Those were the words coursing through my brain at the rainy and 37 degree start of the Black Mountain Marathon. My dear friend Mo had talked me into running this. We were supposed to run it together, but then she signed up for the full Ironman in Louisville. Now her dictator Tri coach had forbidden her to run any of the running races she had signed up for!
So I found myself standing in the mist in the middle of Cherry Street in downtown Black Mountain at 7am. The horn sounded, the race started, and so did the rain. Again. The first several miles were run on the road, and took us into Montreat College, where we would pick up the trail. Montreat College is known as a "Christ Centered" College, which was a good thing, because I would be invoking Christ's name often on this day.
The climb started once we were on the campus, and at roughly the three mile mark we entered the trail from the Rainbow Trailhead. We ran a nice stretch of single track here, but already there were some rather muddy spots to navigate. I was running with a group of about ten people at a comfortable pace. We were power walking the hills and running the rest at this point.
The further I went, the muddier it got. We were now out on a wider jeep road, heading to the first aid station at Sourwood Gap, around mile six. I ran into the aid station and refilled my hand held and headed back out. I was starting to slow down and had lost the group I was running with earlier. Between the mud, rocks and water that was now running across the trail in spots, I was basically power walking up the trail at this point. And I was laboring! It was becoming a struggle. I had a gel bottle filled with GenerationUCAN that I chugged, hoping it would provide some energy. I then swallowed about 30 EnergyBits not soon after, and kept trudging along. It was increasingly difficult for me to sustain any kind of rhythm as the trails was now quite churned up by my speedier trail brethren. I schlepped into the aid station at Pot Cove, around 9.75 miles or so, got a refill, ate some chips and headed up the trail. This aid station was manned by the Black Mountain Fire/Rescue Crews. I guess I still looked okay at this point, since they did not redirect me to an ambulance!
My main focus now was to get my ass to the marathon turnaround and hopefully get a nice mental boost in the process. I was starting to feel a little better, then around mile 12 or so, there was a nice stretch of snow/ice/slush.
I was seeing a lot of folks coming back now, and they all said it was only a 1/4 mile 'till the turn around. It was perhaps the longest *%$#!! 1/4 mile I have ever ran! Finally i reached the turnaround. I poured a GenerationUCAN packet into my water bottle, filled it with Gatorade, changed my hat and gloves and started back down the mountain.
It was almost like a switch had been flipped. I started running down the same muddy, rocky, treacherous trail that I had battled the past three hours to get up. My spirits were high and I could feel my legs come back under me. I came through Pot Cove AS, got a refill on the hand held, and kept on going. To my surprise, I was still seeing people on there way up. I was glad to know I was not alone in my struggle to ascend!
I kept a nice steady pace going, being careful not to get too excited and trying to avoid breaking my ass. Before I knew it, I was back at Sourwood Gap. Same thing here, hand held refill, some chips and off I went. Momentum was on my side, and I had even managed to pass some folks on my way down. We then came off the trail back onto the road. There was a brutal quad shearing descent coming back into the college that just about used up all the leg I had left! We hit the final aid station at Montreat. 3 miles to go. My assumption was we would be pretty much on road at this point, but before I knew it we were back on a small trail with a few rolling hills. After surviving all the mud and rocks, it was here where I almost completely ate it on a set of wooden stairs. Thank God for the hand rail. Recovering from that, we wound our way along a greenway, back to the road. We kept turning, and I kept cursing. "Where is the God Damned finish!" was the phrase I believe I kept muttering as I staggered along the streets of Black Mountain. Several people had passed me now, and I did not care.
Finally! Voices and music! The finish! I could hear someone coming up behind me, and I started my kick. I tore into the Tomahawk Lake parking lot, looking for the finish chute. It was there a very cheerful volunteer directed me to the left. I had forgotten we had to run around the lake to the freakin' finish! I was dead. The dude who was behind me glided past me. I tried to run, but had to walk a bit to regroup. I pulled myself together (once again) and finally crossed the line in 6 hours. 10 minutes and some change.
Since the start and the finish of the race were in two different locations, I enjoyed a nice cool down walk through the streets of Black Mountain back to my car. I then drove my Mud splattered ass back to the Super8 Motel where I took perhaps one of the greatest showers of my life! When I was finished, the shower looked like I had been panning for gold in it. I then ate an entire Vegan Pizza from the awesome Fresh Pizzeria in town, and promptly passed out after that.
Since I had so much fun this year, I will be coming back to run next year. I may even try to get into the 40 mile race.
Oh yeah, AND I am bringing Mo's ass with me!