TL:DR; final shake out run before the real thing
I went out to redeem myself from being kicked after 13 miles on my last training run a month ago. This time, I said I would keep with the pack and avoid the cut-off. This is the last official training (actually bonus training run) for the MMT 100 race. I joined them for 3 of them.
This one was specifically held at night to give us the feel of the night and final portion of the race. We met at 6 in the evening and I was there a little after 5 in the afternoon. I lie around trying to catch some sleep, knowing I needed it. There were 20-30 people running this, much less than before maybe due to Easter and also it was a night run. Not all of them will be doing the real race in May. Many people have no vested interest to show up in the middle of nowhere for a night run. We started off on time at 7, with about an hour of daylight left. Many only do half of the run so they could go back home and sleep.
I knew my own pace and settled in the back. I passed a couple others I knew who probably would not run the whole thing.
I recognized Amanda from previous training runs. She and I had about a similar pace. I told her, I would make the cut off this time. She asked what time I think the cut off would be? I took a random guess maybe at midnight, 5 hours (as it was about 5 hours last time, and I was cut). That would be my goal any way to get there before midnight, There being the Visitor Center, our first official aid station. We were spoiled by RD’s wife set up an unofficial aid station at Gap Creek (around mile 6 tonight, I think in the race it would be about mile 70) just before we made the hard climb to Jawbone and Kerns Mountain.
I was strong climbing up to Jawbone. I waited for Amanda at the top. She seemed to be having a bit of trouble. Later on she said she had some stomach issue and threw up in the second half, but she did finish. She actually looked stronger this time than when I first met her.
After reaching Jawbone, we continued on the ridge of Kerns Mountain, which was the hardest section tonight I think. By then the sun had set and the moon rose over the mountain.
We had a full moon. However, I was having a hard time seeing the trail. Several times I ran off trails unknowingly. Amanda was pretty quick with downhills. I noticed many people were pretty quick with their downhills. I have not built up my trust with my feet to be willing to run downhill. I was a bit rusty. During my first training run, I was going to train on this aspect, but I pulled my hamstring and was out for 8 weeks. Actually, now 12 weeks since, my hamstring is only about 98% healed. There occasionally still is a slight pull or stiffness. Long story short, I haven’t had the opportunity to truly train on the fundamentals for this race. My breathing and muscles are pretty good now after three months, but I could have been better with my foot technique.
We finished Kerns Mountain by 11:22 pm and we reached the true Aid Station at the Visitor Center before midnight. I was happy to have caught up with the others. They didn’t want to run on the road portion. I love the road and was able to catch up. There were five or six others there, but when they took off I was not able to catch them again.
The next section was uneventful. We climbed Bird Knob. On the last training, I felt this was a hard accent, but, today, it was not too difficult for me. Amanda was behind me for a little while but then she disappeared (later she told us she was throwing up). Her pacer, Ram, was with her. I was by myself until the road portion. I made all the correct turns. I caught up with another pair of runners, Tracy and John. We climbed the Roaring Run together. They were much faster than me with the descent. I wouldn’t see them again until I reached the finish.
The remaining 6 miles were long and boring. It was mostly downhill. I passed someone camping by the trail. It was around 2 am and I hope I didn’t wake the person. I crossed numerous streams. When I ran this section a month ago, I was able to keep my shoes dry, but this time, I stepped into every puddle and crossing. It was hard to see at night, so might as well just walk right through them. I realize what is difficult about night running is you lose your depth perception. The creek might be an inch deep or a foot deep. They look the same. Same with rocks. Sometimes when I step over rocks instead of on top of them, I might drop down 4-6 inches and it was always a surprise how further down I get. Your mind might tell you it is a little drop and it ended up you being a couple feet down. It can be very scary and easy to lose your balance.
My hope was to be able to finish by 3:30 am. The time ticked by and that goal became unreacheable. There was just maybe a mile left. It was always so near yet not there. I finally made it back to the start at 4:00 am. Amanda was just 15 minutes behind me.
Reflecting on this, I was 15 min late too, if there was a cut-off. When in the actual race, I should aim for 8:30-8:45 for every 25 miles. The race is 102 miles long. We have 35 hours to do it. So I am really on the borderline of being cut since I used 9 hours for 26 miles, meaning 36 hours for 104 miles (you should always add a few miles for a long race for contingency like getting lost/off trail, or inaccurate course measurement). I would be cut at maybe mile 94-96. I realized tonight, I tarried about 30 minutes at the aid stations, otherwise I could have finished by 3:30. I also waited for Amanda for about 15 mins. In theory I could have done it within 8 hours. If I could be quicker on race day at aid stations, I would be fine.
I compare myself with my fellow runner Amanda because in the last three training runs we were the last to finish. I think on race day, both of us are in danger of being cut. I know I am a tad faster than her, but not by much. She definitely improved dramatically since I first met her. She is my metric. I am thinking of working her into my race day’s strategy. I have not decided yet, whether going out fast, then she will catch up to me at mile 70 and hopefully then we will finish together, using each other for support. Alternatively, I will keep at her pace throughout (but if she screws, I will be as well) at least until mile 70 and then I will break out. This would be ideal. It’s a lot of trust to put my race into someone’s hand. This benefits me from not going out too fast, yet I think I don’t have the patience to be slow on race day.
Theoretically I have a couple more weeks to fix what needed fixing, however, this is likely it. I plan to go for two more runs to fine tune it but no one can tell what will happen.