Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Massanutten, here we come!

For my first big race of the year, I got into the Massanutten 100. Deb is 4th on the wait list, but will surely be in before you know it. To kick off the training for this, which is in May we decided to go down south to Virginia to the VHTRC's MLK weekend and MMT training #1.

The weekend began by dumping a bunch of cat food on the floor and opening up the toilets so that they'd have plenty of whatever it is cats need. They certainly don't need us, they just need us to take care of them. One problem cat of ours is Murphy, will be in heaven having the food available to him 24 hours of the day for three days. We usually have to make the food available only a couple of times a day to help him watch his weight. Food and his bed by the woodstove is all he needs, our other cat, Harley is easy. He is younger and most of his needs are eat a little and go out and hunt.

But on to the weekend...we left at about 7am on Friday for the 9+ hour drive down, which only took us about 8.5 hours. (Remember that for later.) Our destination was Kerry Owens' house, the Portabello in Front Royal, where we'll be laying our heads for the few hours we won't be running (really hiking). Kerry is nice enough to let a bunch of smelly runners invade her dogs house whenever there is an event in the Massanuttens. We had fun eating dinner at Jalisco's in Front Royal. Jalisco's is a Mexican restaurant...it wasn't a great idea to load my food with Habanero sauce the night before a long run in the mountains. After dinner, we went back and had a amber refreshments and got to bed around 11. I took many photos over the next 2 days and they can be seen here- MMT Training run pictures.

Day 1---50K (31.8 miles), Buzzard Rock to Camp Roosevelt
Aid station #1 (mile 2.4) to aid station # 6 (mile 34.2)

Saturday morning we got up around 5:30 to about 5 degrees in temp. It was colder....colder than NH! But at least there was no snow, so a good day would be had on the trail.
We drove to Camp Roosevelt for the convoy ride to the trail at Buzzard Rock, which is about 2 miles into the MMT 100. We all hiked and ran as fast as we could, as soon as Tom Corris our director of the day sent us off, to try to get warm as quickly as we could. It took awhile, but once the chill went away we were treated to some fine views.Most of the day was spent climbing up on the ridge, then running back down to the aid stations. This day we followed the same route we'd be taking when doing the MMT100, minus the first 2 road miles.
The running was great and other than the bladder tubes and bottles freezing, the day was a fine one spent with many friends we have made over the years.
Our first descent off of the ridge was down a steep, leafy and rocky trail...but only for a half mile where we would then take a right and continue on down to the road and aid station. I had to stop and "scratch in the leaves" and told Deb to continue on down and I'd catch up to her. Well, in my haste I missed the turn and about 100 yards down I came upon a runner hiking back up. I told him we were going right and he followed me back down. After another hundred yards or so I knew it was wrong, so we hiked back up and after about 1/4 mile saw the sign. Deb was waiting for me at the bottom and we were now dead last...at least we thought we were, we later found out that Tom Sperlock had fallen and was injured up behind us.

Reaching the bottom, I came to the aid station...well it was the "dog" aid station, but it would have to do. This was manned by Rick Kerby.

We then said bye to Rick and headed about 3 miles down the road to the Veach Aid Station. This is a pleasant run as it passes some very nice homes along the way. Jim had decided to just stay with Deb and I and enjoy the day.

At Veach we caught up to a couple of guys and left the station before they did for the long climb back up to the ridge...and just before the top, we passed a couple of other guys. We were starting to feel good after a slow start to the day and were hoping to not hold up everyone at the finish. We reached the top and took our left turn...this was a nice section to run, so we did and soon came upon Vicky and Sharon, who were both very cold. Turns out Sharon was the one who was really cold and Vicky was nice enough to stay with her.

After going by Vicki, we re-caught Moose Novicky, who we seemed to yo-yo back and forth with all day long.

