Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Massanutten 2011 - The First 100 Miler


The Massanutten experience can be summed up into this: climb a mountain, run across the top of said mountain, run down the mountain, refuel at the next Aid Station and repeat 10 more times. This course is highly technical and if you find yourself running through a patch that is almost rock free… don't get excited because another section is guaranteed to make up for it. 

Some basics:
  • May 14-15, 2011 
  • 101.7 Miles 
  • Over 32,000 feet of total elevation change
  • Technical terrain 
  • 4AM start in Fort Valley, Virginia 
  • 36 hour time limit with intermediate cut-off times  
  • 15 well stocked Aid Stations with knowledgeable, helpful volunteers 
  • A very well marked course 
  • 195 starters and 132 finishers this year 
  • Karl Meltzer 1st place for Men in 18 hours 18 minutes 
  • Eva Pastalkova 1st place for Women in 22 hours 30 minutes

The nickname for Massanutten, the “toughest 100 east of the Rockies”, really appealed to me when I signed up for this race. This was my first 100 so why of all 100’s did I choose the “toughest” on this half of the country? My ultrarunning birth was the North Face 50 miler at Bear Mountain NY which undoubtedly is one of the harder courses in the Northeast for this distance. 

Having made it through that course I began craving the challenging and more difficult races. Undaunted, I immediately followed this race with a plan to run Hellgate 100k. On the application for that race I filled in the answer to the question “Number of ultras completed?” with “1”. Hellgate’s Race Director and ultrarunning legend, Dr. Horton, sent an email where he kindly advised me to gain a base (which I now have) and perhaps run a 100 miler before I run his 100k. 

And so my taste for the challenging and difficult has landed me right here, just past the start of the starting line of Massanutten, where the air is filled with yells of excitement. This is my first 100 miler, and the first few miles begin with a 3 mile run uphill followed by a 2 mile ascent up the first mountain.

3AM. Waiting at the Start

Start to AS (Aid Station) #1 Moreland Gap
4:00AM to ~4:52AM
Mile 0 through 3.6 (3.6 miles, average pace of 14:32)
Clothing & Gear: Inov-8 roclite 295’s, Drymax Lite Trail Running Socks, shorts, singlet, hat, sunglasses strapped to Camelbak Octane XC 70 oz.
Weather.com: Variable cloudy with scattered thunderstorms. A few storms may be severe. Low 59F. Winds light and variable. Chance of rain 50%. 
“All uphill on a gravel road” - Alan Gowen 2010 Race Report
Going into this race I had 6 months of solid mental and physical preparation. I have to admit that when I was leaving that starting gate each step felt like my feet were made of lead. I asked myself what had I been thinking and questioned if I would really be able to run 100 miles. Several nights of anxious sleep and getting out of bed at 2AM this morning was not helping either. These thoughts weighed on me for 3 miles on the gravel road. But once we hit the woods I felt right at home.

AS #1 to AS #2 Edinburg Gap
~4:52AM to 6:50 AM
Mile 3.6 to 11.7  (8.1 miles, average pace of 14:32)

“While rocky, so much of it was runnable” - Dave Krause 2010 Race Report
We climbed. It was maybe 1500 feet vertical over two miles on rocky terrain and a narrow single track which translates to 'not much room to pass'. Anyone flying overhead would have seen a string of 195 little points of light weaving in a snakelike pattern through the darkness. The woods were cool in the morning and my vision was limited to a spotlight on the ground immediately in front of me. Each runner was wearing a headlamp and unless you were bunched in a group on the climb, there was no other light shining on the path but your own. I felt a bond with the other runners because it was pitch black outside and we were all running through the woods on the same quest. I took some video to capture this and I was overflowing with energy.

To get to the top of Short Mountain was slow but once we reached the ridge line we unleashed. I was surrounded by fast runners and we cruised at a hard pace picking our way over countless rocks. A year ago I took a spill and that had motivated me to hone my technical running. Now we began to bunch up again because of the single track and I had time to watch some of the other runners directly in front of me. I could see that some of their foot placement was rushed and I saw two people go down on the rocks. This was only in my immediate vision so this must have happened many times on Short Mountain. The runners were ok because they were helped onto their feet and then took off again like battle hardened warriors.

