2023 Mount Mitchell Challenge

This race has been on my bucket list since I ran the marathon back in early 2000’s (maybe 2002 or 2003?). I had either never gotten in via the lottery, or missed it due to Uwharrie being so close, or opted to do the Florida Sea 2 Sea 72 hour adventure race, which is often the same weekend. This year, they changed the lottery process so that everyone starts the marathon, and the 1st 250 runners that get to the marathon turn around point in time, can keep going.

The race was late February and I’m writing this in early April, so just bullet points:

  • I stayed in a boutique type hotel called The Monte Vista, which seemed quite nice. But unfortunately my room had an HVAC system right out side my 2nd story window that was acting up, starting and restarting, every few seconds, that kept me awake for a while. My room was also close enough to the open stairway leading down the lobby, bar, and restaurant, so it was quite noisy. Not good when you are trying to go to sleep early.
  • I woke up quite early with my bowels in serious distress. :-(. Luckily I had immodium and had to take several to calm things down. I don’t know if it was the Thai food the night before, or something else, but it was not a good start to the day! Luckily, the issue passed by the time l left my room around 6:45. (It was a very short walk to the start line!)
  • The race started and we headed slightly up on the paved roads to Montreat, before hitting trail around mile 3. I was taking it easy as I had no intentions of pushing having just run Uwharrie 40 miler 3 weeks prior. Nothing exciting here, other than it’s up up up.
  • About 2 hours and 50 minutes in, I hear a lady say something about “a race to the cut-off.” That was odd, I thought we had 4 hours to get to mile 14, not 3! We were a mile out, so I actually did have to push a little to make it in time. Got there in a group of 4 or 5 stragglers at 2:59! I would have been so upset if I had missed it — I had only come to run the Challenge not the Marathon!
  • Anyway, from there we headed out on the Blue Ridge Parkway for a bit, and then up the road to the summit. This is all paved, it’s raining a lot, and I thought we were supposed to take the trail to the summit. When I got to the trail, there were no race flags, so now what? I waited a couple minutes for runners behind me, and they didn’t know either. I decided to keep heading up the road. A few minutes later, the lead runners came flying down, and I asked them — they said pavement all the way! What!! I am not a roadie, and this was going to be 12 miles up and down to the summit and back to the trail that leads to town. All in all, of the 37-38 miles in the race, nearly 20 are pavement! (Race description says 40 miles but may Coros, which is usually very accurate, read 37 miles.)
  • The climb up was brutal weather. Cold, rainy, and windy. On the way down, my hands got really cold, but I knew I just had to keep moving, get to lower elevation, and I’d be fine.
  • The downs on the trail here are brutal — just lots of loose softball size rocks the whole way, so it can be slow going.
  • While I was in the last 4-5 runners to make the cut-off, I passed a lot of people from there on, and ended up 49th out of 72 finishers, in 7 hrs and 34 minutes. There were 170 finishers in the marathon. Many of those were there for the marathon, but some were there for the Challenge and didn’t make the cut off.
  • I ate a couple of hotdogs at the finish line, but walked back to the van, still parked at the hotel, toweled off, and went to My Father’s Pizza where I had a big GF Meat Lovers Pizza, a beer, and ordered the carrot cake to go. Drove the 3 hours home…

2 thoughts on “2023 Mount Mitchell Challenge

    • This came in via email from my dad (as opposed to the “th” above…

      That is one Hell of a wicked looking pizza. Anyway congratulations on finishing it and crossing another item off your bucket list.

      I thought I might miss my racing days, but reading your various travails puts me in a good place . I don’t miss it at all.

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