Tuesday, October 20, 2009


View from the top of Bird Knob

This past weekend we traveled down to Virginia for a fat ass style 50 miler that is called the SMUT 50. It is run on the Southern Massanutten (Ultra) Trails and is how it's name came about....it has nothing to do with TWOT, which is another run put on by Dennis Herr a week earlier.
Do you think there's something going on with these naming conventions??? One can only imagine what the VHTRC might come up with in future runs...and I won't go there.

Deb and I decided that even though we had just returned from the Bear 100, we wanted one more run with our friends of the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club to end the year just in case our house did sell and we weren't coming back down to VHTRC land. I always bring something down with me to share and this time it made perfect sense to bring some SMUTtynose beer, brewed in Portsmouth, NH. It was enjoyed by those who stayed at Kerry's Portobello house in Front Royal.

For our return to VHTRC land one last time this year, I immediately thought of TWOT (The Wild Oak Trail 25, 50, 75 and 100), but this new run was announced and it gave us more recovery time after the Bear! It was actually Vicki Kendall's fault we came, she talked me into it in an email ;-)

SMUT 50 is (and we found this out the morning of the run) actually 54 miles of some of the toughest trails in the Massanutten Mountains. Lots of climb, more rocks that move than you can imagine, leaves covering those rocks, rain to make the leaves and rocks like ice and a cold biting wind up high in the 40 degree temps. It was wonderful!

We started on Saturday morning at 7AM...Deb and I had decided beforehand to not run together and she had decided to bring Tucker along to keep her company, not that she needs it.
Tucker had run 39 miles with us in Maine which was his longest run/hike so far. So with the weather being cool and there being plenty of water, he went along. Deb also knew she could leave him at one of the aid stations if he wasn't having fun and pick him up on the way back because this was sortof like an out and back, even though you were rarely on the same trail twice, just small sections of them.

Keith in the dark giving us our final battle instructions

So at 7 o'dark in the morning, Keith Knipling sent us off after a short trail briefing. I took it out a little harder than usual just to get ahead of the crowd of runners. Initially we had 40 entrants, but only 27 hardy runners and many volunteers showed up. As a matter of fact, the aid station tables and volunteers at this "unofficial" event was better than most official events I've run!

Once we got going up the trail to the Wildflower trail to the Bird Knob Trail, I settled in with Marlin Yoder, who seemed to be running a pace I was comfortable with. Tucker joined us for a bit, but not liking the pace, dropped back with Deb.

Marlin Yoder and Steve Pero at the Catherine Furnace aid station

Marlin and I stayed together until the Fridley Gap aid station with the nice creek running alongside the trail. Marlin had to stop for a minute as we came down into the aid station and I left shortly before he got in. He then hooked up with Jamie Groff and that was the end of that! I would see them in the aid stations, but could no longer and didn't care to stay on the pace they were running...plus I found out that they were only going part of the way, so I "should' back off. My plans were to finish.

Marlin and Jamie go by on the steep climb out of the Fridley Gap aid station

Just before going up the road to the Vista aid station, I ran into Dennis Herr, who was there helping out and ridding his bike around. It was great to see Dennis and I followed him up the steep road to the Vista aid station, which was run by Sophie and her daughter, Virginia.

Dennis, Quatro, Sophie, Marlin, Gary and Jamie at the Vista aid station

Somewhere after the Vista aid station my stomach started to do it's usual thing, so I immediately ate a gel, which can sometimes make it not feel as bad and it worked. The trail after the Vista to the next aid station was really a nice one, even though it was cold and windy up there. I had to put my gloves on for the first time today.

Coming into the next aid (2nd to last) I again ran into Marlin and Jamie standing there eating. Jamie knew Marlin was leaving to go home soon and was planning on hooking up with me, but I was beginning to get tired and had no desire to push the pace anymore...it's time to enjoy myself, so I held back a bit taking pictures while they "ran" up the road. I walked....fast mind you, but I did walk that long uphill.

Next up was the purple trail, which after a steep climb, showed some great views of the Shenandoah Valley that Keith mentioned to me while he was running down the road. So when I reached the top of the climb I turned around and saw this.

The Shenandoah Valley as viewed from the top of the purple blazed trail

Then it was time to run down the Purple to the Fridley Gap aid station again, the purple trail seemed to go on longer than I expected, but I was getting tired and that is to be expected. When I got in to the aid station, I drank another Ensure (actually the maltodextrin based Glucerna) and headed out. I was ready to get this thing done!

Wendy and Pam at the Fridley Gap aid station
(thanks for the pickles)

Up and then down the Massanutten (Orange) trail to the Bird Knob Road, then to Catherine's aid station, which is the last one. But just as I reach the road at the foot of the Massanutten trail, I slipped on some mud and went down on my back, hitting my head on a boulder. I was seeing stars! Then when I got up and started running, my bottle was splashing all over my back from the cap partially popping off, so after fixing that I headed down the road, running as much of it as I felt like, which was almost the whole thing. My stomach was really not feeling well now after the fall and didn't feel like being nauseous for the last 11 miles. Thinking of what I could do about that, I remembered I stashed some of the Zombie ginger chews I got with our last order. Let me say up front that I absolutely despise the taste of raw ginger and when I put it in my mouth to me it tasted like a piece of soap. Not something you'd want in your mouth....but I went with it, running down the road, letting the ginger melt slowly. And you know what? It worked! By the time I reached the aid station, my stomach was feeling better, but I still didn't want to put anything in my stomach, much to Gary's insisting. "You can't make it on no carbs, Steve!" I told him I finished the last 25 miles of Hardrock on fat fuel alone just by slowing the pace down and that was my plan here. I didn't want to puke up any food I took in. Mike Bur (fellow Hardrocker) agreed and off I went...

