Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Linville Gorge from the summit of Table Rock

Monday, January 21, 2013

2013 Weymouth Woods 100K

On January 19th, 77 runners assembled for the fourth running of the Weymouth Woods 100K, in Weymouth Woods State Park, near Southern Pines, NC. Not everyone was there with the plan to complete the full 62.58 miles. As you can see in the results, there were some looking to complete a 50K and some going for 40 miles. The fact that the course was a 4.47 mile loop worked out well for both of these distances. Seven laps was a 50-K, nine was just over 40 miles, and you could even do a marathon (plus about 1/2 mile) by running six laps. The low number of runners is offset by the fact that there are loops, so you never go too long without seeing another runner, as can happen in non-loop events.

The facilities at Weymouth Woods lend themselves well to a race of this size and nature. There is a heated visitor's center right beside the course's start/finish area with nice bathrooms. As I have noticed with other NC State Parks, the staff is extremely accomodating of these types of events. One staff member even participated in the race, finishing the full 100K distance. A lady whose name I have forgotten was providing mid-race (and post-race) massages or "stretch-outs" inside for anyone who needed to work out some kinks or tight spots.

It does get warm in January.
The race begins slightly off the course, along the Park entrance road. This allows runners to spread out a little before entering the woods. The majority of the trail is wide enough to run two-abreast. There are a LOT of roots in areas and some sandy spots that can really slow your momentum. Oddly, I'm not sure I saw any rocks on the entire course. The profile map on the website makes it look hillier than it really is. With the exception of the last rise leading up to the start/finish area, none are very steep or long, and that particular hill happens to have one of the densest areas of roots along the entire course. In other words: it's an ultra, and that's a great spot for a walk break. Just make sure when you reach the top of the hill and come out of the woods, that you start to run again, because the start/finish area is just around the corner of the building, and you don't want everyone to see you walking...The start/finish area, timing mats, food tent, and your gear are all located along a 200' (or so) stretch of sidewalk, between the visitor's center and the parking lot. This is the only concrete/pavement you'll see on the course.

Feeling the effects of the 11th lap, with three to go...
So, fourteen loops. There are pros and cons to that. I typically prefer one big loop or point-to-point simply because I am not worried about what lap I am on, you have lots of new scenery, you don't think about how nice it would be to walk over to the car and take a nap, etc... However, it also eliminates the drop bag issue. You pass your bag (or table and crew in some cases) every lap and can change clothes and/or shoes, restock what you're carrying, grab your secret powerfood, whatever you need. For those who can go longer than me without liquids, this can even eliminate the need for carrying a water bottle. The loop is 4.47 miles and there is an aid station at around mile 2.3 where you can get more water/gatorade, and some foods, though this is a smaller station than the start/finish area. For me, this worked out to be roughly the mid-point of the loop time-wise. Even though I never lost track of what lap I was on, I did find myself understating how far I had left. For example, if I had just finished lap ten and was on lap eleven, I was thinking "three laps to go" even if I was only a mile into the eleventh lap. So, instead of 13.5 miles to go, I really had 16-17.

At fairly regular intervals, David Lee (Lee Timing) prints off the "standings" and posts them on a board across from the start/finish aid station. If you are concerned about your place, this is an opportunity to see who is ahead of you, but I think it might mostly be for friends to see how you are doing and where you might be on the course. They can look at when you last came through, what your pace has been, and figure out when you should arrive again.

The sun is going to go down on most runners and there will be some laps in the dark. I was fortunate and only needed my headlamp for my last 1/2 lap. I really should say that I was extremely fortunate because my cheap batteries probably only gave me half of the 80 lumens I was supposed to be getting. I wasn't too worried about going off course because by that time, I remembered the turns pretty well. I was more concerned about catching a root and taking a spill--something I had managed to avoid up until that point. Ultimately, I just slowed down a little and if the footing was at all questionable, I walked. If you run Weymouth, double-check your batteries before coming, and bring spares!

I had come to this race several years earlier and spent the night before with a terrible stomach bug. By race day I was wiped out and only did three laps (more to get something out of the drive down than with any aspirations of actually finishing.) I had told Race Director Marie Lewis that the return trip was about redemption, but it was more about taking part in what I knew would be a well-organized event (it's the Mangum Track Club, after all) and have a good time. Jonathan Savage, a very talented ultrarunner has an informative blog ( and in his 2012 WW100K report, he ponders how much people slow down with the passing laps. I looked at my split times (provided by Lee Timing) and wasn't too disappointed. I knew my early laps would be too fast because of excitement, but when I factor in bathroom breaks (always longer than I expect) and shoe changes, etc... my actual on-course times didn't slow as much as I had feared they would. Of course, had I run more laps in the dark (even with a good headlamp) I would have slowed more.

For participating, we received a nice, dark blue, long-sleeved tech shirt (which my wife promptly claimed) and drawstring bag, a water "pouch," and perhaps most appropriately a couple pieces of handmade soap (that I have to assume it were from a local vendor.) Finishers get a pottery bowl with the logo stamped into it. There are also pottery prizes for the first place overall male and female and first place male and female Mangum Track Club members. A special "tortise" award is presented to the last place finisher to recognize his or her determination.

This is a very well run event, but please do not read this to mean that the race is so good that it makes 100K easy. It remains a tough distance and even though the course isn't terribly hilly, the footing is tricky. People probably underestimate how much energy you can spend (mental and physical) dodging roots and running through sand. Race Directors Marie and Jamie Lewis and all the volunteers and state park employees, however, put together a 100K that should definitely be considered by any ultrarunner and any runner who has reached that point where a 50-miler just doesn't seem long enough, but is not yet ready to step up to the 100-miler.

Weymouth Woods 100K
Lee Timing 2013 Results
Weymouth Woods State Park

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