Sunday, January 30, 2011

Nantahala Fria 2011

Nantahala Fria will be held this year on February 19th at 9:00 a.m. This is a fun-run, with no fees and limited, if any, aid. The course this year will more than likely be the new course, which consists of various combinations of a 16-mile and an 18-mile loop. Every 16-18 miles, you will come past your vehicle, so it easy to support yourself during the run. Along the course, there are a few streams and springs to refill water. There are course descriptions below, but both loops consist of about 10 miles of gated forest road and the rest single-track. It is a pretty fast run, if the snow cooperates, and you have the option of any combo of the loops from 16 to 100 miles.

This is only for runners who are self-sufficient and experienced. Last year was very difficult, particularly during the night with lots of snow, ice and well below zero wind chills. Alan and I stopped in the middle of the night because even running together, it was too dangerous. We will hope for better conditions this year, but as Sarah observed, every year since she started it, it gets more and more arctic! Usually we only have a handful of runners and we will keep track of each other and make sure everyone gets back to their vehicles.

Directions to the start. Take highway 64 west out of Franklin about 10 miles, through Winding Stair Gap. Turn left at the brown sign which points the way to Standing Indian and Wallace Gap. Follow that road a couple miles and turn right into Standing Indian. (Well-signed). Follow the road all the way down and keep to the left at the Y-intersection. You will see the parking lot at the Backcountry Information Center.

Let us know if you want to come!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Descriptions of the Loops and Some Notes on the Course

Both loops start at the Backcountry Information Center.

16 mile loop
1. Take the Long Branch Trail to the Appalachian Trail. Long Branch is a blue-blazed trail that starts across the road from the parking lot. The trail is rooty, rocky, and canted. It goes gradually uphill, but is runnable. After about 20 minutes (my speed), there are a couple landmarks to pay attention to.
- You will enter a small field. Stay on the blue blazed trail, hugging the tree line on the right.
- Shortly thereafter you will cross a creek and then head uphill (very wet/icy) to a forest road. Don’t turn- go straight ahead on the blue blazed trail.
- You will start a steep but short climb up to Glassmine Gap on the AT.

2. Turn RIGHT (south) on the AT. You will pass a couple of springs and cross a creek. The trail will wind uphill until you reach the ridge that approaches Albert Mountain. The trail levels out here. You will pass Big Springs shelter and a large sign giving you various mileage. Pay attention in the next half mile:
- After going gradually uphill, the AT will veer sharply left. There is a double blaze on a post. You will get off the AT at this point and follow the short trail that goes straight.

- After about 25 yards, you come to an old road. Turn right. This takes you to a gate which leads to a gravel parking lot. Turn left here and follow this road all the way back to the start. There is only one intersection to worry about. About 3 miles in, there is a road that goes left to Coweeta. Do not take that road. Keep to the right.

18 mile loop
1. Leave the Backcountry Information Center and head back up the paved road toward the entrance. After a mile and a half or so, you will see a parking lot on the right. This is Rock Gap. Get on the AT here, turn RIGHT (south). Follow the AT up a mountain and back down to Glassmine Gap. Follow the instructions for the 16 mile loop at this point.

There is a lot of water available along the trail and the road. Be sure to treat it if you use it. You won’t go more than an hour without a water source.

Creek crossings
There are a couple of creeks to cross on the trail that you ought to be able to keep your feet dry for. There is a ford, however, on the road section. I usually handle it by taking off my shoes for it. The start/finish area is only about 20 minutes beyond the ford, if you want to change shoes/socks at your vehicle.

