On Saturday June 2nd, the Black Mountain Monster 12hr (day) was my 1st “timed event”. I came into this event well trained, better than I ever had, and well rested, having not raced since early January. Disappointed after 2 poor ultras in 3 weeks, I was burned out and needed a break. Didn’t intend it to be that long...I was aching to race these last few months, but nothing turned up. Lucky for me I guess.
I woke up race day at 5am, packed the car, and headed up to Montreat College in Black Mountain, NC. Beautiful drive and I was enjoying the mountains on the way up. Before 8am, I was parked in the field next to the start (at the ropes course) and unloaded my gear, then went and parked my car. My friends really came thru for me in terms of gear as I was able to borrow a large cooler, a 2’x5’ table, and a 10’x10’ canopy (seemed bigger!). I had been packing for 3-4 days and brought everything I thought I could possibly need. After setting up – I put up my feet, kicked back, and relaxed while fueling up for the next hour. Just before the start, I got everything ready, said hello to Charles & Psyche (the only ones I knew there) and lined up.
At 10am – the 12hr solo, 24hr solo and all the individuals on teams got started. The 5k loop was excellent – such a variety of terrain and environments – you were not running the same type trail for more than ¾ of a mile at a time. We started off down the grassy area with a quick left turning into a straightaway/service road. Started at a comfortable pace (hoping for 10min/mi) as I chatted with C&P. Another turn and we were going up the first (of three?) major climb. I easily ran this the first 4-5 laps. A sharp right turn and we were in the open heading for a small patch of forest and single track as everyone started to spread out. Just past the Challenge Tower was a nice downhill zigzagging that allowed for wide-open strides. It didn’t last as we came out thru a groomed trail that emptied us onto grass beside the ball fields. A quick turnaround and we were on the Oak Trail – a paved section. Passing the 1 mile marker at 10min (right on pace!) on a slight downhill, this was a good place to cruise. There was one (short) super-steep section. Not up, but downhill. Had to brake the whole way before letting my momentum carry me forward. We turned back into woods on a narrow singletrack trail with a little up-and-down. Very fun, but short lived.
Back onto a grassy path the led to the water stop/turnaround. When I did eventually use this – I accidentally filled up with Gatorade instead of water – but it worked out as I refilled it for about 10 laps. Back into the woods on a lush section (with one serious section of roots and another uphill) before kicking us out with a sharp left into an open area. This worn grass slowly climbed up toward a turnaround at a port-o-john. Passed the 2 mile marker thru here (right at 20 min). Wasn't a big fan of this section with the gentle climb and lots of sunshine (at the moment anyway). I eventually found my peace with it as I would settle into one of the dirt "lanes".
Another corner, another wide trail w/grass beside some train tracks. Was runnable up to a point, then the "hill" section had most people walking before another fun singletrack section with twists and turns and roots. Before you were ready to leave it - more fields that wound it's way back toward the start/finish. Some of this section was ok, some was not. To much sun (in the morning anyway) and a gradual uphill that shouldn't have been too difficult, but was always hard to get motivated for.
Finally - one last little downhill led into a wooded section for just a minute before crossing a little bridge and coming into tent city, going around the edge of the camping field and heading back to the start/finish straightaway (and my personal Aid Station).
This course made for a wonderful adventure - it never got boring and there were some sections to really look forward too, and you didn't have to wait that long for them to appear.
I would hit my lap time every time I came to my aid, and only twice did I spend significant time there to warrant an extra "lap" count. There were three breaks of 4-7 minutes, but only 2 ended up with their own "lap". So - 1st loop was 30 minutes. Right on target! (My full times/loop are below)
Didn't bother stopping - the only time I kept going. Water was good, so no need. I was still feeling very comfortable thru the first 4 loops. Each one under 31minutes, including grabbing some boiled potatoes, M&M's, potato chips and refilling/exchanging my water bottle every loop. I think about the 5th loop I went to refill my amphipod at the mid-way point and accidentally ended up with lemon-lime Gatorade instead of water. Why not? I stayed with that for about the next 10 loops or so, refilling it just about every time i passed it.
Loops 5-7 (miles 12.4-21.7) I was slowing down, walking some sections I hadn't before. One quick pit stop at a port-o-john included, and these three laps were 32-34 minutes each. I'd say I spent most of the time by myself...there were other runners here and there, but only 4-5 times did I spend any significant time really with someone for a mile or two at a time.
At some point - I grabbed a bandanna out of my ice chest and put it over my head, under my hat. It stayed there until the last 2 laps I think. I'd dump water over my head every loop to cool me down (it never really got uncomfortable-hot), and also served to protect my neck from the sun. I lathered up my arms, legs a few times...
So I came thru 7 loops (21.7 miles) in 3:41. I had put some lap estimates down a day or two before the race, and I was 30 seconds off at this point!
Loop 8 I started to feel it in my abs. I always tell myself to do more core/ab work, but I never listen. I was telling myself again, and hoping I'd listen before my next ultra. I also started to feel my thighs. Not exactly bad or sore, but just 'used'. Very manageable. Spent a little time with Psyche on loop 9, a little worn but excited to be close to a 50k. I was telling myself I could take a little breather then. 8 and 9 was a bit of a down section. 37 & 39 minutes. Picked it back up to finish out a 50k with a 36min loop. 50k time: 5:34:20. I was thrilled as that was 45minutes off my PR. Whoa - was Not expecting that at all. (Sure I had down 5:30m, but it hadn't really hit me what time that actually was when I was putting it down).
