The Mountain Masochist Trail Run would actually turn out to be a lot of fun, an effort I'm proud of, and my favorite 50 miler to date!
Location: Blue Ridge Mountains, VA
Finish Time: 10:00:53
Date: November 1, 2014
Coming off of Grindstone I had no idea what to expect. I rested a week, and then as I got back to my normal daily running routine I felt surprisingly good. I did 1 loop of a low-key 50k for a 16 mile training run 2 weeks out. While my energy levels felt great, my hips were getting a little sore by the end. 1 week out from MMTR I did a 68 mile bike ride called "The Great Pumpkin Ride" out in Warrenton. It was nice to get back out on the bike one last time for the year, and while I felt strong the whole time those nagging hips did get sore a few times. The last week before MMTR was just some easy running spooling down in time for the race.
I'll skip the usual race travel details and get to the race, starting off from the KOA Wildwood Campground in Monroe, VA. We set off right at 6:30am, into the dark, with our headlights on. About the first mile was pretty flat and on pavement which allowed the crowds to thin out nicely. While this first section was not exactly flat, it was mostly runnable and even the uphills were short enough to run up. We encountered our first water crossing early on while it was still dark, and then a few others. As is typical, I kind of cringe at the thought of getting my feet wet, but dancing through the streams is pretty fun and your feet dry out fairly quickly. It was cloudy and took a while to get light out, but probably within 2 hours it felt like total daylight.
The course is point-to-point and there is a significant net uphill, so yes - you are going up more than you come back down but it didn't really feel like it at the time. I was also fortunate to have a crew meet me at the Mt. Pleasant aid station and then again at the finish (with my car) to facilitate an easy drive home. The race buses take you back to packet pickup area in Lynchburg if you need it though.
While I loved the run it was pretty uneventful. It had some singletrack trail sections but was mostly on gravel jeep roads. There were lots of aid stations, most of them only 3-5 miles apart. Had I been more confident in the weather I would have only carried a hand bottle. However, I wanted to have my pack to store some extra food and clothing. I set off with a hat, gloves, and a shell jacket but soon got hot in the misty, 50 degree weather and stowed them. As the day wore on and our elevation increased it got much colder and windy so I was happy to put my layers back on. Speaking of, as the day wore on I was getting tired of eating the same typical cold foods and a few of the aid stations started having warm broth or soup. This tasted amazing and really warmed me up from the inside.
Up, up, up, power hiking these hills before each subsequent downhill section where I was able to make up time. I am still getting the hang of the best pacing strategy in the longer Ultras (50 miles and up). While starting out super slow is a safe bet, I hate the thought of selling myself short and losing time where I would have been running faster. Feeling great at the start of this race I made an effort to go out a little more aggressive than I normally would. I seem to do well in the later stages of races. I don't know if this means I'm going out too slow, just right, or that people around me are fading which is kind of a false positive as far as pacing goes.
2 hours into the race I was in 94th place of 277 runners and I finished in 68th place. These numbers sound just about right. There were about 30 runners who DNF'ed the course (DNF = Did Not Finish). It should be noted that this just means they did not finish in the given time constraint (12 hours for this one, which is not an easy time limit). This account both for people who pulled out early, and for those that could finish but did not make it to an aid station in time for the cut-off.
|View from the top of Mt. Pleasant. Photo courtesy of my|
friend Sanderson who was there pacing someone.
Other moments that felt decidedly different came as we crossed through some open farmland en route to the earlier aid station on Long Mountain with the drop bags.
After the loop it started feeling like the home stretch - just 12 miles to go. You have to realize this could be 2-3 hours more depending on the terrain, but the mileage alone makes you feel like you are home free. The next big section was pretty runnable and downhill, followed by the last few major climbs of the day.
Early on I had set a goal of around 10 hours for this race. I felt like that was a fairly aggressive yet attainable goal for my first running on the course. With about 4 miles to go we crested our last ridge and began a massive downhill section leading to the finish in Montebello. I was a little behind but still flirted with a 10 hour finish so despite my sore hips and knees I tried to kick it in to overdrive and sprint down the hills. The last mile was on pavement so I was able to knock out a sub-7 minute mile here. Though I wasn't able to break 10 hours, I came in at 10:00:53 on the race clock. Impressively close, though it made me wish I had taken about 5 seconds less time at each aid station!
After finishing I had a great feeling of accomplishment that I don't often experience. I know Grindstone was a major accomplishment, but I still get more of out setting a time goal for myself and running a race well, then just being able to finish. My legs (or rather, my whole body) was sore for the next couple days which told me I ran it to my full potential.
Its now really sinking in that I will be able to complete The Beast series. As any runner will tell you, its a lot easier to put an event on your calendar than to actually complete it. I've put in the training, the check-box workouts, the races, and now I have only the Hellgate 100k++ (and I use the term "only" lightly for this 66.6 mile race) left. Completing The Beast is a special goal for me, more from a holistic perspective, to complete my transition into Ultra-running. Whereas last year I was still more at home on the roads or just sticking with flat 50km races, completion of the Beast will give me the confidence to tackle almost any challenge, no matter how steep, remote, or rugged.