Race #363 – Hot Chocolate 10k – Asheville, NC – 01/21/17

I last ran this race seven years ago (Race #71), all the way back in 2010, only my second full year of running. A year earlier in 2009 (Race #16) it was the first 10k I had ever run. It was a great race back then, and still is, but over the years I’ve become much less willing to drive 100 miles to run a race, especially in the winter.

 

I was glad I finally went back this year. It’s still probably the flattest 10k in Asheville, beginning and ending at the Isaac Dickson Elementary School. The 10k is a pretty big race with more than 500 finishers, and in addition to that, hundreds of kids also take part in the Marshmallow Dash (ages 8 and under) and the 1k Kids Hill Climb (ages 12 and under). The races are followed by entertainment and awards as well as plenty of hot chocolate in the school cafeteria and gymnasium.

 

This year I was about 5 minutes slower than when I ran the race in 2010, but that’s about par for the course these days. I don’t really like getting slower as I get older but that’s the way it works, so I’m glad I’m at least still running when a lot of other folks my age have been knocked out of the racing loop for one reason or another. On the bright side, I was about a minute faster than when I ran it as my first 10k in 2009. There’s something to be said for experience I suppose.

 

Race Number:  363

Race Name:  Asheville Hot Chocolate 10k

Location: Isaac Dickson Elementary School, Asheville, North Carolina

Date:  January 21, 2017

Race Rating: 88

Winners:

My Age Group (60-64):


Course: Out-and-back course with about a half mile down hill at the start, traveling along the French Broad River for several miles for a loop around French Broad River Park before traveling back to the school. Nearly flat except for the huge hill (maybe 1/2 mile) coming back up the hill at the end. Almost all of the elevation gain is in the last mile of the race.

Elevation:

Almost completely flat except for the start and finish.

Weather at Start:  Cloudy, 46 degrees, 93% humidity, calm winds.

Click Here for Race Results

Click Here for Race Photos from “The 828” (55 pics)

Click Here for Race Website

My Stats:

Time:  48:23
Pace: 7:48
Age Group:  1 of 13
Overall:  75 of 531
Average Heart Rate: 163
Maximum Heart Race: 171
Age Graded Equivalent Time: 37:58 (70.38%)

***************
* RACE RATING *
***************

RACE COURSE
3 – Chip Timing: (3 points if yes)
0 – Starting Mat: (2 points if yes)
2 – Water Stops: (0)none (2)normal (5)extras [Gu, sports drink, etc.]
1 – Course Marking: (0)bad (1)good
3 – Course Scenery: (0-5) 1=bad and 5=fantastic
1 – Mile Markers: (0)poor or none (1)normal (2)with clocks or time called out
2 – Volunteers: (0)too few (2)good
6 – Finish line: (0-9) 0=bad and 9=spectacular!
2 – Certified Course: (0)no (2) yes
2 – Correct Distance: (0)no (2)yes
1 – Partly or fully on unpaved roads: (0)yes (1)no

REGISTRATION
2 – Cost: (0)expensive (2)reasonable (5)cheap!
3 – Race Day Registration: (0)no (3)yes

RESULTS
2 – Posted online within 24 hours: (0)no (2)yes
1 – Easy to find results: (0)no (1)yes

AGE GROUPS
2 – 3 deep awards: (2)yes (0 for anything less)
5 – 5-year age groups (5 points) (0 for anything less)
1 – 14 and under group (1)
1 – 65+ group (1)
1 – 70+ group (1)
2 – Top Overall M/F: (0)none or first only (2)top 3 or better
2 – Masters Category(40+): (0)no (2)yes
0 – Grand Masters Category (50+): (0)no (3)yes
0 – Senior Grand Masters Category: (0)no (5)yes

AWARDS
2 – Overall Winner Awards: (0)none (2)yes (5)excellent
2 – Age Group Awards: (0)none (2)yes (5)excellent
0 – Door Prizes or Drawing: (0-9)
0 – Finisher Medals for All Finishers: (0)no (3)yes (5)really cool medals

POST RACE
6 – Food for Race Participants: (0-10 with 5 being average)
7 – Entertainment: (0)no (1-9)yes
2 – Finisher times posted after race: (0)no (2)yes

REST ROOMS
2 – Porta Potties: (0)no (1)limited, long lines (2)plentiful
2 – Indoor Restrooms: (0)no (1)limited, long lines (2)plentiful

T-SHIRTS
2 – T-Shirts: (0)no (2)yes
3 – Design: (1-5)
2 – Material Quality: (1-3)
2 – Discount for no-shirt option: (0)no (2)yes (*Saved $5 by not getting a shirt!)

