Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run

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“Calamity of Errors”
MMT 100

by Vicki Kendall
(As told to John Dodds)

Driving back home on I-66 from the finish at “The Ranch” about 7:30 p.m., I decided to give Vicki a call on my cell phone and congratulate her on her finish. She had finished at 9 that morning and had left The Ranch long ago. When she answered, I asked her how it went. Her quick reply, “It was the most miserable 28 hours of my life. It was a calamity of errors.” And on and on. And on. In one of life’s little miracles, I fortunately hit a cell phone dead zone, and she was cut off. As I came up the next rise, my phone rang. I answered it and heard, “As I was saying, blah, blah, blah.” So, here’s how it came to pass that I’m writing this report. As you read this report, don’t forget to look at the pictures showing how miserable she was during the race. Except for the photo at Edinburg, she doesn’t look too miserable to me. But you be the judge.

Vicki Kendall
Vicki above Veach Gap Aid Station
Photo: Aaron Schwartzbard

The rest of the phone call. Near the end of that ill-fated telephone call, Vicki said I should write a race report for her. We could get together, and she would give me the facts. But it would have to be funny. And I was thinking: “Right. You just told me it was the most miserable 28 hours of your life, and I’m supposed to make it funny.” I told her “No” in somewhat emphatic terms. Besides, I don’t like writing anything where I’m encumbered by the facts. As some of you may know, I need a little artistic license.

Change of heart. A day or so later, I called her up and asked her if she wanted to go to dinner, and I said I would pay as part of the celebration for her great (but miserable) finish at MMT. She agreed. A day or so after that, I changed my mind about writing her race report. Except I wouldn’t tell her. But I still needed a little more information, so I decided I would ask her more questions at dinner.

The Setting. Being a Friday night, the restaurants in Clarendon (a part of Arlington) were pretty crowded. We found a place that wasn’t: the Afghan Kabob House. It’s a good thing we’re pretty adventurous (and ignorant); had we checked the reviews, we might have passed this place by. Here’s an excerpt from the only view by a husband and wife who had a kabob sandwich and a side of chickpeas.

Be warned...The aftermath: We both began feeling ill shortly after sharing the sandwich, a condition that only worsened with time. Even a day later, we’re still experiencing nausea and diarrhea. Really would not recommend. Unless you feel the desire to risk e. coli or, at the very least, food poisoning, do not visit this establishment.

I wish I had read this review before going there because I would definitely have decided to eat there. It sounds exactly the kind of place to eat after MMT. In fact, it reads like a critique of MMT itself.

Unaware of this review, we decided to eat there. As we sat down the waitress asked if we’d like to see the wine list. I pointed at Vicki and said, “I brought my own whine list.” She didn’t get it. Neither did the waitress.

My approach. Since Vicki didn’t know I was going to write about what she said, it wasn’t like I could take notes or anything. I asked her a lot of questions in the order that the race was run. That way I thought I could remember things better. Well, the place was a little distracting. There was a guy behind me playing a keyboard – sort of easy listening Afghan music (whatever that is). I couldn’t quite place the music, but I swore it sounded a lot like “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.” When I turned to look at him from time to time, he seemed to have that serene, far-away look in his half-closed eyes. All I could think of were poppies in the Hindu Kush. Behind Vicki was a TV screen with a women’s college softball game going on, so I could see that the whole time – not that I watched it. OK, a little, but only the good plays. I have to admit that there were a few times that I had to ask Vicki to repeat an answer (actually, sometimes I couldn’t even remember the question I asked her). She would get agitated and blurt out, “I told you – it was at Moreland Gap.” By then, I had forgotten what had happened at Moreland Gap, and I certainly wasn’t going to ask again.

I don’t write like the normal sports reporter – dashing out the story as the game unfolds or shortly thereafter. I like to let my thoughts percolate for several days, especially when I don’t have notes to refer back to. So, there are a few gaps in this story. As for any inaccuracies, I have to say that only half the lies in here aren’t true.

Les Misérables. A slight digression here. Vicki said this entire race was miserable, but based on what I heard, she doesn’t know what miserable is. I do because I ran MMT twice in far more time than it took Vicki. My two MMT finishes are collectively known as “Les Misérables.” They would have been made into a Broadway play years ago, but the producers haven’t been able to find an actor who could be as insulting as Anstr was at Edinburg Gap.

