Sunday, November 5, 2006

Mountain Masochist Trail Race Report

Short version: DNF

Longer version:

It was a cold day when we assembled at the high school for the bus ride over to the James River Visitor Center for the start of the race-4am is pretty early. Horton kept right to his promise and the buses rolled at 4 am sharp.
I don't do well in crowded situations and public transportation-I have a bit of a claustrophobia issue. I sat in the second row and kept singing bits of a Bob Marley song "don't worry, about a thing. Cuz every little thing will be all right now..." over and over again and breathing in and out. It helped, because it got me to the race start without puking.
After about a 1/2 hour wait for the start of the race, we all sang the National Anthem together, and bang, we were off, in total darkness, on the pavement of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Just a nice steady fast past off, and we then turned around and headed back back the James River Visitor Center, across the James River (thankfully on the bridge) and off on an asphalt road. This helped to move and smooth out the 300 runners. After about 5.7 miles, we were off the pavement and onto some single track finally!
It was a beautiful day once the sun rose. The race (or at least, the first half) is on pretty much jeep/dirt/gravel roads, so there is plenty of room to run on. I knew I was at the back of the pack, and was worried about cutoff times. I didn't pay much attention to the first couple of aid stations or times because I knew they wouldn't be an issue. We started to climb,up and up and up. It was a refresher to just be able to run when it flattened out a bit!
I started worrying about cutoffs. The time for the 12 hour pace was posted, and I was pretty much dead on that at each aid station. I had no margin for stopping. This is the first time I have had a time siutation to deal with, so it was a bit stressful for me. Around mile ten, we burst out of the woods, and I got a glorious view of leaves, and mountains, and mountains behind mountains. It was wonderful. I thought to myself "this view was worth the whole run". It was great to see, and be out in nature in the early morning, and be in good health to be able to run this race.
I pretty much continued on in the same manner, I didn't have time to stop at the aid stations to grab a quick snack and fill my water bottle and press on. I also didn't talk to the few runners around me-we were all in the same situation with the cut off, and needed to make time.
We had a rather long climb up at one point, and I even asked Bernie, an older gentleman who had ran the MMTR 18 times and everyone knew at the aid stations how much farther up. He said not much, and there was a long downhill following, and how I would enjoy that. (Because I had been smoking him on the downhills and he kept catching me on the uphills.) He was right, because there was about a 4 mile downhill and I punched it. I knew someone was running right behind me, and the other runner thanked me when we hit the aid station around the bottom, we'd picked up four minutes with the good downhill pace.
But then we started to go up again, just fast hiking. Looking at the elevation map now, I see this was the start of the 6 mile uphill (I was afraid to look at the map which I had brought with me, it was too stressful to know what was ahead). There was a 10 minute "cushion" with the pace time, and I kept losing about one minute everytime we hit an aid station.
I was pushing it with everything I had. At one point, I took my pulse, and then hastily moved my hand away---my heart rate was way elevated. I didn't figure there was anything I could do, besides slow down so I didn't take my heart rate again. After the first initial climb of being short of breath, that seemed to go away a bit. I just kept shuffling along, running when I could, walking when I couldn't.
I met up with my friend Rich, around mile 24. We were both skirting the cut offs. He said he was also doing the best he could, and it seemed so slow for both of us. I said I was going to go on til they told me I couldn't.
We came out on top of a ridge, into the nice sun, and I finally peeled off a layer of shirt. This was a nice rural country road, with nice rural country folks looking at us--I'm sure they were used to this once a year phenomenon, it's been going on for 24 years!!!
Rich mentioned the next aid station was # 10, where the drop bags were. I had not realized this, and started thinking about what I wanted to pull out. I checked in with the aid station and then shuffled over to where the drop bags were. I was pawing through my bag,trying to figure out how I was going to carry 2 shirts since I was still hot, when a voice said "Ma-am"?
A man with a clipboard was standing there, and he said "I just want to let you know, you have three minutes to the hard cutoff. I don't want to tell you what to do, but this is a better place to drop, with your drop bag, then the next aid station."
He left, and I stood there undecided. 3 minutes to decide. Another runner yelled out "hey if you got anything left keep going"
yet the more rationale part of my head said, I'm on the hard end of 10 minutes, I will be running out of here now with no time left. And this is the best place to drop if you have to drop.
3 minutes. Not much time to ponder it over. Tears started to well up, and then I sucked it up. No way was I going to march over and drop AND cry at the same time. I walked over to the aid station and said "I'm dropping."
"133. She's out."
I walked away, wanting to cry again. I was very disapointed. I started going through my drop bag looking for socks and shoes. Someone started to talk to me, so that stopped me from crying. My friend Rich came in, and had missed the cut off, so we had time to talk.
At least it was the best place to drop! I got out of my filthy running clothing and into dry sweatshirt and leggings. The buses took us to the finish line, where we had a 4 hour wait until the first bus would leave for Lynchburg.
I had a wonderful afternoon. I got to see a bunch of friends finish, some of them their first 50 miler. I met a bunch of new folks, just kept talking with everyone that was hanging out at the finish line. Rich and I were waiting for Wendy, his wife, who we knew would finish the race.
We waited and waited and waited. We were up to 11 hours. It was getting cold. I put more layers of clothing on. My friend Roy finished, and bless his heart, he was bummed out that I didn't finish! I had tears in my eyes again when he mentioned that he felt bad that I didn't finish-what a friend. He was also shivering in the cold, but worried about Wendy still out on the course, and I shoo'd him onto a bus so he could stay warm-Rich and I were fine, we would wait for Wendy.
We finally spotted her coming up the road!! Hurray, she was going to do it!!!!
Wendy came in at 11.05, her first 50 mile race, and what a tough course to do fifty
Horton miles on.
We got the long bus ride back to town, showered, and headed over for the dinner. I was sitting with the Ohio crowd, and got to hear a very long and funny story from Mark Godale, how he and Dusty Olson, got lost for 1 hour together. We had been watching and waiting for Godale, we couldn't figure out why he hadn't finished!!
I got to hear our friend Bill's account of successfully chasing the cut offs and ending up with negative splits and finishing the race!!!!
It was a very good time. I got to meet and hang out with the Ohio group, and also all my friends from West Virginia-I ended up having breakfast with them before I headed out on Sunday.
Race expectations-I am disapointed that I dropped from this race. It is a tough race.
Did I train for this race? Yes I did. Did I train

