I am a runner who is lucky to get in a total of 20 miles in per week. I have always said that running a marathon is pretty dumb and these ultra people are just insane.
A few months ago a few running buddies told me about this race up in Black Mountain, NC called the Black Mountain Monster. The way they presented it was that it is going to be a cool festival with camping and some running. It is a 5K (3.1) trail course and you can run as much or as few laps as you want. They all signed up under the 24 hour time limit. I thought I would listen to some live music they provided, hang out and drink some beers around the campsite and get a little running in, so I signed up and join them for the 24 hours. Once the race got closer there was a discussion with my friend Daniel and we came to the conclusion that I could get in a 50k which equates to 10 laps with a total of 31 miles. That seemed like a reasonable goal to hit within the 24 hour time frame.
Race day is now here. There is something that happens once you put that race bib on…… Everything changes. I started out at a nice slow pace, ran a 10k then decided to walk a lap with my buddy Tim who was recovering from a broken leg during the winter. After the walking lap, I made the mistake of looking at the result board which was updated in real time and saw I was in 46th place. I said oh hell no and took off for another lap. After two more laps, I was down to 24th place. At lap 7, which is mile 21, I saw Amy just leaving to walk a lap. After running three hard laps I went to catch up with her and walk a lap. This lap was the worst. My legs tightened up, my right Achilles’ tendon flared up and I was hurting. Walking very slow I thought I would never make it back. Then I started thinking that I am only at mile 21 and I would never make mile 31 because I was hurting way too much. Finally making it back to the start finish line demoralized I thought I would lay down, take a Soul (natural anti inflammatory like aspirin), get some food, and elevate the legs. After 30 minutes the legs felt a little better but the Achilles still hurt. I saw on Facebook about people rubbing this Soul stuff on their skin where there was pain and supposedly it would help the pain and healing process. Being a skeptic I thought yea right when I saw that. Now I am at the point where I am going to try anything. So I gave it shot and re elevated my legs for another 15 minutes. Low and behold it felt better.
Kate and John just came in finishing their 50k’s under the six hour time limit. Kate scored first place. This gave me the motivation to go for another lap.
On my 8th lap I took it easy being aware of how the Achilles was feeling. That is one tendon I didn’t want to mess with because rupturing it would put me out of commission for quite awhile. I didn’t feel it at all. So I went out for lap 9 back at my normal pace and it felt great. I decided to not press my luck and took another 30 minute break. The next lap was lap 10 which is the 50K mark and it was amazing. It felt like I had a fresh new set of legs. Having this second wind I took off for lap 11. Now I am getting into a groove. Run 10k then take 20-30min break and repeat. I decided to savor the moment check out the beautiful surroundings that nature has provided and was very gracious of nature’s presence and admired her beauty from the big hemlock trees to the ferns on the ground with the bushes, vines, and weeds. This seemed to feed me as I kept placing one foot in front of the other moving down the trail. I had the 100K mark in the back of my head but I decided to listen to the body and go however long it dictated.
I totally love the night runs. Being out in the trail in the middle of the woods alone was a great experience. You definitely become alive and more aware of your surroundings. The fields at night were lit up by the full moon and I could turn my head lamp off and let the moonlight guide me though the night.
Now there are only three laps to go for the 100k mark. I tried to stick to my routine that was working so well and take a break. I tried to lay down, elevate the legs, and take a nap. I could not sleep and got super cold. I headed to the car to lay down and still could not rest. I got up and decided to walk a lap to stay warm. It was still dark and cold so I walked one more lap which was number 19. At the end of lap 19 the sun was rising and I had about 4 hours left to complete one more lap for the 100K (62 miles). Being sore and tired, I decided to try and sleep a little bit so I set the alarm, crawled into the hammock and dosed off for an hour.
The alarm went off at 7:30am and I saw a few of the Charlotte runners up and about. I ran into Tin and he asked how many laps have I done? I said 19….. He said well what are you waiting for? I laced up the shoes one more time and took off down the trail. This lap felt great, legs were strong, and holding a good pace. By this time most people left on the trail were walking and I was getting a lot of encouragement running at a decent pace as I passed by. I came in to several cheers crossed the finish line and 100k is in the books. I felt enlightened and strong but instead of keep going I decided I was done.
Tin told me to go one more. I resisted at first but since I didn’t get to party the previous night I decided to take a victory lap to put the icing on the cake. Plus it would be a shame to not have any beer during the whole race. So I grabbed two beers….. One repressing my first 50k and the other represting my first 100k. I popped the 50k beer and headed to the trailhead. Once I got past the greenway to the dirt single track I thought that since I pounded these trails enough the past 20 hours so I took off my shoes and socks to show respect to mother earth and reconnect with her. Even though I saw these same trails the past 19 times it seemed different this time. You would think that I would be ready to get off these trails and out of here but it was quite the opposite. I could not believe that this was my last lap and that I was going to miss the trail. I climbed the bitchy hill, stopped at the top to look back to take it in and raised a beer in its honor. I thanked the ferns as I passed them. My bare feet appreciated the soft moist ground under them and I became more emotional after passing each mile marker knowing this party was coming to an end. Other racers were coming by seeing the bare feet and beer and it put a big smile on their face so I cheers them also. The last segment was through wide open fields and I felt the warmth of the sun and it hit my face. I passed mile three with a cheers, crossed the wooden bridge, turned right into tent city and walked to the finish. Other racers, the Charlotte runners, and Amy started applauding, yelling, and cheering me on. This was my slowest lap but the best lap in my ever. Knowing the struggles I went though to get here I had mix of emotions. This was it. I was holding back tears of sadness that it was over while at the same time smiling and filled with joy knowing that this was a great accomplishment. Tim ran up and we had one last cheers right before crossing the finish line and then it was over. What a fantastic experience and guess what?
I AM ONE OF THOSE INSANE ULTRA MARATHONERS!!!!!!!!