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Fire on the Mountain 50K - RunUltra Marathon

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Flintstone, Maryland
United States
Mountain Maryland Marathon Club
27F / -3C
Total Time = 6h 17m 42s
Overall Rank = 12/57
Age Group =
Age Group Rank = 0/
Pre-race routine:

Note that race was delayed a week due to a rare heavy snowstorm on Oct 29. Age Groups not determined. However, I was the 1st 50+ person to cross the finish. Also note that temperature was at the start. It warmed to probably low 50s by early afternoon.

The day before the race, I prepared my drop bag. For the triathletes reading, this is like the special needs bag you see/hear about for Ironman events. This bag would be available at the halfway point in the race and I put items in there that I might possibly need or want. I'm a bit experienced in this from last year's JFK, though this time the bag would only be available once. So, three small bags here labeled "Meds/First aid", "Food/comfort", and "Spare/dry clothing". I also filled a drink bottle with a carbohydrate/electrolyte mixture that I decided to use during the second half of the course. Though the base goal is to finish, I was planning on racing the course. So, I would use my drink bottle pack along with my own nutrition which were gels and Clif Bloks. I find that it takes longer to fill up a Camelback for races at the aid stations and faster to refill a water bottle if needed. I also know that I can make around 12 miles on a bottle. So, the plan was to refill as AS2 at 8.9 miles, switch to a fresh bottle at AS4, and fill up again at AS6 (mile 27.2, a little over 10 miles from AS4). This worked okay for the most part. In addition to the nutrition/hydration, I planned to shed/exchange clothing here as it would be getting to around 50 in bright sunshine during the second half of the run. With the drop bag done and race clothes laid out for the next day, time to get sleep for what lay ahead for me.

It's race day!!! Alarm goes off WAY too early at 3:35 AM, but fortunately Daylight Savings Time ended overnight and we all got another hour to sleep in. So, this is actually my normal work week wakeup time. Grab coffee, breakfast drink, and bagel with a light spread of peanut butter and raspberries....Yum! Check the weather and it's a bit cold outside....27! BRRR!! Warm shower feels good though and I get my race day clothes on. I've gotten used to running with a bike jersey of all things as it has back pockets. So, I have extra spots to either carry light items or place clothes items I might decide to take off later. Since it's so cold to start, I decided to wear a light wind-breaker vest that I also use sometimes during chillier bike rides. This vest I could easily roll up and put in one of my back pockets if needed. In addition, I decided to wear some loose shorts over my compression running shorts. This was more to protect them should I fall and on one particular part of the course which I'll cover a bit later. As my left foot had been giving me some issues in the ankle/Achilles area, I also decided to tape it a bit for support. Unfortunately, this took time and I messed it up the first time. As it takes around an hour to get to the bus pickup site (which is also the finish area), I found myself rushing out the door so I wouldn't be late! Definitely took too long to tape my foot up.

As I've been to the pickup area before, I didn't have any real problems getting there (got lost a bit last year in the dark) and there were others making their way to the area during the last few miles. Still dark too and I could see headlights in the field just before I turn into it to park. BTW, this field is really a primitive campsite and also is the main start point for the purple trail loop, a mountain-biking trail here in the Green Ridge State Forest. Anyway, park and mosey down to packet pickup. Jason is there handing out runner numbers, T-shirts, and bags from the race's main sponsor, Sheetz. Jason Griffith (another super runner/trail runner who I had the pleasure of meeting during training last year) greets me as he hands my number and bag to me. Heidi Marks also recognizes me and says "Hi" from behind me in the line. Like me, Heidi is relatively new to the ultra distance trail running scene. But, as I found out during a practice run a few weeks back, she would be SERIOUS competition to the faster runners come race day! One of the things that set apart fast ultra trail runners from the rest of the pack in my opinion is their ability to quickly move downhill, no matter the obstacles. And Heidi has this skill, big time! So, I was pretty sure I'd be coming in after her during the the race, but one never knows. Give greetings back and we talk for a bit before I head back to my car to get my drop bag and put it with the others. Then just have to wait for the buses.

Event warmup:

Didn't really take any. Thought I'd have plenty of time to warm up on the course.
  • 6h 17m 42s
  • 32.1 miles
  • 11m 46s  min/mile

Buses come about 6:40 AM to take us to the Start and we all get on board. Dropped a glove, though, and fortunately had enough time to retrieve it before we left. Now last year, while there was a nice bus for some of the runners, there was also an open air trolley bus for others. That would've been a COLD ride today! And a few I spoke to on the bus was glad that they didn't have to ride in that. Oh, some of you may be wondering why we're on the buses in the first place. Well, FOTM is a point-to-point race. So we boarded them at what would be the finish line for us and they took us to the start, Point Lookout, near Little Orleans, MD. I got to meet Brad Williamson here who's from the Baltimore area and new to the ultra running and actually distance running scene. Sounded like he was rapidly progressing along as I recall having completed only few lower distance races under his belt so far. I also saw a few others I recognized from the previous year, especially Mary Jane Baniak a super trail/distance runner! After being on I-68 for 6 miles, we're on Orleans Road which winds us down to a valley and then we're on Oldtown Orleans Rd SE, which is really a hard dirt/shale packed road with plenty of ups and downs! I knew this road from last year and it would've been really treacherous I think for the buses with the runners had the race gone on as scheduled. Anyway, we debark at Carol Road and walk to the start of the race, Point Lookout:

