15th Bilmore Kiwanis 15k Classic

This is the race that introduced me to and motivated me to run. Albeit the first time I ran it, I did the 5k. Last year, due to the recently added Antler Hill Village, the race took place on the trails of the NC Arboretum. While the trails were fun, it hurt the Kiwanis association since very few people ran the race last year. I think what makes it such a big race is that it takes place on the ground of Biltmore Estate. While visitors and Twelve Month Passholders can hike the Biltmore Estate trails, the roads are off limits which makes this race pretty unique. No one can practice on the course.

Now this is not the race for crowds of spectators. Race entry provides the runners with a ticket to the grounds but not the Biltmore House. Spectators need to purchase tickets as well. As a result there are only volunteers on the course. Runners gather at the end to cheer each other. But what the course lacks in spectators it makes up in beauty. 8000 acres of unspoiled and well managed land, pasture, and forest along with a 250 rooms historic mansion are part of the course.Fellow runners Eve and Bart made a great video that shows most of the course (exception made of the loop behind the parking lot since the runners take it in reverse from the parking lot shuttles).

This year the race was sold out. 567 people finished the 15k and and 232 for the 5k. My husband’s sister and brother in law were supposed to run the race, but unfortunately due to a last minute trip to Canada they had to cancel. But my husband did join me to be my official photographer…

The race start was in Antler Hill Village. Because it is an area people tour there was no port-a-potties but real bathrooms instead and the lines weren’t bad. The 15k started about 5 minutes before the 5k. Chips were embedded in the bib which made things easy. The first mile was easy and flat following the river. However because there is no pace group it was crowded. It took me a good thirty seconds to pass the start line and I felt like a mouse trying to get out of a labyrinth by dodging many, many runners to find my pace.

We turned left going towards the Deerpark which also meant a light uphill. I came across a girl from my running group which was fun. I also passed my former HR director so I slowed down a little to chat with her and then went up my way. The hills didn’t bother me much. I have to say that after a 7600 ft of elevation change marathon I see hills with a different perspective.

Past the Deerpark it was downhill again toward the Welcome Center (mile 3). Then we took a right up the approach road. 3 miles of meandering beautiful road. We went by many rhododendrons in bloom. I have seen that road many times by car but to be on foot was a real treat. This is also where I passed most of my fellow runners (thank you hill training). I did started to have a side stitch on my right side but I managed to keep it under control. We went by the additional parking lot and a back road that I’ve seen used by shuttles. There was a little surprise uphill there but I knew the reward was close: the Biltmore House.  Oh what a treat it was to run by the Lady on the Hill, seeing the Blue Ridge Mountains in the back!

After the Biltmore House we ran around the Walled Garden (mile 6), barely getting a glimpse at the summer flowers then it was down to the Bass Pond. At that point the side stitch started bothering me more. I really had to work on my breathing to keep myself from walking. I’ve learned that embracing the pain works better for me. I just try to accept it and somehow it seems easier to deal with.

We were back on flat grounds after the Bass Pond. We still had to make our way to the Lagoon (where the 5k turnaround was) and speed to the finish. Until then my left leg had been fine. I could feel the shadow of my injury but it was not bothering me. But in that last mile and a half the pain suddenly flared. I went through several spasms going through my knee where I honestly thought it would buckle under me. I could have stopped but I decided to just grit my teeth through it and make it to the finish line. My stupid competitive self wanted to finish under 1:20 pain or no pain. I did have to slow down however and was passed by a few girls.

On the last 1/2 mile I came across my husband who was sitting under a tree and enjoying the view of the runners. He managed to get a picture of me sprinting to the finish.

The finish line is at the top of a small uphill. I could hear some of my colleagues cheering me. I finished right behind another runner that I almost caught up with. I had a moment of shock looking at the clock when I saw that it said 1:10 but I quickly realized that was the 5k clock and that I had finished in just over 1:15. No wonder my knee was hurting, I definitely pushed that one!

As soon as I started not feeling so good. I thought I might throw up, so I sat down for a few seconds and that was enough to make me feel better. However, if my stomach settled, my knee did not. It hurt to walk. I limped back to the finish line to cheer fellow runners and then signed up for a post-race massage which only helped mildly.

