Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Seriously? How?

Mount Mitchell Challenge is coming up in 36 hours. This is a 40 mile trail race from Black Mountain to Mount Mitchell & back. In good weather, it's a very tough course (at least the first half). Last year, I ran the marathon that covers most of the course, but not the top part. They only let about 1/3 of the 40 mile runners to the top and then shut it down. I think something like 2/3 of those who went up were treated with hypothermia. It was pouring rain and 38ish on the lower trails & then got colder, windier & snowy up at higher elevations. But there was only a dusting of snow on the ground.

This year... UGH... 10 FOOT snow drifts at the top!! ...and it's currently snowing. I think just to the north of there, there's a Blizzard Warning in effect, but maybe not as bad at Mt. Mitchell. They re-routed the course so it "only" covers trails that had about 2 feet of snow on them before this recent snow. That's still knee deep. The upper trails have been replaced snowy roads, but it will still go to the top of Mt. Mitchell. They've taken out some aid stations because they simply can't get there. The forecast for race day isn't brutally cold. Hard to say what the actual conditions will be at nearly 7,000' but I'm guessing we'll have a wind chill in the teens.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't very worried. But I'm also very excited. This is why I signed up. Could be more about survival than running this time. I think I may be running in the same pack I took for 3 days of camping- a very small one for backpacking, but a very big one for running a race in. I'm overpacking. Better safe than sorry. YakTrax go with saying. Also foil space blanket, cell phone (do they work there?), gaiters, extra clothes, etc.

There's also a cutoff of 3 hours to a certain spot. I'm not sure how far it is with the re-rout- maybe 12 miles? The website says with the change, runners "have a reasonable chance" to make the cutoff. That doesn't sound incredibly promising. It sounds like there's a good chance that in the deep snow, getting to the cutoff in 3 hours will be pretty difficult. If it is 12 miles, I don't think I can run 15:00 miles up a mountain in deep snow. We'll see.

I've looked forward to this race for a long time. Hope it goes as well as possible. Sheesh. Worried.

1 comment:

Jason said...

Hmmm, I'm interested to see how this event turns out as well Coach. I don't worry about runners like you showing up prepared with experience. It's the rambo types that will show up with cotton clothes and a grin on their face that I'm concerned about.

PLEASE snap some photos if you feel up to it. I would love to get a look at it.

On a side note - I pack a 30 minute railroad flare when I run / backpack in wet wintry conditions. I know that if worse comes to worse something big is going to be on fire for people to find me :]

Good luck & have fun postholing! You bringing snowshoes or just the Yaks?