A stunning sight awaits us here: mountain peaks poking through the fog over the meandering Potomac River in the valley below as the sun rises over the area in a clear sky! It's an awesome sight and a terrific way to begin this adventure! While waiting for the start, I talked to Jason a bit as well as John and Tina Macklan, who I ran with during my first training run on the trails here last summer and then saw when I volunteered for the race last year as well. Chit chatted with a few other folks as well and Jason got a picture of some of us before the race.

Kevin then proceeded to give us some pre race instructions, keeping it pretty simple. Folks in the race start area were saying out loud to others: "Red, Green, Logging road, Purple", meaning the order of the different sections of this course: the red and green trails, logging road, and end on the purple trail. Before the start:

With Kevin's instructions compete, he says "Go ahead, have fun, good luck, and see you at the aid stations"...Air horn BLAST! And...we're off and running in the 2011 Fire on the Mountain 50K!!

The first mile or so of the course is the road we just walked on to get to the start and then Old Orleans Rd. I started in the back and talked to John Macklan a bit more before saying my goodbyes and picking up my pace. As I said, this has some up and down sections to it and I found I was running fairly well along it. We get to the point where we make a left turn to get onto the Red Trail and I smile for Jason taking pictures as well as the TriStateRunnur cameraman, giving 2-thumbs up to say how I was feeling at that point.

Getting onto the Red Trail is tricky as it's single track and a somewhat steep descent for a short distance before reaching the valley below. Still single track moving along here, so several of us are grouped here running at a decent pace. Leaves cover the course as well as downed branches and a few smaller trees. Stream crossings, too! Last year, the creek/stream beds were bone dry. But, this year, a completely different story. The ones here mostly presented just challenges to jump over rather than cross. That would change later.

Because of all the water from last week and previous storms, a good portion of the trail along this part is rather muddy and mushy. So you really had to watch your step a bit to keep from slipping here and there, though this comes with the territory when you're trail running. I'm keeping a decent pace with a group of runners here and really just biding my time for opportunities to pass if they actually present themselves. A couple did but not until we reached a wider open area of the trail did folks jockey more for position. This short part was relatively nicer with not as much debris. Still, a lot more to run on as we were just finishing up the second mile of the course. Now, though the red trail is pretty well-marked, one still has to be vigilant, not blindly follow folks in front of you, and look up every now and then to check for the trail blazes or markers. It's real easy to just keep following someone and miss a turn. And I actually did this myself twice during the course. Fortunately, the first time right here, the guy in front of me saw where the trail turned to the right and then yelled to the three guys that had been ahead of him that they were off trail as he and I and runners behind made the right turn. Glad he was watching because I just hadn't been vigilant enough and would've missed the turn too. I decided I couldn't afford that mistake later, especially if I found myself alone. I still had one more off trail experience, though.

I stick with the guy who correctly called the right turn as we make our way to our first climb of the day. This is a fairly long and steady climb here and I can just make out Kari Brown (who would take the women's 3rd place spot this year) near the top who surprisingly is running in singlet (tank top) and shorts. We talked about this later and she just said on the runs, she just feels too warm with layers whereas she's all bundled up inside her place when she's not running. I mean you'd think it was in the 70s or even 80s the way she was dressed. I was pretty glad for the layering I had used during in the initial portion of the course, especially for what happened later. Now just before the guy ahead of me starts the main climb, three deer ran across the trail right in front of him! Whoa!! He exclaimed that could've been bad had a collision occurred. I remarked that at least it was deer. For those that don't know, I was alone running on the Green Trail last October during a training run when I saw a bear on the trail up ahead! Yikes! Fortunately nothing like that today.

Unless you really can run the whole distance, a good number of ultra distance runners advise other folks to walk up significant uphills to give your running muscles a break and save energy for later. Such was the case here for me as well. Now as I've run the Red Trail before, I knew what to expect here at the top: a spectacular view along a ridgeline with a very steep dropoff on the left side of the trail! And now the very steep, potential bone-breaking descent takes place. Again, fast ultra runners can take these descents in a seemingly out-of-controlled way. But, not me. I let better descending folks go on and as the trail switched back and continued to move my way down as best as possible. There is one part here where there is NOTHING to hold onto as the trail really drops down from underneath you. Here is why I wore the loose shorts over my compression shorts. I essentially got on my butt and crabbed/slid down this section. It's safer and you actually do go fairly quickly as long as you can control the slide and not roll at all. Whew! Made it down that without incident. Picked myself up and off and running on the trail once again.

