Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Massanutten Mountain 100

Race Report from LPTRunner Brenda Bland...
The Massanutten Mountain 100. I signed up for this race, as I had heard so much about the beauty, and it is one of the older races at 19 years old. I like races with character, and this one has it in spades! The motto is "Massanutten Rocks". This is because the trails are indeed covered in rocks. They range in size from a small mouse to a huge barn. They have a glowing beauty in the early spring when the MMT is run, and feel like another type of living organism. They give this race its' character, and are what make it one of the harder hundreds.

The race itself is indeed hard. There is sufficient elevation gain for those who love climbing, but it is done on rocks. The rocks give the ankles and lower legs a beating. In addition, all the down-hills are fairly steep and again on rocks, so the quads get trashed as well. My quads were shot by mile 45, and I could only kind of shuffle-run. Fortunately, this worked well on the terrain and allowed me to keep moving at a decent pace.

Being a middle of the pack runner, I tend to be a back of the pack runner at hundreds. I think this is because most hundreds have a 60 to 67 percent finishing rate, so all the slower runners behind me don't finish. Either that or I'm just slow at hundreds. Either way, I don't have room for any kind of issues at these events or I won't make it. My strategy is to plan for everything and prevent all issues before they happen. This means I don't wait until that hot spot hurts. I stop on the trail and take care of potential blisters right then and there. This prevents lost time tending to my feet or slowing down from the pain. Same way, I don't wait until I'm hungry, but have a food schedule. I have learned from my failures that I need to address issues immediately, or they will only grow exponentially. Boy, have I learned from my failures!!!

That said, I had a really great race day. I was very lucky to come to MMT on a good year. MMT was almost magical with how much good luck I had! For example, there was a 50 percent chance of rain that day. It did rain, but only enough to minimally sprinkle and cool us off. The rain really didn't cause any mud or slippery rocks at all. Lucky me. The temperatures a week before the race were supposed to be a high of 85. Fortunately, the forecast dropped to a high of 73 and that is what we got. The lower temperatures made all the difference, and contributed to the extraordinarily high finishing rate of 76 percent this year. Lucky me! To be honest, I really felt good all the way through. One bad patch in early morning, and then I was fine after pounding calories. I was still singing on the last few miles into the finish. Oh yes, Lorraine Bunk would have been proud. Just before I turned the corner for the last 100 feet to the finish, I cleaned my face with a wet wipe, undid my hair, fluffed it, and dumped my pack on a tree stump. Photo opp ready!
I do these events partially for the challenge, but also for the people. Part of the fun for me is to chat up other runners and learn their story. I ran with various folks and was even able to keep up with the famous Gary Knipling in the first few miles. He was very positive and encouraging to everyone, and freely dispensed race advice which I took to heart. This was Gary's 16th MMT, so he knows of what he speaks. At 69, Gary was one of the older participants and was telling me about his running group who are all going out to The Black Hills 100 this June. Gary did indeed finish the MMT this year, keeping the legend alive.

I saw only one old friend there at MMT, Liza Howard. Many of you met or heard about her at Leadville in 2010. Since Liza was 5 months pregnant, she 'only' paced a friend of hers for around 40 miles or so. I chatted with her after the race, and was sorry I missed her on the trails. Imagine Liza and her cute belly traipsing down the trail! She'll be pacing again at Western States when she will be 7 months pregnant. That'll keep folks on their toes!

RD and aid station review:
Kevin Sayers is the Fabulous RD for MMT, and is old school.
1. Old school means the trails are marked fantastically. I never had the slightest worry about being lost.
2. Old school also means the aid stations were fully stocked and very attentive. You wouldn't need to carry any food at all!
3. Old school also means that each aid station had the GPS coordinates provided for crew in the race packet. That was so great. My patient and long suffering husband simply entered the coordinates, and our GPS took him right to the aid station. If you've ever driven in the dark on back roads looking for an aid station, hoping you don't miss your runner, you'll see the value of this immediately.
4. Old school also means that Kevin greets each finisher personally. When you cross the finish line, Kevin high fives upi. That means the last finisher gets the same treatment as the first finisher. If you run the Kettle, Timo Yanacheck will give you the same welcome. Well played Gentlemen!

Massanutten Checklist:
1. Hallucinations-Check. I had many auditory and visual hallucinations. This time they were all about runners, including a fully stocked aid station. I could see the runners in their white hats standing around the aid station and hear the murmur of talking. Turned out to be a mud puddle.
2. Millipedes-Check. Race reports describe these as all over the place. I didn't see that many, but I swear I saw one that was 6 inches long!
3. People complaining of urinating blood – Check. At least two guys complained of this, and were out. Most likely they were low on water and food and so the bladder banged against the pelvis as they ran on the rocks. Better to be safe though.
4. Eat a peanut butter bacon brownie – Check. Each aid station vies to be the best one, and they ARE! However, the bacon aid station stood out. One of my buddies ate several pieces of bacon here, and went on to finish. You just never know what will work at an ultra!
5. Get off trail to pee in the bushes, come back to the trail and go the wrong way – Check. Fortunately two guys found me before I went too far. Boy, was I confused when I saw them running towards me!
6. Take your time and enjoy the beauty, majesty and mystery of Massanutten Mountain – Check.

That was my Massanutten. I had a great day, enjoyed the run, and found the area incredibly beautiful. If you decide to do this race, do your homework. The elevation change is nothing to take for granted, and you'd better get those Quads and lower legs ready to run on rocks and downhill. Prepare for heat and rain, but get ready to enjoy it if you get weather like I did.

Thanks for listening. Now get out there and run!

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