Latest reviews by Deanne Avery

(2019)
"Triple Lakes is Exceptional!! "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

It was not my intention to run two marathons this year. My plan for turning 40 was to run a marathon, meaning 1 marathon.

I do always try to sign up for the next big race before completing my upcoming big race and I happened to run across the Triple Lakes 40K in Greensboro.

Perfect I thought. That’s less than a marathon so I can do that and how cool to run a 40K for my 40th year!

I immediately signed up.

I quickly thereafter did my best peer pressure work of all time.

I managed to convince my friend Kim, her husband John and my friend Meredith to go along with me on this crazy journey to 40k!!

We developed our training plan and got right to it. Running more trail miles than ever before and getting more vertical gain than ever before!

In the midst of our summer training I was diagnosed with Asthma which is exacerbated by exercise. I am so glad I went to have my breathing situation checked out though! Having my inhaler now makes my run so much better. I no longer feel like I’m sucking air through a flattened straw! I no longer run scared that I will pass out or worse on the trails a million miles from help.

Through the summer training we had some of the hottest most humid days ever! It was tough but we were tougher!

A few days before the 40k the race director announced that the 40k course was going to change. Unfortunately the area had been severely affected by the hurricanes that came through and many of the trails were impassable.

In addition to the 40k the race also had a half marathon and a 40 miler. The race director had to make last-minute changes to the course so that the all the races could still go on. The half marathon course was passable and so they made the decision to have the 40k run the half course twice making it a marathon and to have the 40 miler run the course three times!

Of course this sent us into a silly frenzy. We started bantering back and fourth about how we did not train for 42k but only 40k and what in the world would we do! A 40k is 24.85 miles whereas the marathon is 26.2. That mile and a half roughly was sure to get us lol!! We were kidding of course. I was already pretty mentally prepared for a marathon. Most places I looked listed this race as a marathon while others did say 40k. Either were really fine with me.

I laid out all of my clothes in advance for the race but totally forgot to take a flat runner pic as I usually do!! In hind sight I am not sure if hardcore trail runner girls do this or not so good thing I didn't. Make no mistake I am a hard core trail runner girl now!!

I decided to wear my Skirt Sports Spanky Skirt, a black tank top from WalMart, the Skull and Bones OTC Crazy Compression Socks, of course my Brooks Cascadia shoes, a baseball cap, my Nathan VaporAiress Hydration vest and last minute I picked up some Nike Sleeves at Dicks Sporting Goods.

The sleeves were the best decision ever!!!! I knew I would be cold starting out and I don't love being cold. I love being cool but not cold. If I wore a jacket I would have had to remove my pack to get the jacket off once I warmed up. With the sleeves I could peel them off mid run and they are so thin I could easily stuff them in a pocket of my pack! That's exactly what I did. Within the first three miles these puppies were off and tucked away for the rest of the race!

I had a busy weekend and so there was no good way for me to get to Greensboro the night before the race. I would instead make the two hour drive the morning of the race. Kim and John drove down that morning as well. We all got up at 3:30 am and met up at the interstate at 4:30 am to caravan down together. We had a 2 hour drive ahead of us and we needed to get there about 6:30 for packet pick up.

We stopped just into Greensboro to take a quick potty break and I ran to the convenience store for some last minute fuel. The night before the race I realized my hubby had eaten all of my mini Payday's (trail running fuel of the Gods lol). I had to be in Boone Friday night for a Gala with my youngest daughters sorority and so after she and I went to Walmart to buy another bag of mini Paydays. As I was heading down the mountain after dropping her off she called to tell me she had the Walmart bag with my PAYDAYS!!! So.... I grabbed what they had at the store which was a sword sized Payday that just barely fit into one of my side pockets in my pack lol!!

We got to the race Saturday morning just as packet pick up started. We were able to meet the race director which was a lot of fun. We had been bantering back a fourth a bit on Instagram as we prepped for the race. We then we met up with Meredith and loaded up our packs. We were lucky enough to meet in person Jacky Hunt-Broersma aka ncrunnerjacky who is an ultrarunner also from North Carolina. She has an incredible story of surviving cancer and now running as an amputee through the toughest trails you can fathom. If you don’t follow her you should be, she is incredibly inspirational and her journey is unlike anything that I could ever imagine. Jacky was there for the 40 miler!!

The race started in waves with the first wave being the half marathoners. A bit later the marathoners lined up and the 40 milers would start after us.

The weekend before this race Kim and I ran 13 miles on the Fonta Flora Trails. Kim is a stronger trail runner and much better pacer than me and last weekend I decided to run behind her the entire time. That run was probably the best trail run ever and so I decided I would do the same, run behind her, for as long as I could at this race.

I made her swear she'd not hold back for me and that if I fell behind she would go on. She promised and I promised her that even if by some miracle I felt like a rock star at the end I would not pass her and instead push her to the finish!!! I did not feel like a rock star and instead let her drag me behind her to finish lol!!

