Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run
MMT 2010 Report
by Dave Krause, Bib#97
First a shoutout to all the volunteers that make this type of thing possible, and of course all the Dawgs manning the Boneyard at Gap Creek.
Massanutten Mountain Trails 2010
Author coming off Short Mountain
Photo: Ray Smith
This was my second time at this race, having completed it last year in just under 29 hours under what some have described as "epic" weather conditions. To my mindset, it was just part of the challenge but the heavy rain and slick rocks certainly affected my overall time last year, not too mention the bottoms of my feet. With a slightly modified course this year due to a new start/finish location I thought it might be fun to give the race another go. I could see Short Mountain during the day, and Kerns Mountain at night. Fun indeed. This year the weather was fairly cooperative, providing mostly dry trails, and at worst a bit of heat during the middle of the day and a refreshing light shower at night over by Bird Knob. It's still a 100 miles though, and other factors that I probably could have controlled played havoc with me this year, but live and learn as they say.
My confidence was not all that high leading up to the race. I kind of felt that I had missed out on a lot of training during the month of February when 2-3 feet of snow covered the rocky hilly trails that I normally train on at French Creek Park and other places in the surrounding area at home. Plus my wife had a bad fall on ice that same month, and I needed to play man nurse for many weeks to help keep her comfortable while she was immobile with a compound ankle fracture. I still got most of my training in, but didn't seem to get in as many fun/hardcore mountainous rocky longs runs as last year. Plus there was that whole wait list thing that I was on until the end of April. Heck, my longest run in April was a road race, the Boston Marathon, which has nothing in common with Massanutten at all. Still I had three 50k races under my belt during the winter season, and once I got in, I got focused those last few weeks, had a fun 4 hour long night run, and a few other decent long runs and started to taper. My training is what it is and let's go toe the line and have another adventure.
With the new starting location at Caroline Furnace Camp, and the fact my buddies from the TrailDawgs were manning the Gap Creek aid station, I decided to hang with them and camp out there the night before the race. I was a nervous mess most of the night, worrying about thunderstorms, heavy rain, not being able to sleep, waking up on time, and being able to, um, take a good dump so early in the morning. After pre-race check-in and dinner, I kind of sat around the Gap Creek campground in a quiet state, having a beer or two with water chasers to calm my nerves. I hit the sack at 10pm, tossed and turned, but managed to get a somewhat decent 4-5 hours of sleep before my watch buzzed at me at 3:30am in the morning. Ironically TrailDawg Laurie drove into camp at this same time, almost like my backup alarm clock. I had a quick breakfast, stopped at the facilities at the Lion's Tale trailhead parking lot (no lines!) and then off to the starting line I went. The nervousness is gone now as all there is left to do is run.
For those interested in the course, here is the course map.
Start to Elizabeth Furnace (32.6 miles)
The bell rings and we are off up and down a half mile of gravel road out of camp and towards the Moreland Gap Road, where a pleasing 3 mile uphill stretch of road took us to the trail and the climb up Short Mountain. I had planned on just running this early uphill road section, but at an easy pace to loosen up and it worked out well. After a mile, I ran into James of the Pagoda Pacers, a trail group near me in Reading PA. We had some idle conversation and that made the first few miles tick by very quickly. We were at the water station at the trailhead in pretty good time. James surged ahead after this and later in the day I found out he was having a great race and that made me happy. I was looking forward to seeing Short Mountain in the day, as the two times I had been up there were at night, once in my race last year and the year before that as a pacer. Seems once at the top, there wasn't much running to be had, but I found out differently today. The climb up was fairly uneventful, with the exception of a large tree blown down across the trail midway up the steep climb. Seemed I struggled to negotiate the obstacle, and felt a bit like a fool as several runners queued up behind me. Arghh.
Once on top of the mountain things got better. I settled in with a few different runners here and there, and occasionally took in the views of the surrounding country. There was a very bright red ball of sun coming up over the distant mountains as well. The day, and the adventure had begun. The ridgelines on the other side of Fort Valley were pretty impressive, though I was just as high now, and though about how cool it was that some point later in the day I'd be way up over there. Seems pretty stupid in a way. Short Mountain during the day on fresh legs is nothing like at night on 70 mile beaten down legs. While rocky, so much of it was runnable and before I knew it we had moved to the western side of the ridge and begun the descent to Edinburg Gap. A nice cool morning breeze was blowing on this side of the mountain and the views were spectacular, and my pace was pretty good too. A couple of runners from a trail running club in CT had latched onto me during the descent and we ran into the aid station at a nice pace, well ahead of my schedule. I was a bit surprised I had run this 8.2 mile section in well under 2 hours as it took me 3 hours last year at night.
