• Just over an hour's drive away
• Limited to a field of 300 runners, many of whom I knew
• Almost entirely downhill and thus
• A great Boston Marathon qualifying course
The negatives were mostly a reflection of my own idiosyncrasies and included:
• Not being overly fond of downhill running
• Boston filling up (in one day!) before Ridge to Bridge even happened
Frankly my reason for running Ridge to Bridge was to qualify for the Boston Marathon in 2011. I had qualified five years ago at Charlotte's Thunder Road Marathon but never went. Now that I had entered another age group qualification (sub-3:30) I felt that now was the time and Ridge to Bridge would be the place. When Boston 2011 filled up in record time and before I even had a chance to qualify at Ridge to Bridge, I was peeved to say the least. Sure, I could run a qualifying time that would be good for 2012, but that's gratification delayed for too long.
Some marathons are coveted primarily because they have significant downhills, thereby making for quicker times. I prefer courses with rolling hills and have never been very good at going fast downhill. Ridge to Bridge has a total elevation drop of nearly 3,000 feet, most of which occur in miles six through sixteen. Ten miles of gnarly downhill of a course characterized by a narrow dirt road didn't appeal to me.
|James hamming it up.|
|Contents of the swag bag.|
The family and I skipped the pasta dinner at the motel's restaurant and went out to find some pizza, ending up at Buck's Pizza on Fleming Drive. Definitely nothing fancy on the inside, with laminate countertops, tables and seats, but the barbecue chicken pizza was excellent. After dinner I met up with some fellow DARTers including Todd Hartung, Bobby Aswell, and Théoden Janes and we shot the breeze for a while before heading to our rooms for some shut-eye.
On race morning we met at the motel lobby and rode up to the start together along with Alice Watson. It was nice to be in a warm minivan, as there weren't any buildings we could inhabit before the race started at the junction of Highway 181 and Mortimer Road. Laurie and James were going to get breakfast before meeting us at the finish at the bottom of the hill. With little fanfare the runners were given the go-ahead by race director David Lee and off we went.
|34 degrees at the start.|
It's hard to visualize ten miles of steep downhill, but that's what Pineola Road was, with some sections maxing out at a 7% grade (That means that for every 100 feet traveled the road dropped seven feet.). Mark was feeling good and my bladder was complaining about the combination of excessive coffee and jouncing around so he and I parted ways at about mile twelve. After that I ran mostly alone and was passed by runners taking advantage of the decline. At around mile fifteen I "landed" on the flatter asphalt ground of Edgemont Road for a short out-and-back before stepping onto the dirt road of Brown Mountain Beach Road. Brown Mountain Beach Road parallels Wilson Creek downriver and so the course became a gentle downhill with the occasional rise. It was at this point I was beginning to feel good, especially after I looked at my Garmin Forerunner 205 and figured that if I kept pace I would not only run a Boston qualifier of sub-3:30 but might even break 3:20!
I caught up to Todd around mile 16.5 and stayed with him a short while. I spotted Mark just ahead and decided to catch up to him, since he seemed to also be on track for a sub-3:20. It wasn't until the aid station at mile 21 that I came alongside him and suggested that we take in a gel to have enough energy to finish the last five miles strongly. Selfishly I didn't wait for him but instead pushed my pace, hoping that he might try to chase me down and thereby get under 3:20 as well. Near mile 22.5 I came upon another running buddy Mitchell Rippy of Shelby and wished him well. My last three full miles were 7:18 for mile 24, 7:23 for mile 25, and 7:19 for mile 26.
To the fanfare of Laurie, James, other spectators and finished runners I completed it in 3:19:05, which was a personal best for the marathon and my best result since Thunder Road five years ago. Mark finished a minute and a half later and made Boston qualifying with 26 seconds to spare. While Todd didn't qualify for Boston his time of 3:24:21 was his best in the past several attempts. Théoden shattered his previous personal best with a time of 3:26:33. Bobby, who was shooting for a sub-3:00, just missed it with a strong 3:02:40. Alice battled stomach issues and came in at 5:06:17.
Another pleasant surprise in addition to the swag bag was the spread laid out for everyone. Hot, tasty barbecue sandwiches, freshly grilled hamburgers, homemade pumpkin bread and apple cobbler were complemented by generous amounts of water and soft drinks. My bad attitude prior to the race morphed into serenity as I spent time talking to other runners about their experience.
|Me and Dr. Mark Ippolito|
|Dr. Mark Ippolito and Théoden Janes|
|Mitchell Rippy and Todd Hartung|
|Bobby Aswell with his 2nd place age group award.|
Davidson Area Running Team