11.5 Mile Run: Beginning with a nice flat to gradually uphill section through a beautiful hardwood forest, the trail starts to climb at a significant (but still runnable) angle after crossing a bridge at 1 mile. Continuing to climb next to the stream on a rocky trail, the first hill tops out at the junction with the trail to Owl Head Lookout at 2.5 mi. Continuing straight ahead, the trail drops gradually but with rough footing (be careful, for your ankles’ sake) before giving way to rolling terrain; very nice running terrain prevails until the trail reaches High Bank (a nice viewpoint) at 4.4 mi.
The trail takes a hard right here and begins to climb steeply. At 5.7 mi the trail disappears under water thanks to some industrious beavers. A flagged route to the right skirts the flooded area and crosses just above the beaver dam a few hundred yards later, rejoining the main trail and arriving at the junction with the North Trail to Giant at just under 6 mi.
At this point the trail levels out/climbs a bit but soon enters a boggy section, about 200 yards long, through which you must run. The bog is knee-deep at times and can pull a loose shoe right off your foot. It’s recommended that you slow to a walk here, don’t try to hop across on the logs (they are very unstable) and just push through. You’ll remember it fondly once the race is over!
About a mile after the bog the trail reaches a junction and, going straight ahead, climbs steeply to the bare summit of Hopkins Mt (7.7 mi, great views). Volunteers here will make sure you top out and will direct you to the point where the trail enters the woods again. It’s mostly downhill from here! Watch your footing going down the open rock, until another junction is reached. Continuing straight ahead you’ll find some nice running on the way to Spread Eagle, interrupted by one very steep but quick descent/ascent through a small gorge. After passing Spread Eagle’s summit views you’ll arrive at the steepest downhill on the course: less than a mile of very rough trail. Quick feet and controlled momentum will take you down this section safely, until the trail eases off a bit and becomes runnable once again.
At this point the trail reaches a system of dirt roads, mostly downhill or on the level, with many other roads branching off the main road. At first the road is very rough from hurricane Irene damage, but it smooths out after a short time. All intersections are marked with red arrows, so watch for them. This is a quad-punishing descent, but you can make good time here if you care about that by this point in the race! At the end of the dirt road system you will make a left (red arrow) onto a paved road for a short section before making another left (volunteers here) onto a driveway and then a single-track trail along the river. Follow the red arrows to the finish at the Mountaineer, mile 11.5!
3.5 Mile Run: