Bel Monte Endurance Run 50K
The “Bel Monster”
March 24, 2007
So far, 2007 has been very “lucky” for me with regard to race conditions. The Frosty 50K in January had temperatures in the 60s and Holiday Lake in February was cold but dry. The Bel Monte 50K has been cold on both of its prior runnings with significant snow accumulation last year. My “lucky” streak continued, at least as far as the weather was concerned…
I arrived in Waynesboro late Friday afternoon and learned that the weather forecast was warm (70s) but we would likely have rain to deal with. My plan was to treat this race as another training run as I prepare for Massanutten in May and the only time goal I had was to break 7 hours. Most of the course would be familiar from the GEER 100K but many sections were run from the opposite direction. I knew there would be plenty of rocky climbs and descents which I will no doubt see plenty of in May. The race started at daylight with partly cloudy skies and we were off on the first section of single track. About 5 minutes into the race I heard Gill exclaim “Bedford, slow down!” over the megaphone (I have had a tendency to go out too fast). I heeded his advice and kept moving at a reasonable pace and was soon across the Parkway an onto the White Rock Falls trail. This is one of my favorite parts of the course. The trails are technical and the waterfalls are incredible. There was also a 25K race and those runners were with us for the first 7.5 miles.
The climb up the Torrey Ridge trail was much easier for me than it was at GEER, although at GEER we were at mile 25 rather than 5! As I neared the top, the front runners of the 25K were coming back so it was a little tricky on the narrower sections. Eventually I arrived at Camp Marty and got in and out pretty quickly since I was feeling great. The next section is a great section that includes a long descent down a jeep road and then the Kennedy Ridge Trail. Kennedy Ridge was one of the harder climbs at GEER but the views are spectacular. It was nice to go down this section for a change. About halfway down I took a stumble and rolled my left ankle pretty severely. The runner behind me said it rotated a full 90 degrees the wrong way. I have had some trouble with this ankle before and had to stop and walk for a bit to ease the throbbing. My plan was to see how it felt at the next aid station (@ 13 miles). I planned to drop if it did not improve because it was too early in the race and I did not want to risk a more severe injury. However, at the next aid station it was feeling better and we had a nice 3.5 mile section of rolling gravel road for me to work out the kinks on.
The other issue was my stomach was acting up a bit but I was not really sure why. Turns out I was taking in way too much sodium. What I thought was an E-cap every hour was actually an S! Cap which has 3X the sodium. In addition, I drank Clif drink the first hour and was eating two gels every hour. I did not realize it but it the high sodium (and resulting stomach discomfort) was causing me to drink less and get behind on fluids.
The run on the road helped and I continued on. Even with the injury I was still ahead of my goal but had the most difficult section of the race ahead of me. We had a nice runnable section through the woods that leads to a long 1.2 mile climb back up to Camp Marty. This was about a 6 mile section that would be an enormous struggle for me. I walked a bit early to give my ankle a break but started running after about 15 minutes. My ankle was pretty swollen now and I could not run for more than 10 minutes at a time and then I would have to walk. I started to feel a few raindrops and tried to soak my foot at each stream crossing. After about an hour, some runners came upon me (including Vicki Kendall) and offered me some ibuprofen or Tylenol. I took two of each and hoped they would take effect soon. The warmer temperatures were giving me my first taste of the heat in 2007 and I was amazed at how fatigued I was. Throughout the day my heart rate seemed to consistently be about 5 bpm above normal. Perhaps it was the heat or injury or both. Maybe I was just a wuss today. Who knows, but regardless I was getting tired.
When we got to the switchbacks, the “drugs” took effect and I was able to move more quickly. I have found that I am a much stronger climber now than I was even two months ago. No doubt the hill repeats and weight training are at least partially responsible. I got behind a mountain biker and tried to stay with him and passed at least 5 or 6 people on the way up. I got to the top at 12:30 PM, giving me 1.5 hours to go 8 miles to break 7 hours. It was almost all downhill but very technical and exposed to the midday sun. In hindsight, I should have stayed longer at Camp Marty and drank and drank and drank some more. Instead, I filled up both bottles and headed off. I was behind on fluids at this point and had not urinated in over an hour. This combined with the exposed ridgeline, tender ankle and technical terrain did not make a fast pace possible. John Straub was at Camp Marty and was pretty dehydrated and we would spend a lot of the next two hours together.
I ran out of water about halfway to the next aid station and was having difficulty navigating the rocks with my ankle soreness. I was able to move but frustrated that I was not able to run faster on such flat (although technical) terrain. I made the best of it and John and I leapfrogged one another. He was in pretty bad shape dehydration wise and stayed at the last aid station for a good bit to rehydrate. I drank four cups of water and filled both bottles (even though it was only 2.7 miles to the finish). I tried to put the hammer down and ran the entire way. I ended up drinking both bottles before the finish. My time was 7:35.
I was pretty discouraged initially with such a poor performance less than 2 months before Massanutten. However, in the coming days I realized that even with all of the “issues” I was still only 30 minutes behind plan. After all, you have to have “bad” races in order to have “good” races. One thing I have learned is that success in ultras is dependent on how you react to problems that arise.
The race was won by Sean Andrish who blazed the course, beating the record by 18 minutes! The race was very well organized and one that I look forward to running again next year.