The Start. Frankly, Vicki did not have a good start. Before the race while coming back from the bathroom with no flashlight (just ambient light from the van), Vicki tripped over the leg of a picnic table and fell down. Immediately, she had a goose egg on her shin. The remnants of which she showed me by pulling up her pant leg and also pointing out other cuts, bruises, and red spots, not to mention the clearly visible bandaid. She also said she had covered all these blotches with nail polish and then confessed: “I think it was chiggers.” Gee, thanks for that information, Vicki. In other circumstances, I would have been mortified at this lack of decorum in a restaurant, but, hey, this is an Afghan kabob house. Anyway, for Vicki, the pain started before the race. Due to the altercation with the picnic table, she popped a couple Advil and would repeat the dose every eight hours.

Vicki Kendall
Vicki near Camp Roosevelt
Photo: Aaron Schwartzbard

Goal. Let me back up before the race. I made laminated pace cards for several people and gave them to Vicki on Friday to bring to the race. I decided to make one for Vicki, too. She said she wouldn’t use it because she didn’t want to put pressure on herself. She was just going to run. Anyway, the card I made for her had goals of 30 and 32 hours. She said her goal was 28 hours but don’t tell anybody. At the restaurant after the race, I asked her if she used the pace card. Nope. Did you have time goals for various places, say, Camp Roosevelt by noon? Nope. Did you use a watch? Only to know when eight hours went by so I could take more Advil. So, here’s what I thought was a logical question: “If you had no intermediate time goals to judge your progress and didn’t use a watch, then how would you know whether you were on a 28-hour pace?” I didn’t, she said. I have to admit I was a little puzzled at this approach. I was going to ask a few more questions to really peel back this onion, but then I realized I probably wouldn’t find anything.

Misery. Kerry made a prediction about Vicki before the race:

I predict that 56 year old Vicki Kendall will pass at least 5 of these people. Not only that, but at least three of them will drop due to the humiliation resulting from not being able to keep with a woman who is telepathically communicating with her cats and intermittently sounding off about how boring it is to run 100 miles.

Actually, not a good prediction. For the main reason that Vicki didn’t sound off about how boring it was to run 100 miles. She intermittently (“constantly” would be a better word here) complained about how miserable it was to run this 100 miles.

Usually, pain is associated with misery, and there was no exception in Vicki’s case. Apart from the shin, where else did she have pain? Groin, back, feet, sciatica, etc. You name the body part, it hurt.

In addition to the physical pain, there was the weather to deal with. As Yogi Berra used to say: “It’s not the heat, it’s the humility.” Then there was the rain: downpour for the whole length of Kerns. The sun came out by the time she got to the Visitors Center and going up Bird Knob. But then after she left the picnic area, the weather got “nasty.” It was awful. There was so much rain, it got dark, and she had to use her flashlight. But worse was the lightning. She felt safer running in the trees than along the road just after 211. I was thinking that that sort of stuff is not unheard of at MMT, so what’s the big deal?

Of course, a race wouldn’t be 100% miserable if your Camelbak weren’t so annoying. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get that thing comfortable for the first 34 miles of the race. That meant a complete repacking at Camp Roosevelt, which, of course, wasted precious time.

Vicki Kendall
Vicki at Edinburg
Photo: Aaron Schwartzbard

Did I mention there was water on the course? According to her, there were high tides just before Crisman Hollow Road coming down from Scothorn Gap and also at Elizabeth Furnace. Vicki liked the “crossing” at Scothorn so much that she did it three times. After her first crossing, she soon realized she didn’t have her bandana. But having just gone to the bathroom before that crossing, she decided she must have dropped it back there. So, back across the water to retrieve the bandana and then the third time as she headed back in the original direction. I only mention this fine detail to show you that I was actually paying attention to Vicki at the restaurant. And let’s not forget the long climb through the creek bed after crossing 211. Let’s see, was that a torrent of water? I forget the noun, but you get the picture.

I asked her if she changed shoes or socks. It was too wet, so what was the point? OK, I was just asking – don’t get so perturbed. Here’s a nice little detail: she had two drop bags: at Gap Creek I and II. As most of you know, there was a new division at MMT this year: the Stonewall Jackson Brigade for those who have no crew or pacer. Vicki was one of those. I think there should be another category: the General Douglas MacArthur Army – for those runners who bring beaucoup people to help them get through the race.

Every miserable runner has to have light problems, and so did Vicki. I have to admit that I got a little confused about the light situation. I do know that she carried three lights: a flashlight (that Steve and Deb recommended) and two headlamps. But the flashlight batteries wore out because she had them on the “Bright” setting. Thus entailed the switching of batteries, but her explanation got so damn confusing that I to this day couldn’t tell you what battery went where.