We ran the first half of the race almost non stop. We power hiked maybe twice on two steep climbs.

Training for a trail race, especially a trail marathon is a challenge in and of itself. Training for a trail marathon that you have never been able to test out is even more of a challenge.

All I had seen were these two videos of the course.

For a road race a pacing strategy or a run walk strategy is doable. For a trail race with varying terrain not so much.

We ran so strong for the first half and slowed down a bit for the second. We decided we would try to do a 3:1 run/walk for the second half and for the most part stuck to that!

My legs were heavy by the time we began loop two. I had mentally planned to fall behind but decided I would work as hard as I could to keep up with Kim.

The trails were challenging and the terrain was ever changing. The rooty areas very rooty where it felt like we were we were doing some fancy footwork you see in those football player drills. There were areas where it was very packed dirt which was great and there were areas of super slippery mud because of all the rain. The trail had sections where boardwalks had been built in the woods, these areas were low spots that most likely got the wettest. The course also had a few short spurts along the road and dam of the lake.

It rained almost the entire day but that tree cover and canopy kept us from getting soaked. The temperature was perfect, it was nice and cool. It really was the perfect day! We have some great trails in western NC but this trail in Greensboro makes me jealous!

We gained about 1,800 feet of elevation overall which was not too bad.

The aid stations were well stocked and well supported. I did not take a lot of pictures on this route. I normally am the picture taking queen but I was focused on running instead and did not want to slow us down. On the trail I have to focus on maintaining my footing. If I take my eyes off the trail I tend to find myself in a face plant position on the ground lol!

I took in fuel about every 30-45 minutes and sipped on my Nuun Water in between that as needed. I had Gu, Salt Sticks, Peppermint, Gummy Bears and my giant Payday as my fuel sources and alternated between them throughout the race. At the aid stations I grabbed a cold water which was refreshing! This fueling and hydrating strategy worked well for me this race!

A few times during the race Kim was in it to win it and I thought I might die in the process. If there was another runner on the trail we'd suddenly speed up to pass, most of them out for their morning run and not part of the race lol!! Once she did ask a lady behind us her age group, when the reply was 45 buddy we picked up the pace again lol! Turns out she was running the half dang it lol!!

After the race we ran up hill to the finish and we received our race awards from the race director and were directed over to the post race food. They had a fully catered hot meal ready for us at the finish!! They had Beer, BBQ, Rolls, a big salad and so much more!! I grabbed a water, roll and some veggie straws and collapsed. The spread was very impressive but I had Pizza on the brain!

I finished in 6:15 which was way better than I expected! I didn't exactly know what to expect so I had just planned to finish before the eight hour cut off. Kim and I came in fourth and fifth in our age group woot woot!! Next year we are gunning for a place now that we know what to expect!

Oh yeah! We will be back! This race was awesome!! Well organized, well staffed, well supported! Not one single complaint or critique!

We hung out for a little bit after the race took a few more photos and then left to go get some pizza!

This race is hands-down one of my all-time favorite!! I want to do it again and again and again and again! Kim said she felt like she could have gone on to do a third loop! I did not feel that way lol. I however would love to have felt that way and so one day maybe I will give that a try!

As always I did have a good long cleansing cry on the course. I tend to do that. At about mile 21 I was overcome by emotion. I had never gotten farther than 20 miles on the trails before and here I was going farther! I felt so small in this big ole forest yet I felt so alive, my spirit totally revived by the cool crisp fall fresh air, the gentle rain shower washing over me and the beautiful woodsy scents dancing along with me on the course! It was trail magic and God for sure!

I can not recommend this race enough and I sure can not wait to do it again!!

See more at http://www.gooutsidegirl.com/2018/10/triple-lakes-trail-race-marathon-race.html

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(2019)
"A beautiful course and an incredible race!"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
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Parking/Access
Race Management

Oh WOW what an incredible weekend!!

I had actually not been feeling so well since my marathon challenge weekend in March. I have had some asthma related bronchitis with a cough that has just settled in long term. Seriously I am going on almost a month now.

With this going on I decided before I left town that I would take it easy at this race. I really wanted to experience all of Savannah and enjoy every minute. *Spoiler: Somehow of all the things I enjoyed I totally missed Forest Gump that everyone else got pictures with!!!! HOW did that happen?

My youngest daughter, Tess, went with me which was an added treat!! A little mommy daughter time is always super special!

We loaded up Friday morning and hit the road! We didn't leave quite as early as planned, we were on the road around 7:40 and we had steady rain almost all the way there so we took our time, had a few pit stops along the way and made it into Savannah just before 2pm.

We drove straight to the expo. The expo was located at Kehoe Iron Works which is a cool venue location in Savannah (would make for a beautiful wedding venue). Compared to other races I would say this was a smaller expo. There were several vendors and all the most important things were there so I thought it was great! We checked in, got our bib and headed down the stairs to get our gift and then moved through the vendors there.

