Black Mountain Monster 24 hour race

I first noticed this race while looking for a 3rd marathon for Kelly.  She ran Tobacco Road on March 18th, her 40th birthday, and just over four weeks later ran Boston (in the heat — 88F!).   I jokingly told her that she only needed one more to run in the next 60 days to be a Marathon Maniac, but she took it seriously!  So while I was looking around for runs she could do, I found the Black Mountain Monster, with both 12 hour and 24 hour solo versions, as well as relay categories.  For the 12 hour to count for her, she would have to run 50k, but alas, the format of running around a 3.1 mile loop 10 times was not enticing to her, and she choose to run the New River Marathon instead.

But I started thinking that the format would really suit me well…  I’ve not run past 50 miles in a race (the North Face 50 last year) before, nor past 13.5 hours (unsupported SCAR run)…  This was a chance for me to explore going beyond those distances and times in a “safe” (low pressure) way.  I.e. I’d never be more than 1.5 miles from my tent if I wanted to call it a day, whereas if you sign up for a 100k or 100 miler, you might just get a DNF and have to get a ride in from the course!  I also know from my Adventure Racing days that I do really well over night, and could just keep on moving…

I was able to convince David H to run with me.  Originally he was going to run the 12 hour night version to keep me company, but then decided he didn’t want to be too restricted and opted for the 24 hour run.  Heather didn’t take any convincing — I think she felt the same way as I did that this would be a good low-pressure way for her to test the ultra waters, as she had not run more than a marathon in the past.

I look the entire day off Friday and went to HRCA for the last day of school — field day!  I volunteered to help out, and tried to keep it easy, but when Zack introduced a “capture the straw” game, I went all out.  🙂   After that I went home and got all my gear ready to go… Here’s what it looked like in the driveway:

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All that for one night of camping and 24 hours of running!!

We drove the 3+ hours to Black Mountain, and eventually found the right location on Montreat’s Black Mountain Campus to set up tents and gear…  We were one of the 1st groups there, so we got to pick our spot.   We weren’t exactly sure how the run would flow around the course in this “tent city,” but we chose a spot right on the edge of the course and set up.  Here’s my car camping tent — pops up like an umbrella!

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Still pretty quiet, but that “V” would really fill up…

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Later on the next morning, I’d be surrounded by many many tents!

After we got everything set up I wanted to get a few more things from the grocery store, so we went into town, got the necessary food items, and then we headed to one of my favorite pizza place, My Father’s Pizza.  When we got back to the race site, it was much busier…

We hung out chatting with a few of the other racers until about 10 p.m. when I decided to call it a night.  Overall, I slept ok, other than the VERY LOAD TRAINS!!!  Just beyond the yellow truck in the photo above is a small stream, then a grassy path (that was part of the course) and then a train track.  VERY LARGE AND LOUD trains went through several times.  The one at 3 a.m. must have  hit 120 dB.  :-/  Other than that, this is a great spot to camp for a race.

In the morning the camp area really started to fill up with canopies and tables and gear…  Several people we spoke to said they learned their lesson from the trains last year and decided to stay at a local hotel Friday night and set up camp for Saturday night, and there are a lot of locals that live close enough to make it in time for the 10 a.m. start.

Here’s the start:


At the last minute I decided to wear my bright red BACON socks… I’ve been holding off on wearing these until the right time, and felt like this was it…  As always, I had my Florida Coast to Coast buff on at the start, which I’ve had on in just about every big race I’ve done in the past several years….

My plan was to take it easy the 1st few loops.  I’d not seen the course and didn’t know exactly what to expect, but I was figuring something like 10:00 pace would be just about right assuming there weren’t any really big climbs.  And that is what I held for 1st two loops, or so.  I ran some of this with Bruce, who most of us thought would win, and some with David H, though eventually they both got some distance me.

The tutu girls, a 4 person female team, took this shot of me coming in to my tent and gear around mile 9:


It was right after this that I stopped and changed into regular socks and also from my Peregrine’s to my Kinvara 2’s.  I’d swap back to the Peregrine’s once, but they felt way to tight and short.  I had put on a pair of injinj toe socks over a pair of teko’s, so that was part of it.  But I discovered Sunday after the race that both feet had had an allergic reaction to something and were quite swollen….

