Monday, August 17, 2009


The MMD 50K is possibly the most difficult 50K trail race in the country with a total 34.2 miles with 14,855' gain. Karl Meltzer claims his Speedgoat 50K is, so I guess I'll have to run that someday to see and we'll see if we can get Karl out here for MMD some year ;-)

My adventure began with a 5K road race I "had" to run on Thursday evening, the night before the midnight start of MMD. This Cigna 5K is a huge race in Manchester, NH with 5000 runners. It is a corporate cup and I was entered for my company's team, Farm. The race went well, even though it hurt a lot. I ran 20:56 with an age graded time of 17:17, finishing 10th overall in my age group and first on my company's team. That just set my legs up for some painful running the next day in the White Mountains.
This will be my hopeful 5th MMD50k finish and if so, I will be the first person to do that. I missed 2007 because Deb and I were living in New Mexico and last year some severe storms (lightening and hail) stopped us on the summit of Mount Washington.

After dropping Tucker, the incredible escaping dog off at yet another new kennel, this one in Conway, we headed up to Dolly Copp campground where the weekend's festivities will be held, but not without fist stopping at Moat's and having a great lunch, a pint of some micro brewed pale ale and buying a growler of it to share with my fellow racers after we finish on Saturday.

We got there when only a few had arrived and picked a nice spot to park our truck/tent...and after awhile all of the racers arrived, some not until just before we began and one after we had begun! The afternoon was spent relaxing and hydrating (with water this time) as the race was planned to begin at midnight. We napped in the back of the truck for a few hours early evening, but didn't get much sleep.

Laurel Valley, Frank Giglio, Craig Wilson and Bob Najar just before Midnight

At just before midnight, we all gathered in the dark to begin....some grizzled ultra racers were there for another go at the Whites. There were many Hardrock 100 finishers standing there, as well as Barkley fun run finishers. Standing on one side of me was John Dewalt, the 73 year old who had just finished his 14th Hardrock and on the other side of me was Craig Wilson, many time Hardrocker and Barkley fun run finisher. Looking across the circle I see Laurel valley, who just ran 23 hours at the Vermont 100 and Ryan Welts, who just set a new Pemi Loop speed record of 7:04! Missing was our friends Andrew Thompson and Mike Dobies, who couldn't make it this year.

Rick Kerby got us going by driving the pace truck down to the trail head of the Imp trail. We had to run about 1.5 miles down to it and I can just imagine what the cars driving by thought of all the headlamps running up the road. Garry Harrington, Tom Parent, Jeff List, Stanislav Trufanov (I called him Santa Claus because I was having trouble remembering his name) and I took it out hard, running down the road at what felt like marathon pace....but I felt fit and ready this year to push the pace as hard as I could for as long as I could, this being most likely my last MMD.

When we reached the trailhead, we turned left and headed into the mountains for a half day or more...up it went, steep and long up to the Carter Ridge. Most everyone from our small group had run off ahead, while Jeff list and I paced ourselves for the long journey ahead. I was climbing strong, so Jeff backed off a bit, but when I reached Mount Hight I saw his light coming up the hill behind me. I had some trouble finding the trail, but soon did and got going. The running up on that ridge was spectacular....a clear bright sky full of stars with the glow of lights from the surrounding small New Hampshire towns. Running on the ridge was good, too....some small climbs, but for the most part flat, dirt with some small boardwalks in the muddy stretches.

On the Carter Dome summit someone had pitched their tent in the middle of the trail, which caused some discussion among us the following day. This guy was snoring when I ran by, but by the time some of the other runners went be he was irritated and yelling. Serves him right for camping where he shouldn't be. The rule is 200 yards off the trail.

As we summited each climb on that ridge...Imp, Hight, Carter Dome and Wildcat...the legs grew more and more weary. I really struggled going up the final one on that side, Wildcat, but pushed as best I could to keep ahead of Jeff. I even skipped going to the Carter Hut for water after telling him I was planning to do that. Funny thing was later on we talked about it and I skipped the hut to gain some time on him and he also skipped it, thinking I was there and he was getting ahead of me.

The ski trails on Wildcat Mountain

Soon we reached the top of Wildcat and had to run down the ski slope....I had remembered from our strategy discussion the day before that Jeff said that he thought that the best slope to go down would be Catapult, which turned out to be correct. It was pretty fast running with some spots very steep. The growth on the slope was about ankle to waist deep, but you could almost always find an easy path. My feet were soaked from the run down on the grassy slope, so upon entering the only aid station in the race at 15.5 miles, I decided to change my socks. While doing this, Jeff came running in...The goal was to reach the aid station by 6am and I left at 5:30am with Jeff following close behind. We had one person in front of us now as Garry had to drop out due to an injury he got from a fall a week earlier and Tom Parent had gone off course a bit and fell behind. Off to catch Santa Claus!