Vicki Finishes
Vicki crosses the finish line. Looks like we cheated her out of a second!
Photo: Bobby Gill

Everybody knows that eating and drinking the right thing and in the right amount are crucial in any race. Which might explain why I have virtually no recall on what Vicki ate or drank during the race. I could have called her up to query her on this point, but do you really care? Just kidding. I’m sure if you’d call her, she’d be glad to expound on this topic. Wait, I just remembered. She had pancakes and sausage at Powell’s Fort. That’s what she first said. Then she corrected herself to say she had pancakes and bacon. That’s very important. What I can’t remember is whether she had eggs there as well.

In another attempt to feign interest in her run, I asked her where she was when the sun came up on Sunday. I always like to hear second-sunrise stories. She said it didn’t come up. I was a little puzzled, so I asked her again. She said it didn’t come up. Well, I knew the sun rose about 6 a.m., and I knew she finished at 9 a.m., so I figured she had to be somewhere on the course when the sun came up. So, I asked her again for the third time. She got a little agitated, saying “I already told you it didn’t come up; it was cloudy and overcast.” As you can see, asking Vicki questions is not so easy as you think.

28 Hr
Shawl 0636 0647 +11
Veach 0706 0722
Milford 0814 0839
Habron 0932 1011 +39
Camp Roos 1145 1227 +42
Gap Crk I 1313 1357 +44
Vis Center 1537 1613 +39
Bird Knob 1640 1712 +32
Picnic/211E 1810 1817 +7
Gap Crk II 2004 2037 +33
Moreland 2117 2144 +27
E-burg 0008 0046 +39
W-stock 0301 0327 +26
Pow Fort 0452 0517 +25
Eliz Furn 0722 0734 +12
Finish 0900 0900 0

Post-race Analysis. This chart shows Vicki’s splits compared to a 28-hour finisher in the 2005 race. As you can see, she was behind the 2005 finisher until the last aid station. Then with a burst of speed, she made up the remaining 12-minute differential. She finished in an incredible time of 28:00:24. How does she feel about that time? Extremely disappointed. Crushed. Dare I say “miserable”? Why? Because she didn’t meet her goal of breaking 28 hours. She also said (repeatedly) that she never felt that good during the whole race. Who knows what she would have run if she were her normal, chipper self. If you don’t mind, I’d like all of you readers (yes, that’s both of you) to send her an encouragement card to bring her out of this depression.

So what did she win? A silver buckle for first senior woman. Her time was a new record. She probably would have won a couple more silver buckles but for the one person-one silver buckle rule. Here’s what the official VHTRC report says about being 5th overall woman:

Vicki's time was one of the most talked about performances of the weekend. Partially because it would have won the overall women's division of four prior MMT's. It was also noteworthy for Vicki's pronouncement that "I will never run 100 miles."

OK, let’s get sexist here. How did Vicki compare to men of her age? Of the 17 men in the 50-59 age group, she would have been 4th. Of the three ahead of her, two were 6 years younger, and one was younger by about 3 months. Then there are all the other men in lower age groups that she beat, but we won’t mention them by name.

Vicki and Barb
Barb Isom congratulates Vicki on her finish.
Photo: Bobby Gill

The rule of law. One of the guiding principles of our country is the rule of law. Like the law about pacers. The official VHTRC rules make it clear that pacers have to be behind the runner and can only join the runner at an aid station. There are several pacers out there who have “ratted out” their runners by their postings in various media that reveal they violated these rules. Just like I will never reveal the identity of Sister Golden Hair, I won’t say who these runners and pacers were. Since Vicki was in the Stonewall Jackson Brigade, I know what you all are thinking: “What has this got to do with Vicki?” Nothing. I just thought I’d take this opportunity to make a gratuitous, useless observation.

Final thoughts. After finishing our dinner, we decided to walk to the Silver Dinner to get milkshakes. As most of you know, there is only one Silver Diner in Arlington. When the waiter brought the milkshakes, Vicki asked, “How come they have to give you such big straws?” Some people are just hard to please. Anyway, I wish this report weren’t so long, but you know how long-winded Vicki can be. Since she will be reading this report for the first time once it goes on the VHTRC website (of course, I’ll first have to pay Anstr the customary “fee”), I’m not sure what her reaction will be. In any event, any inaccuracies, omissions, etc., in this report are all Vicki’s responsibility since she was the one who asked me to write this.


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