I didn't linger long at Edinburg Gap, just grabbing a few snacks for the next big climb. Halfway up, I felt a pebble in my shoe so I stopped to dig that out then finished the climb. This section seemed pretty easy after that and I ran most of the way, going back and forth with a couple of other guys. At times, I'd lead, then fall back, then lead again. This ridge had similar views as up on Short Mountain with an abundance of blooming Mountain Laurel as well. This was just a good section for running, but my mind was starting to play games with me about the distance already. I'd brush it off, and try to think of other things but was already questioning myself about trying to complete 100 miles again. I'm not sure why, but there is so much else going on in my life now it seems a bit silly to be doing something like this. Anyway, as we closed in on the Woodstock Tower aid station my mind cleared up a bit and I got back to the business at hand.
Approaching Woodstock Tower there was quite a racket.... the sounds of a helicopter hovering nearby. My first thought was that "geez, did someone get hurt and are they evac'ing them out of here?". Turns out it was just a power line crew doing some sort of maintenance up on the mountain but I couldn't quite figure out what the helicopter was for, though it was kind of need watching it hover just off the ridgeline. The section to Powell's Fort is one of the easier one's as for once you do not have to climb up a huge ridge after leaving the aid station. Yippee! However, this did not mean this section was easy for me. While I ran it in about the time on my race plan, I started getting short bursts of cramping here in my calves. Mostly when I'd stumble over a rock and try to catch my stride. These cramps caused me to walk a bit more in this section than I would have liked. I had been popping e-caps regularly so not sure of the cause... too much, not enough. I wasn't sure. At least the cramps were not constant of debilitating. A steep rocky downhill led to a gravel road that took us to the Powell's Fort Aid station where I looked for some decent food but only found the usual stuff. Took some potatoes and salt, and thanked the volunteers for an icy coke and cold water and gatorade for my bottles, and set back off on the course.
The next section to Elizabeth Furnace was my rebirth last year, but then it was the second to last section of the course. I hit the switchbacks on the other side of the mountain, my legs woke up, and I sort of hammered my way to the finish. So I was kind of excited to be here again. The section starts out with an uphill gravel road for about 2 miles. Not the steepest of things, but it did go up and up, but I ran all of it. One must run when they can at Massanutten I think. Once back on the trail, I started experiencing those slight calf cramps again, and as I ran by a refreshing looking lake I had serious thoughts about jumping in, but decided it against it not wanting to waste time. My lower back was starting to ache as well, a problem I had a few times in training, so I popped a salt tab and some vitamin I and headed up the next mountain. Despite this little issues I felt like I was settling into the Massanutten routine. Run, climb the ridge, run some more, climb some more. I was actually pretty happy about power walking the steep ridge, and it didn't seem like long before I was at the top.
I walked the first part of the descent as it was rather rocky and steep and I had no desire to fall here, but the trail opened up shortly thereafter with a mix of rocks then some good running. During one of the rocky sections, I made a sort of funny hop over a few rocks and landed funny. My right calf cramped up severely, and as I shuffled around the left one followed suit. I stood frozen in place on the side of the trail as a group of runners came down the trail behind me, checking on my status. Um yeah, I'm ok... I just can't move now. LOL. A minute later the cramps had passed and I began jogging down the trail. Then the switchbacks came, the trail got easier and my stride became quick again, and there was a nice breeze on my face from moving fast. Ah, heaven again. Seemed I had sent the cramps on their way with that last spasm, and I ran well all the way into the next aid station at Elizabeth Furnace, where I saw my friends Karen and Chris at the aid station. Chris was crewing for his brother and was nice enough to lend me a hand out there as well. It was much appreciated.
Elizabeth Furnace to Gap Creek (Mile 32.6 to 68.7)
I should probably take a moment now to talk about my projected time. I had put together a race plan to assist in drop bag placement, and had predicted about 27.5 hours, meaning I really wanted to break 28 hours and thought with a little luck could even do better. At this point in the race I was more than one hour and forty-five minutes ahead of schedule. Mostly I believed from overestimating the difficulty of the first 2 sections when run on fresh legs during the daylight hours. So I left Elizabeth Furnace in great spirits despite having one of those typical Massanutten climbs staring me in the face. A trio of us worked our way up the switchbacks at a steady walking pace, passing a few others, and not slacking at all on the hill. I felt pretty energized here, like I had finally woken up and settled into the race. When we reached the top I was certainly itching to run again and took off down the hill running pretty strong into the next aid station at Shawl Gap. My friend Robert was there taking down numbers and quickly brought me down to reality, saying that he expected me here sooner and in the top20. Sorry Robert, I am not the same person that I train with! Anyway, Shawl Gap was great as there was finally some decent food.. quesadillas with salsa. I was hungry, and you know it's all about the food for me.
