Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Iron Mountain Trail Run - 16 Miler

I love that the Iron Mountain Trail Run web site has this gnarly warning:

        Before you register, please understand this is a trail race with sections that are very challenging and potentially dangerous.  Some runners may feel that the course, especially the steep technical downhill near the end, is too dangerous.  Please understand that the course is what it is.  You will need to adjust your pace to stay safe.  You alone are responsible for your safety on the trail.  If you enjoy a challenge, sign up.  If you feel that steep, rocky, muddy, and potentially dangerous trails do not make for a good race course, good luck at a different race with terrain that suits your preferences.

I'm guessing that this is meant to keep the riffraff away. Or maybe it is there to attract the right sort of dirtbag trail runners. Either way, it makes me want to run the race more than ever. I like crazy, stupid-hard races.

And make no mistake, this race is hard!

From the start in Damascus you are treated to a 5 mile warmup run on the Virginia Creeper Trail, which is an old railroad that has been converted to a multi-use trail. It's flat enough to let you go out way too fast, and with its steady ascent of about 300 feet over the 5 miles, it's perfectly designed to quietly steal all the energy you should be saving for the last 5 miles of the race. Evil.

Choo chooooo!!! Express train to Dead Leg City!

Hitting the single track after the Creeper trail is sort of like running full speed into a concrete block wall. Except you keep hitting it over and over for about 3 miles. The trail just never seems to go "down".

Rocky, rooty, steep.

Around mile 9.3, you fall down a 42% grade "trail" and into the turn-around aid station, where a bunch of very friendly and helpful volunteers help reattach your limbs, fill up your water bottle with hope, and push you back up the 42% grade cliff with a handful of cookies. I would have taken a picture of the aid station, but I was too busy stuffing my face with sugar cookies and Coke. You'll have to take my word that it was *awesome*!

After a short but steep couple of climbs, you spend most of the remaining 6 miles of the race descending with a brief one mile climb just before the last killer descent.

The descent down into Damascus is where all your Creeper trail shenanigans come back to haunt you and where you get to practice all your swear words. In terms of curses per mile, I would rate the 2 mile descent into town at an astounding 100 "f*&!^$@ s#!7 kickers" per mile. An all time record for me. I have never cursed so much, or so loudly on any other trail. Ever. It was f*&!^$@ awesome.

Emerging from the forest you are greeted with a cheerful sign informing you that you still have to somehow haul your battered carcass "~1 mile" through town and back down the Creeper trail to the finish. I believe that translated to about 5 billion painful steps for me.

But I finished. My second longest trail race in the past 2 years. As I lay sprawled in the grass weakly attempting to stretch all the crampy muscles in my legs, I thought to myself, "I'm doing this again next year!"