ARX Half Marathon Race Report

It’s been a while since I last posted. Lots of training, lots of miles, lots of life. No big races to report recently, except a couple 5ks which yielded no PRs. This weekend I decided to run to the Asheville Running Experience Half Marathon, up in…. Asheville North Carolina. I do say.. Up.. Because it was up near the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was a beautiful drive and a beautiful race. But the biggest factor going into the race was the rumored hills of Asheville. I wanted a difficult half marathon to prep myself for my upcoming full in 4 weeks. So I picked something with both down and uphills. I wanted to really see what I could do on some steep downhills and how I’d fair on tired legs going up hills as well. 

Didn’t do a “full taper” for this one as I was in the midst of training, but still tapered enough leading up to the race. My legs however, were still sore from the previous week of training. 

On to the report. 

Decided for a quick trip for this one so my lovely fiance and I decided to drive out on Friday late afternoon. We got in pretty late so I missed the official packet pick up and opted to pick it up in the morning before the race. Not a problem, we grabbed some dinner at a local pizza place which was extremely good, a brick oven place away from the downtown area. Not my usual pasta meal, but I got enough carbs in to feel “full”. 

Got back to the hotel, which… was bad. We stayed at the motel6 and it was awful. Bugs flying around, smelled like cleaning supplies were drenched in the room, etc. Not happy with that experience, but all I needed was a working shower and a bed to sleep in.

Got up in the morning for a quick shower and a quick bite to eat. Half a banana and a banana nut muffin. Note to self, eat more for your marathon breakfast.  Kissed the soon to be mrs goodbye and drove my way downtown. Parked at a parking garage about half a mile from the start and did an easy jog down to the area to pick up my packet. Got there was told I need my ID in order to pick up my bib… grr okay.. I guess ill go back and grab it from the car. Get the id, having to RUN pretty fast to do so because the time to pick up the packet was expiring. Get to the car, then run back to get my bib. They give my a tshirt, crap. Now i run that back to my car.. AGAIN. and run back to the starting area. Okay. whatever i got warmup in!  =)  And warmed up I am, sweating and my shirt is already soaked, it was roughly 66 degrees at the start of the race. 

Line up for the long line for porta potties, not to the race director, add more bathrooms next year. 8 for 400 runners is not enough. I lined up near the front, since well… No one wanted to run near the front or near the 1:30 pacer. The 1:40 pacer was right behind us for some reason, I was aiming to run somewhere close to 1:30 but knew there would be some tough hills so a PR would be just fine for me. 

Notice my shoe is loosely tied and go down to tie it up real quick, as I make my loop the gun goes off and I instantly burst up and start running, realizing I have people behind me. 

Mile 1: 7:05

I stay with the 1:30 pacer for the first mile and he is actually going at a comfortable pace, a little above 7 minutes per mile. I think he checked his watch about half way through and bursted off on a uphill, gaining his distance from me. 

Mile 2: 7:04

I keep the 1:30 pacer in range, him and one girl he is pacing, not many people were aiming for that range. 

Mile 3: 7:44

Some pretty big hills in the first 2 miles already, but when I get into mile 3, I realize this is in no way a PR course. NOT in the slightest. Take a caffeine gummy here.

Mile 4: 7:19

Okay, I can still see the 1:30 pacer, but he is not slowing down and I am… My hope for catching him fades. Some guy passes me huffing really hard, like he is dying. I let him pass without a fight realizing I will probably catch him later. Take a blok here.

Mile 5: 8:05

Damn, this hills are SUPER steep, I am talking like it would be fast to walk these hills then to attempt to run them. I tell myself, there will be no walking on this day. The volunteers I pass laugh as I shake my head passing them on a hill.

Mile 6: 7:35  

There are some downhills, but not enough to make up for the steepness of the uphills. I am gassed when I get to them and don’t really get to push myself too hard.

Mile 7: 7:14

A slight downhill mile, I am able to make “some” of the lost time, but not enough. 

Mile 8: 7:40

More hills, more tired legs, more people passing me. Me and 2 other guys who look to be in similar shape as me fight together and are pushing the same pace.  All 3 of us pass the guy who was breathing like he was about to die, he says great job to us all. I ease up on the pace here, but the 2 fellows running with me, don’t try and pass. 2nd blok here.  The two guys then pass me I tell em, maybe ill catch ya on the downhill. Sure enough I do on the next little section.

Mile 9: 7:26

Stay with them I say, if they can do it, you can too. This seems to work as I am pacing with them, 1 of them breaks away though and me and a guy who does ultra’s are left alone. I commented on the hills and he mentioned he has done hillier, though at a slower pace during an ultra. Okay, that’s sort of reassuring?  

Mile 10: 8:34

F… this… 250 ft climb in less than a mile. the biggest hill of the course, and it slows me down. Ultra guy started getting ahead of me before mile 9 ended, and I thought I was lost on this mile. I didn’t see anyone the whole time, and finally reached the “summit” to find a water station and round of applause, I guess the toughest hill was over. 250ft wasn’t a huge climb for me, but after the steep hills from the earlier miles, I didn’t have much left. Almost got hit by a car too! 

Mile 11: 6:50

What comes up, most come down? 175 ft descent during this mile and my fastest mile of the day. I actually felt like I could get back on track the last few miles and pull something out of my hat…but then I remember seeing more hills on the elevation profile.  

Mile 12: 7:55

Yup, so much for that, too many hills, too much time to make up. I decide I would be happy if I beat that 1:40 pacer in. Oh look who I see, its Mr. Ultra up ahead. I might be able to pass him…

Mile 13: 7:22

Realize there is only 1 more mile left, and I try to push myself a little harder. Even with the hills. Gaining on Mr. Ultra and kick in gear and give a good surge to pass him, he says good job as I do. And I respond saying you too. 

Last bit, 6:03 pace

Finish time: 1:38:40 according to GPS,  1:38:44 according to Course time.  

 13. CHRIS WRIGHTSON    30 M  WINSTON SALEM NC        346   46:38 1:38:47  7:33 1:38:44

But i finished 13th overall and 2nd in my age group, though technically 1st since 2nd place overall was 1st place and there were double dipping in the awards. 

I normally get all pissy at the end of races where I don’t PR, not the case this time. I beat that 1:40 pacer in, as a matter of fact I looked for him after I came in, didn’t see him and stopped looking past 1:41. Soo that felt a little good knowing that it destroyed the pacers. Talked with the 1:30 pacer and he said he has NEVER run a race with that many and that steep of hills before. He was able to finish just under 1:30 though.

All that being said I was satisfied with my time, and my performance. On a VERY Challenging course, I did what I think was a great job. I looked at the winner of the race, and he came in 1:24:35, his half marathon PR was 1:18:27 and his 5k PR was 16:35. So if you look at this ARX time, he was roughly 6 minutes slower than his PR. Meaning that if this was a “normal” half I most likely would of PRed with a 1:32 something. Besides all that I finished 13th OVERALL! and beat over 350+ runners. I’ll take that.  =)

It was a tough course, and hopefully one that prepared me for what is to come in Scranton in a few weeks. Let’s hope the weather is cool. 

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