Monday, May 20, 2013

Recount #5.1: Massanutten Mountain Trail 100 Mile Run

So much to share with you all... I will break it down into three separate posts:

1. Pre-race
2. Start to mile 70 (when the "wheels fell off")
3. Mile 70 and beyond

But first, I know I cheated you out of the Terrapin Mountain 50k and Chocolate Bunny recounts.  Here is a quick, bulletized rundown of the highlights for each:

- I hit a deer on the way to the race.  He jumped completely over the hood of my car.  At least an 8-point, might have been bigger.  Only his butt hairs grazed my left fender.  No damage, but Dave Snipes and I laughed hard when I got there and noticed it actually cleaned the dirt off my fender.
- I slept in my car again.  This time I was able to get comfortable and stay warm all night, unlike Holiday Lake 50k.  Some of you may not be familiar with the type of car I drive, or how difficult it is to sleep in such a confined space with smelly shoes and rotting fruit piled around you.  Here is a random picture of a replica of my car with a really tall guy next to it for added dramatization:

- Dr. David Horton was on the course on his mountain bike.  I saw him around mile 2 on the side of one mountain, then saw him again at mile 22 at the base of another.  The guy is Superman.  Planet Earth needs more people like him if we want to survive the Zombies.
- I met Dr. Clark Zealand, the RD for Terrapin Mtn 50k and some other races around the area to include Grindstone 100:

The first picture is Clark on the trails, the second from his biography on the Liberty University website.  What a kind, motivating, and genuinely heroic person!  To be able to hang around with Dave and Clark in the same day is a blessing.  Later I will describe Kevin Sayers, the RD for MMT100 - he is in the same category as these individuals.
- Fat Man's Misery was icy and I slid all the way through it on my rumpus.  (The word "rumpus" doesn't even mean "butt", but I like to use it when I can)
- The race was a blast!  Excellent mix of service roads, concrete, smooth trails, technical trails, big climbs...I will definitely be back next year.  For more info on the run, or to check out the results, click on the "Terrapin Mtn 50k" link on the right side of the blog.

- The Chocolate Bunny is a training run for MMT100, but it starts at 2000 and covers the final 50k of the MMT100 course (the portion most will run in the dark).  Tom Corris coordinated the run with the assistance of a few insane volunteers who spent their Saturday night in a parking lot along route 211.
- Mother nature was nice to us but there was still some snow on the ground.
- I had covered that portion of the course in the daylight before, so there were no surprises.
- A few miles into the run the course breaks off to the left onto the purple blazed trail.  At that turn we all made fun of Robin because she missed that turn last year during The Ring - a 71-mile race that covers much of the same trails as the MMT100.
- Jack, Robin and I all finished together at the front of the pack.  I note this factoid because Tom awarded us with the winner's prizes: chocolate bunnies and bunny parachuters!  Later that night, around 0330 when I got home, I floated mine from the top of the stairs to the bottom (without waking up Kari).  It is important to note that Tom bought everyone silly Easter-related trinkets from Dollar General... onto MMT100.

I took off work on Friday so Kari and I could drive out to Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp early that day, set up the tent (yeah, we tent camped, we're harder than most), get a fire rolling, and relax a bit.  We took a ton of good food to cook over the weekend, some of which required a fire to prepare.  To our disappointment there were no fire pits anywhere.  After the tent was up we began collecting rocks - there was no way we were doing this without a fire.  We could have survived without the veggie-burgers and smores, but we would have died hungry as the bugs ate us alive.  The pit came together, the burgers were delicious, and the bugs flew elsewhere.  In fact, we were the only people with a campfire in the entire campground. 

We shared smores with multiple strangers that evening.  Little kids wanted to abandon their parents to come chill with us.  It was so legit that my buddy Phil asked "How much are you charging to enter the VIP area?"  Here it is completely assembled:

The day moved along quickly.  Kari and I spent the early afternoon reading by the fire until check-in began at the start/finish line.  The campground was about 400 yards through the woods, across a stream, and up a hill from the start/finish - two days later that walk would prove to be one of the hardest of my life. 

