Massanutten Rocks Again
Wednesday, May 17 2006 @ 02:04 PM PDT
Contributed by: mday
After reading and hearing about the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 for several years I finally got to see it in person last weekend. The result: I'm impressed by the greatness of this race - the course, the organization, the athletes, and the crews. I have always marvelled at the duality of the race: it is simultaneously cursed and praised by the same athletes year after year. I now have a glimpse into the mystery (to know completely I will have to finish the race myself). The satisfaction that comes from finishing MMT is positively correlated to the challenge of finishing. It is a tough race, with a high sense of achievement among finishers.
This year's MMT was also the first time I have ever watched (rather than competed in) a 100 mile event from beginning to end. I was struck by the toughness and greatness of the athletes, and the difficulty of crewing an athlete. When participating in a 100 mile event, one does not observe himself or others in the same way as the crews and spectators do. As a spectator I was more impressed with the ultrarunners and their crews than I ever have been as a participant.
I'm grateful that Brad Smythe took me on as a pacer this year. After re-injuring my "promise land" ankle on Thorpe Mountain I did not accompany Brad to the finish but I did pace him over Thorpe and Short Mountains. Brad was strong and steady for the entire race, as demonstrated by his time. (Results.) I'm also thankful that Anita Finkle allowed my boys Sam (14) and Thomas (10) to join her in crewing Jay while I was pacing Brad. Crewing at MMT is a tough job.
MMT finishers tend to have a mindset of going to war with the trail (or so it seems to me). I saw many scenes similar to this VHTRC photo of Tom Sprouse. Running is going to hurt and you will be pummelled by the rocks. I saw Tracy Thomas at Edinburg Gap with a huge bloody bruise on her knee. She was cutting a large piece of material off her shoe because the shoe was grinding her ankle every time her foot landed on an inclined rock. Massanuttan is a contact sport.
It is diffucult to overstate the high quality with which the MMT is staged. The VHTRC, which organizes this race, does everything right (and there is a lot to do). Be sure to visit the VHTRC web site and read the coverage of the 2006 MMT (including flickr photos). Among the many highlights for me this past weekend was seeing Jay Finkle, Brad Smythe, and Fred Dumars finish the MMT. As always, it was great to be around Gary Knipling and to see him get another MMT finish.
I plan on being among the finishers of the 2007 MMT and have already started more hill training. I asked David Horton (who was crew and pacer for Bethany Patterson) how to train for the rocks. "You can't" was his answer.