Oh my Goodness! Where to begin? I had the most amazing weekend! I can't wait to tell you guys about it!
I met up with beth Friday afternoon at Mtn Sports in Bristol, VA. We went in a grabbed some last minute supplies.. beth some gloves and a fuzzy NF hat and some gu :o) I got a new mtn hardware skirt to wear over my tights and a cool pink patagonia top in Women's large with the high cut sleeves that are so feminine looking .. The shirt is not for me. It's for a special top secret project I am working on-- only one other person has the security clearance high enough and is my partner in crime on this little prank.
I then followed beth to rick and Tammy Gray's house in Johnson City, TN. Dropped beth's mini off at their house. and Loaded up the cars( my FJ and the family van) and where ready to roll. We snapped a couple pictures before we left.
Then we drove over the mtn to Asheville and we had dinner at an Olive garden and met up with Tammy's brother Chris Redman and Will Jorgenson who were also running the challenge and apart of our group. Post dinner, we drove to black mountain and checked in the hotel. Beth and I roomed together and we were JUST saying how we couldn't wait to chill for a little bit before the racers meeting and packet pick up and just get off our feet.. then *knock knock knock* everyone was wanting to drive up to the water tower to check out the course modifications. and that way I could see the start and finish of the race that goes through montreat and black mtn and since I'm the ONLY person in my group who was a first timer.. we jumped in the van as it was pulling out and drove around and checked it all out. It was a very informative recon mission. I know that having a visual of where to go the 4 miles to the trail head and then the 4 miles back into town to the lake REALLY helped my confidence. I hate not knowing where I am going. I always run better if I am familiar with my surroundings.
SO then was the racers meeting. and that was such a TRIP. I am still such a newbie at this -- there are never racers meetings for road racers.. road marathons just have expos.. but this was a different sort of scene all together. I just stared wide-eyed at it all taking it all in. It more seemed like a family reunion or special sort of club where everyone knew everyone else.. everyone was hugging.. I was in this saloon filled with young, middle age and old people... all in a room dressed to the nines in more patagonia and mtn hardware goose down jackets than I have ever seen in my life on a collective of people. Dudes walking around with WS 100 belt buckles.( okay, that's not intimidating) There was a projection screen showing images from mt mitchell and the toll road taken that morning. My good friends Doug and Martha from Todd, NC came in I hadn't seen them since the SUPER TOUGH Mt. Rogers Ice Fest a couple weeks ago.. so that was good ( yay jenny knows someone out of this sea of unfamiliar faces) . I also want to add that Doug is running Mt. Blanc Ultra this summer in France.. HOW COOL IS THAT???During the meeting the RD just went over some of the course modifications for both the marathon and the challenge. The marathon was shortened to 23 miles, and the challenge they said was 35 miles -- REMEMBER THAT PART.. that will be important later on.
Then there was a Q&A session.. then the meeting was over. I was able to see my good buddy shannon price who was running the challenge. I had ran on the AT a couple months ago for a training run, and hadn't seen him in awhile so that was good ( yay~ jenny knows someone else at this race!) But I have to add, while at the racers meeting I met about 5 or 6 VERY nice people and it was great to recognize them during the race and cheer for them!
The sky was SO clear that night, no clouds and the moon was full. it was so pretty. I just remember looking at the moon and silloutte of mt mitchell against the sky and thinking to myself: "PLEASE stay clear weather.. so I can have sun-- feel some warmth(it seems even in 20F in the sun is so much warmer than 20f in cloudy weather)!!" The forecast was windy 20mph-25 mph and snow showers starting at 1pm.
So FINALLY we get back to the room and beth and I get to get all our running gear out and prep for getting up at 4am the next morning ( it was 9pm at this point) We finally made all our final gear choices and packed our hydration packs and laid it all out. Then we watched the olympics until about 11 pm ( we couldn't sleep!) and then went on to sleep on and off until 4am.. then we got up and drank coffee and ate breakfast got all our layers on.
Then rick and I drove our cars and recovery bags to the finish line at 530am, and will drove us back to the hotel (which was about a half mile from the start line) That worked out SO well because upon finishing your car and stuff is right there waiting on you.