Leaving Shawl Gap we had 3.1 miles of rolling road to the next aid station at Veach Gap. For some reason 3 miles on the road seemed interminably long to me. I think I'd rather been on the trail slogging up one of the mountains. But it was a section to run, so I settled into some sort of steady pace, passed a few runners, before I came upon some young dude walking up a hill. I decided I wanted some company, so I slowed down and joined him. Dave from MA. We talked, ran, walked, and made good time over to Veach Gap. He had an interesting perspective on 100 mile races, but much of it escapes me now, other than at some point he expected to have "total quad failure". LOL, on this course I can understand that. I had a grilled cheese and hotdog at Veach Gap (you just knew the food stuff was coming, right), and settled in for yes, another big climb up to the ridge.
This section to Indian Grave was a difficult one for me. While not humid, it seemed rather hot, and at 9 miles or more I had to be conservative with my water bottles, which was a shame as they were so cold when I left Veach Gap and so warm by the time I finished them a mile from the next aid station. I started noticed some foot issue here as well, but only on my right foot. I could tell I had thrashed my toenail, and had some bad rubbing and a certain blister on my heel/achilles as well. Seems the foot was just sliding too much. I know what I did wrong, but now it's too late and I won't have a change of socks for awhile now. Anyways, Dave from MA climbs faster than I and was on the ridgeline well before me. The rest of the way to the top, and much of the way on the ridge I was joined by a gentleman who I found out later set a new super senior's master record. Pretty cool stuff. I couldn't drop the guy, not that I was trying up on the ridge. I was pretty cautious and slow up on the ridge as the rocks were starting to hurt my foot pretty good if I landed wrong, plus there was one real exposed place that had great views but gave me the heebie jeebies due to my slight fear of heights. I would NOT want to have been on that little section of trail at night. Anyway, after what seemed like forever the purple trail came up and we turned down the ridge. Very steep at first, and I slipped and butt slided a bit over some rocks. After a tippy-toe jog down the steepest part I got into a nice pace on the gentler slope and ran pretty hard into the next aid station at Indian Grave. The aid station volunteer said it was 85 degrees, and it felt it. I lingered a bit too long there swilling ice cold sodas and water. Oh, and there was some guy in pretty bad shape up on the ridge, just kind of lying there, but the volunteers knew about him already.
Leaving Indian Grave we had about 4 miles of road again. The last section had whittled away about 30 minutes of the lead on my schedule, and I kind of feared my race was starting to fall apart. The signs were all there.. bad feet, night was coming in a few hours, and maybe I had not accounted for it enough in my race plan. Running the road to Habron Gap was a chore but I kept at it pretty steady most of the way. I was a bit envious of the trucks going by with the rafts and canoes destined or returning from the Shenandoah River. People nearby were actually doing normal things like staying cool today! I had a drop bag at Habron Gap with my lights for the night but it was still a few hours until sunset. A bit of bad timing, but better safe then sorry. No fresh socks though, so I just wiped the crud off my feet and Chris was there again and he had some tape for the blister forming on my achilles. After a few cool drinks and snacks, I donned a fresh shirt, stashed my lights, and yes, headed up another steep climb.
I felt better about things being back on the trail. Evening was settling in, and it's one of my favorite times to run. The trail I was on was pretty nice too. I guess I had decided to stop worrying about my race time so much and just take in the experience. Climbing to the ridge was pretty spectacular. Seemed I'd been going up forever, and then I'd catch a glimpse through the trees of the top of the ridge still looming high up above me. Sometimes it amazes me that I do this stuff. It seems kind of unreal in a way. Up on the ridge the day had brightened again as I had gained some height on the soon to be setting sun. The trail rolled up and down on the ridge and I ran when I could, jogged/walked/shuffled when it seemed appropriate. My right foot was a mess and I had to be careful how I landed on it. Too much toe... ouch, too much heal... ouch again. Throw in a rock.. double ouch. Still I was making progress and finally turned down the yellow trail with about 5 miles of mostly downhill running to Camp Roosevelt and the next aid station. I was enjoying the trail and the downhill, though being cautious about the rocks. I mile or so down another runner was sitting on a rock kind of out of sorts. Cramping he says. Been there, done that today. I supplied him with a few ecaps from my stash and went on my way.
