black mountain marathon

i am back from a wonderful weekend in asheville! the drive over on friday started off with rain, but blue sky peeked through as i was driving through the nanty gorge. the weather for saturday ended up being perfect! temps began in the mid-40s and probably got close to 60. as we gained elevation, the wind did whip around a bit and temps remained lower, but it was quite comfortable thoughout. sections of the trail were wet & muddy from the rain, but nothing to slow you down too much. 

the race starts in downtown Black Mountain (elevation 2400′). after running through the small town of Montreat (all of this being on pavement), we hit the dirt. these 2 sections seems to be the steepest uphill of the marathon course – or maybe it’s just the first one of any significance, so it feels that much worse. otherwise, the next 10 miles are just a steady uphill, with a few flat spots and maybe 1 or 2 teeny downhill sections. we spread out pretty quick, so the few miles on tighter singletrack aren’t problematic. the majority of the marathon is spent on an old dirt road (trestle trail?!), littered with lots of rocks.with a good bit of rain this past week, some sections were muddy and the rocks slick;  while i had a few good trips, i thankfully didn’t take any spills and my feet stayed dry.

map of the marathon
my plan for the first half was to remain consistent and strong, keeping any walking to a minimum (and only when my heart rate/effort felt too high). i kept fueled with the hammer gel & heed supplied at the great aid stations (and a few refreshing orange sections); i brought 2 espresso hammer gels for the latter half of the race to give me a kick. (i started the race with my water bottles filled with nuun – 1 kola, 1 lemon-lime. yeah, i did carry 2 water bottles – i tend to drink a lot and hate to go thirsty. while i do carry a bit more weight that way, i do save a little time going through the aid stations. not sure which is wiser though!) while i’m on the subject of gear, i was sporting my new orange shuffle, which arrived friday about 30 minutes before i hit the road – what timing! and on my feet, my trusty montrail hardrocks - hey, that’s annette (marathon winner) featured on that page!)
at the marathon turnaround on the blue ridge parkway (approx elevation of 5100′, around mile 14), the wind had picked up and we were covered in clouds. after checking in quickly, i turned around and picked up the pace. my time was 2:43 and if my counting was correct, i was in 10th place. it had been about 5 minutes since I had seen the last female, so i had my work cut out. (i had passed the leading female and eventual winner, annette bednosky, on her way down around 2:28; the winning male, jared crave, at 2:12). most of this section i was flying solo… i’d catch up to a few people (unfortunately always males), and a few would pass me (luckily just males). i got to the 2nd to last aid station shortly after 4 hrs. i was told almost 7 miles were left… hmm, a sub-5 time was going to be tight. it was mostly pavement which, while fast, hurt more. then there was approx .5 – 1 mile of what i think is the toughest section of the entire race – steep steep downhill, partly paved, partly dirt road. you want to fly down it, especially with it so close to the end, but that is just a recipe for knee issues and shin splints. after this bit of torture, we ran back through montreat (thankfully using a trail part of the time) then finally towards the finish at lake tomahawk. i felt great and ran as hard as i could (at a pace i knew i could sustain for 4+ miles). finally the lake came into view along with the finish line. now, just 1 loop around the lake path…  i came under the finish line banner feeling (& hopefully looking) strong, with a time of 4:52:53; 10th female, 50th overall (out of 139). this was 17 minutes faster than last year!
the post-race food was great, with homemade soups from the chamber of commerce. all finishers received full-zip fleece jackets embroidered with the race logo. after hanging out with friends, i went back to the curwens to force myself into an ice bath (i swear this was the most pain i felt all day, made bearable only with a hot latte & liz on the phone chatting). that night was the awards dinner back at montreat college – great food and more friends. the awards for the winners were amazing – gorgeous original watercolor paintings of mount mitchell by local artist scott lowrey (he has created something new every year the race has happened – this was its 11th year). 
the rest of the weekend was fab too. i went to the bike love party saturday night with a friend – this was a fundraiser for asheville on bikes to raise $ for the downtown bike locker initiative. it was a wonderfully diverse crowd, with young and old, athletes, industry folks & commuters, great live music and beer from the french broad brewery (abbey ale – mmm!) this was held at the wedge gallery, in the river arts district (looks like a cool place to check out one day). chattanooga really needs an event like this! sunday i got caught up on my play time with chilton – we goofed around with photobooth on my computer making pics & videos. we checked out a new place for brunch – cafe azalea. good food and away from the hustle of downtown, so service was quick.
i drove back to chatt sunday afternoon – a lovely 4 hours (not really; i got sleepy & my legs are now stiff). hopefully i’ll feel ok tomorrow and can have a good recovery week, followed by a taper week :) as i prep for my next event in 2 short weeks: the checkpoint zero adventure race


2 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. You know what’s strange? I was at Mt Mitchell on race day but somehow missed the fact that anybody was there. We never went quite to the top (just the parking lot). This race is definitely on my To Do list though. Maybe next year!

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