Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Miler 2009

 

This race will be my 11th attempt at the 100 mile distance.I have finished five of the ten I have started.Here at Massanutten, this will be my fourth attempt.I have a single finish at the Skyline Ranch in Front Royal, Virginia.So, the question this weekend is whether I will push my finishing rate back over 50%, or whether it will fall below 50%.

 

May 15 (Friday)

 

Martha and Nathan are crewing for me again this year.However, Nathan and I fly up to Front Royal while Martha drives because I need to fly to Indiana on Monday morning, and flying out of Front Royal allows me to get more rest on Sunday night.The plan is for Martha to drop me off at the airport in Front Royal on Monday at 6:00am, and then drive home, dropping Nathan off at school.

 

Everything goes relatively smoothly, and Martha picks me and Nathan up a little after 3:00pm.We go to the Skyline Ranch and get my race packet and then go on into Front Royal to check into the Hampton Inn.Having heard the race briefing three times already, I decide to skip it this year.This allows me to settle in and go to dinner a little earlier.We eat at Ledoís Pizza, and I am back to the room and the lights are off by 8:00pm.

 

May 16

 

It took me well over an hour to fall asleep last night, but after I do, I sleep soundly until 3:00am.I eat a bowl of strawberry Special-K for breakfast and wash it down with some Gatorade.I feel good as my lungs are as clear as they have been in many years at this point in the spring.I will start the race with shorts and a short sleeve shirt on, but I plan to have the shirt off early as it is going to be warm and humid before the front pushes through late tonight.As we are leaving the hotel, it already feels warm, even at 4:10am.We get to the start, I check in, and I am ready to go.I only have a little pen light for the first half hour.Many of the runners have headlamps on for the early morning.

 

Mile 2.4††††† 22:06 (9:13 avg./mile) MT Trailhead

 

Not only is this first section on the road, but it is also mostly downhill.So, I settle into a nice pace early and establish my position in the middle of the pack.It is warm this morning, but so far, only Joe Clapper has his shirt off.

 

Mile 8.7††††† 1:28:18 (14:01 avg./mile) Shawl Gap Parking

 

The goal of the early part of this race is to not run too hard.For this section, I run with Rande and Kari Brown some, and then Rick Gray and I come into the aid station together.I mention to Martha that despite the fact that I am sweating, I have not started too quickly.She says there are a lot of people ahead of me so she wasnít thinking I was starting too quickly.I drain a pint of chocolate milk and take half of a bagel with me along with a full Camelbak.

 

Mile 11.8††† 35:39 (11:30 avg./mile) Veach Gap Parking

 

Rick Gray and I hang together on this next section, and we also are in the vicinity of Susan Donnelly.Rick and I are debating whether we are pushing a little too quickly at this point.I donít think so, as I feel fairly comfortable, given the conditions.Ed C. is also close to us, but he ends up pushing ahead of us a bit.At this aid station, the crews arenít allowed, but they have a full breakfast cooked.I grab a pancake and sausage link and then start the climb out of the aid station.I am very satisfied with my time and effort so far.

 

Mile 16.9††† 1:15:26 (14:47 avg./mile) Milford Gap

 

This section is mostly uphill, but not a difficult climb by any means.I am still with Rick, and we catch a glimpse of Vicki Kendall ahead of us as we pull into the aid station.So far, my legs really feel good, and my feet are in great shape.I grab a few cups of Gatorade as this aid station is up on the mountain, and crews cannot get here.I eat a couple of ham and cheese sandwich quarters before heading out of the aid station.

