Saturday, June 28, 2014

Mitchell County - Rhododendron Run 10k - June 21, 2014

As mentioned in some prior posts, local festivals and events have been a big boon to the countdown, as races have become a popular addition of festivities everywhere.  A long-standing example is the Rhododendron Festival in Bakersville, NC and it's accompanying 10k race.  This year was the 68th year of the festival and the 37th running of the 10k, one of many festival events including a pageant (one of my friends has been the Rhododendron Queen), a golf tournament, and a crafts fair.  And it was the best opportunity we had to get a race in Mitchell County up in the mountains!

Bakersville is a lovely little town in the mountains, but it does take some driving to get there.  We actually had to stay a little ways out of town because the few hotels in Bakersville were tied up with other festival attendees.  But once we arrived on race morning, it was no trouble checking in and getting set for the event.  The race shirts were a lovely faded purple with a big rhododendron logo, and the race had also been designated as the 2014 North Carolina RRCA 10k State Championship!  So it was a big deal all around, but I was especially delighted with the race shirts.  Packet pickup was in the gym of an elementary school were the post-race festivities would be held, but once we had checked in, we had a bit of a walk down a couple of streets to the main section of town, where the starting line was set up.

Crimson Laurel Way, the main road through town, was where the starters lined up just over 130 of us runners for the 10k.  Unlike some of the flat, fast races we had been doing in the eastern part of the state, this mountain race promised some elevation changes.  The first part of the race was a big loop through the main part of Bakersville; we kept making left turns over Cane Creek and Honeycutt Branch until, just under a mile into the race, we swept by the starting line again, giving the spectators another chance to see their runners go by.  We made a few more turns and then turned the opposite way to follow Cane Creek out of town.

The last four miles of the race were an out-and-back following Cane Creek down -- naturally -- Cane Creek Road.  In addition to get some hill workouts, we also got some spitting rain just to remind us that it was getting more cloudy as we ran along.  But with the out-and-back we did get to see all the other runners both in front and behind us.  The highest elevation point on the course was, of course, right at the turnaround, and as we made the turn to head back towards town, the skies opened and a deluge began.  We were soaked pretty quickly, which even tickled the law enforcement that was monitoring the roads to keep the runners safe.  The wet clothes kept us cool, but it was a bit of a slog even when the rain tapered back to a sprinkle in the last mile.

Instead of going all the way back into town, we made a couple of turns that brought us back to Gouge Primary School for the finish line approach.  They did a great job setting up the finish line so that you could see it during your whole approach and hopefully use it for some inspiration.  We sloshed across the finish line and then made a bee-line for the school cafeteria, where we would finally be out of the precipitation and get to enjoy the festive post-race pancake breakfast.  The pancakes were still warm and tasted really good in our cold wet bellies.  We socialized with a few of the other soaking-wet runners, had seconds on pancakes, and then headed home to dry out.  It really was a lot of fun at the Rhododendron Run 10k, and hopefully we'll be back to run this one again in some drier weather -- and maybe play in that golf tournament, too!

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