Tuesday, October 25, 2011

One Of The Best - Recap Of The 2011 Ridge To Bridge Marathon

by Bobby Aswell, Jr.

Sometimes you try something and think it can never get any better than this!  Then, you try it again and low and behold, it’s better than you remember!  This year marked my 4th consecutive year running the Ridge To Bridge Marathon and just when I didn’t think it could get any better, it did!

A great race to set a PR or get a qualifying time for Boston, word is getting around among runners about this race so it’s getting harder and harder to get into.  With a small field size of 300 runners, registration opened at noon on June 1, 2011, and closed just 7 ½ hours later!  Amazing!

Race day rolled around and with the alarm clock set for 3:15 am, my race morning started bright and early!  After a quick shower, I loaded the travel mug with coffee, jumped into the Jeep, and hit the road for the 2 hour drive to the finish area at the Brown Mountain Beach Resort in Caldwell County to catch a bus to the starting area.  I arrived at 5:30 am with plenty of time to spare before the buses left at 6:30 am.  After a quick pit stop and some relaxing in the Jeep, it was time to board a bus for the 45 minute drive to the starting area.  What better way to travel than relaxing in a luxurious heated bus!

The bus arrived at the starting area in Jonas Ridge around 7:15 am with plenty of time to get ready for the 8:00 am start.  To stay warm, the buses stayed around until after the race started which was a very nice touch!  After several more pit stops, it was time to roll!

Even though the race is net downhill, it’s still a challenging course.  From the start, the first 5 ½ miles or so are on pavement best described as rolling hills.  Then the fun begins!  Once you hit the old forest road, it’s mostly downhill for the next 10 miles through the Pisgah National Forest.  However, to keep you honest, there are several good inclines thrown into the mix.  With the downhill section done, the last 10 miles are mostly flat, and, assuming you have something left in the tank, run very well to the finish.

Having run the Medoc Trail Marathon the week before, I really had no idea what to expect in this race but was shooting for a best case time of 3:10, assuming all of the pieces fell into place.  My plan was to start out at a comfortable pace and to run the same effort the entire way.  This meant I would speed up slightly on the downhill sections and slow down slightly on the uphills.

The race started and we were off.  For the first 5 ½ miles, I ran a comfortable pace trying to relax and stretch my legs out.  When we hit the dirt road, people started flying down the hill!  Holding back, I maintained my effort with a slightly faster pace and felt good cruising down the hills.  With the leaves changing, the scenery was gorgeous!  Around mile 16, the downhill section ended and I did my best to hold it together the last 10 miles.  Luckily for me, my plan worked and I ran better than expected finishing in 3:06:33 (including pit stop) and even managed to get 3rd in my age group and received a very nice pottery award.

Incredible view of Wilson Creek
The post-race race atmosphere of this race is amazing!  Set on Wilson Creek, the scenery is magnificent!  And, of course, the post-race spread is incredible including barbeque, hamburgers, pizza, pumpkin bread, peach cobbler, chips, Gatorade, soda, and more!  After slamming down a Mountain Dew and a couple of slices of pizza, it was time for a post-race massage!  Between the heated massage cabin and the relaxing music, I almost fell asleep getting my legs worked on.  It felt great!

This is absolutely one of the best races I’ve ever run!  From the heated busses that take you to the starting area, to the fabulous volunteers working the race, to one of the greatest post-race spreads ever, this race is awesome in every aspect!  Can’t wait for the 2012 version to roll around!

Enjoying the post race scenery

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