Day533 MMT Trn2

The second training run for MMT went better than the first (Trn1). There are two more left before the race in May. This training run was a lot easier than the first one and I met quite a lot of people.

MMT is one of the three signature races I will be running in 2023. By signature, I mean A-goal races. I have many races lined up, but 100 mile are my jam now. MMT, specially, I have a thing for it because I did not finish it last year and a reason I need to do better this time. 100 mile for me, has a 50-50 chance of finishing, so it is more exciting compares to other races I do.

Preparing for training run #2 was as hectic as the first. You would think, I am doing this almost every week, you would think I got the system down. My original plan was to leave work on time (and maybe even a bit early) and then head to the trail for camping since we would have to be there by 5 in the morning. I was hoping to camp out, so I would have more time to sleep.

As much as I wanted to start out early, I was kept late at work (and it seemed to be a pattern lately). Not blaming. I had a last minute urgent assignment as I was preparing to leave. I bursted a few veins. I wanted to say I’m off but it was urgent. I was just miffed, and the endless frustration of being ruined by outside factors.

I left with a choice of facing it or pushing back. I took a deep breath and handled the work. I did not get out of work until couple hours later and camping out was out of the question by then. It could still be done, but I didn’t want to wander about in the dark when I was likely to be cold, tired, hungry, and mentally tilted. My evening plan was ruined and it was not a great start to the weekend.

I stayed home Friday night instead and stayed up late and got about couple hours of sleep, before setting out. I had the alarm set for 3 am. I already was dressed before going to bed, so didn’t need chamging after getting up, but still it was hard to get up and get into the car and drive. I spent about 30 mins to clear the drowsiness. It was good my body responded well and I was fully alert by the time I set out. Lately, I have been having interrupted sleep, so catching a 2 hour sleep was pretty normal. I didn’t have any side effect from the lack of sleep during the day.

The parking lot at Camp Roosevelt (we used the horse parking lot) trailhead was tiny, so I had to get there early to get a spot because we tried to get 50 cars in there. This is the same lot for the Kennedy Peak hike. Note, Camp Roosevelt is closed in the winter.

This training was a point to point 30-mile run unlike last year. Coordinating rides is kind of a pain but we got a system. We parked at the finish and the “faster” runners would bus us (carpool) to the start. The idea is we the slower runners would run at our own pace and get back to our cars without pressure of having to find a ride back to the start. Basically the shy people as long as they get a ride to the start, shouldn’t worry about having a ride afterward.

Whereas the faster runners, would run faster and likely be able to find someone to give them a ride back to their cars once done. They shouldn’t have to wait for long. The slower runners would not need to wait at all. This system usually works out fine. Anyway, since I am one of slower runners, I need to get to the lot early to get my parking space so don’t have to drive to the start location, otherwise, I could be left without a ride.

The day was exceptional mild for winter. We had a warm Friday. It carried into Saturday, though a winter storm was forecasted for Sunday. We were lucky to have the run happened before the storm hit. The temperature was warm like the previous the night. Early hours the temperature was a bit nippy. The coldest time was around 7 am in the morning. Throughout the day the temperature was well above 40 F, around mid forties, which was just the right temperature for some hard running. We had great sunshine.

I dressed in my usual running clothes. Two layers, a short sleeves over a long sleeves tech shirt. I had a long pants on but most people wore shorts. I had gloves and neck buff, though probably not needed, but it was better overdressed than underdressed for a wilderness run. I carried a puffy jacket too, plus a rain jacket. The jackets were just for emergency. It was definitely whole lot better than last weekend or the first training run when I was freezing.

We signed in. Handed over our snacks and water. This training run had a communal potluck style snack for aid stations. We each bring something and everyone share the food for the aid stations. We had two aid stations. First one was at the 8.5 mile and the second one was at the 19 or 20 mile. There were 48 runners. Plus a few volunteers too. Some of them ran a portion of the trail.

I found myself a ride to the start with Tony, who was driving a van that was converted to a sleeping van (like a mobile home). I have seen them at some events where those runners drove their vans to races and sleep in them. This was a fancy van, almost like an RV. He has a cot, a bucket toilet, an icebox cooler, some totes, and race clothes and water packs hanging along the wall. I thought it was so cool to be inside of one in-person. About 10 of us fit inside. We had only 3 seats with seatbelts, not including the driver. The rest had to sit on the floor or on various objects. This was probably not safe or legal, but hey, we did what we need to do. I probably shouldn’t post about this 😉

I and couple others got the cot. Someone (Heather) sat on a toilet bucket. Dan sat on the cooler. It was quite an interesting rides. We had two conversations going on. People up front had theirs and we in the back had ours. Heather was quite talkative. She believed she saw me somewhere before, likely at an aid stations she thinks. They were talking about the revenge MMT they ran in the fall and it was much harder than the real MMT were about to go on. We had a jolly ride at 5 am in the morning.

