By Sophie Speidel
[Editor's Note: All photos on this page are by Sophie Speidel, or at least from her camera. Links to more pictures are at the bottom of the page.]
I’m still recovering from the drive to and from Uwharrie this past weekend, but Mike Wedemeyer, Quatro, Anstr, and my friends in Charlottesville keep bugging me about writing about our adventures at the Uwharrie Mountain run, so of course I just had to drop everything and write this report. I had heard from Quatro how awesome this race is, so I was very curious to discover the reasons why, given all the other winter trail run options that are available to us for little or no fee. Here is what I found:
10. The Weather. For the past few years, the racers at Uwharrie have enjoyed beautiful weather, and this year was no different. Dawn brought clear blue skies, thirty-degree temperatures that climbed to the low 60s by mid-day, and dry trail conditions. It was so warm that we didn’t need a fire ring for the post-run, most runners ran in shorts and T-shirts, and we saw shooting stars in the clear night sky.
9. The Trail. A diverse mix of rocks, long climbs, screaming downhills, technical single-track, and numerous stream crossings, the Uwharrie trail offered a bit of everything, and was in excellent condition. Imagine Prince William Forest Park but with longer climbs and some MMT rocks thrown in for good measure. This was also a “pure” trail race in the sense that the trail was marked by white blazes, not streamers, so it was a challenge all day long to stay on course. In fact, women’s winner Annette Bednosky went off course a few times as well as did most of the VHTRC.
8. The Course. The race consisted of 8-, 20-, and 40-mile options, with an out-and-back for the 40-mile runners. We were able to have drop bags at the 20-mile mark and see everyone near the turn-around, which was a huge mental boost. The course was actually 20.5 miles one-way and the aid stations came every 3 miles…and these were NOT “Horton miles.” Two of my favorite moments on the trail were seeing Mike Wedemeyer way out in front at the turn-around and hearing a 20-mile runner say, “Here come the real runners!” as we passed by.
7. The Aid Stations. Frequent and filled with everything one might need while running an ultra, the aid stations were amazing. Coke, Mountain Dew, Gatorade, water, trail mix, PB&Js, potatoes and salt, trail mix, fresh cut fruit, E-caps, GU, Tums….the list goes on. You didn’t need to carry a thing if you didn’t want to. The volunteers were extremely helpful and positive…as I was searching for a trash can for my orange peels, they told me to drop them right there (on the ground) and they would pick them up for me!
6. The Post-Run Food, Fun, and Beer. The finish line area had a tent with all kinds of yummy food, including Scott Brockmeier’s homemade chicken noodle and vegetable soups, as well as lasagna, cookies, soda, hot chocolate, and beer. We weren’t allowed to actually drink the beer, given the fact that we were in a national park (has that ever stopped us before?), but Michelob Ultra was a sponsor of the race so they were actually giving away cases of the stuff. A perfect door prize for the VHTRC!
5. Race Directors Sally Edwards, Kim Jones and Robin Crumpton. These very cool women did an amazing job. I loved the fact that the race was co-directed by three women, and their attention to detail was evident throughout. When I came into the 20-mile turn-around and asked for my drop bag, Kim was there to greet me by name, and Sally re-filled my bottles and helped me with my stuff. Female bonding at its best…thanks, ladies!
4. The Awards: Every finisher received a beautiful hand-made ceramic pot upon finishing, and the top three male and female finishers got gorgeous green urns with the their place of finish inscribed on the pot. There was also very cool Uwharrie Mountain Run schwag for sale.
3. The Team Competition: This year was the first for the team competition, and the top five fastest times on each team across all three races were considered for the team awards. Team VHTRC was comprised of 40-mile runners Mike Wedemeyer, Michele Harmon, Mike Priddy, Quatro Hubbard, and me (Marty Lindemann was a last-minute scratch due to injury). Always looking for a Ringer, we tried to add Derrick Carr to the Blue Train team at the last minute, but we were too late. Next year, Derrick! The team competition added a fun spirit to the race—I was surprised to read that mild-mannered Scott Brockmeier of Team NCultra challenged us to “bring it on!” on the VHTRC website. Next year, we need to organize earlier, include all the VHTRC runners on the team, and keep Anita, Jay and Scott from running with the NC crowd!
2. The Chance to Hear Mike Priddy’s First Words Upon Finishing: Mike summed it all up for me (and, I suspect, for many of us) when he came across the finish line, looked at Michele, and said, “I hate this (bleeping) sport. Why do I do this??” I knew Mike was just echoing what many of us feel during those “low moments” on the trail; apparently, Mike was having a low moment just as he finished. I felt his pain—during some of my low moments, I asked myself that exact same question, only with a different expletive. Then, just as suddenly, came the answer…
1. The Chance to Run, to Reflect, and to Give Thanks. What better way to spend a beautiful winter day than to run in the woods, enjoy some solitude as well as fellowship and the chance to solve some of life’s big problems? As I ran the trails of Uwharrie I was overcome by feelings of gratitude for the sport of ultrarunning and specifically for the friends who have been training with me during the past few months to help me reach my goal of finishing MMT. I thought about each of you while I was out there…thank you for “the push” you have given me, guys. It has meant a lot.
Quatro was right. This is an awesome race. We had a great time representing the VHTRC and next year we need to come to NC in larger numbers, especially since there are so many distance options. The 20-mile race closed out around Christmas and the 8- and 40- mile race closed on Jan 12 this year.