The Mountain Masochist Trail Run ("MMTR") is a legendary if not infamous race in Virginia that celebrated its 25th birthday this year. The race is known for its challenging yet runnable course, scenic fall colors and energetic race director. David Horton (Mr. Energy himself) thinks so much of the runners, that he provides some extra distance (he does this in all his races) to ensure you get plenty of time in the woods. The race is a bit of a homecoming of sorts as it attracts a national field and the pre and post race festivities provide and excellent venue to visit with old friends and meet some new ones.
I signed up fr the race in May as I knew that it would fill quickly with the whole 25th anniversary and all. This would also be Horton's final year as the RD of MMTR as he passed the reigns to Clark Zealand after this year. This made me particularly glad that I was running in the race this year. Although I am still relatively new to the sport, I still have a tremendous appreciation for what Horton has done to promote ultrarunning.
I really had no business running MMTR this year. After all, I was pleased with my effort at GEER 5 weeks earlier and had only logged about 40 miles TOTAL since that time. My original intention for running this year was to go back so a friend of mine could avenge a DNF from last year. However, he was injured and not running. So why run the race? Well, despite my lackluster training I felt that I could still improve on my time last year. Check the results and you will see that rocket speed was not necessary to improve over 2006. So off I headed up to Lynchburg for my second helping of Horton Masochism.
Given my training (or lack thereof) I simply wanted to run a smart race, have fun and hopefully improve over last year. The only section I wanted to run hard was the "loop" where I struggled immensely last year. Once again, John Teed and I would run most of the race together since neither of us were really concerned with posting a great time. We decided to run the opening road section harder then normal to try and bank some cushion on the cutoff and this seemed to work well for us. We were both happy to get that section over with and hit the trails. The weather was perfect, much better than last year and as the sun rose, you could tell it was going to be a beautiful day. The first half of the race was pretty uneventful as we tried to power walk the hills as best we could and really run the flat and downhill sections. We ran a bit with Sophie Speidel before she left us in the dust. Sophie was very helpful to me during a "dark moment" at Massanutten this year and it was great to run a bit with her.
John and I remarked how much more we liked the course this year. Last year's race was a comedy of errors from the time we left Charlotte so it was no wonder we weren't thrilled with the course. The fall colors were close to peak and sections of the course were bathed in bright reds, yellows and orange. The crystal blue sky made for an excellent backdrop as well. We rolled into the AS 10 and Long Mountain Wayside right where wanted to and quickly filled up, got a few things from our drop bags and headed out. John had to head back to retrieve something and I headed on. I would run mostly alone the rest of the day until John caught back up with about 2 miles to go. I settled in to Buck Mountain and made much better time this year. I was amazed at how relaxed I was ad how much I was enjoying the race. before long, I came upon the Loop, which I wanted to run really well. Last year I was in death march mode here and it took me over 1:30 to complete the section. This year I ran very focused but did not push the pace too hard. I covered the loop in just over 1 hour and felt great leaving there. I continued to make steady progress and arrived at Salt Log Gap just as the sun was starting to really heat up. I took it easy on the climb to Forest Valley because I knew the next section was a beast.
Upon leaving the aid station I reflected on how bad I felt at this point in 2006, where I was worried that I might not make it in under the cutoff. This year I knew that I could walk it in and make it with time to spare. I still moved purposefully and tried to march up the steep climbs and pound the downhills. Finally I came upon the final aid station and moved through to get going to the finish - I could smell the barn! After a mile or so of a pathetic shuffle, John caught back up with me and we ran in together to the finish. I did improve over last year by about 20 minutes or so but did not "kill myself" to do so. I really had a lot of fun this year and think running more relaxed was a huge benefit.
After the finish, John and I met up with Jeff McGonnell who finished about 10 minutes before us and watched as the other finishers came in. We saw Tom Green complete his 25th Masochist - the only person to do so and watched our buddy John Teague come in. We then headed back to Lynchburg and headed to the post race dinner. MMTR is the only 50 mile race I have run and I have now completed it twice. Last year it was my third ultra ever and this year it marked my 10th ultra. I am amazed at how much I have learned over the last year and the many friends I have met on the trail. But then again, that is one of the things that makes this sport so addictive.
Thank you to David Horton for his 25 years as RD and thanks to Nancy, his wife for putting up with it. I know we are in good and able hands with Clark Zealand as the new RD. Thanks to all the volunteers and aid station workers, you guys did a great job.