We were now looking for the Indian Grave Trail, which was a purple blazed trail and would take us down to a road, which would take us to the Habron Gap aid station...where there were a bunch of runners! I felt like we were now getting to about where we should be in the field of runners and now knew we wouldn't be holding anyone up at the finish.
The aid stations had a lot of food and drink and I particularly like some baked squares that Kirstin Corris made, so had a few ;-) ...BUT this didn't help me much and on the next climb I was bonking, so did a gel and vavoom, it woke me right up. Now Deb wouldn't have to wait for me anymore and we could start moving along the trail like we should be. We continued to catch runners and were being on the lookout for the Stephen's Trail, which would take us down to Camp Roosevelt and the finish.
Just as we reached the Stephen's trail, we saw a runner take the left turn in front of us, so we starting moving down the hill and caught Bob Combs who was enjoying the day. But we lit him up by asking him to join us and he did....soon we caught up to Quatro and joined onto his train and in the distance was Mike Dobies and Bill Losey, who when they saw us, took off. No, this isn't a race! ;-)

The campfire was a welcome sight, we were cold, tired and hungry...but we hung out for a short while at the fire with some of the previous finishers before going out to dinner.

Deb and I took about 8 hours to run the 50K, Keith Knipling (in the light blue jacket below) ran it in 5:15!


Day 2---25.1 miles, Gap Creek to Gap Creek
Mile 39.8 on the course to mile 64.9 or a total of 25.1

(Deb and I skipped the loop on top of Bird Knob, which was approx 4 miles)

On day 2, Mike Bur was the general of the day...We were starting at the location of the Gap Creek aid station of the MMT 100 and doing a large figure 8 back to this same location.
There are some good climbs on this day and the big one going up and back down Bird Knob gives one a good leg workout, especially after running 50K yesterday.

The day started with a long climb and we all marched up while Tucker danced around with a big smile on his face...that smile wouldn't last long as his tired legs made him realize that this isn't your normal fun trail run. Also it was a lot warmer, so we didn't have to deal with the freezing water containers like we did yesterday.

Once we reached the ridge (several miles) we were to take a left and follow the Kern's section of the course. This gnarly, rooty and rocky section that weaves in and out and around huge boulders can be challenging on a rested day...but the cloudy sky and cool air allowed us to enjoy the Kern's section, much unlike in the race when it's usually 60 degrees warmer, humid and no relief from the sun. This section has ended the race for me many years and in 2001 I ended up lying on my back after Kern's down in the Visitor's center for 2 hours puking my guts out. I did get up and finish, but that's a historical story...not for today.
Here's a nice view from Kern's looking West.

I was going to try and keep my calories up better today, so ate a baggie full of bacon here (well, I shared with Tucker) and also ate a lot of the GORP (Good old raisins and peanuts) mix that Deb made before we came down. Our mix had the peanuts in the form of M&M peanuts, so it was even tastier ;-) ...and she threw in pretzels for more salt and flavor. The treat was at the end of Kern's, we came upon Mike and Quatro, who had some yummy turkey treats, which reminded me of SlimJims. Then once we ran down the road into the Visitor's Center Charlie Miracle was cooking Quesadillas! Yes! I ate many...

After the Visitor's Center aid station, we climbed up Bird Knob and back. Deb and I decided to not do the approximate 4 mile loop on top in order to get on the road back to NH. On the way up Keith Knipling came flying down and showed us a bad cut he had just gotten from I assume a boulder...it wasn't slowing him down any!

At the top we stopped and took some pictures at the outlook and had some taken of us. It's a nice place to take a small break.After heading back down, we follow a variety of trails off of the Wildflower trail and end up at Rte 211...along the way several runners pas us now that we have bypassed 4 miles of the course! One of these is Joe Clapper...before him the floating Justine Morrison passed. Nice to be young!

We soon end up in Rte 211 and who's there, but Charlie and his Miracle Quesadillas!

Yummy again! But now that we have moved closer to the front of the runners, better not eat as many ;-)

We head out of rte 211 aid station and head up the trails to the Scothorn Gap trail and along the way caught up with Anstr, Lucia and Patty...we hung out for awhile talking and seen moved on, wanting to get this thing done.

