We left our Quads in North Carolina: 2007 National Championship Trail Marathon DuPont Forest
By Jay Silvanima
A small contingent of Tallahassee area runners traveled to the DuPont Forest nestled in the mountains of western North Carolina between Brevard and Hendersonville to compete in our first trail marathon/marathon relay. The mountains of western North Carolina are absolutely gorgeous but for relative flatlanders like us rather ‘hilly.’ Previous area entrants have described the course as beautiful, scenic, and “the most challenging marathon I had run before running Pikes Peak.” No doubt about it, the course itself is one of the reasons the USA Track & Field (USATF) has held the National Championship Trail Marathon there for the past few years this in addition to the superb organization which the director, Greg Walker, brings to this race.
The pre-race dinner featured a video presentation of the course given by Ray McCaslin, the course designer, and a long distance runners’ race psychology talk given by the current female course record holder, Anne Riddle Lundbald. Ray was very careful to describe all of the challenging sections of the course. These included the start-finish hill which we would have to descend and then climb not once but twice, two separate sections of single track trail including a stream crossing and mud bog, and a long uphill leading up to the airplane landing strip. Anne is a rehabilitative counselor and her talk concerning the psychology of preparing for and running races of marathon length and longer was excellent.
Getting back to the course, most of the course was run on access roads composed of dirt, rocks, gravel, and sand; additionally, a little over six miles were run on single track trail. The start/finish is on a plateau and the first two miles are run down a relatively steep ‘hill.’ The course is more or less an out and back with some single track around the sixth mile, an 8K single track loop thrown in between miles 17 – 22, and with the remaining four plus miles going down the hill which we descended at the start and then turning around and running the last two miles uphill to the finish. Because of the above the second half of this course is more demanding than the first.
For the author, the most shocking aspect of running this marathon was the speed attained on some of the descents! Elbows up to the chin and let it roll! Of course we paid for these downhills by having to traverse really long uphills including the one to the finish. Another alarming aspect was how quickly one’s heart rate rose on each of the steep ascents. Yes we agree the course is challenging, especially for anyone who has not yet run a trail marathon. However, as far as trail marathons go, we are told this one is not particularly slow.
There’s always at least one glitch when you put on an event of this magnitude. This year’s was a communications truck which got stuck smack dab in the middle of the technical portion at the top of the largest hill on the single track loop. Several of us yelled out words (which can’t be printed here) upon seeing the vehicle blocking our path, and wondered if we had gone off course. Fortunately we had not, the driver of the truck had! Upon squeezing around the truck through the bushes we were told that there was a water obstacle at the bottom of the hill. And yes the stream crossing greeted us there. Fortunately because of the drought one could hop scotch across the stream on several large rocks. This is exactly what the designer of the course instructed us not to do for fear of someone breaking an ankle. From there we were greeted with the ‘mud bog.’ In reality it was more like the upper loop of Lake Overstreet 12 hours after a good rain.
Overall we have to say this was an awesome marathon; well organized, absolutely gorgeous area, and wonderful hospitality. This even if the finish is at the end of a two mile ‘hill’! For those of you who are not quite up to a full marathon in the ‘hills’ of western North Carolina there is a marathon relay for which male, female, and co-ed teams may be entered. This actually brings up a story within this story. We registered a female relay team consisting of Amy Antimucci, Susan McDonough, and Jennifer Mitchell with Susan as captain. Unfortunately, Amy had to withdraw mere days before the race because it was recently discovered that her pacemaker’s leads were installed incorrectly 15 years ago! Amy is being told that she will have to have open heart surgery to remove the improperly installed leads and then reinstall them. Knowing all this one week before the event we contacted the race director and he was able to get a substitute for Amy — Andy, one fast dude. So our Team Gulf Winds became a co-ed team, and with Amy in our minds all of us ran our hearts out. For flatlanders we did very well.
Our team placed 5th overall out of 14 teams with a total time of 3:24:45. The following are our marathoners finishing times/places; 1) Jay Silvanima 16th overall, 2nd M 45-49 3:24:27, 2) Nancy Laux 47th overall, 2nd F 45-49 3:50:38, 3) John Falk 108th overall 4:31:06.