This race was my first in-person event since running Montvale back in March. Kim and I signed up together. I chose the 6 hour option and she chose the 12 hour option. Our friend Mo decided to sign up for the 24 hour option, and we also knew a few brave souls registered for the 100 mile option.
The weather forecast had been looking really good for this race. Then tropical depression Delta began to strengthen before it turned into a full fledged hurricane. It made history by making landfall on the gulf coast in October, and it made for a very wet and muddy weekend for us as the remnants passed through. In the week leading up to the race we watched as the forecast went from 20% chance of rain to 100%. I packed every piece of rain gear I own, and on Friday evening Kim and I hit the road for North Carolina.
It rained that night and it was raining when we woke up on race morning. We made the short drive from our motel over to Allison Woods. Allison Woods is a large piece of property that has been in the Allison family since the 1700s. They also operate an outdoor learning center there. It’s awesome that this event is able to take place there.
Kim and I set up across from Mo and Leah. They had arrived the night before and had stayed onsite in their camping trailer. We picked up our packets and attended the pre-race briefing. The race had several additional precautions in place for Covid, including masks and social distancing. There were about 100 runners registered for the event, and the race director explained that we would start five minutes apart in small groups. I believe the order went: 4 milers and 24 hours, 100 milers, 12 hours, and 6 hours.
We made the short walk back down the gravel road to our crew area and made our final preparations. As I said with Crooked Road, we were all smiles, ready to run, and blissfully unaware of what was to come.
Since this was a halloween race, I decided to run as a minion!
We watched the first couple of groups start. Then it was Kim’s turn, and five minutes later at 8:15 AM I was off and running!
Loop 1 – 49:18 (miles 1-4)
The course was a 4 mile loop with about 360 ft of gain per loop. From the start/finish line we headed into the woods on a trail for three quarters of a mile. Then we turned onto an air strip that had the thickest grass I’ve ever run on. We ran down to the end of the air strip and into the woods where we did a loop before coming back onto the other side of the air strip. From there, we ran back down the air strip, with the grass slowly giving way to dirt and gravel, and ran through our parking/crew area about 1.5 miles into the loop. We ran almost back to the start/finish before making a sharp turn into the woods. After another short trail section we popped out onto a dirt road. We did a long loop on this road, including an out and back past a bamboo forest. Around mile 3 we hit another trail section before coming out onto the road we drove in on. We turned off of the road for one more short trail section that took us back to the start/finish line.
I was really excited to be running and I had been looking forward to seeing what the course would look like. So I ended up going out a little fast on this first loop. My ‘A’ goal was to get 7 loops for a total of 28 miles. That would mean I would need to split 52:26 per loop. I finished this loop more than 2 minutes under that split.
Loop 2 – 52:08; 1:41:26 total time (miles 5-8)
I linked up with Kim partway through this loop in our crew area. Leah was at our crew spot helping Kim when I rolled through and she cheered us both on as we headed down the road together to complete the rest of our second loop.
Kim and I were both still fresh and running maybe a little faster than we should have been. But it was just as well since the trails deteriorated so much after this loop. I was still having fun in the mud but Kim was not a fan.
Loop 3 – 59:39; 2:41:05 total time (miles 9-12)
Kim and I stuck together through the rest of loop two and the first part of loop three. After we passed through the crew area on this loop, we separated as I made a pit stop at the porta johns. Throughout the race, I’d say we were never more than a mile from a porta john, which was nice.
It was pouring but since the temperature was in the 60’s I wasn’t cold and was able to run in shorts and a t-shirt without a rain jacket. It was such a big difference from Crooked Road 24 Hour last year.
By this loop I knew all of the sections really well and was able to break the loop up into chunks in my head. The course did continue to throw some variables at us, as the trails became muddier and slicker with each loop. Some of the mud was super slick, while other parts were that shoe sucking mud that tries to pull your shoes right off of your feet.
Loop 4 – 59:45; 3:40:50 total time (miles 13-16)
I had finished my two hydration flasks by this point, so I made my first stop at my crew area about 1.5 miles into this loop. I swapped out my flasks for two fresh flasks that were pre-filled with Tailwind. I also grabbed some more fuel and continued on my way. The race did have a main, manned aid station at the start/finish and an unmanned minimal aid station about halfway through the loop. But we were encouraged to crew ourselves as much as possible in the Covid era, so that’s what I did.
I had everything set up so I could get in and out in under a minute when resupplying. I had planned for my A goal of 28 miles/7 laps and I knew I couldn’t give away too much time resupplying. But by this loop I knew my A goal had gone out the window. Instead, I was focused on reaching my B goal of 24 miles / 6 loops.
Loop 5 – 1:02:18; 4:43:08 total time (miles 17-20)
As I came through the crew area on my fifth loop, Kim was there re-supplying. We headed down the road together. As we approached the spot where we turned into the woods, we saw there were cones set up. A race official informed us that part of the course was being rerouted due to the trail conditions. He told us to head down the road and make a right. We did so and there was another volunteer at the spot where we would have come out of the woods at the bottom of the road. He told us to continue on the normal course from there. Kim and I wondered what this would do to the total mileage for the loops, but it doesn’t look like it affected them much at all.
On our way back to the finish, the reroute meant that we stayed on the road instead of ducking back into the woods for that short trail section. Instead we headed uphill and to the finish line.
Loop 6 – 1:02:52; 5:46:00 total time (miles 20-24)
I knew this would be my final loop. Kim and I were still running together. The first trail section had gotten so bad we could barely run any of it. We moved through the mud as best we could. There was a little hill up onto the airstrip that was particularly slippery.
As we turned onto the air strip I started running again. I had a goal of always running the air strip, even though the grass was super thick, since it was a flat part of the course that also was not muddy. I realized Kim was no longer with me. I glanced behind me and she was waving me on. I found out later she had started to have some cramping issues. Luckily she was able to take care of them and continue on with her race.
I enjoyed seeing each aspect of the race course for the last time. I was tired and could definitely feel where I had been on my feet for awhile. But I also still felt pretty good overall. I’d love to come back to this race in the future with better weather conditions and see what I could do.
I crossed the finish line in 5 hours and 46 minutes. This was a 6 hour timed race, but only complete loops counted, which meant I was done at 6 loops since I did not have time for another full loop. So twenty-four miles total on a pretty tough day. I’m happy with that!
I talked to the race director for a little bit after I finished. I also got to pick out my finisher’s award. They had an array of little hand painted ceramic medallions to choose from (all the same size/design but varying colors).
A lady also called out to me that I had won a t-shirt in the raffle. Cool!
After my run, I got changed into dry clothes and my rain gear (as the off and on downpours continued). I hung out with Leah, cheered on Mo and other runners, and crewed Kim during the second half of her race. At one point, Leah also made me grilled cheese sandwich, which was basically the best thing ever.
Overall, I had a great time out there and a good experience at Allison Woods. I accomplished my B goal, and given the conditions I’m very happy with that. I will definitely return to this race in the future. I’d love to see what I could do on the course, especially in better conditions.