2002 MMT 100: No Mas?

By John A. Dodds

Did there ever come a time when you're engaging in an activity, and you slowly realize that maybe this activity isn't for you? This happened to me at the MMT 100 while I was running at night on my way to Powell's Fort. Due to severe chafing, I had taken off my running shorts and was running half "nekkid." I looked down at my hands, and they were so swollen they looked like they belonged to the Michelin Man. Together with my performance last year, I've turned misery into an art form. Fifty people didn't complete MMT this year-they were the lucky ones. But don't let all this influence you when you try to decide to run MMT next year.

Why MMT? In my defense, I would like to say I didn't want to run it this year. My plans were to continue my training program (such that it was) and run Mt. Rushmore in late July. My MMT weekend was going to be as a crew for somebody; Russ Evans was going to be the pacer. Unfortunately, Russ got injured, and I became the pacer. Then our runner decided not to enter. In the meantime, it appeared that Mt. Rushmore wasn't going to be run that year. So, I decided I would try the Kettle Moraine on June 1st instead. But then I had a conflict, and it soon became apparent that my only real chance at running a 100 was MMT. Besides, Russ and Gary had earlier called me and "challenged" me to run MMT. I told them no. But when Kettle Moraine fell through for me, I entered MMT-on the day it closed.

Photo: John Dodds at Gap Creek the First TimeBefore the 2002 MMT, I had run and finished three 100s. They could have been more pleasant experiences. In fact, my next 100 was going to be a test to see if I could have more "fun." That meant no chafing, no queasiness, no listlessness during the night, etc. If it weren't more fun, then I might just come to the slow realization that running 100s just isn't for me. Now the 2002 MMT 100 became that test. For 83 miles, I was doing fairly well. Unfortunately, the Running God had other plans for me after that.

Rhythm in the rocks. My strategy was to run at my pace and not be tempted to "keep up" with anybody. As one example, I would keep my speed down on the roads. All this worked as I had planned. My test would occur at the halfway point-I wanted to be able to run from the new Bird Knob aid station back to the scenic overlook-it would be slightly uphill. Gary and I had gone on a very long run not quite 2 weeks before MMT-we had a number of major climbs over our 9-hour run: Jawbone, Bird Knob, Purple Trail (on Catherine's course), Waterfall, and Scothorn. We had zoomed this uphill Bird Knob portion back to the scenic overlook. Gary asked if I would run that pace on race day, and I said "no way." But I figured I could at least run it slowly if I had conserved energy in the first part of the race. And it worked. I was able to run this section-what I call having a rhythm in the rocks. From then on I had a nice pace down to 211 East-all to get ready for the long slow uphill to Scothorn. This strategy of keeping my pace worked as planned-at least until Woodstock.

Magic crackers. Last year I didn't have enough salt. This year would be different. I made it a point to eat potatoes with salt every chance I could get. And take SUCCEED every hour without fail. Last year I was at Powell's Fort (I had been queasy for many, many hours) and didn't feel like eating anything. Nada. Then Jeanne Christie gave me seaweed crackers. That's the only thing I could eat. And I've been eating them ever since. I packed them in all my drop bags this year and made sure I picked them up as I headed out from each aid station.

So what went wrong? The main problem was chafing, and I'll get to that in a minute. I would like to mention a couple things that happened before then that could have been avoided. First, I got to Moreland Gap just as I needed a flashlight, so this is where my "night" section started. And since it was supposed to be cooler at night, I changed from a short-sleeve to a long-sleeve shirt that I had in my drop bag there. That was a mistake. As I headed up Short Mt., I got overheated. All I could do was roll up my sleeves and pull my shirt up. I thought about taking off my shirt, but I thought my Camelbak would chafe on my shoulders. The temperature was supposed to go to 43 degrees, but I'm not sure it went below 60 degrees. [Low temp at Edinburg Gap was 59 degrees. --Editor] What I should have done was continue to wear my short-sleeve shirt and bring along my long-sleeve shirt and put it on when I needed it. Courtney Fenstermacher (whom I sort of ran with along with her friend Mike Yoder from Gap Creek to Woodstock) also was too warm and took off her shirt on Short Mt.

