Brad Smythe's MMT
Tuesday, May 23 2006 @ 02:28 AM PDT
Contributed by: mday
Photo: Aaron Schwartzbard
By Brad Smythe
Peanuts, grapes, Pringles, oranges, quesadillas, grilled cheese, beans and rice, egg salad sandwich, brownies, cheese pizza, cantaloupe, cookies, coffee, pretzels, hashbrowns, boiled potatoes, potato soup. What do all these things have in common? At some point this past weekend, during the 28 hours I was on the MMT course, they served as fuel for my run. Well, ok, the word 'run' is used loosely here, but you get the idea.
I'm sure most reading this have some vague idea of what MMT is like, but if not, the word 'rocky' comes to mind. So, the course is rocky. What else? The course is long, the weather was nice, the trail was well marked, the volunteers were wonderful, and the views were 'real and spectacular'. That's what I heard anyway, and what the pictures seem to indicate. In all honesty, I was too busy looking at the ground to try to avoid crashing down on the jagged rocks ready to rip my flesh apart. Luckily, I managed to avoid any of these 'face-to-face' meetings with said rocks, but I had several close calls that ended with me nearly cramping up and cussing to no-one in particular.
So, there we were, at 5:00 in the morning. RD Stan was talking to us with his back to the clock as it reached 5:00, starting time. I was next to Sue Johnston at the start as she yelled to Stan it was time to start--and away we were.
The first section was nice. It was an easy three-mile road section to the trailhead. Ok, that was done, now to start going uphill. Ok, we go uphill to the ridge for a bit. That's a nice little walk, the air was cool and the sun was beginning to peak over the East. What views from up on the ridge top! One fork of the Shennandoah River was down to our left, one far away to our right. Alright, I'm feeling good enough. The usual early muscle and tendon grumpiness was wearing off and I got to run a nice downhill.
The Shawl Gap aid station came and went easily enough. Holy Crap! I'm ahead of people I shouldn't be at this point, Sue, Bethany, Keith, and Nick come to mind, but it's ok, maybe I'm just in for a good day. As long as I can stay ahead of Sue...well there she goes, now I can relax as the world returns to normal. Next, into the Hebron aid station we run. The next section was long, so we were advised to 'tank up'.
The 10-mile trip was my first chance to talk to those demons that come to visit me during long runs. They did their best to talk me out of what I was doing, and I admit they had some valid points, but they did not dissuade me and I made it to the next aid station where I took a rest. With one-third of the race done in less than seven hours, I felt pretty good about things. 'Things' remained good for the next walk up to Moreland Gap, a climb we did during Old Dominion last year. The grilled cheese sandwich at the top was very good!
Next up was the Kern's Mountain portion down to the Picnic Area aid station. Towards the end of the trail here, I saw a rattlesnake laying across the trail. It scared the beejeesus out of me, so I tried to get it off the trail as to save the following runners from having the same beejeesus scared out of them. I think I only managed to piss him/her off with the large logs I tossed near it. Hey, I did get to hear it rattle though, so that was neat. Down to the aid station where I saw Mike Day, then up again on my way to Bird Knob, I went. Unknown to me, but known to many others, the Bird Knob climb was a be-otch. That's ok, I found out soon enough and won't soon forget. It was cool, because I got to see some of the runners who were ahead of me by an hour or so. Eventually, I made it up and then back to the Picnic Area where I changed shoes and socks. That's good.
Down to 211 I went where I found the rice and beans. Man, they were so good, I had two cups. I saw Mike there, but still had about 25 minutes before he could being his pacing. We figured that I'd be back at the Picnic Area right at 6:00, so that would work out well.
Mike joined me for pacing at the 58.something mile mark, on my way to the finish. He is (was) planning on running next year, so the preview would be good. Why I didn't think of that, I don't know. So, the next while was uphill and we walked. I did manage to run a little when terrain and mood allowed. We got almost to the Moreland Gap aid station around 68 miles before we had to turn on our lights for the night. The trail was still steep and rocky and the darkness wasn't helping matters much. Ok, now we got to the aid station before the dreaded Short Mountain section. Turns out, it wasn't really any harder that the stretch before or after it, but that's not really the point of this writing. The quesadilla and hashbrowns were good, and we were off. Up we walked and down we sometimes ran. Short Mountain was relatively uneventful, but I did mentally feel pretty good at this point even if my legs and feet hurt. Mike re-injured his ankle sometime on the trail and called a completion to his pacing duties at the Edinburg Gap aid station.
This place was good. They had potato soup and this is where I had the aforementioned egg salad sandwich. That was awesome. Come to think of it, I could go for one of those right now, but alas, it's far from lunchtime. Anyway, off to Powell's Mountain and the Woodstock Tower aid station. Man, I was getting sleepy here. I had a cup of coffee at this aid station and continued slowly on my way. There wasn't a whole lot of running going on at this point for me, but that's ok, I had plenty of time, with merely the goal of finishing being paramount.
We heard the generator at Powell's Fort well before we reached the aid station. I got to see James and Rebecca Moore as they were working and keeping runners fed and hydrated. I don't think they know who I am, but I know who they are because I see them at Umstead every year and James looks a heckuva lot like Morgan Freeman. I know Andrea knows whom I'm talking about now. So, anyway, the sun is coming up and we've still got 11 miles to go. There's a big climb up near Signal Knob, then a long downhillish stretch to the aid station at Elizabeth's Furnace. I had a very good slice of pizza here before beginning the 3.2 miles to the finish. Ok, who are we kidding, it seemed (was) a lot longer than advertised! The climb was brutal, something like 1000 feet in seven tenths of a mile. Ouch. Ok, finally, there are the flags that mark the path to the finish through the field. I relaxed as I saw the clock turn over 28 hours and finished less than a minute later. I talked to a few people, then walked back to my campsite. I took a quick shower, rather a short shower and crawled into my sleeping bag for a nap. I was up an hour and a half later and cleaned up my tent-site. I walked back over to the finish area to socialize a bit, but just ended up sitting around watching runners trickle in.
I left around 1:30 to drive back to Raleigh, and was home and in bed by 8:00 Sunday night. Today is Wednesday and my feet are still swollen and painful. I've got some bad chafing in areas that aren't good to be chafed in to begin with. My knee and leg muscles are still sore and I have a little residual, general fatigue. Other than that, I'm ok. I haven't had any nightmares or night sweats and I haven't thrown away all of my running shoes, so I guess I'll make it.
I told Andrea last night that I'm hesitant to say "I won't run it again", because there were so many things I liked about the race. Only time will tell, I suppose.