MMT report [Day557]

This is one of the more difficult race reports to write. It is harder than last year when I didn’t finish the race. Basically then I said I couldn’t finish and here are the reasons why. But when things went well, what is there to say?

This time, I finished. I am pleased. I am happy. I am smiling and clutching my buckle in my sleep. It was a perfect race. I could not ask for more. Yes there are rooms for improvement, etc. However, whatever I set off to do in this race was done and I hit each check point as expected. Everything was smooth and easy to allow me to finish the race.

I did not want to bored my readers. I really have nothing to say but also have so much to say about the race.

I didn’t have many pictures during the race since I am usually too anxious and focused. My phone died by the next day. I so wanted to take a photo at Q view. Here is the sunrise after Moreland Gap. Maybe 5 miles into the race. We had beautiful weather for running. I was with Mike at the time. He is a dear friend who helped me at the Devil dog. I met him at Stone Mill training run last year and he impromptu crewed me at the Devil Dog at the final 10 miles. This time I got to run with him!

Apologize in advance that this report won’t be my usual report. It might be I need more time for everything to sink in for me to make sense what I did. It was two years of intense training! I wanted this race so bad. Now I had it.

Race HQ and assembly area. My friends from PA running club were also running in this race. Seeing them here was a surprise. They asked if I am going to World Ends this year!
First AS, Mooreland Gap. water only. There were 15 AS plus 1 unofficial AS before Camp Roosevelt (someone hauled 20 1 Gal water jugs up on the mountain). It saved me.
My splits: I am not a data guy, but I was pretty much on my planned pace almost exactly like last year. Only thing different was I get off Kern Mountain faster, from AS 11-AS12 (1hr ahead of last year). It earned an extra hour of buffer time. It guaranteed I would finish. The stress was off once I reached Visitor Center. I knew even if I walk, I have enough time to do it. I had 10 hours to walk 22 miles. (note, I just notice my pace chart final time cut off is wrong, it should be 17:00 (5pm) not 16:00 (4pm).

My whole plan was trying keep my time of 9 hours every 25 miles. I knew I would be tired later on, so in the beginning, I was doing between 7.5 hours to 8 hours marathon.

I did not have the time for the 25.8 mi stop. I reached Indian Grave, mi 50.1 (halfway point) at 20:15, in 15.25 hours, so roughly on target for 31 hour finish.

It was a bit slower (45 mins) than last year. It was fine with me. I was aiming to make up time at the aid stations. Last year Habron, I used up a lot of time fixing my feet, this time I was aiming to be quicker at each station while making sure I had everything. This made a big difference. Always do things with a purpose!

The fun of the race really began after dark! Sunset while I was making my way to Habron. It had rained earlier around 3 pm. I did switch to a dry shirt once the rain stopped. My shoes and my shorts and underpants though were wet. I had rub burns/chafing in various places. It was nothing too severe but definitely not comfortable. I did not do anything at the time, hoping I could dry out and got some cream once I reached the aid station.

At Habron, I met Amanda. She had been ahead of me whole day. We trained together. I thought she would be struggling in this race, but she was doing very well. In training we were about at the same pace. We were targeted about 31 hour finishes. It was a relief to see she was ahead and doing well. I had throughout the day wondering where she was, whether she was behind me or in the front.

This year, I hit my pace perfectly so I did not pass many runners nor many runners passing me. There were more than 200 runners, but I came across probably about 50 people, of the bottom half. We were together in this group pretty much for the whole race.

I did see Tracy and other fellow runners whom I used for gauging my pace. I passed her very early on. I was hoping she would be around the next morning. I ran with another runner, who said she reached mile 88 before running out of time last year. She said she would finish with the extra hour given. I was too tired to see if she made it in. I was too expecting to be with her for a long time, but we separated as we were near mile 33. She said the heat is making her go slower. I was also with Jeff, whom I trained with. He finished around 35 hours. You kind of have to know those who run around your pace.

Stuart too is another story. I trained with him. Stuart is over 70 year old. I ran with his son last weekend. And my original race plan was to be with Stuart for the first half then pick up my pace the second half. However, I think at around mile 10, Stuart felt he was moving too slow (he took a tumble). He basically asked me to go ahead. I did because I did not want him to be uncomfortable having the pressure of pacing me. Stuart met me at the finish!

