I was going to leave from work on Friday and head straight to my uncle’s house. Something in the back of my head told me to check my bag. I’m glad I did because I completely forgot to pack a sports bra and shirt. That would have been a major issue. So, I ran home and then to my uncle’s house. Luckily for me, he now lives 7 1/2 miles from Brown Mountain Beach Resort where the buses pick up for this race. Aside from normal traffic, my drive was uneventful. When I arrived, my uncle generously made me some spaghetti since he and my cousin had already eaten. I opted for butter and salt instead of sauce. I had a nice visit with my uncle complete with a tour of the lot they have purchased to build a house and seeing their 2 horses in the community barn of the new neighborhood. Their view of the mountains will be spectacular once they build the house. I turned in about 10 PM since I knew I needed to be up about 5:15 AM.
My alarm went off and I actually felt good. I got to sleep in a little longer this year since he lives so close. I got dressed, packed my checked bag, and said my goodbyes. Ten minutes later, I was pulling into the resort. There weren’t many cars parked, yet. I made sure I had my drivers license in my pocket since I would need it for packet pickup on the top of the mountain. Then, I headed for the bus. I ended up being at the back. I had a nice chat with the others in the back. We didn’t wait too long before we left. The drive to the top is about 30 minutes. Along the way, I ate my Luna bar. I tried to time it about 1 hour before race start. We arrived at the convenience store and lined up to get our bibs. It really doesn’t take long. I think we were all through by the time the next bus arrived. After getting your bib, you walk to the other side of the porch area to get your shirt. For some reason, I had put down a Large instead of XL. I didn’t worry about it at the time. I fastened my bib and then ran into Diana. We chatted for a while and then I used the port-o-potties. They have a dual row of them beside the store. I also decided it was time to turn in my bag. They put them in a truck and drive them down to the finish. I had my Oofos and the race shirt in my bag. At that point, it started raining. So, we all moved to the island with the gas pumps to keep dry. It wasn’t long before we were crossing the street and walking down to the start line. The same hound dog was howling at us and we waited. The start is just in front of his house. We all got our various devices ready. I got a pre-race picture with Diana (we were photobombed by Bob Cashion).
We tried to stay a little back and out of the way of the faster runners. This was our view of the start line.
Don’t let this picture fool you. There were many more people in front of us before the start. The next thing we knew, we saw people running. I knew I wanted this to be my proof of time for Disney races. That meant I needed to beat 2:45. So, I had my watch set for 1min:30sec intervals. I started my FitBit and my intervals as we crossed the start line. To begin, Diana was doing different intervals. Soon, she decided to just stay with me. I knew I would slow down towards the end due to hills, so I was trying to have an average mile pace of 12 min in the beginning. We continued along this paved road for a while and reached Mile 1.
They had good signage this year for all the turns. The first one was at the church and we were still on paved roads at this point.
We got to Mile 2 along this road.
Then came the turn off to the gravel roads. This is the turn I almost missed the first year I ran this race.
The first water stop is along this turn.
Once we got to Mile 3, Diana had to make a pit stop. I remember someone commenting that a lot of people wanted to make sure we were safe from bears. I should mention, the only way to make a stop on this race is just to go off the side of the road and find a good spot. There are no port-o-potties or bathrooms along the course.
I did not see her again until the end. I got to Mile 4 in the middle of a steep downhill turn.
Next came another water stop. I think this one had a version of gatorade.
Mile 5 was in a relatively flat stretch.
I was feeling pretty good after Mile 5. I kept to my intervals and soon got to Mile 6.
Mile 6 did have some uphill sections. Next came another water stop. I want to say this one had mini-pretzels.
Soon I was at Mile 7 and more than halfway done.
I was very happy because I was ahead of my 12 min mile pace I was hoping to keep. At this point, I calculated what time I needed to get to the next mile marker based on 12 min miles. Soon, I got to Mile 8.