Upon reaching and beginning to run on the Crew Cut trail, Jeff caught me and we would be trail companions for most of the rest of the day. Our goal was to summit Mount Washington by 8AM, which was not going to be easy because the most difficult climb was coming up...Huntington Ravine. We took turns setting the pace, and while climbing made sure we were drinking and taking in calories. At this point with the heat of the day coming, I was drinking water with electrolytes in it and First Endurance EFS Liquid Shot. I don't like eating much solid food at all, especially when it's going to be hot. Calories are calories and between the Liquid shot and several packages of Clif Shot Blocks, I never had any bonking issues. I would take a drink of the EFS, then a little while later east a block every 15 minutes to keep the calories up all the time. If I keep it steady, my stomach stays happy.

There are so many things you have to regulate when trying to keep the stomach, legs and head happy...but I think the most important thing is to keep those calories up. If you get into a bonking situation, you don't think well and start to make poor decisions. Then your stomach goes and you can no longer drink and worst of all, you don't drink anything! When that happens your race can be over if you don't recognize the I prefer to just keep the calories coming in, and drink as much as I can. Even with that in this heat I didn't drink enough. I didn't pee once all day long.

Up the Tuckerman Ravine trail we go and while climbing, behind us comes Tom Parent, who was gaining on us, yet said he wasn't feeling too well and based on his training was going to stop.

Jeff coming up behind me on the Huntington Ravine Trail

Soon we reached the Huntington Ravine Trail, which is a large slab of rock mostly at a 45 degree angle which you have to find handholds to put your fingers and toes....there are also some places where you need to do some rock climbing to get up and over a cliff edge. Last year we had to do this in the middle of a hail storm, but this year it was just getting hot. At least the rocks were dry...occasionally we would catch a glimpse of Stanislav, but he was easily 20 minutes ahead of us.

Jeff attempting to make one of the more difficult sections

It took us 3 hours to reach the summit of Mount Washington, so we missed our 8am goal, but did get there at 8:30, beating the bike race that was being held that day. After going in to get some water, and going up to touch the summit we headed down the trail to the Gulfside trail, which would eventually take us to the final trail down to the camp, but not for 4 hours later...

The "true" Mount Washington summit
Some of my New Mexico friends would laugh at this sign

The sun was now out and even though it was early in the morning, it was getting hot. Luckily occasionally we'd get some cloud cover when a cloud passed overhead, but mostly it was full sun. We headed East towards Mount Clay, our first bump to go over. Here Jeff was having some stomach cramping troubles, so stopped to take care of that while I continued on, saying I'd be going slow due to the heat and he'll be catching me soon. I have had so much trouble in the heat at races, that I am overly cautious, so I slow down, drink lots and try to eat some calories... I got up and over Clay and headed towards Mount Jefferson, the next loop. This was one a tough long climb, so I was preparing by taking my last long drink of the EFS Liquid Shot, probably giving me a good 200 calories. After drinking that my stomach felt a little queasy, so I slowed down some more and even stopped on top of Jefferson to take in the view and take a picture. Not seeing Jeff coming just yet, I started down and headed to Mt Adams. The Lowe's Path up to Mount Adams wasn't that bad a climb, but I was starting to cramp up in the legs. I've been taking in more than enough electrolytes and had plenty of fuel, so maybe not drinking enough...I pushed in the fluids and again stopped on top of Adams to take a short break and that's when Jeff caught up to me. His words were "I got my mojo back!" And I reminded him what I had been saying all day long "Keep pushing the pace, because you just never know what might happen up front!" He pushed down, while I told him I was going to stop at the Madison Hut for some lemonade...and this time I meant it!

Inside the Madison Hut where I got my lemonade

The Star Lake Trail off of mount Adams sucked...plain and simple, or maybe it was just a reflection on how I now felt. The rocks were large, pointy and slippery and the trail was steep. I wanted to keep pushing as best I could to prevent from losing my 3rd in order to not waste time, I went into the hut and filled my bottle with lemonade and threw 4 bucks in the cup. I got out in a jiffy and headed up the Osgood Trail to the Mount Madison Summit, the last climb of the day. It was now really getting hot and my legs wanted to cramp if I moved the wrong way. The lemonade was absolutely delicious and I emptied my bottle at the top, took a picture, looked East, saw the cairns and started down.

Here I had to be careful to not miss the left turn onto the Daniel Webster Scout trail. The day before everyone said it was an easy one to as I went down, down through the rocks I came upon Laurel valley's boyfriend who showed me the turn right ahead. he said the first guy missed the turn and continued down the Osgood trail and the 2nd guy flew down the right trail. OK, Jeff, see....ANYTHING can happen!

Final trail back to Camp and the finish...
...3.5 miles to camp, 1 +more mile to the finish from there!