Second, I switched drinks at Moreland Gap. I had been drinking Conquest all day, but at Moreland Gap I would switch from a fanny pack to a Camelbak that I had already filled with a mixture of grape Gatorade (my favorite drink) and Coca Cola. The Coke was supposed to help me stay awake. I think it did, but this mixture didn't sit well with my stomach. I don't think it was the drink itself; rather, I think it was such a change from what I had been drinking. Next time, I'll stick to what I've been drinking all day.

Decent exposure. I made it up and across Short Mt. faster than planned; and about the same time as planned on to Woodstock. It was about this time (about 0245) that I was starting to not feel as well as I had been. I drank a can of Ensure (chocolate), ate something and then headed out. Before I headed out, Gary arrived. He was running very well. As I was getting something out of my drop bag, he came over to me, got down on his knees and offered me a Yoo-Hoo which he held out in both hands sideways. It looked like someone offering me a hari-kari knife. Seeing the grin on his face and knowing he had poisoned Frank Probst's drink at Gap Creek last year, I politely refused.

Shortly after leaving Woodstock by myself, I had to go to the bathroom. This is a rarity for me in a 100 (unfortunately). I wasn't real thrilled at having to go at that time because it sounded an awful lot like the start of diarrhea (fortunately, it wasn't). I finally found a place to make my encampment and was squatting when Gary came by with his nephew and another runner. Gary stopped to say they would wait for me. Since I wasn't feeling all that great, I knew I couldn't keep up with them and told him to go ahead. He wouldn't go. He had visions of us tying for the over-50 award. But I told him that he was going to have a PR and to keep going. I felt like I was taking part in hostage negotiations. I should have yelled: "I'm not coming out. You hear me?" Finally, he left, and I had some peace and quiet.

Very soon after that, I developed some serious chafing. I wasn't sure how this was possible since I was wearing the same shorts I had run in at Superior last September without any chafing. It just got worse and worse (even though I had been using vaseline all day). Finally, I just couldn't take it any more and took off my shorts. I ran (sort of) until I got to the road at Powell's Fort, and then I put my shorts back on and walked into the aid station.

Geneva Convention. After World War II, the international community got together and negotiated several treaties, one of which involved treatment of the sick and wounded. Fortunately for me, the VHTRC is a signatory to this treaty. What this means in practical terms is that aid station volunteers consider themselves to be the personal servants of a runner in distress (the "wounded"). Marge and Stan couldn't do enough for me as I sat there on a bench at Powell's Fort. Marge brought me soup, vaseline, paper towels, etc. I know Anstr (Lord of the Ring and Volunteers) will shoot me for taking advantage of their kind mercy-here's a sampling from the voice recorder installed at Powell's Fort:

Marge: Would you like some soup?
32: Sounds great.
Marge: How is it?
32: Too hot.
Marge: Let me put some ice in it.
32: That's better. Marge?
Marge: Yes?
32: I just had the vaseline you brought me. Where did it go?
Marge: Oh, I thought you were finished and put it over on that table over there.
32: Stan?
Stan: Yes?
32: Can you bring me the vaseline from that table over there?
Stan: Sure.

I spent 40 minutes in that aid station. I had unpacked my drop bag and my stuff was strewn all over the bench. Finally, I was ready to leave.

32: Marge?
Marge: Yes?
32: I was wondering if you could pack up all my stuff after I leave.
Marge: Sure, go ahead.

I got identical treatment from Jean Heishman at Elizabeth Furnace (once I finally got there). You can read in numerous accounts about how great aid station volunteers are, but until you have been a runner in distress who has been on the receiving end of their care, you really can't appreciate all that they do.

