Packet pickup is always fun at Sean’s races. This one wasn’t a letdown. Sean was offering shots of tequila for anyone interested. Of course, Martin took Sean up on his offer and they both did a shot.
After packet pickup, we gave Sean a ride to a restaurant he recommended and we ate some dinner.
I don’t recall the name of the cabin that Paul rented for us to share but it turned out to be great. I don’t think we could have stayed in a better place. It had plenty of room and it wasn’t noisy outside. So, we had no excuses for not sleeping.
I brought supplies so that I could cook some breakfast for us all. So, I got up a bit early and cooked some eggs, bacon and toast for everyone. It’s always better to start a challenging race with a good hot breakfast if it’s possible.
The 50k Course
The start of the race was a typical start. Everyone was crowding into a small space waiting for some buses to pick us up. The buses took us to the start. I remember us getting instructions on where we could pee so that we wouldn’t pee in the yards of some folks that live next to the trail head. Sean said a few words and it begins.
The race basically is all up hill for the first 3.5 miles. 3000 feet of climbing right out of the start. We start at 2950 and topped out around 5900. Portions of this section were difficult. It was close to straight up. The weather was mostly cool but it was a bit humid. During this climb I felt strong but, the humidity did catch up with me towards the top. I had to stop and take a break and cool down a bit. At that point, I pulled out some food and ate a bit on the last 400-500 feet of the 1st climb. It was a humbling feeling.
Here’s the elevation profile from my Strava data. You can see it was quite a steep climb up to the top.
But, after making it to the top, we leveled out a bit. Someone was flying a drone around video taping the runners cutting across the top of the ridge. The views were spectacular.
The trails were easy to run at this point and we proceeded to run across the top of the mountain for a short distance before we started down the mountain. We run down hill for 4-5 miles. This section is an out and back so about halfway down I started seeing the leaders of the race running up the mountain towards me. The aid station has a pretty tight cut off so the slow movers could easily not make the cutoff here. I’m pretty slow, especially at the beginning of a race so I think I was about 20 minutes ahead of the cut-off.
However, I did make it. I refueled and rehydrated and got to work climbing out. The trail was wide, so passing runners coming down wasn’t an issue. Some of our running buddies didn’t make the cut-off.
Once on the top again, the course follows the ridgeline for about five miles. The weather was great and the views were better. I just soaked it all in. This is about as close you’re ever going to get to an alpine experience on the east coast. I kept moving but I had to stop and take many photos. The views were just too good to pass up.
The course did finally turn back down the mountain. I remember shortly after starting down the mountain, there was an aid station for refilling water and they had some foods. Since they had to haul in the water, they were limiting how much water you could consume. I managed to get three bottles out of them. After this aid station, there was much more downhill running. The course finally bottomed out and kicked out onto a road that connected to a different mountain. The connection was 2-3 miles, mostly on pavement.
After the pavement, the climbing started again. Slow and steady climbing going up one of the highest mountains on the east coast. The climb wasn’t very steep at first but became steeper towards the top. Also, it took about 7-8 miles to get to the top. Combining the climbing, distance midday heat and you had all the ingredients for a challenging section. Add the fact that there wasn’t an aid station until you got to the very top, well, what more could a ultra-runner want. We had been advised to bring a way to filter water and this was the section where that advice paid off. There were a few streams running on the top of the mountain. We were able to use those streams to filter water and refill bottles. It was a good thing because I needed the water.
Once on top of the mountain, there was an awesome aid station at the Black Mountain parking area. I spent some time at the aid station refueling and drinking some fluids. But, after that, I headed down the mountain, maintaining some of the fastest paces of the race for me. It felt great.
After the race, my running buddies that finished ahead of me were enjoying a cold beer and some food. I joined them and rested a bit for heading to East Tennessee to visit family.
The course is a wonderful course. Sean, the race director has some challenging cut-off times at the beginning of the race to make sure runners aren’t finishing in the dark. But, after you get past those, you can cruise at a comfortable race and still have a decent race. On the day I ran, I had spectacular views and wonderful weather. I’ve heard stories about wind, rain, and snow that make the view not quite a good. But, that wasn’t the case for me this year.
Information Email Before The Race
The race director of Quest for the Crest 50k has a way with words. Anyone who has run any of Sean’s races knows that he cuts to the chase in his race communications. I couldn’t resist adding one of his emails to this blog post.
Quest for the Crest 50k runners
I am not sure if you have seen this but our 50k route has altered for the better… We are now allowed into MT MITCHELL STATE PARK… you heard that correctly!
We are not going to the true summit this year nor are ANY crews, friends or families allowed within the entire Mt. Mitchell State Park. In fact if we find you are doing this you will be disqualified immediately and not allowed in ANY of our future races.
There is a new and AMAZING park ranger who is working with us closely to make this happen. However we have several conditions to do this. We want to see what the normal traffic flow/ how many visitors are int he park before we allow the crews etc to come join the park.
here is a link to the course
If you download the trail project app you can download that map and literally follow this GPS track and never get lost.
Please note that we are not doing that short out n back to Mitchell summit.
What does all of this mean/what is changing about the race?
So let me explain to you what you need to know about all these changes in plain english.
… its race morning
READY SET GO.
Your first aid station is 7 miles and 6500 ft change later so bring enough water n crap to eat.
Then you have 7.5 miles with 4300 ft of gain to the next aid station. There are 2 opportunities to purify water. We will put in signs at all the places to safely purify water.
This 7.5 mile stretch could take 3-4 hours. so plan accordingly. The 3 miles on the crest trail where it looks “flat” is really slow going with sharp turns up n downs and rock climbing.
At deep gap aid station some 14 miles into the race is water, gatorade, PB N J and bananas. its a LIGHT aid stop.
To the next aid station You now have 3.8 miles down a really technical trail to the bottom then 1 mile on flat road. then 1.5 miles with 400 ft gain 100 loss to the buncombe aid station. So its about 6.5 miles from deep gap aid to buncombe. carry a ton of water and food ALWAYS.
If you make it to bottom of colbert ridge around the cut off time of 6:15 hours you’ll almost have to sprint to make it to buncombe in 7 hours.
At buncombe you have drop bag and full aid.
It is 7.5 miles to Mitchell Aid Station. With 4500 ft gain nd 1,000 lose. The top of the climb gets really horrible so save energy. Take your time and fully fill up everything. About 2.5 miles after buncombe you will have a water source to purify (it will be labeled) 2.5 miles past that you will have another water source which will be labeled.
From Mitchell it is about 6.2 miles 99% downhill over crazy technical terrain to the finish line. You have 2.5 hours to do this. be careful but get it done! If you are riding cutoff bring a headlamp as it might get dark on you if you do not make the cutoff.
If you have any questions we will be updating info on the site but have the Grayson Highlands race this weekend so will likely not respond until late next week.
Thank you guys n gals for running.
This is a 32.3 mile race with 11,800 ft of gian on crazy rocky technical trails. There is not 50k that is harder.
IF you are not prepared to be semi self sufficient then please do not show up.
We love you all and hope you ALL finish.
Sean Run Bum Blanton