An Asheville Adventure

Hundreds of runners run against the scenic backdrop of the North Carolina mountains (photo courtesy of the Asheville Citizen Times).

The Arrival

Friday, shortly after enjoying lunch with the running gang of Dalida, Jade, Kati, Billy, Bob, Jay, and Théoden, I jumped into my car and headed up to Asheville.  The Charlotte Running Club board (and Matt Jaskot, the one non-board member hanging out) had scheduled a summit in Asheville to a) run the Asheville Hot Chocolate 10K on Saturday and b) spend much of the weekend getting on with the business of running the club. Scott Helms had graciously dished out money from his own pocket (which each of us repaid without using any club funds just in case some of you were thinking we were squandering your dues) to land this sweet pad just outside the city.  After reimbursing Scott some $85 for 2 nights in a splendid mountain oasis, I couldn’t help but wonder why we runners don’t go to races as groups more often.  Why are we paying upwards of $150 per night to stay in all-too-often-crappy hotels?  But I digress.

Since I was the first to arrive, I met with the owner who took me on the grand tour of the premises.  Apparently he owns some 25 acres with 3 homes for rent.  It felt very much like a sales tour and I nearly told him, ‘Hey, no need for the pitch.  We already paid.’  But he was affable and pleasant enough so I humored him, right up until the point where he was selling me on the hot tub – I would not be partaking with this crew in the hot tub – I’d heard too many stories.  (Not to mention that I used to work in a gym that had a hot tub.  I had to clean that thing.  The horror.  I will probably never step foot in a hot tub again.)

I got settled in and shortly thereafter Scott and Emily arrived and we headed  over to the Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company where we met the rest of the gang, Caitlin (does everybody mentioned in this post have a blog?), Aaron (not everybody), Ben Hovis (coach of the cross-country state champs), Matt, and Jay.  Jay joked that it was our second meal of the day together.  We should have eaten breakfast together and completed the trifecta.  We chowed on some pizza, laughed a lot, and then headed to the Ingles grocery store near our weekend abode and stocked up on some essentials (read ‘beer’).

Back at the house, everyone staked out bedrooms Big Brother/Real World style (being the earliest arrival, I, of course, had already claimed the sweet downstairs bedroom) with our fearless leader Aaron wisely hitting the hay by 10:00.  Since there were 9 of us with only 6 beds, a couple of folks had to sleep on couches, with 1 individual snagging the couch in my room.  In order to spare him possible shame, I won’t mention his name when I tell you that he snored.  Loudly.  Oh right, that’s why we runners don’t rent houses together more often.

The Race

Saturday morning, we all loaded into 2 cars and drove into downtown Asheville where we were directed to a parking deck.  We parked and quickly hustled, not because we were late but because it was bitterly cold, to get in line for the school bus that would take us to the start at the Isaac Dickson elementary school.  Caitlin and Ben, not racing, opted to run to the school, ostensibly in an attempt to get warm.  On the bus ride over, I snapped this shot of Aaron and Matt:

Aaron, in slick running attire, and Matt, in a bathrobe

The bus dropped us off at the school and we, along with the hordes of other runners, made our way inside.  There we picked up our packets (including a free pair of socks – sweet!) and went about the standard pre-race business of pinning our bibs to our singlets, stretching, and of course, scoping the halls  for bathrooms.

This particular pre-race was a bit surreal as it marked the first time I’ve ever performed my pre-race ritual in an elementary school.  Ducking into the little boys’ room and attending to business made me feel like a giant – toilets and sinks were all designed for tiny folks and therefore close to the ground.  I took the opportunity to snap this  photo even as I made sure to adhere to all the specified rules:

I made sure to follow these rules all weekend long, including keeping all body parts to myself.

I waited until the last possible second to make my way outside as it was bitter cold (my northern friends will laugh at this), 19 or 20 degrees.  I rushed through my warm-up, jogging with Emily for a bit, and then with Billy.  With just a few minutes before gun time, we made our way to the starting line.

Nearly everyone stayed well behind the starting line which meant we got to easily walk right up to the front.  The starter spoke for a few seconds and moments later we took  off.  I found this picture on the Asheville Citizen Times’ website:

Look closely and you can see yours truly in the fifth spot of this photo. Aaron took the lead seconds later.

