Monday, September 3, 2012

Iron Mountain 50 miler

Iron Mountain 50 miler - September 1st 2012 - 7 am start (12 hr cut off)

August 31st Harry, myself and Caroline Williams set off on a long drive down to Damascus VA – a 6 hour drive.  It’s a scenic drive after you get out of town and closer to Shenandoah and the Blue Ridge mountains. I was very excited for my second 50 miler – but my first mountainous 50 miler! I knew this would be a great challenge.  The cut off is 12 hrs so I knew I needed to keep a 4 min/mile pace to finish.  That doesn’t sound so bad right? 

I had done my homework and watched a video of the trail race 3 times before going out there. It consists of some rocky single track and dirt roads where you can pick it up and make up some time. So that was my plan, I typically run the downs, flats and power walk uphills J

After picking up our bib, we retired to the lovely Super 8 in Abingdon and had Pizza at Luna.  I actually didn’t sleep too bad, maybe got in 5hrs.  We hovered around the lounge and met some other runners heading out there.

We arrived in good time and only waited some 15/20 mins before we were headed up the Virginia Creeper.  It was good to see a couple of familiar faces at the start including Dr David Horton, he always adds an element off challenge to the air J

 We set off up a lovely wide gravel trail for 5 miles along a rocky river with some little cliffs and Rhododendrons, I chatted with Caroline a short while, she is a great fun gal, so much energy and love for people J

This was a great stretch to make up time (although I don’t like going out fast).. someone let me know we were running a 10:30 – 11 m/m pace. Weeeeee! I was flying along, but I also know that means I could struggle later on in the race, but I focused on staying calm, relaxing my breathing, posture and staying at a comfortable pace.

 After mile 5 there was a nice little climb up to a ridge. It was a humid morning and I think we all started to feel the sweat here...
After popping up on the ridge I started to add some running and was flying down the trails here having so much fun.. Maybe I let myself go too much.  I was impatient with the runners slowing me up and had to ask to be let by.. I am usually nice and relaxed but this race, the warnings of it being gnarly and lots of climbs, extremely dangerous in sections.. got me feeling on edge. 

I arrived at mile 9 aid station then it was off onto a section on the ridge that was up and down, up and down, Rocky but runnable. I tripped myself a couple of times here and saw a person in front of my take a tumble too. Then after a gnarly beaten trail down to aid station 16 (and first drop bag) I saw Dr Horton again who told me I was 'moving good' :) I got all excited and encouraged.  I filled up my bottles again and was off to aid station 22.

This next section was just like Promise Land 50K with the wide grassy roads going over little creeks.. quite a bit of climbing here but some nice runnable sections of rolling down hill... very enjoyable and still I was making good time - 1/2 hr ahead of aid station cut offs... that is a comfortable amount of time for me but I know a problem would cost me dearly if I got lost or something.  So I make sure I see the ribbons marking the trails especially at any intersections.  They do a great job marking this trail.  It was still cloudy, humidity was dropping, it was warm but comfortable. Life is feeling so great right here :) I also got to see some horses and a couple of very friendly boxers.

And so it wasn't long till I popped out at mile 22 feeling great

I am still feeling great and still 1/2 hr ahead of cut offs :) Ate some oranges here and potatoes, filled my bottles and off I went.
We were now on a pounding downhill dirt road section, flying along. Fun times. Passing some horses who I thought were going to kick me. I was courteous and asked if it was ok for me to pass. Phew,.. made it past the horses :P

Then we hit a sharp left turn and onto some single track trail which was super fun, a small creek crossing and nice runnable single track.... a slight grade going up so I just decided to walk a bit here and enjoy my surroundings. Life is good.

I was enjoying this section so much.. I wish it lasted longer.  I started to run now and was going downhill. The trail popped out on a dirt road and it was all downhill to mile 29 aid station which seemed like the longest stretch. Now I start to feel the trips, rocks and all the braking I had done earlier in my now probably swollen tendons. Things were starting to get sore around the sides of the knees.  But still I ran and pounded all the way to 29... I kept hoping it was around the next corner then the next.  You know what happens when you think like that? It makes it feel even longer!  So here I am arriving happy to be arriving at Mile 29 finally.

Look at that descent... from 20 to 29!! oy!

I was thrilled to be at mile 29 still about a 1/2 hr ahead of cut off.  I had done my homework and knew I was now in for a good walking stretch and climb up the mountain to the highest point of the course.  After leaving the wonderful volunteers who were sympathetic to my whining and told me I would get a nice chance to stretch out on the climb. I knew that would feel good, they handed my a tasty ice cold popiscle which hit the spot and then I began my climb feeling reenergized after meeting such nice, caring people.

