Jason Bryant is the Race Director and his original plan was to have the event at Beech Mountain earlier in the summer. Somewhere close to race day, his plans were foiled and he had to scramble to reschedule the event and move it back to Laurel Springs. Personally, I'm glad it was later in the year, but I wonder if it did affect turnout.
It's a nice Autumn morning as I make the 1 1/2 hour drive up to the Laurel Springs Moravian Camp, near the Virginia border. The leaves have not really begun to change, but you can feel the drier air and see an occasional "shower of leaves" when a gust of wind hits. Wilkesboro was apparently having some sort of festival that morning as I detoured around downtown and a Main Street that was beginning to fill with tents. The race starts at 10:00 a.m., so I was trading a warmer race for getting to sleep a bit later.
Somewhere past North Wilkesboro, the road starts quickly winding up into the mountains. Occasionally, I can smell brakes from cars who were coming down this same stretch. I remembered some of the notes about the course--28% grade for one 150-meter stretch, 1500' of elevation gain, single-track. It was going to be an interesting day.
|Some serious runners at the start. I'm safely out of the way.|
|Somewhere around mid-race, I think?|
I managed to pass a few people toward the end, though I didn't realize I was near the finish, and crossed the line feeling fairly good, despite having just come up the 28% grade section. My time was right in line with what I expected - 59:26. My place was 23/77 which is around 30%. My goal is always to try for top 10%, but with this event attracting some real speedsters, that wasn't going to happen. I'm comparing it to when I entered the Grizzly 100K bike race with my 20+ year old Bianchi road bike. I knew I was handicapped from the start and I had ridden my bike very little in preparation. I also finished that event mid-pack and couldn't really expect much better.
|I think this is near the top of the last hill, near the finish.|
The time between the finish and the awards stretched out a bit as there were some walkers still on the course and Jason had to manually add the times for the team awards. The finish area had some cheese/salsa burritos, chips, etc... as well as some information about other upcoming area races. The awards ceremony stretches out because there are USATF awards in addition to overall race awards. Double dipping was allowed and since most of the participants were USATF members, the two individual awards ceremonies were basically the same.
|Yes, we really did win the Team National Championship!|
I need to add that there were some nice door prizes, including some running watches. The age group awards were homemade jam (unless you were flying and then you could swap for socks.) The shirts were white tech shirts with the logo on them. Some people had on shirts from prior years that were different colors, so I suspect they change the colors each year.
I enjoyed this race a lot, though it did make for a long day--getting home later than with most marathons. I think it is geared more for USATF people who travel to a lot of USATF events. I'd certainly do it again in the future, but would really want to train for it if I went back in hopes of improving on my finish time.