Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Elevation Gain of Clinton Race Course

Don't let the sign to the right fool you...the loop is not 11 miles long. After three loops it may feel like you've done 33 miles, but we have wheeled the course several times and have it right at 10 miles per loop. The designation of "moderate difficulty" on the sign sounds about right. Since the Clinton Lake ultra is a multi-loop course (three 10-mile loops), you end up with an overall elevation CHANGE of zero. But that doesn't mean you don't have lots of climbing (and descending) over the 10 miles. I've counted 33 hills over the course of one loop. That would be 99 hills for the full 30 mile race! Mostly small hills and none are very steep. A friend walked the course with his hand held GPS unit (better than a wrist GPS, but still not perfect) and came up with these elevation gains for each mile:

mile 1 = 160 foot gain
mile 2 = 140'
mile 3 = 165'
mile 4 = 220'
mile 5 = 250'
mile 6 = 160'
mile 7 = 145'
mile 8 = 170'
mile 9 = 240'
mile 10 = 140'
total = 1790' gain per loop

So central Illinois isn't all flat cornfields after all. As you wander along the single-track trail, you'll have great views of the lake and you'll meander through forest and across meadows. A small section of asphalt road (with accompanying bridges) connects the trail on each side of the lake. You'll encounter lots of small wooden bridges on the trail too--they can be very slippery when wet. Be cautious as you cross the wooden bridges! Quite a few runners have asked me what type of shoe to wear for the race. I've run the course in road racing flats and also pretty well studded trail shoes. They both work depending on the trail conditions. If it is wet and muddy, then the standard trail shoe may help you get better traction. I don't think cross country spikes would be worthwhile. My best advice would be to take 2 pairs of shoes and make your decision on race morning (after one loop you can always change shoes and/or socks). I'll have trail condition updates on this blog.

NOTE: I think these measurements are a little high. The total gain per 10-mile loop is likely closer to 1600-1650 feet. Still a hilly course, but not quite as much elevation gain as indicated here.


matt condron said...

hi Chris,
I've seen different terminology for elevation changes: net, gross, up, down, gain. Does "gain" mean all the combined ups? Or does it mean the same as "gross" i.e. all the combined ups and downs?

thanks, Matt

Chris said...

The gain is measuring just the "up" sections of the course. How much you "gain" going up the hills. I suppose the "net" is always zero on a loop course and the "elevation change" would be double the gain (up plus down). These stats are probably a bit high. I think the real gain is around 1600 feet per 10-mile loop.