After check-in we gathered with the other runners until the pre-race brief @ 1600.  Here is the start/finish set-up:

Kevin Sayers gave an awesome brief - informative yet humorous, serious topics yet delivered in a dumbed-down fashion for us idiotic and narrow-minded ultrarunners to understand.  Kevin is a tremendously dedicated individual and, what I would consider, a significant innovator of the sport of ultrarunning.  He has his own website,, devoted to everything ultrarunning: training, coaching, nutrition, hydration, recovery, injury prevention...the list really doesn't end.  Here he is:

Like Clark and Dave, Kevin also shakes the hand (or gets hugged by) every finisher at his race.  He also stayed up for three days straight, tracked 198 runners through the Massanutten Mountains with no cell phone reception, ensured the MMT100 website maintained live updates for those following from home, established 15 aid stations across 103.7 miles of trail, coordinated the placement of over 150 volunteers, ensured all those miles of trail were properly marked/blazed so we didn't get lost while scatter-brained at mile 85...pre-race pasta dinner, post-race refreshments, awards presentation, post-race clean up, medical requirements during/after the race, closing down the campground he rented out for the weekend...more coordination and preparation goes into the MMT100 with only 200 runners than is required for your local 10k with 2,000 runners, and it takes an intelligent and extremely dedicated individual to successfully sync it all together.  It is because of people like Kevin, those who choose to inspire rather than be inspired, that numb-nuts like me are able to go out and make our own dreams come true while inspiring family and friends.

Clark, Dave, Kevin...they are the wizards behind the curtain that devote countless hours to a bigger cause.  They allow us to push our bodies to their mental and physical limits.  They understand the "big picture".  They realize that, through organizing these events, our experiences might one day touch someone, that our stories might one day reach those who don't believe and change them for the better, help them believe in something, believe in anything, believe that anything is possible, ANYTHING, that one day we all might see eye-to-eye and share common goals, common beliefs, common experiences, work to achieve the same result, focus our efforts in the same direction, act selflessly rather than selfishly...I mean, we all put our pants on one leg at a time, right?

After the pre-race brief Kari and I headed back to the campsite to get the burgers going.  Phil stopped by with our friend Mike and shared some of the veggie-sausages and smores with us.  (If you didn't pick up on it yet, Kari and I are vegetarians.)  We chatted about different races, our favorite post-race meals, and everyone's expectations for the next few days, and then Patrick pulled up a log from the complementary VIP stack of firewood and joined in the conversation. 

That lasted another 30 minutes or so until we all decided we better hit the hay - it was almost dark and Patrick still needed to pitch his tent.  He denied a smores, wished me good luck for the race, and parted for the evening.  Phil and Mike also retired to their cabin for the night.

Kari and I stayed up until 2130.  We sat by the fire and made smores, and just really enjoyed the warmth of the fire on the bottoms of our feet as the air around us got somewhat chilly.  We also played some rummy, which is our favorite and traditional camping activity.  However, we were both very anxious because my friends Tristin and Ryan were expected to arrive 2 hours earlier and were still nowhere to be found.  They would be serving as my crew and pacers, along with Kari.  I have never had more than one person crew me for a race in the past, and I have never had a pacer, so their arrival would certainly come as a huge stress reliever for me.  With no cell reception we were basically alone and unafraid.  We both agreed that one of the following scenarios occurred:

- They got stuck in Friday DC traffic coming down from PA
- They drove to the other entrance of the Lutheran Camp and started looking for us there
- Or, they won the Powerball and ditched us altogether

Around 2145 we got in our sleeping bags and accepted the Powerball scenario as ground truth.  Kari got to snoozing relatively quickly, but I tossed and turned in anticipation.  I saw my watch hit 2200, 2205, 2210, 2215, 2220, and I finally got to sleep shortly after.  Not 10 minutes later I hear the sound of tires turning on soft-packed gravel and thought to myself "Dang, that dude must be sleeping in his car tonight, because it is too dark to set up camp.  Plus, he probably doesn't want to wake anyone up."  But, to my dismay, the sound of tent poles snapping together began resonating throughout the campground.  I turned to Kari, who was now awake with the rest of us, and said "Alright...I have to pee anyway, let me go see who this wacko is."  I threw on my sandals and unzipped the front door.  The bathroom was located on the opposite side of the campground and between it and our tent were these three wackos, setting up their tent (one for all three of them, apparently) in the middle of the volleyball court.

