After that four week block of great training, I was really stoked for Iron Mountain. I wasn't planning to race, especially with the one week taper I did, but I wanted to run harder than what I thought was a 50 mile pace. I wanted to test out my fitness. That's what 50 milers are for in a 100 mile build-up right? Well, I definitely proved to myself how hard I can run.
I took the sage wisdom of Eric Grossman, the man who knows that course better than anyone, and started easy. A few people noted surprise that I was "only" running 8:20 miles on the 4 Creeper Trail introduction to the race. It felt right though. Turning up the climb from to the ridgeline and the Iron Mountain Trail, I turned on some Avett Brothers to mellow myself and talked with people as I passed them. I kept myself reeled in all the way through Hurricane Gap 1 (Mile 22), passing people but hiking even a few easier grades just to keep the effort low. In and out of Hurricane gap, downing two ibuprofen, I started rolling. The course from her nets downhill, with some rolling along the way, for the next seven miles. I carried the leg turnover I got on the first three mile descent across the single track Bartram Trail and all the way around to mile 29, the bottom of Rowland Falls, the biggest climb of the day. At that aid station I did a cup of coke and a cup of mountain dew and was on my way. Looking back, doing two cups of fluid and then immediately continuing to nip on my bottle should have been a clue to drink more. I caught up to Jordan Chang, my friend, boss, physiotherapist, and all-around badass, along with Brian Pickett who was having a rough day. Jordan joked that he'd been rabbiting me all day. Apparently I was always 30 seconds to a minute back of him, though I never noticed until that climb. I left them after I'd sucked down a gel and started running up the doubletrack into Hurricane Gap 2 (mile 33). Brian followed my all the way up and left immediately before me. However, a bad stomach held him back and i ran up the service road all the way to the high point of the course and started the long descent back to Damascus and the finish. As soon as I hit the single track into Skulls Gap 2, I started flying. I thought to myself several times "Is this seriously a 50 mile pace?" I knew it was fast, but my system didn't feel taxed. Skulls Gap 2 is a long aid station stop for me, grabbing gels from my drop bag and drinking a couple cups of water at the aid station. Ann, the RD's wife, was working this aid station and told me Frank "The Tank" Gonzalez was only five minutes up. 13 miles of rolling descent to go. Time to get going!
I took off HARD. And then I cramped. My recorded pace for the last 13 was fast, but my running pace was even faster. I likely lost 3-4 minutes into the final aid station and another 3-4 minutes from there to the finish from stopping to stretch and work out my cramps in my hamstrings. Anytime the trail was flat I cramped. Uphills and I could shift the work into my quads or glutes. Downhill and my quads took the abuse. But on those long flat sections, I cramped. That should have been a bigger warning sign. At the last aid station, Tammy, trail mom extraordinaire, told me I had four minutes to Frank, who was having a rough day. Hm, maybe if he blows up. This last stretch of trail is gnarly by any definition, and I knew Frank had never run it. I hung out enough to drink some water and get in some salty watermelon. As soon as I climbed out of that gap though, the lightning storms came. The trail turned into a flowing stream, through which I could not see rocks beneath my feet. For a few sections of trail, I might as well have been running at night for how dark the sky became. For a couple lightning strikes, I had a one second count to the thunderclap. Exciting way to finish right? I blasted down 'mock holler'--the trail that isn't really a trail anymore and cruised into the finish for a Horton handshake. 7:56.