Everything leading up to this race caused concern:
- Friends who had run Uwharrie in the past kept talking about how hard the trails were.
- The day prior to the race, the eastern US had a tremendous rain / snow event. Not sure how much rain fell, but there as a lot of it!
- Race volunteers I talked with Friday night were talking about putting up ropes at stream crossing because the water levels were sooo high. They said the trails were more streams then trails, with huge amounts of water flowing down. One who ran 8 miles talked about how cold he got . . . and just couldn’t warm up due to the combination of cold and rain.
- Park rangers said the parking area was too wet for cars (Duh!) so race officials had to scramble and put together a plan for participants to park at one of two nearby churches and ride shuttle vans to the race start.
- Race officials were reserving the right to cancel the race up until the last minute. And at the start of the 40 miler told runners they might cut their race short at 20 if the trails were too bad.
- The race officials made a course change to bypass a section that was hammered by all the water. They said it would be simply a mud bath.
- They made a decision to not time the race, taking the timing volunteers and moving them to stream crossing duties.
- Weather reports indicated the temperatures would stay in the 30s with rain / snow mixes all day.
I’ve got to admit, all this news got my attention. But I was still really looking forward to the deep stream crossings and the muddy race . . . just was unsure what clothing to wear.
Race morning the rains had stopped for the most part, and temps were comfortable in the mid 30s. Morning weather reports sounded like all the significant rains had ended. Ron Fleming and I decided to go early, anticipating problems with the shuttle service (there were none!) We ended up getting to the start area by 7 am in time to see off the 40 miles and had a wait of 1 hour for our race to start.
At the start I finally got to actually meet in person Anthony Corriveau and Shannon Johnstone. We've e-mailed for months but never actually had the chance to meet. Both were running their first 40 miler . . . great choice of days!! I also got to catch up with a bunch of friends and acquaintances.
With little fanfare, they started the race. Immediately, we headed up one of the steepest climbs of the day.
While the trails were really wet, and there was mud in a lot of areas, for the most part the trails were amazingly good! And it turns out that the stream levels had dropped significantly, making the crossings not much worst then what I would guess to be normal. But with all the snow melt and the cold rains the day before, the water was VERY cold! And the streams ran fairly clear so we could see our footing. There was only one crossing where the water level was above my knee . . . piece of cake! Some folks tried to avoid the water, but I just jumped in!
There are some moderately steep trail sections and TONS of loose rocks! Loose racks are really the story of Uwharrie. Plus, roots a plenty! But I would rate the trails themselves as moderate; certainly not super challenging. Don’t get me wrong . . . these trails got me plenty tired! 20 miles at Uwharrie is equivalent to a marathon for sure.
Turns out I chose my clothing perfectly . . . two tech shirts, a light wind jacket (that came off about 2 miles into the race), a toboggan and light gloves. I was very comfortable all day.
Before the race I met Matthew from Washington DC. Matthew is an ultra runner and was running his first 20 miler . . . a guaranteed PR he thought! He promised he would finish behind me but I knew I could be slower then him! Turns out we had a very similar pace and running philosophy. Unfortunately, as we were descending a muddy hill around mile 6 ½, two ladies in front just stopped! Matthew tried to put on the breaks, but slipped in the mud and went down . . . hard. He got up and continued on, but he had hurt his back. Then, as we were arriving at the mile 8 aid station (and finish for the 8 milers), he tripped again . . . and again went down hard. He finally got up and told me he was done for the day. I had really enjoyed his company and missed running with him the rest of the day. Hope he is okay.
For the rest of the day I played leap-frog with the rest of my “back-of-the-pack” friends (Patsy Hillyer and Christine Lamia mostly.) Two neat ladies I enjoyed getting to know some! This was Patsy's first run over I believe it was 10 miles! She killed it! And Christine ran like a lady possesed the last few miles, leaving me in her mud tracks!
I also enjoyed seeing all the 40 milers on their return trip. AC and Shannon both looked amazingly strong as did Lisa. I ended up the day in a little over 5 hours and still had some energy left. All in all a very good day!
After the race, I was so lucky that Christine’s husband Vince was there at the finish waiting for her and they gave me a ride back to my car so I didn’t have to wait for the shuttle. Thanks folks! Hope we can meet up again sometime soon. I don't know what happened to Patsy! I saw her finish . . . but then she disappeared and I didn't get to congratulate her on her unbelievable run.
It's now Monday . . . and I'm sore . . . really sore! That rarely happens. Guess it was the mud!
Here is a link to the pictures I took:
Here is a link to some great pictures Ron Fleming took (password 1234)