The first of my two sunrises began and when I looked up through the leaves I could see a dark blue like the ocean.

On one really great stretch of this section I was listening to Armin Van Buuren and on one of his tracks he mixed in some deep tribal drums. That kicked in this feeling I often get when running in the woods which is primeval. It lasts for a few moments and it is pure and absolute joy!

Short Mountain
Photo by Aaron Schwartzbard

By the time I made it through Short Mountain it was just becoming light and we were on a long downhill approach to the second AS (Aid Station). Here I arrived to cowbells, clapping and cheering! The support in this race is tremendous and that was a great introduction to it. Here I saw my friend Mike Bielik volunteering and he is an ultrarunning-ironman and former soccer teammate. He helped me fill my pack and then I was out and climbing up the next mountain.

First Mistake: As I left the Aid Station I noticed that I was only about 50 minutes ahead of the first cutoff. This made me uncomfortable and I pushed really hard for the next few hours to increase that gap. I was successful because I completed 25% of the race in 6 hours! But this was not the right pace for a first timer on Massanutten, and definitely not a good idea for my first 100 miler. I probably paid triple later on with my time.

AS #2 to AS #3 Woodstock Tower
6:50AM to 8:48AM
Mile 11.7 to 19.9 (8.2 miles, average pace of 14:23)
Weather.com: Scattered thunderstorms. High 72F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60%.

“After a nice long climb, I reached the ridgeline” - Hamilton Tyler 2010 Race Report
Up the next mountain and we entered the clouds. At the top of the range the sun occasionally poked through but mostly there were white clouds just off to our left. I met a runner from Japan, Tetsuro Ogata, and we chatted a bit as we leapfrogged back and forth along the trail.

Running in the Clouds

AS #3 to AS #4 Powell's Fort Camp
8:48AM to 10:04AM
Mile 19.9 to 25.1 (5.2 miles, average pace of 14:37) 

“The section to Powell's Fort is one of the easier one's as for once you do not have to climb up a huge ridge after leaving the aid station” - Dave Krause 2010 Race Report
At this AS and at any one of the others the volunteers were always so helpful and they cheered for us as we ran in. There was always an array of food to choose from and all of this made me feel very positive when I first arrived and then a second time as I sped out.

On this section I ran into The Massanutten Legend Gary Knipling and at 67 years young he was on his way to complete his 14th finish on this course. This is probably an understatement but Gary is an extremely friendly person and we chatted a bit about the upcoming section of the course. Part of my preparation for this race was to watch the 2006 movie "Massanutten – 2 Runners, 100 Miles" in which Gary was one of the featured runners. Running with him for a bit added to my positive experience. And I really have to watch that movie again to see if they captured enough of the rocks.

AS #4 to AS #5 Elizabeth Furnace
10:04AM to 12:03PM
Mile 25.1 to 32.6 (7.5 miles, average pace of 15:52)

“This downhill trail is rocky in some places but for the most part it affords some of the best running of the race” - Alan Gowen 2010 Race Report
At this AS there was a smorgasbord of food to choose from. I was browsing over the huge selection and feeling indecisive when one of the volunteers offered me an ice cream sandwich! They even kept them frozen solid so it would not melt too quickly in the heat. Volunteering at this AS was also the previous Massanutten Race Director, Stan Duobinis, who was cooking eggs, bacon, sausage and pancakes for the runners which was very cool of him.

I was feeling good as I left the aid station and ran past an empty swimming pool on my right. Little did I know but this would be foreshadowing for the rest of the day. I heard the temperature broke 80 and I recall the weather said it was going to be over 60% humid. All day I was plagued with persistent thoughts of ice baths and slushies.

