October 29, 2012 by trailcats
We didn’t train like we should have for our first marathon – that’s for sure. Yes, I packed in 4 longer runs since Buncombe – a 12, 18, 17 and 20 miler. The last two done within the 10 days before R2B. We did 2 days of Yassos at the track near us – and that’s all we did for speed workouts – just 2 days! Plus, I was in Mexico from 10/7-14 and was only able to log about 18 miles that whole week. I had checked out what I would need to qualify for Boston a couple of months ago but never really considered it – I just wanted to get through my first marathon. I recalled the BQ time being 3:30 – but wasn’t sure.
I was happy Harley took off on Friday. We slow-poked our way up to Asheville and ultimately met up with Meredith and Steve at Highland Brewing for happy hour. Yes, our pre-race day plans included a couple of microbrews. Incidentally, our post-race plans included that too. By 7:15pm we were headed to the deluxe Sleep Inn in Morganton, NC – right next door to the host hotel where we needed to pick up our race packets by 9pm. We get to our room and immediately start noshing on our take-out from Doc Chey’s. At 8:30 Harley asked me if I wanted to go for a quick walk and then it hit me – crap – we haven’t gotten our packets yet! So we got those and were excited for two things. One, we got baggies full of chocolate chip cookies (my fave) and two, our bib numbers were 2 and 3! That’s a lot of pressure for the Adams considering the low numbers are usually reserved for the fastest course runners in the previous years. My days of being a Scott seem like so long ago – I’ve really moved up. We could only imagine that bib #1 belonged to some bloke named Jim Aardvark.
Saturday morning started at 4:50am – a smidge earlier than what I’m accustomed to – but getting to the start of the race involved a couple of legs. First, we needed to drive about 30 minutes to the Brown Mountain Beach Resort. When you do this in complete darkness and with spotty cell service – you can plan on taking no fewer than 2 wrong turns. When you finally find the place (by following headlights of cars that use Verizon) you are so excited the buses haven’t left without you. So that’s the second leg – there were about 6-7 buses at the BMBR (which is the finish of the race) that shuttled people about 30 minutes north to the start of the race which was actually a Marathon gas station. Pretty funny, eh? It was on this bus that I noticed Richard Abernathy – the same jovial runner who finished Buncombe with us. I didn’t have a chance to hi then though.
At the start we were looking for our friend Patti. She’s the one who turned us on to the R2B. When I first checked it out, I read something about a gravel road and thought it was a trail marathon. You could call it a hybrid that leans to the road. The race sold out in 17 minutes this year (we made it off the wait list a few weeks later). 32% of folks who run it qualify for Boston owing to the fact that that several miles are downhill.
We finally see Patti and her band of Ironmen right before the national anthem. Jeff was running with her and Casey and Heath were acting as her cheerleaders donning their kickass bright pink “Patti’s 26.2 Beef Cakes” t-shirts.
The race started at 8:05. Mind you, Harley and I had no strategy going into the race. I thought a sub-4 was a reasonable goal as I’ve never considered myself a fast runner – merely one who can run for a long time. The first 6 miles were long rolling hills and I was thinking that Harley and I were probably running faster than we needed to be – but it felt good. We were on top of Jonas Ridge and had great vistas of neighboring mountains. I hadn’t run at all in 3 days and my legs were happy to be out and about. At 6 miles though – the gravel downhill started and wouldn’t stop until mile 13.5. You couldn’t help but run faster than you planned. At some points it was -7%! I was still holding back some thinking I would need it later. By mile 10 I was even thinking it was possible to shoot for 3:30.
Between the downhill and the scenery, it was the most awesome running experience to mile 14 or so. We were on a forest road that has several trailheads coming off of it. The Trailcats want to go back and tackle some of those one day. At mile 13 – the halfway point – we were at 1:49. 3:30 was out of the picture but man – that’s nearly 25 minutes faster than the half marathon we did in August – granted that was trail and had more climbs than descents – but still. This was a great morale booster as I reflected on how far I’d come since May – when I finally broke my 12 mile ceiling. Every time we hit a hit a patch of flat road – it felt like an uphill. And every time we hit an uphill, we were all kind of relieved to have a break from the downhill. I say we, as I tend to get chatty with whoever I’m running close to.
The daunting thing about hitting 13 miles at 1:49 is that in order to run a responsible negative split, the second half of the race needs to be faster than the first. Well that wasn’t going to happen since the second half was essentially flat – so I knew I had to go balls to the wall and focus on keeping my legs moving fast beneath me – no matter how bad my quads and hamstrings would start barking at mile 18. I usually run at a pace where I am not breathing hard and my HR doesn’t even feel like it breaks 100. This was all new territory around mile 18. My respiratory rate and heart rate were definitely challenged! And sadly, this is when Harley’s IT band pain became unbearable and I slowly pulled away from him around mile 17.5. He has been battling knee pain for the past couple of months and he was nervous about this happening again before the race. The fast downhill does nothing but exacerbate it.
