2003 MMT 100 Report
By Mike Campbell
Today I'm certain of only a few things, since I'm writing now, you can see I finished and survived the MMT 100. Now that I am more appreciative of those blasted stony objects, it was just one obstacle after another through this journey. Yes, "Massanutten Rocks" to say anything else wouldn't be fair. I've tripped, slipped, slid, dragged and even nose-dived into those varmints and believe me, some new words were created for them.
As the week started, I checked the weather forecast in the Metro section of the Post. What? Rain every single day and then maybe clear up on Sunday afternoon. Not the best of news, I guess we've been spoiled this last year with the lack of rain and the dried up streams and now it's pay back time. Instead of being 4 inches below average, we are 4 inches above normal rainfall for this time of the year. Like they say, if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, by golly it's going to be a duck, which is exactly what I was on Saturday.
I went between putting on my rain jacket, then a couple hours later taking it off. The sky would open up again and the next aid station, Themar would give it back with my hat, geeshh!! Now of course you couldn't be sure if it was stopped or not, since the trees were dripping and the fog was so dense, the visibility got to be 15 to 20 feet at times. At about 2:30pm, I could see some of the valley, but then crossed over the next ridge and it's foggy again. You were in, above, or through it. The temp was around 60 to 70 degrees most of the day, but during one flash flood, the temp dropped 30 degrees (it seemed) and I had to don my rain jacket again.
MMT bends your mind, once you're out of a rugged section of the trails, which seems to never end, the road section comes up, which sometimes ran from 1 to 2 miles of straight a way, bit of a nice break. As I chatted with Michael Bur at the meeting yesterday, he said this is where you pick up the pace from 7 to 8 minute per mile, since these sections would only last for a short time and then you'll be back in the woods climbing another mountain. I want to note that Michael is going for six (6) 100's this year after completing the Grand Slam (4) last year, best wishes and good luck to him.
The day started at 3:30am after a fitful night will almost no sleep, my chief crew (Themar) and I made the drive to the Skyline Ranch Resort in about ½ hour. I checked in and was ready to go by the 5:00am start, after a short briefing and blessing by Ed Demoney the Race Director. Did I mention there was no gun (didn't want to wake up the locals) as we shot across the grass, through the fence and down route 619, a paved road. Running in a tank top, shorts and hat, after about 10 to 15 minutes the first of many raindrops started to fall.
I carried a hand held flashlight with two (2) AA batteries, figuring it would be daybreak in an hour or so, and by 6:15am a light wouldn't be needed. I met up with Themar at the 8.7 mile (the Shawl Gap Aid Station), tanked up with a couple slices of baked potatoes w/salt, banana, couple cups of coke & some trail mix. Since I wouldn't see Themar until Habron Gap, and coming up was a 1500-foot climb, before descending (this was 9 miles from Milford Gap), I grabbed an extra bottle and was thankful I did, since upon arrival only bottle was remaining.
I stuck with carrying the extra bottle all day, since we had numerous climbs and aid stations were running between 5 and about 10 miles apart. I have a Camelbak, but didn't use it during the day, since it was quite warm and didn't want to wear a shirt in and out of the rainstorms with my rain-gear. Scaling the mountainside was extremely dangerous with not much of an edge to hang on to. The rain pounded down and visibility shortened so I relied on a balancing act at time to keep your footing.
I believe around 9:30am, a thunderstorm got pretty intense, if you ever have been in the mountains while it's thundering, the sensation is like having stereo headphones on and the volume cranked way up. You can almost feel the ground as the booming sounds and flashes of lightning were all around. On top of this, a one point I heard a tree starting to crash down about 40 to 50 feet away. Naturally, I hesitated to assess the situation to see which way it would be falling, or hide for cover. Thank goodness it went down parallel to my trail and danger was out of the way, for now.
I played tag with Bethany Hunter and Harry Bruell, and got to chat for about 10 to 15 miles, Bethany was running strong this year, after bonking at mile 70 last year and finishing in around 31 hours, Harry's also hanging tough (my Bull Run teammate). This is sort of a break, to ease your mind up and let off some steam. Your focal point has to be within three to eight feet in front of you at all times, otherwise navigating pass the rocks, stumps, trees, pot holes and whatever the trails lead to would be disastrous. Beth was later paced by another of my Bull Run teammates, David Horton, and finished with a course record. Great work, and congratulations.