PHOTOGRAPHY
0 – Professional Photography: (0)no (5)yes
x – Prices: (1)expensive (3)reasonable (5)cheap
3 – Free Photographs (newspaper, etc.): (0)no (1-10)yes

PARKING
0 – Close to Start: (2)yes (0)no
0 – Close to Finish: (2)yes (0)no
0 – Plenty of spaces: (2)yes (0)no
2 – Free Parking: (2)yes (0)no

(*Parking is kind of a mess… We parked about a half mile away)

OTHER
2 – Shelter from Inclement Weather (needed or not): (0)no (2)yes
0 – Swag (free socks, water bottles, etc.): (0)no (2)yes, some (5)excellent
2 – Part of race series or Grand Prix: (0)no (2)yes (*Asheville Track Club Grand Prix)
2 – Kids Fun Run: (0)no (2)yes
x – Miscellaneous not covered above: (-10 to +10)

TOTAL:  88

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Race #338 – Downhill at Dawn Half Marathon – Black Mountain, NC – 06/04/16

2016-DAD-course1When I ran this race two years ago I considered it my best race ever — a 1:29:25 half marathon at age 62. It’s a feat that I knew I’d never duplicate and looking back at it now I’m still surprised that I was able to somehow crack 1 hour and 30 minutes in a half marathon, especially at that age. That was a 6:49 pace for 13.1 miles, and sadly over the ensuing two years I’m now having a problem running even 1 mile at a sub 7-minute pace.

 

Knowing there was no way to get close to the performance of two years ago, I went into the race this time with a goal of running under 1:40. Just a couple years ago I was averaging under 1:40, but last year (2015) in 16 half marathons I only managed to go under 1:40 on four occasions, with the best being 1:37:49 at The Scream! Half Marathon in July. Fortunately I didn’t have any major aches or pains and felt pretty good going into the race, 100% humidity I managed to come away with my best time of the year at 1:38:49.

 

The race begins at the Ridgecrest Conference Center, which is a Christian retreat just outside of Asheville. It’s a beautiful setting and most of the runners who are staying overnight stay in the accommodations offered by Ridgecrest. Hard to beat a quiet venue tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains where you just have to wake up on race morning and walk right out the door to the starting line.

 

With the mostly downhill course, pleasant setting, and time to visit with running friends, this has become one of my favorite racing events of the year.

Chillin' with friends at Ridgecrest on the night before the race.
Chillin’ with friends at Ridgecrest on the night before the race.

 

Race Number:  338

 

Race Name:  Downhill at Dawn Half Marathon

 

Location:  Black Mountain NC to Old Fort NC

 

Date:  June 4, 2016

 

Race Rating:  103

 

Winners:

2016-DAD-winners

 

Course: First 3.5 miles is out-and-back, mostly down going out and up coming back, all on paved roads in Black Mountain. Next 4 miles or so is downhill on a dirt road leading paved road at the bottom of the mountain. Remainder of the race (5-6 miles) is paved and fairly flat with some additional downhills leading into Old Fort. Definitely a fast course with much more downhill than uphill.

2016-DAD-map

 

Elevation:

2016-DAD-elevation

Weather at Start:  Clear, 63 degrees, 94% humidity.

 

Race Results:

 

 

Click Here for 1100+ FREE Race Photos on Flickr

Lots of great free photos on Flickr!
Lots of great free photos on Flickr!

 

My Stats:

  • Time:  1:38:49
  • Pace:  7:32
  • Age Group:  1 of  6
  • Overall:  32 of  462
  • Average Heart Rate:  164
  • Maximum Heart Race: 179
  • Age Graded Equivalent Time:  1:17:09 (75.68%)

 

***************
* RACE RATING *
***************

RACE COURSE
3 – Chip Timing: (3 points if yes)
2 – Starting Mat: (2 points if yes)
5 – Water Stops: (0)none (2)normal (5)extras [Gu, sports drink, etc.]
1 – Course Marking: (0)bad (1)good
4 – Course Scenery: (0-5) 1=bad and 5=fantastic
1 – Mile Markers: (0)poor or none (1)normal (2)with clocks or time called out
2 – Volunteers: (0)too few (2)good
5 – Finish line: (0-9) 0=bad and 9=spectacular!
2 – Certified Course: (0)no (2) yes
2 – Correct Distance: (0)no (2)yes
0 – Partly or fully on unpaved roads: (0)yes (1)no

REGISTRATION
2 – Cost: (0)expensive (2)reasonable (5)cheap!
0 – Race Day Registration: (0)no (3)yes

RESULTS
2 – Posted online within 24 hours: (0)no (2)yes
1 – Easy to find results: (0)no (1)yes

AGE GROUPS
2 – 3 deep awards: (2)yes (0 for anything less)
5 – 5-year age groups (5 points) (0 for anything less)
1 – 14 and under group (1)
1 – 65+ group (1)
1 – 70+ group (1)
2 – Top Overall M/F: (0)none or first only (2)top 3 or better
2 – Masters Category(40+): (0)no (2)yes
0 – Grand Masters Category (50+): (0)no (3)yes
0 – Senior Grand Masters Category: (0)no (5)yes

AWARDS
2 – Overall Winner Awards: (0)none (2)yes (5)excellent
2 – Age Group Awards: (0)none (2)yes (5)excellent
0 – Door Prizes or Drawing: (0-9)
3 – Finisher Medals for All Finishers: (0)no (3)yes (5)really cool medals

POST RACE
6 – Food for Race Participants: (0-10 with 5 being average)
5 – Entertainment: (0)no (1-9)yes
2 – Finisher times posted after race: (0)no (2)yes