It seemed to take quite a long time to get to the aid station, but I really enjoyed this section of trail. It reminded me a lot of my home trails back at French Creek State Park. Plus it was still evening and despite my feet I was moving along well. A rather funny thing happened once I arrived at the Camp Roosevelt aid station. Those of you in the mid-atlantic/east coast have probably heard of David Horton. Well, when I ran into Camp Roosevelt he was there with a hamburger in his hand. He looked at me, and said in that voice of his, "how would you like a burger king hamburger". I said "I'd love it", and believe it or not he gave it to me. How the heck a junior whopper made it from up the mountain to David Horton to my hungry face is beyond me, but I made short work of it. It was really good, and I surely savored the flame broiling. I kid you not, it wad good. Anyway, Mr. Horton gave me some advice about how to run after eating a hamburger but I'm not sure he knew who he was dealing with! Ha.
I chowed down on a few other food items at the aid station, then set on my way towards Gap Creek/Boneyard, where my TrailDawg friends would be, and I'd pick up Angus as a pacer for the night. This was a bit of a rough section for me as I settled into night running and the slightly uphill trail. I kept worrying that I'd miss the turn to the right to take us up towards Duncan Knob up and over the ridge. Plus there did not seem to be many course flags or markings here. So I kept it slow, or that is my excuse. I kept hearing voices behind me as well, and that added to my concern that I was slowing down. Ack. Then I saw a headlamp heading towards me and was sure I (and this other person) had missed a turn but it turned out to be a race official adding some more markings. Phew. A few campers were out and about with bright roaring fires and sounds of laughter just off the trail. Probably laughing at the idiot slogging through the night with a headlamp! I finally came to the turn for the blue trail that went up steeply to the knob. A few racers passed me here, and as we topped the ridge there was a bright roaring fire and then sounds of clapping, then a gauntlet of boy scouts lining the trail. Apparently they had went for a hike and camping trip and stumbled upon a 100 mile race. It was pretty fun going through their camp.
Nothing left now but a rocky mile long descent into Gap Creek. My right foot was protesting the sharp rocks and often I cursed and grimaced in pain as I made my way down the slope. Very slowly. Finally though I heard voices, claps, and saw the light of the fire... and the lights. The Christmas lights streamed what seemed to be a couple of hundred yards down into the woods lighting the way into GapCreek and where I went to sleep about 24 hours ago. I was coming home to friends, or so it felt, and it felt great, and the place looked soe warm and welcoming. I looked at my watch, and it was 9:45pm or so. I'm still 20 minutes ahead of my schedule. Time to take a short break by the fire for a bit.
Gap Creek I to Gap Creek II (Miles 68.7 to 95.4)
I was treated well at Gap Creek. Fresh hot quesadillas, soup, other snacks, and royal foot treatment for my battered feet. My right foot had some problems likely caused by me going with thin wool socks. It was too late to undo the damage, so we just taped up the bad part in the heel, and luckily I had a pair of thicker wool socks in my drop bag and thought that might help with the sliding. Donned a fresh "2009 Massanutten Rocks" shirt and headed back out into the night with Angus and we began our night "run" with a climb up to Jawbone Gap and Kerns Mountain. For some reason, the climb up to Jawbone Gap bothered me, and I kind of dreaded having to do it later in the morning just before finishing, but that will come later.
Kern's Mountain was rough at night, as it seemed like an endless obstacle of rock formations to crawl and hop around for a ridiculous amount of time. I was constantly catching my right toe or heel on a rock or in a crevice and it hurt enough to make me grimace and curse. The trail veered around the eastern and western sides of the ridge, and on the western side you could see the lights of civilization in the valley far below and often hear the sounds as well, such as a dog barking or car burning rubber. On the eastern side there was only darkness and quiet. After an hour or so of rock hopping, we started to get a few breaks of runnable trail before the rocks continued, and the pattern repeated itself. We passed a flagging runner here, who had some stomach problems earlier, and of course Angus knew him. Angus know everybody I swear! Anyway, after seeing this guy the trail really eased up and we were able to run most of the way to Crisman Hollow Road, which was an easy 2.5 mile downhill road towards the next aid station. I ran pretty steady on the road which seemed to be the theme of the day. I commented to Angus that my training earlier in the year for Boston was paying dividends.
