Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mt. Mitchell Challenge Course Conditions

I'll flat out admit it - I'm not at all unhappy that my hip has not allowed me to run this 40 mile race next week. This is not what I had in mind when I wanted to try an ultra. It was summed up well by another person who said, running in those conditions is a waste of fitness as a runner. I agree, I wanted to RUN an ultra, not struggle and posthole through through 3 foot snow drifts for 8-10 hours. Hats off to the people that are going to start on Feb. 28th, you are all effin' tough! I see clearly why the title of this course uses the word Challenge and not race or run.

Course update:

A group of 5 with snowshoes went up from the Black Mountain campground to get a look at the summit snow...Race Director Jay Curwen then skied down the Toll Rd. to get a look at some deep snow...

Snow Observations:
Bill's Knob (halfway up Toll Rd.) - 6" to 8"
Pinnacle Mountain (1 mile from parkway on Toll Rd.) - 12" to 18..."
Parkway and State Park ...Rd. to summit - scraped and dry pavement
Stepps Gap down to Camp Alice - 8" to 24" (some scraped, some drifts over knees)
Buncombe Horse Trail - 20" to 30" (drifts well over 3 feet)
Camp Alice up to Commissary Ridge - 20" to 24" with hard ice in places.
Summit trails (Black Mountain and Commissary) - Lots and lots of snow.

So, the big question..."Do we need snowshoes?"
Short answer - Maybe.
The reality is, we will not be able to run the entire course w/out some alterations...There is no way you could traverse the horse trail and Commissary Ridge Trail from Black Mountain in a day (it took me close to 90 minutes to ski from Commissary to Stepps Gap...a distance of maybe 3.5 miles)...Drifts on the summit Trails are waist deep and then some.
The likely scenario is up and back to the summit on the pavement...Which leaves the snow on the Toll Rd. to contend with...There is enough snow now that I was able to ski all the way down to the water tank in Montreat yesterday...But, I feel that snowshoes would really only aid you for the final few miles of the Toll Rd. just before the Parkway (and the first few on the way back down).

If I was going to race the course myself, tomorrow, I wouldn't take them...But, I am comfortable post-holing to my shins and knees for an hour+...

We will have a hard cut-off of 10AM at the Parkway...That's 3 hours from the start...If you are a Challenger, and you get to the aid station on the Parkway at 10:01, you will be turned around.

This is going to be a tough year, even if we are limited to pavement on top...Yesterday, I snowshoed up from the Black Mountain campground and skied down the Toll Rd....for a comparison, this is basically the course (actually a little shorter) of the very first Challenge, which I ran in 3:27......yesterday took me 6:30.

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