When YHC saw the Mortimer posted online, YHC was intrigued. It sounded awful but a few things made me strongly consider it. The fact that Granite Falls to Boone is 39 Miles and yet this race was described as 100+ miles let me know something was amiss. Then I heard that the race was going through Wilson creek where I used to camp every year and even into high school with lots of good friends. Harpers Creek Falls is a cool spot. And one EZ was at Kidd Brewer Stadium and the last leg ended at the top of Howard’s Knob and the best view of God’s creation (App State) in the world. YHC shared the link with F3 Gastonia to see if there was interest. I talked about it in COT’s when I posted. Most people were aghast and said that it was a really stupid idea. (You know who you are). I reached out to the race director to see was this race a real thing. It was and he said they were limiting the number of entries so it motivated me because YHC didn’t want to miss out. This would be the first running of it. With no luck at getting a team, I fired off an email to a group of local PAX. Defib responded and said it sounded like a horrible idea and there was no good reason not to do it. That set the tone for a series of hard commits. Whoopee, Breaker Breaker, JJ, and then reluctantly Stroganoff. I got an email from Short Sale saying he didn’t check the email account I sent it to and therefore was happy he missed it. With the HC, I reached out to the race director to confirm our entry and learned there weren’t many more teams. Teams from Raleigh, Winston, Boone, Hickory, Meca, and the Gashouse. That was it. Time to arrange logistics. The first thing I did was ask the M if she had anything on race day. Technically since the race starts and ends on Saturday, it was only a one day event, and it was free! Not seeing anything on the calendar, I put down the Mortimer on her calendar. Team Hill Runnin’ Bitches was born. (One guess on who picked the nickname?). This race would bring the Pub Q and Diablo Q together at last!
The race was free but we needed to raise $1000 for charity. HRB selected Cancer Services of Gaston County in Whoopee’s honor. (I Wanted to make this a big fundraiser but it didn’t work out but we did our thing and made good on the entry fee). Next time YHC will do better.
The PAX of Team HRB started training. Defib ordered a crowders mountain run. Thank goodness he did because I realized that there is no way to run up hills like these without training and realizing you half to walk at times. You realize the mental battle Is real and you can’t quit. I did crowders a couple more times and each time went a little farther or faster or both. It still wasn’t enough to equal the elevation I knew was coming, but that is the best we have around these parts and we are fortunate to have it.
I ordered up a van from Enterprise the week prior. I sent a pre-blast a day before the race. Defib was assigned to get 8 oz soft drinks using the Quiche model of pre-race quick energy. Breaker took Friday off and he went with me to get the van. The weather was looking good to have a race through the mountains as this was the same weekend as the blizzard of 1993. We were fortunate.
YHC’s M went to dinner with friends Friday as I stocked the van with the race handbook, a power inverter, chargers, a cooler, and all the personal gear. YHC synced the phone to the Ford sound system for streaming purposed and then tried to lie down for a quick siesta but before I did I texted the M and asked if she could be home by 2120 hours. “Why?” she asked. “Because I need to get to GSM by 2200 and Tater Hole by 2300!”
M: “What?” I thought the race was tomorrow. “It is” I replied. It starts at midnight.
YHC picked up Breaker and off we went to meet the rest of HRB at 2200 at the GSM international HQ. Let me tell you, a high roof 12 person Ford van is the ticket. Plenty of room and you can stand inside and there is a large area in the back for gear. YHC queued up the Mortimer Mountain driving music playlist with Jerry Reed’s “East Bound and Down” and off we we went up 321, like YHC has done so many times before. We got to tater hole an hour early. A few other teams were there. Most had Suburbans or trucks. YHC thought we might be in trouble. Would the roads be that bad? A conversation with Cousin Eddie didn’t reassure anyone as he kept saying that some parts were “Sketchy”. There was a washed out section with large drop off the road. Yikes! Then they talked about a lack of cell signal from legs 7-13. But at least we had a paper map right? (Shit! I forgot the paper map!) Then they gave us a radio with a spare battery. “Turn it on and hopefully you will be able to communicate with someone in another car.” On one hand it made us nervous about getting lost but on the other hand it was a huge opportunity for Breaker Breaker to talk on the radio.