AS #5 to AS #6 Shawl Gap
12:03PM to 1:23PM
Mile 32.6 to 37.6 (5 miles, average pace of 16:00)

“After cresting the mountain I go straight over the saddle and down the other side” - Hamilton Tyler 2010 Race Report

Descent from Shawl Gap
Photo by Aaron Schwartzard

AS #6 to AS #7 Veach Gap
1:23PM to 2:10PM
Mile 37.6 to 40.7 (3.1 miles, average pace of 15:10) 

“Leaving Shawl Gap we run a gravel road for three miles” - Alan Gowen 2010 Race Report
Before I started the race I had planned to run this gravel road at a pace of 10-12 minutes per mile despite the race reports I read. But when I got there it was very difficult to do since most of the road was exposed to the sun and it was one of the hottest parts of the day. This was a slow section for all of us and only when one runner started to pass another would we feel compelled to pick up our feet and start moving.

AS #7 to AS #8 Indian Grave
2:10PM to 4:52PM
Mile 40.7 to 49.7 (9 miles, average pace of 18:00) 

“Heading out of Veach Gap you have another long climb back to the ridgeline and then you follow the ridge for miles before hitting the purple trail that drops you back down to another dreaded dirt road.” - Garry Harrington 2010 Race Report 

“The next section is brutal climbs.” - Kate Abbott 2010 Race Report
The uphill after leaving AS#7 is sick. I figured is about a 15% grade for 2 straight miles which may not sound like much but it is when you are out there. At one point you can see straight up the hill for about ½ a mile and it is clear that it is steep. To add to the mental struggle, you can see other runners farther ahead and behind and they do not look like they are moving forward at all either! This was a very long and tough section in the heat and it was draining.

Finally I pulled into AS#8 and I was tired, picky about food and at a low. The bugs were out in force and as I doused myself in spray, I discovered my pack had rubbed some of the skin off of my left shoulder. That stung. But with the bad came the good and this was now the fourth time I had run a consecutive 50 miles. It was getting easier each time!

I ate, refilled on water and took a few ham and cheese quarter sandwiches with me for the road.

AS #8 to AS #9 Habron Gap
4:52PM to 5:51PM
Mile 49.7 to 53.6 (3.9 miles, average pace of 15:08)

“I knew from experience that this road section would be miserable.” - Alan Gowen 2010 Race Report
I remember this road well because at one point along here I was descending and off in the distance is a vertical wall that I knew was our next climb. I was moving down a couple of hundred feet only to start climbing back up in a few miles!

The next ascent in the background

I walked the first half of the gravel road until the sun finally started moving towards the horizon. Along the way I was sending texts to my pacers and posting a few photos on Facebook. I posted a status on Facebook that "Reading all posts! Thank you it helps!". What a support network, because the next morning I had over 100 email notifications.

About halfway through this leg, the ham and cheese sandwiches must have kicked in because I was on a high again and I ran hard into AS#9. The entrance was lined on both sides with crews and observers hanging out in lawn chairs and cheering. It looked like a really fun place to be!

AS #9 to AS #10 Camp Roosevelt
5:51PM to 9:05PM
Mile 53.6 to 63.1 (9.5 miles, average pace of 20:25)

“I was attacking the climb up to Habron Gap, which is one of the hardest climbs in the entire race.” - Alan Gowen 2010 Race Report
Before I share my second mistake it's time for a good experience. As I mentioned above, the entrance to this AS was lined with people that we passed on the way to the tent to refuel. On the way back out, the runners double back through this group and before they go too far on that same gravel road there is a hard turn into the woods. As I was on my way out, two cute girls were lounging at the roadside in their chairs and one of them yells “You looked so good coming in, why don’t you do it again? But this time with your shirt off.” Imagine if that was your crew!

Second Mistake: Now onto my second mistake of the race which had to be the most damaging. This blunder affected me for the next 20, maybe 30 miles and if you look at my splits you can see that the times increased immediately by over 5 minutes per mile and then never returned.