REST ROOMS
2 – Porta Potties: (0)no (1)limited, long lines (2)plentiful
0 – Indoor Restrooms: (0)no (1)limited, long lines (2)plentiful

T-SHIRTS
2 – T-Shirts: (0)no (2)yes
4 – Design: (1-5)
3 – Material Quality: (1-3)
0 – Discount for no-shirt option: (0)no (2)yes

PHOTOGRAPHY
5 – Professional Photography: (0)no (5)yes
5 – Prices: (1)expensive (3)reasonable (5)cheap
10 – Free Photographs (newspaper, etc.): (0)no (1-10)yes

PARKING
2 – Close to Start: (2)yes (0)no
0 – Close to Finish: (2)yes (0)no
2 – Plenty of spaces: (2)yes (0)no
2 – Free Parking: (2)yes (0)no

OTHER
0 – Shelter from Inclement Weather (needed or not): (0)no (2)yes
0 – Swag (free socks, water bottles, etc.): (0)no (2)yes, some (5)excellent
0 – Part of race series or Grand Prix: (0)no (2)yes
0 – Kids Fun Run: (0)no (2)yes
x – Miscellaneous not covered above: (-10 to +10)

TOTAL:  103

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Race #103 – Asheville Citizen-Times Half Marathon – Asheville, NC – 09/18/10

I guess I should have read my review of last year’s race before heading off to Asheville. For some reason I forgot how many hills there were in Asheville and how steep they are.  One thing I did know in advance though was that I’m not running quite as well as I was a year ago. My current knee problems really aren’t all that bad but I’ve been having to change my training so I’m doing less running and it’s been obvious in races over the past few months. Last year I was 2nd in my age group with a time of 1:39:55. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect this year but I felt like I’d be lucky to finish in 1:45.  My assumptions were correct and this year’s time was 1:43:15. I was a little disappointed to finish 4th in my age group but I rationalized that since there were 43 in my age group I was still in the top 10%, so I really don’t feel too bad about it.
The emcee announced at the beginning of the awards that today’s race was the largest race ever held in Asheville, with a total of about 2,000 finishers (1285 in the half marathon and 684 in the 5k). That’s about a 50% increase from last year and there were runners from 21 states. It’s a first class event for sure, and it’s kind of nice to run through all the great places in Asheville. Some of the uphills are so steep that I would take a couple of walk breaks on a single hill before I got to the top. Some of the downhills were the kind you have to ride the brakes all the way to the bottom and it feels like your toes are going to burst right through the front of your shoes. Ironically, my little piggy that stayed home actually didn’t stay home, although he should have since he ended up with a huge bruise/blister from coming down some of those steep hills.
It’s only 7 weeks until the New York City Marathon. I’m registered and everything’s paid for so I’m going, although the thought of running 26.2 miles is not quite as appealing to me as it was when I signed up. I’m hoping to get in at least two or three 18-20 mile training runs between now and then but even that could be too little too late.
Race Results:

Race Rating:
8 – 1-10 Website (Information, results, registration, photo links, etc.)
6 – 1-10 Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10)
8 – 1-10 Awards Presentation (PA system, winning times, etc.) (1 to 10)
8 – 1-10 Food for Race Participants (1 to 10)
8 – 1-10 T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
6 – 4/6 Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No)
5 – 0/5 Professional Photography (5=Yes and 0=No)
6 – 4/6 Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No)
7 – 3/7 Certified Course (by USA Track & Field) (7=Yes and 3=No)
7 – 1-10 Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
2 – 1-10 Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
8 – 1-10 Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
10 – 0-10 Age Groups (10 if 5-year groups; 0 if 10-year groups)
0 – 0/5 Indoor Shelter from Elements (0 if none; 5 if provided)
4 – 1-10 Bathroom Facilities
0-10 Other
TOTAL – 93
My Stats:
Time: 1:43:15
Pace: 7:53
Age Group (55-59): 4 of 43 (9.3%)
Overall: 156 of 1285 (12.1%)
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Race #80 – Black Mountain Greenway Challenge 10k – Black Mountain, NC – 04/03/10

Wow… Race #80… a milestone of sorts, or at least a number divisible by 10. This was my second time around the hills and valleys of the Black Mountain Greenway Challenge 10k. The hills are brutal pretty much anywhere in the Asheville area, but it kind of makes the hills down in the Piedmont a lot easier to run when we get back home.  In last year’s race (Race #26) my time was 49:47 and I walked a total of 10 times using the Galloway method. I’ve learned a little since then and am in better shape than I was a year ago so I expected to run a little faster this year. The Galloway method has been replaced by heart rate monitoring, so now instead of checking my pace throughout the race I try to run at about 92% of my Maximum Heart Rate. Nothing terribly scientific about the 92%, but after experimenting for a few months that just seems to be where my body feels most comfortable.  Something I’ve noticed in my last couple of races is that I’m gravitating towards a little higher heart rate. In today’s race I averaged a heart rate of 168 throughout the race (about 93% of my max) but for mile 6 I averaged a heart rate of 174, which is 96% of my max. It’s still an experiment in progress.
I’m a little rushed this weekend and I’ve got the feeling that there are some eyes glazing over as I quote my heart rate stats, so I’ll cut it short and spare everybody the grief.
Oh, one more thing:  I did manage to slice off about 4 minutes from last year’s time, finishing the race this year in 45:57, first place in my age group. That’s not really close to a Personal Record for me, but with all the hills I was just happy to finish the race in an upright position.
Race Rating
7 – 1-10  Website (Information, results, registration, photo links, etc.)
5 – 1-10  Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10)
8 – 1-10  Awards Presentation (PA system, winning times, etc.) (1 to 10)
4 – 1-10  Food for Race Participants (1 to 10)
7 – 1-10  T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
6 – 4/6   Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No)
0 – 0/5   Professional Photography (5=Yes and 0=No)
6 – 4/6   Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No)
7 – 3/7   Certified Course (by USA Track & Field) (7=Yes and 3=No)
8 – 1-10  Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average) (lots of hills but beautiful!)
5 – 1-10  Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
6 – 1-10  Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
10 – 0-10  Age Groups (10 if 5-year groups; 0 if 10-year groups)
5 – 0/5   Indoor Shelter from Elements (0 if none; 5 if provided)
6 – 1-10  Bathroom Facilities
0-10  Other
TOTAL – 90
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Race #74 – Frostbite 5k – Fletcher, NC – 02/21/10