At the start line, which was a dock over the water, Whoopee got ready. Stroganoff relieved himself in the woods. Then a couple on a moped ride by. The Mortimer Relay probably foiled an otherwise goo “necking” spot in Caldwell County.
Cousin Eddie thanked us for participating in this crazy idea. The disclaimer was brief. Don’t get hurt! Don’t get lost! Don’t get attacked by dogs! He said there were 50 signs marking the course and then a combination of caution tape and pink ribbon. Very clever since we aren’t supposed to be on certain routes. The guys from Dam to Dam sent him the flashing lights since the China lights weren’t shipped in time. All the PAX circled up for a social distanced Name o Rama. The team from Winston Salem had one PAX and the rest FNG’s. The rest seemed to be seasoned F3’ers. A prayer and then a countdown to the start as other teams were in pursuit.
The start line is at the bottom of a very steep hill. Dang. The race started with a video and countdown. At midnight, the race began.
Whoopee started us off. We took off in the van and looked for the first EZ, which was an old gas station. We started waiting. The first runner cane in from the wrong way, we think? Who knows? We started looking in every direction for Whoopee. He came in third out of the 8 or 9 teams from a different direction but he had a strong run.
JJ headed out while Whoopee got cooled down and we drove off to EZ #2. This EZ was at a church at the bottom of Hibriten Mountain. It seemed like we drove fifteen miles to get there. We almost a got gas but I passed up the station and got called out on it by Stroganoff later. (Of course I did) You can’t get away with anything when you are with F3 men.
We got to the EZ and Stroganoff went to the woods to relieve himself again. Then Breaker Breaker let some thunder strike in his pants, filling the air with sound. (Thunder on the mountain?). This happened a few times and the giddiness of not having normal sleep began to show itself. The silliness was creeping in.
While we waited for JJ to appear, you must realize that JJ bought the world’s most effective headlamp. The thing has three lights on it. It has high and low beams, fog lights, and auxiliary lighting. The thing lights up the road like a locomotive. You knew who it was coming in. Defib took over from JJ and faced the first bad leg of the relay. Up to the top of Hibriten Mountain and back. We didn’t have to leave the EZ for two legs. You can sense what is happening here. This was just to run this mountain. It certainly didn’t take us closer to Boone. The Race Committee knew what they were doing. We figured an hour or so for the up and back run with no light on the trail and a steep climb. In that hour, JJ, Stroganoff, and YHC all visited the trees again. Defib came flying down the hill making it look easy because, well, Defib. YHC hit the Strava button and off I went. Another runner started in front of me and took off like a bat out of hell. He had a red blinker on his back so I figured I would stay with him. I had my leg printed out. It was two pages. This leg had a lot of turns. I soon realized this guy was hauling ass. My first mile was 7:28. He was at least a quarter mile ahead of me. I soon I realized I would have to use my underpowered headlamp and poor near sighted vision to read the legs while breathing hard. This was a good combination of rural roads and city neighborhoods and ups and downs. I had dog biscuits in my pocket just in case and thought I needed them once. Unfortunately, YHC made a wrong turn and ran further than necessary. I soon realized my error and turned around but killed my time team early on and we really needed to stay with the groups since we weren’t sure exactly where to go for each EZ. I ran harder, frustrated with not using the strava route I preloaded all along.
I came home to hand off to Stroganoff who informed me that the whole van was asleep. He took off and I met some good guys who were waiting for the last two runners. I let the van sleep for a bit while I cooled down and changed clothes. As I walked to the driver’s door ready to leave, Breaker suddenly woke up and was shocked that I had already finished and asked if stroganoff was running. Um, yes! Let’s go! Breaker moved out of the driver’s seat as he was the next to run and I drove us to the next EZ.