At the AS I picked up my 2nd drop bag which had two semi-sweet baker's chocolates at 150 calories a pop and a few other goodies. It also had a 5-Hour Energy and since I knew this next section was going to be a bitch of a climb, and 9 miles long, I took the whole thing down in one dose. This would easily carry me until I reached my pacers at mile 63. I loaded my pack, ate some aid station goodies and then one of the volunteers offered me soup. Sure! Soup is loaded with nutrients and an ultrarunning favorite. So far I had eaten ramens twice and minestrone once. The volunteer mentioned that it was potato soup but my brain hadn't registered that the potatoes were in a cream sauce! I took a few spoonfuls down before it dawned on me and I threw the rest out feeling guilty for wasting food. It did not matter that it was only a few spoonfuls, the problem had been set in motion. I left the aid station and started my next climb of 1400 feet. A cold rain also started but the heat of the day balanced it out. I made it about 5 minutes uphill before the cream sauce mixed with the 5-Hour Energy much like the paper mache volcano models you make as a kid where you mix baking soda with vinegar. And then I hurled 3 times. There I was bent over at the waist with my head resting against a tree and the cold rain now pouring onto my back. A few tears from the violence of it all and then the mental torture begins to sink in: My nutrients are gone. I feel drained. I still have miles to go on a very difficult section.

I picked up what was left of myself, hiked the rest of the way up the mountain then started running slowly once I reached the top. I kept thinking about how difficult it was going to be to refuel and I was worried because I could not eat. Although I was taking in water I could not swallow a salt tablet without gagging. I met another runner along the ridge and shared my problem. He advised me that the next aid station had cots and that maybe a good 15 minute nap might rejuvenate me.

We navigated the mountain ridge that overlooked incredible valleys and a winding river. And along the way you could see below some perfect miniatures of farms. The sun was finally going down and I had a few miles ahead of me of solo night running. I leapfrogged with maybe 3 or 4 other runners and we each checked on one another to make sure everyone had lighting.

View from the ridge line

It was pitch black when I finally arrived at a parking lot just outside of the AS. A familiar voice tells me to go another 100 yards when I realize it’s my friend Mike that was volunteering at Edinburg Gap earlier this morning. He takes me to my friends Jim and Seth who will pace me one at a time for the last 40 miles. These guys have been waiting Friday and all day Saturday for their chance to start running. I told them about my forest food donation and as good pacers do, they immediately and efficiently start readying me for the next leg. They emptied my camelback of trash, refilled my water and handed me fruit because that was all that I could eat. I handed off my phone and Flip videocamera because I was done with the weight and the simple action to reach back into a pocket and turn the thing on seemed like a monumental effort.

Here we opened a present of mine in a box “Do not open until mile 63.1”. For my pacers I had custom black t-shirts made with white skulls and ‘Massanutten’ written on the back. With Seth, Jim and Mike around I forgot about that nap and Seth and I headed out into the night to climb Kern's Mountain. Alan Gowen’s 2010 race report described this with “Trail is nothing but rocks”. And he was right.

Seth Baum, Mark Leuner and Jim Bruening at Camp Roosevelt

AS #10 to AS #11 Gap Creek 1st Time 
9:05PM to 11:40PM
Mile 63.1 to 68.7 (5.6 miles, average pace of 27:41)

Clothing & Gear: Changed the singlet to a sleeveless. Carried a Patagonia Torrentshell Rain Jacket
Weather.com: Showers and thundershowers during the evening will give way to steady rain overnight. Low 59F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 80%. Rainfall around a half an inch.
Seth Pacing

“Hiked the entire muddy road and big climb that led me to the top of the ridge again.” - Garry Harrington 2010 Race Report
Up the jeep trail Seth and I went as the trail turned into rocks mixed with a stream of mud. We jumped from one bad side of the trail to the other to stay out of the worst of it. Occasionally one of us missed and landed in a few inches of water. I tested the stomach by eating some Fig Newtons and Seth was encouraging me to fuel. I could only take a bite the size of a fingernail, add water and swish it around till it was basically liquid. I still could not swallow salt which was worrying because I was taking in water and concerned about becoming hyponatremic. I also started to fall asleep while running and was countering this with sips of 5-Hour Energy which was the only thing I could take down besides water. If someone were to have been watching from the side of the trail I imagine it would have looked like Night of the Living Dead runs Massanutten.

