I need to write this before my the runners high wears off. This was the hardest race I have done to date. Hard Hard Lemon Hard and I am fairly certain that Kim agrees. First things first, if you are in or around Charlotte or Boone you are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t stop by leatherwood resort. To say that it is awesome would be an understatement. To say that is is beautiful would be an insult. No words so I will stop there. What’s even better is there is no cell service. So I turned mine off and left all the bullshit that is my daily reality behind.
The race started at 7.00 am with a 6:30 am check in. Kim and I were smart and reserved a cabin that was close to the starting line. Real close as a matter of fact and that couldn’t have been better, as at the end of the first loop, which was about 16 miles I ran right into the cabin, grabbed some espresso and more nutrient and calorie dense food and headed right back out the door. I also had to change out my shoes because the terrain finally put to rest my trusty set of cascadias, which means the last leg of the race I had to don my new cascadias, which I don’t think were ready for the trails and this morning while I write this my feet concur with this assessment. The first 3 miles are pretty much straight up. You start out on a road that winds into the resort and then you head straight up a gravel road before dumping onto one of the trails. The trails are mostly used by the equestrian folks so the footing is pretty tore up and sometimes makes it a challenge to get in a decent pace on the flats and downhills; conversely, during the climbing, the horse hoof tracks double as steps. I am still confounded as to how a horse and rider could ascend some of this terrain as it was extremely technical. Once at what I thought was the top(one of many), Kim and I parted ways, which may have been around mile 4 or 5, I can’t recall. I stepped aside to take a leak and then caught up with her and mumbled that I couldn’t descend this slow. Some of the folks were just kind of fighting gravity so I let my legs take me down the mountains as quickly as they would allow. Possibly this is the reason my shoes decided they had had enough. Eventually I found myself alone. I did get to meet some new folks here and there and share brief stories or swap training strategies. The 50 milers were easy to pick out because they were being more conservative than I was and rightly so as I found later in the race. I feel like as difficult as this race was I came across the finish strong and ready to run more and now while writing this a day later I am resolved to think it is a result of my vegan diet and how I fueled before, during and after each race or run. I don’t think I have enough fat stores internally that will allow me to not eat constantly as I run especially when I am keeping my heart rate in the 150’s for most of the time. At the aid stations, which were very well stocked and manned, I mostly just filled up my water. I had the food I have trained with and I was not willing to indulge in a cookie or a pickle because I don’t normally eat these foods, and I most certainly don’t eat them while running. The final tally was 4 hammer gels and 5 bonk breaker bars, which should be around 1500 calories. According to my stats collected from my watch I burned about 3500 calories with my heart rate on average at 142 bpm. To be honest with the effort I was putting into the hills I am surprised my heart rate wasn’t higher; however, when barrelling down the mountains I am sure my heart rate was damn near close to resting rate as it was more of just a controlled fall. Again I don’t understand how a horse and rider could descend such terrain.
I crossed the line 6 hours and 40 minutes later placing eleventh overall out of fifty four, taking third in my age group. I finished strong and felt pretty amazing. I went to the cabin and saw a note Kim had left letting me know she was doing good and something about all “the damned” hills, I took my shoes off and heated up some soup and lentils and wolfed it down. I grabbed some more water and a smoothie and went outside and sat in the sun and waited for her to cross the line. It was a wonderful sight to see all of the finishers and it was spectacular to see my lovely wife finishing strong and subsequently taking first in her age group. We spent the rest of the day hanging out and meeting some really great strong people, which confirmed our resolve and assessment about the ultra community. It is the community we want to be a part of as it lacks ego, the folks are genuine, the humor is infectious and the stories sincere and heartfelt.
I realize when traversing some of the trails, a looping sentence repeated in my head; if there is a heaven or hell, and if I end up in said hell, I am certain it would be having to run a marathon or more on a flat road with cars. This run, is heaven. Being alone in these mountains and breathing in the air and experiencing all of the other souls being mindful of their surroundings that is my heaven.
I leave you with my mantra:
Be mindful of all life.