Mountain Masochist 50M Trail Run, Montebello, Virginia

Elevation Range: 200'-3900'               Elevation Gain: 9200'
November 1, 2014 - After long debate as to whether to do this race, I finally decided two
minutes before boarding the bus that would take runners on a half-hour journey up to the
summit of the Blue Ridge to begin the race from a KOA Campground there.  I am not quite
recovered from the carnage of summer and would really prefer to avoid further self-inflicted
injury and misery, but what the hell, such is the nature of my chosen sport.  With a drop
bag at the half-way point I kept open the option of just running half the course.  As it 
turned out, that is what I did.

I enjoyed seeing the boys of Lynchburg at the pre-race check-in, but as usual there is never
enough time other than to shake hands and exchange a smile.  The weather forecast was
horrendous, with the prospect of an all-day rain, maybe snow, and winds gusting up to 30
mph on the ridges.  I don't love that stuff anymore.  I'll admit that I'm getting soft and
prefer to think of myself as a fair-weather runner now.  So be it.  I know I can always fall
back on my Marine mentality and tough through anything.  That's the only thing keeping me
from being an unrecoverable wuss.

The early start at 0630 meant we had over an hour to run with headlamps.  The forest
trails and service roads at the beginning were wide enough that there didn't seem to be too
much crowding with over three hundred entrants.  I abhor wearing a headlamp, so started
with my new trusty 120 lumen flashlight, which worked better than a headlamp anyway.  
Early on my old feet found some rocks to stumble over and I did take one good bruising fall
before daybreak, but there was no blood.  I wore my spandex long pants and a raincoat,
anticipating cold rain exascerbated by driving wind.  How others can run in such conditions
with just a light t-shirt and shorts is beyond me.  It is insanity asking for hypothermia.

I moved along easy enough for the first few miles, finding my place mid-pack, before
stopping a few times for equipment adjustments and eating gels and slowing to nurse a
sore recurrent pes anserine tendon.  Backing off helped ease the aggrevation of my knee
before reaching the long climb up to Robinson Gap and the thousand-foot descent over
five miles on the other side.  Climbing to the aid station at the gap on a dirt road I finally
found my rhythm and had enough strength to overtake at least two dozens runners ahead
of me before starting down the other side to roll past perhaps a dozen more.  For these
middle miles between miles 17 and perhaps 24 no one passed me. As the course climbed
toward the halfway point, Long Mountain at mile 26.5, I eased up when I hit the ridge and
walked more than I needed to, letting a half dozen runners pass me before the aid station
where the course crosses Route 60.

The wind was blowing steady at perhaps 30 mph from the north, right into our faces.  I was
running well, felt good, but was feeling a bit hypothermic, despite the rain shell I was 
wearing.  It was an easy decision to stop, change into some dry clothing and call it a day
rather than continue the back half.  Arriving more than half way in under five and a half
hours, I had a cushion of six and a half hours to complete the final 24 miles.  I probably
could have squeaked in under 12 hours, but decided it really wasn't worth it to me to
battle the elements and climb the rest of the day.  I have no excuse for stopping other
than to say I really didn't give a shit.  I had a great day.  It was a good gauge of my
level of recovery.  It will serve me well in next weekend's 50K in Georgia.  I sure hope the
weather is better for that one.

I caught a ride back with a volunteer of my generation, a Marine of the Viet Nam era, so
we swapped stories during the hour ride back to Lynchburg.  By the time I reached home
and showered I looked at the clock and realized I probably would still not have crossed
the finish line.  I opened one of my home brews and smiled.  God, I love this sport, and
love that I'm not so hell-bent on myself that I feel compelled to finish every one of these.
It's nice to be able to pick and choose when you want to be a Masochist and when you'd
just rather drink a beer.