We then proceeded to check the results. Turns out that I finished in 1:14:58 chip time. I was beyond thrilled. This was my secret goal, the goal I would have had if I had not been injured. My husband then asked me if I had placed. I wasn’t sure as I knew a lot of ladies were ahead of me. But I went back and looked through the list and thought that I could be and if so might be 3rd of my age group. The bad news to that was that we were hungry and now had to wait for the results. And yes I was 3rd of my age group.

The award is pretty cool, a piece of clay with the Biltmore House on it. I’m a little worried about breaking it but I think it will look great on the Christmas tree. Although I might change the ribbon color to something more cheerful. It is in any case a huge improvement from last year’s award which could have been from any events. It definitely made a difference for them to have a sold out race.

2012 Award

As soon as I grabbed my reward we headed to the hotel above Antler Hill Village: The Inn on Biltmore Estate. Our plan was to eat breakfast there so we had left the car at the top of the hill. Had I anticipated the state of my leg I would have parked at the bottom. I literally limped my way up. I freshened up and changed into the race shirt. It isn’t a tech shirt but is at least in a woman’s size and turned out to be a very light and comfy cotton shirt. The only thing is that the red color wasn’t the most flattering with my post-race complexion but thankfully I don’t race everyday. We then got sited outside on the Dining Room patio.

On the Dining Room Patio at the Inn on Biltmore Estate

Both Hubby and I ordered the Oscar Crab Egg Benedict. It was amazing. Think poached eggs on top of crab cakes, served with fingerlings potatoes, asparagus and roasted tomatoes. The perfect post race meal. The temperature was perfect outside and the view amazing.

Oscar Crab Egg Benedict

Once home I started stretching and icing my leg. Three days of no running and stretching later it feels a lot better. I’m definitely hoping to run this race again.

Oh and remember my big news about Asheville getting a marathon? Well turns out we are getting two! There was a flyer at the race pick up announcing a Marathon on Biltmore Estate (website to go live June 1st) coming up March 3rd 2013!!! Now the question is how much are they going to charge for those because I can’t see myself being able to afford two marathons in the same year.

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Favorite Snack: Almond Butter on Apple Slice


Let’s start with a simple fact: I love nuts. I have a collection of nuts that I get at the bulk bins of our local store (Earthfare). We pretty much have a trail mix shelf which has everything: dried fruits, nuts covered in chocolate, almonds, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, etc. My favorite nut is probably the hazelnut. I grew up with it and snack on it anytime I can. Unfortunately they are a little expensive on this side of the ocean. It might have to do with the fact that I yet have to see hazelnut trees in this country?

Americans love their peanut butter like French people love Nutella. Well, I wasn’t raised on this side of the ocean. And while I will eat peanut butter, I don’t have the craving for it that my husband displays. If he makes a PB&J sandwich for a hike, I’ll make an Almond butter, honey and banana one. I’ll cook with peanut butter and eat small amounts. But I’m far more interested in other butters. Truth is I don’t eat that many almonds on their own. But grind them and you find my addition. I don’t know what it is but I can eat almond butter like I used to it Nutella.

I like almond butter on crackers with a hint of honey, or spread on bananas. But my favorite way is slathered on a crisp slice of apple. A little match made in heaven.

I usually buy my almond butter in the bulk section. Our store has a grinder and you can make it fresh. However today with one car under repair and the other with my husband at work I found myself car-less and gasp! almond butter less! What’s a girl to do? Well find a good basic recipe for homemade almond butter of course.

It was easier than I thought. The food processor does the entire work. It does take quite a while however. But here’s the kick: you can create the butter you want. I started with almonds and added a little sea salt, cinnamon and honey. It was delicious.

What’s your favorite snack?

Marathon Excitement in Asheville

Downtown Asheville From the Grove Park Inn

I’ve been asked by my family what my next marathon would be. I guess my enthusiasm was palpable. To be honest with you I have a list of races I’d like to do at some point or another: the Grandfather Mountain Marathon, the Dupont 50k, the Dupont Half Marathon, le Marathon de Paris and a triple trail series in our area.

I also should say that I had an interesting conversation with a runner during the Blue Ridge Marathon. That runner in question was going to run the Dupont 50k this year. As we discussed she mentioned she was surprised Asheville didn’t have a marathon. Sure there are several nearby like the Grandfather or the Black Mountain Marathon. But none for the town itself.

