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March 16 2014 / Emily

Race Report: Uwharrie Mountain Run 20 Miler

Twenty is Plenty.

To think that I attempted to sign up for the Uwharrie Mountain Run FORTY miler a year ago!  In November 2012, I registered for the 2013 edition of the 40 mile race (blog link).  A few days later, I found out there had been a registration problem and I was not registered after all, but I would have guaranteed entry into the 2014 race (blog about that).  It would have been my first foray into the ultra distance.  I think it is for the better that I wasn’t actually able to register.

October 2013 comes along and I get an email reminding me of my guaranteed registration into the 2014 race.  At the time, I was a month out from my now-first real attempt at an ultra (for some reason I have trouble counting 50k?), the JFK 50 miler, and wasn’t sure I’d be up for 40 miles barely 2 months later.  Actually I was allowing myself the real possibility that I might never want to run again.  I considered “just” signing up for the 8 mile race but decided 20 was a happy medium and 8 miles was too short a race to drive very far for.  So I registered for the 20.


Fast forward to February 1.  (Yes, the race was many weeks ago now… I’m behind on the blogging!)  Somewhere along the way, I recall someone telling me that a road marathon time was a good comparison point for the 20 rolling trail miles at Uwharrie.  I knew I wasn’t superbly trained for the event so I figured an average marathon time for me around 4:30 would be an estimated finish time.  Boy was I wrong!

I took a wrong turn on the way to the race, but managed to get to the packet pick-up point in time.  The 40 mile race began at 7am, the 20 mile at 8am, and the 8 mile at 9am.  All runners park at an outpost outside the park and take a short bus ride in to the race start.  It was a chilly morning so I was thankful for a small group of runners which meant I could wait until like 5 minutes before the race began to take off my jacket and put it in my drop bag.  The cold morning was expected to warm a fair bit, so I gambled and skipped the gloves.  Went with long sleeves over a singlet, capris, and an ear band.

The race begins rather aggressively with a long uphill which is strenuous but slow.  I was carrying my handheld bottle and balling my other frozen hand inside my sleeve, periodically switching hands to try to warm them somehow.  Totally numb.  But within about 20 minutes, blood circulation had returned and my hands were fine.  One thing I’ve learned with all my running is that my hands seem to warm up way faster than the average runner.  I have terrible circulation in my fingers and toes and they get very cold very quickly, but I’m generally finished with gloves long before anyone else.  Definitely preferred 20 minutes of frozen hands to having gloves in my pocket for the next 4-5 hours.

Honestly, it has been a while now so the details are kind of a blur, but it was a slow day out there for me.  I enjoyed cookies and soda at the rest stops, which I definitely learned I can handle thanks to JFK 50!  The trails were constantly rolling up and down, with a few major climbs and descents, like the aforementioned one near the beginning and another around mile 17.  The website warns multiple times that runners are likely to roll their ankles and fall down, due to leaves covering roots and rocks on the trails.  The warning was reiterated at the start of the race during runner instructions.  I managed not to fall down but did roll my ankle a time or two.

There were also a few places where I had trouble following the trail markings, which were white paint on the trees.  That definitely can fade and blend in.  I prefer blazes that are those plastic shapes nailed to the trees, though I suppose paint is friendlier to the trees.  Only got off course once, and not for long.  A couple guys followed me but quickly called out, asking if I’d seen markings.  I thought I had, but we backtracked and saw much clearer marks on a suddenly much more obvious trail.  Only lost a couple minutes there, if that.

With all the roots and rocks, I wasn’t a very confident runner.  I cautiously picked my way down the hills instead of taking advantage of gravity.  There were a lot of stream crossings where I tip-toed across rocks to keep my feet dry, and others where I very slowly balanced my way across a log.  Thankfully the runners were pretty thinned out most of the time so I wasn’t holding other people up with my nerves.

nice to see friends out in the woods!

nice to see friends out in the woods!

At one point I heard someone call my name and was pleased to find some friends out camping on the course, cheering on the runners and enjoying a nice day in the woods.  It was an unexpected surprise and a nice reason to stop running for a few minutes to chat!

As the race continued, the 40 mile leaders started to appear on the course.  The 40 mile run does the 20 mile course out and back, so these 40 milers had started an hour ahead and already gotten to my finish line and turned around to run it again.  I was pretty beat and seeing those folks with so many miles still ahead was impressive.  I was on the lookout for some folks I knew who were running the 40.  I saw Shannon, who finished as 2nd place female (blog here), and Nathan and Paul (Nathan’s blog here).  It was nice to see some friendly faces!  Check out their blog entries, there are some nice photos of the course.

Nathan even captured this silly image of me as I was running away.  As you can see, I had warmed up enough that the long sleeve was off too!  Definitely glad I skipped the gloves!

1-Uwharrie - running on trail

Anyway, this isn’t a very helpful race report for someone looking to run this event.  I’ve really got to work on blogging in a more timely fashion so I can remember details!  It was a very pretty run but I’m very glad I didn’t have to do it twice.  I adjusted my 4:30 race goal midway through to just finishing under 5 hours, and I did manage to get it done in 4:56.  I found it pretty crazy that my average pace per mile of 14:49 was notably slower than my 50 mile pace of 13:52.  It would have taken me forever to do the 40 miler!  The race support was top notch, with well stocked aid stations throughout and at the finish line.  There was hot cocoa and soup, lots of cookies, and vans waiting to drive runners back to the parking area.


The finisher award was a nice little piece of pottery.  It served me well to hold a snack of gummy bears as I was writing this post!  The shirt was also very nice, though I found it odd that they did different colors for the men’s and women’s shirts… since neither was a masculine or feminine color.  Mine was navy and the men got orange.  I’ve worn it a few times since and had some guys seem a little jealous of the more subdued color of the women’s shirt!



I enjoyed this race more in retrospect than I did at the time, since it just wasn’t a strong day for me.  The pain and suffering do have a way of fading, isn’t it odd?  I do have to remind myself how lucky I am to be capable of running (and shuffling… and walking…) for 5 hours though.  Can’t take it for granted.



Leave a Comment
  1. Paul Starling / Mar 16 2014 10:49 PM

    Always great to see you and read your race reports! 4:56 was a great time on a difficult trail!

    • Emily / Mar 17 2014 3:26 PM

      thanks Paul! Good to see you out there! Hope we cross paths again soon.

  2. laurenquartz / Mar 17 2014 10:27 AM

    Great job, Em! Nice singlet too. 😉 Those Gummi Bears look delicious in that mug – what a cool “medal!” 20 miles is impressive, no matter the time, in my book. Glad you didn’t take the race so seriously that you didn’t stop to chat with friends. What a nice day in the woods!

    • Emily / Mar 17 2014 3:28 PM

      Thanks! Glad you noticed the singlet, hehe. I was pretty pleased with the little pottery piece as a keepsake. Need to figure out what the endgame for it will be though. Still haven’t figured out where to display my running medals and awards.

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