Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Miler 2008

 

Usually I start off my race report with the day prior to the race, and I am driving to the pre-race briefing.For this report, I want to flashback to give a fuller understanding of the human (read imperfect) issues that have to be overcome during an ultra race.

 

In May of 2003, I was diagnosed with Asthma.My father is an asthmatic and was also diagnosed in his early 30s, and heredity caught with me even though I am a runner.Fortunately, my asthma has been very controllable.After a few months, I had reduced my Advair to once a day, and I generally never fell any asthmatic symptoms.The vast majority of the time I wonder if I still need the Advair.Then allergy season hits or I get a good cold, and I am reminded that I am an asthmatic and the Advair is quite effective at allowing my body to overcome and preventing issues from worsening (e.g., getting an upper respiratory infection).Most spring times, I find that I experience some allergy symptoms, but nothing that affects my lungs.

 

This year, the allergy season seems to be one of the worst in a long time.Since the middle of April, my allergies have been definitely kicking my tail, and in the last two weeks I have felt some effect on my breathing but not enough to be measured by my peak flow rate.A little over a week before the race, I up my Advair to twice a day.This is the maximum for my prescription.A week before race day I run seven strong miles on the trails.Everything feels good.I think I am as prepared as possible.

 

May 14 (Wednesday)

 

I wake-up at 1:44am, and my throat is burning.I take a Cold-eeze lozenge for starters.Either I am getting a cold or I have an infection.After much zinc (from both Cold-eeze and Zicam), my throat is tolerable, and otherwise, I feel fine.I continue to take Cold-eeze or Zicam all the way through Friday.

 

May 16 (Friday)

 

My cold seems to be under control.I feel good, and only the sore throat is nagging me.Martha and I pick Nathan up from school at 12:45pm.Amy has decided to spend the weekend with Marthaís parents.We arrive at the Skyland Ranch, which is the race start, finish, and headquarters, at 3:45pm.Nathan and I check into the race and listen to the race briefing while Martha checks into our cabin.Our cabin is a modular thing that doesnít come with linens.The race briefing is informative in regards to the condition of the trails.We are told the trails are wet and wetter than they have ever been during the race.

 

I wish good luck to several people and ask Gary Knipling if he is going to go out conservatively.He says he is and that he will probably not see me on the course.For dinner, we go into Front Royal to an Italian restaurant.I have spaghetti and sausage with plenty of salad and bread.I get to bed around 9:00pm with my alarm set for 4:00am.

 

May 17

 

I sleep very well.I have also gotten between 7-8 hours of sleep every night this week.I get ready, putting on shorts, a short-sleeve shirt, long-sleeve shirt, and buff.I will start the race with Keen Wasatch Crest shoes and plan to switch shoes 3 or 4 times.I eat a large blueberry muffin and wash it down with a pint of chocolate milk.15 minutes before the start of the race, I eat an Access Bar.I feel great with only my sore throat nagging me.The race starts exactly at 5:00am.

 

Mile 2.4††††† 23:05 (9:37 avg./mile) MT Trailhead

 

The start of my race is smooth, and I run the first mile with David Snipes.He pushes ahead, and I am determined to run conservatively early in this race.Overall, I feel good, but my throat is sore.However, I am sure I wonít notice my throat in several hours when other parts of my body start hurting.At this aid station, I drop my 2000 Pittsburgh Marathon long-sleeve t-shirt as I am warm enough without it.

 

Mile 8.7††††† 1:28:19 (14:01 avg./mile) Shawl Gap Parking

 

This first trail portion is wetter than normal, but it is really not a factor.I manage to keep my feet dry for now.Many people are passing me, but I am running conservatively.Rande and Kari Brown run with me most of this section.Kari is gunning for a silver buckle as the first VHTRC female.My time into this aid station is okay, but not very fast.At the aid station I drink some chocolate milk and take a bagel with me.

 

Mile 11.8††† 37:27 (12:05 avg./mile) Veach Gap Parking

 

This section is all along a gravel road.I pass the time talking with a guy from Massachusetts about energy supplies and the price of oil.At the aid station, a full breakfast is available.I am not too hungry, but I grab two pancakes and a sausage link.

 

Mile 16.9††† 1:18:33 (15:24 avg./mile) Milford Gap

 

Leaving Veach Gap parking area, I hike up the second climb of the race.I think I am making okay time, but the climb is not as easy as it should be at this point in the race.This aid station is unique because they have to haul the supplies in over trails.I grab several cups of Gatorade and eat two ham and cheese sandwich quarters.My time is definitely slower than previous years, but I donít know this at the time.

 

Mile 24.4††† 1:41:42 (13:34 avg./mile) Habron Gap Parking

 

I continue to cruise along, not really worrying about my time or pace.This section has a nice downhill and then another three mile road section.I talked most of the way with Gary from Louisville.He is very interesting because he is an independent consultant and salesman.We run easily into the aid station, and I am ready to begin pushing the pace a little on the next section.But, first at the aid station, I eat a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, which Martha has perfectly cooked.I change shoes, out of my Keens and into a pair of Innov-8s.My Keens werenít very muddy, just a little wet.I tell Martha and Nathan to try to dry them out as I might need them again.With a full stomach, I leave Habron for the tough climb up over the ridge.

