Iron Mountain Trail Run (IMTR) is a 50 mile race in Damascus, Virginia. This year I put on my big pants and said why not, lets run this 50 mile. There are other options like 40 mile, 30 mile and 16 mile event.
The 40-mile was too easy for me last year, but 50-mile might be a bit too challenging. We don’t know. Some of us were whining why not give us 13 hours or 12.5 hours. Nope, 12 it is. Note, originally I thought it was 10 hours, and was freaking out.
I have my doubt running this race because I only finished a 50 mile under 12 hours once (long time ago) and that was done on roads (flat land). update: I must have gotten the wrong impression or info that the race requiring finishing under 10 hours, I double checked after written up the post, and found the cutoff is 12 hours, so my chance of finishing this has now improved significantly. I went back over and corrected all places where I was calibrating / planning for a 10 hour run. However, I will still train and aim for a 10 hour finish (5 pm finish, instead of 7), only that I have a lot of breathing room. 12 hours is still hard for me but not as impossible as a 10 hour run.
The race is on the trail but nothing too crazy like the MMT. The trail is mostly smooth and there is a significant portion of the race being on the road. During the training, I was chatting with the race director of how my perspective has changed from last year and this year. Previously IMTR was the hardest thing I did. Now, coming back the second year, it does not seem that scary, especially after running the MMT..
I think about 15-20 miles are on the road. And another 20-ish miles are on decent / runnable trails, I call them buttery smooth trails. There might be a few miles (5-6 miles) that are too hard for me to run like either too rocky or too steep to climb/descend while running. Sure, fast runners would destroy the hills like breakfast.
The harder part for me is the climbs. I have different numbers regarding the elevation somewhere between 8000 and 13000 ft. I think the 2000 ft climbs are at the beginning and at after hafway point. Most of run are gladual changes because we are on the ridges but they suck up lot of energy too. It is not remotely as bad as the MMT, but enough to make it won’t be a walk in the park.
I went out the past weekend to do the first training.
If preceeding weekend of the Catoctin run was epic, this Iron Mountain Run is nothing less. I am anticipating the race day would be many times so.
It was only a training run, the first of two weekends. Damascus is a 6 hour (sometimes 7 ish) drive for me, so I can only afford to go there a couple times and not every weekend. I’m lazy too. I went to all the training runs last year and I wanted to redo again this year, just like for the Catoctin.
I am slow or fast depending on who or what I am being compared to. I felt fast in the Duluth Marathon. I finished it hours ahead of people. I wrote like I ran fast at the Catoctin 50k, also, but I am actually quite slow in that race, barely avoided the cut by 5 minutes. Too close. The point was I finished under the generous time given.
This race (IMTR) has a tighter cut off. I fear this race more than I fear the Catoctin. Cutoff is a big reason I want to run this race. Catoctin was not hard, just a lot of climbs.
My training run kind of proved the point. It took me 6 hours to do a 24 mile run. Note, if it were a road marathon I probably get it done around 4 hours ish (4:30). I believe then my predicted finishing time will be 13 hour, which is an hour over the final cutoff.
So why did I sign up if I don’t think I could do it under the cutoff? I think sometimes you just have to try to know. I want to try. I believe it will improve me as a runner. My goal for this season is “speedwork”, in quote because I’m not sure how fast I will get, but speed it will be. I have a BMI of 26, considered overweight, but there is a chance that I can pull it off. I don’t know how good a chance (I estimate 65%), but a chance nonetheless. I want to see growth and changes from my training and I bet my readers too like to see that I strive for tougher goals and reach them.
I hope readers would enjoy reading on my planning phase. Many times I blog only on races I already did. They seem easy (and hopefully motivating). Recently, I been hitting my limit and it was not so fun aby more (Devil Dog and MMT come to mind). Fun and game until someone took away the punch bowl.
This is one of a few where I write on a race I haven’t done yet. This might also be a race I will get a DNF (fail to finish), but we don’t think about that now. The race won’t be until Labor Day Weekend (first week in September, in case my readers are from oversea). I have about 6 weeks to train and get myself up to shape.
My strategy on running this race is to keep an even pace when going out for the first 15 miles. Many people go out too fast. I did too last year. The Virginia Creeper Trail, being flat and easy can deceptively tired runners before the first major climb. It is actually a gradual climb, hence deceptive. Once I reach the climbing section, literally at the foot of the mountain, I should take it easy to get onto the ridge. Last year, this almost had me throwing up. I was jostling for an early position (you could read last year report, if I not too lazy I will add the link eventually, here). I ran too fast and then faced with a 2000 ft climb. I pressed on the climb and next thing I knew I was dizzy. Once up, there are probably remain a lot of people in front, I should not rush to pass anyone until after mile 15 (Skull Gap / the 2nd AS), by then half of the people probably would be slowing down or turning back (which is the turn around point for the 30 mile distance) and the trail then would be open up to me. I have last year experience of not making the same mistake.