This is the first half marathon I have done that you did not get a race shirt. I am on the fence with how I feel about it... On one hand I have several race shirts that I never wear so maybe it would have just gotten lost in that pile, on the other hand, I just feel like I have to have a race shirt lol!! They did have shirts available for purchase so if I really wanted a shirt I could have easily picked one up.

They did however have a very nice participant gift! We were given a great duffel bag which will is certainly much more usable and most half marathons I have done don't do give aways quite like this so that made up for the lack of shirt for me!

The expo also had several other vendors giving away 13.1 stickers, cups, makeup remover wipes, and so much more!

Tess and I left the expo and had some time to kill before we could check in at the hotel so we drove around and checked out one of the historic cemeteries and then headed over to Tybee Island.

The beach was rejuvenating for these water sign girls!

We then headed back to downtown and got all checked in at the hotel and freshened up! We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn and I was very happy with the location and the hospitality! I was 1.3 miles from the start line of the race.

Tess and I headed to dinner around 6pm. We planned to go to the Pink House and I called ahead to make a reservation to find that they were closed from renovations until Monday. We found our plan be at Garibaldi's! I highly recommend! I also highly recommend reservations... We didn't have any but they just so happened to have a table for two nestled in a quaint window in the corner of the restaurant and it was perfect! I loaded up on cheese and pasta and Tess had a steak!

We then walked around just a little in Savannah after dinner then headed back to the hotel and made sure I was ready for race day.

I slept well and got up at 5am to get dressed, have coffee and head to the start. I had planned to leave the hotel at 6:15 to walk to the start. Luckily I met some other runners heading to the start as well and walked with them and got to Forsyth Park with time to spare.

*Insider tip - Bring or wear bud spray. That didn't occur to me and luckily I was not super bothered by bugs but some runners were and most locals had bug spray and/or wipes!

I meet up with some Skirt Sisters at 6:50.

I met up with my friend Crystal from home.

I then meet up with my fellow Bib Rave Pro Samantha for the race start!

The energy was so beautiful there! So many women gathered together in this gorgeous city was incredible.

I decided since I was still under the weather I would start with the 2:30 pace group. I wanted to take it easy and settle into a comfortable pace and not feel pressure to keep up with anyone.

I took two puffs from my inhaler about 30 minutes before the race. We then lined up and were off!

I pulled away from the 2:30 group within the first mile but I figured they were just a few steps behind me. I again decided not to look at my watch at all during the race. This is my new magic trick/secret super power I think.

I kept a comfortable pace to keep my breathing under control. I was still coughing a lot and still wheezing even after using my inhaler so I did not want to exert myself.

The course was breathtaking (no pun intended). We ran through the live oaks with Spanish moss draped across the canopy, we ran on the old cobble stone streets, we ran through quaint neighborhoods and through several parks.

At about 5 1/2 miles in I saw my friend Crystal. I knew she had planned to start with the 5:15 group so I thought I would settle in and stay back behind her. As I got closer to 6 miles I was gaining on Crystal and so as I pulled up beside of her I told her I couldn't talk and breath easy but I was going to run with her for a bit. Somewhere between miles 7 and 8, maybe at an aid station I lost her. I have later learned that she was dealing with the worst case of chafing I have ever seen. She wore a skirt that did not agree with her at all!! After seeing the pictures I am surprised she was able to keep running. Ouch!

Throughout the entire race I had been following two girls and letting them pace me. They were a very consistent pace that felt very comfortable to me. For most of the race they stayed a few steps ahead of me.

Do you do this at races?? I seriously always do. I find someone who makes the run look easy, I settle in behind them and just keep in step with them allowing them to pace me.

I had initially decided that since I felt good I would try to run to mile 6 without stopping. I had my watch set for the 3:1 intervals and so I planned to transition to intervals after mile 6. I did walk through the aid stations to get water but resumed running as soon as I had taken my sip. I was carrying my Nuun and Gu but I grabbed a water at each aid station. At mile 6 I decided I would get to 6.5 miles or half way before I'd take a walk and then I ended up not taking a walk break until about mile 7.5.

These ladies I had been following, toward the end, were playing boomerang with me. I'd see them ahead of me, then I would loose sight of them, then I'd realize they had fallen behind me, they'd pass me then I'd pass them, and so on and so on.

I didn't take all of the interval breaks but I did take about every other one. Just before the Mile 12 mark I took a walk break. I suddenly felt the creep of an asthma episode coming on. My chest was beginning to tighten and I was beginning to struggle to get air. Only. One. More. Mile. I thought.

As I approached Mile 12 the ladies ran up along side me and asked if I wanted to finish with them.

Runners really are amazing people. So encouraging, so motivational and this was the energy I needed at that very moment.

