Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mountain Masochist 2012

The 30th running of the Mountain Masochist 50 Mile Trail run will forever be known as the "snow year". When reports were given during the pre-race that there was shin to knee deep snow in areas of the second half of the course, honestly, I didn't really believe it. Granted, here in WV we had anywhere from 2-5 feet and were in a state of emergency as I headed to VA. Heading down I-81 though, the mountain tops looked bare and there wasn't the slightest hint of the devastation we experienced on the west side of the Appalachians. I wasn't concerned with the prospect of snow, but I really hate running in any more than about 4" of snow and I had specifically trained to run fast –  I knew my strength may be suspect in the snow. I was hoping the reports to be exaggerated.
The race started as benignly as possible from the new starting location, Wildwood Campground (which I believe to be an improvement). The pace was pretty hot up front in the pre-dawn hour. I was not buying in. I knew I was in "decent" shape, but I planned to run the first half as conservatively as possible while keeping contact with my goal placing – top ten, but also the goal of sub-7:30. I knew by perusing the pre-race list of runners that it would take a very big effort to crack the top ten.

The Start: photo- Stewart Caldwell 

I ran most of the first half in to Long Mountain with my friend Clay Warner. We ran hard, but controlled. I came through mile 26.5 in 3:42 – right on my goal. I knew that I needed to up my effort from this point and I quickly moved up from 10th to 7th by the time I reached the top of Buck Mtn. Entering the Loop (mile 33), I was optimistic of moving up even further. I was moving fast and feeling great. The goal of sub 7:30 still appeared feasible.
The Loop proved to be my undoing. The predicted snow was there; as reported. I quickly started losing ground to other runners. The snow was so deep that I could do no more than walk most of the 5.5-miles which make up the infamous loop. It is very frustrating to be around runners who are handling the adversity of the snow better than you are. I wanted to get out of the loop fast, but I felt like I was trapped in the Twilight Zone. Finally, I heard the cheers of the folks from the aid-station and knew that my suffering was coming to an end – only 12 miles to go, but I was way off my goal time at this point and barely sitting in 8th place with a slew of runners breathing down my neck. I was going to have to put in some serious effort to stay in the top-10 over the final miles.
Courtesy of Steve Hinzman
I ran as hard as I could to Salt Log Gap and up the big climb to Forest Valley aid-station. Shortly after Forest Valley, I caught up to and passed a pained David Hryuniak (a 2:20-ish marathoner who is relatively new to ultras). I was now in 7th, but unfortunately back into some serious snow on the ridge. I was dreaming of getting away from the post-holing when Ty Draney came flying into view from behind. More frustration . . . How the heck is he moving so fast in this stuff, I thought. He said, "Come on man let's push and finish this thing." That was just the encouragement I needed and we barreled through the snow together and blasted through the last aid-station. One last look over the shoulder and we had four miles of less snow and all downhill to find the finish in Montebello. The miles went fast now and I enjoyed running with Ty. He hammered down the final steep pitch before the"1 Mile to Go" and put some distance on me. I was happy to run the final mile in the quiet contemplation of my own mind. In the end, I finished in 8:28 – good enough to earn 8th overall and a very fine Patagonia Down Sweater Jacket. Full results here.