Anyone who says East Coast ultras are easier than western ones hasn’t run races like Massanutten 100 or the Grindstone 100. I cut my teeth on ultrarunning in the East, running in NC, SC, VA, WV, DC, and FL and I can attest to the fact that the East offers some of the gnarliest trail and stiff climbs in the country. I wrote an article about East vs West for Ultrarunning magizing a couple years ago that compared and contrasted the two. With a perfect weather forecast of 45-70 degrees and dry, this Friday sees the start of the 4th annual Grindstone in Swoope, VA (139 registrants at this point). The race features a unique 6PM start time that ensures all entrants, including the winner, will run one full night. Karl Meltzer set the standard in 2009 with an 18:46 run that still stands as the course record. Sandi Nypaver set the current women’s record in 2010 with her 23:05 effort.
With 23,200 ft of climb crammed into the out and back 100 mile course, Grindstone stands up with races like Wasatch and Bear 100s as among the US’s most difficult at that distance. Indeed, the event website states it best in its opening description, “Grit, endurance, temporary loss of sanity. You might need all these if you want to finish, well, just keep in mind this is, without a doubt, the hardest 100 miler east of the 100th meridian.”
I asked Karl Meltzer his thoughts and whether there’s anything that stands out in his mind about the Grindstone event, since he’s run most of the big 100s in the country and certainly has run all of the most difficult ones. Karl responded, “The only thing odd is the start time, but the venue is great for that. 12 hours of darkness is alot longer than most races, especially for the front runner. It’s well run and marked extremely well. Clark Zealand the RD does a great job. Also great shirts for finishers from Patagoochi. Rare in this sport.”
If running 12 hours straight through the night over technical singletrack doesn’t give pause to potential applicants, then the elevation profile will do the trick:
Forget about the massive climbs and descents in the middle of the race, that 4,500 ft descent over the last seven miles of the race makes my palms sweaty. If you don’t pamper your quads during the race, you’ll certainly pay the price in the form of agony over the final miles.
There are 15 aid stations and a live webcast updating runners’ progress through those stations. Live updates at www.eco-xsports.com.
As always, we welcome comments and would love to hear readers’ predictions for men’s and women’s contenders, personal experience with this race, opinions on how this stacks up against the tough 100s in the US and/or Canada, and any other thoughts on this event.