Eventually we made it to Gap Creek which is draped in Christmas Lights and is also another party spot. This is the only AS where you pass by twice and people are everywhere. They were watching for runners returning for the second time while we were just about to start the 25 mile loop! At this AS I finally had to take that 15-20 minute nap and a volunteer put out a cot for me. I really did not care that it was a light misty rain and just wanted to sleep. I declined a blanket but thankfully he was thinking because I wasn’t. Even with the heavy blanket I became very cold in the 15 minutes I slept. Seth and Jim woke me up and Jim was holding a hamburger and a quesadilla. My pacers were doing the right thing trying to get me to eat but any thought of food now made my stomach turn.

Gap Creek Aid Station

AS #11 to AS #12 Visitor Center
11:40PM to 3:23AM
Mile 68.7 to 77.1 (8.4 miles, average pace of 26:33)
Jim Pacing

“The trail really can't be called a trail in the normal sense of the word. It's just a five mile long rock pile” - Alan Gowen 2010 Race Report

"Jim, we gotta slow down. You're flying, man."
“ I didn't have the heart to tell you that we just did a 29 minute mile until later. You were pretty crushed to get that news.”

I created these tags to be used as a section by section guide. The turn-by-turn directions are from the website. The section descriptions are from various 2010 race reports.

Jim and I started the climb up Jawbone Gap which is another brutal climb. I was panting, exhausted and thinking constantly about the time to the next cut off. For most of the course I had been at least 3-4 hours ahead of these cut offs but I knew now that I was slowing dramatically. To sum it up I was running on empty, I had just lost maybe 45 minutes at the last AS and dark thoughts started creeping into my head. I started falling asleep while moving forward and listing to the left and right with rocks all around. I was thinking about how I was on a collision course with one of the next cut offs and that my efforts to continue forward was a useful struggle which would likely result in a disqualification somewhere in the next 30 miles. The mind can rationalize anything when you are this tired and I started thinking maybe it would be better to arrive at the next aid station and see clearly that I was just coming up too short on time to continue.

These thoughts go against the fiber of my being and I was not myself. This was the only time I considered dropping and it was because I felt helpless. Even after I puked I knew I could continue because I had the strength to move on. But here I was, literally falling asleep on my feet against my will and thinking this was nearing the end. What I realize afterwards was that this was happening around my normal bedtime! Mix that with 20 hours of running and of course my body was desperate to shut down. My post race impression is that this must be a key time for runner's that are morning people because the desire to sleep overtakes all sense, all motivation. The body looks to satisfy the immediate need and if obliged, will end months of planning and hundreds of miles of training.

So what to do now? Stop. Think. I asked Jim to hold up and I reached into my pack and pulled out the pace chart with cutoffs. 7:30AM. The next cut off was Seven. Thirty. AM. Which meant I had 7 hours to run 7 miles! I was momentarily overwhelmed because it was at that moment that I knew I would finish. I returned to the race, refocused and it became fun again.

I took in two gels and we hit an unmanned aid station. Then we hit a nice jeep road in a thick fog and then it was a long downhill on a road with a light rain.

Seth had been waiting for us at the entrance to the next AS at 3:30 AM if he had not we might have missed it. The road ended in a T and the aid station was just over the hill in front of us where we could not see it. Had we turned right we would have gone downhill and even as I edit this weeks after the race I shudder to think about how much of a disaster that would have been!

We entered the tent and the rain was now coming down steady. They wrapped me in a warm blanket and towel and I sat in a chair under the tent. I chowed on some ramen soup and then took another 15-20 minute nap sitting up. Myself and the other runners were in a small circle and we were all napping in chairs, leaning forward with our heads in our hands facing each other. With our blankets and towels I heard we looked like a circle of cocoons. The pacers watched and waited patiently and whispered to one another about when to wake us up and the shape we were in. The knowledgeable aid station captain explained to them not to worry because this was common for this time of night. As long as the runners do no sleep so long that we want to stay the night, we will be ok.