Right before mile 18, I saw Patti’s Beef Cakes and got rejuvenated. Then right around the corner there was a weird mountain commune? Not sure what was going on there. Patti said marijuana filled the air. I was oblivious and a little creeped out. Here is something Steve told us about – also a little creepy – about the Brown Mountain Lights. Around mile 20 or so we saw a bunch of hunters on the side of the road. Lots of camo, guns and big trucks. They were looking at something in the hills above us and their dogs were getting excited. I thought I smelled a bear but never found out what was up there.
The next 8 miles were all heart for me. The rest of the course was essentially flat with a slight downhill at the very end. The scenery was awesome though and we ran along a river the last several miles. I was running with this one older guy for a while. I think I was being a bit too chatty for him and I was so exhausted I did a crappy job of picking up on his subtle hints to shut down the conversation. Like when he would ignore me and keep looking forward, I just repeated my question louder. I finally picked up what he was putting down and while we had been running about the same pace since mile 13 or so – I decided it was time to pass him at 22. See ya! I had my eyes set on this other couple. They looked like seasoned marathoners and my new goal was to keep up with them. I needed several intermediate goals to keep my spirits up. I ultimately passed them around mile 23. About the same time I noticed Richard at an aid station.
Hey Richard Abernathy, I yelled. He ran up to join me and gutted out the remaining 3 miles by my side. Someone yelled something out to him and he said he’s been getting that all day – he was wearing bib #1. Of course – Abernathy (not Aardvark)! I couldn’t wait to tell Harley that once again this guy was helping an Adams cross the finish line and that he was #1.
He was planning on running a Halloween 5k that night. This guy is nuts. By mile 25, my legs felt like wooden peg legs and as heavy as cinder blocks. My hammies were so tight. But I was gutting it out.
When we were about 50 yards away from the finish I felt the tears coming. Again, I was looking back on the past 5 months and what I’ve accomplished. I felt so proud of myself and was so happy with my performance the last 8 miles when Harley was not with me. I had also been thinking that I was no longer going to qualify for Boston as I thought I needed 3:30 to do so. But I was pleased, because I still maintained my speed. I could have slacked off and just shot for 3:59 – but I pushed myself the entire way. And all I wanted to do was cry happy tears.
As soon as we crossed the finish line, there was a little kid there putting medals over everyone’s head.
It was very sweet. Not quite as sweet as the chocolate milk on the other side of him though! I made my way back up a little hill so I could be on the lookout for Harley, Patti and Jeff. I saw Heath and Casey (and Brenna the cheer dog) and we were all on high alert. Turns out Harley’s IT band was giving him a hell of a time and he started walking around mile 20 or so. When I saw him at the 25.5 mark I was a happy cat and walked with him to the end.
While he did not run the whole thing, I have to say – he ran a super fast race until the moment he stopped. Especially when you consider how he had to cut back on his training for all his knee pain. So amazing – the Trailcats have a lot to be happy about.
Patti was not far behind him. Once we were all reunited at the BMBR – we loaded up on some awesome post-race fare and Patti pulled out a bottle of Gloria Ferrer!!!
Time to celebrate the first marathon for Patti, Harley and Holly! Instead of unscrewing the cork, she opted to pop it and it went flying for what seemed like 50 feet at mach speed in the direction of several people. Not long after that one runner fainted, likely due to dehydration – but I couldn’t help but wonder – did he get hit in the head with a champagne cork?! When EMS finally came, were they erroneously treating him for dehydration when he really had an intracranial hemorrhage?! We relived some of the day’s highlights including when Casey and Heath feared for their lives when they got lost on some very back back back country roads and came across the camp hunters in their hot pink Beef Cake shirts!
Holly – 3:44:36. 125th overall (out of 323). 7th in age group 30-34. 8:34 average pace.
Harley – 4:40:55 (better than a DNF!)
I later looked up Boston qualifying times only to find out – I needed a 3:40!! I was a mere 4 minutes off! Looking back, I know that if I knew that from the start, I would have made it so that’s kind of hard to swallow. But really, would I have signed up for Boston? I’m not sure. That wasn’t really a goal of mine. But we plan to run this next year. And between now and then we will do lots of Yassos and have a new goal for the 2013 R2B and that’s 3:30 – or bust!
We made it back to Asheville in one piece. A little limping here and there as expected. Harley and I hit the Wedge Brewery in the River Arts District where we sat and drank it in. Noshed on some El Kimchi before heading back to Mere’s for a good ol fashioned Scottie Porch night. A few of the problems of the world were solved – notwithstanding squirrel overpopulation and the correct pronunciation of Bibimbap. The next morning we hit Sunny Point in West AVL and then said goodbye to our gracious hosts and their sweet kittens, Cooper and Corndog. We were ready to see our own!
What a fun and perfect day it was. At mile 25 Richard told me to make sure I was savoring the moment. And I thought, I don’t have time to savor – this is a race! I did savor it afterwards though. And that’s one thing I think is different about running ultras for me (granted I’ve only done one) – is that that for me – they are savorable. I will never break any records running an ultra. I think of them more as an adventure race – where it’s more about the actual experience than the time. And that’s why I’m looking forward to my next ultra – the Pine Mountain 40 on December 2nd!!! Bring it!
Also – a special shout out to David Lee (R2B race director) and all of the volunteers. You put on one hell of a race! And all of the aid stations (and there were several of them) were well-stocked by happy and encouraging volunteers. Well done!