From Skulls Gap out is a gradual climb and descent to Hurricane Gap in 7 miles, short for ultra distance but might take 2 hours. Here I probably could run faster. After Hurricane Gap, AS3, is a 10 mile loop circling back to Hurricane (where AS 5 is, probably there is one aid station at Rowland, AS4), mostly decending on the roads. This is probably the easiest and hardest part of the race. If I want, here is actually I could run very fast, and key to “win” the race (I don’t mean first place, but reaching my goal for this race, i.e., to finish under 12 hours). It is a 5-6 miles sweet descent to Rowland Creek and a very hard 4 mile climb back up from Rowland to Hurricane. From Hurricane Gap, it is a gentle climb back to Skull Gap (AS6) on the FS 84, on the road this time, also 7 miles. There is a branch off onto Iron Mountain TR, watch for it, look for going SR600. Most people will walk, I probably will walk, since I will be out of energy. However, if I could survive till Skulls Gap #2, then I likely will finish within the time limit. It is 13 miles from Skulls Gap to the finish back using the same trail (Iron Mountain).
Note to self. Rowland to Hurricane is probably the deal breaker for this race. I must do it fast but not overly exhausting myself here. Fast because of the downhill. Everyone runs on downhill. But it also the hardest and longest climb back. We run down on the road but climb back up using trail. Yep, it will be frustrating hard, especially the fast run down destroy your body. It is a balancing act. Fast, because of the cutoff at Hurricane #2. (by 2:40 pm, 7:40 elapsed, 4:30 remaining). There is still 20 miles left in the race, a long way, and I might need 5 hours for this 20 miles. So 2 pm back at Hurricane is the goal for me.
The Saturday Training Run (only 24 miles) was on an out and back from Skulls Gap, took me shy of 6 hours. The goal was to finish under 6 hours (5:45). On Sunday I went out again. Ran the same course. It took me 6:30. Granted, I made a long stop and talked to two local elderly couple, and they were a friend with a Latin/Greek teacher at my high school and asked if I knew him. I did not. I think, I had a different Latin teacher, or I look younger than what they think my age was. I don’t think my high school offered Latin after I graduated. They then showed me the most poisonous mushrooms in the region, called north american eastern death angel or killer angel. I don’t remember the exact name. It looked like a normal mushroom to me, snow white beautiful, but of course, I was not going to touch or try its potency, killing myself in the process. We are talking about real plants here and not drug.
Anyway, my second run through took longer, but was somehow my better run. I stopped often to take pictures of mushrooms. I felt I was not as tired and I did not cramp up like on Saturday. The first day after I finished, I could hardly keep my eyes open (I was sleepy). I went to bed early. On second day, I was stronger. I think I acclimated back to ultra distance running after being couple months off. The body remembers.
Still taking 6 hours to do 24 miles was not good enough. I need to bring the time below six hours.
I am hyped for this race. It will be a long and hard training under the hot summer sun. I don’t have any other races at the moment. I am looking forward to a successful outcome at the end of summer.
Not related, but more like note to self, during the run, I met a guy from the Rim to River 100 race, Jonathan, I vaguely remember him, note, my glasses broke during Rim-to-River, so I couldn’t see him well, but he said he recognize me and I kind of recognize him by his built. I met up with Greg and Lorraine, sweet people who have done the race last year, and I vaguely remember them. Lorraine is from a far away place, might have drove up during the same morning and immediately drove back. I drove up night before and stayed an extra night. Lorraine and Greg dropped down to the 40 mile distance this year because running for the cutoff is too stressful. I looked up their last year time. Indeed. Note, these people were so much faster than me and they are in their 60s. It was kind of a surprise they dropped down while I went for the longer distance.
There was Tim and Carrie, they will run this race first time. Tim will be doing the 50-mile and Carrie will be running the 40-mile. I will be keeping an eye on Tim since he is likely will be around my pace. He seems like a guy who won’t go out too fast. Tim will be doing the Cloud Splitter 100 in October. I am itching to do that one too, but not this year. I think it is cool to share, because I have one more race to look foward to. Also couple people were talking about the Devil Bathtub, a race somewhere in Harrisonburg, around Grindstone course. Grindstone too is one of my races to do. And another was talking about Deet (a race, not the bug killer chemical). They say I should try. Of course, Chaz, probably was not his real name (couldn’t find him on the entrant list) from Ohio was talking about Burning River. These people are fast. When runners get together, they talk about races and shoes. Yes, we did talk about shoes. I was wearing Brooks Cascadia (not sure what version, shoes have numbers). I like my shoes because of the color, orange edge on dark gray, just beautiful. My favorite pair so far, but they are quite bad on rocks and when wet. Some can vouch running in Hoka Speed Goat 7 as being the best shoes in the universe (note, there is no Speed Goat 7 Hoka, well maybe there will be). I would like to be a speedy goat. These were the conversation around me during my long run. Well most of the time I was alone by myself.
TLDR – nothing particular, I’m training to run the IMTR 50 mile, and to be sucessful I have run fast in the middle section, I think