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.
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.
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.
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.