Quest for the Crest 50k Race Report – Ryan E

quest for the crest race report
Photo: Halley Burleson of Appalachian Exposures

Race: Quest for the Crest 50K

Runner: Ryan E

Race Date: 05/19/2018

Location: Burnsville, North Carolina


3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?

  1. The technical and challenging trails — If you love technical trails, rope-assisted climbs, four-holds type of climbs, technical ascents and descents, roots and rocks, then this is the race for you!
  2. The views — There are only 3 climbs to this course, but every summit is worth it! You get a full view of the Black Mountains and you get to summit Mt Mitchell, which is the highest peak east of the Mississippi.
  3. The local and grassroots feel to the race.

Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you

NONE!! This is a race I would encourage everyone to do.

Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?

None I can think of.

Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?

I finished 10:15, my slowest 50K, but that time is very gratifying for me considering the course. I ran without a watch so I was able to run my race by effort and I thought that it served me well. I was happy that I was able to run well on the more runnable sections and caught up with people who passed me on the climbs. My pacing of the race was as good as it can get.

Quest for the crest race report
Photo: Halley Burleson of Appalachian Exposures

Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner

If you think you’re already taking it easy and conservatively early on the race, think a bit harder, maybe you just have too much adrenaline and excitement that you don’t realize you’re actually pushing it a little bit too hard and that will catch up to you later in the race.

Lessons you learned that will help you next time around

Bring enough calories and water for a longer jaunt in the woods than you would normally do on a typical 50K. Just for reference, the winning time of this 50K is 7:02 and only top 3 made it under 8 hrs. The cutoff for this 50K is 14.5 hrs and runners have to work very hard to make it under this time.

Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race

The first climb is the hardest, second climb is the easiest and third climb is the longest. Pace yourself accordingly. You do not make up lost time on the climbs by bombing the downhills. The descents are just as technical as the climbs, so just go steady. Once you reach the summit of Mt Mitchell, it’s all generally downhill from there to the finish. Also, all runners are required to bring a water filter because to make sure no one runs out of water as people tend to underestimate the course and usually run out of water. Since there are springs along the course, they are marked so runners know where to fill up water in the middle of the race.

Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?

Definitely the most beautiful 50K I have ever done!

Difficulty – Is it a tough course?

Definitely the hardest 50K course I have ever done!

Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?

The RD and people behind this race has everything figured out. It’s a well marked course and organized race.

Competition – Is there a strong field?

Yes, there’s a good showing of top local elites of the east coast.

Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.

The closest accommodation to the race is camping, so if you are out of luck, the closest hotels and airbnbs are probably 45mins-1 hr away. I stayed in an airbnb and it wasn’t a bad drive, so it was ok. But just know that this course is in the middle of nowhere and camping is the closest option.

Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?

Standard Aid Station fare. Some AS are basic because they have to hike it to the top of the mountain, so they advise runners that certain AS are limited on supply and water. There’s bacon, home-made rice crispy treats, cookies, gels, fruits, potatoes, soda and energy drinks, etc. There’s barbecue and beer at the finish.

Weather and typical race conditions

Last year, it was hot and humid. This year, the weather was overcast with some rain. It had been raining on days preceding the race, so the trails have been swelling with water and some spots of standing water. The summit of Mt Mitchell is fair game to all, so everyone should always brace for colder temps and possibly ice. It only rained and got colder this year at the summit

Quest for the crest race report
Photo: Halley Burleson of Appalachian Exposures

Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next guy?

Mandatory gear were charcoal filter and headlamp with spare battery. I would add a weatherproof jacket/shell on that list. All those would be critical gear for this course.

Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?

Due to the remoteness of the course, crew are only allowed on start and finish areas. Once you’re out there, your friends have no way of seeing you along the course, and it is for good reason. It is all for the safety of the runners and race.

How’s the Swag?

We get a shirt, pint glass, and wood engraved medal.

The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?

10 out of 10!!!

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quest for the crest race report
Photo: Halley Burleson of Appalachian Exposures