minutes per mile blog

race recap: downhill at dawn half marathon

On Saturday, I ran the Downhill at Dawn half marathon in Ridgecrest, NC — about 25 minutes outside of Asheville, right on the edge of the Blue Ridge mountains.
True to its name, the race started right at dawn: 6:01 am, to be exact! It was dark and dew-y at the start line, but not too hot which was a blessing.
Logistics were super easy for race morning. As I mentioned, we stayed at a nearby Air BnB and the conference center that hosts the race had plenty of parking at the start line. Anthony, Lizzie, and I arrived around 5:30 and had time to warm up, use the restroom (which was really clean, btw), and take some team photos before the race began :)downhill at dawn half marathon race review 2015
The race was sold out, but still really small. Only 450 runners! We found ourselves at the very front of the pack. (photo from Downhill @ Dawn Facebook page)downhill_at_dawn_half_marathon

Going into this race, my goal was to beat my PR of 1:32. I was shooting for 1:31 and figured that 1:30 would be my holy-crap-that-was-fast goal. I also wanted to see if I could finally beat Anthony 😉downhill at dawn half marathon race review 2015We listened to the National Anthem and said a prayer (FYI this race is held at a Christian conference center). And then we were off! The race is known for its crazy elevation — I had no idea how I would handle all of the downhills.downhill at dawn half marathon elevation mapBefore we got to the downhills, though, we had to deal with a really annoying uphill at the start. Ha!

The first 3.5 miles of the race are an out-and-back loop that take you from 2,700 ft to 2,450 feet and then back up again. Ouch. Miles 3 and 4 were on the slower side for me thanks to that bit, but I knew that once I made it to the top of that initial hill it would literally be all downhill from there.

Miles 4-10 were through some truly beautiful trails. downhill at dawn half marathon race review 2015My goal for these miles was to stay under a 7:00 pace — which was actually pretty easy since gravity was on my side. I’d also heard that a portion of the trails were made of dirt/gravel. This is true, but it’s very tightly packed dirt — so no slipping or dodging rocks was necessary. The trails were smooth and shaded.  A few sharp turns here and there, but nothing too difficult.downhill at dawn half marathon race review 2015By mile 6, I had passed a few women and had Anthony in my sight! (That’s him in the white, above). Lizzie was tearing up the race and ahead of me by 3-5 minutes, currently in first for women. There was one other woman in between us, putting me in third. My goal at that point was to not let any ladies pass me by. #girlpowerdownhill at dawn half marathon race review 2015At mile 10 or so, the route started flattening out. My legs were still feeling pretty good after the downhills — but I was fighting some serious stomach cramps that I think might be due to the amoxicillin still in my system from when I had strep the week before. Interestingly, a number of articles (that I should have read before this race!) have been written on antibiotics and running — sure enough, having an upset stomach is one of the most common issues.

So. Here I was in 3rd place for women, on track to PR and even possibly beat my “holy crap” goal. My stomach was in knots, but I just told myself to keep going. The last three miles were painful, but I was able to hold a pretty steady 7:00-ish pace over a few small inclines and a flat finish.

I crossed the finish line and basically ran straight to the bathroom. Lovely. Then I sat curled up in a ball for about 20 minutes.0606150751BUT even though I felt like death, I was still really happy, deep down! Glad that I was able to run through those final miles and proud that I set a new PR. Official time: 1:29:22 (6:49 pace) and second place for women. Here are my splits:

  • Mile 1: 6:39
  • Mile 2: 6:47
  • Mile 3: 7:16
  • Mile 4: 7:52
  • Mile 5: 7:04
  • Mile 6: 6:37
  • Mile 7: 6:37
  • Mile 8: 6:33
  • Mile 9: 6:43
  • Mile 10: 7:04
  • Mile 11: 7:15
  • Mile 12: 6:56
  • Mile 13: 7:19Capture

I SHOULD have gotten third place because Lizzie was on track to take first. Unfortunately, she hurt her hip/hamstring at mile 10 and had to drop out of the race — which was a wise decision to make instead of trying to run on an injury. Don’t worry, though — she’s seeing the doctor this week and we’ve already picked out some other races to tackle together soon :). Get better, Lizzie!

As for Anthony, he’s still a cheetah. He came in at 1:27:36! I’ll get you next time, dear.0606150749bDownhill at Dawn was an interesting race for sure — I’ve never done a route like that before! (Though I did do a downhill marathon in 2009 that was pretty fun). The course was beautiful, the support was solid, and logistics were easy. Thumbs up for this race.

After a few hours, my stomach cramps finally faded away — and were replaced with growling HUNGER. We headed to Farm Burger to celebrate! farm burger asheville ncRace medals are nice but race burgers are better. farm burger asheville ncRunning and cheeseburgers. The end.

  • Experiences running on antibiotics?
  • Does your significant other run? Who is faster?
  • Favorite post-race meal?

20 thoughts on “race recap: downhill at dawn half marathon

  1. Congrats on your new PR! That always feels good :)

    My husband does NOT run, maybe like twice a year he’ll go out with me. But when he does he can pull off an 8 minute mile! Only for about 2 miles though. He’s not an endurance athlete haha.

    Favorite post race meal is same as yours – burger, fries, shake! Mmmm.

  2. So sorry about your stomach cramps. Congrats on your placing! Did you receive anything for your winnings?

    I am aiming for that race next year,… and had actually wondered if any of it was on trails. Take care!

  3. Wow ! Mary that is fast. Congrats !! I’m going to have to try that half in the future since I missed my Goal by 29 seconds in Indianapolis. I’m not killing it now though cause I’m just so focused on staying injury free for now! I’m going to east nasty tomorrow morning , hope to see you there again soon

  4. Congrats on the run and new PB! YAY!

    Yes – certain antibiotics hurt bad. I had a really bad sinus infection and had to take meds to knock it out. I had to basically eat a giant meal with my meds so that my stomach wouldn’t hurt. I delayed taking my meds one day because I had a race.

    I am faster than my husband….lol. I almost always have burgers and beer after a race/long run

  5. Wow! Fantastic job, Mary!! Congrats on the new (and super fast) PR
    My boyfriend runs, and we’ve figured out that 9 miles is our critical distance when determining who is faster. We’ve run two half marathons together, and I’ve passed him at the 9 mile mark both times.
    My post-race meal is any form of sandwich

    • agreed. anthony can beat me at a half, but i can usually take him when it comes to 15+ miles. men.

  6. Woah!!!! You’re super speedy!!!! Congrats on your PR.

    I would love, love, love to do this course. Nothing beats a downhill course.

  7. Awesome job! That is a fantastic time! Antibiotics always screw up my digestive system (I guess my tummy ends up being upset most of the time I’m on them, so I don’t notice it just when I run), and that’s great you were able to push through. I know how hard that can be.