I of course said yes and got back in stride. I ran beside them for a moment but my shallow breaths made it hard to speak and thus I couldn't explain that I was unable to speak as I had to choose speak or breath at that point. I told them I was going to settle in just behind them and I followed along for a bit. I believe they stopped at the last aid station and so I lost them again but I am forever thankful for the boost they gave me!

I finished strong with my second fastest half marathon at 2:20!!

At the finish we were given our medals and a bag from Publix with a fruit bar, orange, banana and water inside.

The medals are gorgeous!

I was feeling frighteningly unable to breath, my air way was severely restricted. I moved through the finish coral and grabbed my inhaler. I took only one puff since it was still so early, normally I wouldn't use my inhaler less than every four hours. It really is a terrifying feeling not being able to breath. It's not like exertion and heavy breathing (I wish) it's not being able to inhale at all! After using the inhaler again I began to be able to breath.

The after party was great there was music, Mimosa's, etc.

I then headed back to the hotel to shower. Tess and I then went out for some post race pizza and ice cream!

We had an amazing time!! I am already looking forward to running this one again next year!! It is a must do!

You can see so many more photos from this gorgeous race on my blog at www.gooutsidegirl.com

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(2019)
"My Runners High"
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
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Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
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Wow talk about a runners high!! I have always felt it, well often I have felt it I should say. The runners high, the feeling of happiness and accomplishment I feel after running. This is one of the main reasons I love running early mornings. I get my runners high and feel amazing most of the day. What good would that do me to get in the evening before going to sleep lol!

The Asheville Marathon Weekend however was a high like no other!!

This truly is my favorite race weekend of the whole year and I really do spend the whole year in anticipation of this weekend!

Yes I am a race ambassador but that’s because I love it so much and have so much love for this race to share!! I want everyone to experience this at least once!

On Friday I spent the day at the Race Expo, helping other runners with questions they had about the race.

I met up with several other ambassadors which is always fun! Many of them I keep up with on all the socials so I feel like I am a part of their life and so to get to see them for a bit in person is super fun!

I love this race expo and I actually was given a lot of feedback from other runners too that it was awesome! There was so much to see and do with all the booths and brands there showcasing and selling their goodies!

I generally always buy a shirt, a sticker of some sort and always a bottle of the commemorative wine!

The expo goes for most of the day so as people are getting in from out of town they can stop by and get their race packets and explore the event.

The race packets this year consisted of the race bib, a pass to get onto the estate, a Lululemon bag full of goodies including a lucky buff, a beverage coozie from Oscar Blues, a fruit bar and fruit peeler from ingles, several coupons, etc. As you work your way through the expo you get your shirts at a table at the end. This year the half marathon shirt was short sleeved and blue and the marathon shirt was long sleeved and grey! I love them!

I stayed this year at the Residence Inn and when I checked in on Friday they had welcome bags made up for all the runners staying with them!! They were full of water, snacks, protein bars, details about the race and the information sheet from the race along with stickers and other fun things!! There was also a signed letter from the staff! Such a nice surprise!

At 6pm I picked up a fellow ambassador and we headed on the Biltmore Estate for the pre-event dinner.

This year’s guest was to be professional runner Gabriele “Gabe” Grunewald. Unfortunately the US has been affected with some crazy weather and her flight was cancelled. Not to worry though we were able to video conference her in and it was like she was in the room with us anyway! What a ray of light she is! I am so honored I had the opportunity to hear her words of encouragement as she shared her very real story of her battle with cancer since she was 22 years old. Boy that hit me, I found myself with a steady stream of tears through most of her talk. My daughters will soon be the age she was at her diagnosis, they are so young to me, and she was so young. I cannot begin to imagine having to so quickly grow up and face cancer at that age. She has since fought cancer additional rounds and is currently fighting in her fourth round. Next month she will be a 10 year survivor which is incredible. She is however still fighting for her life! She made a huge impact on me and I was humbled to hear her encourage our runners for the race ahead of them. I hope she does know how many people wish to encourage her as well for the race that lies ahead of her.

The dinner was lovely, we had pasta and salads and bread and yummy deserts and I had a beer!

That night I headed back to my hotel and pulled out my stuff for the half marathon so that I was ready to go!

I wore Lululemon Leggings, a Lucky Running Shirt from ETSY, Lululemon Jacket, Lululemon Hat, a Buff and my Brooks Cascadia Shoes. I had my Aftershokz Headphones and I carried my Camelback hand held with me!

Saturday morning, the morning of the half marathon, I woke up super early as planned. I have found that for longer distance runs I need two hours of “up time” to get everything going so that I have a good run! I need time to just be as I wake up, I need to use the bathroom, brush my teeth, make some coffee, eat a small breakfast (bagel with PB), use the bathroom again, get dressed, brush my hair, use the bathroom again, sit for a bit and if needed use the bathroom again lol! It take some time and having two hours makes me not feel rushed. I grabbed my bib and estate pass and headed to the race.

