A Weekend with the Yetis

AJW's TaproomLast weekend, I traveled down to the beautiful southwest corner of Virginia to take in the Yeti 100 Mile. The brainchild of race director Jason Green, the Yeti 100 has, since its inception a few years ago, gained a cult following on the U.S.’s East Coast. Conducted each year on the last Friday in September, the Yeti 100 is run entirely on the 33.4-mile Virginia Creeper Trail, a smooth crushed-granite trail traversing one of Virginia’s most scenic regions.

Jason Green founded the Yeti Trail Runners in 2011 with the mission to build the trail running community in the Southeast. From the start, his focus has always been on the community. Green’s fun-loving, laid-back attitude and country charm have endeared him to the hardscrabble folks in this part of the country and, since he grew up here, he has a certain street cred, or should I say holler cred, that has allowed him to build a loyal volunteer base, engender tremendous local support, and motivate runners from outside the area to come in and join the tribe.

I checked in with Jason at the finish line this year, about 21 hours into the event. He was posted up in his camp chair, a location he would occupy consistently and without fail for approximately 28 hours, greeting and hugging every single finisher. For an hour or so, in between finishers, we chatted seamlessly about the race, the culture of the region, the trail, and the community that has been built around this simple, little, 33.4-mile corridor through the heart of Appalachia.

The Virginia Creeper Trail itself travels the right of way of a historic railroad line that for decades was used to haul timber and passengers between Virginia’s interior and its coast. The trail is an independent entity that crosses private land, land owned by the cities of Abingdon and Damascus, and multiple federal-land agencies–not exactly traditional bedfellows!

The historic Virginia Creeper rail line, once the life blood of the Virginia backcountry, stopped off at the stations of Damascus, Green Cove, Whitetop, and Alvarado. Today, at the Yeti 100, these former rail stations make up the race’s colorful and celebratory aid stations, places where Green’s vision of community comes out in full force.

When Green first envisioned the Yeti 100 a half decade ago, he recruited a few friends to run the course to see how it stacked up as a legitimate 100 miler. In 2014 and 2015, he essentially conducted a Yeti fat-ass event to determine where aid would be necessary based on how far his friends were able to run before they had to bail. From that, the Yeti 100 was born and in 2016 the first official race was held. In a few short years, it has become a large 100 miler and a great place for newbies to cut their teeth on the distance.

In the midst of all this, Green remains true to his mission. Certainly, he’s happy when fast people show up and compete for records and such, but that’s not his chief motivation. More than anything, Green is committed to building community in the true sense of the word. The simple goal of bringing people together with a shared purpose for a shared experience of doing something they love is easier said than done. And, having seen the race unfold last weekend, I can assure you that at the Yeti 100 this is happening. It is a sight to behold!

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Wolf Hills Brewing Company in Abingdon, Virginia. Their Mostly Sunny New England IPA is one of their new offerings and a fresh take in the increasingly crowded hazy IPA space. Fruity with just a touch of bitterness, Mostly Sunny is a great beer to enjoy on a long, lazy, and warm fall afternoon.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Have you raced, paced, crewed, or spectated at the Yeti 100 Mile? If so, can you share your experiences with the event and its community?
  • And what do you think about the Virginia Creeper Trail as a recreation outlet and place of historical significance?

Trish Benoit runs across one of the historic railroad trestles on the Virginia Creeper Trail. Photo: Appalachian Exposures

The sign at mile 66.6 when headed up the climb that follows adds some extra motivation. Photo: Samantha Taylor

Mr.Inspiration can be found at all the Yeti races and he’s always right where you need a smile, hug, and a bit of inspiration. Photo: Appalachian Exposures

Sunset along the Yeti 100 Mile course. Photo: Nathan Dewey

There are 14 comments

  1. Kyle

    I was a finisher in the unofficial 2014 race, the inaugural class. We were eight people and our skeleton crews. The race is much different now, full of life and energy, practically thrumming with excitement before the sun sets, when moat people are back in the National Forest for the back half, and climbing White Top Mountain for 17 miles. The race is a bit subdued then, as you would imagine.

    I crewed in 2017 and 2018, as have a number of past finishers. Others make up the bulk of the volunteers. So you have aid stations staffed by people very knowledgeable about the race and your experience, and able to dispense germane advice and solutions to get you home to Abingdon. There is as a lot of cussing and some drinking, and very loud voices, so it is not suited for stilted glory-seekers. Pretty much all racers are there to guffaw and get rowdy, which helps them keep up with volunteers.

    The Creeper Trail and all that surrounds it is glorious. Its 47 trestles cross rivers’ branches and forks, over rapids and past waterfalls. Five different trails, including the AT, pass through Damascus, Trail Town USA. You pass through fields and valleys, pastures, swamps, and escarpments. The National Forest half section is more pleasant than that between Damascus and Abingdon, but only by a bit.