I started down the Daniel Webster trail, but the legs were in rough shape. I would get the start of a cramp and would have to stop until it subsided. The trail above treeline was nothing more than a jumble of large boulders and the sun was getting hot with it also reflecting back off the rocks into your face...hitting treeline was so nice. Shade and the start of seeing some dirt, the further down you went, the shadier and softer the trail got. A couple of times down lower we crossed a small stream where I'd stop to soak my head to cool off and it felt nice. The trail seems far longer than I expected, but if you have been running trails for as long as I have you begin to recognize what Deb and I call the return to the civilized world. The trees start looking different and the trail is more heavily used. I crossed over a dirt road and was hopeful that this was the road we take a left on, but dammit, I saw a blue blaze across the road heading down in the woods. On and on I go, 3.5 miles that feels like 10....getting hotter and hotter, thirstier and thirstier. Every now and then I thought I saw a tent, but it would turn out to be a dense maple tree....I was seeing things move out of my peripheral vision, the mind now playing tricks after missing a night's sleep and being on the trail all this time. Finally I pass a couple of hikers who said the road was just ahead. I heard voices, a little girl calling her daddy....yes! The campground!

I stepped off the trail onto the road and ran as best I could...slightly uphill meant some walking, nothing left in the legs, just how you like to end a race....nothing left. I see the road to Barnes Field, take another left and run (well, walk) up the hill into campsite #11. Done....3rd place, 13.5 hours, nothing left. 5 finishes, that loincloth is mine! Complete success...

Minutes after I finished, sitting with the other two finishers and those that weren't so lucky.

Nothing much more to add but all the fun of post MMD....sitting around drinking beer and eating all the great food that Jonathan cooked for us, anywhere from chicken to steak, corn, beans, name it, it was there somewhere on that table. And yes, as usual, plenty of beer!
Thanks goes to Jonathan Whitehead, RD...Rick Kerby, C0-RD...Julie Kerby, MMD mom...Anke Roth, painting the finisher awards rocks and anyone else I may have forgotten.

This is how we all felt Saturday evening, modeled by Lance Whitehead, Mini RD

Unofficial results would be something like this:

1. Jeff List 13:06 hours
2. Stanislav Trufanov 13:21
3. Steve Pero 13:30
4. Eva Pastalkova 14:30 (she started late so unsure) 1st female
5. Laurel Valley 2nd female 16 hours approx
5. Rich Collins, tied for 5th
5. Bob Najar, tied for 5th
6. Bob Combs 16:15 approx
7. Deb Pero 17 hours approx, 3rd female
7. Pat Wheatley 17 hours approx
8. John Dewalt 24.5 hours
8. Craig Wilson 24.5 hours
8. Kevin Zelechoski 24.5 hours

This is from memory, so I may be completely wrong. I seem to remember hearing there were 15 finishers, so I missed someone. Also starting but not finishing were Garry (last year's winner) Harrington , Ryan (new Pemi Loop record holder) Welts, Tom (I'm not a) Parent, Noah Duarte and Frank (rawfoodfrank) Giglio.

Equipment used...
Golite sleeveless shirt and jacket (tied around my waist all day)

This will be our last post for several weeks...time to recover a bit from this past month's adventures that I've been writing about. Next up should be a Great Traverse (26 miles, 10,000' of climb) in the Adirondacks on Labor Day weekend, then it's taper time for the Bear 100!

Steve and Deb


Chef Franky G said...

Great Report!!

The Whites certainly got the best of me on Saturday, but I am here to train and prepare for next year!

Thanks for the memories and friendship!

Until next time....

By Rushing Runner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Laurel said...

Nice report. It was a beautiful day in the mountains.

ultrastevep said...

Frank, it was great to meet you! Next time you'll get it done!

Laurel, great seeing you as usual, congrats on a fine finish on a tough course.
Sorry about that "choke hold" hug at the was dark and I was sleepy ;-)


Paige said...

Great report there, Steve! That one sounds kinda tough (and by "kinda" I mean "incredibly")!

Love the pictures, and congrats on that fifth finish! That's badass :)

ultrastevep said...

Thanks, was a fantastic race. Love the course, you ought to try it next year!


Run Home Pam said...

Wow, Steve. Wow! Quite a month for you two....

We were up there last weekend hiking the Flume Trail with the kids. A different kind of endurance event!

Trail Pixie said...

Awesome achievement to you all! It was a hot day as I recall! rest up for the Bear 100!

ultrastevep said...

Thanks, was a great day! The Flume Trail is a great one for kids! Sorry you had to miss the run!

Emily, wasn't too hot because most of it was overnight. It started getting hot with a few miles to go, at least it did for me! Kevin on the other hand, was out there in the sun all day long! Now That's Endurance!

We feel ready for the more big run in the Adirondacks on Labor day and we'll start to rest.


Bob Buckingham said...

Hey guys, it sounds like a fantastic run. Obviously a hard route, but well worth the work. It has been fun the last month or so reading about your adventures.

olga said...

Very neat, and the company is great! We missed you in High Mountains though. I stayed in a room for a bit you guys used to, and Tommy whispered it to me as something very special:) Hope the house market is getting somewhere you'd like it to go, because mine stuck dead...when will I see you?

GMoney said...

Steve and Deb -

Great runs. Congrats to you both! Those photos make me pine for my home.

Wanna come on down to Virginia again and hit Dr. Horton's Hellgate with me in December?