Thursday, November 29, 2012

2012 Mountain Masochist Trail Run 50 Mile Race Report

This years MMTR 50 Miler had been on my mind since mid August and I had become consumed.  Emily and I even took a vacation down to Montebello just so I could train for the race and I volunteered at UROC this year so I could once again train for the race.  I had solid training runs with lots of double runs leading up to the race with plenty of vertical training as well, I was ready.  Emily was signed up for the race too, but we found out she is pregnant so she was unable to run.  I suppose that is a good excuse.  Friday afternoon I traveled down to Lynchburg with Emily and our friend Maria (AG winner last year), we arrived we went to dinner and then went to the race registration.  Since we went to dinner we missed the pre race briefing and crucial information about the cut off being extended by thirty minutes and about the new addition to the Loop section.  This was not only the thirty year anniversary of the race, but it was also the first time major chances were made to the race course.  The new race course now started at the Wildwood Campground (very close to the old start at James River Visitor Center) and incorporated local trails and completely removed the first seven road miles of the old course.  I was really excited about the new section of the course and I was shooting for an ambitious time, for me,  of 11:15 but with hurricane Sandy dumping snow at the upper elevations I wasn't sure how much time it would slow me down.

I woke up on Saturday morning at 4:15 and ate a light breakfast and gathered my gear before Maria and I made our way to the buses that would take us to the race start.  Emily was sleeping in so our plan was for her to meet me at Long Mt. Wayside AS and then meet me at the finish.  We arrived at the campgrounds at 5:45 and Maria and I sat on the bus, along with most of the other runners, as it was too cold to go outside and wait (30ish degrees).  At about 6:10 Maria and I made our way to the starting line, thank God the it was not windy.

Maria was just a lil' chilly at the start
 At 6:30 we started our fifty mile odyssey through the Blue Ridge Mts.  Maria and I settled right into a nice easy pace.  We were making our way through the trails and came onto a paved road when Maria saw some friends she had made down in Umstead this past year, Mrs. Popularity.  After she signed a few autographs, the course went back to trails and then we came across a rude awaking.  Two ice cold stream crossing and there was no side stepping these crossings.  This was the first race that I choose to wear my new Hoka One One shoes and I had no idea how they would do in water.  After plunging through the arctic water the sun started to make its way over the mountains and through the leafless trees.  After a few miles I found my Hokas to be fairly dry (much more dry then my Montrail Sabino Trail would have been).  Then came the first of many hills I would encounter during the race, MMTR boasts over 9K feet of climbing, and so began the power walk.  After walking a bit Maria and I came to the Peavine AS, first time, by this point I had turned off my headlamp.  The course had a nice downhill followed by a short uphill, that was runnable, before making its way around a mountain and back to Peavine AS for the second time. 
Maria making her way up towards the Peavine AS
I arrived at the Peavine AS in 1:57, I checked my pace charts and I was ten minutes behind my goal pace but I felt good and knew the race doesn't begin until Long Mt Wayside.

After exiting Peavine AS I noticed course merged with the old course and we would run the old course to the finish in Montebello (with the exception of a small but significant detour in the Loop section).
Little climbin' goin' on around here
I then was on a jeep road with some minor climbing and I was feeling really good but I had to keep telling myself that the "race" doesn't begin until Long Mt. Wayside.  I lost Maria when I went flying on the downhills, but knew it was only a matter of time until she caught back up to me.  I was chatting with a nice guy from Austin and we were swapping war stories and I was filling him in on what this course had in store for him.  As I am making my way into  Dancing Creek AS I saw some new friends I made this year volunteering at UROC, Carter and Suzie.  I gave them high fives and went directly to the AS table to have my water bottle filled.  I was sticking to my normal nutrition plan of 200 calories per hour (using EFS shots and Vitargo) and Vespa every 2.5 hours.  Carter and Suzie are awesome, they were at the AS to cheer Suzie's brother Jeff, but ended up helping the overwhelmed AS fill water bottles.  They are the main reason why I love running these races, the volunteers do an excellent job but if things get too crazy spectators step in and help out.  They set a great example of what the LUS races embody and set the bar by which other races are measured by. 

I quickly made my way out of the AS and continued to make good time.  The next few miles went on uneventful as I was making my way along the jeep roads.  The course then had a nice downhill section from miles 17-22.  This is where I began to feel my legs become fatigued for the first time.  There were what seemed like an endless amount of runners that passed me as I was moving decently at a 10:15 pace, but I knew I needed to save myself for just a bit longer as we had some nice climbs coming up soon.  I arrived at Reservoir AS in 4:33 only nine minutes ahead of last year.  I saw Carter and Susie again and they made sure I carb loaded before I left the AS.
Reservoir AS
Let the climbing begin.  I started to implement a run walk strategy so that I could make decent time through this section of the course.  Maria caught up to me during this section and it was nice to catch up with her.  We chatted a bit before she seemed to magically levitate up the hills towards Long Mt Wayside and I couldn't keep up with up, so I just kept to my plan.  As the jeep roads climb for a few miles it then started to level out and I began to feel encouraged as my legs were up for the challenge and I was running my best miles thus far into the race.  I reached Long Mt Wayside AS in 5:38, which was twenty minutes faster then last year.  As I approached the AS Emily called out to me and she was reading a book and seemed to enjoy the fact that she slept in.  I am definitely a lucky dude because she always supports me through my races and helps me balance my hectic work schedule and always busy family schedule.  Emily and I chatted really briefly, she even commented on how much better I look compared to last year before I grabbed my new bottle of Vitargo and EFS shots.  I spent the most time with her at AS, close to two minutes, then I did the at any other AS (usually thirty seconds).  I gave her a quick kiss then I was off to tackle Buck Mt.