After so many races being canceled because of cold weather, it was great to be able to run two races this weekend. I was looking forward to returning to this race in Fletcher, hoping to vindicate myself after last year’s dismal 9th place age group finish. Last year’s Frostbite 5k in Fletcher was Race #20 for me, and the last 5k that took me more than 25 minutes to finish. My time last year was 25:29; this year I managed to slice about four and a half minutes off that to finish in 21:02, first place in my age group. I do realize that at my age (I’ll be 58 next week) I might start going the other way before long, but for now I’m enjoying the increasingly better race times.
I had the good fortune to talk to a couple of great senior runners after the race who had both begun running in their fifties. Jim Grodnik is now in the 70-74 age group and ran today’s 5k in 22:02… only a minute behind my young whippersnapper time. Jim said he continued to improve for ten years and ran his fastest 10k about that time. Charles Dotson told me that he also improved for around ten years after he started running. He’s slowed down a bit, but is still finishing in the middle of the pack at the age of 87!
From what I’ve heard, this weather has always been cold for this race. Last year at race time (2:30 p.m.) the windchill was 24 degrees. This year was an amazing turnaround in the temperature department — around 60 degrees at race time, perfect for running.
After yesterday’s race I learned the lesson about eating right and dressing right, so today it was a healthy lunch and one fairly light shirt. Again I wanted to race at about 95% of my Maximum Heart Rate. It takes about a mile to hit that point, and in contrast to yesterday’s first-mile misery, I felt great. Before the race I ran a little with Dennis Duffy, the Carolina Runner, who showed me a big mud hole to avoid. That helped because I was planning on wearing some of my older training shoes, not wanting to ruin my racing flats on the short dirt road I remembered from last year but wasn’t sure how muddy it was after all of the recent snow. I went back to the car and put on my racers just in time to get to the race before it started. The race went well and I felt good throughout. Although my time was only 26 seconds faster than the Valentine 5k yesterday, the difference in the way I felt was huge, so it was a good day.
Race Rating
6 – 1-10  Website (Information, results, registration, photo links, etc.)
6 – 1-10  Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10) (POTTERY)
8 – 1-10  Awards Presentation (PA system, winning times, etc.) (1 to 10)
8 – 1-10  Food for Race Participants (1 to 10)
8 – 1-10  T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
6 – 4/6   Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No)
0 – 0/5   Professional Photography (5=Yes and 0=No)
6 – 4/6   Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No)
7 – 3/7   Certified Course (by USA Track & Field) (7=Yes and 3=No)
6 – 1-10  Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
5 – 1-10  Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
7 – 1-10  Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
10 – 0-10  Age Groups (10 if 5-year groups; 0 if 10-year groups)
5 – 0/5   Indoor Shelter from Elements (0 if none; 5 if provided)
5 – 1-10  Bathroom Facilities
0-10  Other
TOTAL – 93
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Race #73 – Black Mountain Valentine Run 5k – Black Mountain, NC – 02/20/10