The next EZ was a church in the country. We drove a long way to get there and pulled in. Except there weren’t any other vans in the lot. A runner passed by and we figured the EZ must be further down the road. We felt for Stroganoff who was still out there in the dark. I mean dark. We got to the next church and saw the trucks and flashing lights, indicating the correct EZ. We waited. There were dogs barking everywhere. They got closer. Soon they appeared at the front of the church in the road. Three of them in the dark barking in the middle of the road. We sheltered in place, not wanting to risk it. Breaker was running next and got out of the van. We waited to see if he was attacked as I locked the van doors and cracked the windows. “Let me know when it is safe”, I told him, while handing him my dog biscuits. Soon the dogs moved down the road just as Stroganoff handed off. Fortunately, JJ let Breaker wear his lighthouse so boats knew where shore was from miles away and the dogs got out of the road for fear of being run over by the train.
As an aside, we weren’t trying to be antisocial but the van is so nice that I guess no one wanted to leave. It was like a large cozy den. We had everything we needed, and of course Defib smelled great with all of his clothes smelling like Tyler laundry detergent. (See my previous BB where I detail that). Had we gone the Suburban route everyone would have been jumping out at the first chance to stretch. I will never run a race again without one. Plus, it was a 2020 model with 700 miles on it and still smelled good inside, for now. It got good mileage and the tow mode was good when we went off road and climbed the many hills.
With Breaker out this was the first 1/3 of the race out of the way. Whoopee would be next. He had to run down a two lane country road to Brown Mountain Beach Road onto packed gravel to the EZ. We drove ahead and parked near the Brown Mountain Beach resort. A local drove up in a truck and wanted to know what the hell we were doing. I think it was around 0500 in the morning at this point. Running a race we said….
Whoopee appeared and handed off to JJ and the lighthouse on his head. It was dark everywhere except in front of JJ. We drove ahead once more to the next EZ at Betsey’s Country Store. It was colder now and the van was nice and warm. Everyone was sleeping so I claimed the short seat and put my head down for about 25 minutes. When I woke up I got out and socialized with the PAZ outside the store. It was daybreak and the store was open! Some PAX were drinking coffee. JJ came running in and handed off to Defib who had a pretty bad leg #9 through the hills of packed gravel and dirt. The HRB van drove on to the next EZ, right beside a creek. At this point we all relieved ourselves again but Breaker was on a mission. He was scoping out the scene to find a place to be alone. He Several other PAX had hiked up a nearby trail to return minutes later. Breaker saw this as his best opportunity to get closer with nature. He and his TP disappeared for some solace in the woods and returned a while later. His fly was down. “Hey Breaker, your barn door is open.” Hey Breaker, “what do airplanes do?”. This continued throughout the relay every time he relieved himself. As was stated earlier, you can’t get away with anything.
We started getting giddy again kicking tires with other PAX at the EZ. One PAX grew up in the area. He was smoking a pipe. Yes, between running this awful race, he was puffing away. Dang.
In the middle of laughing we sensed a runner coming down the hill. It was Defib hauilng ass. Surprised, I took off my sweatshirt and threw it in the van, started my strava link and took off. I had just had an 8 oz Coke and wasn’t really ready to run yet but I tried to get my mind right, after all, this was leg 10. The highest elevation gain in the race. 4.8 miles uphill for 1873 feet. I got this. I fired up Motörhead “The Game”, as I crossed the creek at began my ascent.
The first part was more of the same. Running through the woods with the creek beside you, except getting higher and higher. It wasn’t long before the road turned into pavement and I was in the open again. Some nice properties on both sides of the road. This isn’t as bad as I thought. Keep running.
