When Ryan and I signed up for the Mountain Masochist 50 mile trail run in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western Virginia back in 2009, we nervously wrote a big fat “0” on our name tags at the pre-race meeting – we’d never run this race or the distance!
This year, with a lot more experience under our feet, we decided to go back and relive the masochism.
Right from the start I settled into a nice conversational groove with local Coloradan, Alyssa Wildeboer. We giggled as we splashed knee-deep into the first water crossing barely 2 miles into the day. The first half of the race breezed by relatively comfortably – I was running strong but felt like I could maintain the pace. I was happy to have the recent road marathon miles under my belt as long sections on the first half of the course are on relentlessly runnable forest roads.
The sunrise shone through golden leaves and I absolutely loved the crunching sounds of autumn beneath my feet. I crossed the Long Mountain aid station at about mile 26 – the half-way point – in 4 hours 20 minutes. It was nearly half an hour faster than my first time (2009) and about 23 minutes faster than my 2nd time (2010) despite the initial 6 miles being on trail instead of the road. I was happy to be on pace for a sub-9 hour finish, in podium position and I was looking forward to tackling the hillier second half of the course.
Unfortunately, the start of the climb up Buck Mountain also became the start of my leg’s descent. Cramping quads have plagued a few of my races this year despite never creeping up in my training. Even though I don’t feel that I was ever pushing the pace so hard that my muscles couldn’t cope, the only explanation I can come up with is that, generally, I don’t run hard enough for long enough in training to toughen up my muscles so they can withstand with more punishment hours into a run.
Despite feeling frustrated and modifying my stride to try to alleviate the muscles spasms, I made it a point to still look around and enjoy the scenery and the opportunity to run on such a beautiful day. I chatted with Kathleen Cusick as she passed me on a climb and I celebrated the top women as we crossed paths on the short out-and-back section to the summit of Mount Pleasant. I knew I was loosing my sub-9 hour time goal but I held on to the motivation to not slip any further back than 5th place. Thankfully I found a rhythm with another runner up the final climb – together we helped each other sight the course markings and silently shuffled across the leaf-strewn trails. I finished in 9:14. Although it is faster than what I ran here in 2009 and 2010, it’s far from what I know I’m capable of.
Thankfully Ryan had a much better race this time around than in 2009 and than I did this year. He led the way just a minute shy of course record pace until around mile 38 and then, despite a bit of trouble on the Loop section, held on to a strong 2nd place finish! His pace splits are pretty darn impressive – check them out. And our friend Ben had a successful 1st time Masochist finish too in 8:20 (18th place)!
Even though I didn’t have a great run, I feel ready to refocus my training and push my distance threshold a little bit further. I’ve been bouncing the idea in my head for long enough that it’s time to make it happen. I know I can run 50 miles, and while that confidence has allowed me to push my own boundaries of pace across that distance, it also means that I’m ready to relive those first-time starting line nerves and the mystery of an unknown distance.
So…..I’m signing up to run the Bandera 100K (62 miles) in Texas in January!