Mountaineer Rumble 50K - Blacksburg, South Carolina
Elevation Gain: ~2500'
November 6, 2021 - Little by little I am recovering my fitness and healing my knee injury. I see no point in waiting until I am fully recovered and primed to race. Each race is a gauge for how far I have come and how far I have yet to go. The timing on this event seemed perfect as I step up in distance to take up where I left off a couple years ago. After a 7-hour enjoyable photography run on Monday and a snappy 14-mile tempo run on Wednesday, then two days of solid rest and eating, I toed the line on Saturday confident that I was prepared to rumble at the Mountaineer Rumble... at least as much as an old man can rumble!!!
This was a multi-event with 50K, 100K, and 100M participants, but small... with fewer than 100 runners. Perfect and friendly. We headed out at the cusp of dawn at 0800 under cloudy skies and a comfortable 39 degrees. It was great to be wearing spandex again and some winter attire. The course follows loops in the park that were constructed by the CCC boys back in the depression era. The trails were well marked and maintained with five regularly-spaced aid stations, so there was never a time when getting lost was an issue. With so few entrants, much of my run was alone, but I did enjoy cameradie occasionally with some great folks.
I began conservatively, as usual, letting my body warm to the effort while my knee worked itself in. Most of the field seemed to charge ahead, again, as usual. No worries. All systems were a go and I was feeling good by the first aid station at 5.5 miles, so I began to unwind and run with more authority, From this point until the finish no one on net passed me as I pulled back those I could catch. This is the first event in a long time in which I raced completely to the end without backing off. My time at the half-way point was 3:30. I was aiming for a negative split, coming close, but finishing in 7:06 for a pretty even effort over the course of the day.
The route undulated over a convoluted landscape that was fairly unremarkable. Had I taken a camera I didn't see one thing worth stopping to photograph. Surprisingly the leaves were still mostly green with only a moderate amount of fallen leaves on the trail. I say it was unremarkable, but I really enjoyed much of it, winding up and down through up-close laurel along many streams with rooty straightways in open woods. There were only a couple steep sections, but they were short. Overall, the course was completely runable and suitable for a fast time for someone younger and fit. It was a bit chilly at times with wind gusts to 13 mph and temps that never got out of the 40's, but as long as I kept lifting my knees and pushing my stride out, my sweaty fleece continued to keep me comfotable, but never warm.
It was a good day, a satisfying day, to once again feel the fires of competition and be able to rise to meet them, fending off runners that normally would have finished ahead. With a 50M and 100K coming up on my schedule, I know what I have to do to be ready. I aim to exceed expectations and once again hear spectators exclaim, 'Wow, did you see that old guy run?'