Sunday, February 24, 2008

Reflections on Black Mountain Marathon and Mt. Mitchell Challenge 2008

Photos by Steve Dixon of Asheville Citizen-Times
I know many amazing women, yet at the moment I am going to enthusiastically rant about one in particular! Anne Lundblad! She had a great run up and down Mt Mitchell yesterday. She smashed her previous PR and course record (CR was held since 2005-5:50:19- by “yours truly”) with a time of 5:38:55. What a run! I know Anne is a hard working runner and strong competitor and woman-yet what I personally are 2 things I am presently most impressed/influenced by:
1) she is 41 and
2) she has a positive, future seeking attitude! When I saw Anne yesterday on the trail for all of 2 minutes (we chatted briefly as she scampered past me in Montreat just before meeting the dirt “toll road”, and I saw her round the lake during the last ¼ mile of her run) she was friendly, focused and seemed to float up the hill with a seemingly effortless gait so characteristic of Anne. Anne seemed happy and humble at the awards dinner last night. I felt so proud! Why proud you may ask? Don’t you sometimes try and race her? Doesn’t she make you come in second a bunch? Doesn’t she continue to hold course records that you might have if she didn’t? Yes and YES and YES! is my answer! (I don’t know of all of Anne’s CR’s during the last many years, yet I know the JFK record (and masters) is hers and Mt. Mitchell Challenge record (and masters) and Frosty Fifty (and master’s) etc, etc…I love it that she as a 40+ year old sets a great challenge for young women and more seasoned alike. Fabulous! And she helps me push myself and call upon my strengths and work on my weaknesses! And she inspires me and reminds me as a “sister” (somehow saying fellow runner sounds silly) 41 year old runner-I still have many good races left and my smartest/fastest events aren’t necessarily behind me! I hope 41 year old Anne has a great season and mushes my 2005 CR at Bull Run this coming April! Last night, leaving the awards presentation as she and I briefly chatted about being “41” she commented, “Look at Anne Heaslett, Bev Abbs (she mentioned at least 1 other name also, yet I can’t remember)- 40 is the “new” 30! I love that attitude and will remember that for sure! Forty-something does have different concerns and added benefits-so the challenge as always is to seek to balance the two!

Congratulations to Anne and Jason Bryant (male Challenge winner) and all the Mt. Mitchell Challenge and Black Mountain Marathon runners!

On another note, yet equally as celebratory, I ran the Black Mountain Marathon yesterday. For days I went back and forth about staying with The Challenge, yet on the Wednesday before the race thought it best not to participate in 40 mile event since by my standards I am pretty out of shape after sitting on the shelf until 2 weeks ago. That combined with Way Too Cool coming up in 2 weeks I asked to be transferred to the Marathon, a distance and terrain I felt realistically prepared for.

I must admit, withdrawing from the Challenge was hard. It is a grand adventure. It holds a certain mystique that the marathon doesn’t. It is beautiful. It is tough and it’s a great ultra marathon in NC! I felt disappointed I may not be running an ultra in NC this year. And part of me felt I had “demoted” myself to the “fun run” …I so didn’t want to miss out on the good stuff up the mountain! Then the day unfolded…

I did have a great day! I didn’t run to race at first. I was trying to sort out how to pace myself for such an unfamiliar distance. I ran according to my strengths and limitations. (Faster on flat, huffing and puffing on uphill-hence really feeling the time “on the shelf” and loving the leaning in and feeling strong on the descents). At first I was scared of falling and getting hurt-yet as long as I didn’t socialize when rock/root hopping I did fine and the one stumble I did take (right in front of Sourwood aid station on the way down as some folks at the aid station and I bantered about BEER of all things!) was just the sloppy harmless “splat” I can be soo good at!

At the turn around for the marathon I had twinges of envy of the strong runners go for the summit of Mt Mitchell. I did feel a little left out at a tiny bit like a wussy. But only a tiny bit. I was also unexpectedly RELIEVED to be able to turn around and frolic down the hill! At this point I was in 1st place and vowed not to relinquish my position. It would be very cool to win this marathon. Now I had my dorsal fin out as I moved back down the rocks of the toll road. Backtracking was super fun as I passed other runners on the way up. EVERYONE was amazingly encouraging and supportive-I hope I was able to return even a small portion of the enthusiastic cheerleading I received!

