On May 15th & 16th, I ran the 16th Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run in Virginia. The weather was great and I had a good day running in the mountains. For the race, I wore a pair of Roclite 315’s, which worked well for me on this course. Read on for a more detailed race report.
2010 Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Endurance Run
Race Report - Chris Reed
At about 9:00 PM Friday night we arrived at Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp. I wanted to acquaint myself with the location of the new start to rule out any navigational errors in the morning. This first person I saw was Gary Knipling who gave me a warm hello. I always love coming back to Virginia to run. Overall I spend a small amount of time in Virginia per year, but as soon as I come back for a race, it seems like I was just here yesterday and it feels like I have know the other runners for a lifetime. After we scoped out the start, we drove to our hotel in Woodstock and we made our final preparations for the race.
Godfrey (my father-in-law), Raj, and I woke up at 2:15 AM and got situated. Rose (my mother-in-law), Zia and Eshan awoke and wished me the best. Eshan said to me – daddy, you will get 2nd today. I was thrilled with his seeding, but pushed the envelope and asked him why not 1st? He said, that would be good also – we had a good laugh and I gave him a smile and a hug.
When we arrived back at Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp, I picked up my bib number and Raj, Godfrey, and I reviewed crewing details. The warm hello’s continued as more people arrived. And before I knew it, we were 10 seconds to the start of the race. 10 seconds later, we were running.
The first 11 miles were fairly uneventful for me. We ascended Short Mountain, which did not seem that bad, now that it was at the beginning of the race. I spent the first miles just trying to get into a conservative rhythm. My plan was to run the first half slowly and get into a relaxed state in hopes of saving steam for the 2nd half of the race. I was running in 7th when we hit the 2nd aid station at Edinburg Gap.
At Edinburg Gap I picked up some tunes and started jamming out the section to Superjudge. Soon I caught up with a runner, Don Patfield, who I had not raced with since 2008. It was nice to run with him for a bit, talk and catch up. I shared with him my pie-in-the-sky goal of breaking 20 hours and we talked about splits and the importance of putting time in the bank for the night hours. We got to aid station #3 – Woodstock Tower 3:30 hours into the race. I calculated I needed to run slightly more than 5 miles per hour. I was 25 minutes ahead of that goal now, and was satisfied.
The race pushed on and I got to my first of several low patches. It occurred between aid station Veach Gap (40.7 miles) and aid station Indian Grave Trailhead (49.7 miles). I thought I had heard that there would be an unmanned aid station in between these aid stations. So I drank both of my bottles half way through the section. It was about 1:00 PM and starting to get hot. I never got to the unmanned aid station and ran an hour without water. The beauty of this section made up for not drinking though. Basically for this section, you ascend a mountain and run on the spine of the ridge and then you descend to the left and run on a small shelf for about a mile. Finally I got to aid station #8, and downed a bunch of water, soda, and food.
Immediately after this section, I started to feel much better and relaxed into a nice pace on a 4 mile section of gravel road. I hit 50 miles at 9 hours and 7 minutes and was very pleased with my progress. I next 20 miles were uneventful until I got to Kerns Mountain. Once you are at the top of this mountain, you do more ridge running, but the trail zig-zags across the ridge. Along with the zig-zagging come short descents and climbs, and to top it all off, the footing reaches a “technical peak” here in my opinion. I got into another low and felt very sloppy as I trudged forward. I got through this section and was greeted by an unmanned aid station and a 2.4 mile descent down a gravel/paved road.
When I arrived at the base of Bird Knob aid station #12 – The Visitor Center, Raj had some cup-of-noodle soup ready for me. I hadn’t asked for it, but as soon as I saw it, I wanted it and ate/drank it all – it totally hit the spot. All day Raj and Godfrey met me at crew-accessible aid stations. They did an incredible job of navigating the area, getting me what I needed, giving me the low down on how far the leader was ahead and how far other runners were behind me and getting me back out on the course quickly. It was during the ascent of Bird Knob when night finally set in for me. This section went well and was very pretty, even during the night. Once you finish the ascent, you run along a slightly downward sloping grass path. I am not certain as to the origins of the name Bird Knob, but I could certainly hear plenty of birds singing in the night.