 

Mile 24.7††† 1:39:49 (12:48 avg./mile) Habron Gap Parking

 

This section starts on top of the mountain, and then we make our way back down the mountain in about 4 miles.Then it is almost 4 miles along a gravel road beside the river to the next aid station.Right now, it is still warm and humid, but there is a light cloud cover during most of this section.Therefore, the temperature has not climbed too much and is probably not much more than 70 degrees at this point.Rick Gray and I are still together, and we catch up again to Susan.Rick pushes on ahead into the aid station ahead of us, but I am remaining conservative.As we approach the aid station, the sun finally breaks through the morning cloud cover.A discussion occurs close to me, and they talk about their occupations.One is an engineer, as am I, and the other cleans homes.In this environment, though, it doesnít matter what your occupation is, we all have to run the 101.8 miles of this course.At this aid station, I eat a wonderfully made grilled ham and cheese made by my crew.I also drink nearly a quart of Conquest.The next section is the longest of the race, and I want to make sure I am fully fueled.

 

Mile 34.2††† 2:45:26 (17:25 avg./mile) Camp Roosevelt

 

Rick left the aid station before me, and I am by myself at the start of this section.I am following Deb Pero, though, and we pass a fellow having troubles with the heat and climb.He says he feels nauseous, and Deb tells him just to allow his body to recover and bounce back.The climb is brutal with the heat rising quickly.My climbing is much improved this year as I have done several Priest and Three Ridges runs this year.My lungs are also very clear and my breathing is smooth and powerful.I make it to the top of the climb, and there is Rick sitting there.He says he is just a little nauseous after the climb and is taking a short break with a nice breeze here.I continue on, but soon I hear Rick behind me.He must be feeling better.However, a short while later, as we make our way along the ridge line, Rick fades and then lets his cookies go.I shout back over my shoulder to ask if he is okay, but I donít think there is much I can do for him.I turn and start down the hill.It is still a few miles to the aid station, and now that I am off of the ridge line, it is hot.The breeze on top was nice, but there is not much breeze as I make my way along, and the temperature only continues to climb while the humidity is rather high for this time of year with the dew point around 63 degrees.I run out of water about 15 minutes from the aid station, but make it in comfortably to the aid station.I start drinking Conquest, draining another pint of so.I also eat from the excellent spread at this aid station.I eat several cookies, a couple of sandwich quarters, and most anything else that looks appealing.After I am in the aid station for a couple of minutes, Rick comes in and immediately throws up again.He will end up doing just one more section before calling it a day.

 

Mile 39.8††† 1:47:33 (19:12 avg./mile) Gap Creek/Jawbone I

 

Starting out from Camp Roosevelt, there is somewhat of a breeze feeding down the valley we are making our way through.Jay Finkle passes me early in this section, and we chat a bit, but not too much as he is moving quickly and smoothly.My plan this afternoon is just to maintain a reasonable pace and make it through the hottest part of the day.The trail on this section is much drier than last year when it was mostly a quagmire.As I near the top of the climb before descending into Gap Creek, a little pop up storm dampens things.It is rather nice though as it really takes some energy out of the afternoon heat.The storm hit at 2:30pm, and it is still raining lightly as I make my way into the aid station to find nearly everyone huddled under the tents.I was planning on changing my shoes at this aid station, but since it is still raining, I will postpone changing shoes until later.I drink a little Conquest and take a bagel for the trail.After leaving the aid station, I find out from another runner that I missed out on some quesadillas that the aid station workers were making.The most interesting thing is that Martha and Nathan lost the umbrella at the first aid station today and so will be visiting Luray to buy another one because while I am hopeful we wonít get more rain today, we probably will.

 

Mile 48.2††† 2:42:36 (19:21 avg./mile) Visitor Center

 

I climb aggressively out of Gap Creek and up Jawbone, but then I make my way cautiously over Kerns Mountain.In 2005, I busted my chin open on this section, and I have no desire to repeat that this year.When I finally get down to the road section, I am feeling pretty good.I run the whole way down to 211 and across to the Visitor Center.My legs feel good, and I am slightly ahead of my goal getting to this point.Martha and Nathan (my awesome crew) are waiting for me with Ramen soup and hash browns hot out of the frying pan.I see Kerry Owens here as she has decided it wasnít her day and has dropped.I eat my food, washing it down with Conquest.Then I change my shoes and socks.It feels so good to finally have my feet dry after three hours of them being wet.I tell Nathan to bring my headlamp from 211East up the Picnic Area so I wonít have to take it with me now.