Last week our half marathon in Myrtle Beach was snowed out, and fortunately for us, so were all the rest of the races in the Carolinas, and many of those races were rescheduled for this week. There were some good races in the Charlotte area that we hated to miss, but there were a couple in Asheville that were part of the Asheville Track Club Grand Prix series. I’m trying to run at least ten of the ATC GP races this year so we headed for the mountains. As you might expect, the weather was a little cooler up in Asheville than Charlotte, but it was still in the mid to upper 50s and both races were in the afternoon during the warmest part of the day. As we approached Asheville everything was still white with the snow that has been falling for the past month in the North Carolina mountains, but by Sunday afternoon the unseasonably mild temperatures had erased most of the evidence that it was still winter.
It was our first time running the Black Mountain Valentine 5k. In an area with so many hills to contend with, this was one of the less hilly races in the area. There was one steep climb in the first mile that took most of the wind out of my sails but after that it was nothing much more than some mildly rolling hills.
I’m still experimenting with heart rate monitoring and in my two most recent races (a 5k and a 10k) I’ve managed to reach a heart rate of about 166 (about 95% of my maximum heart rate of 176) and hold it for the entire race. For some reason in this race I started out with that same goal in mind since it worked great in the two previous races. I was more than a little surprised to see that in my first mile with a heart rate of about 155 I was huffing and puffing and I felt like I was over 170 beats per minute. This was before I hit the steep hill. I’m not sure if it was just a bad day or my training hasn’t been what it should be, or even the outside possibility that it had something to do with what I had eaten before the race and what I was wearing.
Before early morning races I ordinarily eat either a bowl of oatmeal or raisin bran before leaving home, then on the way to the race most of the time I get an Egg McMuffin from McDonald’s. I know that’s not standard racing food but I like it and it always seems to be something that works for me. With this race starting at 2:00 in the afternoon, we ate lunch on the way to Asheville, stopping at McDonald’s again, but this time lunch (about an hour before the race) consisted of a regular hamburger, small fries, an apple pie, an ice cream cone, and a small drink. This also wouldn’t be considered great pre-race food and I’m pretty sure I won’t try it again before a race.
In addition to my less-than-perfect pre-race meal I also, as is my custom, managed to overdress yet again for a race. I did wear shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, but I somehow managed to rationalize the idea that it would be good to wear a long-sleeved Under Armour Heat Gear shirt under the regular short-sleeved shirt. About a hundred yards into the race I was overheated and mentally kicking myself.
So it’s very possible that the food and clothing had somewhat of an effect on my race performance. You live and learn, as they say, but Linda usually tells me that I just live.
At just past the 2-mile mark in the race I picked a spot where I hoped nobody was looking (didn’t want to blind anybody). I stopped running, slowing down to a walk, and I peeled off both shirts then put the short-sleeved shirt back on. I wanted to toss the Under Armour shirt but figured there will be plenty of cold days ahead so I held onto it until the end of the race. With a little bit of breathing room my last mile was my fastest, with a pace about 30 seconds faster than both the 1st and 2nd miles. As fate would have it, while I was changing shirts I was passed by somebody else in my age group, who finished 18 seconds ahead of me, but for all my problems I was still happy (and fortunate) to finish second in the age group with a time of 21:28.
T-shirts were great (black long-sleeved high quality tech material with a nice design), food was adequate but not great, and awards were drinking glasses.
Race Rating
5 – 1-10  Website (Information, results, registration, photo links, etc.)
4 – 1-10  Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10) (GLASSES)
7 – 1-10  Awards Presentation (PA system, winning times, etc.) (1 to 10)
5 – 1-10  Food for Race Participants (1 to 10)
8 – 1-10  T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average) (LONG-SLEEVE TECH!)
6 – 4/6   Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No) (ATC-GP)
5 – 0/5   Professional Photography (5=Yes and 0=No)
6 – 4/6   Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No)
7 – 3/7   Certified Course (by USA Track & Field) (7=Yes and 3=No)
7 – 1-10  Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
5 – 1-10  Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
5 – 1-10  Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
10 – 0-10  Age Groups (10 if 5-year groups; 0 if 10-year groups)
0 – 0/5   Indoor Shelter from Elements (0 if none; 5 if provided)
5 – 1-10  Bathroom Facilities
0-10  Other
TOTAL – 85
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Race #71 – Hot Chocolate 10k – Asheville, NC – 01/23/10

