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
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)
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 😉We 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.Before 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. My 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.By 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. #girlpowerAt 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.BUT 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: 7:19
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.Downhill 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! Race medals are nice but race burgers are better. Running and cheeseburgers. The end.
- Experiences running on antibiotics?
- Does your significant other run? Who is faster?
- Favorite post-race meal?