 

Mile 52.1††† 1:11:40 (18:23 avg./mile) Bird Knob

 

My climb up Bird Knob goes well.I meet many runners coming the other way as they are about 45 minutes ahead of me at this point.David Snipes, Susan Donnelly, Vicki Kendall, Rande Brown, and Kari Brown are just some of the runners I see.The thunder is rumbling close by, and I am sure all of them are glad to be off of the highest point on the course before this next storm hits.At first, I think the heart of the storm might slide to the south, and then I am hoping it will slide to the north.However, in the end, I think I catch the brunt of the storm while I am on top of Bird Knob heading to the aid station.My feet have been dry for about an hour, but that is now over.The rain comes down in sheets.The course instantly becomes a quagmire.I am following Jim from Toronto when we get into the aid station where half a dozen runners and the aid station workers are huddled under the tent.I stop long enough to grab a cup of soup, but when Bob Combs goes through without even stopping, I decide it is time to get back out in the rain and continue.

 

Mile 58.1††† 1:54:13 (19:02 avg./mile) 211 East

 

Heading out of the aid station, there are about five of us moving along together.Bob Combs, Jim from Toronto, a couple of others, and I are just making our way as best we can as the rain subsides to a light steady rain from the torrential downpour from before.The trail is muddy now, but up on top here, the trail is in decent shape; however, as we begin to descend the trail becomes messier.I meet many runners coming the other way who are about 45 minutes behind meóGary Knipling is one.With the cloud cover, darkness is descending earlier than it would have otherwise.I am slip-sliding down the hill, at one point bumping into Bob, and I make it into the picnic area aid station without falling.It is now mostly dark, but fortunately, Nathan is here waiting for me with my headlamp.I donít stop long, and Nathan and I head out about the same time as Bob towards the 211 East point where Martha is waiting for us.The 2.2 miles of trail from the picnic area is a total mess.There are a couple of small stream crossings, which ordinarily can be easily hopped across.Now, they are raging rivers, such that we have to carefully wade across ensuring that we donít get swept away in the current.After 3 or 4 of these raging stream crossings, we make it to 211 East where Martha is.Apparently, the rain let up just enough so Martha was able to get out and grill a ham and cheese sandwich for me.I wash it down with some chocolate milk before heading across 211 East and back to the north.

 

Mile 64.9††† 2:21:31 (20:49 avg./mile) Gap Creek/Jawbone II

 

Starting this section, darkness has now completely descended.My new headlamp is an LED with 120 lumens.It is really bright.It is advertised to last over five hours on a set of batteries, and since I am using lithium batteries I am hoping to get nearly 10 hours on a set of batteries.For the first third of this section, I am totally by myself.Then I come up on a few guys and manage to get by them.I am still feeling good at this point, and there is no hint of sleepiness yet.I make my way up and over and then down the hill until a dirt road section that leads to the aid station.The rain has mostly stopped at this point, but there seems to be quite a bit of haze as my headlamp doesnít seem to be working as well down here on the dirt road as it was earlier.I get into the aid station in good shape.Initially, Martha isnít there, but I grab a couple of quesadillas that I missed the first time through here.Then Martha makes her way into the aid station, but Nathan isnít with her.She says that he is passed out cold in the vehicle.I grab a Coke and then head out of the aid station.

