Warning: the following words and images will allow you to vicariously see the world with the eyes of Sultan. Read at your own risk. The name Sultan has many meanings, but derives from the peak Sultan Mountain in Silverton, CO!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mt. Mitchell Challenge 2012

Black Mountain, NC
Distance: 40 Miles
Elevation gain: 4,324 ft.
Time: 7:03:38!

Last year I had a difficult run, and finished just over 8 hours.  This year, in not much better shape, I was determined to focus mentally and push myself harder.  I rode up to the hills in dark clouds, and pouring rain, which was then broken up by the winter sunshine.  I picked up my packet from town, and made a dash to the chez Wells for some Italian, pizza, topped off with some burghul, and baklava (not to be confused for a balaclava).  Tim Weed knew the baklava would fuel his body the next day, and loaded up on this special sultonic fuel.

We were off by 7am the next morning, with temperatures in the upper 20's at the start.  Jay called out that temperatures at the summit were 9 degrees with 50 mph gusts.  I immediately thought about our winter RAM traverse only a few weeks back and smiled. 

A few miles into the run, I questioned myself, was I carrying too much gear?  I knew I wasn't, by my mind was still speaking to me.  So I shed a layer, and still began to sweat while running and power hiking up the trail.  I saw Mad A with a classic frozen beard near Sourwood Gap five miles into the run.  There I received my first trail report that Tim and Scott were battling it from the start.  Nothing like a little competition to motivate even a midpack runner.

(frozen coke at a lower aid station)

The sun was out and about on the lower mountain sporadically, and I began to doubt the bitter cold we would face higher up again, but knew that the mountain would brutal.  So I pushed on, and reached the parkway in 2:34.  I knew the wind would be blowing in the more exposed areas, so I threw on my houdini which was now partially frozen and wet.  I didnt care, another layer would be required here.  I pulled my buff around my mouth and put my hat on, to make a adjustable balaclava and protect my face from the cold wind.

We turned onto the Buncome horse trail, where a volunteer mentioned it was 15 degrees, and he looked cold with his down jacket on. I ran with Beth here, where we ran/hiked most of the way to Commissary Ridge.  One section here was fully exposed and the wind really zapped you. 

The hike up Commissary Ridge is one of my favorites, and I may have done it 100 times before.  Surprisingly, it was less icy than I expected.  I've seen it much worse in late February.  We made a push for the summit, and Beth pulled off a celebratory dance.  Risking frostbite to get in this footage, I asked myself why I had my camera with me on the race?  I made it to the summit in 4:05.  Scott and Paul would be finishing up their run within the hour, while I stood on the summit of Mitchell (6,684 ft.) the highest point East of the Rockies.

From there on out, its mostly downhill.  Beth and I made it back to hwy 128 and then I lost her as I could not pound my legs hard enough on the asphalt.  I pulled back into the parkway aid station, only to realize my bottle cap was frozen on.  I needed water, as I bypassed the last aid station fearing idle time in the cold while refueling.  The gracious volunteers put my bottle in boiling water to get that sucker uncapped, and refilled.  I knew catching Beth at this point would be hard, but it made me push myself. 

I passed at least 10 people going down the rocky trail before arriving in Montreat.  The Challenge is a downhill running strategy.  The difference in time you can make while running uphill, is less than the difference of time you can make up while running downhill.  If your trying to win this race, you need to run fast downhill and uphill.  I was not, but trying to enjoy the tradition. 

I did not know what to expect with the new route, but I was ok with it.  I reached the lake in 6:59 and knew no matter how hard I ran, I would not break 7 hours, so I let go of the gas just a little and crossed the line in 7:03:38 which is a full distance Mitchell Challenge PR.  I did run a 5:39:27 in 2010 when the course was shortened due to the breeze.

Left to Right: Scott (1st place), Paul (2nd place), Tim (3rd place)...you guys need to come up with trail names.

Thank you Damion, Haley, Lindsey, Tim, Mad A for the encouragement and for an awesome weekend.  Thank you to all the volunteers who make this tradition possible, and thank you to the Curwins for putting on a stellar run!

I made a video, hope you enjoy...


Scott Lynch said...

Great report! Loved the video. You've inspired me to take some video during my next race.

mkirk said...


Great video! Super smooth flow with the footage and tunes.

MMC guy on summit: "what are these crazy dude's filming me for, this ain't no movie, it's s'posed to be a race!"

annette bednosky said...

I should NOT be sitting here with tears in my cheeks and and laughing to myself as I know my kitty and awesome hubby George wouldn't "get it"! What a great video! Thanks for sharing humor/passion/humility and adventure and cool music in a tiny clip! U R a great inspiration! Thank you MI!

Sultonic said...

Good times for sure. The camera seems to tag along now for almost any significant trail run. The video-blog is turning more than expected...