After reaching the top of the Purple trail and down the other side, this is a left turn we couldn't miss

So off I went, 9.2 miles to go, Gary telling me to be sure to not miss the pink trail near the top of the climb. So I watched for the pink trail with intent and got on it. Here it started to rain and soon it got dark, so out with the light. Dave had told me back at the aid station that the pink trail was a "sweet" trail. Well maybe when you haven't run 45 miles....and it wasn't dark....and wasn't raining...and your feet didn't hurt....and your stomach felt like puking. Oh yeah, that was back, too. but I knew it wasn't too far, so I plugged along and when I reached the top of that climb I ran and ran the best I could. I wanted to finish under 14 hours (9PM) and according to my watch, I had plenty of time to do that!

The last shot I took before it began to rain hard and got dark
Yes, this is the trail...

Next up to look for is the Orange blazed Massanutten trail again...I ran down, down, slipped on the steep parts, in the mud. Every now and then there was a real rocky section, so I'd walk those. Then I came to a road, I heard cars, I saw lights. I kept going....Sonny's Place? WTF! I looked at my map and it sure looked like at the bottom of the pink trail you came to a road and then took a right on the Orange trail, so I walked back up and saw an orange blaze to my right and one ahead of me , so I took the right turn thinking it was the way to the Rte 211 parking area and finish. I went up this trail, folowing the orange blazes when all of a sudden they turned white! So I turned around again until I saw Orange and saw that it went up to the right...and I know we don't go uphill that much to the finish, so I looked at the map and saw the mention of the Wildflower white blazed trail and in my tired head thought that meant to follow that, so I did....all the way to the Visitor's center. NOW I know where I am, I recognize this from the 100!! Oh, crap!

The Massanutten Visitor Center
No, I didn't take this photo, it was too dark, all MMT100 vets will recognize this

So I turned around, knowing now that sub 14 is gone and people are coming in while I stumble around in the dark and cold and rain. I then decided that the only thing to do is to go all the way back to the pink trail. That's what we as trailrunners know is the thing to do if you lose your way, go back to where you still knew you were going right....so I did. And there it was! The Orange blaze on the left (as I was coming up the wrong way on the pink trail), but it was hidden on the other side of the tree from the way we were coming. I should have known to look more intently on anything that looked like a trail. My stupid....

I went down the trail and ended up in the thick woods....missed a turn again. This is getting frustrating. I see the trail dropping down into the woods and follow that and end up off trail again. This trail is hard to follow on a good day in the light when it's marked, I remember that from marking it for the 100 last May, so I marked it extra special for the last runners.

I finally make it to the finish to find that I had lost at least 40 minutes, maybe more and was lucky in that only 4 runners had come in while I was wandering up near the Visitor's center.
Well, I know I had a good day running and it would have been somewhere under 14 hours in 4th place. I can't complain about that....and besides, this wasn't a race, right? It was a fat Ass ;-)

A worried Gary Knipling welcoming me back home
(Quatro Hubbard photo)

That's it, we're done for the year....time to recover, rest for Hardrock training which begins after Jan 1st with some easy and shorter training runs. I'll finish up by saying that this course is without a doubt "the" hardest 50 mile course I have ever run. I always thought that San Juan Solstice 50 in Colorado was it, but that took me 13:20...the Wapack 50 in NH last Summer took me 13:15, the Pittsfield Peaks 53 in Vermont last Summer took me 12:55. Even the MMD 50K in the White Mountains in NH took me over 13 hours! SMUT 50 took me 14:35!!!! Even if I had come in when I thought it would have been around 13:55!!!! nuff said!

Deb and Tucker (yes, he ran the full distance, too) stayed together all day and finished feeling strong all day long. This was a distance record for the boy...

Deb and Tucker leaving the Vista aid station

You can view the rest of my pictures here...

The race link and eventual results you can view here...

Here are the unofficial results:
29 starters, 17 finishers.

Brad Hinton 11:23
Vince Bowman 11:24
Karsten Brown 12:04
David Snipes 14:23
Jim Daniels 14:24
Michele Harmon 14:30 (1st female)
Joe Clapper 14:30
Steve Pero 14:35
John Nelson 14:57
Steve Boutilier 15:41
Beth Weisenborn 15:41
Alan Gowen 15:41
Tucker Pero 15:43 (1st dog)
Debra Pero 15:44
Paul Sherlock 15:50
Barbara Isom 16:16
Vicki Kendall 16:16
Gary Lukacs 16:16

So that's it....I'll be writing a small year end report before starting next year's posts.
Until then, have a great Fall!
Steve, Deb and Tucker