Rambling, long winded post warning:
I’m also doing it again this year. Last year was a hot humid muddy mess and a pretty major failure for me…
Course record is under 7 hours.
sub 8 hrs is definite top 10 O/A (sometimes top 5)
sub 9 hrs is usually top 50
A good buddy finished 28th O/A at 8:40 a couple years ago
Anything under 10 hours is really strong.
Average finish time is 12+ hours
Last finisher is usually 14-1/2 - 15 hours.
Typically, it is big fire road climbs and big single track descents.
Lynn trail and Bridgehollow/Braileys are the two main singletrack climbs.
If you ride Pisgah regularly, I don’t think any of the technical features in the SM course will bother you at all. For example the " rough side" of Daniel ridge trail is way more technical than anything in the SM course.
Long winded course description to follow:
Opening climb (narrowback mtn): Starts pavement, then fire road, to single track 7 miles approx. 1K elevation. This singletrack is where the conga line is.
Tillman west descent. fun flow trail, if you’re back with the 12 hour folks this will be painfully slow.
water only aid 1 is at the bottom of this descent.
Transition to Lynn trail: you’ll have 8ish miles of gravel/pavement generally trending up. You’ll ride this gravel again in the opposite direction in a little while.
2nd climb (Lynn trail): 1.2 miles 1200 ft up. This is narrow single track and as the number suggest it is STEEP. Most of it is not terribly techy if you have good low speed balance.
Wolf trail down: (5 miles 1500 ft down) I think this is the most fun part of the whole course. It has quite a bit of rock, but much of it is hand placed and is super rideable. Note that there are a couple alternate lines with mandatory drops of 2-4 ft. If you stay on the main line, everything rolls. There are 2 short but very steep up pitches in this section.
transition to aid 2/6 ( 7ish miles gravel/pavement) gradual up/down/up 500 ft climbing,
*** this gravel road section is where the construction is that might effect the course layout.***
transition to hankey mtn: pavement 3 miles one steep paved pitch in between (you will ride this again in the last race segment)
climb 3 full hankey mtn: 5+ miles 1700 ft all fire road usually overgrown and much steeper toward the top. (Note intersection about 2 miles up you’ll turn left here in last race segment.)
Dowells draft descent: 5 miles of awesome. The upper part is super fun with a few rocks and switchbacks. The lower section is a bunch of fairly narrow side hill at times off camber. Aid 3 is at the bottom of this descent.
transition to bridge hollow climb: 5 miles of false flat pavement most of this is on US Rt250 and is pretty sketchy as far as car traffic. If you’ve got the legs, find a roady to draft…
Bridge hollow climb: 2 miles 1Kish ft up all singletrack. Most of it narrow off camber side hill. Many hike a fair amount of this.
Braleys pond descent: 10-15 min super fun, rowdy at times, some exposure up near the top. (This is where the guy died in the race in 2015). Then a couple miles of rolling singletrack into aid 4.
From here it’s basically up hill for the next 23 miles (pavement to gravel to fire road ending at the high point of the course). The 1st 10 miles is mostly false flat with a couple downs to give you a break unofficial aid station 4.5 is here (beer handups if you desire). When you turn onto the fire road, the official “death climb” has started (8ish miles 1600ish ft)…at aid 5 folks think the death climb is over, but then you get to head into “The killing fields” I think this part is harder than the death climb. I don’t know how many clearings you go thru, but it feels like they will never end…Of note: there are time cuts at each aid station, but the aid 5 cut is the 1st one that really gets a bunch of folks. There are two different cutoffs here depending if you have lights or not.
Chestnut ridge descent (8ish miles 2500ish ft down) this is good old school rowdy back country desending. I think there are 4 up pitches in this section. If fresh they wouldn’t be any big deal, with 75+ miles in your legs, for most, they are a very big deal… then roll into aid 6 (same as aid2) for fresh cut French fries!! By the time mere mortals make it to this point, many of the fast finishers have come out to cheer them on (Jeremiah Bishop has been known to where a wrestling mask and scream at folks here. You’ve got 12 miles to finish.
From aid 6 you follow the same transition that you did leaving aid 2. climb Hankey mtn to the intersection mentioned earlier, turn, follow double track on the ridge for a little bit, down a steep little chunk of singletrack (often quite loose). A little double track and some flow trail back into the camp ground. Note: Slow folks will be riding from aid 6 in the dark.
Old race brief. Some info may not be current.