During the next section, I found myself running with Selena Smart, who would set a new course record for the Women's Masters group. As she wasn't familiar with the course, I let her know that was really the worst part of the course and that the Red Trail was the most technical part. Ran with her making some conversation until the next short uphill section where I believe I went ahead for a while. Met up with her again a bit later. And I also passed several runners at this point who passed me on the steep downhill including Brad who had met on the bus. After this next uphill, we make our way down a wide portion of the trail to Aid Station 1, 5.6 miles into the trail. Jason is there taking pictures and says I'm doing great. I'm feeling pretty good still at this point too and give thanks for his words. I don't need anything at AS1 and press on. The runner who was just ahead of me as we get out onto the road asks "Where do we go?" I knew the course and said "Right turn on the road for a while" and move out ahead of him. Up ahead is Kari Brown and I'm able to pass her as well. See her several times again during the day. As we're on the road, I take this opportunity to pick up my pace now to road running speed since I won't get too many opportunities to do so. At one point the road turns sharply right and I glance back but don't see anyone following.

So, on the road a bit but this is short-lived as the Red Trail takes a right into the woods, descending a bit again at first. This part is again a technical part as it is single track with a fairly sharp dropoff on the right. In addition, the trail drops and rises sharply in many places over a few rocky places, beside a few wet areas where water has dripped, and down and up root-covered sections. So you really have to watch your step here! But, you emerge from this part onto a nice pine needled section and then steadily climb once again. At the end of this ascent, I had forgotten about the somewhat steep descent here leading one down to the stream area below! Fortunately, more to hold onto here than in the very steep descent before. While I was alone for the road and the previous technical session (which was very interesting mentally after being with folks up to that point), I hear someone coming up from behind me, but still a ways back. Now that I'm down to the stream area, this is the start of the multitude of real stream crossings for the day. Can't avoid getting feet wet here as the streams are quite wide now and I just can't jump across anymore. Man, is the water cold too! At the second stream crossing, the guy behind me now passes and moves on ahead. It's okay. I really am just here to finish and enjoy the trail but I will race my race too. I continue to do maybe a couple more stream crossings before finally reaching Aid Station 2. Jason is here as well and says that I'm just burning up the course and that I'm still looking good (I remember him saying the latter but he might've said the first at AS1). I remarked that I hope I looked this good later. I'm here in 1hr 30 min into the race BTW, which is about where I was hoping to be.

Now at AS2, most of the volunteers are staff and older teenage boys from Green Ridge Youth Center's Mountain Quest organization. These guys were SUPER! They were offering everything to me they had (gels, cookies, bananas, etc) and making sure I was ready to go. But for my plan, I just needed to fill my bottle and then took one cup of gatorade and I think one cup of water. Felt I was good to go and proceeded on. With the Red Trail and the most technical portion of the course behind me, I now proceeded forward onto the next section of the course, the Green Trail.

Now the Green Trail lies in a narrow valley between two ridges right on either side of it. It gradually rises along the way with a bit more a sharper rise nearer to the end before it ends at Kirk Road, a little under 7.5 miles later. While this isn't as technical as the Red Trail, it has its own set of challenges: numerous stream crossings and roots/loose rocks. But as I had run this during training last summer, I confidently headed out down the trail. The guy who passed me a bit earlier is up ahead and we're both navigating the streams in our own ways. I try to follow his lead here and there and one time I wish I had a camera because my balancing act on the rocks must've been a good show and laugh outloud at this! Sometimes, you just have to. As he's a bit better here than me, I start to lose sight of him after a bit. And I really did a bit later as, unfortunately, I'm pretty sure somewhere here, I had my first fall of the day. Yeah, tripped over something here. Landed in the dirt and my outstretched arms with my hands down saved me from anything serious. No one was around me at this point though and so I continued onward. At another stream crossing, I spent too much time trying to decide on how to cross without getting really soaked and a runner behind passes me by balancing on a log to cross. No, that's not going work for me. Then Selena Smart again appears along with Heidi, her friend Michelle Benshoff, and another guy I found out later is Orla Kastberg not too far behind. I found out later that Michelle was trying to officially get in the race but apparentlly couldn't. So, she ran some of the course anyway with Heidi. Selena crosses too and so not to waste any more time, I just pick somewhere to cross here. I'm a bit unsure if it happened here or a bit later, but during one of these early stream crossings, my foot slips on a rock and down most of me went into the stream!! Can you say COLD!!! We're in mostly shade and I don't think the air temperature is out of the upper 30s yet!! Well, I decided after that to not pick rocks to step on and just go through the streams, cold water be damned! It was either that or risk another dunking or perhaps worse.

And so I'm back with a group again and following Selena who's moving at a nice even pace and I'm picking up a conversation with her as best I can while maintaining concentration on the trail. I can hear Heidi somewhere behind me talking to Orla I think every now and then too. There might be one more guy back there too as I recall, but he didn't pass me and I don't recall seeing him the rest of the way. From the fall in the water, my gloves are wet and I consider taking them off, but then decide not to until I get to my drop bag at AS4. This was a good call as I fell one more time on the Green Trail a bit later. Continue to cross streams here and there. The main challenge with all the stream crossings is that it really seemed like I had to cross another just after my feet had finally warmed up after going through the previous one. I actually remember one stream crossing from a training run because it dropped sharply into the stream where there are a series of gnarly roots lining the side. During that run, I slipped into a hole in these roots and significantly scraped my right shin, which took weeks to heal and I still bear the scar from. I warned Selena before she crossed about this occurrence.

