This is my race report for my first Massanutten Trail 100 Race in 2011:
Massanutten Trail 100 Race Report
I am not sure what kind of race report I am writing.
Jim Harris predicted my race in February. This
could almost sum up my MMT Race:
“ You are doing everything to prepare yourself for MMT.
You will finish at the Camp on Sunday and think that MMT was no big deal.
It will be hard, and it will force you to question yourself if you really want it.
At some point you may need to dig deep.
But after doing the homework and staying the course, you will be surprised at how smooth and easy your MMT run will be.
All the karma and positive energy are building and with everyone in your corner you are going to be a stud at MMT.
What will really be surprising is that you will have no epic story to tell afterwards.
You are going to run 100 miles and not have any events happen to spin into epic ness.
It will be over and you will be bored with your run.”
That is almost my race in a nutshell-although I will say it was Hard, and I was never bored with my run!!
I trained for the 2011 Massanutten Race for almost one year. I signed up for The Ring for my first experience on the rocks. I was just hoping not to embarrass the rest of the NEO Trail Club. I actually enjoyed myself on the orange blazed trail (except for Signal Knob of course).
I got my race spot via the Lottery and continued to work through the winter, dropping weight and training. A loop of The Wild Oak Trail (TWOT), the Reverse Ring, trips to the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, which has the closest elevation and terrain for MMT Training.
My biggest step in mental race prep was putting down a prediction time for myself. NEO TC had a ‘race prediction’ contest, to guess and talk smack about what we all could do at MMT. Putting down in writing, that I thought I could get through the race in around 33.5 hours, was huge. I was not only planning on finishing the race, I thought I could do a bit better than that.
The second biggest help in race preparation was my pacer. Back in October, Bradley Mongold offered to pace me at the race, provided he was available.
Having a rockstar runner and wild man that Mongold is, that motivated me to get my training in as much as the course did. There was no way I was going to show up unprepared if Mongold was going to join me along the trail.
The race started with an uphill road section. I was with a group of friends for a little time, and then I watched them all take off. Now that I think about it, I believe they all came back to me; I passed them later in the race.
Short Mountain is our first section of trail, and I take my time. It’s dark, I haven’t been on the MMT rocks, and I just get reacquainted with the trail.
I remember Short quite well, you have these false descents, that take you back up to the ridge again, and I can’t remember how many of these until the proper one takes us down to the Aid Station.
I believe after Woodstock I glanced at my watch and split sheet. I am about 30 minutes behind my projected time, and about 50 minutes in front of the cut off. I’m not pleased at this. I don’t want to get into some ‘chasing cut off mentality’ this early in the race. I resolved to not look at the times, and just go AS to AS, my plan for the first half of the race. I also know that my friend Roy Heger is behind me. As long as Roy is behind me, I am not in any trouble with cut offs.
I run with a nice man named Ron who is dunking his hat into the stream crossings, and I finally remember to start doing this with my bandana. We get into Elizabeth Furnace together. Everything is going well for me. I have a slight headache, probably due to the heat and lack of coffee, but not enough to dive into ibuprofen for that.
At Shawl Gap Aid Station I pick up my music, which conks out after 3 songs. I was amused that the third song was AC-DC’s “Hard as a Rock” it seemed very appropriate. This road section is where I met Jen, a very happy 1st time MMT-and her first 100 miler. She mentioned we had over one hour on the cut offs, so that was good comforting info to have.
I could tell by my watch I was getting a bit behind on getting to Habron Gap at six thirty, but I wasn’t worried.
It was almost a relief to get into Indian Grave off the road. Vicki Kendall was there and being encouraging. This was about 4 pm, where I took a caffeine tablet and two ibuprofens. Taking it easy on the climb out of Indian Grave AS, I was rewarded with a breeze once I hit the MMT Orange blazes again.
In fact, I hit a second wind through here. I was not as hot, and I knew I was gaining crew and a pacer as soon as I hit Habron. The bad part was, I knew exactly where I was on Orange and knew we had those little rocky knolls to climb up and around. But soon enough, it was over, and I was heading down for the second half of my race.
Part Two The Second Half
My team was waiting for me as I approach the Habron Gap Aid Station-pacer Bradley Mongold, and crew of Jill Cantafio and Wayne Mongold. Mongold told me to go check in at the AS and return immediately.
I shed my hydration vest, get two icy cold handhelds, and we leave on the trails. Mongold says we have now just passed several folks who are in the AS, just the first of quite a few runners we catch during this race!
