50.9 miles - 9:49:07 - Sherando Lake Recreation Area, VA
Photos: By Steve Pero
Mason and I rolled up to Waynesboro, VA and I had a chance to pick his brain for the 5 hour drive up. I was excited to be up in the mountains and go for a run. Last week I was sick in bed sweating bullets.
When we arrived we met up with the Rock and went out to dinner with a few new friends: Michelle Roy, Deb and Steve Pero (Hardrocker!), and Bogie. I scarfed up some chicken and shrimp spaghetti.
The next morning we woke up at 4:30am and made our way to the start to send off our drop bags. I was planning on carrying everything on my own without a drop bag, but knew it would get warmer as the day progressed, and would want to drop my gloves, and Houdini. It was 24 degrees at the start, and I was cold for the first two hours of the run with all my cloths on. My two water bottle nipples froze, but not enough to malfunction (Mitchell Challenge).
It warmed up, and the views up on the mountains were inspirational. I had been lazy on this run, and did not study the map, or profile enough, but did know it was going to be an ass-kicking 11,000 feet of ga
in. The 50 mile course is an out and back, loop, with a spur at the front end.
I cruised by the first aid station, Camp Marty at mile 7.3, with only filling up my bottles and taking off. Many of the runners I was running with turned off on another trail here, they were running the 50k, and I pushed forward onto the 50 mile course. I would revisit Camp Marty again at mile 27, and 43.
the run. In no time, I was at the Kennedy Ridge aid station, mile 13.1. Here I put down some pretzels, M&M’s and hydrated. I noticed a runner that I was running with, took off, and so I wanted to keep up, but couldn’t catch him on this gravel road section (4+ miles). Later I learned this person was Robert Nolan from Charlotte. He disappeared in the distance, and I kept a comfortable pace as I still knew it was early in the day.
I pulled into the Turkey Pen aid station at mile 17.4, refueled, and took off towards Torrey Mt. Furnace. On my hike up a hill I saw the top 5 runners cruise by, all within 30 seconds apart from each other equidistantly.
Jason Bryant was in the lead. Mason was in 5th, and took a small slip here, but got up and continued to run an awesome run. I ran the 2+ miles to the unmanned aid station and punched a hole in my bib to prove I had been there, and ran back to Turkey Pen, it was now mile 22.2. Here I saw Bedford, who was not feeling it and decided to drop down to the 50k run. We all have a bad run every now and then.
I was feeling good, and kept drawing positive energy from the amazing runners that were out there. I was now on my way back to Camp Marty, up the back side of a steep mountain. There were some steep switchback which forced me to speed hike. I saw Mason again, now up in 4th place. I feasted at Camp Marty (mile 27.2). I took off downhill and dropped the hammer back to Turkey Pen (mile 32.2) flying at the fastest pace of the day for me. I was wearing my Muzino racing flats which felt great coming down this trail, and helped me pick up some speed. I made sure to call out to runners coming my way so they knew I was coming, the trail was very narrow. From Turkey Pen and ran/walked back to Kennedy Ridge (mile 37.1) on that gravel road section. I remember eating half a turkey sandwich here, and feeling trashed. I did not have the energy to run uphill for the next 6 miles, so I was speed hiking.
Half way up the hill Robert snuck up on me while I was jamming to some tunes. We hiked up the hill together, and found out we were both from Charlotte. Robert has put down a few Ironmans but this was his first ultra run. We finally made it to Camp Marty (mile 42.9). I downed a soup which was nice and salty, refueled and took off with Robert. We helped each other get up that hill, and kept pushing up hill until we reached a dead end at a camp site. I knew we had missed a turn, and backtracked to notice where we made our small mistake. We may have lost 2 or 3 minutes only, but quickly got back on course for some downhill action.
Coming down my feet were a little upset with me that I had racing flats on. They screamed at me! I could definitely feel the feet getting punished, and it slowed me down a little but was happy to have had the flats on most of the run. I ran downhill at a comfortable pace with Robert keeping up. I was impressed with Roberts ability to run on very rocky, technical trail, and this was his first ultra. Awesome work man!
Then one of those songs came on, and the sun filtered thru the trees at the right angle, and the stage was set for some fast downhill action. Euphoria, I cant describe it any other way. I blasted it to the finish. 9:49:07 was my finish time. They told me I was in 9th place. I immediately injected a pound of lasagna into my system and sat down by the fireplace to get warm. Amazing adventure in the hill of the Shenandoah.
My finish time at this 50.9 mile event was less than 5 minutes slower than my 50 mile PR at Umstead in 2007. Bel Monte had 11,000 feet of gain vs. very little gain at Umstead, relatively speaking. Mason came in 4th place, Steve Pero was first man above 50, and Jason Bryant took home the $500 and set a new course record. Awesome work to all the runners, and a huge thanks to all the volunteers and organizers whom without none of this would be possible!