"Kari, you gotta see this."

"See what?"

"These guys are putting up their tent in the middle of the volleyball court."

"Is it Ryan and Tristin?  That sounds like something they would do."

"No, there are three of them.  I don't know who it is but they all must be sleeping in the same tent.  Let me go pee and check it out."

As I walked towards them my intention was to say "What's goin' on fellas?" and continue to the bathroom, only while sneaking a glimpse so I would know who to blame for my upcoming sleepness night.  When I got closer I heard a giggle that sounded a lot like Tristin.  No way.  Then I saw a guy in a hat that took the form of my friend Ryan.  It was totally my crew!!!

I apologize to everyone in the campground for their behavior.  If you were one of the poor souls that was woken up by their horseplay I am extremely sorry - at least you didn't have to "deal" with their antics.  But those same knuckle-heads would get me through the final 30 miles the next day, and their "antics" would keep me in good spirits through 25 straight hours of running.  But there was still a third figure I couldn't quite make out.  The light from the lodge was shining in my eyes so I could only see the outlines of these jokers.  When I was within 3-4 paces I realized who it Dad.  He had texted me earlier in the afternoon a message that said "good luck tomorrow."  I walked up next to him and he said "Hey Bud" and gave me a hug.  I have the best friends anyone could ask for.  Apparently, right after I asked them to come down and pace/crew me they called my Dad and cleared his schedule for him.

When I asked where the heck they had been all night they mentioned they got "held up."  The conversation went something like this:

Me: "What took you guys so long?"

Ryan: "We bought lottery tickets from Virginia in Virginia."

Me: "Huh?"

Tristin: "Oh, we stopped at the 711 and bought Powerball tickets from Virginia.  Her name was Virginia and she works at the Virg..."

Me: "Got it."

Tristin: "She had an accent.  If we aren't at the aid station tomorrow then you'll know we won.  First thing I am doing is getting a bull dozer and flipping cars.  I will give every person 20 G's for a new one."

Ryan: "I'm going sleeping..."

Tristin: "Does 'passed out' count as sleeping?"

Dad: "I am going to Vegas and yes, 'passed out' counts."

Tristin: "Sweet!  Hey, you gotta get some sleep, Buddy!  Wake us up in the morning, we'll be the ones on the volleyball court."

With my crew finally on deck I felt completely ready for the race.  After another 30 minutes of listening to giggles coming from the direction of the volleyball court I was able to get a wink or two of sleep before my watch reminded me it was 0305.

The morning was relatively uneventful.  Kari and I got up and stretched out.  I was ready and out of the tent in less than 10 minutes.  Zippers were opening all around us as we all left the comfort of our sleeping bags for a little run in the woods.  My last and final task before the race was to wake the crew.  I knew they were going to struggle to stay awake just as much as me for the next two days, so I let them sleep as late as possible.  At 0325 I walked over to their tent and said, "You ladies up yet?"  I got one "yep", one "nope", and one "go away".  They were ready.

We made our way past Cabin-8 and down the trail to the start/finish.  I didn't want to get there too early because I don't like standing around before the race.  A 0345 arrival would leave us with just enough time for my photographer to snap a few pictures, we could review the elevation chart and crew directions one final time, and finalize our strategy to ensure we had our ducks in a row for the aid stations.  Here is the entire crew on race morning:

Left to right: Dad, me, Kari, Tristin, Ryan

This is the final picture before the start

Before I knew it we were counting down from 10... 9... 8... 7...

Recount #5.2 coming shortly...

******[UPDATE: Recounts 5.2 and 5.3 are up! And there is a VIDEO as well!!!]*********


  1. I can hear tristin saying "we'll be the ones on the volleyball court" haha

  2. Love your blogs! FYI: AJ kicked butt on this race. He is a beast!!!! Can't wait to run with him again.