Monday, August 23, 2010

No, you're going the wrong way!

That's what Brian Rusiecki said to our group of three as we ran down towards Carter Hut on the Carter Moriah Trail and he was running towards us. Back to that after a few words...

This was the 2010 MMD 50K in the White Mountains in New Hampshire...a gnarly, rocky run and hike of about 33 miles with at least 13,000 feet of climb. It just so happens to be one of my favorite runs of the year and after have run it now for 6 times out of 7 years (I was in NM one year), I feel I own this race. It's just too bad I'm 58 now and can't get out of my own way.

 From about top Center is where the S/F is. Follow what looks like a ring, first on the right, that's Carter Ridge, travel along that top to bottom, then cross over the ribbon going down the center near Wildcat, climb up to the ridge on the left and go bottom to top along the ridge to Madison, back down to the S/F.

This year the race had Brian Rusieki and his girlfriend, Amy Lane running to give this event some credibility. In past years the only superstar we had run with us was Sue Johnston, but she now lives in Ca. Sue was in the area this year, but instead of running MMD, she set a new women's 48 4000 footer speed record in 4+ days. Incredible.

Here's the route I borrowed from Larisa Dannis' post on Views From The Top.
The Route: Barnes Field > Route 16 > Imp trail > North Carter trail > Carter-Moriah trail > Wildcat Ridge trail > Polecat trail > Crew-cut trail > Old Jackson Road > Tuckerman Ravine trail > Huntington Ravine trail > Nelson Crag trail > Gulfside trail > Clay Loop > Gulfside trail > Jefferson Loop > Gulfside trail > Lowe's Path > Star Lake trail > Osgood trail > Daniel Webster Scout trail > Barnes Field.

Now for the longer version... Starting at two minutes after midnight on Friday, I downed a 5 hour energy and we shot down the road at what felt like a 5K pace. As my breathing got heavier, I slowed the pace down and settled in with Larisa and between breaths we discussed ultras, fuel and that sort of thing. Soon we reached the Imp Trail and started up the long climb. Now we are on my type of terrain and I made short work of catching up to those ahead....Amy, then Howie Brienan and Rob Lanas all with Dima Fienhaus in tow. Dima's breathing got quieter as he fell back from my pace and now there was only one ahead of me, but I wasn't planning on ever catching Brian. Brian is one of the better ultrarunners on the Eastern side of the country and his light was already gone from view as he tore up the steep trail.

Now that I was clear of the runners, I stopped to remove a layer as I warmed up. So I was now in a short sleeve shirt on this 40 degree night with a sky full of stars and started cranking up the trail again as I heard Howie and Rob's voices getting closer again. I like running this ridgeline at night alone and is one of the reasons I pulled ahead...that and I wanted to show I meant business this year. My goal? Sub 13 hours...last year Jeff List and I ran together all day and I came in at 3rd in 13:20....I wanted to better that. I had been training hard all summer with weekly mileage peaking at 81 a few weeks ago.

As I ran along the boardwalk once up on the ridge, I thought of Deb and how she would thank God for our opportunity to be in such a wonderful place with such great friends. So I did that for her this year...it was absolutely glorious up there. A sky full of stars, dry rocks and cool temps. I cruised along almost effortlessly, thanks to the miles I have been putting in all summer up here in the Whites every weekend. I figured that soon I'd be coming to the Zeta Pass trail that would take me up to Mount Hight, but I came to an intersection of trails that made me think that I had somehow slipped by the trail...so I ran back knowing that Howie and Rob were not far behind me and within 5 minutes they came along and said we were still good. Next thing you know there it is, so we worked together up to and over Mount Hight after stopping to look at the setting moon and stars, but not for too long because it was cold up there!

As we made our way along the Carter Moriah trail towards Carter Dome we came upon Craig Wilson who had started 5 hours before we did so he wouldn't be out there all night and day and night again. We stopped, said hi and continued on our way and this is where the title of this post comes in. Running towards us is a runner with a light, just zipping along and over the rocks. We stepped aside and I jokingly said "You're going the wrong way!" And he said back, "No, you're going the wrong way!" It didn't even dawn on me that it was one of ours, Howie said how weird it was to see a runner out there training while we were out there. Then Rob said that he thought that was the guy who took the lead at the beginning mile on the road. Sure enough, a few minutes later Brian comes up behind us and said "You were right!, somehow I got turned around out here!" Seems at the Wildcat ski lift building he went around it looking for the ski slope and ended up running down the way he came, thinking he was continuing on the trail he was on. Strange things happen on the trail in the middle of the night!

