Where: Black Mountain/Mount Mitchell State Park, NC
When: February 24, 2018
Stats: 37.4 miles, 5,220 ft elevation gain
Bottom Line: an epic, well-organized mountain race
The Mount Mitchell challenge was a total blast! It was an epic day on the mountain for me for many reasons. This was a run I had been wanting to do for a long time. I had run the marathon (aka “fun run”) twice. But I knew one day I wanted to actually go all the way and summit Mt Mitchell–the tallest peak in the east. To my delight, I got in the lottery this year and was so stoked but completely nervous. The first cut off for challengers is the turnaround point for the marathoners. You have to get about 14.5 miles up the mountain in exactly 3 hours and 15 minutes to be allowed to continue on to the summit.
Since I had run the marathon the past two years, I knew the course and terrain very well… I knew exactly what I had to do. But I am a back-of-the-packer for sure, so I had mentally prepared myself for possibly missing the cut off. Long story short, I made the cut off with two minutes to spare! I had one of my best buddies running with me to keep me on target and I also had a lot of inspiration to help me up the mountain. (See my previous post for all the details.) It felt really good to be running for something bigger than myself. No doubt it played a large role in this race being successful (and meaningful!!) for me.
The race begins in downtown Black Mountain. From the start, you run about 2.5 miles on the road before you head through Montreat and begin your journey up the mountain. You follow some lovely single track for a couple of miles before hitting a wider but very rocky off-road trail. You run this up to the Blue Ridge Parkway – which serves as the turnaround point for marathoners and the cut off point for challengers. From the parkway you have a few more miles of pavement. The theme here is up, up, up! Closer to the summit, we were able to take an awesome singletrack trail up to the top (the Old Mitchell Trail.) It was described by the race director as “burley.” And lemme tell ya, this trail did not disappoint! We were creeping and crawling over wet, slick boulders and shuffling through a gorgeous forest until we finally reached the clearing at the top.
There had been rain off and on throughout the day so the views were hidden in a cloud at the summit. But man did it feel good to pause and take it all in!
I know this will not be my last Mount Mitchell run. I think I may even go for the summit again next year. 😉