3 races in a row, I’ve typically had really good luck when it came to race day weather. I guess my luck ran out 🙂

  8. GREAT job on your race, Meagan! Woot!
    I’m sorry you cut your hand on that cowbell, but it did make me laugh that you had to go in the medical tent for a bandaid from a cowbell injury! 🙂
    What a wet race… kudos to Barry, too.
    (that house is HUGE, btw!)

    1. Thanks! The cowbell incident was pretty funny, although I was embarrassed at the time 🙂

      The Biltmore House is really something to see. If y’all ever get over to the east coast for tourist-y things, you should definitely check it out. You can do tours of the house. It’s unreal to think of people living in that kind of grandeur back in the 1800’s and early 1900’s.

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