One other challenge here on the Green Trail I should note is that due to the heavy wet snow from last week's storm, there were a LOT of downed trees and most of what I saw were here on this part of the course. Going around these took time and like I said, there were quite a number of these across the trail. Thankfully, Jason and Kevin had done a good job of marking many of these obstacles with bright engineer tape as well as adding extra markings along the trail if it was difficult to tell where the trail and/or the next blaze was at. I used that tape to continue on course during several parts of the course.

Before we get to Mertens Road about 2/3 of the way of the Green Trail, a faster trail runner slips by all of us here. More power to him. Didn't see his number, though. Shortly thereafter, we also emerge onto Mertens to find a short steep drop back onto the trail after crossing the road. Orla and Selena both pause here to take in some nutrition and drink a bit. I press cautiously ahead down being careful not to slip. Heidi and Michelle she's running with are already ahead. We have about 3 miles to go to Kirk Road and Selena catches up to me again. I let her go as I think she's a bit faster, but I also was comfortable with her pace and it helped me keep going at a decent clip here. Yet more stream crossings! By now, both Selena and myself just don't care and just trudge through them, only pausing briefly to see if there's any decent place to cross. Heidi and Michelle are a little ways up and Orla's not too far behind I believe. We're starting to enter a bit more variation in the terrain and it's here that I look up and see Heidi and Michelle and possibly one other person digging through brush ahead. I stop and say to Selena that this isn't right as I've lost the Green blazes. Turn back to say the same to Orla and we start to backtrack. Kari Brown has now arrived and see that the trail goes off to the left up the ridge and we let the folks ahead know. They climb the ridge as we go back a bit and make our way up. Back on course. We're going up a hill a bit later and Selena pauses enough that I end up going on. I'm not positive if Orla and Kari have passed at this point but the two other women are definitely ahead. Not too long from this I descend a bit and see a couple of volunteers on Kirk Road! Yea! They motion me to the right and I run up the hill here on my way to Aid Station 4 and the Log Roll Overlook! I have reached the halfway point and in decent time, exactly 3 hours!

A few folks are there cheering as I reach the top and head over to the aid station where the guys from Green Ridge Youth Center's Mountain Quest organization are out in force here! They were a great bunch the whole day and I hope they're back to help runners in future FOTM events. At AS4, the runners who stop to pause a bit who have never been here are treated to a FANTASTIC view of the meandering stream and valley below, with the trees in Autumn colors below!! It really is quite spectacular and one could easily forget that you're supposed to continue here for another 15-
16 miles.

BTW, here's where the second person in the relay groups started from and I'll get to another note about this point near the end of this report. Well, first things the drop bag! I remove my beanie and gloves, get the hat from Eagleman 70.3 I like to wear, swap out my drink bottles. I should've put my arm warmers in here as well I thought later. In addition, I meant to remove my loose shorts as they were still a bit wet but I actually forgot about them as well. I then grabbed the two gels I had packed. I didn't seem to need anything else, though later I thought perhaps I should've taken an Advil to dull any inflammation that might be building up. Then I went over to the aid station table and grabbed another gel in case I needed it, ate a banana, downed some Pringles (hmmm, salty!), grabbed some cookies, and drank a bit of water. While all of this is working to my race plan and even taking in what I did was good, I did make a couple of slight mistakes which I'll cover later. Proceed to get back on the course after spending 8 minutes at AS4. Onward!

The next part of the course is actually on the logging roads which are hard-packed and have shale in them. Now many folks who ran the course this year and last don't like the road part. I actually do as I'm more of a road runner and it also pretty much means I won't trip over anything. Plus I can pick up to road running pace as well. During a practice run here a few weeks back, I was really able to speed things up here. But, during the first stretch on the road, it's uphill and so I'm walking this part while eating a cookie I grabbed on the way out. Arm warmers come off as it's just too warm now for those and stashed them away in a pocket. Just up ahead are Orla and Kari and way up ahead are Heidi and Michelle. All are walking like me. As we get near to the top, I find I can now run more than walk as this is a bit more rolling. I pass Orla and Kari but I went a bit into chase mode here setting my sites on Heidi and Michelle up ahead. I come to a more downhill section and notice another runner ahead who Heidi and Michelle have passed. They have just turned onto Jacobs road and I do so not too long afterwards. This first part of Jacobs road is downhill and I bounded down here during the practice run. And so I started out doing so here again. However, I started to have some sort of a problem with the upper part of my left foot where I had taped it, some sort of soreness. I didn't want to slow but I also had probably a half marathon left and needed to be able to run. So, I let up a little. Still, I seemed to be catching Heidi and Michelle slowly. I was definitely catching Jeff Ward and passed him on a relatively flat part not too long later.