 

Mile 33.3††† 2:39:53 (17:58 avg./mile) Camp Roosevelt

 

Even though I hold my own with the people around me on the climb, I am really feeling it.My lungs feel fine, but my breathing seems to be a lot harder than usual.I push the pace a little on the climb and pass a couple of people.On the way down the other side, I run with Bob Anderson most of the way.He is 61 years old, and we compare notes from his race last year when he won the 60+ age group.He says he doesnít do this for the competition, just for the outdoor enjoyment and to keep his cholesterol and blood pressure down.I come into the aid station, and it seems like it has taken me longer than it should have.At the two hour mark, I was starving and felt weak from a lack of calories even though I have been shoveling in the food.At that point, I ate an Access Bar, which helped me get to the aid station.At this aid station, I drink some chocolate milk, and eat as much as I can.I start with a couple of sandwich quarters, followed by a few cookies (some nice homemade chocolate chip), and wash it down with several cups of Gatorade.Hereís hoping that I can get ahead of the calorie deficit.

 

Mile 38.9††† 1:52:43 (20:08 avg./mile) Gap Creek/Jawbone I

 

It is only midday, but my times have slowed even further.Usually in a 100 miler, I hit my stride around 25 miles and pick up the pace a little for the next 40 miles before I start slowing down around 65 miles because of fatigue and darkness.This section of trail is nasty muddy.The little stream that we cross three times on the way up is now a raging river.It is almost knee deep and 15 feet across.That isnít bad, though.Next the trail turns into a complete bog in places, and once we start downhill towards the aid station, the trail is muddy and rocky with the kind of mud in which one could easily lose a shoe.There is one interesting thing alongside the trail.A large rattle snake is just two feet off the trail, coiled up, and shaking his rattle constantly.It is neat to see, and fortunately, he doesnít seem to notice us runners passing on the other side of the trail.At this aid station, I change my shoes again.This pair is totally mucked up, and I have no desire to wear them again.In my shoes, my socks were all over the place, and there is quite a bit of sand in the bottoms of my shoes.I put on my Asics Eagle Vs.I also, consume a few grilled cheese sandwich quarters and drink over a pint of Conquest.I wasnít planning on eating this much, but the way I am burning through calories, I think I need to.My crew is doing an awesome job, and they tell me that my Keens that I wore the first 24 miles are now mostly dry.My time at this point is much slower than I expected, but I chalk it up to trail conditions.However, in hindsight, the trail shouldnít have slowed me down that much.

 

Mile 44.9††† 1:57:20 (19:33 avg./mile) Unmanned

 

An hour out of Gap Creek, and I am again hungry.I wait as long as I can before eating my Access Bar.Hereís hoping the unmanned aid station has anything more than water.I am careful on Kernís Mountain because this is where I fell three years ago and split my chin open.My time isnít good, but Quatro is here at this aid station, restocking the water.There are also some cookies and corn chips.I take several and continue on the trail.My time isnít good, but hopefully I can pick things up on the next section.

 

Mile 48.0††† 57:47 (18:38 avg./mile) 211 East I

 

Now this little 3.1 mile section should have been a lot faster than this.The first part was going down waterfall, and needless to say I wasnít walking.Then we come out onto the gravel road leading to 211 East, and I was running well.Fortunately, I donít figure out how slow my times are, but rather I am focused on continuing to move forward.At this aid station, Martha and Nathan are patiently waiting with Ramen noodles and hash browns.I eat/drink all of the noodles and eat one of the hash browns.For now, I stick with the same shoes, and they are staying dry so far.Since it is past 5:00pm, and actually around 5:40pm, I take my headlamp with me.I have 10 miles to get back to here before I see my crew again.

 

Mile 53.1††† 1:52:32 (22:04 avg./mile) Bird Knob

 

I climb up Bird Knob and think I am doing okay, but then I realize that I am only about halfway up.My climbing is laborious, and I am trying to figure out how many more climbs I have in the race.On the way up, I meet David Snipes, Rande and Kari Brown, and Brad Smythe, who are all on their way back down.They are in a really good position because they will be back to 211 East before dark.It takes me 45 minutes after I see Snipes until I get to the aid station, so he has at least an hour and a half lead on me.When I see him, I am sucking air big time, and he asks if I am doing okay.I am still on the positive side, so of course I say I am fine.The good part so far is that I am ahead of Gary Knipling, who is clearly taking the conservative approach this year.At this wonderful aid station, I eat a cup of chicken and rice.I then decide that it is time to start drinking Coke as darkness is approaching.I eat some Doritos and then start to head back.

