Monday, December 12, 2011

Bittersweet day @ Table Rock 50K

The views were majestic.
I took a shot at a new event this past Saturday and ran the Table Rock 50K near Lake James, NC.

I could rant for awhile, but instead I'll take the Clint Eastwood approach - the good, the bad and the ugly.

Good:

Ultra legend Bill Keane's shirt says it all.
1) Ran every step of the event with my buddy and ultra rock star Rob Apple. Rob has now completed 640 ultras and he's going strong for many more. We caught up on old times and had some good laughs en route.

2) Weather was spot-on perfect for a NC December day.  Sunny, clear and high near 50.

3) Aid station volunteers were exceptional.  Great engagement and conversation.  Thanks to all.

4) Sites were spectacular.  We ascended forever and saw striking scenery along the course.  At the 50K turnaround, there were epic views of Table Rock from the Wiseman's View Overlook.

5) Tech shirt and finisher's sweatshirt provided.

Bad:

1) Course didn't provide much variation.  It was 5-6 miles of pavement, then a gravel mountain road you climbed for a couple of hours.  Up, up, up.  Turn around in neat little park then back.

2) Minimal finish area amenities.  We ended on a gravel road just above the wonderful Paddy Creek facility.  Promoter must have opted not to rent it.  Ultrarunners like to socialize after the event. This race had some food (cold burritos with an associated microwave hooked to a generator, cold noodles, crackers) but no where to sit.

3) Promoter publicized a trivia contest as part of the race.  Aid station volunteers asked us questions, prizes were to be awarded to winners.  I got three questions correct, was looking forward to prize.  Promoter stated the contest was not implemented properly and doubts he will award prizes - maybe random drawing.

4) Minimal goods at aid stations.  Gu packs were available, but little else (fluids, chips, small amounts of trail mix). More product was needed, more real food.

Ugly:

1) We had a big mess off the start.  Race promoter told us that when we came to dirt road, 50K runners stay left, 50 mile runners right onto dirt road.  Problem was, 50K runners were supposed to do an out and back leg, then onto dirt road.  No course markings, no directions.  About half of the 50K runners went off course.  We got onto highway 126 which luckily merged back onto the proper course.  Some with GPS watches said we ended up within a tenth of 50K, but who knows.

2) Dog attacks on the course.  Heard that some runners suffered dog bites.  Two nasty ones coming from the right.  Rob and I know dogs and when they attacked, we attacked back and chased them up the driveway.

The promoter has already sent out a memo explaining some of the shortcomings. Much of it is framed as part of his learning experience in an inaugural event.  I don't mind that approach, but if that's the case, then charge first time entry fees.  This race was $65, priced right up there with the best of them.

Premium price, host a premium event.  I'm a very amenable athlete, but I do want a good value for my dollar.



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