Uwharrie 20 Mile Race Report
I gave Uwharrie all I had....
Last weekend I ventured across the country to North Carolina to compete in the Uwharrie Mountain Run. This event had three races to choose all taking place on a single track 20 mile section of the Uwharrie Trail. I came to do the point to point 20 mile race as it was the first race in the super competitive La Sportiva Mountain Cup Series. The other two races consisted of a short 8 miler on the first part of the course and a 40 miler where participants ran the 20 mile course and then proceeded to turn around and do it all over again. I expected the course to be a typical ‘East Coast’ course with lots of roots, rocks, steep ups and down, all on a nice slick trail. The day I flew out, much of the eastern part of the country was being impacted by epic winter weather, but the forecast for North Carolina was calling for rain the day before the race and 50 degree temps on race day…”Great” I thought. Rain came the day before the race as expected, and that evening, I eventually made my way (fighting what the radio was calling “typical” rainy day traffic) to the pre-race dinner. At the dinner, I met seasoned Uwharrie Trail veterans who had been running the race for many of its 20 years to hardy volunteers who were ready to stand at their aid station and endure the elements and feed hungry runners soup, goo, pop and water. Many veterans spoke of previous races and forewarned rookie runners of “The Hill at mile…” or that “The course is not too bad until…”. It seemed that all experienced Uwharrians had “A Point” on the course where it went from “not bad” to just plain “hard”. The race director cautioned us that the leaf cover was so thick that you couldn’t see the trail…but don’t worry the trail was clearly marked with white paint on trees along the trail…but as one veteran put it, “the white marks are tough to see because the marks blend in with the lichen on the trees”. By that point had heard enough and was ready to head to my camping spot and get a good night’s rest in the back of my dry rented Honda Civic. The rest of the night was pleasant but around 4 am I heard rain tapping on the trunk of the car. At 6 am, still more rain falling, but by race time around 8 am the rain had stopped, yet still threatened and it was a cold, around 36 degrees.
On the course, I begin to notice that the rain from the day before and early morning collected nicely between the endless roots and rocks in the form of puddles and underneath those puddles could be anything from more roots, rocks, leaves, to ankle deep mud. Three of us took to the led consisting of fellow Inov-8 teammate Ryan Woods, a guy named Tom Clifford who was decked out in cross country spikes and was racing his first trail race, and me. Both Ryan and I opted for our trusty X-talon 212’s, which is the most ideal shoe for the wet conditions on the Uwharrie Trail. I led us through about 3 miles but then on a steep decent, Tom passed me with his spikes clicking on the rocks as he went by, and begin to get a pretty good lead on Ryan and me. After an aid station around 8 miles Tom took a big spill and Ryan and I were able to catch him. We all ran together until I led us off trail at a stream crossing that we shouldn’t have crossed around mile 10. We found the trail back across the stream. Ryan took the lead. I chased Ryan the last half of the race keeping him in sight whole way. He would gap me more on the downs but I was reeling him back on the ups. Eventually, at around mile 17 or so, there was nice steep uphill, and I almost caught him but the hill was not long enough and he hammered the crest and then was out of sight. After that hill, I decided was my “Point” of the race where the race was finally hard. This was the point where my legs ached, my toes had huge blisters and burned every time I stepped on a root (which was almost every step), and making sharp left turns was painful due to an imperfect landing on a root. I began to mistake the distant white paint marks on the trees for Ryan’s white jersey, like a mirage. However, every once in a while, those white marks were not mirages but were actually him. At those instances when I saw the real Ryan, I would try to speed up and each time I did, my feet would burn, or I’d hit a stream crossing and then slow down. I calculated that he had about 20 seconds ahead of me…which wasn’t that much considering the rugged trail. I knew my only hope for winning would be a long steep hill…like the one at mile 17…but was it ever going to come? At this point in the race the steep ups were very short followed by a steep decent which required a lot of focus to keep from falling and also brought on the burning sensation under my blisters. Finally, there was a nice uphill, I began to push but as I did I tripped and, “Whack!” Both my knee caps smashed into a root. I got up literally shaking. I tried to run but the fall had taken out what little energy I had left. I had no more strength. I was done.
Luckily, my fall occurred with about ¼ mile left of the race and I finished. I gave Uwharrie all I had.
Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Uwharrie 20 Mile Race Report