 

Mile 67.7††† 1:34:44 (33:50 avg./mile) Moreland Gap

 

My time into this aid station is a little slow.I made it up the climb on Jawbone just fine, but then on the way down the hill, I really had to slow down because my headlamp wasnít shining through the haze very well at all with the added distance to the ground since I am going downhill.Finally, I take the headlamp off my head and hold it in my hand to shorten the distance to the ground.It seems like my headlamp has dimmed significantly, as well.I fall once, slipping on the mud, but no harm is done.When I get into the aid station, I ask if there are any crews around, and I am told that most of the crews cannot get here because the road is washed out from the Gap Creek aid station.So, now I am faced with Short Mountain in front of me with my wet shoes and socks and my fading headlamp.I sit down and start to eat some, and then Martha shows up!She says she had to go all the way around and was afraid she missed me.However, since my headlamp was fading, I didnít go as fast as I would have otherwise.I decide to change my shoes and get my old headlamp, which I know works well and will last at least 5-6 hours.It is now just past midnight, so it only has to last about 5 hours.I switch out shirts, putting on two long sleeve t-shirts.My technical shirts are all soaked from the two different storms.I also get my iPod to give me some music through the night.

 

Mile 75.9††† 3:53:48 (28:31 avg./mile) Edinburg Gap

 

I make it exactly 6 minutes out of the aid station before I get my feet wet again.Obviously, the course isnít going to get any drier anytime soon.I climb up Short Mountain, and I feel pretty good.As I make my way across the mountain, it seems that the front is finally pushing through.There is some light rain, the wind has picked up, and I believe the temperature has dropped several degrees.Any thought of mine to take a catnap at this point is dashed by the conditions.If I were to lie down, I would be hypothermic very quickly.Fortunately, the rain isnít too hard, and my shirts just get a little damp.I start down off the top, and I am thrilled to be where I am.I make it into the aid station in great shape, and Martha and Nathan arenít quite ready for me.At this aid station, I get a cup of coffee and eat a sandwich.I also go over to the aid table and get some Vaseline for my legs.The wetness all night is taking its toll.

 

Mile 84.1††† 4:13:36 (30:56 avg./mile) Woodstock Gap

 

I get pretty tired as I leave Edinburg.I grabbed my wool cap to wear since the temperature is now in the low 50s.When I am in the aid stations and not running, I start shivering.After about an hour of staggering up the mountain, I finally decide to take my first catnap.Without setting a countdown timer on my watch, I lie down and sleep for 6 minutes.Then I get up and feel much better.My legs donít even hurt as much as they are refreshed from the sleep as well.I donít think I am making very good time, but at least I am moving and running the downhill sections.A few people pass me, but at this point, this is a race of survival and none of us are going to be setting any records today.After another hour or so, I decide to take another catnap.This time, I sleep for 8 minutes.I am close behind a few other runners when we hit the 2 miles to go to the aid station.We switch over to the west side of the ridgeline, and I know it will be good to get into the next aid station.With a little over a mile to go to the aid station, I find the perfect log over which to take a dump.There are even small trees close by with which to clean up after this. I practically skip into the aid station after this.I am happy with where I am time wise, and I got some rest and took care of other needs during this section.At this aid station, I eat a bowl of oatmeal, washing it down with some Conquest.I decide to keep the wool cap with me for now as it is still on the cool side.Letís see what I have left for the last 18 miles!

 

Mile 89.3††† 2:23:19 (27:34 avg./mile) Powellís Fort

 

The answer to my question of what I have left is a definite ďnot much.ĒI just cannot get my feet to more than a slow shuffle even on the downhill sections.About halfway through this section, Gary, Quatro, and a few other runners go by me, and I have no chance of keeping up with them at this point.My feet are absolutely killing me, and I think that is what keeps me from doing anything resembling a run.I just want this race to be over at this point, but I have to finish.The worst part is the downhill into the aid station.It is steeply downhill, and all I can do is shuffle down the hill.It is really not a run, but rather an attempt not to just walk down the hill.On my way into the aid station, Stan (the race director) passes me in his van.He realizes I am having a rough time, and encourages me to keep going.At the aid station, I change my socks as I donít want to use my last pair of shoes, but the dry socks feel better, even if the shoes are a little damp.I drink some Conquest, and then sit down at the food table and eat two pancakes and a couple of pieces of bacon.Then I am off to finish the last 12.5 miles.By the way, I am pretty dissatisfied with my time on this last section because there really wasnít any big climb.

