Greetings from the Blue Ridge Mountains in central Virginia, where in a day’s time I’ll be joining over 300 runners in racing the Promise Land 50K. Yesterday I ran from Sunset Field on the Blue Ridge Parkway down to Apple Orchard Falls and back, which many consider the most beautiful and challenging part of the course. Not only does it climb over 1,000 feet from the falls back up to the parkway in the late stages of the race, but the trail has built-in wooden steps throughout, which can be awkward to climb and slippery when wet.
When I wasn’t climbing up one of the staircases, I was navigating the plentiful rocks and roots, beckoning me to clip a toe and go flying or roll my ankles this way and that. It reminded me of the shakeout run I did the day before running the 2019 Hellgate 100K. Back then I thought, “How does anyone run fast through this junk without breaking anything–not to mention in the dark??” Then I heard and saw the swirling stream I’d have to cross (also in the dark), and thought, “How am I ever going to do this?”
When it came time to actually race, somehow a switch flipped. Maybe it was the adrenaline, or that familiar, highly intense feeling when time slows down and I could just breathe, focus, and flow, not unlike getting up on a stage and performing a piano piece I’d been working on for months. There’s something to be said about not overthinking any of it and just running. When it came to the water crossings, I hesitated the first time, and definitely fell in, submerging myself up to my shoulders. After that I mimicked what the other runners ahead of me did, just darting across the stream crossings without overthinking it, and I came out just fine.
The Promise Land course crosses the Appalachian Trail twice. During my run yesterday, I paused at an intersection and looked left and right before spotting a familiar white blaze. I jogged over, reached out and touched it, and of course took an obligatory selfie. It was my first time on the AT since last summer.
Of the many lessons I learned on the AT, it’s that the bad stuff never lasts. Whether it’s a particularly rough section of trail, or just feeling plain awful, you have to keep going with the belief that things will get better. And 9.9 times out of 10, it will get better. I was also reminded in seeing that white blaze that I can do really hard things.
If you’d like to follow my race progress tomorrow, be sure to follow M1ndurance on Facebook and Instagram where Adrienne Mitford will be posting updates in addition to crewing/supporting me- thank you, Adrienne! For updates on how things play out with the lead men and women (fingers crossed I’ll be up there with them), Ridge RUNers will be reporting on Twitter and Instagram.
My initial goals are to place among the top five women and finish under six hours. If things go REALLY well I hope to make the podium (top three) and run closer to 5:30ish. That’s a difference of 10:30ish per mile to 9:30ish per mile. This will be my first 50K race, so it will be interesting to combine the elements of both speed and endurance and see how it all plays out!
Thanks for reading. If you connected with this or felt inspired in some way, please consider buying me a coffee! You can also support by sharing this with a friend. As always, feel free to share your thoughts by commenting below. ‘Til next week! ~Mercury