No matter how many races I’ve run, the pre race phantom pains always show up. What’s up with that ? 😂 I rolled my quads, hamstrings, glutes race morning and then told myself it will disappear once I start running so ignore it. And as usual things fade away when you’re enjoying the moment and they did for Bel Monte 50k as well!
I’ve done this race before on a snowy March day a couple of years ago. It’s an out and back course. Good mix of technical trails, runnable trails and road sections. Not a crazy amount of vert, but enough to keep it interesting. Close to 35 miles with 5K+ feet of climbing. It runs in the George Washington national forest area in Virginia. It’s a fun course for this time of the year. The organizers did a great job of COVID proofing the race. Bibs were mailed in advance. They checked-in runners on the course as you entered the woods, and handed out the medal and swag as you crossed the finish line. All aid stations had packaged goodies. Perfect 👌
Overall, I’d say I had a great day and weekend. I spent Friday evening catching up with my friend who is busy training for numerous races herself and was running the 50K. We indulged in some Mexican food, laughed about all the good times, discussed our training and planning for future events, and just catching up on life! It was awesome.
Race day morning was perfect weather. Low 40s and dry! We walked to the starting line, and I noticed my back was wet. I knew there was some kind of bladder leakage going on, and not having any other option for water I started stressing. We went to our cars to find a bottle and I remembered having something in my car for post race recovery drink. I grabbed that with the thought of filling it up at every aid station. I knew it was going to get hot later on, so incase the bladder kept leaking It would keep me cool I figured. Turns out the leak was at the top, and with the bladder being upright it did not leak much once I started drinking. The bottle was handy, as I filled it with soda and water between some aid stations without have to refill the bladder. Good reminder for me to have bottle handy for GDR as well.
The first big climb on the race is at Mile 4 or 5. The legs felt heavy and I thought to myself , boy this is going to be a struggle today. I got another 30 miles to go! The course is longer than your typical 50K. It’s close to 35 miles, and I think that’s by design based on the layout of the trails and best spots for turn around points and aid stations. After summiting Bald mountain, I somehow got into a really good rhythm and things started clicking. I joined a pack of runners, and the miles ticked off easy. Next thing you know I am 2 miles from the turn around. Cool.
I did a good job staying on top of my hydration and fuel. I grabbed an entire banana at the half way aid station and stuffed it in my pack. Decided it’s time to put on some tunes as it started getting hot and I needed a distraction. Else I’d probably start bitching about the heat 🥵🤪. I also knew the course going back has longer stretches of climbing, so refilled my bladder this time. That was a good decision as there was a 9 mile section between aid stations, and most of that was low grade climbing. I passed a number of runners. My legs felt pretty ok for the most part. I did the typical let’s take it one section at a time approach. Had gels / salt tabs. Hydrate hydrate hydrate. It’s pretty common for me to cramp up during a hot day. An experienced runner friend told me once that I should feel like I have to pee during races as a good sign that I am on top of my hydration game. One of my goals was to experiment with that, and it worked.
Got to the last aid station, filled my bottle with coke. 5 more miles and we’re done. Kept on moving, but rather slowly on the technical descents. I used to be totally fearless and bomb down technical trails, and here I am today gingerly placing my foot on these rocks hoping to not hurt my ankle and fall on my face. What the heck !! I know I can still rip, but today I chose to be careful and save that fun for another day. Hit the last road section. Surprised I was still passing folks. Crossed the finish line and got my medal and shirt. Yay!
This was the longest run I’d done since my 100 miler last November. I wasn’t even sure if I was up for 35 miles, and it is a long way to go! But I’ve been in this situation so many times before… so there’s that. I never really had an off stretch during the entire race, and that was the best thing about it. Finished in 7:51 without feeling completely trashed. I truly enjoyed my day in the woods! Maybe I have evolved in how I approach these races and what they mean to me. I did Run Happy.
Last training run for GDR done. Next up is some grueling climbing in Georgia 😍, that I know will take a lot out of me.