I found this race on Ultra-signup several months ago and was immediately interested. I love Western NC, it has a ton of mostly single track cllimbing to a peak-bald-lookout tower..and is held at a very cool AT town.
Article race info
They also have a Fall celebration, which the race is a part of. The celebration has live music, craft beer, chili cookoff, smores and food trucks. Fall celebration
It is an out and back, which usually is viewed as a slight negative, but I was very good with this. It goes up to a peak/bald called Wayah Bald. Wayah Bald has a very cool rock lookout tower on it. Wayah Bald
The main part of the race, is on the Bartram Trail. It is a 115 mile trail that goes from North GA to Western NC. We were only on 11 miles of it, but pretty cool.
One of the different things, was that they called drop bags, “cache bags”. I asked the RD about that and he did not have a reason..just said it is the same thing. I liked their system of stickering each bag with your bib number and aid station number. More efficient and easy to read, than any other race I have been to. The 50Kers got 3 total cache bags..one for each aid station (3 aid stations), so 6 total cache bag opportunities.
The race has a 25K and 50K option. The 25K is a point to point race. There is a finish at the top and those runners can get shuttled back or have their own ride. There is gravel road that goes up to the bald. The 50K is around 31 miles and 8500 climb. The 25K is around 15.5 and 6500 climb. Heavy climbing! These are set up as 2 races, so 50Kers cannot give up at the 25K and get a 25K finish. Otherwise, the race starts together and goes same course to the Bald. The 50Kers come back.
I talked to a lady, before the race, that was running the 25k with a prosthetic blade. She was special invite, I believe. Much admiration for her. Instagram link on special invite lady
The race starts in downtown Franklin, by the Outdoor 76 store, that puts it on. You run on road for 3.5 miles, before getting to the trailhead. The Trailhead is called Wallace Branch. The next 11 miles will be very nice forested single track.
There is a lookout around 4 miles up, called William’s pulpit, but it is a few yards off trail. I did not check it out, since this was a race.
One of the things I had no idea about, before the race, was if the trail was technical or not. If it was technical, that would add a lot of time, on top of all the climbing we had to do. As you can see, from the pictures, the trail was not technical. It was all very nice single track. Easy, as far as that part goes.
I got really hot, when the climbing started, early in the race. I was worried about getting overheated. Thankfully, it got cooler, as I climbed and there was a decent breeze, on the ridge.
There was a ton of climbing, going up, but I was ready for it. I was surprised at how much downhill, there was, going up..
I talked to 2 people, separately, on the way up. I’ll do that, on races like this. If close to each other, I’ll ask where they are from. That usualy gets a conversation going. First person was a 31 year old guy, from Cookeville TN. He had done the White River 50 miler in WA, recently. He said it was amazing and a destination race. He also said he slept in his car, in the store parking lot, fo this race. He soon left me in his wake. (We did talk again, after the race).
The other person I talked to, was a 23 year old lady. She was from Western NC, but had just graduated from UNC Wilmington. She was a softball pitcher for them. She had walked on, but worked her way into a scholarship, later. This was her first trail race and first long distance race. She did well. We finished the 25k together, in under 4 hours. She finished at the 25K and I told her congrats.
Back to the race. Some of the climbs near the top, were really tough. At the top, the 25kers finished. The 50Kers had to do a mile or two out and back, go around the 25K finish, then do the same out and back again. The Wayah Bald lookout tower was at the 25k finish, which was a highlight of the race. Unfortunately, it was so foggy, I couldn’t see it. I planned to go back the next morning and see the tower and view.
I did the double out and back, which was on a gravel road. I had to stamp my bib both times. I am sure they did the out and back to get the needed 50k mileage. While out and backs are not ideal, I understand. Lots of races have those type of out and backs. It was not bad at all. It was nice seeing the other runners going both ways.
I headed back down the wooded 11 miles. I was expecting mostly downhill, but was totally shocked at how much uphill there was. I would get up one and then encounter another, then another. I cannot tell you how shocked I was. I was alone the entire way back. I got to the mile 21.6 aid station and only had 6 to go to the last aid station, which is where the road starts.
After trudging through those miles, I got to the last aid station and the road. I had 3.5 miles to go. Mostly country road and gradual town, then downtown. This road, going back, was a small negative on the race. There were several blind curves with traffic. I switched sides of the road two or 3 times. I was slower on this stretch than I had thought I would be. I trudged in. Very nice finish and reception. My time was around 8:17.
As a final sum up, I thoroughly enjoyed the race, the terrain, the atmosphere, the people that put it on, and the city of Franklin. I was happy with how I felt the whole way and how I performed. I had FUN…was happy the whole time…never discouraged or miserable. I would definitely do it again.