It was on!!!  I knew all the miles to the finish like the back of my hand, it was time to put up or shut up and validate all the training I had done on this course in the previous months leading up to the race.  I began to hike really well up to Buck Mt and I began to pass other runners and before I knew it I was running.  I ran about a third  of this section and walked the rest which isn't too bad considering this was 1300' climb.  As I continued up towards Buck Mt. I also noticed snow started to appear along the course.  It wasn't bad because the jeep roads were clear for the most part and the only remaining snow as along the trees.   As I neared the Buck Mt. AS I began to hear the famous Rocky theme music.  I made it to the AS and finally caught up to Maria.  I caught her grazing amongst the wonderful spread of food at the AS.
Buck Mt. AS
Maria and I chatted for a good bit and began to ponder what shape the trails would be in the Loop section of the course.  As we descended Buck Mt and made our way down to Wiggins Springs AS we were enjoying some nice downhills before climbed up to the Loop where we would climb some more.  We arrived at Wiggins AS in 7:01, which was twenty four minutes faster then my time last year.

I basically blew through the AS not even filling my water bottle because the next AS was in 1.5 miles.  This little section was again on jeep roads and was mostly uphill.  After the initial steep ascent I was able to run the gradual incline to the Loop AS.  I filled up water and knew the loop section has some nice little climbs and added a nice 700' climb up Mt. Pleasant Overlook.  I was so excited about this section and then I saw all the snow on the trail.
snow on the Loop Section
I knew all the time I had below the cutoff was certainly going to be needed for a twelve hour finish.  Moving along this section was slow due to snow and the inability to pass slower runners along this tough section of the race.  During the trail up to Mt Pleasant Overlook there were runners going both ways along the trail so everyone was constantly stepping aside to allow some runners to pass (think of a one lane bridge with oncoming traffic)  During last year the Loop section  is where I completely fell apart, but this year I was feeling decent.

Maria and I were making good time and we were enjoying talking to the other runners along the course about the snow.  I guess the front runners were doing some serious post holing considering there was 4-7" of snow along the course and some snow drifts were as high as ten inches.  This 5.75 miles section of the race starts out at 3500' and climbs to over 4000' several times.  It was much cooler at the higher elevation and the cold wet snow made it that much cooler.  I wore two long sleeve shirts and gloves and stayed warm all day long, but many people were wearing jackets and hats.  I was really glad I wore my sunglasses, even though it was partly cloudy, the sun reflecting off the snow was something that I didn't think about and it was nice not to have to squint.  This section was difficult, but far and away my favorite of the race, because it comes at a point when people are really starting blow up.  If you can make it out of this section, you are home free.  I summitted Mt. Pleasant Overlook  and took a minute to enjoy the views before bombing downhill back towards the Loop AS again.
Mt. Pleasant Overlook
The course then moved back onto jeep roads and I was putting down some good splits and was seven minutes faster during this three mile jaunt then last year.  I was starting to become obsessed with making to the finish line in under twelve hours.  I made it to Salt Log Gap AS in 9:44. 

I pushed out of the AS really hard trying to make up time along this section, but this has one last hill that was a bitch.  This was were a runner behind me told me about the thirty minute extension to the cut off, which was now 12:30.  What a relief!!!  I really enjoyed this tough climb and realized that I would make the cut off no problem.  I had difficulty with footing during the final climb and lost a few minutes, but I was almost home.

I came into the last AS which was Porters Ridge in 11:12 and filled my water bottle for the final time as I made my final push towards the finish line.  I was making decent time, slower then last year, and was looking over my shoulder for Maria to catch up to me.  During those last few miles I was thinking about the new lil' Peake that is coming this upcoming May and how cool it will be to cross the finish line with he/she there in future races.  As I pushed the last quarter mile on Rt. 56 towards Montebello Resort (finish line) I saw Emily there cheering me on, funny thing was that no one told her about the thirty minute cutoff extension.  Much to her relief and mine I crossed the finish line in 11:56:34.
I see you...

Emily and I only had to wait a few minutes before Maria crossed the finish and won her age group, again!!  Way to go Maria.  My time was a minute slower then last year, but considering the snowy conditions I would have run 11:15ish.  Overall I am very pleased with my race and what a great way to end to another racing season.  I am really eager now to get back to training and try to improve on this years result.  By finishing MMTR, also completing Holiday Lake, Terrapin Mt, and Promise Land, I completed the LUS (Lynchburg Ultra Series) and got a sweet Patagonia jacket.  Next year I am going for the Beast Series.  I am thinking of running at least three hundred milers next year (Grindstone, WS, Leadville, Vermont, MMT), but we will see how much training I will be able to get in considering my family focus will be significantly different next year. 
I am sure I will be doing a end of season post with 2013 scheduling possibilities so keep an eye out.

Here are my extra pictures from the race.

My Gear: 
Shoes:  Hoka One One Stinson Evo
Socks: DryMax 
Hydration: 2 UltrAspire handheld bottles with UltrAspire Race vest
Nutrition: S!Caps, EFS shot, Vitargo, XS shots
Shorts: Zensah compressions shorts 
Shirt:  Under Armour base, two long sleeve tech shirts, Mountain Hardware gloves

See ya on the trails,