Way back in October, Adam Casseday mentioned to me that Mongold was interested in pacing me at MMT if he was available. I was both touched and flattered. And scared. My speed and Adam Casseday’s speed are just a bit apart on the spectrum. Mongold told me he could pace at my speed, so we had that tentative plan set.
As it got closer to the race, it seemed like Mongold would be available, so I was glad I had trained as well as I could. It’s a flip as to which variable made me train harder, the rocks or Mongold.
Having Mongold as a pacer really set my confidence. I felt as long as I got to Habron Gap, barring any accidents, there was no way I would not finish the race. I had that much confidence in my pacer.
We also had a plan, which I never had utilized in a 100 miler before, despite my previous attempts and finishes. From the race start, I had a plan on what I was eating and drinking, what I would pull out of my drop bags and then move on.
Mongold and I had also discussed this over the phone. I told him I would eat and drink what my crew gave to me, and I think he was surprised when I did just that.
We spent zero time at the Aid Stations. I checked in, and left. Jill would hand me fresh bottles, sometimes a bite to eat, and off we went.
We caught back up to Roy Heger (yes, he had passed me) in the section between Gap Creek I and the Visitor Center. This was actually pretty special to me. Roy is one of my first ultra friends, and has been a mentor to me. To get to spend a few hours on the trail as I march toward my first MMT buckle while he was getting ready to nail # 12, that was very special to me.
The rain started on us as we climbed Bird Knob, but it didn’t cool me off. We spent this section with Allen Gowen and his pacer Beth-I couldn’t climb, so they would pass us, and then we would run by Allen and Beth. It gave us all something to do through here!
My only low patch came after we went through the Picnic Area, on the way to Gap II. It was daylight, after 630 in the morning. I had ingested a Chocolate Boost and a caffeine tablet at the Picnic Area. We were climbing up a creek bed, and I just could not focus my eyes. I felt like Frodo, when he put on his ring, and started to get transparent.
We started up a switchback, and finally whine out “sorry I am fading on you” to Mongold.
Well that got a response! It was not yelling, not at all, but he informed me that I was not fading, I was fine, my pace was good, and I was not fading! So I started repeating that to myself.
It also seemed like the caffeine was kicking it. Soon, my mantra changed to, “the caffeine is working, I feel good” then “the caffeine is working, I DO feel good”. I felt good enough soon to mention this to Mongold. We actually caught up to two younger guys on the downhill-we were running-and I told them I was on my fifth wind now.
Mongold is just a wee bit competitive, so every time we reeled in another runner he’d kind of chuckle a bit. When we crested a hill, coming into Gap II, we saw this CROWD of runners ahead. Mongold mentioned it looked like “We are the World” as they were spread across the dirt road. We passed them all as we checked in and out of the Aid Station.
Mongold mentions we are on our last section as we start Jawbone. I correct him. No, we still have to do Kerns. Mongold tells me Jawbone is Kerns. (I don’t know this area of MMT very well.) I am dumbfounded. I thought we had to climb the dreaded Jawbone Climb and THEN go over and climb Kerns. Now it’s really just this last climb? I’ve just consolidated two climbs into one. I am ecstatic. I don’t even care about this Jawbone/Kerns climb. My mantra is now “Jawbones is Kerns, pecan pie” (I had just some tasty pecan pie, and was hoping it would kick in soon.)
We get to the top. Less than 5? To go?
We are still able to run. But when we hit the road to the finish, I really slow. The road is just sucking my will to run. I know Mongold was frustrated through here, as he kept breaking into a run, waiting for me to run, and checking his watch.
Finally, the last turn, after the last dreaded hill, and now I have to run around the field! Will this ever end?!!!!!
But I’m happy. It’s all good. I can see my friends at the finish line. I can see my time, 31 hours 50 minutes. I’m so glad to be done.
So that is it. No epic events. Uneventful-Mongold says it was NOT uneventful, with all the people that we passed. Adam said it was a breakthrough race.
As for me, I am incredibly pleased and satisfied. All went well. You cannot ask for more than that in a 100 mile race.
Much credit goes to Bradley Mongold, Jill Cantafio, Wayne Mongold, who helped me during the race, and to all my beloved friends, who supported and believed in me even before I did. I would name you all, but would be afraid I would miss someone.
And I do have to say it: Massanutten ROCKS!!!