Warning: the following words and images will allow you to vicariously see the world with the eyes of Sultan. Read at your own risk. The name Sultan has many meanings, but derives from the peak Sultan Mountain in Silverton, CO!

Monday, March 02, 2009

Splish Splash I Was Taking A Mud Bath - Mt. Mitchell Challenge 40 Mile

My gloves were wet and my fingers curled in a semi clinched fist frozen. I had zero dexterity and my hands were useless at this point. It was 11:40am and I was standing on the summit of Mt. Mitchell atop the new deluxe tower. I stood on the summit for two seconds while sleet and light snow showered my wet body. I was numb from my mid thigh down to my pinky toe. The piercing wind made the low thirty’s temperatures feel as if I was standing on the Pastukov Rocks on Elbrus. As I ran back down the tower the volunteer informed me to get my race bib signed by the aid station crew as his marker malfunctioned at the summit. A 100 meters away was the aid station, I refilled my bottle and grabbed an orange slice and all I could think of was I needed to descend off of Mitchell and seek warmer ground.

Earlier that morning I rose at 5:45am from the Preacher room at the Red Rocker. Doug the owner had some granola and sliced pineapple and cantaloupe ready to go early in the morning. The Charlotte crew was all up at the Red Rocker; Ashley, DC, Bedford, Mason, and Ed. We all walked over to the start in a light rain. I had my houdini on with my sombrero. I was expecting intense heavy rain later in the day. The cut off was bumped up to 3.5 hours vs. 4 hours to the parkway due to the conditions on the mountain today. We were running right into the storm, and it was expected to rain all day and possibly snow at the summit. I knew I could meet the cut off and set a goal of being at the summit in 4 hours. After the first few miles I knew I wasn’t off to a great start. I slowed my pace thinking that I had a long day ahead of me and that I need to conserve my energy. I ran comfortably, and hiked up some steep sections.

I reached the parkway at 9:56am and was greeted with “you have 4 minutes to leave the aid station, the new cut off is 10am!” I was shocked to hear this and I had not realized how close I was to being turned around. I quickly filled up my bottle, put on my arm warmers directly above my rain jacket and scooted out of there. I later learned that over 50 runners were turned around who were only minutes behind me.

Apparently the park rangers and the Yancy County Fire and Rescue panicked due to fears of some runners encountering hypothermia problems and decided to turn runners around after 10am. They even cut the sweet runner Stu G!

As I descended off the mountain back down Commissary Ridge I was splashing water and mud all over the trail. Me and DC descended together at a good clip passing a few runners. Liz Bauer had passed us and I knew that when she was out of sight it would be close to impossible to catch up to her. At this point I was hiking uphill on a gravel road still not feeling my best. Moments went by and another aid station appeared where I refueled and began descending the asphalt that would ultimately take me back to the parkway. Me and Mohammed Shamji ran together on and off to the parkway where I saw Stu G patiently waiting for the last runner to come off Mitchell so he could continue sweeping. Stu, thanks for hanging in there in the freezing temps! I had a nice hot cup of tea with honey here which really lifted my spirits. My gloves were 100% soaked and I decided that I would be better off without them, so I took them off and wrong them a few times and put them in my pouch. Off I went and back on the trail. For the next mile or so I kept shuffling. I knew I would run this years time slower than 2007’s. Something happened here, I was 28 miles into the run, and endorphins began to over flow to my brain. I dug deep from within my inner chi and began to sing out load, and started running hard. I was skipping large rocks and slick boulders. Sometimes splashing intentionally in the semi frozen puddles of water and mud. My feet would numb up for a few minutes while doing this and I ran harder.

I kept sucking down water and fueled my body at each aid station. I kept descending and singing out load, and running hard, and passing a runner every 15 minutes, I felt great. Could I hold this pace for the next 10 or so miles? I was determined to do just that and kept pushing myself harder. At the next two aid stations I refueled quickly and didn’t spend more than one minute thanking the volunteers and scooting my way down the mountain. Finally I hit asphalt again and kept running hard, I wasn’t going to let up I wanted to finish strong. I began to pressure breath, a climbing technique that is used in high altitude mountaineering. I find it very usefully when your heart rate is pumping at its max, or very close to it. I caught up to Liz and we both made a small wrong turn forcing us to forge a small river to get back onto the main road. I kept pushing and finally turned right nearing Lake Tomahawk. I circled around the lake crossing the finish line in 7:44:45 and it was over.

It took me 4:40 minutes to get to the summit of Mitchell and 3:04 on the return. The weather played a major factor in this run and forced some runners off the mountain. "A dozen runners had to be driven down the mountain because of concerns with hypothermia" Jay Curwen (RD) said.

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