Monday, March 15, 2010

Mt Mitchell Challenge Recap

A fine intro to the world of Ultra Running. The Mt. Mitchell Challenge would not be the first pick of most folks. Why lean towards easy? This just makes the others easier in the future. Well I finished in tact (7:17:32 - 35 miles - 72th of 121).

This event was to be slated as an epic adventure. As the building anticipation of the remains of inclement weather. As most know the winter of 09-10 in the NC mountains has been great for skiers. Jay Curwin (RD) did a great job at looking out for the well being of his entrants. A mandatory re-route of the course was inevitable. Shorten the course and bringing about more asphalt than in years past.

Miles 0-3
The start was chilly. A slow jog up the road to the first hill would warm me up. The College of Montreat would be the official start to the climbing. With an elevation gain of 1020'+ in a mile (19%). Brought things to a slow walk early on. You could look around an see people shedding the excess clothing. This is where I figured out my first Ultra mistake. I was way overdressed for this party. After so many years of cycling and figuring out the proper attire for the weather, this running thing may take some more time. Dress 20* warmer than your starting temps. Lesson 1 CHECK.

Miles 3 - 12
This would be the start to the ice. It was highly recommended to bring along YakTrax for this section known as the Old Toll Road. In my preparation for this race I just could not bring myself to shell out the cash for some gear I would barely use.

So with the help of Bronco Billy's Blog about screwing your shoes for ice. I was all in on the DIY solution. It was a minimal approach, but worked well for me. It was slow goings in the real icy sections anyway. All to find out later the top female (Krissy Moehl) used the same setup. So maybe not so crazy after all. It comes down to skill. Lesson 2 CHECK.

Back to the Old Toll Road. The company of Jeff R. and J.R. all the way to the summit was a welcomed treat. The footing was good overall. Mixed in with some sketchty sections. I recall on 3 different occasions pulling the Bambi on ice. A slid down the trail pulling some form of a 360*till stopping. Oh the memories. The Old Toll Rd would eventually come to an end at aid station 2 - 2:15 into the adventure. Most all mileage was positive elevation gain. pics #143-144 here

12-23 miles
The very instant we departed the aid station a gust of wind 30+mph comes through. An immediate chill comes over you. Now the stage for the next 11 miles is set. The course changes would have us on pavement the entire time to and from the summit. I'm not complaining. It was clear of snow and ice. Just super windy and cold. By far the coldest I've ever been in my life. Reports of 6* with windchill at -10*. That was a long cold walk.

Rather uneventful just keep moving, eat and drink as much as you can. Well that became a problem once my hydration bladder froze into large chunks. It came down to putting one foot in front of the other. Plus trying to stay with my party. All the way to the summit.
Should have started at least a Jog/Walk approach to the climb. This could have help eliminated some exposure on the mountain. Lesson 3 CHECK. The approach to the turn around had us venture off the pavement to a spur trail to the summit sign. The snow was on average calf deep. After many runners ahead of us made many holes. The footing was sparatic. Start > Summit 3:45.

The decent was not my cup of tea. It was a good feeling to not be climbing for a change. I was having problems getting the legs to turn over. This was where I started to lose my running partners. Slipped into survival mode, to just maintain a steady pace and keep moving. The downhill running if not kept in check for me will punish my quads and knees. Still to far away from the finish to take the risk.

Summit Photos borrowed from Citizen Times. Top pic of Brad Kee coming from the summit. Second pick of the paved road near the summit.

Miles 23-35
Pain Pain and Pain. By this time I was running solo w/ my ipod. Yep, I busted it out on the Parkway to drown the voices in my head. So now later in the day. The icy sections were turning to slush. This slush turns out to be very refreshing when the friction on your feet is rising from the steady downhill. Steady movement.

The hardest part was the decent through Montreat. Remember that uphill section at the beginng. Well it turns out we would be going down that part also. WOW!!!!!!!!! That was some brutal basting of the feet and knees. Heck you couldn't even walk it slowly. My approach to ease the pounding was to cut back and forth across the road. It worked for a bit. Till the fact hit me. That I was indeed make this race longer step by step.

A little spur of a trail along some river was a pleasant touch. Wish I would have known that the final 3ish miles were along a paved road. Damn this was the longest 3 miles ever. Trying to mix it up a touch. I would shoulder surf on every patch of organic surface I could. Finally a lap around Lake Tomahawk to finish things up. It was a good time and an excellent event.

Also I would like to thank the Harbison Trail Runners. With three houses rented out in Black Mountain. 17 folks made the trip up. Many more thanks for the dinner and ample amounts of food and beer. I believe we all had a super time.

Goals Completed:
  • Finished
  • Had Fun
  • Gained Experience
  • Earned the coveted MMC Fleece Pullover
Goals Not Completed
  • Finished Under 7 hours
  • Finished in the top 50 or 50%
Till next year.