I’ve heard a lot about the Beast Series and have wanted to do these races since finishing my first 50 a few months prior. The Virginia mountains are as beautiful and challenging as anywhere in the US. They might not have the altitude but the trails are rocky and steep. For context, this race had nearly 10k feet of climbing compared to my prior 50 in Colorado that had over 12k feet. The other difference is a lot more ups and downs compared to a handful of really big climbs that you might find out west. This race did not disappoint, providing wonderful mountains, a great mix of trails and jeep roads, and a rewarding feeling to conquer a good stretch of my home state.
A point to point! The logistics are bit more challenging but I love starting in one county and finishing in another. This course hugged much of the Blue Ridge Parkway which allowed my wife, boys, and parents to chase me along for a good bit of the race. Stopping in races to hug and kiss my boys is one of my favorite parenting memories so far in life. Seeing my oldest (3 at the time) have a meltdown as I left the aid station was also enjoyable. Have I mentioned my wife is amazing?
The timing of this race provided a perfect opportunity to see the fall colors. The weather turned a bit cold and rainy but the colors were on full display. Better yet, our drive into Montebello was stunning. We were able to rent a farmhouse near the start where my boys enjoyed the animals, making s’mores, and the adults were equally pleased to enjoy the fresh air, mountain views, and fall foliage. I’m continuously impressed how the little things in life bring such joy but this entire weekend in the mountains of Virginia was quite memorable.
What I learned
More hills (again). I first learned this lesson after starting Bull Run Run 50 2017 (DNF) and immediately spent the rest of the year running up and down the Bull Run trail system. I thought San Juan Solstice 2017 would provide enough training to perform well at Mountain Masochist but I quickly learned I need to shift my training to bigger and longer hills. I ultimately had a good race but realized I have to make some adjustments if I’m going to keep at these types of races.
Toe the dang line (again). I don’t appear to be learning as I started yet another race with an injury. This one was a bit more manageable. Sometime in early October my quad started barking at me. My last three weeks of training included little to no running with more time spent with a massage therapist and doing yoga. I later learned this was my IT band that decided to cry uncle. Thankfully the massage therapist worked it out and I was able to resume running the week of the race. I started the race very conservatively. I wasn’t quite sure if the injury was gone or waiting to ruin my day. The conservative start proved best as I was able to get through the middle miles and finish the last 10 at a strong pace. But the lesson remains the same, sometimes you need a bit of courage to start a race knowing it won’t always get worse and you might just have a good day on the trails.
Sharing miles is pretty dang cool. This is weird for me as I train alone and generally enjoy the solitude of running. But I’ve learned to appreciate getting to know the other runners. Some might only say hello, others might be weird, and some will pleasantly surprise you. After ditching a few younger guys complaining about their girlfriends, I caught up with Erick and we grinded through the middle miles together. He is a much stronger and experienced runner than I which gave me comfort to hook on and know another DNF was not happening today, no matter how my IT band felt.