Time: 4:22:20 (10:00min/mile)
Place: 19th of 244
It all began with an idea to run the Dopey Challenge in Disney World. Then my family caught wind of me going to Disney without them. So, instead I registered for the Black Mountain Marathon (and will be heading to Disney World over spring break which in and of itself will be an endurance challenge like no other).
This race confirmed that I have gotten my training runs down into a good mixture of trails and hills, tempos and mileage. I managed to hit 800 miles training, with 215 miles in one month, plus two weeks at 60 miles. Plus I actually enjoyed the variety of training runs I did–16 miles of cul-de-sac chaos while never leaving the neighborhood; 22miles sub 8s; The Incline in Manitou Springs; 4x Repeat of Crowder’s Tower Trail; a quarter mile trail loop near our pool.
One little adjustment in my training log. Instead of writing “Off” for the days I did not run, I have begun to write “Rest.” It seems inconsequential but it is based on Steve Magness’ work in Peak Performance that STRESS+REST=GROWTH. Therefore, my “rest” days are not days off, but just as important as the run days.
However, I did discover one area of weakness during the race and realized after speaking with one of the podium finishers I will need to focus on that going forward: Technical Down Hills.
The most daunting part of the race was the weather report leading up to it. This is where I wished I had signed up for the Dopey Challenge in Florida.
I am grateful that my family allows me to pursue these foolish adventures. And as I prepped to head up the mountain they had given me a card which perfectly described their expectations for the race and personalities.
Jack had encouraged me that “I hope you come in the top fifty. Do the best you can and keep going.” (I figured that was a reasonable and well thought out goal). James, having seen that encouragement upped his hopes that “I hope you get in top 35.” While Thomas said, “Go win a race for your amazing son.” Ellie, on the other hand, quoted 1 Corinthians 9:24-27.
The Race Begins
As we entered Montreat, I overhead a couple point longingly at a trail beside the hard asphalt we were trekking up as they said, “Why don’t they have us running down on that? I thought this was gonna be a trail race. Well, we can come back and run that tomorrow.” I realized at that moment I was amongst my tribe–who would already be routing their next run while running this beast of a challenge. The goodness for them was that trail was our final stretch down the mountain.
Also, the other line that I would frequently hear people say in an apologetic tone is “Yeah, I am just running the marathon.” Probably nowhere else do people apologize for just running a marathon.
Having been to Montreat a few times, I new the turn by the lake was gonna lend itself to a steep climb up to the trailhead. Thankfully I was mentally and physically prepared for it. This was my first goal–to run that stretch–which gave me an advantage of getting some distance from the pack by the time we hit the trail. My concern was that I may have red-lined too early in the race (mile 3). Thankfully the Rainbow Trail leveled out and I was able to regather.
From that point forward we ran on single track and an old trestle road. For the next few hours, I pushed forward. Interestingly, I had very little thoughts as I just locked in and kept going.
I do recall passing a few folks and ending up in the lead as we were navigating the single track trail. Not wanting to mislead them, I hugged tight with the orange markers, but they had me climb a little embankment and get stuck on a 5 foot ledge while they just laughed and trudged through the mud below.
Later, a fellow runner pointed to a side trail saying, “That’s the best view on this course.” But on a day like today, that meant you could stare straight into a cloud.
While foggy and wet, the cold never really got the better of me. There were times when I was running through streams of water, and at first I tried to avoid getting my socks wet. Then I recalled the words of Jocko Willink, “You only get wet once.” So by the end of it, I was splashing through water puddles not too concerned about blisters.
The course was well-marked and perfectly supported with about a 4 mile gap between each aid station. As I came up to the second aid station, I noticed the guys were cooking up some egg mash and I was half tempted to squeeze out my socks and join them by the propane heater.
As I climbed near the turn around point, I was starting to get worried because I had figured the leaders should have met me coming back down. This eventually led to a fun game of counting the number coming back at me…which surprised me that at the turn around I was in 14th place.
Once again, I mistakenly thought that the downhill portion would just be icing on the cake. The technical rocks on the way down were frustrating. Four runners bounded past me like mountain goats hopping without stopping. But I trudged along and by the end I returned to the Sourwood Gap aid station. From there it was a steep mile and half descent down a trail. Thankfully at this point I released all the tension built up from trying to hold back on the decent and allowed gravity to take over. This helped push me through the mile 21 wall as I pounded down the slope. Though it ended up killing my knees and quads, it gave me a burst of confidence as I caught another runner.
The final three miles were on those trails we had longingly eyed on the way up. This time, though, the trail lacked any of its allure. A few bridges and steps on the trail caused my legs to cramp up. And I knew it was just time to power home.
With one mile to go, I got passed by the Challenger (40 mile) leader. He sprinted ahead and probably got a tenth of a mile in front of me and another marathoner, before I noticed that he had missed the final turn. I tried to yell and get his attention, but he was too fast and far away. Though I felt bad that his 40 miler had turned into 42 miles, it did allow me to complete my marathon before the first challenger arrived.
When I got to the lake, and realized they were having us loop around the lake, I swore the lake tripled in distance. Never had I seen so much open water. It was as if I was standing at the shores of Lake Eerie and being told to run around it.
In the end, I hit the finish line. Having never looked at my watch, nor having any clue what my pace had been, I was pleased to see a 4:22:20 appear as I entered the tent.
The final obstacle was figuring out how to climb the flight of stairs to the food and recovery room. Seriously, this was the last cruel moment of the race when I realized I had to climb these stairs. But the soup and coffee and awesome pullover were well worth the effort.
- 10min/miles (to the second)
- Finish before the first Challenger
- Under 4:30 time
- Top 10%: Finished 19th out of 229