Then it started getting steeper. My steps were shorter and more effort was needed to keep up the pace. The breathing got strained. My calves were shot from running the first leg. I feel a tweak in my left hammy every so often. Modify the gait so as not to pull anything. The road turns back to gravel and packed dirt. It keeps climbing. Mile one is done. Alright! Four more uphill before relief. The second mile has all the other vans and trucks pass me from the race. I give breaker the Hawaiian hang loose sign as they pass. Keep running and start walking a little. Mile two down. Still not so bad. Then I hit some switchbacks. Climbing each time. I hear a dog barking and look up through the steep woods and see a house way up there. No way that dog is running down here. Keep going. Head down, my back starts to ache. I don’t know why either. I try to stretch my shoulders. I look at my pace. 11:30. Then 11:31. I start running again. Twenty paces , then ten walking steps. . This is starting to get old. Mile three down. I look to my right again and am at the same elevation as the house. Damn this is steep. I start getting mad. Keep going. This reminded me of getting tased. When you get tased, the jolt is for five seconds, then it’s over. I remember the first second or two thinking, this isn’t that bad. (Miles 1-2). Then maybe seconds three and four getting pissed because it was taking so long and starting to hurt. (Miles 3-4). By second five I was ready to cry. (Mile 5).
In this case I knew at mile four I needed to remember what I signed up for. Part of being the Q was making myself take one of the harder routes. I knew the training at Crowder’s Mountain helped. I thought about the relay name…The Mortimer 100. Named for Mortimer Mountain, but also known as the HTFU relay. That stands for “harden the F up” for those not in the know. I thought about that name, I thought things like, pick them up, put them down, I counted steps, called cadences, and finally declared out loud, “Stop being a pussy”.
That was the mental reset I needed and knew it would have to happen at some time on this race. Heck, that is part of the reason you sign up for something this bad.
I hoped I could make up time on the downhill section at mile 5. At long last I see the sign for the Blue Ridge Parkway crossing and start heading downhill. One thing about the downhills for me is the fatigue doesn’t let you run as fast as you might if you were fresh. But it was a relief to know it was going to be some easy rolling hills for the last two down to Linville. I cranked up some Iron Maiden and enjoyed the scenery of the stone walls, wooden fences, and exclusive mountain estates. I finally turned right and could see the van at the post office and, motivated once again, started clicking off on a more normal pace until I exchanged again with Stroganoff. Fortunately, my teammates were awake this time and looked rested at this EZ, so we proceeded to move to the next EZ, right across from the Highland Games area at Grandfather Mountain. Stroganoff came in after a short 2.4 leg (but with about 600 feet of gain) and out went Breaker Breaker. A little bit on pavement right by Grandfather Mountain and then he took a right on Edgemont Road and the sign that says “New Hopewell Baptist Church 5.2 miles”. Fortunately for Breaker this was all downhill. We left the high ground and drove down some backwoods country to the church. We backed into the exchange zone and waited for Breaker Breaker and stretched some and used Breaker’s Massage torture contraption. Whoopee was running next and he peed twice on the church sign in plain view of the locals had they been looking.
Eventually Breaker Breaker appeared and now it was Whoopee’s turn at leg 13, the leg that the Mortimer Twitter handle spoke of in two separate tweets. “…You’ll be wishing you signed up for the Khaki’d Banker 5K instead”, and then the famous, “Race Committee offers its deepest condolences to all runners on Leg 13. The last mile+ of Pilot Ridge is ready to go balls deep in you.”
The van left the Exchange zone and headed back out the way we came in and turned right on Pilot Ridge. This was all uphill. We turned a corner and saw the glorious Linville Viaduct from below. The was a large rock outcropping that was awesome to see until we noticed that it was defaced with all sorts of graffiti. We looked for any of the pink haired hippie freaks that defaced this national treasure so we could jump out and deliver some street justice but there was no one there. We kept going, the engine still in tow mode climbing until we spotted Whoopee up ahead. He seemed to be waiting for us as he ran along and as we approached his pants went down to quarter moon status. I guess he was just airing it out a little for comfort?
