Thursday, September 9, 2010

Race Recap: Iron Mountain Trail Run 50-Miler

DARTer Jeremy Alsop recently completed his first 50-mile race, the Iron Mountain Trail Run, which took place near Damascus, VA.  You can read Jeremy's account of the race below.  Oh yeah - immediately after the race Jeremy did 22 pull ups, 75 push ups, and 30 sit ups.

"When I signed up for the Iron Mountain 50 mile Trail Race, I was a little hesitant that I would not be able to log enough miles to really be prepared for the challenge. Working 60+ hrs a week, spending time with family, unmotivated to do long training runs by myself- these are just a few of the reasons I was worried about being adequately prepared.  Never the less, I signed up so that I couldn’t talk myself out of it and would be forced to train for it or suffer.

After talking to some experienced ultra runners, they informed me that I should train for a 50 mile race as if I was training for a 50k. I completed 4 training runs between 20 and 25 miles; none of which were on trails.   Doubting that I had completed enough long runs, I listened to their advice telling me otherwise.  Thankfully, I found the Davidson Area Running Team, just as I was starting to increase my miles.  Finding a running group like that to complete long runs with was a huge help.  Not to mention all the advice I was able to gain from their running experience.

My beautiful bride Julie and I headed up to Damascus, VA Friday after taking a half day of work.  Damascus is quite a nice town; however, don’t blink because you will probably miss it.  It’s about a mile long with a population around 900.  I am not even sure I have seen a stoplight yet.  We have been able to walk everywhere and just about every store closes at 5pm.  We stayed about a block from the Creeper Trail and two blocks from the race start.  If you are ever in Damascus, I would highly recommend the Dancing Bear Rentals, which is where we stayed Friday and Saturday night.  I was a little skeptical because of the name, but they have very reasonable rates and the rooms were immaculate.   The owners Bob and Diane were very hospitable and we would stay there again in a heartbeat.

Fortunately, I was able to get a pretty good night's sleep Friday night and woke up Saturday morning feeling refreshed.  I actually got to sleep in compared to a normal day.  Waking up Saturday morning I was really nervous about how much I was going to suffer due to my lack of long runs but I couldn’t worry about that anymore.   I could not have asked for better weather.  The low was 48 and high of 75 and nothing but blue, sunny skies and cool, crisp mountain air.  After a short race briefing the runners toed the line and we were underway promptly at 7.  The first 4 or so miles of the race were on the Creeper Trail.  The race also had 16 and 30 mile options however all the runners started out together.  A couple miles in I had to remind myself that I was running 50 miles and not 16 as I found  I  was wanting to keep pace with the people  passing me left and right.

photo:  Elizabeth Minnick
I settled into a groove and the first 20 miles were pretty uneventful and I spent most of that time chatting with other runners.  It wasn’t until I was coming out of the aid station at about the 22nd mile that I had a stroke of bad luck.  I had just left the aid station when I reached into my pocket to take an S-Cap and I dropped my water bottle breaking the lid.  I then had to proceed the next 7miles holding my water bottle like an open glass.  With every step I took, my sports drink would bounce out all over my hand.  Those seven miles to the next aid station were the most unpleasant of the race, mainly because I was wearing more of my drink then I actually consumed.  When I arrived at the mile 28 aid station, ultra stud and original RD of IMTR  Eric Grossman was there and fortunately he gave me his to use.  Huge thanks to Eric because I would have had to go through that debacle until I reached mile 37 where I could pick up  my drop bag to get my hand held bottles. Eric ran the first 30 miles to make sure the trail was marked properly because there were reports that someone had taken down some streamers during the week before.  That was great as well, because I didn’t really want to get lost.   From mile 28 aid station to about the mile 33 aid station was the toughest climbing of the race.  So to not have to worry about a broken bottle was a huge relief.  I was feeling surprisingly great headed into the aid station at mile 37.  So great that I had to double check with the workers to make sure that it was in fact mile 37.  I quickly changed my socks, ditched my belt pack and grabbed my Ipod and two handheld bottles.  Knowing that I only had a half marathon to go and considering how good I felt I decided to cut loose and push myself hard the last 13 miles.

photo:  Jim Cobb
The majority of the race was all technical single track which I love because if you take your mind off the trail for one second you have a great chance of biting it hard.   So no matter how bad you hurt you cannot focus on the pain because you will fall.  Most of the trails were open to mountain bikers, horseback riders and dirt bikes.   Because of the horses, I think I dodged and sometimes stepped in more horse crap then I probably will for the rest of my life.  It was all over the place but I just thought of it as more rocks to dodge.

One of the things I was looking forward to most was competing in the Iron Mountain Man award.  This award is given to the official finisher who can do the most push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups within five minutes of finishing the race.  Your five minutes starts right as you cross the finish line.  My strategy was to stop right before the finish line for a few minutes while I regained my composure before I began.  So my time was actually five minutes faster, however I wanted to win this award almost as bad as I wanted to finish my first 50 miler.

After resting a few minutes, I crossed the finish line with an official time of 9 hrs and 10 mins.  Then the real fun began.  I completed 22 pull-ups, 75 push-ups, and 30 sit ups.  To no avail, somebody else beat me by about 30reps. I think if I had changed my strategy of the order I completed each exercise I may have had a better chance.  I was pretty disappointed  but  I can’t be too hard on myself though because I did finish my first 50 miler in 7th place overall and about an hour faster than my goal.  There is always next year for the Iron Mountain Man Award!

Special thanks to Kevin and his wife and all the wonderful aid station workers.  It was a great first 50-miler and I hope to be back next year."

Way to go, Jeremy!  Results of the race can be found at


  1. Well done, Jeremy! Awesome to finish the race, great to hear your story.

    Is the fitness challenge at the end just the total number of reps, or do they give more credit for the harder exercises? Seems like you should get maybe double the score for a pull-up that you get for the other exercises.

  2. Thank you Dave! I appreciate it. Yes, they did give more points for pullups. Every pull-up was 3pts and situps and pushups 1pt.


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