All this for a belt buckle? As I sat there at Powell's Fort, I looked at my watch. It was 0540. I had 2 mountains to climb and 12 miles to go. I was in no condition to run, and I figured it would take me about 6 hours to walk (too painful to run). I had replaced my running shorts with sweat pants from my drop bag, figuring that would help with the chafing. It didn't. And off I went. As I said, I finally made it to Elizabeth Furnace and sat on a bench there for a long time. I had to go to the bathroom and asked if there was one there. They pointed about 100 feet away. I groaned. How could I possibly walk that far? I figured that walking to the bathroom would be a test. If I could get up off the bench and walk, then I could make it over one more mountain and make it to the finish 5 miles away. I know this is going to seem somewhat unbelievable, but once I sat down in that restroom I was very comfortable. It was dank and cool. Having minimal mental faculties at that time, I figured I had 2 options: (1) I could sit in there until the aid station closed and ride to the finish with the volunteers (this was my preference), or (2) I could spend another 3 hours in pure misery climbing up and down over another mountain. I decided to press on. But first:

32: Jean?
Jean: Yes?
32: I was wondering if you could pack up all my stuff after I leave.
Jean: Sure, go ahead.

I believe I might actually have set the course record for the slowest time going across Shawl Gap. If you think that gravel road at the end is a miserable part of the course, try walking it. I finally made it to the field leading up to the finish. I decided I would not try to impress anybody by actually running across this field (not that I was physically able to run); rather, I continued to trudge. I finally finished with a time of 30:24, two hours faster than last year. At this rate of improvement, I might win the race in another several years. As I crossed the imaginary finish line, I held up my race number and asked to exchange it for a buckle. Was it all worth it? I think it's still too early to try to answer this question.

Some of the others. At the awards ceremony, I stopped for a few seconds to think not about my discomfort but to think about some of the others who I had run with before and who had run so well that day. Each one seemed to run better than one would have expected. Nick Satriano had been running well all year and finished third (25:24)-in his first 100. Mike Bur finished in 26:29:24, accomplishing his most ambitious goal (actually he beat it by 36 seconds). A great time for a first MMT. Then there's Keith Knipling who had the performance of a lifetime (26:39), even at a young age. I still don't see how his time can be explained. And then there's Gary who got stronger and faster during the run and set a PR of 27:21. I can't wait until I get as old as him so I can be a good runner. Several days after the run, my daughter, age 7, was pointing out a flower to me in the yard. I told her that I run with a person who points out all the flowers he sees on the way. Displaying a wisdom beyond her tender years, she asked me: "Isn't that annoying?"

The next day. After the race when I took my shoes off, I discovered that the lump on the bottom of my left foot was not my sock scrunching up as I had thought. It was a huge blister. This had been bothering me for some time during the latter portion of my "walk" but it didn't seem to be all that important considering the chafing problem. Another problem that developed about midway was a tenderness in my left ankle. I don't recall ever turning my ankle, but it got sore as time went on. The next day my ankle and foot were all swollen, thus putting pressure from the inside-out on my blister. I could barely walk. The evening after the race, I was lying in bed on a towel (to protect the sheets from a seaping butt-not pleasant but true) with nothing on except two icepacks on my feet. The phone rang, and I was annoyed because I just knew it was going to be a cold call from someone trying to sell me part of a time share in some Loosiana bayou. But it was worse-it was Gary. "Hi, John, do you want to take off next Monday and go run the Priest?"

But we had a good conversation, centering mainly on anti-chafing measures. It was a very detailed discussion, using complex terms in reference to the male anatomy that would have made a Supreme Court justice blush. Over the next several days, my chafing wounds went away (it was so pleasant not to wear regular underpants plus flannel boxers with my suit here at work). My foot was back to normal size by the following Saturday, and I was walking without a limp. The dead layer of skin has come off the bottom of my foot, leaving a healthy-looking membrane that keeps the muscle enclosed. And what about running? Well, I haven't yet. But: I have since bought new underwear, new shorts as well as a new pair of shoes. As the saying goes: I'm all dressed up with no place to go.

Spread the word. I'm not sure there's more variety of runners this year than in past years; maybe it just seemed that way to me because a number of the people I met during the day were not Easterners. They were from Ohio, Texas, and some place called Iowa (when did Iowa become a state?). I hope the word spreads, so more of these people will venture east and try to "crack the 'Nut'."

As for me, maybe next year I'll realize my dream and be a crew for someone.

Happy Trails!

MMT 2002 Report Page

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