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 #258 – Downhill at Dawn Half Marathon – Black Mountain to Old Fort, NC – 06/07/14

This was my 65th half marathon, and my fastest half marathon ever. It was my first half under the seemingly unattainable (for me) hour and thirty minutes. My old PR (Personal Record) of 1:31:57 had stood since the autumn of 2011, when I had set all of my race PR’s and did my best running ever. In 2011 I was 59 years old, and that was my best year of running since I began at age 56. Now at age 62 I seem to be undergoing a resurgence for some reason, at least for now. It may end in a week or two but it’ll be interesting to see how things go over the next few months. I’m hoping it continues for a while.

Running buddy Stu Stepp from Salisbury finished just ahead of me.
He’s gotten way faster than me over the past year so I was happy
just to be able to almost keep up with him.

Sure, I had the help of about 6 miles of downhill running so it wouldn’t hold up if there was some kind of official record involved, but for me it’s a Personal Record that I’ll proudly proclaim, so people should probably try to avoid me over the next month or two while I get over my exuberance.

Pros:

  • Hard to beat 6 miles of downhill for a fast finish time. That still left another 7 miles or so of either flat or uphill, but it’s still the fastest race that most of us will ever run.
  • Plenty of rooms were available at the Ridgecrest Conference Center and prices were reasonable. The race started only about 50 yards from the room where we stayed. It wasn’t fancy (no TVs in any of the rooms, for example) but it was okay and very convenient.
  • The temperatures tend to be a little cooler up in the mountains, and that helps when you run a half marathon in June.
  • In addition to a professional photographer with reasonable prices, there were also hundreds of photos that are available for free on Facebook.

Cons:

  • Point-to Point course, with the finish line about 10 miles away from the starting line. The shuttle bus was fine but it’s always nice if you can just hop in your car and leave after the race where the start and finish are at the same spot.
  • There was more unpaved road to run on than I expected (maybe 3-5 miles?). It wasn’t a huge problem but I’m a road runner and prefer pavement.
  • Underwhelming finish line. Plenty of people besides me had an all-time PR in this race. A more impressive finish line would have had me (and probably others) wanting to buy the finish line photo of my memorable finish.

Results and Photos:



This was one of the free post-race pics available on Facebook.

My Stats:

Time: 1:29:25
Pace:  6:49
Age Group: 1 of  8
Overall: 20 of  453
Average Heart Rate: (Heart monitor wasn’t working correctly)
Age Graded Equivalent Time:  1:10:59 (83.42% — My highest percentage ever!)

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

RACE COURSE
3 – Chip Timing: (3 points if yes)
0 – 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
2 – Course Scenery:  (0)bad  (2)pleasant  (5)extraordinary
1 – Mile Markers: (0)poor or none  (1)normal  (2)with clocks or time called out
2 – Volunteers:  (0)too few  (2)good
0 – Finish line: (0)mediocre  (2)not bad  (5)very good  (7)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 promptly online:  (0)no  (2)yes
1 – Clear link on website:  (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)
0 – 14 and under group (1)
1 – 65+ group (1)
1 – 70+ group (1)
3 – 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)no  (2)yes   (5-9)fabulous door prizes!
5 – Finisher Medals for All Finishers: (0)no  (3)yes  (5)really cool medals

POST RACE
5 – Food for Race Participants: (0-10 with 5 being average)
4 – 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
1 – Design: (0)not good  (1)not bad  (2)nice  (5)beautiful!
0 – Material: (0)cotton  (2)technical fabric
0 – Discount for no-shirt option:  (0)no (2)yes

PHOTOGRAPHY
5 – Professional Photography: (0)no  (5)yes
2 – Prices: (0)expensive  (2)reasonable  (5)cheap!
5 – Free Photographs (newspaper, etc.):  (0)no  (2)yes  (5)lots of free pics!

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

TOTAL:  82

Some of the Gaston County Runners after the race.

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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 #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 #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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