2015 Black Mountain Monster 6/12/24 Race 
Thursday, June 25, 2015, 10:46 PM - Race Reports
Posted by Administrator
Andrea Sayers, Robert Regnier and I left Arkansas for the 9 hour journey to Black Mountain, NC around 9:30 am on Thursday morning. The drive was easy and we made it to town before all of the restaurants shut down for the night. It was nice to see so many places that offered healthy, organic, locally grown foods. I was in heaven from the start! We also had the pleasure of hearing a local band perform while we ate our healthy, organic meal at an aptly named restaurant, Trailhead. I could get used to this for sure.

After a long, restful night’s sleep and a morning massage by Robert, the master masseur, we decided to make the most of our time and explore the area before picking up packets and setting up camp. Our cottage was a short walk to Lake Tomahawk. There is a level path that circles the lake for strolling, a fountain in the middle, ducks, and flora all around, as well as basketball courts, tennis courts and a children's playground adjacent to the lake. After taking in our new neighborhood we grabbed a nutella latte at The Dripolator before venturing 20 minutes farther west to the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center in Asheville. Armed with information, a map, and adventurous spirits we drove on to Craggy Gardens Picnic Area. Craggy Gardens has a 1.2 mile (one way) hike to an overlook, passing by an old shelter, winding through the acres of rhododendron and azalea bushes, which were not yet in bloom. That didn’t matter because the views are very impressive. Mountains as far as the eye could see! We even got to see why they are called the Smokies. On one side of the mountain was glorious sunshine and rainclouds below us on the other side. The clouds and fog drifted up and passed right in front of us like a ghost. It was surreal.

After a two mile hike, collecting rocks full of pyrite, and feeling like kids at heart we headed back to town to meet my friend Kayleigh Majercak who drove from Kentucky to help crew and pace. We grabbed lunch at My Father’s Pizza, did a little shopping at a local outfitter, and then drove to the start/finish area to set up our tent, canopy, and supplies. My family and I only camp a couple of times each year so it was no big surprise to find ourselves at the Tractor Supply and Dollar Store for supplemental supplies. Fortunately they were less than half a mile down the road.

The race start/finish is located in a field below the Manor House on the Montreat College campus. We arrived when the field opened at 4:00pm and picked out a good crew spot next to fun and friendly tent neighbors. We were able to drive the car down to unload. We setup the tent and organized the food, gear, and chairs we had brought. Setting up camp was a lot of fun and I was very surprised by the calm atmosphere. People were laughing and pets were running around happily as everyone worked to set up camp. Some people just set up the bare necessities and others had extremely elaborate setups. One looked like a tent version of the Four Seasons! I have to admit we were drooling a little as we walked past. We picked our chins off the ground and headed back to our cottage to begin dinner preparations. Salmon on the grill with rice was on the menu. After dinner Robert gave me a massage to work out any tension. This guy is amazing and I highly recommend his services. With happy tummies and happy, relaxed muscles we called it a night. As much as we did in the day I have to say that I have never been this relaxed before a big race. It is a good feeling!

It was nice to sleep until 8am but starting at 10am meant heat on this day! The previous day had enough chill in the air that a jacket was needed in the morning hours, but that day was in the past and the one given us was definitely much warmer! I knew that staying on top of my electrolytes would be key. The race director came out and gave us a few words of encouragement before sending us on our way. Some were there for the relay and some were there for the solo event. Originally there were 12 of us women signed up for the 24 hour solo but due to the heat all but 3 of us dropped to the 12 hour event. This is probably how I won 2nd place. First place won by 2 miles. By late afternoon it was easy to spot those running the relay versus those running the solo event. Moods and facial expressions spoke volumes.

