Friday, March 20, 2015

Biltmore Half Marathon

First and foremost, the Biltmore Estate is an amazing place to visit.  It is probably my favorite place to go for vacation and I have visited many times over the last 20 years.  Not only is the house an amazing thing to see in person with its architecture, staggering size, pieces of art and furnishings, but the gardens and grounds are breathtaking.  Walking through the conservatory is a walk through a year long flower garden and the paths/trails through the estate are worth your time and effort regardless of if you walk, bike or run.  Knowing that the land was literally a blank canvas due to over forestation and then painted with a vision that would take over a 100 years to come to fruition by Frederick Law Olmsted is mind boggling.

The Biltmore House awaiting the first runners (Photo purchased from Paul Jackson Photography)

That aside, the Marathon and Half Marathon event was even more than I could have hoped.  The weather was absolutely spectacular and of course the views along the run were stunning.  I did the Half Marathon this year which stays on the East side of the 8000 acres of the estate.  For those running the Full Marathon they shared the Half route but also ventured to the West side of the property through the farm areas and up into the vineyards.  My route through the Estate can be seen on this Strava map.

Strava Map of Half Marathon

The run itself starts between the old barn and the Antler Hill Village areas of the Estate.  We headed East towards the house making our way past the Lioncrest conference area, down to the ticket center, then up the famed approach road to the house.  After passing through the beautiful gates you can see in the picture below we headed to the house and back along the roundabout driveway.

Entrance Gate into the House  (Photo purchased from Paul Jackson Photography)

I have included some photos on my back out from the house.  A stunning view early in the morning and certainly got my blood pumping as we passed the 6 mile mark.

Running from the Biltmore House  (Photo purchased from Paul Jackson Photography)

After running down hill through the gardens and over the Hunt designed bridge arching over the Bass Pond (used in the movie the Last of the Mohicans), we worked our way down to the Equestrian Center.  After circling one of the horse fields we ran along the French Broad River heading west towards Antler Hill Village.  I have included a shot of the river which was amazing to see from miles 8 through 12.8 or so.

The French Broad River

As we passed the famous Lagoon the race photographers captured photos of us with the back of the Biltmore House in the background and its reflection in the Lagoon.

Reflection of Biltmore House off Lagoon  (Photo purchased from Paul Jackson Photography)

The last few tenths of a mile got us to the finish shoot between the old barn and Antler Hill Village where we were greeted with loud yells, a wonderful wooden and metal medal and a warm blanket.  I have included a photo of the medal since it is so unique and is made primarily of reclaimed wood from the property.  Just another example of the Biltmore Estate's efforts to be green (solar, LP vehicles, Canola Oil fuel, etc.).

Half Marathon Finishers Medal  (Photo purchased from Paul Jackson Photography)
Next year the Half and Full Marathons will be held on separate days.  The Half will be on Saturday (March 12th) and the Full on Sunday (March 13th).  This gives the runners an opportunity to run both events with some special swag for those that opt-in.  Personally, I have already signed up for both events next year.  I can't wait to get back and run the estate.  You can find more information on the Asheville Marathon website as well as links to register.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Chambersburg Half

This was a great event.  It was very well run and having the Chambersburg Middle School open for packet pick-up was extremely convenient, especially since it was about 10 degrees outside.

The race started on time and was attended by just under 300 runners.  At the start we all headed out of Chambersburg into the country where we remained for the entire 13.1 miles.  They had plenty of support staff out on the country roads to help with traffic and ensure folks stayed on the correct course.  There were even some cheering sections along the way trying to stay warm to make sure we were feeling the love.

The course went out about 4 miles then did a large loop (with a quick 1.5 miles out and back) before returning to the original course for the last 4 miles.  There were water stops about every 2.5 to 3 miles along the course and back which was plenty, especially given the cold climate.  I actually had water with me, but found I had to use the last water stop since it had turned slushy.  A reminder that even though I was warmed up it was still really cold outside.

The course had about 450 of vertical elevation gain overall which isn't a lot, and was made up of a lot of smaller hills under two tenths of a mile, but a few were very steep.  For me this was a great challenge for the first half of the year even though I regularly run hills.  Since I have never run this course before not knowing what was next kept it all very interesting.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Reston 10 Miler

Once again mother nature foiled my plans to run a race.  Unfortunately, I was really looking forward to this run.  The first "long" run of the season hosted by PR Races which always puts on a great event including free high resolution photos.  It also happened to be the first medal event of the year and who doesn't like a good medal?  Since the snow started so early here in MD I was hesitant to drive the hour to VA for the run without really knowing what kind of weather would be waiting for my return.  Given the number of traffic accidents I am see from @FredScanner on twitter it was a good call to stay home.  All I can do now is hope for good weather for this Saturday's running of the 36th Annual Chambersburg Half Marathon.