Quest for the Crest 50k – North Carolina was one of my first races that I viewed as a destination race. I saw some pictures of the course and it looked like it would suit my running strengths! I saw hills, rocks and roots. The ridgeline looked amazing and it was right near the North Carolina highpoint Mt Mitchell which I needed for my US 50 Highpoint list. This post is going to discuss the race and travel information. You can read my race report here.
My first impression of the race was a bit worrisome with a million strange emails from the race director Sean Blanton who owns Run Bum Tours. The forecast went from 100 degrees to 18 degrees and snow. At one point we got emails about Microspikes and aid stations possibly being unmanned!
We had no idea what to expect and quite honestly I thought Sean was out of his mind and figured the race would be a disaster. I was shocked when I saw it was one of the best organized races around! The course was amazing, the aid stations friendly and stocked well, perfect course markings and a wonderful post race party! I think he tries to scare the runners prior to the race because everything was absolutely perfect on race day!
How do I get there? Where do I stay? Are southerners nice?
The easiest way to get there is to fly into Charlotte, SC. It is about a 2.5 hour drive to get to the race start. I found the airport to be quite easy to find my way around and the flights there are very cheap.
We stayed at Alberts Adventure Inn but there also is camping in Burnsville at Black Mountain campground. Book ahead of time because it does fill up. The room was clean and offered nice views of the mountains and golf course. The packet pickup was right there too! I really liked being so close to everything!
Southerners try to be scary but deep down they are so friendly and nice! I found everyone to be very helpful and genuine. There are a lot of confederate flags and pick up trucks with guns but I think it is simply a display of Southern Pride.
Is North Carolina expensive? I’m vegan/gluten free/etc, is there food for me to eat?
North Carolina is not very expensive if you live in New England. I found everything to be very affordable! There were plenty of chain stores and restaurants in the busier areas but as I ventured further to the mountains everything became a bit more remote.
Runners like to take pride in their diets. We all do it differently and many people don’t understand our wacky ways. In the bigger cities I was able to find anything that I wanted. When we got closer to the race location there were literally two restaurants within reasonable driving distance. The food was typical bar food. You could get pasta dishes, burgers, fries and salads. If you are vegan, gluten free or vegetarian I found it difficult to find those foods.
Southern food is amazing and I will sometimes cheat on my sugar/grain free diet but not before a race! If you have dietary restrictions bring your own food with you. The cost of food was reasonable and you could get dinner for $10-20. I brought my own food for the morning and did not look into what kind of breakfast was offered near where we stayed.
What kind of critters are there? What are the trails on the course like? How much elevation is lost and gained in Quest for the Crest 50k ?
The question I always ponder and research before going anywhere new is what can kill me on the trail. North Carolina has panthers/cougars, bear, a variety of poisonous snakes (some that can swim very well), poisonous spiders and poisonous plants. Honestly I saw none of these and felt safe the entire time.
The trails are simply amazing! They varied from steep, rocky and rooty to buffed out switchbacks. I felt that the course really leveled the playing field and offered a challenge for everyone. The single track was stunning and the views on the ridge were jaw dropping!
Plan on more rocks than runnable terrain and more steeps than switch backs but where it is buffed out you can really move! The course gains about 12k and loses about 12k and trust, my legs were sure to let me know that! Being from the White Mountains I found this course to be in my favor with the challenging terrain and tight single track. The ridges were unique and reminded me more of high meadows than the rocky alpine zones in the Whites.
Overall I give Quest for the Crest 50k 5 stars and something to put on your bucket list! I chose to spend my extra time high pointing the neighboring states but if I go back I would certainly spend more time exploring the local trails as it looked like there was a lot to offer!