After going through the aid station routine again (eat, drink, eat some more, drink some more, top off handhelds, leave) we began the climb up to Bird Knob, the highest point of the course I believe. It's much steeper than I remember from the year before but then again I'm near 80 miles instead of 50 like last year. While the climb is very steep, it's a relatively short section and well before reaching the aid station the trail flattens out and you can run again, or in my case jog. We heard a lot of owls up there, and one odd hissing creature that Angus thought was a coyote. When I heard that sound a second time, I felt a bit stalked and picked up the pace. It was probably just Angus back there playing tricks on me. We didn't linger too long at the Bird Knob aid station, but I was sure to get decent instructions about the next part of the course since it was new this year. Down the road a mile, left on purple, another mile, turn on pink.. 4+ mi to the next aid station.
The down the road part kind of stunk, as you knew you were going to pay for that soon and when we hit the purple trail another steep climb commenced. Surprise surprise... not! After a tolerable but steep climb we began switchbacking down the mountain again. I kind of feared I'd nail a toe on a rock, lose my balance, and go sprawling off the switchback, so I took the downhill fairly gingerly. We got passed by Susan Donnelly here, and yes of course Angus knew her. At some point we reached the new pink trail, also known as the Brown's Hollow Trail. They had posted photos of this trail on the MMT web site in the weeks leading up to the race but all I could see was 20-30 yards of headlamp lit trail and darkness. I told Angus they should have just posted a black box on the website as that corresponded more to my view. The trail seemed decent and for the most part not overly rocky, and I ran often down here. Well jogged at least. Some rain showers began to fall and they were somewhat refreshing. There was also the sound of rushing water down in the black abyss to our left, and it kept getting louder and louder. Since it was already raining, I was sure a heavy shower was catching up to us as it almost sounded like rain hitting high up in the trees, rushing our way. But the rain showers never picked up, even as the sound or the roaring water became louder and louder. It sort of baffled me, and I wondered if there was a waterfall nearby. A few minutes later, the sound lessened, but it sure was a cool moment. I'd really like to go back and run this trail in daylight and on fresh legs someday.
We continued to descend on the trail and it was that late voodoo hour and it seemed time and the trail was dragging on. I was expecting the next aid station at any second, but it failed to show up for a long time. I was getting a bit whoozy here, having problems staying on the trail and following the markers, and once even tripped and fell down pretty hard but thankfully in a pile of nice soft leaves. It would have made a nice place for a nap. Eventually the trail began to ascend and we could here the hum of a generator, meaning an aid station was probably nearby. It was about 4am when we wandered into the Picnic Area, mile 86.9 and aid station #14. My feet were a mess still, and I had made the mistake of not keeping up with my good foot, and now even it had a few hot spots. Angus procured some duct tape from my drop bag and taped a few things up while I sat there in a chair eating soup, fruit, and drinking cokes. Something about that chair in the middle of the night that signifies a long race to me. It's like you're a nutcase surrounded by good people who want to take care of you and get you through your ordeal. It's an odd feeling.
We leave the aid station and dang if it isn't hard to find the trail. I ask some guy walking around that I assume is a volunteer "Is this the way to the trail" and he just stares at me like I'm a space alien. He doesn't say a thing or even grunt. Angus and I both found it odd, but it was probably just some tired crew who couldn't understand my ramblings. We pick up the trail but have a dickens of a time following it for the first quarter mile. Not sure why we can't see the turns or the markings, but the markings seem few and far between. Some other runner passes us here, a guy I think I've gone back and forth with most of the night. Hey, at least he knows the way! We make it across highway 211 and then began the climb up Waterfall Mountain. Easy at first, and I run for awhile until the trail gets steep. Then I walk.. and walk and walk. It occurs to me though that it still is not light out yet. I kind of had forgotten about race goals as the night progressed, but I'm in the second to last section of the course, maybe 13 miles to go, and it still dark. Last year, I think light began to break in the 3rd to last section. Maybe I'm doing all right after all time-wise.