Unfortunately, what goes down here must go back up! I'm actually not too far behind Heidi and Michelle as I cross a bridge to start on the road back up and Heidi yells back to me that she was just wondering where I was. Unfortunately, it's time to walk back uphill again and this is the last really long hill on the course. But, it is a fairly long climb, so we're all walking up here for a while. After the gals ahead of me reach the top, they're off and running again. Now after the reaching the top myself, unfortunately nature called and I had to take some time out to take care of business. No way I was going to make the next few hours like this. At least this was the only time and I was good to go for the remainder of the course.

Now it was late morning, the sun was shining with no clouds and a light breeze. While I didn't have anything heavy on, I'm pretty sure looking back that the sun was starting to make me sweat more with what I did have on. And the still relative coolness of the day lulled me into thinking I was drinking enough. I did have my watch's countdown timer going off every 30 minutes to remind me to drink which I was following. But, later I would realize one of the mistakes I made at AS4. So, anyway, I'm moving along okay but I've lost sight of the gals ahead and really am all alone once again for a while. But I was able to keep plugging. While I didn't think the road was a problem, the soreness at the top of my left foot would return every now and then. Plus I found myself cramping in my legs every now and then. I recognize that this is a sign of not really drinking enough but I tried to shrug this off. Now, I'm moving along a relatively flat part when I hear fast footsteps behind me. A gal comes up and passes me like I was pretty much standing still! I see that it's Jennifer Plevinski, a really fast runner. She's got a great stride and as I recognized her I said "Hi Jenn!!" She realized after that who I was I believe and said hi back, but maintaining her stride and zooming on ahead. I think if Jennifer is just getting here, perhaps I'm farther along than I thought in the pack. I didn't really know where I was in the group of runners and thought I was just mid-pack. But, maybe doing better? Though Jenn was quickly becoming a dot in the distance, the thought of her just now being here brightened my spirits a bit. Fortunately I didn't find out why I was seeing Jenn at this point and why she was moving so well until later.

I'm still plugging on the road and it's mostly rolling though there are still a few hills here I walk. Somewhere along here, I find I'm getting hungry and am forced to take a gel. I look at my watch and think I must be getting close to AS5 soon. And not too long after this, I come around a curve in the road and see a couple of cars with the table out for the runners up the hill. My spirits brighten at this but they're about to be deflated shortly as I reach the station. Last year, it was my primary job to man this aid station. And I had a ton of food/drinks here then too. Not so much this year, but I still appreciated what was there. Plus last year, I cheered, clapped, and even had a cowbell that I rung for the runners coming up the hill. But, if the people there were manning it, they didn't get out of their cars to see how I was doing or cheer me as I came up to the table. I do realize it's quite a job being a volunteer, so I can't really complain though I would've welcomed some support at this point as it was 22.8 miles into the course. So it was pretty much self serve here. And unfortunately, there are no cups here for water which I realize later I needed more here than I thought. Just the jugs of water. So here's a pretty big mistake that I made. I should've just poured the water in my bottle and drank fairly heavily for a bit. Then filled it up again and moved on. But, I didn't want to dilute the carb/electrolyte mixture and decided against it. I really did consider just drinking out of the jugs which I heard later that others considered as well. Still, it's something one should be prepared for and not count on during a race, especially a trail ultra. Hmm, perhaps carry a collapsible cup?? Do they make those?

At AS5, I ate a full banana and then scarfed up some cookies. I turned to look down the hill and saw Jeff Ward slowly making his way up and thought it was time for me to leave. Grabbed some more cookies to eat along the way. Gosh, have to walk uphill some more after AS5 too. Continue on the road that was again rolling for a couple of miles and just past May Road, the course now turns left onto the Purple Trail. We actually missed this turn onto the trail during the training run because the trail sign and blaze were obscured by brush. Fortunately, the turn was now highlighted by bright engineer tape and orange sign with a black arrow all saying "Turn here!" My spirits brighten again here because I know I only have somewhere around 7-8 miles to go. I did take note of the time, but not sure I really remember what it was. I think it was probably somewhere around 4h 30min into the course because I do remember thinking that I had definitely slowed as I had only gone somewhere around 7 something miles since AS4 and I had made it to AS2 in that time covering 8.9 miles. Well, press onward.

