2003 Uwharrie 40 Mile

By Jaret Seiberg

A handful of VHTRC members were among those surviving the Feb. 8, 2003, running of the Uwharrie 40 Mile adventure race.

In John Dodd’s speak, this would be a ``benign’’ trail, which as anyone who has met John and knows about his vocabulary trouble should realize means that it is a steep and pretty difficult run.

(For those unaware of John’s troubles with terminology, you have now been warned.)

On a course that already is ``benign’’, runners this year also had to climb over numerous downed trees, navigate overflowing streams, and retain their shoes in sneaker-sucking mud.

Though results had not been posted as of mid-day Monday, I believe the top VHTRC finisher was Bethany Hunter, who set a new women’s course record of 7:23:42. She was followed by Dave Horton.

Other Happy Trails finishers – at least that I know of – included myself (Jaret) in 8:23, Quatro Hubbard a few minutes later, and Kerry Owens, who finished in 9:29. Also, Anita Walker was spotted on trail and presumably finished. A should-be VHTRC’er, Karen Kreig, finished in 10:05 I’m sure others were there. I just did not write down your names. Sorry.

Actually Kerry would have finished a bit quicker if she had not missed the final turn into the finish line and instead ran down an alternate trail to the street, where she approached the finish line from the wrong direction. Though clearly announcing herself to the guy with the stopwatch, the race organizers apparently did not record her as finishing and were worried she was lost.

That is a legitimate concern for this trail.

Much like Catoctin, runners follow permanent blazes. All you need to do is stay on the white blazed trail for 20 miles. Then turn around and run it backwards. It sounds easy but many of the blazes need repainting and telling the difference between a faded blaze and moss on a tree can be quite tough, especially when there are multiple trail crossings.

At least one runner – don’t worry Mike Gholson I won’t use your name here – actually managed to run the course backwards for several miles during the return trip. But hey, it was good MMT training for Mike.

For those who have not traveled to North Carolina for this run, you are missing a great way to get your butt into shape after taking it easy over the winter. The course is located about 45 minutes south of Greenville and essentially features 12 significant climbs in an out-and-back format.

Very little is flat and it is 100% trail. Downed trees from an earlier ice storm still littered large sections of the course, which made travel on some sections especially slow. Last year’s drought – which made all the stream crossings relatively easy – gave way to rain in the days immediately before the race. The result: high water in the streams and lots of deep mud in the low-lying areas.

This year featured new management, which did an excellent job. The pre-race meal was in Asheboro, a major step up from Troy. My motel this year actually gave wake up calls as opposed to last year when I asked for a 5 a.m. wake up call and the clerk handed me an alarm clock.

The temperature was ideal for February – sunny and in the mid-40s for much the run. After the initial five-mile stretch, aid stations were every three miles, which made it possible to use a hand-held water bottle rather than a CamelBak. My only complaint about the aid stations was a lack of salty foods. Though pretzel were to be had, you can only eat so many of them.

The race also features a 20-mile option and an 8-mile option, both of which start after the 40 mile run. About a dozen of the 20 milers passed us on the way out despite our 20 minute head start. They charged up those hills while the rest of were walking.

On the return trip, I was shocked by the amount of trash on the course. I have never seen this at an ultra before. More than a mile before the aid station on the return trip I started seeing trash. Though myself and other runners were trying to pick up and carry his stuff out, some cups were just too far off the trail or came late enough in the race that I could not bend down any more to pick them up.

I’m blaming the 20 milers for the mess primarily because I cannot believe that an ultra runner would do this. Also, on the return trip, I hardly saw any trash immediately after the aid stations.

The end featured soup and left over pasta from the previous night, plus bagels. As afternoon approached evening, they even built a camp fire. The ride home took Kerry, Karen and I about 7 hours, including the required stops for mashed potatoes and Dunkin Donuts coffee and donuts. Any run that ends with a stop at Dunkin Donuts is worth repeating. (For those traveling back from this next year, take exit 177 of I-85 in Raleigh and turn left to get to the Dunkin Donuts.)

The Uwharrie Web site will have results soon.

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