Monthly Archives: September 2016

Iron Mountain 50m: take 2

Friday two friends and I, along with The Dude, arrived in Damascus so we could run the Iron Mountain Trail Run; their first 50 miler and my 3rd attempt. We ate a light dinner of roasted sweet potatoes and cauliflower, fish and salad. While sitting around the table eating, D let us know Sunday’s breakfast would be the exact opposite of that dinner. We all agreed that it better be.

Saturday morning we woke up at varying times – H first, The Dude second, D third and me last. We packed our drop bags, filled our packs, the boys donned jackets as it was a chilly morning, The Dude found his cap with ear flaps and off we went to the start line.

My plan this time, which I had tested at Conquer the Cove, was to keep my bladder filled with only 1L of water, to drink Gatorade at the aide stations and to swallow a salt pill at every other aide station. (It worked beautifully.)

We were greeted at the table where we were to pick up our chip timers by a guy using ‘yuns’ instead of ‘y’all’. We giggled.

I put duct tape on the inside of my left shoe in hopes of staving off a blowout. (Come on Altra, fix this problem already!) The boys stood around jittering with nerves. The Dude took a few pictures, kissed me goodbye and said he’d see us again soon at miles 5, 22 and 32.

At exactly 0700 the race began.

We ran on the Creeper Trail for the first 5 miles then took a sharp left turn, ran across a road, then began the run/walk up Iron Mountain where we ran the ridge line. It was here, before the aide station at mile 10, that a tendon on the inside of my right knee began talking to me. Not whispering; it was the beginning of a long and extensive conversation. The boys caught up to me here, on a climb. I eventually passed on a downhill, letting them know about my knee as I egged them on.

My knee decided for me that climbing would have to be slow and steady, no pushing. This cost me time, yet I knew pushing would be detrimental to my ability to finish healthy.

For almost the entire five miles between checkpoints I followed a young lady who had run IMTR twice before and had met her husband on an Iron Mountain training run. Her husband had run some of the course the day before. She was going a bit slower than was comfortable for my body yet at the same time I was trying to protect my knee. I did eventually pass her only to have her pass me again later when I had to stop for a potty break.

At the aide station at mile 15, the boys caught up to me again. As they left, D said I’d catch them on the downhill anyway. I am pretty damn good at getting downhill fast, the strength training I do 4-5 days a week has had a tremendous impact on my ability to climb and descend with ease.

Leaving that aide station, I began the two mile walk up with a cup of Gatorade in one hand and a cluster of watermelon cubes in the other. A fellow runner picked up a cup that had been discarded on the side of the road then placed both on the hood of the car nearby. I chose to carry mine.

We were on our way to the next checkpoint at mile 22, where I knew The Dude would be waiting for us. I ran over and around those two mountains with similar names, the only one I can remember is Double Top. I had difficulty breathing here and recall having the same issue last year. I’m not sure why, the elevation isn’t any more significant than Iron Mountain or other summits I’ve experienced. When I started to descend, the breathing got better so off I went, catching up to those who had passed me earlier. One guy said it looked like I had fresh legs, I laughed.

Reaching mile 22, The Dude said I had just missed the boys and I told him I was going to need to drop when I got back. Runners got to visit this aide station twice, before and after a 10 mile loop that took us around Mount Rogers complete with a three mile climb from mile 29 to 32.

Mount Rogers is the highest point in Virginia and is not a bald summit, in case anyone is curious.

I caught up to the boys as we made the trip down to the checkpoint at mile 29. I said, “hahaha,” as I passed H, who was peeing off to the side. I walked with H for a bit, he was feeling pretty good. I told him about my knee, how I was going to ask The Dude to talk me out of continuing and that every time I started running, the first mile or two were painful and causing me to limp. But by the fourth the pain is down to at least a 2! We both agreed that was not good and I do have Masochist as my Plan B. Or maybe it’s C.

As we reached mile 29, we were greeted by a friendly border collie and people wearing some sort of costume. The boys snarfed on pizza and I ate more watermelon, stashed grapes in my front pocket and grabbed a banana. I was ready to get moving and they were still eating. D and I set off for the long climb up, his spider legs carrying him faster than my short injured ones.

I caught sight of D again as I turned to head almost straight up the mountain, making friends with two ladies who had caught up to me. D said she was so loud she must have been talking to the whole forest.

I got back to The Dude and sat down in one of the chairs he had set up. D was already there changing his socks. When H got there soon after, we convinced him to do the same thing. As I sat, my knee throbbed and my left foot screamed. Yep, stopping was definitely the right decision. Another 18 miles with still more climbing and rocky descents could mean permanent damage. The risk was far too great; I love running way too much to take myself out of it long term or forever.

