Today I decided to run a few of the courses for the races I am planning at Bradbury Mountain State Park this summer.
I began with the more difficult Bradbury Mountain Breaker 9 mile course which covers most of the trails on the west side of the park. The route starts with a very gradual climb on the wide, gravely Northern Loop Trail, then bears right onto the more hilly Boundary Trail. This section of trail is like a root festival, with so many wonderful opportunities to trip. A few hundred yards short of the mountain summit the course makes a sharp right onto the South Ridge Trail and then makes a steep descent to the "lower" parking lot and the lowest point in the race. After weaving through a few picnic sites comes the location of the first aid station at about 2.25 miles. This is a great place to catch your breath because the next 1/4 mile climbs 250' up the Summit Trail to the summit of Bradbury Mountain.
From the summit the course bears left onto the Tote Road trail which descends for about a mile before looping back uphill and bringing you back to the summit again. Just as the trail opens up towards the view from the top the course makes a sharp left and descends steeply down the Switchback Trail which - in typical trail naming obviousness - includes a series of hairpin turns to bring you back down to the starting point of the race and the second aid station. This is only half the race. The second loop of the race is the same as the first until you reach the summit from the Tote Road Trail, this time the course bears left onto the Terrace Trail which makes a pretty straight shot down gradual descent, which can be run extremely fast if you've got anything left in your legs at this point. The last 1/2 mile comes back along the Northern Loop Trail in the opposite direction as the start of the race where you should be able to maintain good speed to the finish.
distance: 9.0 miles
After a few minutes to catch my breath I headed across the road the the east side trails to run the course of the Bradbury Scuffle 6 mile race. This course felt easier right away, mostly because it starts out downhill, but also because it's generally less technical than the Breaker course. I began on the Knight Woods Trail which is mostly double-track. This leads to the wide, gravely Snowmobile Trail that climbs very gradually to about the 1 mile mark. You then make a sharp right onto the Fox East Trail that begins a 2.75 mile stretch of a twisty, somewhat technical, single-track section that is definitely the most challenging part of this course (but still easier than the Breaker). There are some rolling hills and several wooden bridges to cross that make this section a lot of fun.
At about 3.75 miles the course bares left onto double-track trail at the location of the one and only aid station on the race course. From here the course climbs gradually for about 1/2 mile and has some great mud pits in the trail, then opens up to a wider and even less technical downhill section on the Snowmobile Trail that should make for a very fast mile. Just as you're getting sick of the easy running the course turns right onto the Knight Woods Trail for the last 1/2 mile which is a gradual uphill on somewhat narrower trails. The last few hundred yards of the race are the same as the Bruiser, and anyone who ran that race will be glad to bypass the entrance to the O-Trail on their way to finishing this one.
distance: 6.0 miles
Stephen: if you're out there, I could really use the .GPX file from one of your runs on the Bruiser course last fall so I can add the elevation profile. Or maybe I'll go out and run it next weekend.
P.S. Congratulations to Emma for running her fastest time at the Muddy Moose 14 mile trail race today (2:00:00) and finishing 3rd woman!