Black Mountain, North Carolina
May 21-22, 2016
Goals: 75 miles (one lap per hour) or 100k. I upped my goal to 75 the week before the race. I shouldn’t have. That was cocky and ill-advised.
Training: No plan. I beat up my left knee pretty bad in a January race. I’ve been fighting ITBS, a little arthritis, and a bit of fluid in front of my knee cap for months. It’s really limited my running. My longest run since a February trail half marathon was a ten miler a few weeks ago. My highest week building up to BMM was a meager 20 miles. To keep up cardio as best I could, I rode the exercise bike several nights when I didn’t run. I went into BMM hoping I could get at least a few laps in before my knee forced me to walk the rest of the time.
Race: I ended up hitting my B goal of 100 kilometers. Pretty awesome to know I traveled that far! My feet turned out to be my weak spot. Better training should help toughen them up before my next ultra in September. Surprisingly my knee held up well. It would hurt on downhills for some laps, and then feel great on the next ones. I ran when I could and walked when I had to. While I really enjoyed the course, what really stood out to me during the weekend were the people I spent time with. They made my 62 miles far more fun and interesting than if I was just running around the woods by myself. In their honor, this report is about the people rather than my running.
Who I ran with:
Betsy – My wife and best friend. We both started running a bit over a year ago, but with two children we very rarely get a chance to run together. I intended on starting the race with her and at least doing the first few laps together. That, like all good race plans, fell apart immediately. Later on we were able to run and walk a couple laps with one another, but not nearly as many as I imagined. It’s great when we do get a chance to run together, just for the time to talk as adults and not worry about who’s going to do the dishes or what time a kid needs to be picked up. Maybe next time we can run together more.
Kaeleigh – I caught up to Kaeleigh near this crazy climbing wall just off the trail and walked with her for a bit. We talked about our lack of trail running experience, how the course was set up, and how much more elevation there was than we expected. She’s a total sweetheart, and I walked with her for longer than I planned on. The next time I caught up with Kaeleigh I was feeling good, so I only walked the uphill with her and moved on. I wanted to spend more time with my teammates, but I also wanted to run while my knees felt good.
Pink Skirt – Every lap I would stop at our tent and grab a snack, shoot the shit, and relax a bit. While I was doing this, a girl with pig tails and a pink skirt would keep running. I would pass her roughly 1.5 miles into the course and we’d repeat this again next lap. We did this at least seven times. We never stopped to talk. Just small comments as we passed and a smile. I hope she hit her goals. God knows she was out there moving forward for long enough.
Second Place Guy – Jose ran a lot. If I remember correctly he finished at 105 miles, a few behind Brandon. Early on Saturday I realized he was passing me quite a bit, and I’d tell him “good job” or “keep it up, man.” Sunday morning he was walking quite a bit more. I caught him on a lap and we chatted for a few minutes. He had just hit his 100th mile, so I; congratulated him. He told me I looked strong as we parted ways. I “looked strong” because I had slept a couple hours. Naps are awesome and helped my aching feet feel better so I could run a bit on Sunday morning.
Triathlon Guy x2 – I swear there were two older gray-haired guys in triathlon singlet/vest get-ups. They looked similar and I caught them several times…or maybe there was only one guy. Anyway, “they” were always walking alone and we would share a quick comment or two before moving on. The one time that stands out in my mind is when I asked one of them how he was feeling late into day one. He was good, just keeping a steady pace. I replied that I was also feeling good. Then I stumbled and almost took a header into a large puddle next to the trail. I’m glad I didn’t fall, but it would have been awesome to get back to camp coated in mud. Maybe it would have won me an official Despoena award? (…Maybe there was only one of these guys?)
Jonathan – Early on in the race I spent some time with Jonathan, an InCrustWeTrust teammate, and he seemed like someone I could run with. We of course got separated after that. Much, much later we ran a lap together and in the wee hours of the morning walked two slow laps. This may have been my favorite part of the weekend. Do you remember having a sleepover as a kid and you’d stay up all night talking about the craziest shit? That’s what we did. Except we’re adults. We were wearing headlamps and hydration vests. And we were in the woods. We were also slowly reaching our goal distances for our first ultras. We walked two very slow laps (1:30 & 2:00 respectively), and talked about everything from kids, to marriage, to careers, to being emotional when we ran. It was awesome. Somehow running 50 miles makes it easier to talk to people. It’s like all the weird social barriers melt away and you can actually just be people for once in your life. I wish that happened more often.
Older Iron Man – On the second to last walking lap of the night, it had to be 2:00am, Jonathan and I were telling stories and finishing our amazing potato soup from the aid station. We moved over so another guy could pass us. Instead he joined us. He was finishing his 20th lap. He had a 14 year history of triathlons and Iron Man competitions, but this was his first ultra. He kept the conversation going and we talked about everything from his friend who professionally blogs about products (and gets to keep awesome gear), to how we both used to smoke and be unhealthy, to all sorts of other things that I can’t completely remember. I never caught his name nor do I recall telling him mine. We did part with a congratulations and a handshake though. Cool guy. I’m glad he finished his 100k.
Wavy Haired Woman – This woman looks a lot like a former English professor/current colleague. In the middle of the night, when Jonathan and I were dragging our bodies through the woods, she would pass us by. Sometimes she’d be in a light run, sometimes a quick walk, but always moving. When I woke up and was sipping coffee nursing my sore feet, she ran pass our tent still looking fresh and strong. I was drooling in my sleep and she was still running. Damn. I should have kept running.
Cute Blondes – I passed them on both of my laps Sunday morning. I didn’t stop to talk to them. I just wanted to point out the attractive trail runners. Sally McCrae is kind of my celebrity crush. (She’s a celebrity, right?)
Brandon – This dude passed me countless times. Always with a friendly word, but no time to talk. He was on a mission. So, technically, I saw Brandon out on the course a lot, but only for a few seconds eat time. I’m still impressed with his humility after accomplishing remarkable feats.
Five year old – Part of the course ran out on a shitty, uneven single track toward a road, and then back on a paved walkway. There was a wire fence between the two. Somewhere around 35-40 miles in I was feeling amazing and fell into a good groove. There was a family walking up the paved path as I ran on the single track. Their child, somewhere around 5 or 6, ran up the path along with me. He shouted encouragement and wished me luck. A big smile on his face. He was in a blue shirt and had brown hair. I started thinking about my kids back at home. It got me emotional for a bit. I think that’s what draws me to ultras: running to find your limits. I’ve run until I puked before. This makes it twice that I’ve run until I cried. As a former fan of psychedelics, I *really* want to run until I hallucinate more.
Maybe someday I’ll run until it all makes sense.
Our whole team was amazing to spend time with. We met as random internet strangers and truly left as friends and family. I realized writing this tonight –Friday- that it was only a week ago we were setting up our tents and figuring out who would pick up the pizza. It’s going to sound all sappy and emotional, but I so rarely feel a part of a community like I did during BMM… So many fantastic people and great memories. I miss it.
TL;DR I went running and met some people.