Thursday, March 7, 2013
The 2013 Asheville Marathon at Biltmore Estate: A Look Back, by Bart with thoughts and impressions from Scott Williams and Frankie Adkins
Certainly the inaugural Biltmore Estate Asheville Marathon will be long remembered not only as the beginning of this unique, well organized and perfectly executed event but for the difficult weather it presented for everyone involved; competitors, organizers and volunteers alike. It was a freezing, hypothermic inducing tough day in the field, creating an unwelcome challenge that could only be truly appreciated by those that were there.
Maybe it was the head cold I had overcome the week before race day but the challenge of this event began by just lining up for the start. It was 22 degrees with gusty winds, reported by AccuWeather, that produced a wind chill of 6 degrees at 0700 hours. I posted later on FaceBook this was the “Freeze Your Asheville Off Marathon”. So far no challenges have been made to that assessment.
Eve and I, aka team "Blue Ridge Runner”, stated off with the intention of running, jogging, walking, and surviving this one together. I had no intention of racing it which proved to be a wise decision. Even after 3 miles we were not warm, and didn’t get warm until we summited the longest climb of the day which brought us to the Biltmore House front door, over 6 miles into the event. Meanwhile, up front the three race leaders, Frankie Adkins, Scott Williams and Jason Bodner, had broken clear of the field where they would remain unchallenged until the finish.
Scott Williams: “I didn’t have much confidence going into this after nursing a foot injury for a couple of weeks that even made starting the race questionable. So I let Frankie and Jason drop me on the climb to the house and just settled into thinking I was running for third place.”
Frankie Adkins: “I knew going into this race it would be a three man event between myself, Scott and Jason. I also knew that Jason was coming off a solid half marathon earlier this year. Back that up with a 2:36 marathon from 2012 and Jason would be a solid contender. I felt comfortable the first 10k and relatively sheltered from the wind. Scott dropped back at 5 miles and Jason and I settled into a good pace together.”
BRR: Though the trek to the house got us reasonably warm, which made the downhill past the Bass Pond enjoyable, once we hit the open fields paralleling the French Broad River we were completely exposed to the howling north wind. By the time we crossed the bridge and approached the climb just beyond mile 11, we were both chilled to the bone and began the climb with the same stiff muscles we had at the Antler Hill start line. During the climb I expressed my thoughts to Eve on the weather and my feeling of well being (or lack thereof) on at least two occasions, both times beginning and ending my tirade with the f-bomb. I was not feeling the love that mother nature was throwing at us while Eve was determined to press on.
Scott: “I felt aerobically fit and my pace felt ok, but I still was not sure how I’d hold up structurally after 20 miles. So I settled in and began logging the miles while securing third place.”
Frankie: “The first sign of drama came at 8 miles when the lead pace car passed the intersection at the aid station where the runners were to make a hard left and follow a pair of guys on bikes. In the confusion Jason followed the car and I made the left following the bikes. I thought I had gone the wrong way and stopped briefly when a woman shouted I was going the right way and all of sudden I found myself in the lead. Over the next few miles Jason caught up to me, while Scott was maybe a minute back.”
BRR: Just when we didn’t think the weather could deteriorate any further, it did. At 12.5 miles we hit the ridge at the top of the climb where an aid station was located. The volunteers were absolute troopers as they manned the station and cared for the runners the best they could. The wind was gusting well over 30 mph while loose cups, dust, stray cats and anything else not spiked to the ground was carried off. To add a little extra spice to the mix, ice was forming in the pre-filled water cups. I refilled my water bottle and Eve had me down a couple of Motrin. If the aid station had provided Jack Daniels No. 7, I would have ordered two shots….. and I don’t even drink!
Frankie: “Jason and I ran together for several miles and I was first across the 13.1 and 17.5 mile checkpoints. There were some significant hills from miles 18 – 20 and Jason made his move and gapped me by 20 – 30 seconds. By now Scott was about 2 minutes back and I was still feeling strong.”
Scott: “By now I figured I was just running for third still and got lazy and settled into a more comfortable pace. Bodnar had been out of sight for miles and I could barely see Frankie when the course was straight and open.”
BRR: We soldiered on through the check points on the west side of the river and up and over the “Dam Hill” twice as required. The landscape was bleak and grim but still beautiful in its own perverse way. Eve clicked several pictures of the course and surrounding area. I admired her courage in taking off her gloves to work the camera. This was, after all, the only reason by this time we were basking in this suffer fest was to see this "Area 51" of Biltmore Estate. We finally got to the bridge and crossed back over to the east side and….even more wind.
Frankie: “After crossing back over the bridge it was flat with a tailwind and I was hanging on to a 6:15 pace. I had about 1 min 20 sec on Scott with about 3 miles to go. When the 30 mph gust hit me after the turn around my pace slowed to over 7 minutes which required twice the effort to maintain. Just as my GPS beeped 25 miles Scott passed me. My legs had turned to stone and no amount of will power would allow me to hang on to him. The last mile or so was rough as I continued to slow.”
Scott: “It wasn’t until the turn around at mile 24 that I saw Bodnar again, who looked to be struggling and Frankie looked a lot closer. I closed and passed Frankie in less than a mile and suddenly Bodnar was back in range.”
BRR: Maybe it took 23 miles to run the last of the head cold and the medication out of my system but the best I felt all day was the final 3 miles. I can only guesstimate that I passed a struggling Congo line of 40 - 50 runners heading north into that brutal wind and the finish. Eve and I became separated and I began to wonder if she had stopped or turned back to the finish area.
Scott: “I ran out of real estate but closed to within 38 seconds of Bodnar who held on for the win.”
Frankie: “I dropped to an 8 minute pace and considered walking a couple of times. Fourth place was nowhere in sight and I finished in 2:49.”
BRR: The happiest time of Bart’s day was seeing Eve finish. Cold, exhausted, hypothermic and a sore right knee brought on by the cold, she hung on to claim her finishers “woodal”, warm blanket and a consoling hug from the Bartman.
Summary: Shortly after their finish Scott and Jason were taken to the medical tent to deal with obvious signs of hypothermia. Scott was out in short order while Jason Bodnar, still a bit incoherent, was taken to Mission Hospital for closer observation and to jump start his 93 degree body temperature. He was later released. Once we got Eve home she began shaking uncontrollably so I covered her with two sleeping bags and a heavy blanket. 15 minutes later she was fine but it gave me a good scare. We have not heard a head count of exactly how many runners were treated that day for hypothermia but the ambulances seemed to be keeping busy shuttling runners to Mission during the time we were in the finish area…. …which was not very long.
The first Asheville Marathon was an adventure, not only for the participants but for everyone involved. The volunteers that were there to serve and assist the runners along with those that braved the elements to cheers us on were fantastic. The weather proved to be coldest day of winter vintage 2013. Unexpected perhaps but overcome by those that made history that day at Biltmore Estate.
“Without the unexpected there is no adventure.” - Reinhold Messner
Special thanks to Scott Williams, Frankie Adkins and my lovely wife Eve. Without their special contribution this post would not have been possible, and I would have DNF’d at mile 12.
For more pictures of the race see our earlier post here
All photos courtesy Carolina Snapshot