This will be an interesting review. I did not actually race in The Allison Woods Halloween Hobble, but instead went up to Crew and Pace for a buddy of mine who was shooting at his first Ultra.
He had won his entry through a contest on the Allison Woods Halloween Hobble Facebook page a couple of weeks prior, and originally had nobody to go up with him as on such short notice the whole crew of us had work, plans, etc.
But fate is finicky bitch and I got fired four days before his race and I decided it was good trail Karma to help a bud out. So off we went.
It's a good four plus hour drive to a little backwoods North Carolina town called Turnersburg. We left Myrtle around maybe 1pm. The most direct route goes through Colombia and Charlotte and of course the traffic Friday afternoon sucked, we lost a good half hour just sitting there. Gonna hafta plan for that next year...
After making it to Turnersburg, we had a little trouble dialing in the actual location of the race. The GPS was a bit vague and there were no signs for the race (first time race, I didn't expect Tough Mudder kind of sign coverage). We did however finally find our dirt road, which was guarded by a couple of really nice older gentlemen wearing Military Police uniforms. I'm thinking that was costume?
It's a pretty short drive down a decent dirt road, some of which is part of the course, to the camp/rego area.
The camping area is excellent. We set our tent up right on the side of course along with all the other racers. The course parallels an old grass airstrip. We were asked not to camp on the airstrip itself as to not kill any grass. Makes sense.
I want to emphasize the excellent camping situation at this race. The airfield is a great place for kids to play. No, I still don't like kids, but many people have them, my wife included, and if you wanted to bring them to this event, they'd have a place to safely play.
Never did find out if it was an active air-strip
Well, sort of safely...I mentioned how this race was in a little backwoods town? There were multiple gunshots heard from all directions, so many rednecks out there. I did see several deer running for their life across the airstrip. So maybe getting hit by a deer would be a danger to your little kids, as would getting shot by some redneck. Granted the RD can't do anything about either the rednecks or wildlife, but maybe wrap your kid in bright orange or something.
There are three porta-jons at the transition area (TA) crossroad. This was not a big race, so three was definitely enough, an excellent foresight by the RD. Nobody wants porta-jon issues. There's a big campfire set up in the common area, ready for the night time cold. Crap, no picture.
When we arrived everyone was there was very friendly, as most Ultras are. We spent a bit of time talking with some of the organizers and my bud got his swag-bag which contained a cool cotton tshirt, a gift card for a pair of Thorlo socks, a pair of throw-away gloves, glow sticks and a cooling towel. Pretty excellent swag for a first time race.
There's a little bit of folk lore surrounding this woods. I won't spoil all the details, but a local Pastor came out and told a pretty funny story about a creature known to inhabit these woods. There was also the National Anthem sung by one of the volunteers.
Like every Ultra I've done to date, there's a huge sense of community.
I'm going to try to find an actual course map to share, but in case I forget:
There was nothing too technical and all of the course was excellently marked. There was some elevation gain, 9,600 ft for a Hundred Miler, which is pretty significant if your'e a flat-lander.
The course was an interesting mix of Out and Backs and loops, again all excellently marked.
When leaving the start line racers take a right into the woods on to some really nice double track. This initial section has a quick little descent then some gain to it as it curves around a pretty swampy lake and deeper into the woods.
Looks kind of creepy, but was actually really pretty.
Might have been missile in there?
I have a shitty camera, this was actually taken with a shitty gopro.
Whoa...upside down dude!
This road brought the racers to roughly One mile, and there was an aid station here designating the turn around. This aid station had food and a porta-jon, and later that night was manned and had a heater set up. Excellent.
I think I see Pedialyte?
After leaving this aid station it was back down the hill, past the Bamboo and such to that first intersection where we take a right. It descends a bit before starting another climb.
These aren't brutal leg tearing climbs, they're nice mellow grades. But after ten miles, you are going to feel them. And probably hate them. After thirty miles, you will definitely hate them.
This picture is not relative to the actual part of the course I'm describing, but you can get the gist of the terrain.
The course winds it way back up to the TA where it crosses over the airfield. It was easy enough to hit up the porta-jons here if you needed. There were volunteers here pointing runners to the trail head on the other side.
Queen does not belong on my Rush station!
There's a nice little picnic area at this trail head that had a good bunch of picnic tables set up and a little long since used fire ring. But it was very scenic, and those tables made a nice place to sit after thirty miles.
Everyone likes a picnic.
Leaving the picnic area there was some descent through the woods, again on nice open double track. The descent brought you past more ruins and some rednecky deer stands. You can probably tell I'm not into rednecks.
This section is about a mile or so (I think, I don't remember exactly) and loops you back to the airfield.
This next section was a little rough to run on. It was the airfield. Yep ya ran alongside the airfield. It wasn't a long stretch but it was soft and grassy. I never saw any uneven surfaces, just thick grass.
After a quick airstrip run you shoot back into the woods, with of course, a little elevation gain. This is another very pretty section. It parallels a paved road and through the trees you can see some beautiful fields and a nice home.
Taking a left this time, for another little gain, we're starting the home stretch. Another rednecky deer stand and another wonderful forest, we finally spit back out onto the airfield and head towards the TA.
The race course at this point is still on fire road, but your tent is right there on course. It's excellent, in fact the whole environment was everything I've grown to love about this stupid sport.
I didn't eat off any of the aid stations (I was a pacer, not a paid runner) but I did see lots of good typical Ultra food, at both stations.
The RD was cool cat and made a point to talk with everyone.
The volunteers were great, I hope they didn't take any grumpy Ultra-runner comments seriously.
There was some mad karaoke going on til all hours. This was pretty funny actually. But think about earplugs for sleeping.
I mentioned the quantity of shitters. Win.
There was actually live tracking offered at this race. People could track your progress from home, that's pretty cool. The timing as a whole seemed excellent and the timing company provided plenty of real time data to racer.
The finisher awards were all custom made. (Sorry, no pics but you might find them on their FB page)
I only have two stupid complaints.
1) Black Sabbath wasn't playing at the TA. But why the hell would they? (This was just an excuse to put in a Heavy Metal link.)
2) There weren't Koala Bears in the bamboo forest. Koala bears hang out in eucalyptus not bamboo. So this is a wicked stupid complaint. I'm thinking of Panda Bears.
NOT A PANDA BEAR
It was a helluva drive to get to this race, but about the same as a Greenville or Spartenburg race. Next year I'd like to take a whole group of us up. The course and layout allow for this race to grow quite a bit, which I'd like to see and hope our Myrtle Beach crew can help make happen. This year there were several race options. 6hr, 12hr, 24hr, 100m, and 100m relay both with 30hr cut-offs. This leaves plenty of options for us regardless of what kind of training cycle or race plan we're on.
Hey, thanks for reading. Don't forget to check out all my wicked awesome sneaker reviews, or my fod bloogs, and I may have an actual race report in the next ten days or so.