The heat was certainly tough but the course never got old. The 3.1 mile trail consisted of a variety of terrain, from grass fields, to gravel paths, to wooded access roads, to pavement, to singletrack trail. There were a ton of turns, 3 significant sized hills, including a loose rock hill I called rock slide hill, a rooty hill I called Jacob’s Ladder, and a hill that ran along the train tracks with 5 wooden bridges that I had no name for but challenged myself to run until I got to the 4th bridge. Each lap was 300 feet of elevation gain and if my math is correct then you’d have a total of 10,000 feet of gain for 33 laps or 102.3 miles. At the end of each lap we had to run around the tent village and up a slight hill in the field, shouted our numbers to the lap counters then turned 180° to start a new lap. One of the Montreat College students, Bre, marked the entire course and she did a stellar job! The trail was marked with arrows and almost every root was spray painted orange to make it easy to see even in the dark. The main aid stations had mostly fruit, water, and gatorade. They did at one point put out some pretzels and pbj sandwiches. The unmanned aid station located at the 1.5 mile marker only had fruit, water, and gatorade. Since I ran by my own aid station each loop I mostly ate the items I brought from home. I do wish I had laid things out on my table so I could more easily grab what sounded good. If you are like me you just never know what you are going to want until you see it.

I was loving the race, enjoying the company of others, and feeling confident that I would make my goal of 33 laps throughout most of the day. Per my research in ultra running nutrition I was taking in 20-24oz of water and 350mg of sodium per hour. I think my interpretation of what I needed was a little askew because I began having intestinal issues about 9 hours into the race at around mile 45. After a true confessions moment with my crew about this issue and a quick trouble shooting session I switched from solid foods and salt tabs to Perpetuem. This has saved several of my races in the heat. My gut hates the heat! I am still working on figuring this one out. The Perpetuem bought me another 7.5 hours of running. At one point I began worrying about what damage I might be doing to my body with so many hours of diarrhea and told my crew I was going to go one or two laps longer and if it didn’t go away I was going to call it a day. I started that third decision making lap with Andrea. We were talking and I was feeling drained but I was still moving ok until I got to the port o potty. I had a bit of an explosion in there and exited with all of my remaining energy completely gone! It amazed me how very fast things started falling apart. I knew if I didn’t handle things properly I would need medical help and I was determined to do all I could to avoid that. Step one,lay down. Step two, take in some calories and sodium. Step three, get a ride if steps one and two don’t work quickly. Step one, oops, I laid down on a slant with my feet higher than my head. Poor Andrea took off her shoe to use as a pillow for propping my head up. Step two, check, a banana slice in each cheek and a few swigs of gatorade. Step three, another oops, make that a Big Oops! My thoughts went to the golf cart out restocking the aid station throughout the day. We could call and have them send out the golf cart. I told Andrea to call one of the three emergency contact numbers the website had given us. All three went to voicemail! So she decided to call Robert back at camp. He sent the young girl left to man the main aid station and lap check table to go get one of the three sleeping adults. Bre came out and gave him the keys to the golf cart. What!?! All Robert knew was the path he had run with me in the day. He didn’t know the shortcuts. He came to the first single track section and had to turn around and go back to the start/finish to get Bre to drive out. So much time had passed, during which I was able to drink 3 cups of gatorade and was feeling much much better. During that passing time I had also gone from so hot I wanted to strip off every article of clothing to shivering. Andrea covered me with several layers of her clothing. Bre gave me her sweatshirt when she arrived and Robert gave me his extra pair of shorts and his jacket. A short and bumpy ride later I was back at the start finish after having completed 26 and a half laps/82 miles in 17 hours (last lap and half don’t count in results). The race director came out and after a coherent conversation with me he was convinced I was ok to go without medical assistance. He gave instructions to my crew to make sure I got in a good amount of water and sodium before going to sleep for the night, let them know it was ok to come back later to tear down camp, wished me well, and sent us on our way back to the cottage. I bounced back very fast and felt so good the next day that I went out for a stroll around the lake with Robert after breakfast.