At the time I didn’t know Tony, the driver of the van, but we met again while on the trail. He and I was able to share about 5 – 6 miles alone with him. We slogged up the mountain while no one talked. But Tony and I were ones who outran our group on the way down. He and I had a decent conversation. Tony will be doing a 200 mile at the TWOT this coming Wednesday (today). I wrote about the TWOT last week — I mislabeled it as the TROT, but it should be TWOT, stands for The Wild Oak Trail.

I finally met in-person someone who is attempting a 200 mile. It is one of my goals too to break into the 200 mile world. One hundred mile race is hard, but I want to know how it is like doing a 200 mile. To me, it is impossible. You would ask what did I say to the man, maybe getting some tips? I enjoyed the one on one time with him while running from Shaw Gap and to Veach Gap. He was without ego. We chatted random stuff, mostly on the MMT and my experience last year. I was very happy.

Tony turned around at the first aid station. He only wanted about 19 mile that day. Also Tony will be doing the MMT, so I will see Tony again on race day.

The training helped me familarize with the course again. I had been on it last year but most of the turns were hazy in my mind since. For example, at Shaw Gap, we go through the saddle. Logically I felt turning left should be what we should take, but going through it was actually the correct way to get off the mountain. This part was completely not stored in my memory last year. I think because it was uneventful and I did not remember running on the road from Shaw Gap to Veach Gap. We passed by Sherman Trail, mentioning it because I’ve read about it on some other training run plans, but did not know it was there.

Ascending on Veach was not as difficult as I had thought. I was joined by a father and son team. Jeff is a local Eddingburg’s resident. He is a good guy and a straight shooter. I felt embarrass when he addressed me as Sir in every sentence, like the military way, and he could be my father. He has a southern/country side accent and southern charm. Maybe that what country people do. Do I call him Sir back? Later I learned everyone loves Jeff. We shared the trail until we got Indian Run. Descending from Indian Run to the road, we met Bob G. Bob was the last finisher of last year MMT. He is in his 80s, yet still a strong trail runner. Bob is a colorful person in our running group and he is seen in all races. Everyone knows Bob as well. This guy is a legend.

Two stories here. First Jeff and another older gentleman, we met at Indian Run. These folks are at least over 65. Yet they can run. I was overtaken by them. Indian Run is a steep downhill for us coming off from the MMT at the ridge, probably the steepest on the whole MMT course. One mistep would cause the runner to tumbling down the mountain and forever disappear into the ravine. Yet, Jeff and others started flying down the hill. I love to see when runners get excited. Note, they were pretty slow earlier, slow enough for me to be ahead of them. Luckily I stepped aside to let them lead to avoid embarrassing myself. They earned my respect of how good they were going down hills. They were indeed pro runners. I could not keep up after couple steps, and they disappeared after a turn. I know they were alright, but at the same time how vastly inferior I am in term of skills. They were fearless. Note, I generally run down hills too but this was too steep and rocky for me.

We met Bob at the end of the Indian Trail and Bob engaged in a long recount about Jeff on last year MMT. Apparently Jeff and Bob were leapfroging one another during the MMT race. Jeff mentioned how Bob cursed like never before when he fell and broke a rib. Note, Bob went on to finish the race. Bob was praising Jeff of his resilency of not quitting even though he was down 5 times (Bob said Jeff was dead 5 times and each time resurrected). Bob joked how Jeff left him each time after he recovered, but Bob would catch back up. Their stories were captivating to the rest of us. Everyone stopped to listen. It reminded me at the Devil Dog, when Jimmy, a runner I was with, greeted Bob by saying: Shut up Bob! Bob likes it. Of course, Jimmy doesn’t mean it. Note Bob was a former general, and it was just weird with the disrespect. But Bob too doesn’t carry an ego. Bob also praised Jimmy today, though he wasn’t present, about him being a good pacer. Jimmy will be pacing a friend at the MMT this year. I was like Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration, tongue-tied, before Jeff and Bob.

My MMT story was too humbling. I dropped out at mile 95 while these two older gentlemen, frail, but finishing the race and even one of them did it with a broken rib. They were at another level. I told Jeff if he sees me at the MMT and I was not doing well, please slap me or something to get me moving. I want to be with these older people.

After getting down from Indian Run, Charlie and a bunch of other runners caught up to me and Jeff. Because Jeff was walking for his son/grandson’s sake, so I joined up with Charlie. The young man seems to have an injury before the run. Both his ankles were taped up. I didn’t ask. Yet the young man also flew down the mountain earlier, so I wasn’t too concern, but Jeff was checking on him every mile or so, like how his foot.

You know on the first training run, there were three runners I was with for the whole run, yet I felt being mostly ignored by them. Guess what, they were back in this training run as expected. I believe I will be partner with them in the race because our paces were nearly identical.