4AM Coffee. The runner to my left is hidden inside of his blanket.

AS #12 to AS #13 Bird Knob 
3:23AM to 5:20AM
Mile 77.1 to 80.5 (3.4 miles, average pace of 34:25)
Clothing & Gear: Changed sleeveless to long sleeves, changed hat to lightweight beanie, Patagonia Torrentshell Rain Jacket, SealSkinz waterproof gloves. 
Seth Pacing

“Next we climbed about 1000' to reach the highest elevation of the race 2900 feet” - Mike Campbell 2010 Race Report
I emerged from my cocoon and had a coffee and some cantaloupe and my stomach was beginning to return to normal. Seth and Jim got me geared up so that I was layered for the cold rain which was now nothing short of pissing down. I put on a pair of SealSkinz waterproof gloves and those gloves boosted me so that I felt absolutely confident part of me would be warm and dry while heading out into the cold driving rain. It was 4AM and Seth and I were the first of the sleeping runners out of the current group to start yet another mountain ascent.


We hiked, we ran and we arrived at the next AS with more of those helpful and friendly Massanutten volunteers who greeted us with real breakfast foods. I took in some fruit, had a coffee and sat in a chair next to a fire. I slept again for maybe 5 minutes while Seth ate some pancakes. As we were leaving here my second sunrise began.

AS #13 - AS #14 the Picnic Area
5:20AM to 7:48AM
Mile 80.5 to 86.9 (6.4 miles, average pace of 23:08)
Seth Pacing

“The last mile or so to the Picnic Area aid station (mile ~86) took forever. We finally made it in and I sat down to eat - I was starving. I ate about 7 pieces of bacon, no joke.” - Bedford Boyce 2010 Race Report
It was not long until the sun was up and I was feeling transformed. My legs felt tired like any back-to-back training weekend which is run 30 miles Saturday and run 20 on Sunday. Except this time it was run 80 Saturday and run 20 on Sunday. I felt invigorated and was looking forward to moving forward at a normal pace. We climbed some hills and had some technical descents and we were flying up and down these sections. In hindsight I think I may have overused my newfound energy. You see, I love technical running at high speeds and since I could run again we were moving pretty fast. Seth thought we must have passed about 15 people before I slowed down again.

I think Jim was a little shocked to see us arrive at the AS smiling and laughing. We were now within the final 15 miles and I was ready to complete Massanutten. At this AS we again met the girls that earlier had asked me to take my shirt off. I finally obliged and changed back into the black Massanutten shirt with the white skull. I plopped down in a camping chair and ate two breakfast sausages wrapped in a pancake and doused in syrup. It was dripping down my hand and I really did not care. Also I ate some fruit and another coffee and then I was good to go.

Sunrise brings new energy

AS #14 to AS#15 Gap Creek 2nd Time
7:48AM to 10:56AM
Mile 86.9 to 95.4 (8.5 miles, average pace of 22:07)
Clothing & Gear: Changed long sleeve back to sleeveless, dropped the jacket and beanie, put on a new hat and sunglasses. 
Jim Pacing

“We work our way up the seemingly never ending climb” - Alan Gowen 2010 Race Report
It was starting off as a very beautiful day and Jim and I took off down a short descent which was just before a 1500' climb. On the trail we ran into my friend Mike again who was doing a 40-mile training run as he prepared for the Vermont 100. It really is a positive thing to see people you know along the way when you are running a 100. Jim and I made our way over some streams by hopping from rock to rock and by carefully maneuvering around to keep from getting our feet wet. On one crossing we turned back to watch a pair of ladies as they splashed through the middle of that same stream and they flew by us! Another mark on the ultra experience checklist because we were chicked!