Upon arrival at Camp Roosevelt and a warm welcome by my VHTRC members, Peyton, Bunny, Michelle and Michael, to name a few, and a great selection of munchies. The club members also warned me that Gary was going to catch me, maybe not until 2am on Sunday, but he's got a great finish, I naturally thanked them for the advice. (?) Yes, Gary will have his cronies throughout the course, trying to "syke" me out. With full bottles, raingear on again, I was all set for the next feat. I warmed up real fast and the rain was letting up a bit, darn maybe I should of left the jacket. Then in another 15 minutes, the rain came down in buckets again. This climb was from around 1400 to about 2500 feet, back down to 1700, then a return to 2500 feet and we were around mile 40 by then.
It seemed like every time I met Themar, either my raingear was coming off or putting it back on, and of course, when I didn't have it on, it rained cats and dogs. It was a no win situation here. My patience was wearing down, of course this was were it dropped about 30 degrees and I had my tank top pulled down, so my belt wouldn't rub me raw. Likewise, I pulled it back up and it took a minimum of the chill off. This was actually my lowest point all day, just hanging on until the aid station to re-assess it then.
Since this was my sixth century run, I've learned that you go through several ups and downs during these endurance runs. Most of the results remain in your head, (mind over matter) not only is this a physical, but a mental exertion of oneself. Well, this is how I got over it, when I arrived at Gap Creek Themar immediately said "You look great and your running #8," I couldn't believe it; everyone else must be having the same problems that I have encountered all day. A couple of cups of Classic Coke to clear my head of any such notions of cutting the day short, a banana, salty potatoes, grapes and a strawberry. I put a handful of Grandma's Cookies and some Beef Jerky in the top pocket of my raincoat then bam!! I'm back in it. Besides this, I had to at least make halfway and get that legionary Massanutten Visitor's Rock.
Got through the Visitors Center, making my way up the steepest climb of the day (2900 feet) passed the leaders, Tom Neilson and Robin Kane, as they were coming back on their way to 211. I was happy to see Jeanne Christie (starting to hang the chem-lites) and Larry DeHof at Bird Knob. Bottles and stomach filled and off on my journey towards 211, passing Tom Corris, club member, just off of a knee operation layoff, with a high or low five (can't remember) but wished him luck and looking good, I naturally said "where's Gary?" I think Tom said up ahead. So I figured only a to of an hour lead or so, on the defending "Senior Champ" for the past two years.
As I got down to 211-aid station, I recognized the surroundings from Peyton "Catherine's Fat Ass" 50k run this past July and spotted the friendly face of Kerry Owens. I got my Coke, potatoes and bottles filled and crossed the paved 211 with assistance Quatro Hubbard, also got the word that Sean Andrish will be able to pace with me from about mile 65. Now I have a renewed life once again, with something to look forward to. Themar handed be my Penzo hand-held flashlight. Up the hillside I went, around the 1000 mark, going to about 2600 feet on this climb and as the darkness came but the temp held up, and short sleeve was still comfortable.
Supposed it was around 8:30pm in the dark when I got to mile 64.9 Gap Creek. I found Sean all bright eyed and raring to go, which was an inspiring lift to my spirits. I have just ran for 15 hours (almost like being at my job with NASA for two day's straight). Listening to Sean and his accomplishments (he won the Bull Run Run last month and Mt. Masochist last year), so needless to say he didn't slow me up in the running department, I just hope he don't get too bored going slower than his normal pace. This is also were I dropped my belt & bottles, and strapped on the beloved Camelbak (my daughter, Andrea, got me last year) and put on my Penzo headlight (they say will last 9 hours) that has never failed me yet.
I was just chattering like a chipmunk, and before you know it we were up to Moreland Gap, a little over three miles from the last stop, Themar was going to refuel my Camelbak, but I forgot to drink anything since the last aid station . . . ooopps! From that point on Sean kept track of my drinking, otherwise dehydration and cramps would set in soon.