Ambassadors were meeting for a quick picture before the race. The barn does not provide the greatest lighting but whatever, we snapped our pic and headed to the start.

Saturday it was pretty cold and super windy!! My strategy was to start behind Kim. I know I have probably said this a thousand times but she is the most perfectly paced runner I have ever met. I don’t think her pace changes from start to finish of a run. (This is not exactly true in a race, I have witnessed her run down a person before to pass lol.) This is sooooo helpful for me. I tend to start too fast and then have nothing left in the tank at the end. By starting out at the pace I want to finish with I am able to conserve energy.

I also decided to use the strategy that had severed me well on recent training runs of not looking at my watch at all the entire race! This is so freeing!! Sure I have a time in my mind I want to finish in but it’s so much less pressure not looking at my watch. If I look and see a 9 something pace I think, oh no I’m going too fast and I better slow down or I will hit the wall, if I look at my watch and see a 12 something pace I think, oh no, I will never pick it up and so I might as well throw in the towel. By not looking none of this enters my mind! There were a few times in the run Kim really wanted to tell me but I insisted I did not want to know.

We ran most of the way with very, very, few breaks to walk and when we did walk it was only for a few seconds. As per the usual we did stop a few times to take pictures along the way! It was a gorgeous and super fun day!! I loved so much running with her! It made the morning fly by and made the run that much more enjoyable!

At the last mile, she asked me “What was your half PR again?” I knew what she was about to say…

I said “2:24” and she said “Well come on, we are going to beat that!” and so we kicked it into gear and ran to the finish with a time of 2:19!!!! I cried!! I could not believe it! I have dreamt of a 2:15 finish for years and this was the closest I had come!! Considering this is an Asheville Course with some hills and that we stopped several times for pictures I feel certain now that a 2:15 is in my future!! We totally killed it!!

I felt great too! We did not want to push it for the half since we’d be running the full the very next day and I did not feel as though we had pushed it too hard! I was on cloud 9!

I left the race and headed back to the hotel to shower and get ready. I then headed back down the mountain for a special little girls first birthday!! My best friend Elizabeth’s little one is already a year old!!

After the party my hubby James, my puppy LeRoy and I headed back up the mountain, picked up Carabas for dinner and headed back to the hotel. We ate and then I got all my stuff laid out for the marathon.

I wore Lululemon Leggings, a Lucky Running Shirt from ETSY, Lululemon tank, Skirt Sports Spanky Skirt, Lululemon Hat, Crazy Compression Socks, Handful Closer Bra, Nike Sleeves, Zenzah Gloves, a Buff and my Brooks Cascadia Shoes. I had my Aftershokz Headphones and I carried my Nathan Hydration Vest with me!

Sunday morning, the morning of the full marathon, I woke up super early as planned and followed my same routine. I packed up the hotel room and we loaded up the car, I grabbed my bib, a day bag and estate pass and headed to the race. We were going to meet Kim and John at the entrance and I would ride with them in so the hubby and pup could head on back home. I no longer make him wait on me at races. I know how boring and long of a day that is. He supports me from home just as good as he can from standing all day at a finish line lol!

We met up with my other friend Kim who was also running again on Sunday, she did the Backyard to Backyard Challenge running both half marathons.

Ambassadors were meeting for a quick picture before the race again at the barn we snapped our pic and headed to the start.

Sunday it was warmer than Saturday I thought. The wind was not howling around so that made it feel much better. I stuck to my strategy of starting behind Kim and not looking at my watch. My only goal was to come in at least a minute faster than last year which I finished in 5:36.

Kim and I initially thought we’d start with the 5:15 pace group. We sought out the pacer to understand his strategy. He planned to run and walk hills so we decided to do our things and try not to get too far behind him.

We started out in front of the 5:15 pace group and felt pretty good. We took our time in the first half of the race. We actually walked A LOT more than we thought we would leading up to the house. We took a lot of picture breaks too along the way! I was not watching the clock but the 5:15 pacer did pass us and Kim mentioned that he had to be ahead a bit based on her calculation so we didn’t let that bother us. We kept our pace and kept moving along. Of course we stopped and took all the pictures along the way too!

The turning point at the marathon, the point where marathoners turn left onto the private part of the estate and the half marathoners stay straight is always emotional for me. We stopped to take in the vast river and snap a picture.

I managed to run down the 5:15 pacer at one point during the race, we chatted for a bit and sure enough he was a bit ahead. There was another girl with him that was running her first marathon. They planned to stick together to the finish and push for the 5:15 pace. We settled in to pace with them for a bit and then we kicked it up and forged ahead of them.

We figured we’d stay ahead of them as long as we could and if we saw them coming we’d try to hold on to the finish.

Earlier that morning we had a brief conversation with Tom, another Asheville Marathon Ambassador who was also pacing the full marathon. He was pacing the 5:20 pace group so we were going to try to stay ahead of him. We kept passing him on the out and backs and in true Tom fashion he kept encouraging us telling us what a great job we were doing! Each time we passed him I thought “We are doing this”!