That 1500' climb was tough and after that it was slow going to make it down the jeep road that led to the AS. At 10AM after running for 30 hours, the sun was up and I really wanted to be done. We returned to Gap Creek for the second (and Last!) time and I went straight for the bug repellant and sprayed it in my ears. I already had on one type of spray on but that hadn’t stopped them from flying in my ears. So now with two types of spray the bugs would fly in and then fly back out! Also I went for the Vaseline because I was getting a little chafed and I did the application on the side that was facing the woods. What I hadn’t realized was that there was a group of people facing me in camping chairs and I flashed them while I did it. It was mile 95!

AS #15 to Finish
10:56AM to 1:23PM
Mile 95.4 to 101.7 (6.3 miles, average pace of 23:20)
Seth Pacing

“This is the second time during the race that I've climbed up Jawbone Gap, but this time instead to turning left and crossing Kern's Mountain, we go straight on the extremely rocky downhill trail toward Mooreland Gap.” - Alan Gowen 2010 Race Report
Mike Bielik, Seth Baum and Mark Leuner 

I took down two gels and Seth and I were out for the last haul to the finish line. That final climb up Jawbone Gap went fine but just over the top it required technical running and I was spent. We eventually hit the gravel road leading to the finish but it was 3.1 miles long. Prior to the road I had noticed hot spots on my feet around mile 50 which turned into blisters at mile 70 and then by mile 98 I was moving on a cushion of blisters. I will spare the details and summarize by noting that was agonizing and for the first time in running this was physical pain that I made a conscious choice to ignore. This gravel section was all downhill but because of the blisters I would stop running and walk whenever the hill became too steep. A shin splint on my left leg also returned and I struggled. Seth was very patient and I think he wanted to get me to the finish just so I could get off of my feet. After a long 3.1 miles we turned onto the final 0.5 mile which is a dirt road. And what did we find? A hill.

In 101.5 miles I may have stubbed my shoe a few times but I never actually tripped. But with 0.2 miles to go I was on a downhill and my foot hit a root and I almost ate it hard. I recovered but still came so very close to crossing the finish line with a face full of dirt.

Finally! We rounded the corner where I could see the tent and the finish line and I hear "Runner!". This came from the direction of the tent where I hear cheering and yelling. As we near the end Seth says to me “Show em what you got”. In that moment I forgot my exhaustion and my pain and sprinted to that finish line with everything I had. Kevin Sayers the Race Director shook my hand and then it was thanks to Jim and Seth for helping me survive the last half of that race. My race lasted 33 hours and 23 minutes.

Approaching the Finish
Photo by Bobby Gill

I went right to the barbecue and ate like I never had a moment of stomach distress. I cheered on some runners, showered, brushed, flossed and then went back to the tent to watch the last runners come in during a torrential downpour.

My Final Mistake: Later in the car ride home I treated about a dozen blisters, half of which were in pretty bad shape. That turned out to be the right thing to do but on this 5-hour ride home when we would pull over I really had trouble putting on my sneakers. This was not because of blisters as I was thinking but because my feet had swollen to the size of giant fuzzy slippers. I had read about this but hadn't remembered to keep the feet up after a 100 or to bring flip flops! Don't forget.

Pace per min per mile in red plotted over distance and elevation

Post Race
Massanutten is not a typical course for a first 100 and if you are considering it then I recommend having technical running experience and a pacer. Having two good friends as pacers worked really well for us. Jim and Seth took turns pacing at every aid station with access which kept things fresh for all of us and made the experience a team effort. The car served as the command post and whoever was not pacing would drive it to the next AS. Here we were also able to store lots of clothing for the three of us and food for Seth and Jim. Not only did they pace but they also functioned as a crew. They consulted one another on my condition and planned the last 40 miles. I really don’t think I would have made it without them.

Massanutten 2011 home movie I made with a Flip camera
http://www.vimeo.com/24544672 (Original version with explicit song lyrics)
http://www.vimeo.com/24856456 (Same movie with clean song lyrics)