I worked hard getting down the mountain staying focused, breathing, positive self talk. This marathon was hard for me. I did not demote myself. I kept on and didn’t look behind me. Once passing through the last aid station in Montreat I cried a little (thankfully not too much ‘cause when I cry and run I can’t breathe and that is not a good way to go into the last few miles of a race!) I cried because I was working hard and felt both frustrated at having soo many more miles to go (3.4!) and because I was eternally grateful that my body is healing from the bruised bone/micro fractures that I can run hard! I thought about knowing I could get back in shape given regular training. I felt grateful for the ability to heal and kept being so thankful for all the generous humans along the route who helped me along by shouting “good job” or “keep it up!” There seemed to be random amazing cheerleaders on their bikes on the Montreat trails, standing in parking lots on Hwy 9- and in front yards. Thank you to all of you who kept my focus forward thinking and happy. As I ascended the last hill on the course-just before dropping into the park/lake area, a young teenage boy on a bike with a Cross Country sweatshirt passed and called out kindness. Ahhh-if only we knew the power of our own effect on others. His enthusiasm was a wonderful fuel! I am reminded of what generosity of spirit can do to help others. Many generous folks helped me yesterday and made an impact that I will remember to take with me into the crazy world of life outside of trail running! Thank you!
I also celebrate being back to being a runner again! My whole body hurt during those last few miles-my knee-somewhat sore today (like the rest of me) yet I know it is on its way to being well. I did place first in the marathon (as a 41 year old!) with a time of 3:54:58. Not fast but not slow and I was thrilled with the ability to be back on the trails and looking forward to training hard and getting back in shape! Thanks again to all my friends and fellow participants-I just can’t say enough how contagious the positive attitudes and encouragement felt yesterday!


Anne Lundblad said...

Hey Annette, thanks so much for your kind words. Although it would've been great to have you racing the challenge (who knows what kind of time we could've pushed one another to?!?), I was psyched to see you run so well in the marathon, knowing that you are well on your way to healing and more super-fast times. When I look back over my best performances over the past couple of years, you were right there for almost all of them. How lucky we are to have one another to push both of us to greatness! Anne
p.s. I love the start line photo -- notice how happy and excited we both look, compared to the top men next to us! :-)

Anonymous said...

Rock and roll - you are healing and looks like you are having fun- I wish I was there, instead in the bed sick with this horrible flu virus going around. We'll have to train soon!


erik said...


Congrats on your win! I noticed you spoke of the boy on the mountain bike who cheered you on and you said if only people knew what kind of effect they can have on others, even if it's just by simply saying a few encouraging words.
I was there running the challenge, approaching the marathon turnaround as you were heading back down. You passed myself and another challenge runner, you smiled at us and said "enjoy the top guys."
It may not seem like much, but that moment had a very similar effect on me and helped me get through the challenge in 7:05, my 3rd ultra in less than 1 year since my first. Thanks for being you, and good luck the rest of the year. I hope to see you again on the trails!

saschasdad said...

Way to kick butt at Mt. Mitchell, Annette! It looks like you're on your way back.

I look forward to seeing you next week at Cool.

erik said...

No, Thank YOU for commenting on mine! Yea I would say I'm hooked now for sure. I am probably going to run 5 or 6 ultras total this year. The next one being the HAT RUN 50k in Maryland on March 29th. I ran the Rattlesnake trail 50k in WV last year for my second ultra(I do believe you were there as well) and would like to do that one again and really crush last years time. Aside from that, I don't want to look too far ahead, but I would like to do a 50 miler late in the summer/early fall.
Here's to an exciting year for both of us!

Bedrock said...

Way to go Annette! Glad you had such a successful race. I hope to do the Challenge next year as I simply love running up on the course. Best of luck at Way Too Cool this weekend. I look forward to hearing about it.

Sophie Speidel said...

Way to rock and roll Annette!!! I am so glad you are feeling good again. And I LOVED that pic of you and Anne at the MM start. The two of you are my heroes and I hope we will all run happily into our 40s, 50s and 60s together...


Anonymous said...

Annette, you inspire us all. I was one of the ones who yelled "Good Job" on your way down while I was on my way up. You make us all better runners! Keep up the good work.