Howard's Knob looms over Boone, NC in an unassuming fashion. While citizens of Watauga County tend to take its presence for granted, this weekend bi-peds will learn every inch of its profile intimately. Here is some information concerning its human history and how it came to be that a park evolved at this location.
"Howard's Knob (elevation 4,406 feet) offers "unparalleled views" of Boone and Appalachian State University. ...these photos (show) the Appy State campus and Kidd Brewer Stadium. Howard's Knob was named for an early settler to the area, Benjamin Howard, a British loyalist and contemporary of Daniel Boone. In 1979, the world's largest windmill was constructed there, but this experiment was short lived -- it seemed it was also the world's noisiest windmill. The turbine was dismantled in 1983 and the area turned into a park." (courtesy of Appalachian Treks)
So now we know why the park is there, but why are we running up to it? Well, as runners, we know the answer to that already- because a road goes there! From downtown Boone to the pinnacle in the park we runners will gain 1100 feet in two miles. Tomorrow night, just as the work week concludes, we'll be getting started on our weekend by getting down to hard earned steps, inches at a time.
The Knob serves as a kick off for Appalachian State Homecoming weekend. The course starts at the Library, downtown, and then goes uphill, uphill and uphill... until you cannot go uphill anymore. It is a condensed version of the Mt. Washington Hill climb, or The Bear for the locals... while not as long or as high, the burn of this compacted pain with bring a boat load of doubt which runners will have to face!
The gradient of ascent is aggressive and a runner can certainly get over his head early. At some point this course will test your will to continue upward; the legs will feel as if bogged down in marbles- the tiniest step at a maximum cost.
Winning times in the past have been in the 24 minute range... for 2 miles. Considering these same guys typically race in the mid 5s per mile, this is more accurately approached as a 4+ mile race This is how I will break it up... 6 minutes at a time until I run out of hill to cover.
This race does serve as the final jewel in the High Country Triple Crown series which I have been participating in since April when we began with the VC25k and through the summer with The Cub. Current standing for men and women are listed here, (just scroll down and look left). We are hoping for a bit of a warming trend over the next 36 hours for the post-race celebration up on the knob. Fall has been nipping us early this year, we would appreciate warm rays and calm breezes in the late fall afternoon.