adequately for this race: no. I did not. I was not prepared, enough, for the elevation. I had seen maps of the elevation, and really did not understand enough, about how that would affect me.
I am still unsettled. I set out to run a 50 mile race this fall and ended up with a marathon. I know I can run a 50 mile race. I can't run a Horton 50 mile race. At this time. Do I want to do this race again next year? I don't know. I doubt it. I'm such a new runner, there are so many races these days to chose from, that I don't feel the need to come "back and settle the score" so to speak.
BUT I do feel the need to run a 50 miler race. Maybe an official race, maybe it will be a FA this winter. It might even be a 50 miler of my own making over at Mohican this fall. I just want to do the 50 miles.


  1. Sorry to hear that you had to make that decision. It's not easy to do, but it is usually the right thing to do even when it feels like it's not. I am sure that you will conquer the distance next year.

  2. Sorry that you had to make the decision, I know it's not easy. I'm confident that you will finish the distance next year. Rest up and start planning for the next time!

  3. I'm sorry you didn't get to finish! I worry about cut-offs too as I contemplate my first 50M next year. I'm sure you'll be back and will be able to get some 50M's under your belt next year.
    : )

  4. Bummer...but Horton's miles do that to's a tough race, beautiful, but tough. DNF is never easy...I know that too, many of us do. You'll be back!

  5. sorry that you didn't get to finish. Glad to hear Bill finished, hadn't talked to him. I also hadn't heard Godales story.

    You will definitely finish a 50 miler whenever you choose. Just pick one with a slightly cushier cut off or a few less hills next time ;) I don't know if JFK has any slots left but it would be fun to have you out there with us!

  6. There's an idea, how about JFK? Isn't Horton only going to do this race one more year? I thought I read somewhere that he wanted to stop at 25, maybe I'm wrong. Sorry for the DNF but at least you went down fighting. How about some hilly 50ks in preparation for next year?

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