After the next aid station, I got into another low. I was getting lonely, as I basically ran the entire day by myself and I am not extremely fond of running at night. I’ve done a decent amount of it over the last 3 years, but I get nervous about my footing and have an unfounded fear of what lurks in the woods at night. This fear becomes amplified when the body and mind has endured 80+ miles. Rationally, I understand that these fears do nothing to propel me forward and probably weaken my step-to-step decisions, but they are hard to shake.
When I got back to the Picnic Area, I changed headlamps and headed out again looking forward to getting through this last long section. At the crossing of US 211, David Horton greeted me and worked on psyching me up to try and catch the leader. The leader, Dan was about an hour ahead, so it seemed the prospects were low in catching him, but David reminded me that ‘anything can happen’ in a race.
During this section, you run on this series of blazed trails: white, orange, yellow. When I turned onto the orange trail I ran for 25 minutes and did not see the expected turn onto the yellow blazed trail, I started to get concerned. I kept taking out my map and rereading the course description. The map had this section of trail going very close to a trail that was taken about 20 miles ago. Did I somehow stumble onto this trail? If I did, where were the other runners? The course markings at this point were fairly far apart and I started to wonder if someone messed with the course. I couldn’t get that orange-blazed mileage of 2.1 miles out of my head – I had definitely gone that much, now where is the damn yellow blazed trail? I finally thought it would be best to backtrack. Backtracking about ½ mile brought me to the 3rd runner, Aaron Schwartzbard. He quickly told me we were running correctly and that we had about 4 miles of orange blazed trail before the yellow. We ran together and chatted a little, then, I pulled away.
When I got to Gap Creek/Jawbone II, the last aid station, Raj took my waist pack and I took a handheld with a couple of gels. I got out of there as fast as I could. I knew Aaron was close behind. One more ascent and then a wicked descent where I got sloppy and took a fall. I banged up my knee and ankle a bit, but after 100 yards of movement everything felt alright. I got to the last cinder road section and starting moving, but not moving fast enough, as I soon saw Aaron’s headlamp shining about 50 yards behind me. OK, I’m in trouble. What is going through my mind is that Aaron is supposed to be a 2:30 marathoner, that means he is fast, real fast – faster than me. OK, I signed up for a 100, but it looks like I’m also gonna do a 5k today! I decided to give it everything, knowing that if I get beat I will know I gave it all – did my best. I reached the last ½ mile trail section to the finish and ‘turned it on’ even more. This last section actually ended up being very enjoyable – weaving back and forth through the trees, up and down. Finally, the finish line appeared and I ran in for a 20:56:43 finish. I had dreams of trying to break 20, which didn’t happen. But, through Aaron’s help I was able to get under 21 hours – a PR for me in the 100. And we caught some ground on the leader, who finished in 20:25:48.
Gear I Used, Things I Ate, Stuff I Learned
I ran the entire race in a relatively new pair of Inov8 Roclite 315’s (size 13) with Smartwool PhD socks. The 315’s worked very well for me. The Roclite tread pattern gripped all of the varied terrain very well and the shoe held up very well – this course is known for shredding shoes! I used the shoelace scheme pictured below, which reduced my foot sliding around in the shoe. I wore Patagonia Ultra Shorts and 2XU Inov8 singlet. The 2XU singlet is so comfortable to run in – you barely notice it is there. I drank water, lemon-lime Nuun, and cola. At every aid station, I tried to leave with one bottle of water and one bottle of Nuun tucked into my GoLite Hydrospped waist pack. During the early parts of the race, I ate Clif gels. I also took Hammer Endurolytes throughout the race. During the later parts of the race I ate turkey & cheese wraps and sliced pears along with more Clif gels.
Overall, I was happy with how I ran the race. For my next 100 I am going to try to get more consistent with the calories I take in. In this race, I roughly ate every 25 minutes – but I know sometimes I got off from that. On my watch, I have the option to set a hydration alarm – I think I will use that to help be more consistent with taking in calories.
I felt like my pace was good throughout ¾ of the race. I was 10 minutes ahead of 20 hour pace at mile 77.1. As expected, I slowed down at night and I dealt with some mental and physical low patches, which really threw me off from the goal pace. I have learned how critical these last 20 miles of the 100 are. One must pay extra attention to everything during this time – food, water, course markings, and your pace. At a time when your body and mind desire rest, one must maintain extreme focus.