Monday, March 7, 2011

Race Recap: 2011 Umstead Trail Marathon

Cornelius, NC-based DARTer Bobby Aswell recently completed the Umstead Trail Marathon.  Held at the William B. Umstead State Park near Raleigh, this very popular race is limited to only 200 participants and fills up fast.  Below is Bobby's recount of the race.  Bobby finished in 13th place overall with a time of 3:21:13.

"Every now and then you hear about a race that all runners rave about. For the past few years, one of those races has been the Umstead Trail Marathon in Cary, NC. The marathon is run on the confines of the William B. Umstead State Park and consists of about 6 miles of single-track trail with most of the rest run on bridal trails.

Part of the mystique of the race is just getting into it. With a field size limited to 200 due to park regulations, you better be ready to type fast when online registration opens. For this year’s race, registration opened on November 29, 2010 at 8:00 am and I was at my computer ready to roll! Within a few minutes, I was in!

Months later as race day approached, the 10-day weather forecast was calling for rain race morning. Trails and rain don’t mix together too well so I was thankful the forecast changed and the rain was delayed one day.

Race morning arrived with the starting time temperature expected to be 51 degrees with the day warming up to the low 60’s by noon. With a lack of rain the preceding days, the trail was in excellent shape for running.

The race starts precisely at 9:00 am and the first 1 ½ miles or so are on an out and back dirt road leading to the start of the single-track trail for the next 6 miles. On a technical level, the trail is moderate but does have some tough climbs and several tough spots including the “Devil’s Spine” and the “Tree of Death”, so called because of all of the roots covering the entire trail around the tree making footing treacherous.

(photo found on the internet)
Around mile 8, the course changes to bridal trails, essentially one lane dirt roads, for most of the rest of the race. The race director describes the course as challenging and very hilly and he isn’t lying. One hill after another, up, down, up, down, and so on. Several of the hills have nicknames as they really wear on runners: ‘Corkscrew’ hill, ‘Wheels Fell Off’ hill and at mile 24, ‘Graveyard’ hill.
(photo found on the internet)

Awards are given to the top 15 male and female finishers and are unique wooden plaques every year. Each year the race mascot is kept a secret until race morning which adds to the race mystique! Last year’s mascot was a rabbit and others have included a turtle, fish, and frog so I was curious to find out what this year’s would be. At packet pick-up, I found out: a tick! That’s right, a tick! A tick on the lime green short-sleeve technical t-shirt, a tick on the finisher’s pint glass, and, if you’re lucky enough to get wood, a plaque shaped like a tick with brown legs! Very unique award to say the least! I managed to finish 13th Overall in 3:21:11 and won a giant tick!

Post-race festivities help ease the transition from running to recovery and include free massages, burritos from Moe’s, bagels, Gatorade, soda, gummy bears, and other munchies. All of this in the confines of a heated lodge steps from the finish line.

So, is all of the hype about this race justified? Yes, definitely! All in all, it’s a great race that I would highly recommend to any marathon runner! In fact, if you decide to run it next year, you’ll probably see me at the starting line!"

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