Spartan Race

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Last Hurrah for a Biltmore Race

On May 16th, Mrs. Running Quack and I had the good fortune to run the 15th Annual Biltmore/Kiwanis 15k in Asheville, NC. Unfortunately for all of us, it was also apparently the last Biltmore/Kiwanis 15k, as the two organizations are apparently parting ways after this year. It’s too bad; this was one of the prettiest races I’ve ever run.
Not exactly knowing our transit time, we arrived a good hour or so before race time. We took the time to wander about in the new Antler Hill Village. Nothing was open at 6AM, of course (with the exception of the restrooms, which were great), but we still were able to get a sense of the place. Friendly runners milled about the place in no particular hurry. As the start time approached, we made our way towards the starting line. We hung out at the back, because we figured we’d just jog and enjoy the scenery. The first mile or so was a very slight uphill run through a cool fog. With the temperature in the low 50s, it made for perfect running. The whole area smelled like the earth and moss conglomeration that I’ve come to associate with the North Carolina Mountains. Before long, we rounded a bend, and came upon a sheep barn. The flock of freshly shorn sheep was just being released to graze upon a hill. The chorus of baas and the moving, white, ovine mass lent a bucolic, idyllic flair to the race that I don’t often get to experience (luckily smell was still earth and moss, not wet wool). Not long after, a herd of cattle showed up on the left side of the road.
Then we started climbing. And went up. And up. The smell slowly changed to rhododendron blossom as we neared the top of the hill – which happened to be very near to the Deerpark Restaurant (which is excellent by the way). During this time, I realized that we were passing a lot of people. We hadn’t sped up much, but a whole lot of people slowed down. I also noted that the sepals of the spend Rhododendron blossoms tend to splay out on the ground in very cool patterns. They’re a bright orange sherbet color juxtaposed with lime sherbet green, and they’re sticky as hell. That said, they don’t provide much traction.
After a brief respite from climbing, we started on the hill to the main house. It was quite similar to the first climb – really just fairly enjoyable. After twisting and turning for a while, somewhere around mile 6.5, we made our way through two stag topped gates and ran towards the Biltmore’s famous French Chateau style main house. We still had a lot of fog, so we didn’t get the best view, but it was very cool none the less. The front lawn is set up so that we could run towards the house, cross in front of it, then run away from it so that it was in the background. Photographers were set up to take advantage of this back drop, and though I usually don’t care about race photos, I’m kind of anxious to see what this one looks like.
After leaving the house, we took a right and headed into the rose garden. Here the smell turned more like, well, roses. There were a remarkable number blooming. Coming of the garden, we crossed back to the main road. What had been a mostly uphill run rapidly turned into a downhill sprint. We passed by the bass pond, and gradually leveled out to run by the French Broad River. Here the smell became that of fresh cut hay. This last leg was fairly flat, and before too long, we rounded a bend and were back at the Biltmore Winery and the finish line. Sadly, there was no wine at the finish.

This race is best described as elegant. It wasn’t the biggest race, it didn’t have a ton of swag associated with it, hell I didn’t even have a goal time in mind, because I’ve never run a 15k before. Weird distance aside, what it did have was charm, great weather, and friendly people. I really hate that I’ll never get a chance to run it again. A half marathon incorporating elements of this course would be even better. One can only hope. Mu.

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