Quickly becoming one of North Carolina’s most popular road races, the Hot Chocolate 10k in Asheville is a tasty mid-winter treat for runners at a time when good races are few and far between. The race is held as a fundraiser for the Isaac Dickson Elementary School, which is one of only two “Foxfire” elementary schools in the nation that specializes in creative teaching and learning methods. This year, only the third year of the race, registration had to be limited to 800 runners to keep things from getting out of hand. No doubt hundreds more would have been there if they hadn’t waited too long to register. I’m not sure if they’ll increase the size of the race in the coming years, but either way, if you’re able to make it next year be sure to register early and head to Asheville for this outstanding running celebration!
About the hot chocolate… Linda and I ran this race last year and the hot chocolate distribution hit a few snags — the lines were long and there probably wasn’t enough to go around. Not so this year — there was more than enough hot chocolate in numerous places both before and after the race and lines were virtually nonexistent. I grabbed a cup on the way out after the awards and there was still plenty then as well. It seems that any small problems with last year’s race were taken care of and elimated this year.
Another problem with last year’s race that was fixed this year was that they had run out of T-shirts (I didn’t get one last year because I registered on the morning of the race and there were more people than they expected). This year race-day registration was eliminated and all registered runners got a shirt, which by the way was a nice one: long-sleeved black T-shirt with the cool Hot Chocolate 10k logo. It would have been better had it been tech material, but cotton will work too.
Possibly the popularity of this race is due to the fantastic website they have. It’s probably the best and most informative site for any race I’ve seen other than the major marathons. Race director Tim Grotenhuis seems to work year-round on this project and sends out informative newsletters months in advance so people can make plans to be there.
The race route itself is outstanding for a 10k race in Asheville. It’s billed as “The Flattest 10k in Asheville” and it really is, at least for five miles or so. The race starts on a huge downhill in front of the school. After the first mile that is mostly downhill, the course levels off as you run along the French Broad River. You then cross over into a park and run a winding trail through the park, then go back the same way you came, although when you get to the last half mile you take a different route to the side of the school, where the race finishes. Thankfully, the uphill at the end is not as long as the downhill at the beginning, but it’s still an excruciating last half mile, possibly the hardest finish I’ve seen in a race, but since the end is near it’s really not so bad.
If there’s any little nitpicky thing I can say bad about this race, it’s that I was a little disappointed that the awards were edible: Sugar Mommas Cookies. Not that there’s anything wrong with the cookies — they’re great! But I hate to eat my awards. It would be much better if they’d give out the cookies in addition to a nice trophy… that would make this the greatest race in the history of the world, or at least an even better race than it already is.
As for my own performance, I sliced 6 minutes and 2 seconds off my time from last year when I finished 7th in the 55-59 age group. This year I was 1st in the age group (yay!) with a time of 43:36.
My Race Stats:
  • Time:  43:36
  • Pace:  7:02 per mile
  • Age Group:  1 of 22
  • Overall:  46 of 674
The slideshow below contains 93 photos that I took. You can download (for free) any that you want by clicking on the slideshow and getting them on Picasa (you don’t need to register). There was also a professional photographer at the race and I’ll post a link to those photos when I find it.
And I also made a video…
Race Rating
10 – 1-10  Website (Information, results, registration, photo links, etc.)
4 – 1-10  Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10)
8 – 1-10  Awards Presentation (PA system, winning times, etc.) (1 to 10)
7 – 1-10  Food for Race Participants (1 to 10)
8 – 1-10  T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
6 – 4/6   Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No)
5 – 0/5   Professional Photography (5=Yes and 0=No)
6 – 4/6   Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No)
7 – 3/7   Certified Course (by USA Track & Field) (7=Yes and 3=No)
8 – 1-10  Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
3 – 1-10  Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
8 – 1-10  Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
10 – 0-10  Age Groups (10 if 5-year groups; 0 if 10-year groups)
5 – 0/5   Indoor Shelter from Elements (0 if none; 5 if provided)
5 – 1-10  Bathroom Facilities
0-10  Other
TOTAL – 100
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Race #52 – Asheville Citizen-Times Half Marathon – 09/12/09

If George and Frank Costanza were to have a discussion about the Asheville hills, it would probably go something like this:
Frank: You know they have different hill sizes?
George: I know about the size of the hills.
Frank: You got the A, B, C, and the D. That’s the biggest.
George: I know the D is the biggest. I’ve based my whole life on knowing that the D is the biggest.

After having spent a good portion of my morning running 13.1 miles through the hills of Asheville, I have to take issue with D being the biggest. The D’s were easily outnumbered by the DD’s and DDD’s, and there were a few times I thought I was going to have to get on my hands and knees and crawl up to keep from tipping over and rolling to the bottom of the hill!

As I’ve done many times in the past and will no doubt do in the future, I reverted back to the Jeff Galloway Run-Walk-Run method, or Gallowalking as some call it, and according to my Garmin I walked no less than 17 times during the race (solidifying my position as a bonified Galloweenie). Over time I’ve adapted it to what works best for me, which is usually a 20-second walk when I feel like it, usually uphill, but it gives me a little bit of recovery time, and I gotta say it seemed to help as I knocked 8 minutes off my previous half marathon PR with a time of 1:39:46, finishing 2nd in my age group and 58th overall out of 896 finishers.

Hills notwithstanding, it was a race with some of the most beautiful scenery in the Blue Ridge Mountains in one of America’s greatest cities. There was plenty of fanfare surrounding the race with good food afterwards and great tech material T-shirts as well (although they looked a little like they were designed by a newspaper person).

This was the second race in the Running Journal Grand Prix race series and was also an Asheville Track Club Grand Prix race.
Race Rating
9 – 1-10 Website (Information, results, registration, photo links, etc.)
8 – 1-10 Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10)
8 – 1-10 Awards Presentation (PA system, winning times, etc.) (1 to 10)
7 – 1-10 Food for Race Participants (1 to 10)
9 – 1-10 T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
6 – 4/6 Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No)
5 – 0/5 Professional Photography (5=Yes and 0=No)
6 – 4/6 Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No)
7 – 3/7 Certified Course (by USA Track & Field) (7=Yes and 3=No)
8 – 1-10 Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
3 – 1-10 Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
7 – 1-10 Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
7 – 3/7 Age Groups (7 if 5-year groups; 3 if 10-year groups)
0 – 0/5 Indoor Shelter from Elements (0 if none; 5 if provided)
8 – 1-10 Bathroom Facilities
0-10 Other
TOTAL – 98
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Race #34 – Night of the Ninja 5k – Asheville NC – 05/23/09