We all goofed off and joked around in Rick and Tammy's room took pictures ( when any surface I'll post them ) and just killed time until it was 6:30 and time to walk over to the start. The sun was coming up and the sky was Crystal CLEAR.. YES!!! ( it was windy-- boo! but who cares? I knew for days it was going to be windy-- that wasn't exactly a shock)
I hugged all my friends at the start and waited for things to begin! We were off!! The first 4 miles were on pavement to the watertank at montreat. I pretty much just settled into my marathon road pace and ran about 8:20 pace. Rick and Will caught up with me and told me I was going too fast ( jokingly) but I felt good.. I knew there would alot of TOUGH inclines ( this race reminds me so much of leadville trail in the fact it's like ascend, ascend, ascend.. then you turn around and run down, down, down back to town. ( think I like courses like that better than loop courses) ) so I knew that I'd better run the way I felt while I had the opportunity. So we get to Montreat and begin climbing this INSANELY steep hill .. Tammy best explained it to me saying " it's so steep you feel like you could drag your knuckles on the road while going up it."
so I finally get on the trail, and immediately find a wide spot off the trail to put my katoolahs on my montrails ( I wore masochists) because pretty much straight away there were very icy sections ( like walking on a glacier REALLY thick ice) with some rocky sections of road.. the katoolahs were AWESOME. they gripped the ice SO well and I never felt unstable. I liked them SO much better than yaktrax. I didn't think they impeded my running at all.. which of course, I wasn't moving that fast( 14 min? 15 min??pace going up..) yeah, I know.. not too swell.. I just try to work hard and not look at my pace per mile too much.. I really need to get a HR monitor probably and go by that to see how hard I am working.. I really just tried to "work hard" the whole time and maintain some intensity.. not fall and bust my face etc.. yeah, there is so much to this technical trail stuff I have yet to figure out. but I had SO much fun, even on the climb. The entire race I was in awe of the spectacular views of the mtns of western NC.. SOO pretty.. and I just felt so insanely fortunate to just BE THERE running up and down that mtn in the snow and ice. So I continued the 8 mile climb to the parkway. I ran past a "bear camp" ( black bear hunters have all these camps set up there on along the toll road. ) The thick ice was subsiding and it was deeper snow.. the firemen on four wheelers had ran up and down the trail so we had the tracks to run in.. it was just difficult because the tracks was narrow.. so it was essential run with one foot in front of the other( like walking a tight rope) or run in ankle deep snow in the middle. I switched back and forth.. I would run in the tracks for a little and get tired of it.. then run in the middle for awhile. I just kept telling myself to work hard to get to the turn around, and desending would be SO much fun. I ate some gu chomps and drank out of my hydration pack( yep decided to carry a pack because I didn't know how long I'd be out and I was SO scared of no aid for 2 separate 8 mile sections-- yes, it was HEAVY-- yes, I wish I had opted for just a racing vest and handheld in hindsight. I was beginning to see the marathon winners coming down the trail. So I knew was getting close. My friend beth and some cool chicks she was running with ( all challengers ) caught me-- so that was great to see her and give her a hug.. she was looking good and running strong. I finally got to the parkway at about 2:30. The cut off for the challenge was 3:00 so that made me happy that had I moved up to the challenge, I would of easily made the cut off. it was VERY cold and windy at the parkway. It felt single digits easily. I drank gatorade and coke and ate chips-- and a frozen snickers bar.. I didn't hang around.. I did look longingly up the road to the challengers continuing on to the summit and thought wistfully that I wished I could go too-- my heart dropped a little i could see beth's striped smart wool knee socks dancing up the parkway in several hundred yards away-- wish I was there with her.:o( Next year most definitely. but I was determined to not deminish my experience I was having. I was having fun too. On my way back about 60 secs away from the aid station I saw Chris! YAY! He made the cut off!! with like 25 min to spare! Then about 1.2 miles later I saw martha. I told her the turn around wasn't that far, hugged her and went on. Seeing my friends each time just gave me such a boost. Then about 10 min after that I saw Tammy and she had lost one of her yaktraks and was having a tough time in the snow and ice with only one. bless her heart. I gave her a hug told her how far she was from the turn around and then took off.
Descending was just like I thought it would be.. FUN, FUN, FUN!!! I felt so much faster and I was moving about 10 min pace even with the rocks and ice.. and even better, upon descending I could feel it getting warmer--AAAH! finally about half way through my desent I stopped and took off my top patagonia fleece and tied it around my waist. I took off my blaze orange windstopper hat put it in my pack, pulled my buff that I had around my neck up on my head just for my ears took my hand warmers out of my mittens then I went ahead and took off the katoolahs.. the snow was getting melty from the sun and I was able to navigate around any lasting ice patches-- PERFECT. ( yeah-- I'm wasting time and it's a race.. but at least I'm comfortable now no one passed me, but at the same token.. it enabled people to close gaps). The guy who won the challenge suddenly blew by me in a blurr of yellow. ( he was sponsored by la sportiva) GROOVY. These guys have ran like way more than me.. and have caught up to me! well, at least no other marathoners have caught me!