So I watched D and H leave, heading to the next aide station, five miles away. It was a steady climb, an easy run/walk combination would get them through it fast. I changed into dry clothes. I sat and watched as other runners came in, one guy getting there at the cutoff with another three runners not so lucky. The lady took off with the sweeper to meet up with her crew; the older gentleman was thankful to be pulled because he was done running for the day; the younger guy was disappointed yet totally cool with being pulled because, as he said, “Hey, I’m still in ultra territory!”

And then it was time to pack up and head back to the start. The Dude and I were joined by the older gentleman who I discovered had run Masochist last year. We bade the guy well upon our return, The Dude and I got something to eat (the finish line food here is always on point), then relaxed as we awaited the boys’ finish.

He convinced me to take a dip in the river, nature’s ice bath. A crayfish kept me company.

When the clock showed 11:15, we began watching for D and H. At 11:38, D crossed. At 11:45, H crossed. The very different reactions upon their finish was entertaining. We immediately launched into action, helping them take off their packs, getting their dry clothes, sending them to the river, getting them something to eat and making sure they didn’t fall over.

And then we went back to the house, met up with my sista from another mista N, showered, and ate a lot of pizza stuffs.


I am only mildly disappointed about a second DNF. I was very confident in my ability to complete this race. I remained positive the entire time.

I loved being in the woods by myself taking in the sights around me, something I didn’t do much of last year.

I decided early on to enjoy the beautiful day outside in the woods and get to mile 32 because it may not be official, but it’s still an ultra! As many said, we couldn’t have asked for better weather, it was absolutely perfect.

I really enjoyed being at the finish line for the boys to welcome them back. Having friends ready to help you celebrate your big accomplishment is what runner love is all about in my opinion.

I remember feeling surrounded by love, acceptance, peace and so much support. Shit happens, this new booboo was out of my control, there was nothing I could do about it but accept the inevitability of the outcome.

I did declare that, for dinner, I was still eating a lot of pizza and drinking a beer. Maybe two.

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Posted by on September 6, 2016 in 50 miles


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I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like to run the same race twice. Not because the races have been horrible; there are so many others why contain myself to the same destinations multiple times? Why not instead go see what the rest of the world has to offer, expand my horizons and all those other clichés. 

So about six months ago I decided to run the Iron Mountain Trail Run again. It’s the Saturday in Labor Day weekend, also my birthday weekend, in a cute town of Damascus that just happens to also be the headquarters for the entire Appalachian Trail while also being base camp for Mount Rogers and a thoroughfare for the Creeper Trail. 

Y’all, there is not a shortage of outdoor life in Damascus.

In May I began training for this adventure. I’ve worked in a lot more core exercises, fast twitching, climbing of mountains while discovering new places such as Crozet and new people like the Charlottesville Area Trailrunners. Glorious outings in my happiest places and the weather always seemed to cooperate.

But I sometimes hate running, too. And this time around I’ve had two setbacks. 

Once I stopped running for 10 days when the lower hamstring pull in my right leg went from a whisper to a constant pulling. I stopped running on the trails for a bit to let it calm down but ended up needing to stop all exercise for an entire 10 days. That was tough and I may have gone a little bit nuts.

Another was a perfect storm of booboos in my left leg that finally pushed me into taking another 10 days off. 

If you’ve ever fallen while trying to do box jumps then you understand the ways you can fuck up your shins. It’s been a month and I can now finally feel my shin again. 

Then I fell slightly while hiking up North Mountain and stretched the outside tendons on the left ankle a little too much. 

And then I discovered the hard way what happens when you do a lot of mountain climbing yet forget to roll or stretch your calves – ever. A beautiful bruise formed on the inside of my left foot, also on the day I climbed North Mountain. This bruise was the result of tight calves pulling one way and a tight arch pulling the other way and the muscles in between caught in a game of tug o’war.

Yet despite all this, including the oppressive heat wave that descended this summer complete with cicadas getting their chirp on before the sun rose each day, I am feeling much more confident and capable than I did at this same time last year. Or even before Bel Monte. My head is in a great place. I know how strong my body is right now. I know I have been training specifically for this goal. I have switched my eating habits to feed the performance I seek. 

Hell, yesterday I signed up for my third 50m, another short run two months after this one. Mountain Masochist.

It’s kinda funny that some friends are running this race, too. I haven’t offered to keep them company throughout because I know when I’m in go mode, I’m an asshole. Like with Conquer the Cove, I know what I’m capable of so I plan to go get that end for myself. 

(This year The Dude will be with me and he’s excited about making an entrance into the ultra life via aide station volunteer and supportive boyfriend. He’s also a trail runner so we laugh at how often we say aide station instead of SAG or water stop when chatting with our road friends. On Saturday he hopes to see me three different times including the halfway point which is kinda nice so I can get my change of shoes, socks and maybe shirt before the drop at mile 37.)

As I lay here in bed on the Thursday night before we leave to drive the 5 hours to the best mountain town in Virginia, I feel…Content. Happiness. Love. Support. Confidence. Strength. Badass. 

I was made for the ultra life, I love it here.

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Posted by on September 1, 2016 in Uncategorized