This race starts on Jonas Ridge and ends at Mountain Beach resort. The race web site says the course descent is 2,946 feet on mostly unpaved road, and when you hear that you think downhill race! The reality felt different to me. The downhill portion was a dream but that ends early in the run! I stayed in Lenoir, NC which was very convenient race morning, only about 35 minutes to the shuttles. Shuttles ride you from Mountain Beach resort, where parking is plentiful, to the start line and I was pleasantly surprised shuttles were actually very comfy tour buses! There was a store on Jonas Ridge that let us wait inside since it was a chilly morning. The first 10K of the course had slopes and hills that felt very challenging to me and I took the race organizers word to heart and kept the pace conservative. The bulk of the course was on unpaved road, the texture of which changed throughout the course. Some sections had tons of small rocks and that was hard on the tootsies. Oddly, the unpaved at the top felt easier to navigate than some sections in the later miles...some areas had little gravel cover and it was basically running on hard dirt which was nice, but I did have to navigate the flat stones carefully because they are slick when wet. It rained a few times during the race. The downhill section felt like a dream! Less resistance really does conserve some energy and running downhill made me feel like a superhero....till the course went flat! LOL Shortly after the half marathon point all the downhill is behind you and it is just flat road. I found going flat was hard on the mind because I felt so slow (even when I wasn't) and I still had a long ways to go and it was hard on the quads. Downhill running uses the quads up in a special way and it is a tough transition to train for unless you live in similar terrain. Thankfully the views are pretty great. There are lovely trickling waterfalls as you wind your way down the mountain, thick tree cover, a few wide open views of very lush green hills, and even a Christmas tree farm. The course is immersed in Fall colors. The course is open to traffic, most of the miles were pretty quiet, however the flow of cars did increase during the last 10K. It was a bit tough mentally when I felt worn out and had to watch around corners for cars. Any shed gear was carried to the finish area and I was able to retrieve my vest and gloves at the end, which was great. I did carry my own hydration and I was thankful or I would have really struggled. Stops were about 3 miles apart and I am not sure I could have gone that long. The aid stations were well stocked though and all the volunteers were very nice!! A few stations had cut up oranges which tasted amazing! Best marathon fuel ever :) The end of the course you run along side a fast flowing creek and the sound is very soothing. In the end, I crossed the finish line and got a very nice medal :) It is 26 freaking miles, I was elated! The race organizer David, is really great at communication and sends lots of information via email, this race has a very family feel to it. Limited to 400 runners it is a very unique way to run 26.2. It is not really trail or pavement, it is an experience that is right in between!