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Which is harder? the old 10 lap Umstead course or the current course ?

Posted Mar 12 2012 8:03pm
That's a question I have often wondered about since the course was changed after my debut 100 miler in 2004. That year the bridle trails had just been re-surfaced in time for the race but Turkey Creek had not been built so we did 10 x 10 mile loops using parts of Old Reedy Creek, Graylin and a couple of miles out on the gravel roads from Sycamore and Group Camp road.

In 2005 Turkey Creek was opened but not quite completed and the course was changed to 8 x 12.5 mile loops with an extension just outside the park on Graylin to a 3rd major aid station at the Rangers residence. By 2006 TC was complete and the current course has been used ever since with just the two major aid stations with the 2nd one moved from the top of South Turkey Creek to the bridges at the bottom.

I have paced the new course for about 120 miles but haven't completed the race on the new course so I have been curious as to which one might be the hardest. I've asked a few runners that ran in 04 and since then their opinions and most answered that they felt they were about the same but the new one maybe a bit harder. I have thought from my experience that the older one was harder but had no real evidence to back that feeling.

I am entered in this years race and like 2004 I have been making a lot of practice loops at least every week or two for the past 10 months. I have been averaging right at 11:00 per mile give or take a few seconds on these so out of curiosity a couple of months ago I looked back in my journal from 2004 to see what pace I was doing those in at that time on the old course. I was a bit surprised that all of those were about 11:30 pace. So, is the course that much harder or am I in that much better shape now?

Only one way to find out so today I did a practice lap on the old route putting in the same amount of effort as my recent laps on the new course and the result? 11:22 pace which shows a little of both. The course is definitely more difficult and I am in a little bit better shape. Theoretically those figures would add up to about a 40 minutes faster time on the new course but there are so many things thing can go bad or good over the length of a 100 mile race.

The main reason a lot of people would think the new one is harder is because of the steep hills on North Turkey Creek but actually other than that there is only one really long climb up by the lake, the climb on Cemetary and a few other minor hills all done 8 times. Just think about this. In 2004 we had to go up that lake hill 10 times, UP corkscrew 10 times, Up powerline 10 times and UP Group Camp road 10 Times . Plus there was that steep little hill behind the lodge at Camp Lapihio that goes down to the lake that we had to do 10 times also.

Bottom Line? I say it was harder but don't let that make you feel any better if you are running the new course. It still ain't easy.
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