So without Stuart, my race plan changed. I would try to run like last year. The key point would the middle of the night whether I could save time. As it have it, I lost my pace sheet. It felt from my pocket. I was having a little runner fog at the time. I was losing things left and right. I lost my chocolate milk, unopened. It also felt off from my pocket. I lost my rain cap. Also fell off. Exactly how and when was beyond me. I lost my garmin watch, thought it fell off too but found it later after the race in my hydration pack. It was what is up with me. I decided not to put anything in that particular pocket.

I later then caught up to Charlie and Costi at mile 25. These trio were whom I met on the first training run. They were saying just like the first training run, we are together again. They snapped a picture of three of us running (only Stuart was missing this time). I stayed with Costi until Shaw Gap. I felt I couldn’t keep their pace. I rather run at my own pace (sometimes slower and sometimes faster). Because I like to run up hills and run down hills. Costi is a very steady pace guy. I felt either I bumped into him for going too fast or being left way behind. During at one of the aid stations, I got all I needed, but Charlie was still needing more time, I set off alone leaving Costi and Charlie. Costi later (next day) at mile 88 caught back up to me. He paced me up over the final climb to Scothorn and to the final aid station at Gap Creek. Charlie dropped at Habron (we haven’t heard from him except that he was ok).

The night was indeed fun for me. I was moving slower but none of the climbs were difficult. I got up from Habron Gap alright. A lot of people said that was a killer. It was the beginning of my unraveling last year. So this year, I was extra careful. Jim and Jamie both were knocked out by the climb. Jim was a guy whom I ran with at the Devil Dog. He has great patience. He is normally Jamie’s pacer but this year he was signed up to be a runner. I was shock to hear Jim got sick and dropped out at Roosevelt/Gap Creek. Jim was suffering from hypothermia and heat exhaustion. We had temperature around 45-55 F, plus the rain, yup, it would put one out. Jamie later recovered (next morning) and finished in 34 hours! I felt so bad if she had to drop too, but she hung on. Ram took over to pace both Jamie and Amanda. I offered to take Jamie but only found out that Jamie was sick and she politely turned down my offer fearing she might slow me down.

I took a bit more time than last year getting off from Habron to Roosevelt. It was fine. I was not in a rush as last year. The key part would be going from Gap Creek to Kern Mountain and to the Visitor Center.

At Roosevelt, I kept my break short, remembering I overstayed here last year. I did stock up on food. The night got cold. I had a short sleeve shirt but regretted I did not pack a long sleeve here. I took it along to double up, but found wearing two layers was too warm for me.

Duncan Hollow/Gap Creek was as muddy as the previous year. I knew I had a new pair to change into at the Aid Station. I hated my new shoes.

This probably could have been the breaking point of the race. They say don’t do anything new on race day. I went and brought two new pair shoes and used for this race. I wore a good shoes from mile start to mile 33. Then swapped out to a new pair from mile 33-64, and the moment I wore it I knew and asked myself what had I got myself into. Mile 64-70 I had a good pair. 70 to the finish I had the bad pair, but they were new! They both were unacceptable for trail run. They were as bad as they can be. I leave the brand/model unnamed. It is not the shoes but me who picked the wrong kind.

So I finished Gap Creek, I had a decision to make, switch into a pair of shoes that I hate or kept the muddy shoes I like a lot. Both would give me blisters except which one would give me more than the other. I chose to go with the new pair.

I could not run or hike with the new pair. It does not protect my toes nor my heels. It slided around. I felt every rocks. It did not have traction inside or on the outside. I had the most difficult time with them. There was nothing I could do about it. The next option was to go barefoot. From the ordeal, I learned about shoes. My previous sets of shoes (and they were all road shoes) had stronger/tougher sides and back of the heel. Also the top were tougher. There wouldn’t be any rocks poking me. These new pairs are so squishable. You could roll them into a ball. Now I know, how to choose shoes. Pick the hard ones.

I survived the night to say the least. Morning was glorious. Many runners became faster. 15-20 so runners picked up their paces and passed me. They were miserable at night when I passed them. Now they were running. I wish I could join them.

I could run too but my shoes limited my mobility. Walking was what I could do.

