Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Coach Spencer Runs in the Woods

Monday, June 7, 2010

Black Mountain Monster 24HRS- Extended Version


My running has been horrible lately. I have gained a good (bad) deal of weight. I've had to cross off one race on my calendar after another for various reasons. Been busy with teaching, coaching & watching Wren turn into a pretty exciting (biased, I'm sure) 6 year-old soccer player. My girls track team was 2nd in the state indoor and outdoor meets this year & 4th in XC, by the way. Guys have made incredible strides too. Things on the personal running front have been on the decline, but I'm ready for a good summer. I've never had a bad summer of running except due to injury. I plan on 300 mile months, losing the weight, being able to keep up with the top girls on my team again in intervals by XC season, and really getting in shape for Hinson Lake 24 Hour Race in September. Black Mountain Monster was a step in the right direction, but was a big challenge for me.

When I say things have been bad... In the past 4 months, I don't think I've run 6 days a week once besides the trip we took to the Pacific Northwest. 4 days per week has been the usual. I ran 70 miles at the New Year's 24 Race in Morganton, then Mt. Mitchell Challenge in February, and 4 hours a couple of weeks ago. Those have been the only long runs I've done, but I have gotten in several 2 hour runs if those count as long. Admitting my shortcomings is the first step to recovery, right? I'm ready to turn things around. I used to pride myself in doing 2-3 long solo training runs a month.

Black Mountain Monster has been on my calendar for months and as it approached, a feeling of dread filled me. A month ago, I figured out how I could squeeze some 2-4 hour runs into my schedule and survive the race. Half the battle in long races is having the confidence and experience that you can do it and have done it before. I'd be OK, wouldn't I? Maybe. Yeah... Nah... I think so.


Chafing is sometimes an issue with me and when it's an issue, it's severe. To prevent the chafe, I always wear a 9 year-old pair of Titan tri shorts under my regular shorts during long races now. I couldn't find the shorts easily when I was packing Friday afternoon, and just decided to spend the night at home. I was frustrated. I found them shortly after that but still stayed home. Drove the 2 hours the next morning for the 10 AM race start. The race was at the Manor House at Montreat College. I planned on cutting it fairly close and getting there at 9:20. I know the Montreat area and this place sounded like something that would be centrally located. I didn't bother looking at directions. Dumb. After a call to my mom to look at the website, I found my way to another property owned by the College. I showed up right at start time, not ready and the race director, Richard asked if I wanted them to hold up. I told him I had 24 hours to catch up and that was just 5-10 minutes I wouldn't have to run! I started 7 minutes after everyone else and caught up to some people about a mile into it.

To my knowledge, there have been 4 incarnations of this race in 4 years: 1) Run for Africa at Camp Rockmont in 2007; 2) Blue Planet 24 at Camp Rockmont in 2008; 3) Black Mountain Monster at Montreat last year, and; 4) Black Mountain Monster: The Race for Awesomeness at Montreat this year. I ran 25 miles with a relay team in 2007, 55 miles with a relay team in 2008 and didn't run last year. This year's course was different from last year's apparently. It was a good mix of rolling terrain with dirt roads, wide woodchip and dirt trails, 1/2 mile of paved greenway, and a little narrow, twisty singletrack. I liked it all, and really appreciated the variety. Wore Brooks Cascadias as usual, but you could've easily worn road shoes. A few roots but not rocks. There were mountains surrounding the course from all sides, but the town of Black Mountain is down in a valley so it wasn't particularly hilly. The course was a 3 mile loop with a common tent/aid area each loop and a self-service aid station on the other side of the loop. There was far less food than any ultra I've ever run, but I brought all of my own stuff, so it was no problem. Race volunteers were friendly. I'm supposed to be getting a technical shirt in the mail and the entry fee was modest, so no complaints about any aspect of the race.

The high Saturday was 86 and it was humid. As stated many times on here before, I fall apart in the heat. When I saw the forecast, I actually thought about showing up at 10 PM and just doing the last 12 hours as some people did. Within the first hour it was already hot. 3 hours into it, I was in trouble. Uh oh. Wasn't sweating enough, legs cramping, heat rash, dizzy... not good. I sincerely thought about quitting at mile 12 and again at 15. I took a break at 18 miles to cool off. My running, the whole race, was actually pretty good- there were just a lot of stops. I ended up taking four 30 minute breaks, spending time in aid stations and walking the hills.

I enjoyed meeting some people but ran by myself the whole time except for a few 2-5 minute sections. Met a woman who just started running in October and was on mile 33! Had never run a marathon before. Sheesh. Met two XC coaches. Talked to Anne Lundblad who was a few weeks out of back surgery, was walking 12 hours and was only a couple of laps behind me 8 hours into it! Passed some people laying in the middle of the trail. Caught someone cutting the course (a shame in a sport as non-competitive as this one, where 99% of people do it for personal fulfillment). A lot of people left early. Around 7 PM, I saw several of the 12 hour folks packing up early. If I had to guess, I'd say there were only about fifteen people doing the 24 hours, about thirty doing the 12 hour option, and about 5 relay teams. It was small.