It’s becoming apparent that I have a love/hate relationship with running races in Asheville.
Here are 5 random things I HATE about racing in Asheville:
(1) It’s so far away! It’s a hundred miles one way and nobody in their right mind would drive that far to pay to run a 5k race. There are probably more than a few people wondering if I may have a couple wires touching in my head that shouldn’t be.
(2) Everybody’s old. Virtually everybody who retires moves to either Florida or Asheville. I heard about one guy the other day from Florida who retired and moved to Asheville. All of those retired people are looking for a hobby, and a good portion of them choose running as their hobby.
(3) Everybody’s fast. With nothing to do but run, all of those retired people apparently spend a good portion of their time running and working on lowering their times in 5k races.
(4) There’s nothing but hills. I guess when you build a city up in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains, hills are to be expected. Still, there’s no getting used to all of that up and down running for a flatlander like me.
(5) Everything’s cool. I feel so painfully out of place when everything’s oozing with hipness, and Asheville has a way of reminding me that I’m now out of the loop.
Here are 5 random things I LOVE about racing in Asheville:
(1) It’s so far away. It always gives Linda and I a great excuse to get out of town for a while. The 2-hour drive through the mountains gives us time to talk to each other more than we would at home when we don’t always take the time to slow down and just be together for a while.
(2) Everybody’s old. It’s refreshing to be around so many active people our own age. I’m actually kidding about everybody being old since there are plenty of younger people in Asheville as well. It’s just that the older people seem to do a lot more than just sit around and watch TV up here.
(3) Everybody’s fast. While I’m sure it’s not 100% true, there certainly seems to be an inordinate amount of speed among the Asheville runners. I tend to not do quite as well in the races, but that makes me want to work a little harder to be a better runner.
(4) There’s nothing but hills. I don’t get nearly enough practice running the hills down in Gastonia, such as they are, so a race in Asheville supplies me with all the hill work I need for the week.
(5) Everything’s cool. Being an old hippie myself, at least in a former life, I’m always happy to rub elbows with the Asheville hipsters, even if my LSD now comes in the form of “Long Slow Distance” runs.
Getting back to the race, the Night of the Ninja 5k is sponsored by and held at the Asheville Brewing Company in downtown Asheville. It’s one of the Asheville Track Club’s Grand Prix races and at the beginning of the season I wanted to run all of the Grand Prix races that I possibly could. I have since lowered my sights just a bit since a lot of the races are just too hard for me to get to, but this was the 5th ATC GP race I ran and I think I heard somewhere that you need to complete 8 to be counted at the end of the season, so I’ll try to do at least 3 more before the season ends. Not that I have a chance of winning anything, but the guys at the top of my age group needs somebody to beat or it wouldn’t be a race, so I’ll volunteer as an honorary whippin’ boy.
I was kind of surprised that it was a fairly small group of racers, with only 152 finishers, many of them dressed as ninjas. It was a rollercoaster course with more hills than I care to remember, but every time I run in Asheville it seems when I return to the relatively flat courses in the Piedmont they get a little easier.
Before the race we met up with our friend Heather, who I met through the blog, and we spent much of the time before and after the race with her. I also finally met Ken Miller face-to-face, who I also knew from the blog but it was the first time we’d actually met and talked. Ken blew me away in the race and didn’t miss his elusive 22-minute mark by much despite all the hills.
I actually finished better than I thought I would with a time of 23:17 despite taking 3 or 4 walk breaks up some of the hills. I finished 2nd in my age group after being passed by the 1st place finisher in the last 50 yards or so and finishing 3 seconds after he did. There were three older runners just a few seconds in front of me near the finish but I was pretty much out of gas by then so I just kind of hoped they weren’t all in my age group, but either way there wasn’t a lot I could do about it. A little while after the race one of them came up to me and mentioned that he had passed me while I was walking. We talked for a few minutes and I found out he was Jim Grodnik, last year’s Grand Masters champion, who I had read about but didn’t recognize him. He’ll be 70 years old next year! Imagine running a 22- to 23-minute 5k at the age of 70!
The post-race food was pretty good, with the standard fruit and bagels, but also each runner had 2 tickets good for a slice of pizza and a beer. I took an extra slice of pizza instead of the beer, non-alcoholic prude that I am. It wasn’t quite as good a deal as the unlimited pizza for runners at some races (notably Hit the Brixx) but there probably needs to be a system of checks and balances for those people who don’t know when to quit eating (that would be me).
I kind of hate to mention it, but the age group awards for this race were the absolute worst I’ve ever seen. They actually made the glasses and cups and I have so vilified in past races seem not so bad after all. The awards consisted of printouts that were done on Print Shop or something similar. That’s it. After the girl handing them out handed me mine, I took it and started to walk away, but then turned back around to see if I had left something behind (a medal or a ribbon maybe?) but she just shook my hand. Seems like maybe a little something extra would be in order such as maybe a gift certificate at their restaurant or something.
Finally, as Linda and I were heading out to the car we met up with Charles Dotson and his wife and talked to them for a few minutes. Charles is truly a legend among North Carolina runners and at the age of 86 is still going strong. Looking through his results on Athlinks, the only race I could find where he didn’t finish first in his age group was the Biltmore Estate 15k back in 2001, where he finished second.
Race Rating:
7 – 1-10 Website (Informaton, results, registration, photo links, etc.)
1 – 1-10 Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10)
7 – 1-10 Awards Presentation (PA system, winning times, shelter, etc.) (1 to 10)
7 – 1-10 Food for Race Participants (1 to 10)
7 – 1-10 T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
6 – 4/6 Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No)
0 – 0/5 Professional Photography (5=Yes and 0=No)
6 – 4/6 Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No)
3 – 3/7 Certified Course (by USA Track & Field) (7=Yes and 3=No)
4 – 1-10 Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
5 – 1-10 Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
6 – 1-10 Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
7 – 3/7 Age Groups (7 if 5-year groups; 3 if 10-year groups)
5 – 0/5 Indoor Shelter from Elements (0 if none; 5 if provided)
7 – 1-10 Bathroom Facilities
0 – 0-10 Other
TOTAL – 78
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Race #26 – Black Mountain Greenway Challenge 10k/5k – Black Mountain, NC – April 4, 2009