A few minutes later we finally reach the top of Wildcat Mountain and looked for the Catapult slope, which Jeff told us earlier in the day was a good choice to run down. Was he ever wrong! The growth on the slope was neck deep in spots....no on most of it! It was at least waist deep and everywhere were these big fat yellow spiders sitting in the middle of their webs. I took the lead avoiding the spiders and holes in the ground that were hidden beneath the growth when all of a sudden in front of me was a huge mommy moose and her two babies. Never get close to any wild animal when they have their babies with them. Momma was huge, babies were horse size! I stopped in my tracks and yelled back "MOOSE!". As we all were standing there staring at her, she began to charge towards us. She was maybe 20 feet away and getting close fast. Brian was hiding behind a huge boulder, so I jumped behind him and Howie and Rob jumped behind us. She came as close as 10 feet, the turned quickly into the woods with babies in tow. We went to the far side of the slope in case she was watching us from the edge of the woods and headed down. We took a better route down then to get away from growth and spiders and there standing smack in front of us was a huge bull Moose the size of an elephant with a rack that must have spanned 10 feet! 

 This looks similar to the guy we saw without exaggeration

He was right in the middle of the slope and we had nowhere to go but wait, so it was now moose delay #2. Howie was thinking we could maybe go into the woods and bushwhack by the huge moose and as he went in the back of the moose, that was keeping his now glowing eyes on us, I was worried he would charge...but instead he cantered off to the other side and up a hill. We looked down and the trail/ski slope was all deep weeds, so we had to go up where the moose went to get on a better trail. We did and Bullwinkle was gone, or watching from the side. He wanted nothing to do with us nor we with him. He could probably kill all four of us with one charge with that large rack. We got down finally to the bottom and ran to the one aid station. We are at about mile 15, it is 5:10 AM and it took us 1 hour and ten minutes to get down 2+ miles because of all that I mentioned above. This is a typical instance at the MMD 50K ;-)

Not much time was spent at the aid station and when I saw that Brian was ready to go, I grabbed my pack and we headed out. Howie followed right behind us as we went on the Crew Cut trail across Rte 16, which will take us to Old Jackson Road to Tuckerman Ravine trail and the climb up to Mount Washington. The Crew Cut trail was just not good at all. I was leading and could barely find the trail in the early dawn hours, there were no markers, just what seemed like a once used foot path that went up steep hills and never seemed to come back down. Soon we reached Old Jackson Road, which is an easy jog down to the intersection with the Tuckerman Ravine Trail.
As we walked up Tuckerman, the pace seemed a bit too fast for me, so I backed off to try to stay within myself and save this race of mine. Go too fast now and there's be no sub 13 hours.

 Lower Huntington Ravine

It seemed to be taking an awfully long time to reach the right turn onto the Huntington Ravine trail, but I was just here training a couple of weeks ago and I remembered it seeming long then, too and because I was beginning to feel the pace and difficulty of the race, that alone made it seem longer, also...and within minutes, I heard their voices off to the right and I knew the trail junction was close. I took a few hits of my First Endurance EFS Liquid Shot, which is all I was using for fuel today and started the climb. My shoe choice today was for this trail and this trail only. The Huntington Ravine trail is considered the most dangerous trail in the Whites. It's sheer rock-face that must be climbed like a rock climber was why I chose to wear the LaSportiva Raptors with the sticky sole...and they worked like a charm, no slipping at all. But I was beginning to have issues with my legs cramping, most likely due to the faster pace than I am used to in the first half and also just plain old fatigue from the constant climbing and jumping down off of boulders. I kept sucking on the Liquid Shot to get the electrolytes to help and it would work for awhile, but then the cramping would start again. I learned during the day how to place my legs when climbing in order to keep them from cramping and it mostly worked along with the Liquid Shot. A flask of it has not only 400 calories, but 1500 MG's of electrolytes and Amino Acids. It worked for me all day long and I would occasionally get a little nauseous and would pull out a little baggie of chia seeds I brought along, chug them, chase with water and within minutes my stomach would feel better. Chia seeds absorb 9 times their weight in whatever fluid they are in and that includes stomach acid!