Snow/ice as of 2/20

There is still a lot of snow on the course, although there should be some melting in the next couple of days. They are calling for some more snow on Wednesday. On Long Branch, there is 4-8", on the upper parts of the AT 12" (although the trail is packed down). On the road from Albert Mountain, there is a section of 3' drifts, but it is a short section. Below that the road has frozen ruts and tire track under the powdery snow, which I hope will melt some because they are a pain to run on. As you get closer to the start/finish, there is significant melting.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fria Update

PLEASE CHECK THE BLOG OFTEN AS RACE DAY APPROACHES! Hello runners! I think it is safe to say we will not be running ON the Classic Nantahala Fria course. As of 2 days ago, I was only a short way into the trail and the snow was above my knees-then waist deep. As our course record holder in the Fria Classic 100 said "it takes twice as much energy and twice as much time to go half as far!" (Well put Denise). We have an alternate course that is beautiful and it would start and finish in the same original area. Problem is, we will have to see what happens with mother nature and the course over the next week. The parking area was only accessible Monday with high clearance 4 wheel drive. Anything is possible, but I want everyone to be aware of current conditions. They received an additional 3 inches up there today. It is supposed to warm up for a few days this weekend, so we will see what happens.
FYI-the alternate loops are beautiful and potentially fast (unless there is 2 feet of snow) one loop is 16 miles and the other is 18. The start and finish is in the same place as the prior course. Aid is at 6 miles and at the start/finish area. 50K=2x16 mile loop. 50 mile=1x18 mile loop and 2x 16 mile loops. It is possible that we may have to drop the 100 mile this year if the snow levels do not subside. Stay tuned for current updates. Katoolah makes a GREAT traction device called microspikes for your shoes. They give you superior traction while running in snow. They are VERY easy to put on and take off, and they are very durable. I will be up there much of the weekend and will send further updates. The Standing Indian Wilderness Area is 10 miles west of Franklin on Highway 64 west. There is a sign to the turnoff. About 2.5 miles after you turn off you take a right (there is another sign) and go 2.2 miles to the back country parking center. If you are in the neighborhood this weekend, those are the directions in a nutshell. You can map quest the Standing Indian Campground-Franklin, NC.

Monday, February 8, 2010

vNew Runners! Runners continue to sign up for Fria! The 100 mile race has picked up speed this week. Aaron and Jason are following our blog. I'd like to invite both of them to join us! Jason is running Ironhorse on the 13th. Come on Jason-Ironhorse to Ironman-2 ultras in one month!!
NOTICE: I may increase the cutoff times for the race depending on how the conditions are in 3 weeks. We already have at least 1, 100 mile runner who will start on Friday.
This years race promises to be a GREAT adventure! This is not a PR course on a good day. The conditions could be tough. The cutoff times are VERY generous. Come and join us!
Please contact Sarah if you are thinking of running. I have been sending out information on directions, hotels and limited primitive camping that is available. If you need immidiate information, you may call my cell at 828-508-4772.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Updated Fria Information

People continue to sign up-mostly for the 50K and 50 mile. The 100 mile field is small so far, but talented and very motivated! The cut off times for the events are as follows:
100 miles=36 hours, 50 miles=18 hours, and 50K=10 hours. This is not an easy race.

Information on accommodations/camping and directions to the start will be sent out to all registered runners. The Standing Indian Wilderness Area is located west of the town of Franklin, NC. It is off highway 64 west. The Appalachian Trail makes a bit of a horseshoe shape in the basin. There are numerous connector trails to the AT. This is primarily what you can expect to run on. Current trail conditions range from moderate to very deep snow as well as a spring that is frozen as hard as a rock. The stream crossing will be high as the snow melts. We are hoping that by the end of February, winter will give all of us a break! Fria is the spanish word for cold. If by chance it is hot this year, we will change it to Nantahala Caliente!!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Registration Information

Registration for Nantahala Fria*****
If you are interested in running the 50K, 50 mile or 100 mile at Nantahala Fria, please send me an email telling me your name and what distance you plan to run. You will sign the waiver when you arrive at the Standing Indian Wilderness area before we begin the run. The race fee will be a donation of an amount that you can decide. You will pay this right before you run as well. We can make a recommendation as to what amount will help cover our costs-it will not be expensive. We have to use the donation system to keep within the rules of the local forest service office.
When you contact me with the your race information, I will send you an e-mail with more race details as well as to how to get to the start and local accomodations if you need them.
Please send your email of intent to
Happy Trails! Sarah Lowell

Monday, December 28, 2009


The Nantahala Fria Running Festival has been rescheduled for February 26-28. The 100 mile runners will have the option of starting early on Friday. All other races will start Saturday morning. Stay tuned for further updates. If you have specific questions, please e-mail Sarah at