Toward the end of the race Kim needed to stop for a bathroom break and rather than go on without her I wanted to wait. I really wanted us to finish together. We only lost a few minutes and then we kicked it in to gear and finished those last five miles strong!

I finished my second marathon in 5:11!!! A 25 minute PR!! It was incredible!! Two PR’s in one weekend is unlike anything I expected! I still cannot believe I actually ran 39.3 miles in one weekend!

I attribute this successful weekend to staying dedicated to a training plan.

We finished the race, got our marathon medals, picked up our challenge medals and a challenger zip up hoodie!

I love everything about this race!! The scenery is absolutely amazing! It’s pretty spectacular to run this many miles all on the beautiful estate of the Biltmore House. There is no traffic, just open fields, pastures of animals, blue skies, deep forests, a gorgeous castle like home, fountains, ponds, gardens, lakes, no noises aside from the sound of the river moving softly alongside sections of the route and the sound of feet and heart beats as other runners move alongside you. It's absolutely serene!

If you are looking for a half marathon or marathon that is truly one of a kind I highly recommend the Asheville Marathon!

I plan to be there again next year and most likely running the challenge again!!

Come run with me in March 2020!! I already can't wait!

See more photos from this amazing race on my blog www.gooutsidegirl.com

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(2019)
"The Backyard to Vineyard Challenge "
Overall
T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

Wow talk about a runners high!! I have always felt it, well often I have felt it I should say. The runners high, the feeling of happiness and accomplishment I feel after running. This is one of the main reasons I love running early mornings. I get my runners high and feel amazing most of the day. What good would that do me to get in the evening before going to sleep lol!

The Asheville Marathon Weekend however was a high like no other!!

This truly is my favorite race weekend of the whole year and I really do spend the whole year in anticipation of this weekend!

Yes I am a race ambassador but that’s because I love it so much and have so much love for this race to share!! I want everyone to experience this at least once!

On Friday I spent the day at the Race Expo, helping other runners with questions they had about the race.

I met up with several other ambassadors which is always fun! Many of them I keep up with on all the socials so I feel like I am a part of their life and so to get to see them for a bit in person is super fun!

I love this race expo and I actually was given a lot of feedback from other runners too that it was awesome! There was so much to see and do with all the booths and brands there showcasing and selling their goodies!

I generally always buy a shirt, a sticker of some sort and always a bottle of the commemorative wine!

The expo goes for most of the day so as people are getting in from out of town they can stop by and get their race packets and explore the event.

The race packets this year consisted of the race bib, a pass to get onto the estate, a Lululemon bag full of goodies including a lucky buff, a beverage coozie from Oscar Blues, a fruit bar and fruit peeler from ingles, several coupons, etc. As you work your way through the expo you get your shirts at a table at the end. This year the half marathon shirt was short sleeved and blue and the marathon shirt was long sleeved and grey! I love them!

I stayed this year at the Residence Inn and when I checked in on Friday they had welcome bags made up for all the runners staying with them!! They were full of water, snacks, protein bars, details about the race and the information sheet from the race along with stickers and other fun things!! There was also a signed letter from the staff! Such a nice surprise!

At 6pm I picked up a fellow ambassador and we headed on the Biltmore Estate for the pre-event dinner.

This year’s guest was to be professional runner Gabriele “Gabe” Grunewald. Unfortunately the US has been affected with some crazy weather and her flight was cancelled. Not to worry though we were able to video conference her in and it was like she was in the room with us anyway! What a ray of light she is! I am so honored I had the opportunity to hear her words of encouragement as she shared her very real story of her battle with cancer since she was 22 years old. Boy that hit me, I found myself with a steady stream of tears through most of her talk. My daughters will soon be the age she was at her diagnosis, they are so young to me, and she was so young. I cannot begin to imagine having to so quickly grow up and face cancer at that age. She has since fought cancer additional rounds and is currently fighting in her fourth round. Next month she will be a 10 year survivor which is incredible. She is however still fighting for her life! She made a huge impact on me and I was humbled to hear her encourage our runners for the race ahead of them. I hope she does know how many people wish to encourage her as well for the race that lies ahead of her.

The dinner was lovely, we had pasta and salads and bread and yummy deserts and I had a beer!

That night I headed back to my hotel and pulled out my stuff for the half marathon so that I was ready to go!

I wore Lululemon Leggings, a Lucky Running Shirt from ETSY, Lululemon Jacket, Lululemon Hat, a Buff and my Brooks Cascadia Shoes. I had my Aftershokz Headphones and I carried my Camelback hand held with me!

