The Black Mountain Monster is a 12/24 hour run, either run solo or on a relay team, and this was the 5th year of the race or its previous versions. All five of the races have raised money for a charity and part of your entry fee is to bring canned goods for the local food bank.
The first version of this race, Run For Africa, was originally billed as a relay race. I think a few of us emailed the director, asking if we could run solo, and he added those options to the run. This year and last, the solo runners way outnumbered the relay runners and this event has grown to be an exceptional ultrarunning event.
The venue is perfect, with ample parking, bathroom and shower facilities and a big field for everyone to set up their tents on. The 5K loop course is varied and not difficult. Every quarter mile or so, the course changes, making it mentally easier as well. I have run other loop courses that just seem to drag on forever because the scenery and trail is always more of the same. You don't need to carry anything if you choose, because there is water/Gatorade both at the start and halfway through the loop, although I chose to carry a bottle because of the heat.
The race director and volunteers were exceptionally helpful and the race was well-organized. The course was marked even better than last year, with plenty of chem lights and repainted arrows at night. (Unfortunately, the course is so compact, apparently some have taken advantage of some shortcuts both last year and this year.)
At last year's BMM, I came in with a definite goal, 100 miles, and I left with 72 miles, 18 hours in. (And the only reason I left with 72 was to not be totally embarrassed by Annette Bednosky's 69 in the 12 hour race). This year, my goal was a bit different. I had run MMT three weeks prior. I had not run in the heat and the temperature was supposed to hit 90 degrees. I really didn't know what I could do, so instead of setting a mileage goal, I set a "feel good" goal. I wanted to finish all 24 hours still moving, without the nausea/lightheadness issues I've been having off and on. No pressure to push hard, but instead to dial it down a bit until I could figure out my issues.
I rode over with Alan so Tony could come over a little later. We set up our "camp" on the edge of field, but brought no tent or chairs to motivate us to keep moving. I knew lots of ultrarunning friends would be there, but I was surprised at how many showed up to run in circles. It made the hours pass even quicker, knowing that you were bound to catch up or be caught by someone to hang out with for a little bit.
My race strategy was to not race. I brought lots of different kinds of food and several different pairs of shoes to experiment with. I didn't time my loops and felt very relaxed. I didn't care about taking a few extra minutes to do things here and there. In the middle of the night I took a time out and hiked up to the shower building to wash my face and hands. I walked a loop with Tony and parts of loops with other people and didn't care about people passing me (until the end of the race, but that's later in the story). All in all, much more enjoyable than having a specific target you are pushing to hit.
It was hot, pushing ninety degrees with high humidity. Parts of the course are in the full sun. On my third loop, I started feeling really bad. Great. Nine miles in and I've already messed up my goal. My "normal"symptoms, as of lately, nausea and light-headedness, set in, but also muscle fatigue and an urge to take a nap. The last one concerned me a bit, so back at camp, I decided to sit down and figure out what was going on. When my calf started to cramp a bit, that was a sign that I needed more electrolytes. I've been using SportConnexin (I'll blog more about that later) and I had been taking my normal dose, but, duh, it was about 20 degrees hotter than my normal runs. I upped my dosage by one and kept it at that level throughout the race until it cooled off. No more cramping, light-headedness or muscle fatigue. I also discovered, as I tried to talk to Tony and could only get one word out at a time, that I was having some major asthma issues (I think from all the dust on the trail), so I used my inhaler a little more often than normal and that helped as well.
As far as the nausea went, I drank pickle juice and ate chocolate pudding. I know, ultras do weird things to you. But whenever I run a really hot run in the summer, I get home and crave pickle juice, so I decided to bring some with me. I had chocolate pudding at MMT when I couldn't get anything else in, and it worked well here, too. I kept up this routine, supplementing with gels and orange slices and avoiding solid food.
I also, nine miles in, changed into shoes that I had not worn more than 10 miles. I had ordered a pair of Brooks Launches, but hadn't worn them much because they felt too wide for me. My Ravennas weren't feeling right, however, so I tried the Launches and ended up running the rest of the race in them. They felt great, light but cushioned, except for the pressure on my left big toe, which I should have adjusted because I now have a nasty blister under the toenail.
So around and around I went, moving well and having relatively few problems until about 4:00 a.m.. I had just been thinking about how good I was feeling when everything went downhill, rapidly. Nausea set in and I couldn't eat or drink anything, so I walked 4 or 5 laps and didn't worry about fueling. Finally, I was able to nibble on a shortbread cookie with a little ginger ale and I slowly felt better. I had about three hours left and decided I'd walk two more laps, so as not to get sick again, and call it a day, ending up with 84ish miles.
As I was ambling through my next-to-last loop, a friendly, well-intentioned woman introduced herself as she was sprinting by me (or at least it looked like a sprint at that point), and before she pulled out of earshot, told me that we were on the same lap. My initial rational thought was, "That's nice. And she looks like she is moving well. I'm glad my goal is to just keep moving." By the end of the lap, the irrational part of my brain took over and said, "I really don't want to be lapped by anyone who is on the same lap as me. I bet if I pushed hard, I could squeeze in two more laps instead of one, even if it makes me sick again." So, throwing off common sense, off I went, laying down two 40 minute loops (which sounds slow, but it was 22 hours into the run) and finishing with 87 miles in and 17 minutes to spare. The mind is a funny thing. Or at least mine is.
I actually felt good when I finished. I was able to eat and had no post-race nausea issues. Tony got in 24 miles, not bad for a guy with a bad knee who runs 3-4 miles a week. Alan hit 80ish, I think, hobbling with some really nasty blisters.
So my BMM actually went better than I expected. I enjoyed the run, was able to somewhat address the nausea issues, and got in many more miles than I predicted. I got to talk to a lot of people I had not seen in a while and by the end of the race, didn't feel the need to make the traditional annual pact with Brian about not running around in circles any more.
photos from the BMM site: http://www.raceforawesomeness.com/?p=60
Hero Half Marathon. The long grind
1 week ago