Now back on the trail, I found it became more difficult to press on gradual inclines where I was able to run before. I started to go into a run/walk rhythm here when I should be running, much to my dismay. Now to note an unusual occurrence during this race, somewhere during this part leading up to AS6 and as others have noted, gunshots were going off not too far away. As I live near woods and also near other folks who fire guns on their property, the sounds of guns going off in woods doesn't phase me too much. However, what sounded like a MACHINE GUN (rat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat!!) did catch my attention for a bit. Still, I was concentrating a great deal at this point just to keep moving. The purple trail went from single track to wide trail and I found myself moving along okay here....until, I fell again. Got up, nothing hurt, brushed myself off, and got going again. Crossed one of the roads and I knew I was about 2 miles with a little under 3 more to go to AS6. At one point, I had thought I reached near the spot AS6 was located at and this perked me up a bit, but I wasn't as close as I thought and was going up another slight hill shortly afterwards. After little while I did come to a place I recognized from the training run and now knew I really was near. Came around a turn in the trail and saw a couple of runners in the distance. Wasn't sure who they were at the time because neither looked like Heidi or her companion. Now that I looked at pictures, I think this was Heidi and Wayne Burhman, since I saw neon yellow/green top (Heidi) and red top (Wayne). I thought at the time "cool!" And as I'm just giving myself a little lift for actually catching up to someone in my slowed pace, {TRIP!}....and down I go again! While this fall also doesn't really injure me, my legs go into painful spasms! It takes a bit to calm them down, get back up, and get moving once again. After I get up, the two runners I saw, have pretty much left. But, thankfully, after coming down and over a short rise, I see orange caps and the Green Ridge Youth Center's Mountain Quest organization staff and guys are on the job here! Whew, was I glad to see these guys as I was now completely out of hydration.

The guys at AS 6 did a super job ensuring I was well taken care of and asked just what did I need all the time. I grabbed a cup of Gatorade and two cups of water, plus asked them to fill up my bottle with half Gatorade and half water. I asked if they had anything salty and they unfortunately didn't. So I took a banana again, a couple of PBJ squares, and I think a couple more cookies too. Here I realized the mistakes I made at AS4 and 5. I should've finished drinking whatever I had left in my first bottle at AS4 and grabbed a bit more water as well. And I should've also just poured water into my bottle at AS5, had a good drink of that, and refilled. Not drinking enough water is what hurt me the most in the latter part of this course. While here at AS6, Orla and Kari seemingly come out of nowhere, take a few things here, and leave me behind. Then another runner comes in but she tells me she's a relay person. Pretty sure this is Megan Hamilton. She says she doesn't know how we're doing the full distance as it's enough for her just to do this second part of the course. I answer that we don't exactly know how we're doing this distance either. She and the guys around get a laugh out of that.

Well, time for me to move on and continue on the last 5 miles of the course. Megan follows but I leave her go ahead as I know she's moving better than me. Talk a little bit until she starts to move ahead. However, I hear her yelp and she goes down. Ask if she's all right, she says yes, gets up, and moves on ahead. While I avoid where she went down, I can't seem to avoid the cause of the next fall....down again and legs seize painfully up again as I cry out. Another runner shows up just then and I let him know I'm okay, but cramping. This would be Dave Ploskonka and he moves down the trail ahead of me. Gosh this falling business is getting REAL old now. But, shortly thereafter I trip yet again. My hands hit the ground preventing me from completely going down, but still...(sigh). Less than 5 miles, maybe 4 now, but I'm not getting anywhere fast like this. I don't know exactly how many times I fell during the last 6-7 miles but this wore on me more mentally than physically. Thank goodness none of the falls resulted in any real injury. So, I slowly proceed onward here trying to be careful. Going down has become much more difficult than going up and I'm also hitting rocks and branches with my feet that I shouldn't be. I no longer see Dave P ahead and I'm once again alone on the trail. It's been a strange day that way, sometimes in a pack and other times finding myself completely alone for long stretches of time. The trail becomes less cluttered and I find I can move okay here without falling though the going is still somewhat painful at times. I come to a small clearing with a wider part of the trail and recognize that this is where Heidi and I got a bit lost during our practice run on this part of the course. But, not today as there was orange tape and the orange sign with the black around indicating where to turn. This means I'm crossing Old Williams Road and halfway on this last part, probably 2.5 miles to the finish. A good part of this last section is fairly easy, with most parts being wide trail. There are some muddy/mushy parts here though a couple of bridge crossings, though one of those may have been earlier. I do remember crossing the second one, going up a slight hill, crossing a logging road and continuing up a bit before crossing another stream. Back to wet and cold feet! But I know from the practice run that the last two stream crossings are not too far from the finish as well. Now I remember that after all the issues the last 3 miles or so, I'm feeling better. Maybe because I'm not tripping and perhaps because I know that I'm close to finishing. Shortly afterwards, I cross a paved road and look at my watch. I'm just about to reach 6 hours and so my hopes for sub-6 were dashed here. But, I figured I should finish in about 6:20 and I would be okay with that considering the difficulties I had during the latter part of the course. Head downward on the trail and I recognize that this leads to the second and final stream crossing of the course. Reach that, go through, and my right foot cramps at having to go through cold water yet again! I really have to will it to uncramp and keep moving along as I'd like to finish sooner than later here. Go up a short hill and I know I'm getting close to the point where we turn off the Purple Trail (it's one big loop) to get to the campground clearing which is the finish! Walk up a short hill and trip...yet...again! Seriously???? As I'm falling uphill, I easily catch myself with my hands, stand back up, and continue. Hmm, boy this last part sure seems longer than I remember. But, AT LAST, I see the opening in the woods to the clearing and a couple of young girls who are there handing out the wood for the fire. See, I'm not done just yet. The last part of the course is to run around a taped off part of the field and finally finish by throwing your log on the fire. Hence, Fire on the Mountain ;), though that's only one source of the name of the race I'm told. Well, I'm all smiles now and waving my log for the cameraman I see off to the side. Round the far end of the taped area and spot Heidi at her car. Say "Hi" and she says "Great race, Dave!" Round the last corner and I actually find it in myself to really run down the dirt road to the finish! Throw my log on the fire, hear "Alright, Dave!" from Jason, and I...AM...DONE!!! Finished my third ultramarathon!

