Last training for MMT [Day546]

I posted on other social media about this last run. However, I did not go into too much details. It was quite a fun adventure, I lost a glove twice that night, same pair, and I got lost myself when I decided to back track to look for it the second time. Yes, how can you get lost by backtracking, but you can! All I am saying is it meant to be lost. The training run went well overall. I finished by 3 am. I stayed for the night and did an extra run the next day. Here is the full scope.

Last year I was trying to run the MMT 100. Someone (Iris) suggested that I should do their training runs. I was nervous because they called their training runs the Massanutten Academy! You have to apply for it! Later I found out it was just a silly thing. The runs are free. Anyone can join. There were four training runs spanned over four months before the race. And you can sign up each one individually with no commitment to go to the next one or even have to be registered for the MMT race itself. The actual race is in May.

This year I heard about it early and I signed up for all four runs. Tonight training was the last of the four.

The training runs were to be on the actual course. Three of them would be enough to cover every mile of the course. The last one was a bonus night run on the hardest and final section of the MMT course.

This was the section that derailed my race last year. It was also the night time. The training was very important in planning how to deal with it this year. The third training already covered the similar ground. Just having it at night gives the actual race day condition since most of us would arrive at this section some point when we were most tired and vulnerable and the hardest section. Most of us could do well during the day time, but night time when we are out of our comfort zone, that is where it gets hard.

The MMT 4th training event started at 7 pm. I arrived before 4 pm, first to get a parking spot, and second to do some day time exploring. One other car also arrived before me. They were already out running by the time I pulled in. Though they and I would all be back at the parking lot to sign in at 7 to start with the rest. There were more than 50 of us running this.

There was a mile stretch from the Picnic Area aid station to Rt 211 Parking Lot. Last year, this section took me an hour to cover (maybe around mile 87-88 in the real race). So I went out on it to figure out why and to get a better feel of the trail. Indeed, during day time and being full of energy, I had no problem with this section. I walked back and forth at least twice. I learned the trail cold. I was confident I could do this little section on race day. Funny how seemingly I made an ant hill into a mountain last year. There were a lot of this kind of aha moments during the training run.

By 6 pm the rest of the runners showed up. We had a full house. Some people came from far away like Ohio and Pennsylvania to do this training run. The race director (the night event coordinator Larry) and a few also said this year had the most turnouts.

By a little before 7 pm, we took a group picture and crossed over Rt 211 to begin the run. The traffic stopped for us. I met a lot of friends I made previously on other trainings, Amanda, Costi, Stuart, Carl, Jeff, Morty, and some I couldn’t remember the name, but seeing them again brought happiness. Many will be running in the real race in May.

I started out slowly. Many and all passed me. Amanda and I were ones left behind, as usual, and I called myself an unofficial sweeper. Generally, in a race there is a person to pick up trashes and take care of people in the back and that is the sweeper. That was fine with me. Amanda set a good walking pace and I did not mind unlike last year where I tried to get ahead of slowpokes. I know this was a run, and last year I did run it. I knew I wanted the race day pace. No need to run faster than that. Amanda dialed it in perfectly. I knew I would make the midnight halfway point cut off at the Visitor Center.

I knew Amanda from last year training runs. She was a friend of a friend. Her pacer Ram, was an amazing helper to me during my Devil Dog 100. I am forever grateful to him. Amanda has not done well in recent races. Tonight was the first time I saw her again. Well, I met her once at Stone Mill 50 last November but we did not get a chance to catch up in that race.

There were a time we were alone. It was uphill. We got on the Orange trail after an hour in. Night was coming. We caught up to John. Amanda did not pass John. I was kind of impatient but I held my tongue. At the time, I did not know who John was.