The Scothorn gap trail was soon reached after a lot of climbing on the Massanutten trail, we took our left and basically ran all the way downhill to Gap Creek. Along the way we came upon Bob Combs again and tried to get him going again, but there was no doing that now. He was hanging out with a young and pretty woman which I guess was better company than old Deb and Steve ;-) Onto the road at the bottom of Scothorn, down the road for 1.5 miles and we're done!

We hung around a bit and had some of Sophie's delicious stew and some Coke (and some of Gary's special drink), then hopped in the car and started the drive home.
Here's a picture of the us at the finish sporting our new Furbutt hats...

Now that the fun part of the weekend is over, let me tell you the rest of the story!

We started home around 3PM, figuring on a 10 hour drive with the stop to shower at the Flying J in Winchester. Somewhere in PA., it began to snow...then it began to snow harder! By the time we got deep into NY the snow was building up on the highway and speeds were down to 35 mph. At Hartford we could take no more...it was now 2AM, the snow was 6-8 inches deep and there were no plows out....cars were off the road into the ditch everywhere, so we took the next exit and pulled into the first thing we saw. A Price Chopper supermarket parking lot and slept until 6AM to wait for the roads to be cleared. When we woke the parking lot was clear of snow...except for where we were parked. Nice foot+ deep snowbanks surrounded us. That was the hell moment of the weekend. We got home around 9AM to about a foot of snow in the driveway, which I had to clear before I went to work, which I did do but was quite Zombie like all day, but succeeded in saving a vacation day for Hardrock ;-)

That was that and after he ran more than he ever has in his life, Tucker was tuckered...

Next up! The Reverse Ring on Feb 21st....71 miles of the Massanutten course in the dead of winter!


Dan said...

Steve, Great report and photos. I can't believe the large crowd and organization you had for "just" a training run. That's awesome! A lot of the trails there look very similar to the ones I run in Saugus, MA at Breakheart Revevation. Only, I don't have any 2 mile climbs here! Good luck with your training for the 100. Dan

ultrastevep said...

Thanks, Dan....yeah the VHTRC are a great group of people and we probably had around 70 people show up for each day.


Speedgoat Karl said...

Wish I could run on dirt in the winter. Tired of this snow already!

ultrastevep said...

I hear ya' Karl...we are lucky to be able to drive down to the MMT's during the winter. Our trails up here are buried under 2 feet of snow and ice and we won't see any NH dirt until possibly April.

Sophie Speidel said...

Great to see you both and have some "quality time" at Portabello! And sorry about the drive home. Hope it was worth it (I know it was :-)).


ultrastevep said...


Great to see you also and it was most certainly worth it! I feel like I can actually get some training in down there!

See you soon!

Bedrock said...

Sorry I missed you guys last weekend. Glad you had a couple of good runs and a safe, albeit long trip home.

ultrastevep said...

It was a good time, Bedford and even more so some good training. Didn't you run a race? How did that go?


Anonymous said...

I have to post this as anonymous as my ability to log in as me is always thwarted for some reason-Greg Lowe down in Philly.
Finally, a new post! Tell me, how are those rocks everybody whines about? I plan on possibly doing this race next year. I'm more interested in doing the Ring but all my running with others is on hold while I do the low hr training thing. I just can't subject others to my 12-14:00/mile pace. When it drops down to 10, then I'll run with other humans.
Sounds like a great run. How is the Chi running going?

ultrastevep said...

Greg...being from Philly you would not have a problem with the rocks. They do wear you down some after a bit, but what 100 doesn't?

As far as those other questions, stay tuned for next week's post which I'm planning to write about those subjects ;-)

Rick "Special K" Kerby said...

Steve & Deb:

Let's see...that's @ 55 miles of dirt running at $9.95/mile which comes to $547.25 payable in cash, beer, or favors from Deb. Hey, if we don't start charging for snow-free trail running, we'll have every Yahoo from up North and out West clogging up our trails!
Always great to see you both and your little dog too (I am a big Tucker fan). If I don't make it down to the Reverse Ring, consider yourself heckled.

Jason Halladay said...

I dig the new blog name!