I didn’t recognize them though and didn’t make the connection until later, but they were Charlie and his friends. As I mentioned in previous post, I didn’t blame them or anything. It is just the nature of the run or maybe something weird that day I didn’t hit it off with people. It was just bad vibe and a bad day. The vibe on this run was much better. All was forgotten and forgiven. Of course, they know me before I recognize them.

This training run though, the trio were spread out. Charlie was running by himself, leading. The road portion was boring. Charlie was one of the few who ran in a decent pace. He and I outran everyone else of the people he was with and there were about 10 of us at the time. I needed a companion to get me through the road portion. Charlie had a nice pace going and I joined in. We together made it to the second aid station, at Habron Gap (some called it Hasbro, we couldn’t decide if it is a long A as in Hay, or short a sound, as in Hat, we asked the local Jeff, but he didn’t know either, he said he heard it both ways). Since this was only a training run, we stayed there for a while until the rest of the people caught up.

Habron has the hardest climb of the entire MMT course. In my memory it was the toughest ascend. Today, the climb did not seem too bad. We had fresh legs relatively speaking, only 20 miles in instead of 50. It was quite gentle with switch backs, we got up to the top in an hour or so. In theory, it is runnable. I had many rougher climbs than this one. Personally, I think Duncan, Jawbone, Scothorn or Bird Knob is much harder. Yes, all the later climbs (wait for the 3rd Training run).

When we got to the top, we had to make a sharp left. More story happened here later. Habron trail seemed to go straight over to the saddle. However, the trail and blazes would end soon on the other side. Some runners (3) went straight and down on the other side, included one of Charlie’s friend Stu. We almost went down the other side too until Charlie stopped us and we saw the orange blaze on trail to the left of it. Note both trails were to the left. MMT has a sharper left.

The rest of the run was kind of easy. It was about 2.7 miles to Stevens trail and then 4.8 miles to the road where our cars were. The descend on Steven’s was gentle but long. Charlie took off and disappeared. Coasty, who is Charlie’s friend, and I took our time descending. Coasty caught up to us at the Habron’s aid station. Stu was probably not too far back, but we didn’t see him and unfortunately he got lost.

I finished at 2:30 pm (8.5 hours since I started) for a total of 30.5 miles. It was not bad. We should be at 64-65 mile in the MMT race. In the race, this is the location when the race started to get hard for me last year. Honestly (ngl, not gonna lie), I almost cramped up running down Stevens trail on this training run.

Today though, the run was easy because we only had 30 miles. Afterward, we sat around the camp fire. A few of us were telling stories. Dan, the MMT RD also was there too. Boy, he had a lot of stories. Charline came in. Tracy came in. Tracy was one who ran the MMT a few times but is still chasing the buckle and like me, she failed at mile 95 all three times. Tracy and John were supposed to be the last runners today but they somehow leapfrogged the three others, who got lost. So, we were waiting for the last three runners to come in. One of the three was Stu, Charlie’s friend. Many people said they saw Stu while running. And we all concluded they must have gotten off course.

Indeed, they took the wrong trail down after Habron and they somehow managed to not find the trail to backtrack onto, since the trail disappeared. So decided to bushwhack for an hour to the top of the mountain to the ridgeline because there likely is the MMT trail. If they could get on the MMT, they could find their way to the finish. They were lucky that their guess was correct. Some got scratched up by thorns and threstles but at least they were able to get back. We joked that they ran the Barkley (the hardest marathon on earth).

PSA: Even on a training run, bring the essentials, map, compass, jacket, warm clothing, light, somenfood and water, because you don’t know if you would get lost and how long you might get stuck in the “wild”.

We were worried the runners would not able to find their ways off the mountain and night was approaching, plus a winter storm was forecasted, so it was not looking good to get lost out there. We were contemplating when to send out a search party. It would be us runners of re-running the trail again, even though the chance of encounter them could be low since they were not on the trail. However, none of us was willing at the time to go back out (we were really tired) unless necessary. We know in the past, runners had to find their own way out and the best chance for us was to wait. Besides, we were certain all three lost runners were together and seasoned, so their chance of “survival” was quite high. In the end, everyone was safe and sound.

The RD for the training run is the same RD for the TWOT and TWOT is my dream race. You bet I wanted to kiss up to the RD. I had a good day seeing the RD in operation up closed and what to do in an emergency situation. Also, the RD is one of my personal heros for his accomplishment at the TWOT. Plus Tony too was around too. Just unbelievable I could spend the day with these people.

Conclusion: I had one of best runs. It was certainly a good weekend I got to do something like this. I got to spent time with some cool people.

Forest Road portion after getting off Indian Run. We were heading to Habron
Nice clean trail, at the top of Veach I think or could be after Habron

On the ascend after Veach Gap. The time was around 8-9 am.

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