How I arrived at Promise Land
How did I arrive at the start of the 2008 Promise Land 50K? I was pondering this question as a drove home after finishing the race. The short answer is that I drove to the Promise Land Youth Camp on Friday afternoon, but that is not how I arrived. It all started back in September of last year when I read Dean Karnazes book “Ultra Marathon Man”. I know it sounds like a corny movie script, but that book ignited something off deep inside of me. Up to this point I was a 2 hour 1/2 marathon runner. I had always loved backpacking and hiking in the mountains so this Ultra Marathon thing seemed like it would be a good fit for me.
I immediately started to consume as much information on training for Ultras as I could find. Luckily I happened upon irunfar.blogspot.com and Bryon's posts on choosing a first ultra and training for your first ultra. My goal was and still is to complete the 70.5 mile Laurel Highlands Ultra. Bryon's writings made me realize that I need to start a with something shorter than 70 miles. I trained hard all winter and very anxiously started and finished the Holiday Lake 50K++ in February. As I researched this race I came very familiar with a new unit of measurement primarily used in Ultra Marathons around Lynchburg, the Horton Mile. If my calculations are correct 1 Horton Mile is approximately 1.1 standard miles.More…
As I ran the second loop of Holiday Lake I happened upon and chatted with a man about the Promise Land Race. I had so much fun at Holiday Lake and he spoke so highly of Promise Land I decided to sign up for it. This is truly how I ended up at the starting line of the Promise Land 50K.
I left Virginia Beach early Friday Afternoon and drove to the the camp. I arrived right before the sky opened up and dumped heavy rain. As I drove down through the field to a spot to set up camp I thought about how far I had come in the last 8 months. I set up camp and ate some pizza and talked to some fellow runners. That night I turned in early knowing what lie ahead the next morning.
As I slept I found myself dreaming about getting up in the morning and packing up and heading home, no running. Lucking that was just a dream. I awoke to my alarm and chattering on the loudspeaker. I opened my tent the the camp was alive with activity. I quickly ate something and got dressed for the day.
All the runners anxiously lined up under the glow of portable floodlights. We sang the National Anthem and had a blessing offered for the day. Then as quickly as the rain had stopped we were off. It was quite a site to see all the runners snaking their way up the steep and rocky mountain road. I ran some, but fell into a steady walk after I was the 1 mile marker. The first aid station came quickly as the sun was starting to light the mountain and usher in a beautiful day. The climb to the top of onion mountain through the mountain laurel was interesting and I felt very good as a man announced that we had reached the top of Onion Mountain. The next section of the race was very enjoyable, a great view and a perfect running surface. I really enjoyed this section. At one point I accidentally kicked my ipod down the steep bank to the right. Luckily I saw where it fell and was quickly able to retrieve it. Next time I am leaving it in the car as I only listened to it for 1 hour. God provided a much better race soundtrack of birds chirping, water running, and wind blowing through the trees than any human creation.
After aid station 2 we climbed up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Apple Orchard Mountain. I started to feel strong on this climb and passed a bunch of other runners. Sunset Fields brought a lot spectators and a large frog to sent me off into the woods. This run down Cornelius Creek was my strongest section of the race. I thoroughly enjoyed running down the rocky single-track. As I hit the first stream crossing I had just passed some ladies. One commented they would watch where I cross. I think I disapointed her as I just plowed through the middle of the river.
Aid station 4 brought a strong lesson. I had a cup of Mountain dew and paid for it for the next hour. I really hated running on the paved road and was passed by many faster road runners. I was very happy to get back onto the trail. The ice cream at aid station 5 was wonderful. By far the best food all day and my new favorite running food. After leaving this aid station I felt like I had rocks in my shoes and I stopped to clear them out, but alas there were no rocks, just soggy feet with developing blisters. Nothing to do about it at this point so I trudged on. Eventually the pain started to get to me, but I was able to put it out of my mind and endure.
Aid station 6 was a blur as I quickly refuelled and started the climb up to the falls. This was a major highlight of the day. At first I was spent, but once I saw the falls I was inspired by such an awesome creation and got a third wind. I plowed back up to Sunset fields and quickly refuelled. Only 5 miles to go with lots of time to spare. I started to run down towards aid station 8. The run was easy and I felt great except for the blisters on the balls of my feet. I had to just put it out of my mind. As I hit the aid station I grabbed some chips ahoy and started down the road.
The road was a lot steeper than I remembered. My quads felt good and normally I could of ran pretty fast down it, but the balls of my feet were on fire so I had to tread lightly, running 1 mile and walked 2 minutes. I repeated this the whole way back to Promise Land. When I saw the 1 make marker I ran with all I had to the finish. As I crossed the line David greeted me. I love his enthusiasm for the finishers, even a back of the pack runner like myself.
It felt great to sit down with a burger and a cold Mountain Dew. I talk to some other runners and then retired to my tent just as it started to storm. I fell asleep for a while and when I woke up the field was pretty empty of tents and racers. I quickly packed up my things and tore down my wet tent. As I drove out of Promise Land I saw the glamour of being a race director. David was dragging a trash bag across the field. It appeared he was policing the area for garbage. It made me think, why can't we all just pick up after ourselves? This goes for in camp and on the trail.
I enjoyed this race and will be back next year. It is a quality event that is well planned and challenging. I felt very alive while running and cannot wait for my next race.