Saturday morning, the morning of the half marathon, I woke up super early as planned. I have found that for longer distance runs I need two hours of “up time” to get everything going so that I have a good run! I need time to just be as I wake up, I need to use the bathroom, brush my teeth, make some coffee, eat a small breakfast (bagel with PB), use the bathroom again, get dressed, brush my hair, use the bathroom again, sit for a bit and if needed use the bathroom again lol! It take some time and having two hours makes me not feel rushed. I grabbed my bib and estate pass and headed to the race.

Ambassadors were meeting for a quick picture before the race. The barn does not provide the greatest lighting but whatever, we snapped our pic and headed to the start.

Saturday it was pretty cold and super windy!! My strategy was to start behind Kim. I know I have probably said this a thousand times but she is the most perfectly paced runner I have ever met. I don’t think her pace changes from start to finish of a run. (This is not exactly true in a race, I have witnessed her run down a person before to pass lol.) This is sooooo helpful for me. I tend to start too fast and then have nothing left in the tank at the end. By starting out at the pace I want to finish with I am able to conserve energy.

I also decided to use the strategy that had severed me well on recent training runs of not looking at my watch at all the entire race! This is so freeing!! Sure I have a time in my mind I want to finish in but it’s so much less pressure not looking at my watch. If I look and see a 9 something pace I think, oh no I’m going too fast and I better slow down or I will hit the wall, if I look at my watch and see a 12 something pace I think, oh no, I will never pick it up and so I might as well throw in the towel. By not looking none of this enters my mind! There were a few times in the run Kim really wanted to tell me but I insisted I did not want to know.

We ran most of the way with very, very, few breaks to walk and when we did walk it was only for a few seconds. As per the usual we did stop a few times to take pictures along the way! It was a gorgeous and super fun day!! I loved so much running with her! It made the morning fly by and made the run that much more enjoyable!

At the last mile, she asked me “What was your half PR again?” I knew what she was about to say…

I said “2:24” and she said “Well come on, we are going to beat that!” and so we kicked it into gear and ran to the finish with a time of 2:19!!!! I cried!! I could not believe it! I have dreamt of a 2:15 finish for years and this was the closest I had come!! Considering this is an Asheville Course with some hills and that we stopped several times for pictures I feel certain now that a 2:15 is in my future!! We totally killed it!!

I felt great too! We did not want to push it for the half since we’d be running the full the very next day and I did not feel as though we had pushed it too hard! I was on cloud 9!

I left the race and headed back to the hotel to shower and get ready. I then headed back down the mountain for a special little girls first birthday!! My best friend Elizabeth’s little one is already a year old!!

After the party my hubby James, my puppy LeRoy and I headed back up the mountain, picked up Carabas for dinner and headed back to the hotel. We ate and then I got all my stuff laid out for the marathon.

I wore Lululemon Leggings, a Lucky Running Shirt from ETSY, Lululemon tank, Skirt Sports Spanky Skirt, Lululemon Hat, Crazy Compression Socks, Handful Closer Bra, Nike Sleeves, Zenzah Gloves, a Buff and my Brooks Cascadia Shoes. I had my Aftershokz Headphones and I carried my Nathan Hydration Vest with me!

Sunday morning, the morning of the full marathon, I woke up super early as planned and followed my same routine. I packed up the hotel room and we loaded up the car, I grabbed my bib, a day bag and estate pass and headed to the race. We were going to meet Kim and John at the entrance and I would ride with them in so the hubby and pup could head on back home. I no longer make him wait on me at races. I know how boring and long of a day that is. He supports me from home just as good as he can from standing all day at a finish line lol!

We met up with my other friend Kim who was also running again on Sunday, she did the Backyard to Backyard Challenge running both half marathons.

Ambassadors were meeting for a quick picture before the race again at the barn we snapped our pic and headed to the start.

Sunday it was warmer than Saturday I thought. The wind was not howling around so that made it feel much better. I stuck to my strategy of starting behind Kim and not looking at my watch. My only goal was to come in at least a minute faster than last year which I finished in 5:36.

Kim and I initially thought we’d start with the 5:15 pace group. We sought out the pacer to understand his strategy. He planned to run and walk hills so we decided to do our things and try not to get too far behind him.

We started out in front of the 5:15 pace group and felt pretty good. We took our time in the first half of the race. We actually walked A LOT more than we thought we would leading up to the house. We took a lot of picture breaks too along the way! I was not watching the clock but the 5:15 pacer did pass us and Kim mentioned that he had to be ahead a bit based on her calculation so we didn’t let that bother us. We kept our pace and kept moving along. Of course we stopped and took all the pictures along the way too!

The turning point at the marathon, the point where marathoners turn left onto the private part of the estate and the half marathoners stay straight is always emotional for me. We stopped to take in the vast river and snap a picture.

I managed to run down the 5:15 pacer at one point during the race, we chatted for a bit and sure enough he was a bit ahead. There was another girl with him that was running her first marathon. They planned to stick together to the finish and push for the 5:15 pace. We settled in to pace with them for a bit and then we kicked it up and forged ahead of them.

