Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Monday, February 6, 2012

2012 Uwharrie 40-Mile Trail Race

Based on pre-race comments from other runners, some form of precipitation (either in the air or on the ground) is pretty much a given at Uwharrie. Based on, the 2012 edition promised nothing more than clouds until late afternoon or early evening. But, apparently someone forgot to tell that Uwharrie was on this day. Temps were probably upper thirties or low forties as the 40-milers gathered at a church about 3-4 miles from the start and hopped shuttle buses that would take them to the start/finish area. A record turnout left the church parking lot overfilled and had race officials sending late-comers directly to the start. Since the start/finish area can't handle many cars at all, this caused some backup, delays, and about a twenty minute late start. You pick up your packet at the start/finish area, rather than the church but that process went rather smoothly. They have a couple of porta-jons and a nice campfire to huddle around to stay warm pre-race.

The race itself starts on the road but after about 100 yards, you turn off onto a trail for a long stretch of uphill that really warms you up. The downside is that it's basically single-track and you're still pretty tightly packed. This is a case where you really need to line up according to your expected pace because if you're farther back than you should be, you'll find yourself frustrated and if you start ahead of where you should be, you'll be holding back some frustrated runners. But, there's really no way to work this out perfectly so just realize that you'll probably be doing some dodging and weaving in the early stages. Eventually, it sorts itself out and, truth be told, most runners realize when you're trying to pass and make room (even if you don't give the requested "on your left.")

There is a reason that the times at this race are generally slower than at Mount Mitchell, besides the fact that it's closer to actually being forty miles than Mount Mitchell (which is widely considered to be 38.) At MM, there isn't a lot of single track. At Uwharrie, it's almost all single-track. At MM, you eliminate most of the uphill stretches in the first half of the course. At Uwharrie, there are always uphill stretches. For anyone who has run Triple Lakes 40 Miler in Greensboro, it's a little like that course with the elevation chart stretched to create steeper uphills and downhills. There were a LOT of creek crossings. Some, you could rock-hop. Others, it just wasn't worth the effort, so you just plowed straight through. There were also a lot of downed trees across the path that you could hop over or "climb" over, depending on your energy level and jumping ability. There were also a number of stretches of mud that were fairly unavoidable. Sometimes, there would be branches you could step on to minimize the mud, but in the end, you were going to have muddy feet--at least until the next creek crossing.

The forty miler is an out-and back along the same route. A twenty-miler starts an hour after the 40, though with our late start, I think the twenty-miler may have started on time and only forty minutes after us. I had a couple of twenty-milers catch me near my half-way point but it didn't cause any problems to let them pass. It gets a little crowded, however, when the forty-milers are coming toward you and you have to make room to let them by. Of course, eventually, you have to do this for every runner either before the turnaround or after. Once you make the turnaround, you'll be heading directly into both forty-milers and twenty-milers. On rocky, sometimes sloping, single-track. The rule of thumb (I think) is that the person behind yields and that seemed to be the case on Saturday.

Weather is not something under the control of race directors (though I bet the Mount Mitchell guys wish it were, given their love for "epic" weather events.) At Uwharrie, what began as mist became off-and-on showers until at least mid-afternoon. They really weren't much of a problem, though the leaves became a little slicker and the mud a little wetter. Plenty of races have had snow on the course which would have made it a much tougher race. I was told to expect a time about forty minutes slower than Mount Mitchell, but knew since I was still feeling the effects of Freedom Park, that was a conservative estimate. I think it might have held true under ordinary circumstances, however, based on the previous year's results I had examined.

The aid stations were spaced closer than most ultras--perhaps given that most runners are going slower on this course. The first one was at mile 5, but then it was every three miles. They tossed in a fluids-only station at mile 38 on the way back. I saw cookies, Hammer Gels, potatoes, potato chips, corn chips, pb&j, water, and Heed sports drink. I'm sure there was other stuff that I just overlooked. The potato chips seemed to be the kettle-style chips and while they tasted ok, they seemed to lack the salt I was wanting.

The finish area offered hot dogs, cookies, and some of the same stuff as the aid stations. Shuttles ran people back to the church on a fairly regular basis and the finishers awards were pottery tumblers.

I did not stay in any of the hotels, electing instead to make the 2 1/2 hour drive on race day (the race starts at 7:00 a.m.) My cell phone GPS did a good job of getting us to the church but oddly lost its signal (or just had a glitch) for the return trip so we had to rely on memory. If I went again, I'd definitely bring a regular GPS, just in case. I'll definitely go back again sometime. It's unfortunate (for me) that it falls in the same month as a number of other NC races (Mount Mitchell, Pilot Mountain, Valentine's Day Massacre marathon) because it means choosing one (or maybe two) and missing the rest. I think it would be difficult for most of us to race each of these events in the same year with our best efforts, but it would certainly be a heck of a challenge!

Uwharrie 40-Mile Trail Race

No comments:

Post a Comment