John started to talk about various things. He was not training for the MMT, his wife, I think is. He ran the MMT last year. This year he is training for the Eastern States 100. If you know Eastern States is a very hard race and I don’t think I can run it. He got my respect when he mentioned that. John has done the Barkley. I was not sure if that the fall classic or the real Barkley. Wow I was in the present of a superstar (I met a few that night). Indeed duing the uphill section, John was very strong. There was no way I would be able to pass him and I was glad I did not because I would have made an ass out of myself later.

We reached the top when the last light was fading. It was around 8:45. We then was racing downhill. We caught with John’s wife Charleen. I then realized this couple were manning the aid station on the last MMT training. They know me but I didn’t know them by name until this run.

sunset, as we were about to descend into Gap Creek II (Amanda was up ahead, right behind John. The bright light is from John. He was using a chest lamp as well as a head torch)

This hill tonight seemed easy. It took us only couple hours to reach here. With maybe 3 hours left to get down onto Gap Creek II station, climb Jawbone, and traverse over Kerns, and run to Visitor Center. The cutoff is around midnight at the Visitor Center. I was confident we would make it even though there was a lot of miles to go.

Getting over the first hill, here at Scothorn trail was what led me a DNF during last year MMT. It was incredible hard between mile 90-95. I just could not bring forth any energy at the time.

It did not seem that hard tonight. Charleen set a good downhill speed. We reached the road pavement. John led us across the creek with our feet kept dry. Once on the road, Charleen, Amanda and I raced to the aid station about a mile to 2 miles away. It was a long run but we held a steady pace at least of 12 min mile or faster. Might even be at 10 mins but none of us were out of breath. John fell behind.

At the aid station, we all did our various things. Some used the restroom behind some trees. Some readjusted their pack, or put on layers. Temperture was dropping. We started the run in upper 60s but very soon, we were feeling it was in the low 50s and we knew it would continue to fall to low 30s by midnight. I started to see my own breath. I refilled my water. Got some sodas, and cookie chips. This was the last stop before midnight. The time was around 9 pm. We had a long way to go.

In the 100 mile race, after Creek Gap II, we would have 5 miles of road to the finish. However, tonight, we changed to Gap Creek I (mile 65-67 in the MMT course) by going to Kerns Mountain. Kerns Mountain is the roughest section in the whole race in my opinion. The first time I was on this, I had to used hands and knees, ya, crawling over rocks and boulders. It was slow going.

But first we had to climb Jawbone. John and Charleen led the pack (John caught back up). I took the last position. Halfway up, Stuart and another guy went the wrong way and we found them while they were backtracking. So our group of 4 became a group of 6. It was a joy to have a bigger group. I met Stuart from previous runs.

Amanda could not keep up with John’s pace and she stopped for a break. I stayed with her while the rest of the group continued on. Stuart and his friend passed us. Again I was in the last position.

Tonight I was not in a rush. I wanted to simulate my race day pace. Precisely going up Jawbone was what messed me up last year. People were passing me on this section, and it was about 2 am at the time, and I became anxious during the race to push extra hard. I became even more out of breath, etc. It ended up costing me more time later on (of 6 hours to traverse Kerns instead of 2 hours).

Tonight, when Amanda decided to stop for a breather, I stopped too. Amanda was much better this year compared to last year. She got sick last year. She only stopped once ascending Jawbone.

When we got to Kerns, we caught back up with John and his group. Amanda kept a close pace behind them. I kept a looser pace. If it was an easier section I could hop over rocks and catch up easily. However, I took extra time in more difficult sections. Most of the time, we were 50-100 yards apart. Sometimes though I could get right behind them.

What I learned tonight was my balance had improved since a month ago. I had trouble on this section previously and that was during day time. Now at night, even without shining light on the path, my feet found their footing. It was almost like I couldn’t fall. I hit all the right rocks. My ankles were strong. I was not tripping or rolling my ankles or slipping. Every step was sure and full of confident. I was moving at a good pace. I could run it if I wanted. I walked fast and at times I tried running. All system was good.