I’ll spare you most of the boring details of the race as my recaps are getting pretty redundant.  You know the drill by now:  I go out too fast for the first mile (in this case in 5:46 – in my defense, it was straight down),  I chase someone who’s in my wheelhouse (in this case, Boriana), and I finish up just shy of my goal.

Alright, I lied.  Please allow me to elaborate on a few details.  Aaron shot into the lead.  Matt pulled up beside me within the first 400 meters and pointed this fact out to me then proceeded to leave me in his dust where I was forced to behold the double CRC logos on his shorts, one for each cheek.  Moments later, Boriana passed me and I spent the rest of the race chasing her.

The plan was to take it pretty easy – after all, I had just run a rather grueling half marathon a week earlier.  I had exchanged some emails with Coach Hadley and we agreed that I should treat this race more like a tempo run, maintaining something around 6:45 pace, which I mostly did with the notable exceptions being the super-fast first mile downhill and the super-slow last mile uphill (yes, the exact same hill on this out-and-back course).

After Boriana passed me in the first mile, she put about 100 meters between us before our paces evened out.  I locked into goal pace and cruised through the next 2 miles in 6:38 and 6:37.  We ran down the aptly named Riverside Dr. along the French Broad River.  Around mile 3 we made our way over a bridge where I encountered the 2 leaders, already heading home.  Just a few seconds back, Aaron cheered on Boriana, then me, and I returned the favor.  I made a conscious effort through the park to try and bridge the gap between Boriana and myself, but I didn’t seem to make up any ground.

We finished meandering through the park and headed back towards the bridge,  just as Emily was entering the park.  She yelled to me but I had a mouth full of water having just gone through the water stop so I just waved and resumed chasing Boriana.

I fell off pace a bit, coming through mile 4 in 6:47.  Shortly thereafter a girl passed me so I tried to go with her.  Before I knew it, she had carried me all the way to within 10 meters or so of Boriana.  I had an internal debate, “Should I pass now or wait and try to sprint past at the end?”  While I pondered this decision, Boriana locked onto the girl who had just passed and they both gapped me.  My mile 5 went by in 6:47 too.

Before I realized it, Boriana was too far ahead to reel in and we were starting back up the hill.  It was much less fun at mile 6 than it had been at mile 1.  In fact, it was something akin to torture.  I struggled up it as Ben and Caitlin screamed for me.  It went something like this (again, photo courtesy of the Asheville Citizen times):

Caitlin, Boriana, Matt, and Ben cheer on as runners struggle up, up, up the brutal last stretch.

I finished in 42:00.  According to this online race pace calculator, that’s 6:45 pace.  So mission accomplished.

Post-Race:

Everyone finished up and we enjoyed the race’s signature hot chocolate before getting on the return trip bus. A few more pics from the school after the race:

Normally, I would not recommend wearing such attire in an elementary school. But apparently it's acceptable on race day.

Caitlin, Ben, and Emily hang out after the race while some guy behind Ben sobs.

Afterward, several of us headed over to the Sunny Point Cafe and devoured a delicious brunch.  We waited nearly 45 minutes before being seated but it was worth every second.

That afternoon, the board got down to business.  We spent several hours discussing, sometimes heatedly debating, the future of our organization and how best to serve our members.  I’ll let the much more articulate Jay summarize in the newsletter but just know that big things are in the works for the Charlotte Running Club.

After the meeting, Scott, Ben, Matt, and I took Billy to, and I’m not making this up, Nachos and Beer.  How can you possibly spend a weekend near a restaurant named Nachos and Beer without visiting?  Answer: You can’t.  And it was Billy’s birthday – how better to celebrate?

Ben snapped this shot of Billy enjoying our impromptu festivities at Nachos and Beer:

Billy nearly forgot and left while still wearing this sombrero, but the proprietor was not about to let that happen.

And that was it.  The next morning, we gathered our belongings and departed.  This was my first official Charlotte Running Club road trip.  I hope there are many more to follow.

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2 Responses to “An Asheville Adventure”

  1. aaron Says:

    ha…:) Good pix! That was a fun weekend and an enjoyable race. thx for recap.

  2. Matt Says:

    I’m not ashamed of my snoring. I’m proud.

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