Upon reflection and conversation with Stan, Podog, and Thomas I think I should have been taking in more water. The book in which I got my information stated that the body can only process 20-28 oz of water per hour. That is about one water bottle which is exactly what I was taking in each hour. The trail hero’s, yeah that’s what I call you fast guys who are ALWAYS kind and willing to share your knowledge, said that it isn’t unusual for them to drink a bottle and half in really hot temperatures. I also think that I should have been adding ice to my water bottles sooner. I was so hot in the day that my bandana full of ice did not even feel cold to the touch. Even though I could not feel the cold I knew it had to be helping. Every lap my crew had a bottle of Perpetuem and a fresh bandana full of ice. Such a great crew, they even made iced bandana's for our new found friend Mosi.
My crew, my sweet, sweet friends were so amazing and so motivating. Every lap I was greeted with a loud “There’s my hot moma!” I looked forward to hearing it at the end of each lap. When the heat first started getting to me and really zapping my mojo and motivation they decided to each run a lap with me to lift my spirits. I did get the RD’s ok on this. Each one was so sweet yet so different. Andrea was upbeat and matter of fact. I got the come to jesus talk of “as long as this is in your head we are going to keep going and not letting you quit but if this is a medical issue we will talk”. I knew at that point she was right it was all in my head. She asked several questions to make sure but I knew I needed to change my perspective and keep on truckin’. On our laps together we often laughed and sang. Kayleigh was so soft spoken but told some of the funniest jokes and stories. She reminded me of past accomplishments and reminded me that I would get through this just like I got through those. We had so many funny, laughable moments. Robert was also soft spoken and told me stories of his jujitsu friends who he had been following throughout the day. Some of his teammates had a competition that same day. He was missing it to help me with my adventure instead. He asked if I had ever punched anyone in the face, I said yes and asked if he was shocked by that, and he replied no. Ha, I wasn’t sure what to make of that so I gave him the funny details. Ask me sometime and I will share the story. When things first began unraveling he saw it pretty clear. He reminded me, on what would be our last lap together, that this was my race, that I was the expert, that none of them had run an ultra, to listen to my body, to do what I felt was right. He let me know that no matter what happened that I had still run my heart out and had something to be proud of. It was like a couple of heavy weights were lifted off my shoulders the second those soft spoken words hit my ears. He knew I didn’t have many laps left in me and was concerned enough that he made Andrea take her cell phone with us on what wound up being my last attempt at another lap. Good Call! It feel extremely grateful to each of these three amazing souls! I am blessed to get to call them my friends! It was wonderful getting to know them all better. My grandmother used to say, “you never really know someone until you have lived with them.” I say, “you never really know someone until you have gone for a long run with them.”

I met some cool people on the trail. Mosi Smith, a former navy man, a current marine, RD for a 6 hour race in Annapolis, MD, the marketing coordinator for The Great Wall of China Marathon, has completed my biggest bucket list race (if only I had the funds for the entry fee), and will be running Badwater 135 mile race in July, which will never be on my bucket list. Stu and his friends running the relay, who cheered me on each and every lap. Kari, a very funny, kind lady who used to live in Arkansas and was extremely helpful in setting up camp and picking the right spot. Erik and Erin, a brother and sister team running the 24 hr relay. Erin ran with Andrea and me for a while. She had never run longer than a half marathon and she had already set a distance PR of 28 miles and was really struggling. We all sang together in an effort to take our mind off of our pain. One lady, whose name I don’t know who when asked, “how are you doing?” replied “I’d be better if you would quit lapping me.” We chuckled. I could go on and on. Let me just say that I made many beautiful memories and formed new friendships. Black Mountain, NC is a gorgeous, a great place to visit and run. I will be returning but probably for the relay. Let’s Team Up!

Go Back After Such Runner Safety Downfall?, you ask. Yes. The Race Director contacted me after the race. We had several conversations. Although they were short handed, it was only he and Bre in charge, he didn’t use that as an excuse and owned it! He apologized, told me he used to be an emergency responder and took runner safety very serious. The three main people were only gone from the main aid station for 40 minutes but of course that is when things went wrong. In the future he plans to do mock run through safety drills, making sure all key people have walkie-talkies as well as cell phones, and using our idea to put a walkie-talkie out at the aid station in case of emergency. EMS & Fire Dept were both on standby throughout the race. I think it was a fluke, that they put on a great event for a good cause, and made it fun! So yes, in the word of Schwarzenegger, “I’ll be back!”

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