Final time 6:17:42.1

Jason takes my picture after I finish

and I slowly walk over to the food and drink area. I'm a bit afraid to sit down but immediately get a soda and also some hot chocolate that's there. Actually, I don't know which one to drink first! The hot chocolate tastes great, so I down it first and then the RC Cola soda drink after that. It didn't look like there were a lot of finishers there but I still really wasn't sure how I placed at the moment. I took my time winding down and changed into the dry clothes I brought. Then I spent the rest of my time there eating the food (and I actually ate a good deal), cheering other runners, and talking to them afterwards. I congratulated Selena Smart and talked to Jeff Ward for a while as they came in not too long after I did. I also talked to Shelly Cable who's a good long distance runner with a terrific upbeat attitude in general. Congratulated Kari and talked about her clothing choices. Saw Brad finish and talked to him as well as his companion who's also a triathlete. Talked to Jennifer P and realized that she was actually a relay runner running the second part of the course, hence why she blew my doors off going past on the road. She probably would've anyway, but she was just so much fresher when she did. She was loosely counting the number of runner she passed (10 to 12?) and then we joked about how she should've had a piece of chalk and marked either the runner or herself, much like flying aces kept track of the number of planes shot down. :) Got a laugh out of that thought. Saw John and Tina come in as well and we chatted about the race for a bit too. One very nice thing was that Sheetz, the race's main sponsor, not only provided the coffee and hot chocolate but also a smoothie truck offering banana and strawberry smoothies to all the folks there! I'll be sending my thanks some time in the future to Sheetz for all their support! I also said thanks to the Youth group folks when I saw them loading into a van to leave a bit later. Everyone echoed my thanks then as well.

I eventually found a moment to ask Kevin what place I came in and he said 13th. That made me blink....13th? Wow! Now it might not have been that good had the race been able to take place as scheduled with all the runners that were supposed to show. But, still, my placing was great even with going over 6! BTW, I found out later that I finished 12th out of 57 finishers.

As sunset would happen around 5 PM, I decided to hit the road so as not too get home to much after that, said my goodbyes to all, and headed home fairly tired but satisfied overall.

This is only the second year for FOTM but I think it will grow with time, especially since the cost is low ($30 - $50, depending when in the year you sign up). This is in sharp contrast to the JFK 50 miler which went up to $195 this year. Kevin Spradlin, the race director, wants to try to keep it that way too so folks have a low cost alternative to some of the bigger events. FOTM is also a low-key event as there were only 120 folks who originally signed up for this year's event. That has appeal to folks as well but if it continues to grow, Kevin may have to have staggered starts like the JFK does so there aren't quite as many people competing for singletrack portions of the trail at the same time.

To be sure this is a challenging course, with definitely enough variation in it to keep one from getting bored. Some folks don't like the road portion but the other two ultras I've been on also had road portions. So, I say keep the road. It adds another different challenge to the course.

As I stated, this was only my third ultra and as it was quite different from the JFK, I learned a lot from it, especially the hydration issues where I missed the opportunity to take in water at AS5 and not hydrating enough as I left AS4. Knowing that AS5 also might not have quite as much as I did there last year, I'll know to pack something salty for the second half of such a course in the future, even if the course calls for it. One never knows. I also learned that it doesn't pay to try and find a relatively dry crossing over the streams. You stand more of a chance to slip, fall in, and really getting wet than if you had just gone through. One other thing I learned is that I need a bit different training for this type of course. This should consist of more exercises that stress my quads as well as my hip flexors. Both were quite sore after the race, with my quads being VERY sore a couple of days afterwards.

I don't really have much to say in a negative way about the course or the race organization. Now I was fortunate that I knew more about the course than many others there having run nearly all of it. I thought Kevin, Jason, and others who helped mark the course did a good job too, though there were a few spots that perhaps could've used a bit more direction. Still, in a trail run, one must be vigilant of course changes and also carry a map and/or course directions just in case. The only real quip I have is the somewhat lack of support at AS5. Neither of the folks I saw talked to me let alone asked how I was doing. Actually, because of that, I wasn't sure if they were the volunteers there or not. Also, no cups for water. My mistake for not just using my drink bottle, but cups would've helped. Not sure how Camelback folks fared. Plus like last year, I think there perhaps there should be a few more items here, especially something with salt (Pringles were good!). If not here, then at AS6.

Other than those minor issues, I thought the race went very well even after it was postponed a week. My thanks to Kevin, Jason, I believe Dave, the grill master Kevin found, Sheetz, the Green Ridge Youth Center organization staff and guys who cheerfully manned the aid stations, and all the other volunteers who made the race possible!!