I knew this one would be tough because it does have an uphill section. Next came another water stop. This one had the drink like gatorade.
Then came the steeper uphill that I remembered from before.
In the middle of this hill was Mile 9.
You can tell it’s a hill when the only 2 people in my picture are walking. At the top of the hill was the next water stop.
This stop had something to eat, but I can’t remember what it was. Soon I got to Mile 10.
I had lost a little time, but I was still doing great. My spirits were still good when I got to Mile 11.
This is where we re-entered civilization. We turned right onto another gravel road.
This road was my undoing the first year. This time, I still felt great. The next water stop was along this section.
I remember telling them I had 30 minutes to make my time goal. At that point, I had about a mile and a half left. I figured I was golden. I got to Mile 12.
I had lost some more time from taking an extra walk. However, I still had about 20 minutes. In fact, I took a picture of my watch to show I had 20 minutes for the last 1.1 miles.
I was doing good when I got to the bridge.
I slowed briefly to see the men fishing below.
That’s when it all fell apart. I had forgotten about the several smaller hills in the last half mile. I had no steam left. I kept pushing forward but was quickly falling behind pace. I did run briefly during the downhills and any relatively flat section. When I could finally see the finish, there was a group of 3 ladies in front of me. They seemed to be ambling to the finish happily chatting away. Luckily, a man on the sideline warned them someone was behind them and they moved over so I could make a last ditch charge to the finish. The clock said 2:44 as I crossed. I was so tired I had a hard time catching my breath. I was finally able to drink a cup of that gatorade-like stuff. I kept walking because I was afraid if I stopped I wouldn’t be able to start again. They had placed all the checked bags in rows on the ground by the finish line. A nice man got mine for me as I slowly walked in circles. Eventually, I also ate a banana. I wanted to wait for Diana to cross. I grabbed a bottle of water and walked back towards the bus pick up area. A lady from Tennessee that I had talked to on coarse finished. I cheered her in. Then, I walked with her to the bus stop. I saw Diana on the way. We ended up sitting on the benches while waiting and I changed into my Oofos. My feet were very happy. We saw a bus and walked back to the loop for pickup. We ended up being some of the first on the bus so we grabbed the front seats. Diana was right behind us and sat with me. I recognized the bus driver from my return ride last year.
She did a great job of navigating the windy, mountain roads. At one point, she even had to back up to allow another bus to pass. A little scary for those of us not used to mountain roads, but she did great.
I took a medal picture on the bus.
About 30 minutes later, she dropped us off at the Brown Mountain Beach Resort.
Diana and I decided to head straight for the lunch. It is in the pavilion which seems like a very long walk from where the bus dropped us.
I missed taking a picture of the food. It was barbecue pork with buns, a garlicky pasta, 2 kinds of slaw, and cans of soda or bottles of water. It was enough to appease my very hungry stomach. I heard several ladies talking about how the shirts ran small. There was a lady at the table behind me exchanging shirts. The woman in front of me took the last XL. So, I took a Men’s large instead. I then took a medal picture at my favorite post-race spot out the back of the pavilion.
I said goodbye to Diana and went out front to confirm my new PR time.
My official time was 2:44:12. I was elated! The new cutoff for runDisney Proof of Time needed is 2:45. I now have a sub-2:45! My last mile might have been 19 minutes, but I still beat 2:45. Although, it does make me realize I can probably improve this time by several minutes if I condition properly next time. This is still one of my favorite races.
I went to my car and had baby wipes and fresh clothes. Luckily, the car beside me hadn’t left yet. So, I used my car doors as a makeshift barrier to change. It feels so much better to have a long drive in clean clothes. After my one hour and 40 minute drive home, my FitBit had died. I plugged it in and it started to show moisture inside the screen. This is what ended up happening.
You can still see the moisture in that photo. After contacting FitBit support, I ended up getting a brand new replacement that is working great! Huge shout out to FitBit for having superb customer support. It’s a rare thing in this day and age.