There’s not much to report in a race like this — running the same 3.1 mile loop over and over…   I followed my strategy of taking it pretty easy, not staying long in the tent area, and just kept moving.  My fuel was a lot of things:  hammer perpetuem, coconut water, nuun, gatorade, hard boiled eggs, sweet potato, jerky, coconut flakes, gels, apples, peanut butter, bananas…   The fuel worked really well for most of the race, though sometime around 5 or 6 a.m., I had my 2nd gel and it did not sit well at all.  Here is the “dry bin” of food, while I also had a cooler.  I found the hard boiled eggs worked really well for me…

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David H. had taken off and was actually leading the race when I came in to the tent area at about mile 40…   He said he was done, but then hoped right back up and knocked out 10 more, when he really was done.  50 was his goal coming in, as he has an Ironman he is training for, and he didn’t want to affect that training plan too much by hurting himself in an ultra….

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I think it was about 6:30 p.m. or loop 15 when I grabbed my phone so I could take pictures…  Here are a bunch of them, in no particular order:

This section ran along the train tracks and had quite a nice little climb right at the end.  That climb got tougher and tougher as the race went on.

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Aid station in the middle of nowhere…

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Tunnel — really a bridge for the train, near the end of the course.

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Port-a-pot on the far side of the course…

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This is looking up to the turn around point which we had to pass each time…

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The race collected canned food for pets (or humans if you didn’t get the pet memo!) and this is the booth that counted each and every lap…

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Looking down from the turnaround…

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The softest part of the run:

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The hardest part of the run…. I did NOT like the asphalt at all by the end.  Towards the end of the pavement was a really steep downhill that did not feel good at all after many miles.

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A video from this area:

One of the GUTS guys took a bunch of pictures, and got this nice one of me carrying my coconut water:


And a bit later Heather got these two of me:

Dark pavement

Pavement back


The week before the race,  I took a little pool to let people guess at my total mileage.  I took the numbers from Facebook, DailyMile, and the blog post.  At the end there were about 20 guesses ranging from 53 miles all the way up to 93.  I was surprised no one had thrown out 100, though that was not really a goal going in to the run.

I did post a couple of intermediate times so I do know that I ran 28 miles in the 1st 5 hours and 52 miles in about about 10 hours…

Sometime around 12 hours into the race, I knew I was in the top few competitors…  I didn’t think I had any chance of keeping up with Bruce, but he was only a lap and a half ahead of me.  Eventually I found I had a couple laps on the next closest person.  Also around this time I did start to think about hitting 100… But at the same time, I knew there was a long ways to go and I was just happy to keep moving for now.

Somewhere around mile 85 or so, Bruce came flying by and I called out to him, telling him I was surprised it had taken him so long to lap me again to go up a full two.  He surprised me by saying he had been sleeping for 90 minutes and that I was actually leading him at that point!  We ran together for about as long as I could hang, which was maybe just one mile, before he took off…   At the turnaround, before he left me, we did run into Margaret who was really suffering, but amazingly only one loop down on us.  We helped her get some coffee and got her to the bonfire, and then Bruce and I ran off again.  At which point he left me on the 1st climb.

At that point I thought that if I could hold on to second overall I’d be pretty happy, and I was not as worried at hitting 100.  I ran a couple more loops and then got really tired.  The sunrise did not give me the second wind that I had hoped for.  😦   I ran into camp and said I was done, sat down in my chair, kicked my feet up, wrapped up  in a blanket, and sat there.  I had struggled the last loop with stomach issues after eating a honey gel, but once that settled, I got in some warm oatmeal and started to feel better.  Then Margaret ran by, looking fresh — what a recovery!  And Bruce ran by, going up one loop on me…  At this point he decided to go back out to get 100+ (while I was at 96).  After a minute or two, I decided I had one more in me…

I got up, and walked one more loop, to finish with 32 loops for 99.2 miles and second place.   Far far beyond what I thought I would do!  Bruce actually hit 34 loops for 105.4!

Now a few days later, I’ve been pretty tired, but my body feels pretty good.  Nothing major lingering other than a very slight tension in my left foot, on the outside near the back.  I had a chiro adjustment today and it feels better already.   I have been more tired than I recall after any of my other ultra’s, or the MR 340 when I stayed up for 38 hours paddling, or any of the adventure races I used to race when I was up for 2 or more days.  Maybe my age is starting to catch up with me!

BMM was a great race — very laid back and fun, and I certainly would like to do it again someday.

3 thoughts on “Black Mountain Monster 24 hour race

  1. Fantastic job- 99.2 miles. WOW! You got some great pictures as well. I wish we had gotten the memo about the trains before hand as well. They were really freaking loud. I’m assuming they came through the second night while you were running as well?

    • Yes, they came through the second night as well… I got to run next to the 3 a.m. train for a bit, which was pretty cool… Well, it wasn’t really much of a run at that point — a very slow crawl, perhaps!

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