I never met a hill I didn’t like — to walk up, that is. My thanks once again goes out to Jeff Galloway, thinker-upper of the Run-Walk-Run method that allows people like me who may not feel like running all the time to finish the race without feeling guilty about doing some walking. Matter of fact, it occurred to me during this race that maybe I should have left my running shoes at home and just wore my old walking shoes instead. As you can see in the graph below where each spike represents a slow-down walking pace, I walked ten times during the race.
Some refer to it as “Gallowalking,” and those of us who do it are sometimes labeled as “Galloweenies,” but as advertised, it not only doesn’t slow you down a lot in the end, it might also actually result in a better time than if you run the whole time. My time of 49:47 in the 10k was good enough for second place in my age division and is probably about as fast as I can run a flat 10k, so bring on them hills and hand me down my walkin’ cane!
But I digress. One of the first things that struck me about the Black Mountain Greenway Challenge is that there was no sign of the Black Mountain Greenway. We didn’t run on it, I looked around and didn’t see it anywhere, and I didn’t even see any signs pointing to it. That little oddity aside, the hills were alive with the sound of runners.
There were big hills, little hills, steep hills, crooked hills, and luckily for me, what goes up must come down, so there was plenty of downhill as well to even things out some. I’m not complaining about the hills — I expect them anytime I’m running in this area and, hey, it gives me some hill work, which I’m kind of too lazy to do otherwise. I mentioned to somebody the other day that I started running seven months ago and this would be my 26th race during that time, to which they noted that that’s too much racing. Could be I guess, but racing every week also gives me some speed work (such as it is), which I also probably wouldn’t do otherwise, so it seems to be working okay so far.
Despite not being on the greenway, the race route was one of the most scenic that I’ve run. The Black Mountain area is one of the most scenic areas of the North Carolina mountains and it’s a great place to run. The weather was perfect as well, with no clouds and a racetime temperature of about 65 degrees.
After the race there was free beer from the race host and sponsor, the Pisgah Brewing Company. I don’t drink alcohol at all so that’s not much of a plus for me but it seemed like pretty much everybody else enjoyed it. I do drink water, however, and was a little bummed that there was no bottled water anywhere at the finish of the race. There was some Gatorade in some of those big orange coolers like construction guys drink out of, and there was a water spigot (with no sink underneath it) that magically came right out of the wall inside the brewery.
After the race there was pizza, which is always a plus for after-race fare, unless it costs extra, which it did in this case, so I went the free route with the free fruit (bananas & apples), cookies, chips, and pretzels, which were fine but not pizza-level stuff.
Being an old folkie myself, I enjoyed the music of the old-time band, “The Pitch Slickers,” who played right up until the awards ceremony.
Oy! Don’t remind me of the awards! Once again the awards were glasses, which I guess is to be expected from a brewery, but please, I’m beggin’ you race directors, knock it off with the glasses for awards! Honestly, if I want another glass, instead of running 6.2 miles to try to win one it’ll be much easier for me to go to the grocery store and buy me some jelly, then when the jar’s empty I’ll drink out of it. At least I know that’s what it’s for. I’m never sure what to do when I win a glass. Am I supposed to drink out of it, or put it on a shelf, or what? Geez… Am I going to have to buy a new shelf? I don’t have room on any of my existing shelves. Furthermore, I don’t like the looks of a shelf full of glasses regardless of whether I’ve won them or eaten jelly from them.
Race Rating:
6 – 4/6 Number of Participants (4 for less than 100; 6 for 100 or more)
2 – 1-10 Awards (Quality of medals, trophies, etc.) (1 to 10)
8 – 1-10 Awards Presentation (PA system, stating winning times, etc.) (1 to 10)
5 – 1-10 Food for Race Participants (1 to 10)
7 – 1-10 T-Shirts (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
6 – 4/6 Part of Race Series (Grand Prix, etc.) (6=Yes and 4=No)
0 – 0/5 Professional Photography (5=Yes and 0=No)
6 – 4/6 Chip Timing (6=Yes and 4=No)
7 – 3/7 Certified Course (by USA Track & Field) (7=Yes and 3=No)
8 – 1-10 Course (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
4 – 1-10 Parking (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
8 – 1-10 Entertainment (1 to 10 with 5 being average)
7 – 3/7 Age Groups (7 if 5-year groups; 3 if 10-year groups)
5 – 0/5 Indoor Shelter from Elements (0 if none; 5 if provided)
7 – 1-10 Bathroom Facilities
0 – 1-10 Other
TOTAL – 86
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