But then, yesterday came. A big, runner grin worthy announcement: Asheville is getting a Marathon!

It will be an extension of the current Asheville Citizen Times Half Marathon that takes place in September. First race schedule for 2013. The 5k will now be on Friday as a family event and the Half and Full would be on Saturday. I’m thrilled. Not only are we getting a marathon but it will go by North Asheville (like the Half) as well as our corner of the woods aka West Asheville and along the beautiful French Broad River. Registration opens September 15th and I just can’t wait to sign up. I also look forward to see what the course will be.

Read the Full Article

 

Keeping The Water Handy

When I started running I knew nothing about fueling or hydrating. All I knew was from hiking: I like to have water handy. As I started my running journey I did not like being without water. Even 2 miles required me to drink. I kind of smile at the thought of it now. I’ve gone a long way. I’ve learned a lot about what my body can and can’t do. I also still have a lot to learn.

The Fanny Pack

When my husband realized I was taking running seriously (aka I signed up for a 5k). He got me a camelback hydration fanny pack.

Yes I know it’s not called  a fanny pack on their website but that’s pretty much what it is isn’t it? When I think about myself training to run for a 5k with this around my waist in the park I just want to give myself a hug.  I must have looked ridiculous. I even ran my next 5k with it. I was thankful for the water it provided but let me tell you: this is not made to run.

It’s bulky, I constantly had to adjust the straps, it would move around on my waist. After a few months I gave up. I decided that it was a great water option for day hikes (and it is) but not a running accessory.

The Hydration Belt

It was already working a lot better. Less water but also less bulkiness and movement. I loved that it still had a little pouch in which I could store keys, cell phone, running directions, etc. The two bottle options (and more can be added) allows to have water on one side and an energy drink in the other.

But… it still wasn’t doing it for me. My two main issues were that first the fuel belt still slides around my midsection. I don’t know if it’s designed for men and not women or maybe it needs some sort of sticky fabric but I don’t like having to slide it back to how I want it all the time. The second thing is that for the bottle to hold they have to clip it. I almost lost one during my first 12k and ended up holding it in my hand for the rest of the race because it was wet and I feared it wouldn’t hold. I also dropped them several time during training run because I wasn’t putting it back in right. So that was a bit frustrating.

The Handheld Bottle

After speaking with my brother-in-law (who happens to run marathons and sweat more than anyone I know) I decided to give a try to handheld water bottle. I got an Ultimate Direction bottle because it was on sale at my local outdoor gear store and I’ve just used it since. I love that it’s easily accessible. During the marathon it was also fairly easy to unscrew and refill at the aid stations. It does get smelly but I can throw the hand held attachment in the wash and hand wash the bottle itself. My phone barely fits in there but as long as it does and that I can put my keys there too I’m ok with it.

The only issue with the bottle I have is that it’s not insulated. As a result I can’t put too cold a water in there or my hand feel frozen. Any water does warm up faster due to my hand being in contact with it. However they are coming up more and more with insulated bottles or even a neoprene cover that fits all around the bottle to insulate it from the hand.

It can get heavy on your hand. Personally I switch hands from time to time and see it as an additional arm workout.

During a race with aid stations my hand-held water bottle is enough. During my long training runs (16 miles and above) I combined the hydration belt and the hand-held bottle to be self-sufficient. I was able to put iced water that way in the belt and have cooler water longer.

I yet have to try the hydration packs that go on your back. But I think that will wait until I put my legs into ultra running.

What are your favorite hydration devices. Pro and cons?

The Running Widower

Two runners on a hike

I’m not the only runner in our house. My husband is one too. In  fact, he used to run more than I do. Well that has changed. We still run together, but for some workouts I “leave him in the dust” as he states himself. Last month there were some times when I ran as much in a day as he does in a month. So yes, I’m in better shape when it comes to running.

Some men could be resentful about their wife being faster. I feel very thankful that my husband is not. No, instead he is proud. He brags about me and my running. He jokes about me being faster than he is, tells his friends about my race results and how long I went running for. He is also very supportive of the time I dedicate to running and the money I put into getting the gear I need. I couldn’t do it without him.