Will I be back next year? Probably, but as a volunteer again as I'm hoping to compete the week prior at the Great Floridian Ultra/Iron distance event on Oct 20, 2012.

With that, my endurance race season comes to a least I think it will. It's been a strange year with three events popping up on my schedule that I originally had not intended to do in 2011. There's still a few weeks to go in 2011, so who knows? Fate has dealt me an interesting hand so far, perhaps there's a bit more?

Well, on that note, my race report on Fire on the Mountain 50K comes to a close.

BTW, there's a video on the upper right part of the 2011 FOTM finishers:

Fire on the Mountain 2011 page

I'm 7:26 into the video.
What would you do differently?:

I note this already in the comments above
Post race
Warm down:

This is also noted in the previous comments.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Most of these are noted above as well. However, due to the race being postponed a week, I had a double taper which may have thrown me off a bit. I was definitely ready to race on Oct 30!

Event comments:

Note that in a low-key, low-cost race like this, I don't exactly expect a lot of post race activities. While there were lots of volunteers to help at most of the aid stations, see the comments above about AS5.

Last updated: 2011-07-03 12:00 AM
06:17:42 | 32.1 miles | 11m 46s  min/mile
Age Group: 0/
Overall: 12/57
Performance: Good
Course: Point-to-point course that takes place on mostly trails in the Green Ridge State Forest located between Hancock and Cumberland MD. There's also a few segments on hard dirt and shale packed logging roads. Starts at Point Lookout off of Carol Road. From there, course follows a mile segment on a logging road and runners then turn onto the Red Trail. This is the most technical portion of the course with a few climbs, one very steep descent, and a portion where the ground slopes steeper to the right and could be a problem if you mistep. Then on the Green Trail which is in a narrow valley and winds through the stream that is in the valley, there are numerous stream crossings and gnarly roots/loose rocks to contend with. Runners reach the Log Roll Overlook and are treated to a stunning view below. Then approximately 8 miles on the roads, followed by another 7-8 miles on the Purple Trail. This is a mountain bike loop trail which is not as technical as the Red Trail. Still has a few stream crossings, up and down portions as well as singletrack and wide open spots. Loose rocks and some roots the main challenges to be aware of here. At the finish, runners must run around a final taped off area in the parking field while holding a small wood log, and finally throwing it on a fire to finish the race.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Not enough
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Below average
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Below average
Race evaluation [1-5] 4

2011-11-12 10:36 AM

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Extreme Veteran
Frederick, Maryland
Subject: Fire on the Mountain 50K

2011-11-13 5:43 AM
in reply to: #3899448

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, North Carolina
Subject: RE: Fire on the Mountain 50K

Congrats on a well executed race and awesome finish time!

Great report.  Love the embedded photos (I do that too!)

LOL - I race in my bike jersey too!  Easier to wear my bra under my wetsuit, then put on a dry bike jersey for the rest of the race.  Good idea for trail run though; I'll keep that in mind.

Glad the falls did not put you out of commission.  I'm curious what kind of shoes and socks you wear and have you ever had an issue with hot spots/blisters?  I wore Injinji socks for my first (only) Ultra and swear they saved my wet feet from blistering.

Congratulations on an awesome finish to an awesome race year!

Now what?

2011-11-13 9:02 AM
in reply to: #3900036

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Extreme Veteran
Frederick, Maryland
Subject: RE: Fire on the Mountain 50K
Maria527 - 2011-11-13 6:43 AM

Congrats on a well executed race and awesome finish time!

Great report.  Love the embedded photos (I do that too!)

LOL - I race in my bike jersey too!  Easier to wear my bra under my wetsuit, then put on a dry bike jersey for the rest of the race.  Good idea for trail run though; I'll keep that in mind.

Glad the falls did not put you out of commission.  I'm curious what kind of shoes and socks you wear and have you ever had an issue with hot spots/blisters?  I wore Injinji socks for my first (only) Ultra and swear they saved my wet feet from blistering.

Congratulations on an awesome finish to an awesome race year!

Now what?

Thanks! Yes, I wear Injnji socks also, the Outdoor Series, Crew length. Wore those for JFK last year too and all trail runs. I have a little bit of an issue with hot spots even with the Injinjis, mostly my big toe where I push off and the bottom inside of my feet. I don't tend to get blisters with those socks on, though. I do wish they were a bit more reinforced in those areas as well as the top of the toes. I cut my toenails often but they still tend to wear through the socks eventually anyway. Plus, with all the use, the one pair of socks needs to be replaced as I can see the skin of my feet through them. My shoes are Addidas Repsonse Trail 16. The footbed's a bit high but they're comfortable and reinforced enough so anything I hit won't hurt my feet. They also have a back lip that adds some traction going downhill. A bit heavy though. Still, got me through 2 ultras so far and still seem to look pretty good.

What now?? Well, nothing really. Entering maintenance mode. I will be looking for MST 50K signup though. Still thinking about doing that. And though you already know, announcement on my blog area later today for 2012 commitment coming.

Thanks for following and the support!
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