50+K in the Blue Ridge Mtns

A couple of months ago, I did the Bel Monte 50K race in the George Washington National Forest in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. It was a fun event in a beautiful location, so figured I’d provide an update here. 

As usual, how is this like starting an apparel brand?! Well, there’s all the usual stuff: staying the course, ups and downs, and enjoying the journey. But maybe the best thing I can say is just that all the Mill & Mountain gear I wore for the event – shorts and hat and several different shirts – worked out great. The things we’re making are perfect for a day in the woods!

Back to the event. The Bel Monte 50K takes place in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the rolling hills, dense forests, and panoramic views made it a super fun day. The event is set on an out-and-back course of about 17.25 miles – which is about 34.5 miles in total and therefore definitely more than 50k! This led to a fair amount of grumbling down the stretch (both from me, my partner in crime Brendan who I did the event with, and multiple other people)! (Lots of “When will this end?!” and “This is more than 50k!")

Anyway, there are a variety of terrains, including rocky trails, creek crossings, and reasonably technical singletrack sections. With an elevation gain of about 5,700 feet, we had lots of climbs and descents so it worked our quads pretty well.

I read somewhere that many ultramarathon runners find that practicing visualization techniques and positive self-talk and breaking the race into manageable segments can help overcome doubts and push through mental barriers. I think this is true!

Said otherwise, you really just have to keep going! This definitely wasn’t the hardest event I’ve ever done, but I was happy to get finished and these kinds of techniques did actually kinda help towards the end of the day!

Prep. I had been mostly focused on skiing before this event, but I had two weeks to try to get my legs in shape. Fortunately that worked out fine. I did 4-5 runs of 7-10 miles, and one in the 13-14 range, which turned out to be enough. Honestly, my legs felt fine all day.

Gear.  Poles were helpful. Trail runners, brand new Hoka Speedgoat 5s, worked well. It was cold in the AM but I started and stayed in shorts all day, which actually worked out great too.

Nutrition. This is a pretty small event, and there are just a couple aid stations along the route so continuous fueling and avoiding the bonk required fueling not just at the aid stations but rather throughout the day. I tried to avoid the gels and eat more solid food, and this actually worked out pretty well.

Upshot. It’s a fun event in a great location. If you’re looking for an ultra event that’s not 50 miles (but not actually 50k either 😊), check it out!