 

Mile 58.2††† 1:49:28 (21:28 avg./mile) 211 East II

 

I am most of the way down from the steep part on Bird Knob before I have to turn on my headlamp.I feel okay, and I figure now all I have to do is not slow down in the darkness.I meet Gary Knipling on the way down, and he is about 40 minutes behind me.He looks okay and seems as chipper as ever.I take my time and get into the aid station around 9:30pm.Mike Campbell is there waiting along with Martha and Nathan, and Mike is going to pace me through the night.I eat a ham and cheese sandwich and wash it down with some chocolate milk.I am ready to attack the night, and Mike and I set off across 211 and towards the north.

 

Mile 64.9††† 2:49:00 (25:13 avg./mile) Gap Creek/Jawbone II

 

Mike and I seem to be making good time to me, but on our way to the aid station, we have to again navigate the muckiest trail on the course.It hasnít dried out any since I was on it earlier, and a small shower decides to drop some rain on us.I still only have a short sleeve shirt on, and I am planning to put something else on at the aid station, but for now, the wind is blowing, the rain is falling, and I am cold.The only option I have is to run, so I run.The course is a total mess, and I run through the mud, water, and muck.It is difficult going, and I finally reach the aid station.My crew is wet and cold as well, but I am still determined.I drink another cup of Coke and eat some grilled cheese sandwich quarters.I also put on another shirt, this one is long-sleeved.The rain has stopped for now, so I should be fine.My feet hurt as both big toe nails are probably shot, but otherwise, I canít complain.I switch shoes, yet again, and put on my second pair of Keens.It is time to push through the night.If I can get over Short Mountain before dawn I should be in good shape.

 

Mile 67.7††† 1:18:29 (28:02 avg./mile) Moreland Gap

 

Believe it or not, it actually felt like I sped up a little on this section.The climb up Jawbone was slow as expected, but then Mike and I got into a really good rhythm coming into the aid station.Martha and Nathan are still crewing faithfully, and I eat two servings of oatmeal and wash it down with a cup of Coke.I hope that is enough calories to get me over Short Mountain.I havenít thought about time yet, but I am hoping that I can get over Short Mountain in less than 3.5 hours.Three hours would be fabulous, and then I can think about dropping the hammer come dawn on Powellís Mountain.Since it is already past 1:30am, I think I have enough clothing for the rest of the night.If I keep moving well, then I will stay warm enough.It seems like the rain has passed for now, and the moon is out and shining bright.

 

Mile 75.9††† 4:17:34 (31:25 avg./mile) Edinburg Gap

 

The climb up to the ridge of Short Mountain was brutal on me.I just cannot seem to climb very well at all.I also start to figure out what different times on this section will do to my chances of finishing.If it takes me four hours on this section and the next and then two hours into Powellís Fort, three hours to Elizabeth Furnace, and two hours to the finish, I will finish with 15 minutes to spare on the cut-off.Given this figuring, I definitely need to be into Edinburg in less than four hours.About halfway over Short Mountain, my energy is again spent.Sleepiness has not been a problem so far, but my energy is low, and I can no longer keep any semblance of good forward progress.As we are coming down the hill in Edinburg, the sun begins to overcome darkness, and this is not a good thing for me.The night has passed too quickly.At the aid station, I get a cup of the world famous potato soup.It is delicious.Then I check my feet.Despite hurting greatly, I really donít have any blisters that will cause me problems.My big toe nails are busted, but for now that wonít slow me down.The problem is that I donít know how I would be able to get enough calories in me and then get the motivation cranked up to get over the next section to Woodstock Tower.So, despite my will to continue, I decide that it is futile.I turn my number in, and Martha is not surprised.She tells me later that she knew I was spent, and therefore doesnít try to argue against me stopping.She has seen me through all five of my 100-mile finishes, and she knows when I can go on, and when I canít.

 

105th out of 156 starters (101 finishers)

 

There end up being 101 finishers for this edition of the MMT.Everyone that left Edinburg aid station finished under the time cut-off.This makes me pause, but then I say that by that point you know if it is your day or not.A total of eight people drop at Edinburg, and I would bet all of us would say that the reason everyone who went further finished was because we made the wise decision not to go on.

 

I will spend the better part of the next week mulling over whether I had more to expend, and whether I could have done something different.What brought it into perspective was when a friend on Sunday night asked me if I had my cold before the race started.In my pain and pity, I hadnít consciously thought about my cold, but his question reminded me that I have had this cold since the Wednesday before the race, and it isnít any better.I eventually go to the doctor on Friday and get some antibiotics to eradicate any infection that may have set into my sinuses, but otherwise, I am okay.

 

So, in the end, I will chalk this race up to a great experience in which I learned more about myself.On another day, without so much mud on the course and better health, things might have been different.But on this weekend in 2008 with the mud, rain, and my cold, the course has claimed another victim.This is a good thing, though, because if it was easier, it wouldnít mean as much.A finish at MMT whether in 18 hours or 35 hours is still a great accomplishmentóone that I have claimed once, and one day may claim again.

 

Never stop running,

Darin

 

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