2015 AMAmbassador shares her experience in training for, and running in, the Asheville Half Marathon at Biltmore Estate in March, all while tackling life’s endless transitions and affairs. Read her take on preparing to race, communing with fellow AMAmbassadors, and taking in all the extras of the event weekend (like the fun Race Expo). Read more below from Steph’s blog, Swim Run Eat.



Asheville Half Marathon

Has the Asheville Marathon finally come and gone? I was so pleasantly surprised when I was picked to be an ambassador for this race back in what….August? I feel like it’s been forever. The race sold out at the end of November, so I feel like my ambassador duties waned a bit after that.  I don’t want to say I forgot about the race, but it was definitely not in the forefront of my mind with less than 200 days left until IM Chattanooga (who’s counting???)

This was a prime example of how to NOT taper.  The weekend before this race I moved into a new apartment – from a downstairs apartment into a second floor. Lots of stairs. I have a ton of wonderful friends (and my even more wonderful mother) who helped but by Sunday night I was totally exhausted. I struggled through the next few days of workouts to a rest day on Wednesday…where I had to be at work for a 4:30 AM meeting.  And again on Thursday. Extra sleep fail.

Friday, Elizabeth and I headed up to Asheville right after work to join some of the other ambassadors for dinner and drinks at Wicked Weed Brewing – which, OK, sounds ridiculous but it was really great.  Really good beer and a very tasty burger. It’s definitely a place to visit in Asheville!

Don't mind me, just stuffing my face

Saturday was expo day, and as ambassadors, we needed to work a shift at the expo.  Which typically I would not mind at all, but I was dead on my feet at the end of my shift!  I helped set-up and handed out goody bags for the last hour. It was a ton of fun getting to interact with all the runners though.  After my shift, I attempted to do my planned shake-out run but it was pitiful.  I ditched the last half mile and took a 2 hour nap, then stretched for a while before dinner. Elizabeth wanted tacos for dinner, so we went to White Duck Taco Shop once our other two friends arrived from Greenville – and it was as good as promised!


Race morning arrived early! We had shuttle tickets onto the Biltmore estate from the hotels (we had earned free rooms at the Doubletree) so we met in the lobby at 5:45 – this was definitely a huge convenience. While there’s plenty of parking at Antler Hill Village, there was lots of traffic heading into the estate so the race director encouraged people to take the shuttles. The more shuttle riders, the more runners can be accommodated!

We found our fruit cutter extraordinaire:

One-woman Volunteer and Cheer Squad

And made sure to get a picture with the other ambassadors:

10491070_10206239759252452_862197741585756927_nAnd we were off!  I am in no shape for a PR half marathon right now.  I know it and my coach knows it, and she wrote me a race plan that focused on good execution with heart rate, but not speed.  This can only help me as I focus more on speed later in the year.

This race is not all hills as you might expect, being in Asheville. But the first 6 miles are up, up, down, uuuuuuuuup, then you reach the house. So it was definitely a challenge to keep my heart rate low while running uphill for 20 minutes. I really focused on sticking to the plan and enjoying the scenery instead of staring at my slow pace on my watch.

720x540.jpeg.de8f3501328c492994cd4cc0a24cb926Reaching the house was exciting since it meant the uphill running was done (for the half marathon, at least).  There aren’t any pictures of me over there, but this is my friend Kim looking great.  Once we ran past the house, the course went down into the gardens off the side, then a whole lot of doooooowwwwwwwwn.

Once you reach the bottom of the hill, the rest of the half is flat.  The course winds around a big field with horses that is normally not a part of the estate that the public can visit which is pretty cool.  Miles ~7-13 are mostly packed dirt/gravel trail, so it’s not road but it’s certainly not technical trail (and as I said, flat).

Still not me, but whatever

By mile 9, I was hurting.  My pace by heart rate got slower and slower, but I knew if I walked my coach would probably scold me so I kept going! (sometimes a little accountability goes a long way). The last little bit is an out and back that passes near the finish line and it’s a little bit crowded.  It’s still on the dirt path but with runners going out and coming in (plus fast marathoners reaching mile 20) it was a bit tight.  Mile 12 was “all out” so I gave it everything I had left and finished (up a hill) in 2:26:55.

Definitely not my best but I followed the plan on a challenging course.  I was disappointed at first, but my coach was pleased so….I guess that’s good?

After I was done, I got my blanket (best race swag ever) and headed out to find my friends to cheer for Kim (who was running the marathon).

Hangin' Out

We hung out here until Kim passed by and then headed back up to the finish line so I could get some food. There was a good selection of stuff from Bi Lo (I love me some Bi Lo since I shop there all the time) and there was definitely plenty for everyone. We hung out for a while waiting for Kim – the marathon course came very near the finish line, which is kind of unfortunate for the runners but great for us, then ate some more until she finished!

I was also very amused by something. Your shoes are great.

We spent the rest of the day hitting up the winery:

How many tastings can we get before they throw us out?

Eating ice cream (at the Hop, courtesy of Elizabeth)

10433126_10152624626046851_6812438988376192001_nThen crashing at home. We definitely had a great weekend.

This race is a ton of fun.  While it’s not the most PR-friendly course, it’s definitely beautiful and being able to run on the Biltmore Estate is an experience worth having!  The race swag is also really great.  The weather can be unpredictable at this time of year but we definitely had some fantastic weather this year!

So, for me, a great experience, a slow time, but I would definitely do this race again. For you? The good news is next year, the race is going to a two-day format!

1610895_10152640672430981_6865566347340411747_nThis is great because it will allow more runners to come to this race (plus crazy people who will want to do both. not me). So that’s something to think about.  Maybe I’ll see you there next year? =)