Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Bethel Hill Moonlight Boogie 50-Miler, by David Moore

The Bethel Hill Moonlight Boogie
David Moore's recap of the Bethel Hill Moonlight Boogie 50-Miler

Well, my first  Boogie 50-miler is in the books!  When I first heard about this race (from Chad Randolph and Jeff McGonnell) I was intrigued, but not tempted.  Hot and humid racing conditions are not my forte... I am more of a sub-freezing kind of runner.  Needless to say, when we pulled into the Bethel Baptist church parking lot in Ellerbe, NC with the temps reading in the low 90's, expectations were very low.
The Boogie race draws your typical ultra crowd for the 50-miler, and some pretty serious competition for the marathon event, which they run simultaneously.  The marathon course is difficult... the standing course record is only 3:03, which would be considered a poor time among elite marathoners.  Both the marathon and 50 mile course follow a "lollipop" configuration... a long loop followed by an out-and-back (the stick part) for a total of 10 miles.  The hard part is that the out-and-back is at the end of each  loop, and is straight uphill for over a mile back to the start/finish.

This event plays into about every known Southern stereotype possible... from the stray dogs, and the Baptist church with the rotund minister delivering the pre-race prayer, to the sweet ice tea and macaroni salad in the fellowship hall.  In other words... I loved it!!

The race itself start off rather unceremoniously,  with Doug Dawkins, the RD, simply yelling "GO".  The marathoners then started to the left (the out-and -back), while the 50-milers went right (the loop).  By this time, the developing storms that would plague us all night were forming, and the sun was obscured for the first loop.  The temps, however, held around 90 degrees with very high humidity.  The event ran kind of like this:  hot as hell, a complete deluge, then humid as hell, a complete deluge, then fall-like temps, then humid as hell... rinse and repeat.

I was running this race more for a training exercise for the upcoming Grindstone 100 in October, and therefore kept a conservative pace for the first couple of loops.  Chad and I passed each other a couple of times at the aid station (my car) and I could tell each time that he was headed for a spectacular finish... especially the last time, when I saw him asleep in the passenger's seat and I still had another loop to go!  Chad ran a remarkable 8:38, and finished 8th overall!

More than anything, though, this race will be remembered for the violent weather that caused more than a little introspection on the real meaning of life for most of the runners.  I suppose that the close proximity to that Baptist church is the only reason that no one was outright struck and killed by lightning.  At least a third of the race was run in a torrential downpour; which, while abating the heat, turned the race into a soupy slog on poorly-draining secondary roads.  I passed one fellow during the worst part of this storm, and he was happily running along (sans headlamp) shirtless and carefree.  I commented that I really missed that heat we had a few hours ago.  He replied that this was like being "baptized" all over again and that he loved it... that somehow picked me up and I ran strong to the finish.

As hot and humid as it was in the beginning, the end of the race was in equal parts beautiful.  The oppressive humidity was gone, the temps were in the 60's, and the sky was an inky black with billions of shimmering stars.  You could have easily seen Andromeda with the naked eye.  At the turn around point on the final out-and-back (mile 49), I knew I had a chance to break 10 hours... but it would require running the final mile uphill, and all the way.   About 500 yards from the finish, I saw Chad standing on the side of the road.  I then looked at my watch... I had about 5 minutes to spare, so I walked up to Chad, told him the good news, and sprinted to the finish in 9:57.

Chad Randolph and David Moore, post-race
In summary, this race is not for everyone.  In fact... it's not for anyone... especially a very average runner like myself.  If you are looking for a race that can really test you both mentally and physically, and don't mind running in the middle of the night on a loop course, with minimal aid available... then this is your race!

My family puts out the ultra banner yet again!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.