This is the polar opposite of my kind of race…it’s 100% runnable. I got into this sport from hiking and love the opportunity to rely on my hiking chops once the ground get steep and/or gnarly. When “runners” are struggling, I can often pass them while resting a bit. Mt Mitchell offers none of this for me.
A 7am start greeted us with nice conditions, temp in the 20’s, which after this NY winter felt like summer.
Due to the nasty weather we have had, I felt under trained. I had logged 200 miles since Jan 1 but that was mainly in 6-10 miles runs. I had gone down to NJ for a 35 mile weekend 3 weeks prior but that was it. I didn’t feel like I could run hard and instead my goal was to finish in good physical shape, I didn’t want to drag myself across the finish line. I started very casually running just under 8 min pace for the first 3 miles up to the first snow. I put on nanospikes over my Inov-8 Race Ultra 290’s and started up the trail. Feeling great I passed a number of people as they slipped around in the loose snow over ice. As the grade increased I started slipping more too. The nanospikes have flat plates that block any traction from the sole of your shoes, and the spikes weren’t long enough to reach the ice. After about a mile I yanked ’em off, strapped them on my back and took them for a 35 mile ride. I felt better in bare shoes especially as we reached a semi packed trail about 7 miles in.
Things went well up to the marathon turn around, one pit stop in the woods and a couple of short walking sections. At this 13 mile aid station it is all pavement to the top. I don’t run pavement, ever. Bad knees don’t like it. To make it even harder on my knees and back, the road is banked. So the entire 6 miles up and 6 miles down, one foot is landing a few inches below the other, lame. Eventually I slogged my way to the top. The summit was very enjoyable as I took a couple of minutes for some photos.
The trip back down was tiring but not too bad. I had a couple of miles from 27-31 where I felt good and pushed to pace into the 8:30 range. Good for me in loose snow, ice, and mud, as the temps were in the 40’s. The end of the trail leads to an insanely steep downhill road which my entire body was hating. Fortunately it is fairly short and with 3 miles to go, we turned onto a trail along a stream. I’m sure this trail is very nice but this day it was a slippery mess, which after 35 miles, becomes annoying quick. The last bit of evil comes when you reach the finish area and they make you do a lap around a small lake where you can see people at the finish sitting and enjoying food and beer.
Since the course was shortened a bit this year, it clocked in around 38 miles. I finished in 6:21. While 40th place isn’t very impressive, after the issues I have been having with my knees and my back, I am very pleased. My goal was a 10 min/mile average, I ran 10:10. Also, this was the first time lately that I did not run in Hokas. I feel like while they help the knees, they have been contributing to the back issues. I do wish I had them for the 20 mile descent though. I ran in a new pair of Inov-8 Race Ultra 290’s which had 6 miles on them prior. They are very comfortable and roomy, nice and stable, and offer descent cushioning. My right foot was numb for the last 3 hours or so and I was feeling it in the bottoms of my feet running on the pavement at the end, but overall I was happy with the shoes.
After the race, Jay, Myron, Mike, Brian and I cut loose a bit. First it was beer at the finish, then it was beer in Sara’s hot tub (thanks again!!), then beer at the Highland Brewing company, then food and beer at the awards dinner, then food and beer at the Trail Head Restaurant. Surprisingly, I felt great the next day, with only minor soreness. Of course the flight home was a nightmare due to snow/ice in NY but that’s another story.
I had a great time but I don’t think I will run this again. The event is very well run and the course is great, but it is not my style and it is tough to train for in NY this time of year. I really don’t like Lenape Lane that much!!