  2. Kyle Robidoux

    Great recap AJW. It was so nice to meet and chat with you at Green Cove. You captured the spirit and laid-back nature of the Yeti 100. I had no idea that the AS were the old train stations. Very cool. Kudos to Jason and all of the volunteers for putting a first-class and super fun race.

  3. Becky

    I was part of a crew for running friends in 2017 and 2018. For both years, I took the job as pacer from Taylor’s Landing up to Whitetop and down to Green Cove. I love the energy and atmosphere of Yeti – all the runners are amazing and yes, Jason is wonderful.

    Our crew is out there for every mile, every stop and every hour and we may not be as sore as our runner at the end, but we sure are wiped! The area is absolutely beautiful. Still debating if this will be my first hundo. :)

    I wrote a blog post in 2017 about our experience at Yeti – check it out.

  4. AT

    Such a beautiful section of our country. While we may not have altitude, we sure as hell have an abundance of humidity and tough terrain. Great to see the Beast Coast expanding more each year.

  5. Frank

    ahhhhhhhh if only hospital workers like myself (or firefighters, police officers, soldiers, ect..) who don’t have the ability to sit down at a computer at exactly 10am on some random day to sign up in a 17minute window before it fills could enter such a gem in our own back yard!

    1. Jason

      Frank- we changed it to the Barkley feature this year- a full day to sign up – and then a weird algorithm to select runners. This seemed to ease the stress of all runners for Barkley fall classic

  6. Jason

    I ran the Yeti 100 last weekend and loved it! Perfect mix of old school and new school ultrarunning. Everyone was so happy! Most the 100s I’ve done have been mountain races and I was worried that I’d get bored by the relative flatness of the course…No way! The section bewteen Damascus and Whitetop is absolutely amazing, and it was cool running through the trail towns and old railroad depots. The volunteer support was excellent, so was the swag! This is a top notch event and I can see why it sells out in minutes.

    Jason Green and the “Yeti Army” represent all the good things in our sport.

  7. Rich Coughlin

    Ran the Yeti last weekend and it was a truly wonderful experience. Great course, support, culture, etc. Jason not only put on a great race, he could not be more clear that he truly cares about every person out there. Along the way, I met some amazing people (fellow racers and pacers) and PRed on top of it. Oh and got my WSER entry as well. I will be back for sure….

  8. Trevor

    very cool to see jason and the yetis get some attention! I am fond of the ‘east coast ultrarunner’ broadcast sometimes he is on even tho i live on the west coast! seems like a great scene they got out there…

  9. Trish

    I am pictured above and ran the event this year! It was such an amazing event. The scenery was spectacular. One assumes that rail trail would be monotonous but it was so so so beautiful! The event was well organized and the finish line hug from the race director was well worth running 21 hours. PLUS what beats a sub 24 buckle with a unicorn, rainbow, Starwars theme!

  10. Amy

    I ran the Dam Yeti 50 in June and was just in awe of the race and the setting. I will always remember that day fondly because of Jason’s finish line hug and excitement when I told him I had just cut 4 hours off my PR. I’m really hopeful I can get into the 100 for 2019 so I can spend even more time on that beautiful trail.

  11. Chad

    The YETI 100 was a such a wonderful surprise!

    I signed up with no knowledge of this race, it just happened to fit the schedule. Coming into packet pick up at the Wolf Hills brewery I was greeted at the door by Jason the RD. He had a big smile and was welcoming every runner as they walked in the door. Immediately after walking past Jason I was handed a great YETI 100 work of art on a skateboard deck canvas and I quickly realized this race was going to be a new experience than many other 100 milers.

    During the race it seemed as if nearly every person I struck up a conversation was apart of the YETI culture. At the start of the race a I was confused about this but by the end it all made sense. I wanted to point out that I saw Jason the RD 3-4 times along the course and was greeted by him at the finish with a huge smile and hug. I was incredibly impressed by his energy, excitement, and how personal he was with every single runner in that race. This race has charm, quirkiness, beauty and the YETI camaraderie.

  12. Chip Trimmier

    I crewed and paced a friend at the 2017 Yeti 100, and the amazing spirit of the race compelled me to register to run it in 2018, even though I had never run farther than 50k. Jason Green’s powerful joy lifts everything around him during this event. I barely made my goal of finishing under 24 hours, and Jason’s hug and buckle presentation at the finish line was one of the best experiences of my life. I really don’t feel like I thanked him or the volunteers enough. They are all completely amazing. The fact that I had moved from Baltimore to the west coast between sign up and race time didn’t make me hesitate for a single second–the Yeti 100 is completely worth the trip. This is a fantastic course with fantastic people. I will cherish my unicorn sub-24 Yeti buckle for the rest of my life!!!

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