Miles 30-50 were pretty decent for me. Cramping wasn't as often. Cooled off. But by that time, the damage was done. I'd like to think once the sun went down and it got into the 60s, I could flip a switch and click off the miles quickly. By that time, though, you've been going so long, your feet hurt, food and drink don't sound appealing... you're just ready to be done. Also at about 55 miles I started experiencing more of the dehydration symptoms again. Rather than fight it again, I told myself I'd quit at 100K- 62 (or 63, in this case) miles. Nice milestone number of 100K. As silly as it sounds, the way my day had gone, I picked it up at the end to finish strong. I passed a guy with 800m to go and told him I was done. He knew I coached XC and track and said something that bugged me.

Him: Why are you quitting?
Me: I umm... Man, I'm just done. I told you, I've been cramping up for 50 miles. I'm not sweating. It's been so slow going today, I'm not going to be near any distance that I'd consider to be a goal. I'm just going to take the 100K & call it a day. I've been hurting for a long time.
Him: Would you accept quitting from your team?
Me: I dunno. (But I wanted to say, "Yeah, if they were peeing brown, not sweating, had bad leg cramps, and had run 63 miles, I'd probably let them off the hook!" I didn't. "I dunno," was all I could muster. Bugged me.)

When I got to the tent and told them I was quitting, I asked how many people were still running. Only 5-6 solo 24 hour runners. I think I was somehow in 2nd or 3rd. How?? Dang. Could I keep going all night and end up with the most laps at the end? While I decided, I figured I'd keep moving. I probably only ran half of that 3 mile loop and walked the rest. I did not want to just trudge on through the night walking. I've done that before (Rocky Raccoon). No fun. I called it quits at 66 miles in a staggeringly slow 16:58. I've run 60 miles in 12:35 on some pretty difficult singletrack before.

ANOTHER REASON to drop out... I've always thought people were stretching the truth about hallucinating. Maybe not. For the last 8-10 miles, I could've sworn the ground looked like it had about 4" of water on it and I was actually running on the water- really more like I was running on a clear gel pad with water over it. Very ripple-y. When I rested for the last time after 54, everytime I closed my eyes, I imagined animals coming out of my chest- an anaconda, a whale, a sea turtle, a creepy little goblin-like thing. It was as if they ate me and continued on their path. I knew it wasn't real, and I wasn't asleep, but it was like a dream. Wacky.

SO. 66 Miles. I'll take it especially in those conditions. It's not my ideal performance by any means, but I think it'll be a springboard for better things to come this summer and fall! One thing to consider this summer will be do I try to avoid the heat and do long runs at night or in the mountains, or do I just get used to it in case I have to do it at Hinson Lake or other races? Last year was about the same conditions as Black Mountain but I handled it much better, largely because it was on the tail end of the summer instead of the begining. One thing is certain though... gotta turn things around and train well. I'm ready!


Coach Spencer said...

Eh, then again, New Year's Eve was a kind of miserable drizzly day, but perfectly runnable on a fast course (though I can't handle the asphalt well) and I ran 70 in 17:44, so 66 in 16:58 in the heat on trails seems about right. Maybe I'm just plain old slow. Got to figure out a way to minimize time in aid stations. Feel like I have to shop around too much and mess with too many things. To combat that somewhat at Hinson Lake, I'll have to carry some stuff with me. No way I can stop every 15-20 minutes going around that lake and have a decent race.

Malcontent said...

Your feet were gnarly before. What do they look like now? It's hard to imagine what 66 miles feels like. It's hard for me to imagine what 6.6 miles feels like these days.

Denise Davis said...

Hi Coach. I enjoyed meeting you and found your blog as I was searching for results. That was my husband who asked you about quitting. He pulls stuff like that. He did that to me at the Massanutten. That's what I get for marrying someone who tapes up his broken arm and keeps going. :) Anyway, I ended up stopping, too due to stomach troubles and it sounds like you made a good decision. And I hope it wasn't me cutting the course! I lost two minutes on an early lap and think I missed a turn. Hope to see you at state XC next year! Denise Davis (Franklin XC)

Jason said...

Way to tough it out with the 66. I think that is a great distance/time combo when considered with your training leading up to it.

I'm cooking up at 30 mile night run on the Chattooga for 6/18. Email if you are interested. Feel free to run it solo - at least you wil know some other runners are out there with you.

Also, a group of us will be attempting the Foothills Trail on 7/24. You know you are always welcome.

Glad your summer is getting off to a great start!

Coach Spencer said...

Jason... I might be interested June 18 at Chattooga. I'll check. I can't do the other day. We'll be at running camp at Virginia Tech.