One thing about being a foreigner is that I always learn new expressions. Tonight my husband told me he is a Running Widower. He got some blank eyes in response to that one.  He had to explain and I had to thank him for giving me a good blog post title. Hopefully he doesn’t feel too abandoned and cheated on by trails. I did tell him that if he ever wants to start a blog or a tweeter account that it would make a great name.

Does your other half runs? Do you run together?

Learning From the Marathon

I learned a few things running my first marathon, things I hope to remember next time I run one. Oh yes because the first thing I learned from the marathon is that I like it. Yes some miles were tough but I very much want to run another one.

The Training Plan

I decided early on not to be too concerned about my pace while training. I ran by feel instead. Oh I’m sure I ran some workouts too fast and some too slow but overall I did great and I don’t regret my choice at all. Now if I was trying to break a certain time then I may want to look at my times a little more, if only afterward to learn from it.

The Taper:

I frankly enjoyed it. It was good to give a rest to my body and have more time for myself. I’m glad I followed the training plan for it.

Carb Loading:

It’s impossible for me to carb load according to what I found I’m supposed to do. I simply can not ingest 400g of carbs a day. I did however get a lot of snacks that I munched on for the last two days prior to the race. Kashi’s oatmeal dark chocolate cookies, homemade trail mix, pretzels, etc. It worked out great.  I choose to cut off dairy a few days ahead. I missed it,  but I think that was a good thing for me to skip it prior to the race.

Pre-Race meal

I think I’d rather have a homemade meal before a race since it’s easier to control. I feel that I should have practiced a little more on what works best and kept a log of pre-long run dinners. I’d love to avoid an other porta potty break during a marathon (downhill didn’t help either). I think a little more plain food would have been better. I had pasta alla vodka which I think contained cream, that wasn’t my best decision.

Banana, bagel and almond butter worked out great in the morning

Race Fueling and Hydrating:

I think I did good when it comes to hydration. I didn’t care much for the electrolytes drinks when came the time. I was very thankful I had my hand held bottle with me. I could drink when I wanted and refill it at the aid stations. I learned that I can’t rely on meeting my husband on the course and it’s best to have everything I need with me.

Fueling I didn’t do so well. I’m terrible at eating gels when I should. I never eat as many as advised on the packaging. I did good for the first half, starting around 45 minutes and taking a sip every 20-3omns. But after mile 15 I just forgot to take some. I don’t know if I need to set myself reminders or practice taking them better during training race. I do think however that 1)I like Clif gels better than GU.  2)I do better sipping a little gel at a time rather than a whole packet at once. I am honestly surprised I did as well as I did with the little fuel I had during the race.

My the end of the race I was craving sliced oranges and icy cold water.

Chaffing

It will happen. I used a natural version of body glide. Most of my body part were fine. Some light chaffing on the lower back but nothing that I even noticed or felt until a few days later, so the SkinFood Topical Nourishment worked. I did experience some chaffing from a poorly designed seam on my sports bra. I could feel it at the beginning so I knew it would be a problem. Somehow my body tuned it off and I only realized it at the very end.

Post-Race Fueling and Stretching

Having my husband bring me a smoothie was one of the best post-run fuel idea I had. It was easy to drink and I know helped with the good protein/carb ratio.

Making use of the massage table is a must. I’m also glad I mostly followed my usual cool off/stretch routine.

Post-Race legs

Overall they felt good. However after 20 minutes of walking, during the first two days after the race, I had to sit down. It’s good to know your limits.

Recovery week

That would be my other failure (first one was fueling during the race). It’s not because you feel good that your legs have recovered. Recovery week is not the time to try out a new trail, especially not a technical one. I feel very stupid because my first two recovery runs went very well, so I was a lot more careless on my third and the result is injury. Lesson learned: no new trail (easy smooth trails are ok), no new shoes post race. I think I would have been better off logging a few more miles on my old trail shoes while my legs recovered.

What lessons do you take from race running? Any wisdom to share?

 

 

The Fear of No Running

What is it with us runners? Why is it that if we can’t run for say two days we feel we’ll never run again?” That all our hard work to get to that level will go down the drain? I can have my feet off skis for two years and not worry about it. But take them off the trails and it seems like it’s the end of the world. I guess they are right when they say it’s an addiction.