We figured we’d stay ahead of them as long as we could and if we saw them coming we’d try to hold on to the finish.

Earlier that morning we had a brief conversation with Tom, another Asheville Marathon Ambassador who was also pacing the full marathon. He was pacing the 5:20 pace group so we were going to try to stay ahead of him. We kept passing him on the out and backs and in true Tom fashion he kept encouraging us telling us what a great job we were doing! Each time we passed him I thought “We are doing this”!

Toward the end of the race Kim needed to stop for a bathroom break and rather than go on without her I wanted to wait. I really wanted us to finish together. We only lost a few minutes and then we kicked it in to gear and finished those last five miles strong!

I finished my second marathon in 5:11!!! A 25 minute PR!! It was incredible!! Two PR’s in one weekend is unlike anything I expected! I still cannot believe I actually ran 39.3 miles in one weekend!

I attribute this successful weekend to staying dedicated to a training plan.

We finished the race, got our marathon medals, picked up our challenge medals and a challenger zip up hoodie!

I love everything about this race!! The scenery is absolutely amazing! It’s pretty spectacular to run this many miles all on the beautiful estate of the Biltmore House. There is no traffic, just open fields, pastures of animals, blue skies, deep forests, a gorgeous castle like home, fountains, ponds, gardens, lakes, no noises aside from the sound of the river moving softly alongside sections of the route and the sound of feet and heart beats as other runners move alongside you. It's absolutely serene!

If you are looking for a half marathon or marathon that is truly one of a kind I highly recommend the Asheville Marathon!

I plan to be there again next year and most likely running the challenge again!!

Come run with me in March 2020!! I already can't wait!

See more photos from this amazing race on my blog www.gooutsidegirl.com

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(2019)
"Will run for Chocolate!!"
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T-Shirts/SWAG
Aid Stations
Course Scenery
Expo Quality
Elevation Difficulty
Parking/Access
Race Management

I had THE most fun at the Hot Chocolate 15K in Charlotte this past weekend!!

I have participated in the Atlanta Races twice before and fell immediately in love with these races. Charlotte did not disappoint!

I have been looking forward to this event for weeks!

I was a little undecided on what exactly I would wear and so I laid out my options (as always) the night before.

2018 was the first year for the Hot Chocolate in Charlotte and I did not run it so I was super excited to run it this year! Charlotte is much more convenient for me!

I managed to convince Elizabeth kind of last minute to run the race and so she and I car pooled down and met up with Kim and John at the race!

We left town at 5 and arrived about 7:15 having made one stop along the way! One thing none of us thought about was parking and paying to park. Next year I will need to remember to bring cash!

The weather was great! Not too cold, not too hot. I wore a Skirt Sports Skirt, long sleeve Nike shirt under my BibRave shirt, Crazy Compression Socks, my Brooks Cascadia and my BibRave Hat! I carried my Nathan handheld and had my Aftershokz Treks Airs too!

I met up with my fellow BibRave Pros which was fun! This was my first time racing with BibRave and while I feel like I know these guys I have only met them online so meeting them off line was a treat!

We then jumped in line for the porta potties and then warmed up a bit with another friend Tami!

Just before the race start we headed down and got into our corals and then we were off!!

The course was great! Very well marked and even better manned than I could recall! I love participating in races that are so well supported. It felt like there was an officer ever 1/4 mile or more. In addition there were other volunteers along the course and lots of families that came out to cheer on the runners! We ran through a couple of neighborhoods, main roads and a short section of greenway so that was fun!

The aid stations were awesome! I didn't stop at all of them but I saw one with Gummy Bears, one with Chocolate and one with Marshmallows (yum)! The stations also had Nuun and Water. I tend to carry Nuun so I go for the water usually!

In my training I have been trying hard to work on my mental toughness. I have been working on sprinting to the end of my training runs when I can see the finishing point. I struggle in races with this. I get a mile away and feel great then as I get closer it's like my brakes go on and I. Can. Not. Move. One. Foot. In. Front. Of. The. Other. UGGGGG. I saw the 400M sign and suddenly felt like I was miles and miles away. Sheesh!! Must do more work on this!!!

I managed to conjure up some strength and push to the finish! I bettered my previous 15k times and completed in 1:39!

I am delighted with my time! (But I know I could have done even better lol)

After the race we got our medals cheered in some other runners and then ventured into First Ward Park to get our Hot Chocolate!!

The park was full of things to see and do!! There was a cute spot to take a pic with your time, lots of fun giveaways including sport beans, All State Beanies, etc. There was a gear store, several fun photo ops and loads and loads of chocolate!

The medals, as always, were the best!!! Who doesn't love a medal shaped like a chocolate bar???

I absolutely love these races!!! I am already looking forward to running again next year!

Hot Chocolate hosts races all across the country!! Check them out and find one near you!! Maybe I will see you there!!

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