Cloud cover and rain add to challenging conditions
Matthew Longworth and Kimberley Hefner emerged from the clouds to take top honors at the XTERRA Beech Mountain Trail Run last weekend.
Nearly 150 runners from eight different states participated in the event, which was held at the Emerald Outback Trail System at Beech Mountain on July 27. Low-lying clouds and a downpour of rain created extra-challenging conditions for the runners.
"The course was awesome!" said Hefner, who took top overall female honors for the second consecutive year. "It was extremely challenging, lots of challenging hills with an equal amount of screaming down hills, which I love. Very technical with plenty of switchbacks. During the race we had a torrential downpour which made the course very muddy and slick."
Longworth, who resides in Charlotte, N.C., was the first overall finisher. He completed the 15-kilometer course in 1 hour, 5 minutes, 51 seconds. His strategy was a wise one - follow Beech Mountain local Michael Holland for most the course, then break ahead at the end.
Holland is 17 and a junior at Watauga High School, and he runs the trails at Beech Mountain almost every day. He even helped create the trail system that was used for the race.
Holland said of the race at the front with Longworth: "When I asked him if he wanted to pass me at about mile 6, he said 'You keep on leading. You know the course, so I'm content here!' "
Holland eventually finished second in 1:06:21, and Wesley Pectol from Greenville, Tennessee, was third in 1:11:40.
Hefner placed 22nd overall and ran away from the competition in the women's field. She said her experience from last year's victory played a key role this year.
"Knowing the course is always an advantage," she said. "After last year's experience with this race and running out in Utah, I have added more hill training and a few more mountain races, which has made me more mentally strong for the uphill climb."
Hefner works as a personal trainer and cross country coach in Fort Mill, South Carolina, and some of her students participated in the race.
"When starting the race I felt very strong and had a nice comfortable start," Hefner said. "I knew the first quarter to half-mile was going to be a steady climb up the mountain, so I started out smart and continued to dig and pull away from that point on. No, I was never aware of how far ahead I was until after the race, when I was cooling down and running back to cheer my runners on. That is when I met up with Tammy and realized how far ahead I had been. I felt very strong throughout the entire race, I credit that to not going out too fast."
Tammy Moore from Weddington, N.C., placed second in 1:34:47, and Bonnie Schaefer from Tobaccoville, N.C., was third in 1:38:07.
In addition to the featured 15K course, there was also a 5K "short course." Mike Lawson and Kate MacConnachie were the top overall finishers for the 5K.
The XTERRA Beech Mountain Trail Run was the second of three races in the XTERRA North Carolina Trail Run Series. The series finale will be the XTERRA Fisher Farm Trail Run at Davidson, N.C., on August 31. That race is open to runners of all ages and abilities and there will be two courses - 16K and 8K. To register for the race or learn more about the North Carolina Series, please visit www.dirtyspokes.com.