 

Mile 96.8††† 3:34:19 (28:35 avg./mile) Elizabeth Furnace

 

Leaving Powellís Fort, the course goes along a dirt road for a couple of miles.After about 45 minutes, I decide to take my third catnap of the race.I sleep for 7 minutes, and when I get up, I see a couple (not in the race) heading towards me with a fishing rod.I ask them if they had any luck, and they say they are heading up to the lake to fish now.I think this is a bit strange because there is a lake ahead of me on the course, but I donít know about a lake the other direction.Then I meet two runners coming towards me.I stop and ask if I am heading the wrong way.They are quite sure they arenít, so I must be.Obviously, I got turned around when I took my catnap and headed the wrong way when I got up.Regardless, I think I only lost another 5-6 minutes for that mistake, and I still make it to the top of the climb within two hours after leaving the aid station.Now, I just have 3.5 miles down to the aid station, which is the last one.I trot/shuffle down the trail, thinking that I am making decent time.However, over an hour later, I am still not close to the aid station.I see a guy coming the other way and ask him how far he thinks it is to the aid station, and he guesses about 0.75 mile.Then a couple of minutes later, I see another guy and ask him.He says it is close to a mile! This is not good as I am running out of time.I finally make it into the aid station, clearly going a lot slower than I think I am.I have 2:16 to finish under the cut-off.It is time to get going.The aid station offers me everything, but I only take two cups of Coke and eat half of a slice of pizza in a minute.I tell Nathan that we need to move it out.I drop one of my t-shirts and my wool cap, and we set off at a pace that I have no idea if I can sustain.

 

Mile 101.8 1:56:34 (23:19 avg./mile) FINISH!

 

Nathan and I climb up for 2 miles to the pass.I push it as hard as I can, hoping that I can get to the top in about an hour.We make it in 58 minutes.Now, we just have to go downhill for 3 miles, but thatís what I thought on the last section.So, I run for over 20 minutes down the hill.Nathan is just jogging along side.The trail is sloppy muddy, but I could care less at this point.I just want to finish.Finally, we get to the parking area and then to the pavement.I am going to get my second finish at this grueling race.Before I turn to head into the back gate of the Skyline Ranch, Nathan decides to run around the road to the ranch.I go through the gate, and Caroline Williams is there cheering on the last of us runners.I tell her to yell really loud when the next runner comes in as I donít want to be the last finisher.I turn the corner and run across the field to the finish.The crowd is large, and it is a wonderful feeling to know that I have been beaten badly by this course over the last 35+ hours, but I am still standing!

 

Official Finishing Time††††††††† 35:40:42

 

99th out of 173 starters (101 finishers)

 

I told Martha at the Visitor Center that I just wanted to finish this race this year and then never run it again.She doesnít believe me, and still doesnít.She says she will believe it when I die without having run this race again.But, I am pretty sure that I donít have a need to run this race again.I have finished it twice, and I have dropped twice.It is an even score between the race and me, and I am happy to leave it at that.

 

My feet are swollen and hurt pretty bad; however, they arenít in terrible shape.Martha says she has seen them worse, and I concur.We get McDonaldís drive through on the way back to the room, and I am sitting in bed by 7:00pm.I have to get up at 4:00am, so that I can be at the Front Royal airport tomorrow morning by 6:00am.I am going to fly to Ohio, pick up my brother, and then fly onto Indiana for a memorial service for my Uncle Bob.It all works out as planned, and I only have to limp slightly into the church.I will lose my right big toenail, and the only reason I wonít lose my left is because I already lost it 4 weeks ago at the Bull Run Run.

 

Now, I have 5 weeks until my next 100 milesóthe Mohican Trails 100óone that I hope will go much quicker than this one.It had better because the cut-off there is 30 hours, so I have to go at least 6 hours faster.Hereís hoping that it doesnít rain, and the trails are in good condition.Until then, Ö

 

Never stop running,

Darin

 

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