I texted my wife, took a photo of the clock, refilled/snacked and set off again after a 5 minute "break". Honestly, it's fuzzy, but I am pretty sure after this next loop (#11, to 34.1miles), I changed socks & shoes and got my (new) ipod shuffle out. Or was it after the 50k? Anyway, all I know is loop 11 was run in ~35 minutes. Another 5 min break and then another 35 min loop. That must have been the shoes/ipod. My feet were a bit on the sore side, so I thought I needed a pick-me-up. Off came the Asics 2140 road shoes (size 11.5), yes I am a few models behind, and my Balega socks and on went some Smartwool socks and a brand new pair of Brooks Adrenaline ASR 8's (size 12). I has purchased them on Wednesday. Did not break them in at all. I had decided I would Not wear my orthotics in them though...just seemed that it had enough support. They did feel lighter and did give me a lift, as did my ipod. I had testing that out this week too as I hadn't run with music in a few years. Was a nice change for a bit to take my mind off of...well, everything.
With another lull in motivation after those two quick laps, I set my sights on my distance record, 40.3 miles, or 13 loops. I had run 40 (not certified, but still, it's what I use) once before, almost exactly one year ago. Hmmm, my 1st ultra was only 2 years ago (exactly).
40.3 miles in 7:42:27 (just under a 41min loop, break included). Another proud text to my wife and brother - bested my 40mi PR by 48 minutes. Now I could relax a bit and get rested a bit. I grabbed my camera and took it out on the course to snap some pictures. Came across Psyche again, she pulled me thru some sections (again); got passed by one of the pink-tutu girls. Took my time and got thru it in 48, that included a ~7min break.
Now I had completed 14 loops. 43.4miles in 8:30. It was 6:30pm. The sun moving all day made some sections very different. The ones in the sun earlier, I later had less of a reason to dislike. But I did anyway. 3 and a half hours for 3 more loops....I could do this. I had lots of conflicting thoughts over the next hour or 2. Was I really going to stop at 52.7 miles, or try for another lap (or 2)?
Pizza arrived, so I grabbed two slices and walked out for loop 15. Took me a mile to eat it, then back to running on the Oak Trail and I eventually caught up with the "I 'heart' sweat" girl. We spent much of that lap together, walking and running. It helped me to have another "easy" 46min loop. I took another pee break at the end of the loop (had to wait, but it was worth it).
Something got me going those last two laps...I felt GOOD! I passed Charles, got lapped by Anne Lunblad again (nice to chat with such an elite runner, even if only for a few words) and was running well. Definitely ran more, even some more of the uphills. The realization of actually running 50+ miles must have hit me. I ran that loop in 40min (included a 1 min break for refills) and had one more loop to go!! Psyche was there looking for Charles and she headed back to find him. I kept cruising...I knew I had crossed the 50 mile barrier at approximately 10 hours (I'm calling it 10:00 even), but I wanted to finish strong; little did I know how strong. Once I hit that little downhill, then thru the last section of woods, to the bridge, I took off in a sprint. I knew this was my last loop, my 52.7 mile goal accomplished and I was so excited. I flew by Charles and Psyche and took that last turn up towards the finish! Completed my run in 10:38:10 (another 40 min loop - about the same as miles ~25-28). I must have had the biggest smile on my face! Sent a quick text and walked back to talk to C&P. They were so excited for me and they really did help me on and off throughout the day. Even when they were struggling with their own issues, they never failed to encourage me. I knew they'd been in my shoes before, and had persevered with their own amazing events (FHT, 100milers, Barkley loops...on and on, they amaze and inspire me).
I made the right call ending when I did, feeling as good as I did. It was getting dark quickly and I would have had to use my headlamp going back out again. The course was being set up the previous 2 laps with glow sticks, but once I realized my headlamp was mostly useless, the glowsticks would not have helped much. It was tempting to go further just to place a bit higher among the runners, but I didn't care that much. I made my goal, left room for improvement (distance-wise), and still has me thinking I might have been able to squeeze in another two 41 minute loops before the 12hour cutoff.
Once I stopped...I got a quick chill and put on a long sleeve shirt and my running jacket. Now it was clean up time...get car, pack up canopy (Thank you Natalie at Blissful Massage for letting me use this, as well as the table - it was perfect!!) and everything else. Took about an hour for all that and I was back on the road home...one satisfied runner!
|Charles, Psyche, and Guz (Before)|
|My personal Aid Station|
|Start/Finish chute. My AS is white canopy, just behind elite ultrarunner Annette Bednosky|
|Food/Aid - but Not one Gu or borwnie during the run.|
|Water, Gatorade, ice and bandanna's|
|Finished 52.7mi in 10:38:10|
Course pictures: (more to come)
|Loop||Miles||Actual Time||per lap|
|Loop 10||6hr goal=31||5:34:20||36:11:00|
|part of loop 14||~7:00:00|
(See this link for a wonderful course recap, course video, and a race report from a 24hr runner!)