Sunday, January 13, 2013

Umstead: just a half marathon this time

I had heard about the Umstead 100-mile before but I had no idea where it was held. It was my first time visiting the huge IBM campus at RTP (the Research Triangle Park) between Raleigh and Durham, NC, and, before flying there, I asked one of the local ultra runners, Joe Lea, for some good places near or around the site. He indicated this park, just a few miles away from the park (one entrance is at the 287 exit off I-40 and the main entrance, Crabtree Creek is off US-70.
I printed the course map from the race website but maps are available at the trail head for instance the Reedy Creek parking lot which I started my run from. Here is the park, between Raleigh (lower right corner) and Durham (upper left). Note the numerous trails in the area, highlighted as green lines.
If you read my previous post, I wasn't sure I'd be able to run this week anyway. I left home limping and was still after my 6-jour flight, thankfully without a connection this time. With meetings all days plus dinners and very short nights afterwards to catch-up on emails, it's only on Thursday afternoon that I could find 2 hours to escape in the woods. The weather was great actually, partly cloudy and nice temperature in the high 50s.

From the parking lot I took the very nice single track called Loblolly Trail. This isn't the shortest way to get on the 100-mile loop course, it took me about 2.25 miles to get on the course indeed. The other way from this entrance is to go on Reedy Creek Lake which gets you to the North of that lake.

The course is a wide forest road which reminded me of the Fontainebleau forest South of Paris and the 50K I had run on my own there in July 2008. Especially the variety of trees, between leafy ones and conifers. As a consequence, the single track trails are covered with dead leaves or pine needles in addition to rocks and roots at places. But the 100-mile course consists of this forest road only and is therefore very runnable which partly explains the amazing course record set by Mike Morton in a blazing 13 hours and 11 minutes before he went on with his overall win at the World 24-hour last year.

While the footing is easy, the 12.5-mile loop isn't flat and the website gives a cumulative elevation of 1,000 feet per loop or 8,000' total.

Overall, this sounds like a great 100-mile event. Entirely in the woods yet in an urban area, a loop format yet a long half-marathon one, not the boring track laps, which makes the logistic easy. And for those who are concerned about remote courses for health considerations, the Raleigh Rex hospital is only 5 miles away from the park. Note that this is a popular event though and that it fills up in a few minutes these days (registrations for 2013 are closed). Also , I can't tell for the weather but it sounds like April is perfect before the summer heat hits the area. With this recon run, I'll certainly consider including Umstead on my calendar one of these years, and certainly visit again next time I'm coming to RTP.
Back to my run, I could feel some pain in my calf and ran the loop at a conservative 8 min/mile to make sure I wasn't pulling on the tear muscle. That was Thursday evening. I flew back on Saturday(yesterday) and went for another run in the neighborhood upon getting back home but had to stop after a mile, feeling the sharp pain coming back again... Bottom line I'm going to take the next 3 weeks off running and see how it feels at Jed Smith. And hit the gym in the meantime, for some cross-training, strength/weight training and stretching... So long for a smooth return to running after the December break, something I seem to always struggle with as Agn├Ęs reminds me, year after year. Sounds like I figured out a lot about running, but not the "not running" part of it... Hope you have a smoother start of 2013 yourself! ;-)

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