All thoughts of that are squashed an hour later. Seems this Waterfall Mountain is not ending. It's rocky, uphill forever, and the short stretches that I could run I don't because of painful feet. Just when you think this trail is going to get easier you cross the ever present stream and stare smack dab at another short but steep climb. To top it all off, a few downed trees intermingled with big rocks block the trail, and at one point the trails shoots straight up the rocky streambed. Very discouraging, but I just keep plodding along. It's the second to last hill and soon maybe I'll be back to Gap Creek and the final section. Angus encourages me now and then but I suspect he is tired of all this walking and plodding and who is to blame him. Finally we reach the top, and make a left on the yellow blazed Scothorn Gap Trail. I stop for a moment here to adjust some gunk in my shoe before we begin a big descent off the ridge back to the Crisman Hollow Road. I tried to run here, but the trail was kind of steep and the best I could muster was a jog, though once we hit the gravel road, I settled into a nice pace for a guy nearing 95 miles, and the last 1.5 miles of this section into Gap Creek passed quickly. The time was now 7:20am, and I was 26 hours 20 minutes into the race, with 6.4 miles to go. I was a bit behind my 27:30 schedule, but was ok with that. A MMT course PR was certainly in the books unless I bonked catastrophically in the final section.
Gap Creek to Finish (Miles 95.4 to 101.8)
For some reason I sat down for a few minutes at GapCreek and cleaned my feet. I should have just left. The plan was to have Angus stop his pacing duties here so he could drive to the finish later and pick me up, and for me to finish up alone. However, TrailDawg Gerard seemed to be itching for some action, so I said sure you can accompany me. His wife Lil looks at me and says, "You look too good, I don't want him running with you". You see Gerard has been battling injuries for a year or more now and is just getting back to running. I tell her looks are deceiving and I'll be walking most of the trail before hitting the road hard to the finish. Gerard still wants to go so the plan is set.
Just before I was getting ready to leave, another runner came into the aid station. Someone I knew from a training run, and some local trail races, Phil from the Pagoda Pacers. Crap, I'm gonna get nailed in the last section I thought for sure. I told Gerard I was moving out, grabbed my stuff and headed down the road towards Jawbone Gap. The climb I didn't want to do again. Phil came rushing out of the aid station and now I'm pumped up and feeling a bit competitive. The hill up to Jawbone Gap is not runnable, especially after this much time, but that doesn't mean you can't walk it fast. Gerard is rambling on about something and I'm just trying to keep up with Phil. Man that guy can climb. He puts a bit of distance on me before we reach the top, and Gerard behind me is breathing something fierce, but we made it up to the top in like 24 minutes. Pretty fast I think, as it's maybe one and a half miles of steady climbing.
Phil disappears on the descent off the ridge as my feet just can't take the steep downhill and the rocks. Gerard starts talking to me about breaking 28 hours, and the paces required. I start believing it's possible as I'm sort of energized from the rush up the hill, and I also know the trail will end soon and 3 miles of very fast downhill road await me. One thing I've been doing well tonight is running the roads. Boston marathon training you know. The trail here is littered with rocks, and the downhill is not that much easier then going up, but I'm hopping around the rocks a bit better now. Smelling the barn. We hit a section of more runnable trail and I test the legs. Oh, they are turning over and it feels good. I remember this feeling from last year. Where does it come from? Gerard comments that it feels good to stretch it out, doesn't it? It sure does. More rocks slow us down but finally we hit the final easy spot before the road, and then boom, out on the gravel road we go. The time is 8:20 or so. I have 40 minutes to go 3.5 miles, 3 of it on the road, and another .5 miles on a piece of trail that they called "a little bit of Massanutten" just before the finish. Gerard says I need 13 minute pace but I'm going to go faster than that. So I just take off. I pass a walker after a bit then see another runner ahead. I'm moving pretty fast and catching up to the runner ahead. Gerard, he's breathing hard, like tempo pace breathing, but I'm not even struggling except in my head wanting the road to end, the trail to come and the finish to arrive, but I'm not slowing down. I blaze by Phil, then another walker and still can't see the markers taking us to the finish. It seems forever this run down the hill, but it's pretty fun too, putting out some effort at the end. Finally there is the road to the camp, and the markers to the trail. I've nailed it! I can probably walk it in now and break 28 hours easy. So I slow down a bit, jog down the trail and then walk a bit of the steep hill going into camp. Phil caught back up to me here and seems to want to pass but thinks it might be bad form. "go around I say, and sorry I blew by you.. I was just trying to be sure I got under 28 hours". Into the camp now.. we hear the sounds of the finish line as Phil crosses the line. Gerard is congratulating me and grinning as much as me I think. Soon it's my turn to hit the line.. 27:51 and change.. I hit my goal after all, and ouch it hurts to stop running.