I zoomed on down the mtn and to the aid station at sourwood gap.. drank more pop( it's so hilarious I love coke cola at these races-- I NEVER drink pop any other time EVER) ate some chips and talked to the aid station people for awhile thanked them for being there.. I'm a dork like that.. if I see a volunteer-- I thank them.. police/firemen.. I thank them.. another female runner I yell and cheer.. another boy runner they at least get a "good job"-- maybe I should be focused more on running fast myself.. or focusing on myself.. but I always know how it helps me if someone cheers for me( especially if I am hurting) and I really want the volunteers/police/fire dept to know how much they are appreciated.. if you don't tell them, how else will they know???
I run down the trail to the watertank, and hit the pavement. I now get to run DOWN the extremely steep hill we climbed up this morning. Easy, right?? ready to sprout wings and fly!!
WRONG... it's more "ow. ouch. ow. ouch!!" my knees and quads are SCREAMING at me. My toes are banging against the toe box of my masochists.. and I think to myself.. "please Lord, don't let me black anymore nails." ( I have lost 4 toenails since november) I try to relax and just let the hill take me... it's not working.. the grade of the hill makes my stride choppy. GRR..
finally I'm off that sucker and on some level pavement.. AAH! then I drop down onto some of the nicest rolling single track.. with no snow or ice on it.. THIS IS AWESOME. so I have fun with that.. I am feeling like i'm SO CLOSE!! the single track spits me out on the pavement after about a mile and I know I have about 2 miles left to the finish line I am running about 9 min pace.. and my legs are hurting a little. #2 male challenger passes me. #3 and #4 ( 4 being this cool british guy with a braided goatee who sat with me at the racers meeting the night before.. he was telling me all these crazy stories about massenutten 100 and how it wrecked him-- yeah, may wait before ever running a 100 miler like that) I can see the turn to go to the lake! YES!! then a female voice says "GOOD JOB!! you are doing awesome!" and I turn and Krissy Moehl is gliding by me with the greatest of ease. I yell back at her something encouraging like "WOOOO!! GOOO Krissy!" and we chat for a second and then she rolls on.. and so do I.. we drop down to where the lake is, and run around it..
Krissy won the female challenge in 5:12 and I finished my marathon in 5:13.
I went and got my finishers jacket. Walked back to the car and drank a protein shake and called brock and my mom to let them know I finished my race and was safe and sound. I sent out some emails on my blackberry real quick. Then I changed my clothes and cleaned up a little and grabbed my camera so I could take pictures of all my friends. I had so much fun just waiting for them to come in, and talking to the other runners. it was chilly and windy.. but I had some heavier clothes with me to change into so I was comfortable. and I LOVE my north face finishers fleece! SWEET!! I wear that one with pride for sure!!!
My GPS had my "marathon" being 23.3 miles. another runner had 24.3 mi and 5,300ft vert. Theres some debate about how far the Mt Mitchell Challenge ended up being as well. Like the la sportiva guy who won ( who was SOOO extremely nice) told me he thought it was 35 or 36 miles but he didn't even wear a watch or gps.. Shannon Prices' Garmin said it was 33.2. so who knows?? who cares at this point.. I think the RD did the best he could to be have to HAVE the races and have them in a way where everyone would be safe and emergency crews could get to injured runner etc. but it does makes me wish I had just ran the challenge since it was like running a 50k. and even with the icy conditions and wind and cold-- you have to admit all the times are REALLY fast this year. Next year, I will most definitely run the Challenge. I think I will be ready -- because the course and the conditions for this race is really no joke.. you have to be pretty tough I feel to run it and make it. I have to say running in the snow, cold and ice on the AT with beth and JJ all those times REALLY helped prepare me for this race. I know all the conditioning and training I had been doing the last four months had me in good shape for a hard race of this nature. and I had SO much fun running.. I really loved every second of it. It makes me very excited to run Leadville trail marathon this summer because I really can't wait for that one!!
I felt strong the whole run pretty much.. just feeling a little rough for wear at the end. where running 9 min pace REALLY was a challenge.. when that is like a very slow clip for me on recovery runs. My toes I am happy to report are GREAT.. no bruises, blisters or blackened toe nails. The montrail mtn masochists really took care of me.
the results for the challenge and the marathon are up on the website. www.blackmountainmarathon.com
*** yes, I am listed as a male for the marathon!! I can't believe they did that! my bib even had an F on it.. and hello.. jennifer isn't EXACTLY a boys name.** oh well it's not like I raced well enough for that to matter:oP
here is a link to asheville citizen times' pictures. They had someone on the summit of mt mitchell to take pictures of the challengers. They are GREAT and they really capture the arctic conditions quite nicely up there. While most of the pictures are of them running on the blueridge parkway.. I assure you there was some trail running involved arrive there.