If you can believe it, the second half of the race was rockier than the first. It seemed like we were walking for extended time periods, maybe since it was dark and maneuvering through the forest it just wasn't nearly as speedy as you wanted it to be. Every now and then I tried to detour and straighten out the trail, but Sean got me back on the right course. Short Mountain never seems to go by fast, it's around 6.7 miles of almost solid rock and there is no easy way except slow. I was really trying to get through this section before it got dark, but as you can tell, this wasn't the most ideal race day, but anything today will be a record MMT100 for me. (Since this is my first)
The rain seem to stop and I still had just a short sleeve coolmax t-shirt on that was quite comfortable. I seemed to hold my footing pretty much all day, but the water, muddy trails and rocks slowed you down. I kept steady considering I fell six times during the Bull Run 50 miler. Today, well supposed it was yesterday and today by now, I only took a spill about four times, a nice bruise on my lower hip, and around 2:30am, a slip and my hands went up kind of slow. So I went head first into a 6 foot rock, knocked my headlamp off, and skinned my nose up pretty good. But it was as they say in the military "just a flesh wound."
It really helps to have someone pace with you. Sean knows all about my family, aunt's, cousins, grand folks and neighbors by first name. My kid with their sports, and my wife's running trophies and career accomplishments. Lord, I even started up with my Vietnam stories. I bet he thought I'd never shut up. Sean has an interesting life of his own, and I'm glad we had a chance to air it all out. Finally I ran out of things to say and found out how wonderful and peaceful running in the mountains at night.
Each aid station didn't seem quite as long as it does when you're alone. Run when you can run and walk where you have to walk, that's the name of the game. All night long, we didn't have anyone pass us, but we did pass a few at the aid stations. We managed to keep fueled with Gatorade, and just kept on trucking.
As we started to pull in to Woodstock Tower, my feet were starting to burn. I hadn't changed my drenched shoes and socks all day, and a little first-aid was needed on my nose, due to kissing the Blarney Stone. We decided to swap them out, as Russ Evans and pacer John Dobbs came cruising in, and looking good I might add. With my Camelbak topped off along with my stomach, we were on our way.
About 5am my headlamp faded out, so counting on my fingers, toes or whatever (didn't have an calculator, darn) after about 10 minutes figured that the batteries did last for 9 hours. (That was a struggle) My hand held light also went out and Themar replaced the batteries. Only problem, guess they weren't brand new and they only lasted for less than a half an hour, guess I'll have to rely on Sean's to guide us for the next half an hour or so until day break a little after 6am.
After Powell's Fort, we climbed about 700 feet only too descend another 800. This is where Sean and I passed up one runner and then came upon Keith Knipling. Keith blew by yesterday before I got to mile 20 going at "Mark speed" downhill. I asked, "Keith are you ok?" his response, "My knees are blown." I told him to take it easy and wished him luck. It wasn't another 10 minutes and here comes Russ and John again, so I let them go on, he was saying something about being number 11 or 12, and was hoping for the tenth place. Another 15 minutes and Russ pulls up and we swap positions again, "Go for it" was his response.
We were making great time on this descend, pounding out the miles then here we were at Elizabeth Furnace 96.8 mile mark, fueling up and dumping my Camelbak for my bottle belt. We were holding our own but my feet still burning. I hit every water hole that I could to maybe cool them offądid it work?? I was trying to convince myself that it was.
This is what I have been waiting for all day (or two) the final climb of 900 feet to which we'd drop the same before the finish. As we hit the Shawl Gap Trail Head a smile started to grow (99.9 mile) and we wound down to the field within site of the SRR Club House and crossed the line at 27 hours and 22 minutes (101.8 miles). If there was ever a sigh of relief, it was then, and the smiling VHTRC faces.
Pictures followed the cheers with congratulations. I ended up winning the Seniors Division, with a "Silver" buckle to boot. Was it all worth it? Yes you better believe it. Now I got to limp home and pack for my business trip in the morning to Houston, and I'll also get to see my son and his wife (Michael's 30th birthday & Abby).
I want to thank my crew chief (Themar) always for the great support and keeping me on track all day, even though I was down at times, he always picked me up and knew just what to say to get me going. To a new friend and pacing partner, Sean Andrish for the last 35 miles or so, along with his ear, I'd still be out there without him. Also to my loyal training partners, my wonderful wife Aleka and best friend Pat, and great children that keep me on the go. Of course love goes to my mother, who called on Sunday, just to see how and when I finished, and to make sure the lit candles she had in the church worked magic again, happy Mothers Day!
Until next time--see you on the trails. (What's next -- Leadville, Colorado, 13,600 feet on August 16th 2003) -- thks Mike
MMT 2003 Report Page
Sean, Mike, and Russ at the Finish
Virginia Happy Trails Running Club
Home | News | Events | Membership | Members Only | Photos
Bull Run Run 50 | Massanutten Mt. Trails 100 | Training Runs | Links