Climbing up Kennedy Ridge at the Bel Monte Endurance Run, lifted the hood over my head as the wind got stronger and the result was dumping snow on my neck. That was enough to laugh as we’d already been rained upon and the winds were howling up on the ridge; this was just the icing on the cake.
The day before, arriving in Stuart’s Draft, Virginia, the sun beamed and the windows were open as temps were in the 60s Fahrenheit. Runners got warm welcomes from Gil and Francesca who had just scrambled to enact the alternate course due to the incoming storm closing mountain roads which would have been vital arteries for some of the aid stations. This dexterity shows their experience as RDs.
The race start was rainy and windy in the mid-30s, which was a little miserable, but shortly it became snow and that was some relief, although it was thick, coming in at an inch per hour. Before long, the climb began.
As runners reached the top of Kennedy Ridge and made a winding traverse, the winds gusted at 50mph. Extra layers were pulled up. The icy gales cut into the face. A few times with the cap lowered to warn off the ice, almost ran right into small ponds created by the rain, missing the tracks going around.
Coming down off the ridge, found the aid station attempting to shake snow off the supplies while runners and crew warmed by a fire. All of the aid stations tempted some lingering, chatting and offering soup, but even stronger winds later motivated moving through the course at an efficient pace.
The road that connected the two main trails allowed the mind to rest after focusing through the brunt of the snow and wind. At a lower elevation the wind was strong, but not as bad as the ridgeline.
Mill Creek trail offered a very runnable section before a good foot soaking in the creek. 50 milers climbed the next ridge before turning around while 50k runners doubled back after the creek and started the trek back to the finish.
A memorable run from the Bad to the Bone crew. Gil and Francesca also organize the upcoming Ultra Race of Champions 100k in May, the highest prize purse in the East Coast.
Runners can stay at the host site, Shenandoah Acres, which offers a mix of campsites with bathhouses and cottages. Hotels are available in nearby Waynesboro, VA.