Kerns was a long section. I was more mentally prepared. Soon though we reached Q’s view. We know we would be near to Crisman Road. Once on the road, we would run again. We were ahead of our pace. We had maybe two miles to reach the (Massanutten’s) Visitor Center. Amanda put on a steady pace. We left John and Charleen behind. Soon we caught up to Stuart and his companion. We went on to passed some other people.

There was a white van near the end of this section. Some runners were concern about the van following them, especially female runners. The time was near midnight and we were on a remote trail. There shouldn’t be anyone driving around on this part of mountain. One runner was scared enough and waited for us to join up so we would pass the van together. The van seemed to be stalking us. Amanda mentioned she had similar experience last year and she had to hide in the woods until the van disappeared.

We had no more scary incident afterward. We crossed over Rt 211 to the Visitor Center. There were a whole crew of people waiting for us.

I flopped down to the nearest camp chair next to the firepit. We made the cut off. It was a little passed 11:30. I believed I stayed for nearly 20 minutes. Soon I remembered I needed to fill up my hydration pack. John and Charleen would not do the next half but instead going to hike two miles back to Rt 211 parking where our cars were parked.

I grabbed some fries and peirogis from Dan (our MMT RD, overlord). Amanda was waiting for me. I thought her husband was coming to pace her and I didn’t know she was waiting for me otherwise I would have been quicker at the aid station.

We set off for Bird Knob. Stuart and his friend just arrived and we couldn’t wait for them. In the 100 mile race, this was an even harder climb after Kerns Mountain. I blacked out on this section during last year race. Tonight though I was full of energy. I let Amanda lead. It was a hard climb up. The moon came out. I believe it was a full moon.

Once on Bird Knob, it was not too bad. It was just long. We reached the purple trail. We almost missed it but Amanda had good sense once we passed it, she knew. We knew to back tracked. We found the purple trailhead. Someone had knocked down the post indicating the turn.

Purple to pink trail was not hard to find. Indeed it was long section too, maybe 6-8 miles. It took us like three hours. We reached the picnic area and made the turn on the Orange trail. Lucky we did not miss the trail but we found two other people who missed it. A third person was hurt and stayed at the Picnic Area to be picked up. We did not know until we finished. We had a mile to go to get back to 211 parking. Amanda was very good here. We arrived at 3:20.

Meaning the entire 25 miles took us 8 hours and 20 minutes. Meaning for the 100 mile, it would took us 33:20 hour:min. This is definitely an acceptable time. The race cutoff for this year is 36 hours. I felt I was only using 30 % of my effort. I was not rushing. I felt at this slow walking pace I definitely would make the final cutoff on race day.

I told Amanda, she has to keep this pace to finish and keep the time at the aid stations short. Not like tonight because I spent ungodly amount of time at the Visitor Center. Got to keep it down to 5 mins or less. In the real race, we have a total of 2:30 hours for aid stations and pace slowdown due to being tired. If there will be 10 stations, then we could stay up to 15 minutes, but of there will be close to 20 stations, we can only stay at most 7 mins. So, plan the stops carefully.

Conclusion: We were the last two out of 50 runners. By keeping a steady walking pace, we ended up passing about 6-7 people and we were no longer the DFL (dead fricking last). If we keep this same strategy of not rushing, we could do the same on race day. It does not matter which position we start in but which position we will finish. If we finish around 33 hours, we would be ahead of maybe 50 people!

My personal plan is — likely on race day, I will be going at the same pace as Amanda, till mile 62-67. I will ram up the pace as we near the end. I know it is easier to say than done. If Amanda could keep up with me, we will finish together. By 50 miles, I know whether she will be able to keep up or not. She will have a team of pacers helping her after mile 50. I plan to do Kerns Mountain and the few sections after at a faster pace than last year. I think this time I will finish it. The web signup, puts me in the 32 hours finish time. Last year, I would not believe this, but this time after finishing Blackbeard’s Revenge in 26 hours, I believe I am capable of the MMT under 32 hours.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: