Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run

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Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run
Fort Valley, Virginia
May 15, 2010

by Mike Campbell

Let me start out by saying it's a great year to be 60 and out of that young 50 speedster group that posted a 24:29:58 at MMT this year – Wow!

Mike finishes
Mike Campbell (right) and pacer finish the MMT 100
Photo: Michael Campbell, Jr. with his Droid

My daughter Andrea got married to a wonderful man named James last Saturday (May 8) and it was nice to have the family in town. My son Michael held over from returning to Houston and came with my youngest daughter Jamie to crew for me - so life is good. My last 100-mile journey was more than a year ago in February 2009. Since then I've battled a knee injury and then what we all experienced with the tough winter training weather. Ready or not I hoped my training and endurance was enough for MMT.

May 14 Michael and I checked in, went to Stan's pre-race briefing and enjoyed a fabulous pre-race meal at Caroline Furnace Camp. Returned to the Best Western and took my last two Ambien pills (I call them Ambulance) about 8 p.m. I still had a hard time sleeping - tossed and turned as usual until the 3 a.m. wakeup (or get up in this case).

Got to the camp, checked in, and at 5 a.m. we took off for the long journey. Slight incline for the first 3.1 miles and covered this at about 8.5 minute miles. I was surprised how dry it was as we entered the wooded trail – I actually never got my shoes wet even with the rain throughout the day.

Mike at Edinburg
Mike coming off Short Mountain and into Edinburg aid station
Photo: Anstr Davidson

After completing MMT100 twice (2003 & 2004) I should have remembered some of the course but we were turned around a bit. Starting at Caroline Furnace was not like the Ranch, but I was happy to get through Short Mountain in daylight. Last time it took me four hours to get to Edinburg Gap at night and this time I was there in just over two. This was a definite morale booster for this 1500' climb. Since the old splits were deceiving, my crew missed me at the second aid station, and didn't see them until mile 32.6 at Elizabeth Furnace. I developed a hot spot on my left ankle with a blister about the size of a sliver dollar - guess my feet don't care for my Montrail Hardrocks any more because this is the second time this happened with newer shoes in the last two months.

At mile 19.9 Woodstock Tower, Mike Bur filled my bottles and wished me luck, while the aid station assistant administered first aid to my ankle (couple of white tape strips to hold my sock back to alleviate the rubbing). We were held up a bit leaving the station to let a helicopter pass – it was hovering above the tree-line chain sawing away to clear a path away from the poles and wires.

Next couple of aid stations we had a good drop in elevation, then about 600' climb in a little over a mile, then drop about 1200'. I had some good conversations with fellow runners – recall chatting with Elizabeth Carrion about Badwater this past year where she finished third. Now that is a different kind of race for sure.

Met my crew at mile 32.6 Elizabeth Furnace for nice spirit lifter and drank my first bottle of Ensure. I discovered several years ago my stomach can't handle solid food during runs so I stick to Ensure, gels, Gu Chomps, honey packets, and the occasional piece of oatmeal PowerBar. At this point I was about half way to finding my pacer at mile 63.1, Camp Roosevelt. Now came the 2-mile, 700' climb followed by a few miles down. At aid #6 (mile 37.6 Shawl Gap) I changed into my fairly new Brooks Cascadia got a new bandage for my ankle and fresh Injinji socks. Took some V8 and was off to meet my crew at the next aid station. Ran the next 3.1 miles and surprised to find it was a non-crew station. Instead of my Ensure from the crew I was ready for, I settled for Gatorade and ginger ale to take me through the next nine miles.

Mike at Elizabeth Furnace
Photo: Ray Smith

On to another climb of about 1500' before a drop of 1200' to aid #8 (Indian Grave). Took another Ensure – only my second so far – as my energy was fading fast. At this point I had only fallen twice, which has got to be a record since it seems the only place without rocks is the road. I know it been a couple of years since I've done MMT, but I swear they are still importing rocks!

Next 9.5 miles to Camp Roosevelt took about three hours and the temps were in the high 70's. I could feel the heat especially between 5 – 6:30 p.m. so thank goodness for the S-Caps Michael adds to my Gatorade.

Next I met my pacer Joseph Landreth waiting patiently to help me through the last 40 some miles. It was good to catch up– talked all about weddings and family. Learned Joe and his girl friend Katie are big time bikers and into skydiving. We were up on this next section of about a 1200' climb making fairly good time.

Came rolling into mile 68.7 Gap Creek/Jawbone I at about 9:30 p.m. This is the famous Kern's Mountain and I believe we had quite a bit of walking through this section because it took close to three hours to cover 8.4 miles. Weather was still pretty warm, not cooling off much considering I had been shirtless since mile two. I also have a Garmin 310XT (the 20 hour one) that was working great. I had the buzz set to go off every mile to remind me to drink.

Our pace was around 15 minute mile at this point, then we pick it up a bit with the road section before we hit the Visitor Center. Michelle Harmon and Joe Clapper were gracious hosts, wanting to do so much to help, but thankfully my crew was there. I downed an Ensure and we were on our way with full bottles, a gel pack, and couple more pieces of PowerBar.

Next we climbed about 1000' to reach the highest elevation of the race 2900 feet. This was only 3.4 miles, but took us 70 minutes to get to Bird Knob. I was persuaded to take a cup of clam chowder - mainly because the crew chief said "there were runners that traveled clear across the states to taste it." True to their words it was a great cup and I left very satisfied.

We got a good mile or two downhill on the dirt road to the Purple trail, and then a couple small climbs to get down to the Pink trail. Thankfully I know this part in the dark pretty well since I ran the Chocolate Bunny 26-mile run on this route about a month ago. It seemed like forever when we were going up to aid #14 (Picnic Area) until we saw a runner coming back through the woods. I knew we were close then we finally arrived to this station. I changed shoes for the last time – this time into a new pair of light Asics Attach trail shoes. Ensured up, took my full bottles of Gatorade was ready to go.

Snake at Elizabeth Furnace
Photo: Ray Smith

Through the rain we persevered, bouncing across the tree roots and rocks with an occasional tree down. We either crawled over or bushwhacked around, but nothing was slowing us down now. Thankfully we didn't see any of the creatures or snakes that some race photos showed, but Joe did joke and ask if I was seeing figures or shadows out of our headlamp reflections – spirits of Abe Lincoln and maybe George Washington? Now that I remember it maybe I did see the reflection of John Nelson who had been hounding me all fall and through Tom Corris's training runs! He said he was going to win the Senior Masters this year. Before the race he asked me how things were going and if I felt any of the pins he has been sticking in the Voodoo doll he had of me all week - hmmmm! Last comment from him was "break a leg" - that's good right?

We got thru 211 and up the trail looking for the last aid station #15 Gap Creek/Jawbone II. It was now light enough at around 5:45 a.m. to cut our lights out. We came into the aid station about half an hour later and I took my last bottle of Ensure for the day knowing we only had 6.3 miles left. Since I was in and out of this station within 30 seconds, I forgot to drop off my headlamp with my crew. About half a mile down I realized it was still on my head so I just took it off and carried it the rest of the way.

This last section was a great running one and after three miles we hit the road (same one we ran up at the start of the race). We were making great time with just over three miles to go. It was about 7:15 a.m. at this point and we pushed with whatever we had left. We hit the trailhead for the last half mile and I figured we were at about a nine minute mile pace. We passed the outside chapel site and finally spotted the finish - and oh how sweet it was.

Finishing time: 26:52:31 for 101.7 miles


My Garmin 310XT that gave up at mile 77 showed I burned about 8,200 calories.

Since Michael stayed here another five days after Andrea's wedding to crew for me, I didn't want to disappoint him. I managed to set another course/event record for the "Super Senior" by almost two hours. Sort of out shines the course record I set a month ago at Bull Run because that was only by half an hour!

I don't know where to start in thanking Stan and all the volunteers. Thanks to Joe Landreth and his pacing skills (for 12 hours); Michael and Jamie for crewing me; all my training partners that include the new couple Andrea and James; and my life partner for about the last 38 years – my wonderful wife Aleka. Love to my mom who always has the candles burning in the church to help me find the way.

Until next time - see you on the trails. (What's next? Maybe Superior or Grindstone…)

….thks Mike

Mike finishing
Mike and pacer two seconds from finish
Photo: Mike Jr. and his Droid again!

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