Join 'In Clean Air'

Monday, June 13, 2011

A Cool 5 Beech Mountain, NC (Race Report)

This weekend brought around the latest running of the A Cool 5 atop Beech Mountain, NC. Some may remember that Beech Mountain is Eastern America's highest town nestled in at 5500 ft... or so, and is the perfect place to keep your 5 mile PR safe for another day while testing your strength and climbing skills as well as giving your legs a chance to soak in some fast downhill running for any upcoming 50k races over hilly terrain... if that should be your case.

No Sleeping In...
Saturday morning Lynnea and I packed Sylas into the car seat and drove the 15 minutes up the mountain from our quiet nook below the ski resort town and found the race crew had already set the event up and were registering runners. I walked over, paid my money, attached my bib and prepared to run the A Cool 5- 5 miler!

A Quick Glance Back
Last year I ran this event as a fun run, it was my first run of any kind a week after the Chattooga 50k and I labored to run 31:50 for 5 miles. This year would be the first year I would get to 'race' the course and see what kind of a time I could record for the challenging terrain, best hope was to break 30 minutes, averaging 6 minutes per mile... worst case, struck by lightning or mauled by bear- tough call.

T-minues 5 minutes...
Course Information for A Cool 5
With a count down (from 20 minutes out, rivaling NASA) to 'Go!' we runners were off and quickly the leader went off the front.

He established a good rhythm and a separation of 5 seconds leading into the first climb of the run. There was no drama here as Tim Meigs went on to blister the course from the start in 29:03, 5:49 pace roughly according my limited math skills. A time I would be happy to run for a rolling 10k course...

Putting my Best Foot Forward... repeatedly...
Now I was left to battle for "Runner Up", which seemed fitting on such a course. Right away, I was joined by, Ngozika Nwoko, a young runner from Burlington, NC. He was able to surge by me on all the flats and climbs in the early going. I did what I could to stay close as we rolled through mile one and two but I was feeling the sting of the short and steep early climbs. While still able to roll downhill and make up time there. Early in races this sting can be attributed to getting settled into the effort, especially if you are warmed up properly... which I might be guilty of occasionally.

The Sean and Ngozika beginning Oz Rd.
Preparing for the Ascension
Knowing that we had a BIG climb ahead, and a segment of recovery running before hand, I was liberal with my energy stores and did go over my head a time or two in order to stay close to Ngozika. He looked very relaxed,as if he could pull away at any moment. My strategy was to stay put, to get to the base of the climb up Beech Mountain at Oz Rd. and see what climbing he had in him.

Passing back through town I saw Lynnea with Sylas road side taking pictures (and looking beautiful) and with a smile on my face I took in a last breath of flat ground and began the grind. I hugged the right side of the road as Ngozika and I were joined at the shoulder. I looked down to the crumbling asphalt at my feet, the white line disintegrating with time, and made the necessary foot placements as we reached the first of the ski trail traverses. This is a more runnable segment of Oz Rd. where it levels out somewhat while still climbing. I sensed that Ngozika was feeling the climb a little bit. He was drifting back and breathing a bit harder so my strategy remained the same, maintain effort and run light and strong. Relax, the shoulder and arms, cut down the stride and move up the hill.

In Clean Air
At 3 miles in, the climb gets aggressive but you still face a good 3/4 of a mile of remaining climbing in the run. So, not quite time to get over enthused. As you reach the top of Beech Mtn. and pass by the lift house and the Land of Oz the course falls off the back side of the mountain, steeply. This allows a quick breather before you round a cul de sac and the course turns 180 degrees straight back up these steepest hill(s) of the course.

Tim Meigs was leaving the cul de sac as I entered and we exchanged encouraging grunts. He looked awesome and will no doubt be very competitive at the upcoming Grandfather Mountain Marathon.

I readied myself for the last climb and spotted a few runners chasing me into the big turn as they descended. They looked young and I knew I'd better climb the hill quickly to take away any leg speed advantage the young guys might have. In two steep and distinct pitches, the last climb passed. I was starving for oxygen from the required effort but, now... a mile plus of free fall running back to the finish!!!

Off the hill and a left turn to the finish
Keep Your Feet
This is where you can run a great closing mile of a 5 mile race. With the uneven terrain splits mean nothing , which is why they are fun to look at.

Here are mine:
  1. 5:34 
  2. 6:29 
  3. 7:44
  4. 6:38
  5. 4:22
Right... 4:22... sure. 

Which, for the record is my new (and very unofficial) Personal Best for the mile... I haven't run a time close to that since I was a sophomore in high school at USATF JO Nats... so, obviously complete BS.

Taking Something Away
I finished in second place covering the course in 30:49 and cutting about a minute off of last year's "fun run" time. The promising side of the translation of this time is that it compares well with some very fast runners from last year, including Patrick Morgan. Patrick is a legit 4 minute miler from Appalachian State, who also handed me my weekly dose of humility all summer in 2010. Full Results

How this will translate to the Chattooga 50k in 2 weeks is yet to be seen, but I have to feel great about my strength on the climbs right now and the smiles I am getting from the steps across the Earth. I believe when you can combine fitness and fun, you will never be disappointed!

Happy Running!!


  1. Excellent story. Enjoyed it especially when you were "shoulder to shoulder." Very good pix of you rounding the corner. Ron

    P.S. Like your title: Clean Air - on the same lines as my Beech Mountain, The Mountain of Youth.

  2. NICE WORK! I can't imagine even moving my legs at a 4:22 pace for an entire mile - regardless of hills. Although, it certainly shows how hilly the course was based on how wide the splits were.

    Great report as always!


Want to Clean the Air? Post a Comment!