Bird Knob was easy. Many said that was a hard climb, not me. Last year I fainted (blacked out) on here. I got up there in no time at all this year. I was surprised when I reached the top expecting to have a few more hundred of feet to climb. I got to the Picnic Area by 11. There I picked up Wang (Sheng). Wang is an interesting guy. He picked up running a year ago and he is hooked. He is running a 100 mile race every month.

I only needed 5 minutes at the aid station, but Wang was tired and we stayed forever (20 mins plus). I did not mind. Volunters reminded me several times to leave. Finally Jim kicked us out (jokingly of course). Jim is a friend of Wang. Costi came and took off. I actually wanted to stay ahead of Costi because he was ‘slow’ at the time. However, I already said I would keep Wang company.

Wang started running. I could kind of follow with a fast walk. We caught up to Costi at the Rt211 parking lot, 2 miles later. Last year I was struggling at this two miles. This year, my pace was flying. There Me, Wang, Costi, and Costi’s Wife (pacer), together tackled the last 6 mile climb (it was probably 3 miles, but trust me, it felt like 6). It was noon like last year. Sun was hot, like last year.

Last year, that was my bonking point. This year, I was stronger. I felt it was impolite to pass the group, so I followed them.

It was a long climb. Costi was moving slowly. No one complained. I felt I could have run up this climb. We passed couple runners. Once we reached the top, Wang took off. He was pretty fast going down hill. So did Costi. They finished about an hour ahead. I had bad shoes so couldn’t run. I did not want to risk breaking my ankle at this point in the race. I slowly made my way down. The last 4.8 miles were tougher, since it was on pavement. I got to give it to Costi and Wang. They ran in. I in theory could and should run. However, I started bonking. Costi too, at Gap Creek II, he seemed to suffer from heat exhaustion and was a mess. I left him, but 10 mins later, he caught up. He ran. Walking was all I could muster. My feet hated the pavement. I slowly in two hours made the final 5 miles. The last mile was back on trail, but it was bad trail. I arrived by 3:37 pm, ahead of 35 hours of last year cut off. This year, the race allowed for 36 hours, so we had a bonus hour. That was what I set off to do to use last year 35 hour cutoff as my goal.

Sleep deprivation. I had a bit of sleep deprivation around midnight, but then Amanda and Ram showed up and they kept me awake until we reached Camp Roosevelt where I had a cup of coffee. There was no more issue until the afternoon. The second time I had sleep trouble was around 3 pm on the final stretch to the finish. I saw trees turning into people who were taking pictures of me but when I took a second look to smile and wave, they turned back into trees again. I felt stupid. Who knows they might have been people. My mind was pretty loopy at the time. I did make it to the finish. I slept not long after. I wanted to wait for all my slower friends to come in, but the body was too much. Amanda came in about 15 mins after me. I got to see her. I heard that Jeff came in too. He was struggling. Jeff (60+ year old) on the training run, ran faster than me.

What went well: food. drop bags were pretty much on key. I had that system worked out at the Devil Dog and the Black Beard 100. Pacing was generally good. I could in theory go a bit faster. We had both the rain and cold and the heat, but I survived them all.

Shoes: Get better shoes for trails. No more soft shoes.

Also I learned to carry lotion on me later in the race. I was applying lotion constantly and that kept the chafing at bay. The most important thing I learned from this race is to heal yourself while out on the course, and rely less on coming into the aid station.

I did have fun. I was more relaxed when there was no cut off to worry about. My average pace was around 22 mins the second half. It was a relaxing pace.

The end was anticlimatic. Since 7 am after I got off Kern I knew I would finish. Unlike last year. Last year at 7 AM, I was struggling with cut-offs until 2 pm when I was no longer able to make it. It was stressful to race from one station to the next, but this year, I had two hours to spare. It was not even nail-biting. I was kind of floating in. Thus I struggle to say, is that all?

Many friends congratulated me. I was happy having DNF’d last year and to overcome it this time. I knew many could not make it this year even with the extra time. It humbled me. It helped me made so many friends. They all knew how crushed I was last year. Training did help. I saw myself being transformed since Training Run #1, when I was out of shape. But by race day, I was ready for all the climbing. My body shape is still the same. I am still feeling “not fit” but at least I could “walk” a 100 mile under 35 hours.

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