 Starting up the steep ledge of Huntington Ravine

 The Belly of the Huntington Ravine Trail
(photo of Jeff List during last years MMD)

Looking back into Huntington Ravine

Back to the race...I finally reach the top of Huntington and head towards the Nelson Crag trail which will take me to the 6,288 foot Mount Washington. I would occasionally catch a glimpse of Howie, but not Brian, so I assumed he took off on his own to go win the race. I also occasionally would look back to see if Rob was coming, but never saw him. Up on Washington it was wild with bumper to bumper traffic on the auto Rd we had to cross because today, as it is every year during MMD, was the annual bicycle race up the auto road to the summit. I reached the summit exactly at 8:00AM and as I walked into the restaurant at the top to refill my bladder, Howie was leaving. He wished me well and off he went. I went in, filled my bladder and bought a bottle of Coke to give me a pickup for the Presidential section of the race. I sucked it down and headed out and was there for maybe only 10 minutes.



I headed up and over the official summit as it was race rules to touch the summits and headed down the Gulfside trail, following Howie who I could see in the distance. I was getting tired, my stomach didn't feel too good and my feet were getting sore from the rocks...so I stopped and downed a couple of IBU's to help ward off the discomfort. I should have changed my socks at the aid station, my feet were soaked and whenever that happens something makes them hurt on the balls of my feet. Maybe the skin gets irritated, then all the rock hopping aggravates them. Oh, well nothing I can do about it now.




The rest of the Presidentials passed without issue other than the usual struggles with the cramps, fatigue, mild nausea and sore feet, but this is an ultrarace and everyone is most likely hurting just as much this deep into the run. I am not alone. I climbed up and over Clay, then Jefferson, struggling to the rock pile that claims to be the summit, the on to Lowe's Path and Adams Summit. Going up Lowe's I stumbled and went down chest first into the rocks, almost crushing my Liquid Shot flask I was sucking on, but it luckily didn't puncture, as it is my last one that I just opened and I have about 6 miles of difficult trail to go! On the top of Adams we have to go down the Star Lake trail...it is one mile of huge boulders, a very difficult trail that I remember struggling down last year...and did again this year. Once I finally got down to the bottom I washed my sticky hands in the small lake from the fall earlier when I got some Liquid Shot on them, then just went on by the Madison Hut. Last year at this point it was much hotter and I had to stop for some lemonade, but this year I had plenty of water, felt well fueled and still had a half of a flask left.

 Star Lake at the base of Mount Madison
Larisa Dannis photo

Up the Osgood trail to the Summit of Madison I went trying to keep the cramps at bay. The Ibu's were working for the feet and the fuel was keeping me alert. Get up over this pile of rocks they call a mountain and get down to the final trail. This all happened quite quickly, I looked at my watch and it showed 11:15, I had an hour 45 minutes to do 4.5 miles. Seems easy enough right? Well, the final trail, the Daniel Webster Scout trail is nothing but huge boulders facing in different directions from one another. You have no where to place your feet and slipping off one, causing injury is a huge risk I can't take right now and also the trail was barely marked with Blue fading paint...or was it orange? I remembered from last year that once below tree line it did get better and more runnable, so I decided that no matter how bad I felt I was going to hammer as best I can down this thing to keep Rob and/or Amy from catching me and also to do my best to get under 13 hours. I refused to look at my watch for the remainder of the downhill and just ran as fast as I could without tripping. I also noticed that occasionally I would see a wet shoe-print on the rocks and I then thought that maybe I was also closing in on Howie, who had told me earlier that the downhills were bothering his knee. Now this was fun! ...and then I caught a glimpse of a light colored shirt ahead. It was Howie, I had caught up to him and as I ran even faster to close the distance he turned and saw me, picking up the pace. Man, just what I needed...after running for over 30 miles and almost 12 hours, I am in a race with a guy almost 20 years younger than I am...and only 1.5miles from the finish! It was here that I saw RD's Jon and Rick along with Kevin Z. who flashed a camera as I passed by them. As I continued to close in on Howie I said that if I caught him I wasn't planning on passing him. I could sense he then relaxed a bit and I just said that it was stupid to race each other after being back and forth all day (plus I really knew in a man to an race, he'd kick my butt). So we jogged up the final mile tar road, Howie slowing down every now and then to stay together and we got back to camp at 12:20PM, which translates to a 12:18 finish. I just took 1 hour and 16 minutes off of last year's time. Pat Wheatley who greeted us, was the official time keeper and beer keep cold person ;-)

