I found several of my early races by searching on the Marathon Guide website before discovering Ultrasignup. The reviews made it sound like a unique event and the race website suggested it would be fun. The marathon had a 7.5 hour time limit and was 3 loops of 8ish miles plus an out and back on the road before the first loop. The course may have changed by now, but the elevation was not bad at all. Distances include the marathon, 10 miles, and a 5k. The races are limited to 550 people across all events and it sells out months in advance.
Hurricane Matthew hit North Carolina a week before the race was scheduled. Medoc Mountain State Park was impacted, but not as much as places further southeast. The RDs had emailed an update to let us know the park staff worked long hours to get the trails in shape for the race and all events would go on as planned.
I flew into RDU and picked up the usual small rental car and drove about 2 hours to the park to see where I would be running tomorrow. It was sad to see warning signs along the interstate about closed roads due to the hurricane, but otherwise there were not a lot of obvious signs of damage in the area I drove through. After leaving the interstate, I drove through cotton fields and rural villages before losing cell service about 20 minutes outside of the park. The park looked nice and there were already plenty of runners there for the pasta dinner held at the park on Friday night. The crowd was friendly and most seemed to be camping at the park. After that storm the night before Woodstock, I had not gathered the courage to try pre-race camping, so after picking up my bib and long sleeved race shirt, I drove about half an hour north to my cheap hotel in Roanoke Rapids. I had an early flight out Sunday, so planned to stay in Raleigh after the race.
Race report: The half hour drive to the park in the morning wasn’t bad and traffic into the park was not very heavy. We started near the lodge that had a warm area for waiting and those wonderful flushing toilets. The marathon had just over 100 runners so the bathroom lines were short. About 10 minutes before the start time, we were briefed on the trail conditions and the required out and back section along the road prior to starting the race. We were told this out and back was to give us a sense of the competition and we were reminded to STAY AWAY from Medoc. Some of the course was rerouted due to a bridge out after the hurricane, but the other damaged bridges had been fixed, and in some instances were picked up and moved by staff. After less than a mile on the road, we hit the park trails. The damage to the trails was obvious in some places (e.g., a bridge with debris over the railings), but you could also tell the park staff had done a lot of maintenance and repair in the last week. The trails weren’t muddy at all and it was a cool, sunny day, with leaves changing colors.
The course was well marked and friendly course marshals stayed at the intersections for all of the 3 loops. The aid stations were well stocked by cheerful volunteers who warned us that Medoc would catch up to those too slow for the cutoffs.
This race was 2 weeks after my goal race at Wineglass and the plan was to take it easy before I started building up mileage for the next goal – 50 miles at Brazos Bend in December. I took it easy the first loop, took some pictures and stopped at the campground bathroom (flushing toilets!) on the second loop, and then had fun pushing it on the third loop because I had finally learned how to pace myself.
At the finish, I was given a medal, can opener (the extra finisher swag that year), and a coke!! They had several different soups and plenty of other food. They also had swag from previous year’s races with several undated items. I splurged and got a $10 zip sweatshirt. I visited with some of the other runners (one had also run Woodstock this year but he did 100 miles) then took advantage of the big, clean campground showers before driving back to Raleigh. I had remembered the towel this time! This was a great race and I would definitely do it again.
Off trail: Do not count on Google to navigate you when there’s no cell service.
Bring your own conch shell, the race does not provide them to runners.
Yes, you should really come up with a trail name for your bib because the RDs WILL get creative.
This is not the Marathon du Medoc in France with all of the wine.