Fierce Dragon Overview
The Fierce Dragon (FD) is an H9 event comprised of two races, a 100 mile race know as the 'Firestarter' and a 200 mlie race designated as 'Full Fury'. The races start on different days, but all racing ends on Sunday morning.
The FD Full Fury 200 involves 10 traverses of the main ridge line of the Duncan Ridge for the equivalent of 5 laps between Vogel State Park and Skeenah Gap. The outbound traverse goes over the Wolf Creek river crossing. The inbound traverse uses FS Roads 108/107 to reach Burnett Gap (Hwy 180). A short loop around the Park lake is required on each lap to reach a total of 40 miles for each lap. Only full laps, Vogel-to-Skeenah-to-Vogel, will be counted. The race has no entry requirements because the course is fairly well contained and if the runner can no longer continue under their own power, then he/she will be shuttled back to Vogel to turn in their bib. The course will be relatively well marked, so for the navigationally challenged most of your worries should be minimized. If you have on occasion reversed direction because you were disoriented at a stop point, then you will be turned back around at the last aid station that exited from - less than 5 miles.
The FD Firestarter 100 is a 100 mile race that occurs on the last 2 days of the 200M race. This race starts on Friday morning (8am) and ends on Sunday morning (8am) giving 48 hours to complete 100 miles. The course involves 4x full traverses of the Duncan Ridge (2 laps) and 2x half traverses of the Duncan Ridge (Vogel to Mulky and back). This event does not have a daily progress minimum, instead there are cutoff times at 1.5 lap point, at the completion of 2 laps, a 90 mile cutoff at Bryant Gap, and hard cutoff of 48 hours at the start/finish line.
Runners are required to do a minimum of 1 lap per 24 hours (40 miles per day). Failure to complete the minimum distance ends the runner's race at the last full lap. The 24 hour cutoff time per day is a practical limitation in a runner’s race progress; however, if a runner is a half a mile from the end of a lap to complete the minimum, then this is close enough to count. The final cutoff of 120 hours to complete the 200 miles will be strictly enforced.
The 200-miler has three entry categories depending on the amount of support that you wish. The basic option is the 'Basic' option that offers a hot cot on a first-come-first-napping basis. A storage area for drop bags/boxes will be available, because storage will not be available in the hot cot area. Hot showers will be available.A more deluxe level of support (Bunk-n-Meal) is available that provides dedicated bunk space with room for gear. This level of support also includes a hot breakfast meal. Hot showers will be available. The support is oriented to those who will most likely complete one lap per day, with a few hours of rest time each night.A third option is provided to those who will bring their own crew and support to Vogel State Park. This option (No Support @ Vogel) provides no sleeping space, showers or meals at Vogel. You will getting this support by other means, e.g., a rented cabin at Vogel. We do not recommend tent camping at this time of the year because this requires a fairly hardy individual to run all day and then camp outdoors in freezing temperatures.
The race takes place over most of a week. Check-in for the event is Monday evening 4 to 8pm. The event will start on Tuesday at 8am. The event will finish on Sunday at 8am. Race flags will mark the start/finish area in the vicinity of Campground Area 1 on the main road. Everyone must check-in before 8pm at the Group Shelter. Period. No exceptions.
The support location are Vogel State Park, Calf Stomp Gap, Bryant Gap, Fish Gap and Skeenah Gap. Support at Vogel will be at the main dining tent that will have hot food and drinks. This may involve serving yourself. Support at the other 4 aid points will be provided by hardy volunteers who like seeing people suffer. The support points are roughly 5 miles apart; plus or minus a mile or so. Support at Skeenah Gap and Bryant Gap will be in heated tents, tho, no sleeping arrangements will be provided. Support at Fish Gap and Calf Stomp Gap will be essentially tail-gate aid (water, sport drink, gels, and cookies). All support locations will have 2x porta-potties, except for Vogel that has regular restrooms.
Participants are allow to use crew. Crew vehicles are limited to one vehicle per runner to limit congestion on the Forest Service roads. Crew are allow to meet their runners at Vogel State Park, Bryant Gap, Mulky Gap, and Skeenah Gap. Crew vehicles traveling to Vogel or Skeenah Gap do not require placards indicating a crew vehicle. However, crews intending to travel to Bryant Gap or Mulky Gap must obtain a crew placard. Crew vehicles will be inspected to verify adequacy in terms of ground clearance and size. Large crew vehicles (RVs, dual wheeled trucks) will restricted because the road is narrow; and rough and steep in places.
Paces (safety runners) are allowed on the return traverse from Skeenah Gap to Vogel. For most runners this section most likely will be traversed at night. Pacers are responsible for their own transportation to arrive at Skeenah Gap.
Staking-out is taking time away from the course to rest or find food and water. Staking-out (and back in) is only allowed at Vogel State Park. Staking-out does not stop the clock, so runners must still meet the 40 miles per day minimum to complete the race. Runners are allowed to access and rest in a crew vehicle at crew aid points. If a runner meets crew, then staying with the crew is allowed provided the runner remains at the meeting location (i.e., cannot stake out).
