Update: Click here for the 2007 race results of both the 50k and the 23k.
The Pisgah 50k Mountain Trail Race was this past Sunday, September 9, 2007. I really enjoyed the experience and will provide a few details about the race now that I’ve had a few days to think about the whole thing.

Discovering Pisgah

Finding anything out about the race is not particularly easy. It is a fairly well promoted race in terms of getting in front of the people likely to run it, but actually finding anything out about it is another matter. I managed to find two race reviews. Ben Nephews wrote one after setting the course record in 2004, and Ryan Prentiss wrote one after the 2006 race. Everywhere else that I looked, everybody said that they heard that it was a really good race but had never actually run it before.

I tried to email the race director some basic questions about the race, such as what the trails were like, how easy it was for spectators to get around and whether there was any camping in the area. I never received a response, so after 3 weeks I emailed again. That also got no response. I gave up and figured that I would just show up and see what happens. It turns out that the man who checks the email address died 2 weeks before the race, so I can not really fault them for not being very responsive.

Getting to Pisgah

The next step after registering for the race and trying to find out some details about it was to actually get there. Since I decided pretty late in the season to run it, I did not really have time to ramp up my long runs or my mileage and still have time to taper. My original training schedule only called for the Marine Corps Marathon, which is in another 6 or 7 weeks. I kept my mileage pretty consistent, and was doing long runs of about 14 miles. I took the week before the race relatively easy, with two easy runs and one 5k fast tempo run/race.

I swam at lunch time on the Friday before the race, and then throughout the afternoon began having trouble concentrating. By the time that I got home Friday night, I was pretty worthless. I laid down with the cat for about 45 minutes while the chicken finished thawing, and then made some dinner. I think that I may have had a migraine but without the hallucinations, because it is rare for me to get a headache that bad that isn’t a migraine. The nausea did not help much either.

Saturday morning I felt fine, and got an easy 40 minute jog in. My wife and I drove to Massachusetts to visit some friends. Sunday morning I was up at my normal time, 5:15 a.m. I definitely suffered from a migraine about halfway through breakfast, though. My wife had to drive us to New Hampshire, and my vision had come back by the time that we arrived. The roads were very easy to find and to follow, and the only difficulty that we had was finding a place to park.

Checking in at Pisgah

The race starts and finishes at the Fire Station in Chesterfield. Checking in was very smooth; there were separate areas for pre-registered 23k and 50k runners, and a race-day registration table for both races. They offered up a loaf of bread for everybody, handed over race bibs and shirts, and had some very tasty bagels available for the runners. My hands were still shaking pretty bad from the migraine earlier in the morning, but I managed to get some cream cheese on the bagel and I felt much better after I finished it.

There were course maps available for the runners and spectators on the bagel table. They were all inside of gallon sized plastic bags so that it would be easy to carry and keep from getting ruined in the rain or sweat. I put one in my back pocket, but never actually pulled it out until after the race.

The start of the race was about 100 yards from the fire station, but there was still plenty of time before the gun.

Restrooms at Pisgah

The biggest problem that I noticed with the race dealt with the rest room situation. In an odd twist, the line for the men’s rest room was longer than the women’s. This is probably because nobody needed to use the urinal. Both lines were pretty long. This would not normally be a huge problem, except for two things.

First, the lines were longer than the amount of time allowed for before the start of the race. I managed to get out, get to my truck to drop things off, and get to the start line with about 40 seconds to spare. There were at least 7 or 8 people behind me in line, and 4 or 5 left in the women’s line when I left.

Second, and more problematic, was that the fire department scheduled a CPR training course for the morning of the race, and the rest rooms were inside of the fire station. Runners are not the quietest bunch of people you will ever meet. Add a couple of lines of runners to a large room with a lot of echoes, and it was difficult for the firemen to hear the instructor. We were warned repeatedly to shut up, but unfortunately the lines kept adding new people who hadn’t heard the warning before they added to our cacophony.

The Starting Line at Pisgah

The start of the race was scheduled for 8:45 a.m. At 8:43 a.m. it began to rain again. I managed to get to my truck and grab my hat and stock up on gel packets before jogging over to the starting line about 40 seconds before the starting instructions began. I handed my coat off to my wife and took a spot near the front and off to the side.

The starting instructions were very good. They provided a very valuable tip about the course conditions that I would have discovered on my own soon enough, but was thankfully able to not break my neck in the process of discovering. There are quite a few wooden bridges on the course, and the race director made sure that everybody knew to be careful crossing them since they may as well be sheets of ice when they are wet.

The race was pretty low tech, so the start consisted of a couple of stopwatches and some voice commands. As much as I love the Maine Track Club’s cannon, it was nice to not be deafened at the start of the race.

If you’d like to know more about the Pisgah 50k Mountain Trail Race, then come back tomorrow when I continue my story with a review of the race course and aid stations. Alternatively, you can check out my initial impressions from the night of the race when I wrote about my first attempt at Breaking the Marathon Barrier.