Iron Mountain Ultra Marathon 2012 – Race Report

Good morning,

It is the end of the recovery week from the Iron Mountain Trail Run. My wife and I drove up there on Friday, August 31st. We wanted to check out the site and enjoy the race instead of driving in the middle of the night. As we drove deeper and deeper into the Appalachians, my sense of doom increased proportionally to the height of the mountains. I was not so sure all of  a sudden, if I had trained enough on hills. Charlotte is hilly but that is that. These were the mountains, different ball game altogether.

The race started at 7 am on Saturday and it was an awesome atmosphere. The runners were helping Kevin Townsend, the race director, carry his gear and put up the finish line gate prior to start.

We started in a small “mass start” since there were only around 200 runners doing the various options, 16 mile, 30 mile and 50 mile. The night before I had talked to a couple of runners who had mentioned that it was difficult to make the cut-offs for the 50 mile option and some of them had not made them the year before. Because of that, I started out faster than originally planned. After the first steep hike for 4.5 miles and a 1700 ft. climb starting after the first aid station I realized I had pushed too fast, out of fear of not making it. I had not trusted my race projections.

I found a couple of runners to run with until mile 16, the turnaround point for the 30 milers. Going forward from here I ran primarily alone. The scenery along the trail is just gorgeous but you cannot sit back and revel in it, since the terrain is tricky and challenging with plenty of rocks to stumble over or stub your toes. After 16 miles my feet in their vibrams were used to the rocky terrain and did not complain anymore. At mile 22 I realized I had not hydrated enough and the faster pace earlier had really taken a toll on me. Re-hydrating, I moved on to a long downhill section. Here is where my lack of mountaineous training showed me my limitations. I started cramping badly around mile 25, despite sufficient electrolytes and magnesium. My legs were shot and I had a 1200 ft. climb  for 2.8 miles ahead of me. It was well worth it. My feet loved running through the creek, and again, I was overtaken by the scenery and the lush mountain woods and small waterfalls. Having to give way to a couple of horses, did not bother me or my legs for that matter, they wanted the break.

At the aid station on mile 32 I was not so sure I was going to finish the race but my wife, who did an incredible job at crewing encouraged me and I trotted on. At this point uphill was walking only and even on flat or downhill parts I had to walk at times due to cramping. Back at Skulls Gap at mile 37, I had the cramps more or less under control by running about 160 steps and walking 40. There was no way I would give up now. The crews at the various aid stations did an impeccable job at helping runners. By now my stomach did not like GU anymore, but the recovery drink with some protein that my wife had given me worked well for a good while. At the aid station at mile 43 I had a potato, cooled my head off with some water. My pace at this point had dropped to about 13:30-14:50 min/miles. I really enjoyed the race but i was dreading the last couple of miles from 46-48. The descent was hard and grueling at this point and dangerous with tired legs. I slowed down a little bit to a 14:30 min mile pace not wanting to risk my left bruised heel or my right ball of the foot that got bruised along the way at some point. Once I hit the pavement back in Damascus I picked up the pace to a 7 to 7:30 min/mile and miraculously my legs did not cramp up anymore. I finished my first Ultra Marathon strong in 10 hours and 34 min and am excited about my results. If I had stuck to my race plan I might have been able to finish it in 10 or 10:15 hours. I definitely revamped my training plan and it is including more downhill and uphill sections than before. 

Overall I have to say this race was awesome. It was my first 50 mile Ultra Marathon and it did everything I wanted to get out of it. It pushed me to the limit physically, mentally and emotionally but all the while I would say I enjoyed it and I might come back next year.  I think I was the first runner to complete the 50 mile part in vibrams.

Thank you to my wife for an awesome crewing and to Kevin Townsend and his people for putting on a great race. These pictures and more were provided by

Antony Corriveau and his crew

Beth Minnick (awesome volunteer)

Michael Anders

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