Three (3) token locations will be placed where runners must take a token to show they have passed thru that point. The tokens will be numerical pages designated for removal as assigned by the aid station prior to the token location.
If the weather forecast shows an intense squall line with high winds, a Race Clock Stop may be issued 24 hours in advance. Depending on the weather forecast, this Clock Stop could be 2 to 4 hours. Weather conditions persisting longer than 4 hours will be considered a normal race condition. For a Clock Stop, runners will be gathered at aid station locations starting about 2 hours in advance of the Clock Stop; their arrival time will be recorded. After the Clock Stop, runners will be released in the order they arrived. If the Clock Stop is long, then the layover time may simply be deducted from the runner’s overall race time (all runners would be released at the end of the Clock Stop).
Other than the minimum progress requirement, the only cutoff is the final cutoff. This a strict cutoff at 8am Sunday morning + any Clock Stop time. The final cutoff is not negotiable. Based on prior year experiences, runners will have a very good understanding of their progress by the end of the 4th lap, so a failure to meet the final cutoff will not be a surprise.
New to H9?
If you are new to the H9 experience, then first make sure your will is up-to-date, then embrace the circles of hell that you are about to enter. All things considered, it is an easy race.
H9 caters to hardy runners. We don't go as far as the Barkley and consume our young, but completing the 200 miles does require runners to "bank some miles" on tough terrain in difficult weather conditions. A talent for trail running is a good start, but it is not the only criteria.
Just for fun, some labels may apply to early drops. Human Sacrifice - failure to proceed passed Bryant Gap (~10 miles). Shazam Failure - dropping at Skeenah Gap on the 1st lap (~20 miles). Epic Failure - failure to complete one lap (<40 miles). Napping Failure - failure to complete two laps (<80 miles).
Vogel Park and Blairsville have lodging. The cabins at Vogel are not inexpensive, but if shared, then the cost is not too bad.
Hot and Assigned Bunks. There will be hot bunks for roughly 20% of the runner field - available at Vogel on a first-come-first-napping basis. At an extra cost (that includes a hot meal) an assigned bunk with some pack space can be purchased for the duration of the race.
Daily Hot Meal
A hot meal (basically breakfast) will be available to runners from 4am to 10am daily. If the runner purchases an assigned bunk, this will be a part of the deal. This meal can also be purchased each day (price to be determined, but less than $15.01).
Parking at Vogel State Park
Parking at the Georgia State Parks is $5 per day, or you can purchase an annual pass.
Other Options (e.g. 100 Miles)
On this 2nd running of Fierce Dragon a 100 mile option will be offered. This will be a 48-hr event starting on the morning of the 4th day (0800 Friday) and finishing at the end of the 5th day (0800 Sunday). The course would be the same, except runners will only do 2.5 laps. The last half lap will turn-around at the aid station at Bryant Gap.
A minimalistic option has been added to the 200M for those who would rather provide their own race support at Vogel - such as if you decide to get a cabin. This lowers the cost, but means that you will not be able to use of the showers and the heated tent sleeping areas at Vogel. If you have an RV, then using a campsite can also work with this option. We really do not recommend tent camping at this time of year because the temps will likely be below freezing. But, hey, if you are an arctic-type, then that sort of sleeping option may be a fun adventure for you.
A bit of history…
The year 2020 marks 10 years since the inaugural H9 50-miler. That time began a renewed trail running interest in the Duncan Ridge Trail that led to the establishment of several races (Cruel Jewel, Duncan Ridge 50k, Georgia Death Race, and the H9 insanity) that use all, or part of the Duncan Ridge that is commonly known as the Dragon Spine.
Local time: 10:32 PM
There were earlier events, such as the Georgia Loop runs-races that used the DRT, BMT and AT to create a roughly 60 mile loop in N Georgia. Those activities have partially faded into the mists of yester-year. Richard Schick is probably the most knowledgeable about those events and will happily spin a tale or two if you ask. They pre-date ultrasignup and the inter-webs, which means they never actually happened (smiley face). The DRT at that time was wild and woolly and was not well maintained. The trail maintenance has improved, for many reasons, but suffice to say the interest of the trail running community has played a large role in that improvement. This RD’s first memory of the DRT was of Brad Goodridge wandering out of the wild from the other side of Coosa Bald, machete in hand...surely the lair of a Dragon did lie in that direction. H9 attributes the origin of the term Dragon Spine to Andrew Powell from sometime in the 2000s. He noted that the sharp ups and downs are like climbing the back ridges of a dragon. The Dragon Spine likely had other names – most unprintable, no doubt – but the Dragon seems to have stuck. The Creek Indians who traversed these lands in earlier centuries most certainly would have been astounded by our foolishness to cross the worst part of such awful terrain.