I really can’t think of a better way to end the year than with a traditional Fat Ass. I have hard time explaining these to family and friends. It’s a race but it isn’t. It’s more about having fun than pushing yourself. And it’s really more of a moving picnic than an ultra. I signed up for this race on the eve of running the Stonemill 50 in late November and Boyer’s Furnace served it’s purpose. It forced me to focus the last month of the year and generally push towards getting stronger opposed to logging junk miles.
More beautiful, rugged, challenging mountains. This time along the Massanutten range north of Luray. I’ve just started to scratch the surface of all the wonderful trails to run in VA (and sometimes WV). These were some of the hardest I ran all year. The climbs were not that bad but the rocky trail was buried under a bed of leaves which led to a lot of slow miles. The views were truly amazing. We ran along the ridge for several miles where you could see the the mountains and valleys to the east and west. It was a clear blue morning and these views made this race quite memorable.
A year ago I had no running friends. This isn’t some weird social cry for help but I was new to the sport and didn’t know many people. A newly made friend and I decided to do this race together but I found myself chatting with several familiar faces in the early hour before we started. Lots of conversations that started with, “you’re the guy…”. Thankfully only one of those ended with a poop story. I saw some faces from Hot TWOT, some faces from Odyssey, and then a lot of the VHTRC regulars. One of them even spotted my wife and boys and was quick to welcome them to the aid station party. I can’t say enough about the kindness from ultra runners.
I spent a bit of Sunday after the race buffing up on VA history. This race is named after one of the five furnaces that were constructed in the late seventeenth century. The furnace remains are very identifiable and it was impressive to see the size that remains some 200 + years later. I find myself wanting to plan runs around the other furnaces in the area. There’s so much history to these lands that we take for granted and it’s fun to transplant yourself to a time when the surrounding woods looked much the same then as they do today (hopefully).
What I learned
I love Fat Asses but I really need to stop downplaying these events. I’ve written before about how these low key events can serve as supported training runs. The reality is they require a lot of energy and can compound body damage if you’re not careful. Boyer’s furnace felt more like a 50 given it took us 9h 30m to finish. I had no reason to push so I really enjoyed the day and took what my body gave me.
Not all trails are my friend. I’m falling into a pattern where I really enjoy either hiking up or ripping down the mountain. In this case, the trail was less than runnable in some sections and I didn’t quite enjoy the humbling nature of walking some “flat” sections. I’ve felt this way about the AT closer to home. Some sections are just very technical and my ankles are too banged up to risk anything more than a shuffle pace. I think I’ll stick to runs with bigger climbs as that suits my strengths and frankly, what I enjoy.
I’m starting to get my legs back. I was in a dark place after my Hot TWOT DNF. I’ve repeatedly considered “shutting it down” for a month or two to get healthy again. The urge to back off, the urge to fold, the urge to quit is real. I decided to do a slow build in December, gradually increasing my mileage each week leading up to Boyer’s. The first three weeks were awful. More signs that I needed to back off. Naturally I did the opposite and convinced myself a TWOT loop was needed before tackling Boyer’s. So I trekked out to Augusta County and put down a modest but respectable 6h 45m TWOT loop. Aside from my 4 loop adventure, I’m normally around 6 hours but I took this day as a positive sign. I climbed very well and had a productive run aside from a few aches that slowed me down the final 8 miles. So I went into Boyer’s with low expectations and woke up the day after feeling pretty good. Two days later I was back in the gym doing strength training.