I didn’t run for three days to give my legs a rest. It seemed like an awfully long time. I went for  a run on Monday since my legs felt better. After a mile or two that had changed. My 5 mile run turned into 3 and a half or so. I felt pain pretty much from my hip to my ankle along the iliotibial band. So here I am, less than two weeks away from a 15k and looking at taking several days of rest instead of training.  It’s frustrating. But what choices do I have?

Option 1: Run through the pain and likely be unable to finish the 15k.

Option 2: Rest, Ice, Stretch but run little and hope I can run the 15k.

It’s hard in my mind. I doubt myself. Can I finish a 15k if I only run 3-9 miles for three weeks in a row? But then I have to remind myself. I did run a marathon two weeks ago. My body can do this. My body needs the rest. My iliotibial band will likely thank me.

 

A Case of Post Marathon Blues?

I’m totally doing some self diagnosis here. But I think I’m getting a case of post-marathon blues. I told this to my husband and he laughed, he said “it’s B.S”. (trust a guy who works with kids to use a “proper” version of a swear word). Hey I don’t think it is. Why else would there be 11400 results on google?

So yes, I’ve been feeling a little down the last few days. Not as motivated. I’m sure the lack of running is not helping. Nor is the (almost) unexplained knee pain that had me decided to take a few days off running. But I can’t blame it all on allergies or car problems now, can I?

I think that going from the rigid marathon training for four months, followed by the runner’s high, followed by well, almost nothing, is mentally hard. Where do I go from there? While I would love to sign up for another marathon, I know it’s not in the books for this year. Bad timing for us. And let’s be honest with myself. While I would love to cross another 26.2 finish line, I’m not sure I want to put myself through the rigorous training so soon. I’d like to enjoy running for running. I want to feel the joy of the trails. I want to run more often and spend time running with my husband. Running for a marathon is a big time commitment. You think, breathe, eat marathon.

I’m hoping my knee feels better by next week. I’m ready to train for a fun 15k. I’m ready to shrug off the marathon blues and just feel the joy of the run.

How do you deal with post race blues?

Post Marathon Recovery

We’re now a little over ten days after the marathon and I’m still supposed to be in recovery mode. It’s both relaxing and weird to have such  low weekly mileage. I’ve been attempting to follow the McMillan Running recovery program. And yes, attempting because I’m not always doing such a good job at it.

I remember when I first looked at it, before the marathon, I was just thinking there was no way I would only run 20 minutes right? Ha! I quickly found out that past 20 minutes of walking in the first few day, my muscle hurt. I should probably say that I was also crazy enough to go back to Mill Mountain and the true summit of Roanoke Mountain the afternoon of the race. Yes I went on a mini hike the same day I ran 26.2 miles. Did it hurt? A little. Do I regret it? Nope, it poured the next day and I would have missed it altogether.

But I did avoid to run until 3 days after. My first run was scheduled for 20 minutes and that is exactly what I did. I was completely ok with it. I wasn’t hurting per say, just sore and fine with taking it easy. The next run after that was an easy one too, on trails with my new trail shoes, perfect. Both were around a 9:30 pace. But not the third…

Nope, I made the mistake to pick a trail run which while short turned out far more technical than I expected. While on the trails I had a blast. Jumping up and down, walking where needed, speeding where I could. My average pace 10:14. Once would think that’s taking it easy, but it really doesn’t take into account the trail itself. I almost twisted my ankle a few times and my husband actual sprained his. While I felt fine at first I realized all the ankle twisting had actually pulled on the knee. It’s not a make you want to stop running feel, but I definitely did something. I’ve been stretching it and it’s getting better, but looking back I think that trail was a mistake. My muscles were better but still weakened by the marathon. I should have stuck to easy known trails.

I still probably run too fast on most of my runs, but I just can’t help myself. It’s hard not to when you feel good.

Recovery Week 1: 12.36mi

 Day  Run  Miles  Time  Pace
04/29/12
3.66
00:28:40
07:49
04/28/12
3.48
00:35:37
10:14
04/26/12
Untitled (Trail)
3.05
00:28:50
09:27
04/24/12
2.17
00:20:26
09:24

I’m slowly going to continue to increase my mileage. I miss the long runs. I miss the trails too. Plus I need to start getting my body back for the Biltmore Kiwanis 15k on May 20th.

Now I just need to resist signing up for another marathon. I’d love to run another one but with some recent car repairs it would not be a sound financial decision.