Sitting in camp washing off a bad gash on his leg was Brian, who finished in 11:45 and we all sat waiting to see who was next and within 10 minutes, Rob came running into camp. This was his first MMD and he did fantastic. Next up was the first woman, Amy Lane in around 13 hours, followed by Dima and then Larisa, who came in at 14:33, and was hoping for a sub 15. Larisa is an up and coming and very enthusiastic young ultrarunner, we will be hearing lots from her in the future of Ultrarunning. That's about all I remember and as soon as the official results are posted, I'll add them here.

From memory, it's possible I forgot someone and all times I do not know:

1. Brian Rusiecki 11:45
2. Howie Brienan and Steve Pero 12:18
3. Rob Lanas 12:35
4. Amy Lane ??
5. Dima Feinhaus 14:28
6. Larisa Dannis 14:33
7. Patty Duffy ??
8. Laurel Cox (Valley) ??
9. Jen Erickson, Laura Dewald and Fred Kirby 22:18
10. Craig Wilson 27:00

Every year many want in, but many either don't show up or don't make it all the way through the course, it's one of the hardest runs one can attempt.

It was a great day, possibly the best weather we've ever had for MMD. I just finished my 6th and most likley last as I am moving to NM soon.

Gear list:
Shoes: LaSportiva Raptors
Socks: Drymax trail lite
Pack: Nathan HPL #020 hydration vest
Shirt: Greenlayer Wasatch Speedgoat
Fuel: First Endurance EFS Liquid Shot, 4 flasks, 1600 calories. One Coke in there.

Most of the photos here are from last year, other than Larisa's...if you would like to see the rest of last year's photos go here.

To read Larisa's report on Views from the Top go here.

I Guess that's it for this time, up next the 71 mile Massanutten Ring in Virginia on Labor Day weekend, our final long run for the Bear 100, which is on September 25th.

Until Next time,
Steve

6 comments:

Johann said...

That is just fantastic, well done! I really enjoyed this post and pics. Thanks for sharing this wonderful event.

Lloyd said...

Is there a more difficult 50k than MMD?

Thanks for the terrific account and photos.

Laura DeWald said...

great report Steve--I had no idea about the moose!! they were long gone by the time we arrived on the ski slope, thank god! You are in awesome shape--keep it up and have fun at the Ring. sorry we didn't get much of a chance to visit with you...we poked a little too much, enjoying the scenery and playing it safe with all of those gnarly rocks that I'm not used to.

Hunt said...

Very impressive Steve. Im one of those "many" who tries to make it. BUT I will be back! Gotta improve on my 2008 experience there when we opted to shorten course and on 2006 with the group who holed up at Madison Hut at night and finished in AM in 24 total time. AND BTW we still have a "slot" for You at MDLD 100K.

Jen Erickson said...

Fantastic account! Would've loved to hear your stories at the site after - glad you averted all moose and boulder punctures. You really captured and conveyed the spirit of this thing as a race - I was marveling through my 22 hours at the training necessary to kick this thing's butt. Bravo, Steve! Enjoy your rest-of-season, and best to you and Deb in NM.

ultrastevep said...

Thanks, Johann...glad you liked it!

Lloyd....no!

Laura, you and Jen did great. Remember, I live up here and get to train in these mountains all summer!

Hunt you have to get backup here next year...you missed a perfect weather year. Probably won't be back for MDLD, thanks. I would have enjoyed that run for sure.

Thanks, Jen...and remember, in New Mexico "mi casa es su casa". I meant what I said!