Climbing up the Table Rock Summit in North Carolina

11 Jul 2014 15:45
Jean-Loup Fenaux
Focus on a race Interview
Credit : Table Rock Ultras

Hello, on October 18th 2014, you’ll be organizing the Table Rock Ultras 50 Miles. Can you tell us where it is located?

The races take place in the Pisgah National Forest, a beautiful section of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. The summit of Table Rock, which both races visit, overlooks the spectacular Linville Gorge.

How old is the race and why was it created in the first place?

This is the fourth year of TRU, but the first on this new course. The original race was established because there wasn’t a 50-miler in western North Carolina at the time. We included a 50K to accommodate those not quite ready for 50 miles, though it did not summit Table Rock Mountain. The old course showcased the beauty of the Linville Gorge, but had too much paved road for our liking.

The new course, is almost all trail and forest service road, but retains the appeal of summiting Table Rock Mountain. We also moved the date from December to October to accommodate our new start/finish hosts. The new date means a chance of some Fall colors on the leaves and less chance of sleet/freezing rain, which we encountered in 2013. As of 2013, we are part of the Carolina Ultra Series. We expect to once again be the first event in the 2014-15 Series and anticipate it shaking off its slow start and becoming a very popular series in its second season.

What kind of route have you set up for the runners? How would you describe it?

It’s a pretty runnable, but challenging course. Not all sections are runnable, however. There is a good mix of single track/technical trail, double track/runnable trail, and forest service road. There are more than a dozen creek crossings, only a few of which can be rock-hopped. The 50M course has about 11,000’ of elevation gain and the 50K course has roughly 7,000’ of gain.

The course is also extremely beautiful! Especially considering that it will be run during or near peak fall color with many overlooks to the mountains as you run by. The view from the summit of Table Rock is one of the best on the entire Blue Ridge.

Credit : Table Rock Ultras

How many runners do you expect on Saturday morning? What type of runners do you plan to attract?

Realizing that by moving to an October date, where there is a lot of competition, we’d like to get at least 150 between the two races. We really believe we have a unique event, however, and we are sufficiently different from other area events in October, that we do not directly compete with any of them. We’ve reached out to a number of well-respected runners in the south-east and anticipate attracting at least a few of them—several of which are winners of past TRU races. We hope to get a good mix of experienced trail runners and those who are on their way to becoming experienced trail runners. Due to the climbs and technical sections, TRU is not an ideal first ultra, unless you come very well prepared.

Although we’d like to get at least 150, our permit allows for 300 between both races. As the word gets out on how great the course is, we hope to attract more people out to the race.

Do you organize other races during the Weekend? If so, on what distances?

There are no other races that weekend. All of our energy is put into making TRU the best event it can be.
Along with the 50 miler, we also have a 50k.

At that time of the year, what kind of weather can we expect?

It can range from cool to comfortable. Expect, on average, a low of 45°F and a high of 70°F at the start/finish area. As you go up in elevation, those numbers would drop, accordingly, with the top of Table Rock being around 10 degrees cooler.

Credit : Table Rock Ultras

Have you planned festivities around the marathon?

Nothing large scale, but the finish area will serve food and have music. Runners are welcome to bring a folding chair and hang out with us and cheer on those who finish after them.

The race finished, what advice would you give a runner who has never been to Morganton before? A good restaurant, a fancy sightseeing?

Some of the best sightseeing will be found on the course. If the runners plan to hang around an extra day, exploring the trails, mountains, and overlooks in and around the Linville Gorge is certainly worth your time. Morganton has a nice downtown and a pretty wide selection of restaurants. It has a movie theater and a theater for performing arts. One of our sponsors, Catawba Brewing Company, has a brewery downtown. There is a nice paved greenway along the Catawba River that runs for about nine miles, if you take all the side trails. Here is the local tourism site.

In a single sentence, what would you tell the readers of ahotu Marathons to make them register for the Table Rock Ultras 50 Miles?

For those who have not experienced it, the view of Linville Gorge and the surrounding area is spectacular and represents only a few moments out of your run through the beautiful Pisgah National Forest.

This race showcases what running in the mountains of North Carolina is all about, with plenty of crossings of gorgeous creeks and steams, many of which contain beautiful cascading waterfalls, numerous long mountain climbs of 2,500 ft+, and stunning views of the highest mountains contained in the Appalachian Range.

Interview wit Mark Rostan and Brandon Thrower. For Mark, trail running is a chance to be a kid again. It’s fun to compete, but the real reward is in the sense of exploration, whether it be through the woods, along a ridge, or up the side of a mountain. Time and distance become somewhat irrelevant in light of the discoveries you make along the trail—be they discoveries about the world around you or about yourself.
Brandon’s passion lies in the folds and crest of the mountains of western North Carolina. Running is his means of exploring this ancient range and putting himself in it. His hope with designing these courses, is to make others aware of the vast beauty of western North Carolina and that “true” mountains don’t only exist in the western half of the country.