YHC pulled beside him and he challenged us to a race. I hit the gas pedal on the mighty Ford and accelerated down a nice steep hill, the first such downhill we had experienced since leaving the church. I am sure Whoopee was relieved to see it. At the bottom of the hill the road curved to the right and we saw what looked like a road going uphill to heaven like Jack’s beanstalk. I started filming as we began our ascent. The mumblechatter started as our van filled with a mixture of empathy, pity, and humor for Whoopee having to climb this monstrosity that made Gastone’s hill look like baby shit. The van started whining as I switched back to tow mode. We turned the corner and it was more mountain. Stroganoff started talking about the leg going balls deep in you. We saw a runner walking ahead. I offered him a drink and he declined. We saw F3-Slaughter still further ahead but he was actually running this section and he too declined water. At some point that seemed like about ten miles of incline we turned back onto 221 to head towards Blowing Rock. Whoopee would still have four miles of up and down terrain to reach the next EZ. When he arrived, he was a little delirious and said he was cold. He said that about five times. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NPEYb_6lgmk
JJ headed out to the Trout Lake EZ. We met him there and he handed off to Defib who was ready for his last run of the relay, a 7 miler on the BRP. We followed with a short bathroom break for YHC and, you guessed it, Stroganoff, at Price Park.
Then on to AHO EZ at Aho Road and the BRP. While waiting for Defib, YHC saw F3 the Fort’s Double D cross the street, climb a hill and disappear to relieve himself in the woods. YHC followed suit later. The temperatures were dropping and the wind was blowing. Then Breaker Breaker and Stroganoff went into those same woods. Breaker’s fly was actually closed as he emerged from the woods with Stroganoff behind. Lots of humor as they went together to the woods. “Surgeon’s did all they could but they couldn’t get the smiles off their faces.”
Defib came in looking strong as usual and I headed out on my last leg, a 5.7 miler with ups and downs but mostly down with an awesome roller coaster type descent coming into Boone. Most runners didn’t like being on Deerfield Road. The most traffic of any leg and zero shoulder with a drop. The route ended with steep uphill at the ASU Field Hockey Field and Stroganoff was waiting for the handoff. He took off for his quickest pace run to get to the YOSEF club parking lot that is sometimes used as tennis courts behind Kidd Brewer Stadium. The rain began to fall as he climbed to the stadium. Breaker Breaker prepared to run the last leg of the relay. Stroganoff came up the last hill and his day was done and Breaker took off to terrain he knows well from his time spent on the mountain. YHC loaded up the troops once more and we headed to the top of the mountain. Along the way we pulled up to a red light on River Street near the Doc Watson memorial bench. YHC told them to look straight ahead and up to the radio tower. “That is where Breaker Breaker is getting ready to be”. The PAX had the empathy again as we began to ascend this monster. The so called “Glory Leg” was 4.3 miles with the last two rising 1313 feet and some spots at 19 degrees. Breaker did a great job bringing it up the hill. The Race Committee had signs posted along the way with sayings like, Not there yet, Still not there, Nope, Not yet. The PAX of F3 Boone were waiting at the top of the hill with a cooler and a tent as the rain continued. It was a celebration as Breaker got just beside the rock that he was to touch. Unfortunately, the headphones were in and the delirium had set in and he looked so confused. Eventually after a lot of yelling and persuading he collapsed on the rock at 1632 hours, 16 hours and 32 minutes from Tater Hole to Boone. For comparison, the Blue Ridge Relay is 208 miles with an elevation loss of 19443’ and a gain of 16712’. The Mortimer was 107 miles and 12,738’ of elevation gain. It was tough, but it was so awesome.
YHC is proud that we were part of the first running of this race. It was an amazing adventure. It was a difficult thing to do, but the feeling of accomplishment is a true “runner’s high”. The Race Committee is planning on doing this again next year and has a survey out seeking feedback on improving it. I think more F3 Gastonia teams will be interested next year.
I am grateful that Team HRB signed up for this. I am grateful that Cousin Eddie and the PAX from F3 Hickory and F3 Boone supported the vision to make it happen. I am grateful to have earned the Mortimer 100 Sticker. I am especially grateful that no one got hurt. When March 2021 comes around this time next year, I know that the HRB’s will be ready once again in a high roof rental van, 8 oz Cokes, and a 16 ounce Appalachian Mountain Brewery YOSEF to hand to the poor bastard that has to run the Glory Leg. #HRB4LIFE