This section was really quite memeorable for me.  My knees were feeling good getting stretched out with a nice power walk uphill.  It is singletrack here.. runnable at first but steeper later on. But I decided my pace was good and decided to walk this whole 3 mile climb to the next aid and give my knees a break.  You are also walking along the edge of a hill here and can look down to Rowland creek which was flowing good, a peaceful and enjoyable place to be in this race :) 

A few creek crossings here which are so refreshing. I dunked in my scarf and cooled myself off.   I see some other people were doing the same thing  v

With wet shoes and socks I kept climbing and then to my amazment a huge falls called Rowland Creek Falls came into site. Amazing !!! That is the first picture at the top ^

I passed a couple of people here and gave them some encouragement that we were almost at the top. Though I wasn't sure myself - haha. 

We got another short runnable road then right into aid station 32 (the same one as 22 - I had know done the loop section).
I refuled a bit and after thanking the wonderful volunteers I was off again.  Not long till my drop bag at mile 37 were my dry shoes and socks were waiting for me.

I was able to start running again on a nice downhill dirt road section and then some single track before we got to 37.  I was hurting a bit more now and my other knee was starting to bother me too - same location. Oy.  I needed to be extra careful on footing and walk down anything too steep.  But now even that started to hurt.  I wasn't sure If I was going to finish this race.  I had decided to run in my Montrail Bajadas which I like because they are light and I can manover good around rocks in but I don't think they are as well cushioned for all that downhill pounding - which was probably causing my soreness.  So I looked forward to my other shoes I had ran in alot and knew they had nice cushioning and a firmer rock plate. 
SO ... here's how I look at this point.... I am just coming downhill on the singletrack into the mile 37 (and change of shoes) aid station ...


I got my dry socks on (eventually) and shoes.. thanked the wonderful volunteers who bring your drop bag to you.  I knew what I was in for now.. I was basically retracing my steps back to the start (except for one final steep section into town that they say is dangerous.. I was worried how my knees would do there and decided to try and give myself extra time for that decent if I could get there early enough).  I had arrived at mile 37 around 3:20 ish and left after about 5 or 6 mins. So I was now only 20 mins ahead of cut off... ahhh  but I hope my shoes would serve me well and make up some time.

A nice runnable section for a mile and my shoes felt like they were helping :)

So back on the ridge up, down, up, down. rock. skip. jump.... ohhh ouch the downhills still hurt.  I grimaced and swore now, clenched my teeth and foucused on getting to the next aid station at mile 43.  I had just about an hour and a half to get there, I needed to keep moving fast. No time for rests.  I noticed some girl was behind me and kept focus on my competition in trying to stay ahead of her (nothing like some motivation!!) hehe

This seemed like the longest stretch... maybe it had something to do with me not being able to count . I had it in my head that this was a 5 mile section to the next aid. when it is 6. hehe. I almost cryed when I finally arrived at 43 with now only 15 mins to spare.  The aid station told me I needed to get going! Love it... So i grabbed some fluids a bit to eat and off I went...   This is the last main aid so I knew I was going for the finish now but it was gonna hurt :P

Never has 7 miles seemed so long (oh good I can count)
I arrived at a sign that said 6 miles to Damascus... I had 1 hr 30 to do it! oh *&%$#*  This was gonna be tight... I hoped the dangerous part wouldn't be so bad.  I caught up to a couple of guys and told them my concern about making it in time. They seemed relaxed about it, but I didn't know how badly they wanted it. I think I striked up some concern with the one guy coz then he took off! haha.  I too asked to pass and went for a run down a lovely winding down hill section.  Gradually it got steeper and a little rough but it didn't last so long.  Now I had about an hour to do 2 or 3 miles. Just keep it going I was golden.  Here I met Stephanie Wilson... A super Ultra girl would loves the trails and had done this before, she let me know we were almost to the road. 
I shreiked out load like an eagle or something when I saw that road just round the corner. She was like 'really?' and I was like ' YES!'
We were both whooping in delight and singing back into town :)   Glad I saw some people running in front of me coz I had no idea which way to the finish line thru this tiny town.  Steph went ahead and I ran walked a little.. basking in the glory of the last stretch. Over the bridge then thru the field. Where a huge smile spread across my face! 
Then I saw my wonderful supportive husband right in front of me cheering me on. What a great day!

Some one said to me later.. which sums it up...

"Knowing what we endure during these races and the pain that we push through, makes it so much more satisfying when we cross the finish line! Mental toughness is a must! Way to go, Diane!!! :)" Thanks Karna!

Thank you to everyone out there being so supportive and so caring to us stinky, kranky ultra runners....
I enjoyed making new friends out there and look forward to seeing you all again! 

more fun times on the trails are definitly coming my way.

Finish time: 11:41:50




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