Sunday, September 16, 2012

An Epic Weekend in Asheville

I left my legs and voice somewhere in the hills of Asheville, but it was well worth it. Greg and I, and eight close friends, headed westward on Friday afternoon, cars packed full with camping gear and other (not so) necessary spoils for the weekend.

Friday afternoon/evening was spent setting up camp and hittin' up the race expo, but most importantly we indulged in our pre-race meal at the Mellow Mushroom in downtown Asheville. Delicious food in a delectable was hard not to over-indulge. Afterwards we made way back to camp and had ourselves a campfire. The race crew, comprised of myself, Greg and my girlfriend Katie, made our way to bed relatively early. We knew we would be crawling out of the tent as the rest of the crew were making their way in.

It was an early morning, crisp and foggy. We made our way into downtown Asheville with a little more than an hour to spare before the race. We spent most of that time in the car, trying to avoid the "cold", but eventually got out to jog a bit and stretch a bit and get rid of any pre-race jitters.

Before I give you the run-down (no pun intended!) of the race, let me give you a few side notes about the week leading into the race. Earlier in the week, before attempting a mini "taper", Greg and I tackled two break-through workouts. The meat of the first was as follows: 3x 1200 at 10km pace, followed by 3x 2 minute hill-repeats, followed by 1x1200 at 10km pace. We nailed it. Started off conservative, but discovered some hot speed on the UNC track before heading to do hill repeats on Raleigh hill. Nailed 'em. We eeked out a few steps further on each repeat. We headed back to the track for the last 1200 and obliterated it. Confidence boost, engaged. The next workout, coming about 36 hours later was a 15km tempo run at marathon pace (MP). We were able to hold MP through some rugged trails and rough hills. After nailing these two key workouts so close together, we were stoked for a little rest and taper,  but most of all for what was to come for the weekend.

Back to the race--we approached it as a workout. Another tempo run at MP. We've been aiming for about 6:45 per mile pace (or a bit faster) for our MP runs. Our plan was to try and keep our effort consistent. We knew we were in for a HILLY run, so we approached it humbly with an open mind. We also kept it light-hearted and conversational for the most part, much to the dismay of some around us. We clocked a fast first mile, pulled it back a bit. In the second and third miles we were a bit disheartened after having to climb a couple mountains. No biggie though, this was just another workout. We tried to take in the epic sights, meet fellow runners and I'll  be damned if we didn't have a great time out there. We gave the volunteers our best hoopin' and hollerin', and did the best we could with the difficult race course. One minute we were cruising on a gradual downhill, round the corner and we were abruptly slowed to not much more than a walk by heart-breaking inclines. But, despite the climbs, despite having ourselves a little fun, and despite approaching it as a workout, we were clocking miles sub-MP. We knew from the course map that we were in for a few tough climbs in the last three miles, and they weren't lyin'. The hardest climb came soon after mile 11, it was the steepest and longest climb of the course. We put kept our cadence, effort and heads about us and flew up, dropping and passing fellow runners along the way. The last 1.5 miles were all uphill. Terrain-wise, they weren't the hardest, but they were the only miles that didn't go by quickly. But Gregor and I had each other and we pulled each other through like we've done through so many workouts.

We had one runner in our sites within the last half-mile. We reeled him in, and rounding the last turn to finish shoot, we passed him with a nice little kick. The best part of this all, Gregor and I finished together. To the right is a picture of our finish. Crossing the finish line we were both ecstatic. On a rough n' tumble race course, on our third tough workout of the week, we didn't race but still crushed our expectations. We finished  in 1:26:33 (6:37 per mile pace), good enough for15th and 16th overall, and 2nd and 3rd in the 20-24 age group.

Afterwards we enjoyed post-race refreshment, which included two free pints compliments of Asheville's Highland Brewing Company (don't mind if we do). We also stuck around to accept our commemorative medals for placing in our age group, which we're sporting in the second picture.

Next, we made a B-line for the French Broad River Campground to join the rest of our crew for a lazy day on the river. It was a weekend we'll all be wistful for in the future.

Greg and I are more stoked and motivated than ever. We've seen some of the damage that we can do but I think we both agree that we don't really know what we're capable of...time to re-evaluate MP?

What more could a couple of guys ask for after a dream weekend like that, you ask? Well, actually one more thing: Please help us to raise money for Chatham Habitat for Humanity. Every donation inspires us to run further and faster, and more importantly helps to build affordable housing in Chatham County, NC. You can donate by clicking this link: Help us to build, help Chatham Habitat to build.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for building.

Until next time,


p.s. I'd like to give a shout out to our race crew Katie Knapp for putting up with our shenanigans. She's the best in the biz.