Monday, November 4, 2013


The Mountain Masochist Trail Run is one of the most storied races in the history of Ultrarunning. Deep in the mountains surrounding Lynchburg Virginia, this race literally embodies what many ultramarathons aspire to achieve in its course, its community, and its professional commitment to organization. The shoes I raced in over the last several years were even named after this race, The Montrail Mountain Masochist... Yes. This race is that big, and this year brought in national level competition.

Since its inception many of the worlds best mountain and trail runners have challenged themselves on these climbs and descents. Memories have been made and friendships have been forged along this course which crosses the Appalachian Trail several times in its point-to-point traverse from Monroe, Va to Montebello, Va. 

I felt a deep calm and peace overcome me driving into Lynchburg on Friday evening. The colors of fall accented the farms and mountains on windy Virginia backroads and a stellar soundtrack from Greensky Bluegrass, The Avett Brothers, and Punch Brothers complimented the scene. A flood of life changing memories sat in the back of my mind as I entered the Blueridge Mountains- experiences which started in my youth and continued into adulthood. Backpacking and racing in these mountains has become an essential part of who I am and who I have become.

The pre-race dinner is like a reunion among runners. A deep sense of community resides in the Virginia ultrarunning community. Race Director Clark Zealand secures some pretty great swag and door prizes for the runners of these races. Gear from Patagonia and more vendors is a staple.

Race morning came early but I arose without the usual fog which prevails in my mind at the early hours that come with ultramarathon start times. I can only recall one morning in over fifty ultra distance race mornings which I haven't felt groggy. (That morning preceeded my 15:27 Umstead 100 PR- which was one of the top 25 100 mile times of the year) Suffice to say, I'm not an early riser! I like my mornings to start at 7 or 8, and no earlier unless I'm camping. Alas, I thought my good feelings foreshadowed good things to come.

We followed a bus full of runners to the start and the stars overhead shone clearly in the Virginia mountains.

In the opening miles I chatted with friends I hadn't seen in a while. Eric Grossman, (my partner on some epic undertakings as of late such as the Colorado Trail FKT attempt and the Tour De Virginia stage race two years ago) and I quickly commenced to planning our next adventure. I laughed at Grossman's desire to conspire our next masochistic jaunt during the Mountain Masochist race.

Chatting with Brad Hinton for many miles was long overdue. Brad is a great runner whom I don't get to chat with nearly enough. We joked about how there are two types of runners- those who have mortgages and kids and those who don't. Brad and I both suffered the curse for some time of being a bridesmaid and never a bride. We both had a slew of 2nd place finishes and were due for a win! I think we both looked our gift horses in the mouth and would have been ecstatic with 2nd on race day!

The pace felt comfortable in the opening miles and I wanted to push harder but we were in the lead pack and I new there was a long day ahead. Once the real climbs started I held my energy levels steady yet the lead pack slipped away gradually. I found myself just out of tenth place, yet I assumed that I could reel in the inevitable carnage that was sure to be had in the final miles.

The first crew access point is at mile 15. It was light by the first aid station at mile 7. I dropped my headlamp there as planned. I knew I would be dropping a lamp, so I didn't bring my blindingly bright Petzl Nao since I didn't want to risk losing the best headlamp I own. Our Petzl rep from Quest Outdoors gave me this lamp before the Hellgate 100K last winter and I love it! That headlamp was amazing while pacing the Grand Slam this summer! The cheaper headlamp I ended up using was barely adequate for the fire roads and jeep roads most of the race course consisted of. I wish I would have brought the Petzl as I stumbled more than I was expecting.

Guy Love and I ran a lot of miles together in the middle of the race. Guy paced and crewed Eric and I during our Colorado Trail FKT attempt this summer. Guy was a godsend in Colorado by hiking in a tent and sleeping bag during a storm in which I became hypothermic above treeline and our 4x4 couldn't access us to get us below 13,500'. I've never been so happy to share a tent with another dude. We didn't reminisce about our summer adventures. We passed the time chatting about races on our calendar which we were looking forward to, possibly the Rock Creek Thunder Rock 100 in May. I was proud to see Guy push on ahead of me as my legs weren't responding on the climbs.

Mile 22 began the biggest climb of the race. I held pace and begin to pass several runners that had passed me early on. I held a nice smooth pace and didn't push too hard. Although I was way back past 10th place I knew that it was a long day ahead and if I picked up the pace later I could reel in carnage as mentioned... It isn't hard not too stress. I've seen this too many times. Ultras require patience and discipline.

I didn't make the demoralizing surge I had planned on though... I was enjoying myself too much. I can't recall too many times in races in which miles passed by this quickly. I took time to look around and admire these mountains which have shaped me over the years. I really wanted a top three spot at Mountain Masochist but I was living in the moment in the middle of the race. I didn't have that fighting spirit necessary to reach the top 3. I felt I had nothing to prove. I ran my race. I've said many times I wish I could go out for a 50 mile run and just enjoy it, and that's what I was doing.

The miles rolled by effortlessly and I was always surprised how quickly the next aid station arrived. In many races, the miles pass like eons, however today was different, I could have gone 100 miles, the legs had no power, but they had endurance. I was in the moment, holding the exact same pace I had started out running.

I never used my iPod, I just got lost in the mountains. I was shirtless and free and not pressuring myself.

This isn't the most motivational race report for someone to reach their maximal potential I realize, but it's what I needed at the moment. I have experienced wins and podiums, but I'm at a place in my life where running isn't the only part of who I am. I'm not done pushing myself. I'm not done destroying myself to go as fast as possible. But I just did my own thing out there on Saturday. The fire will return sometime soon, I'm sure.

With about 10 miles to go I was in 11th place behind Jordan Whitlock who was suffering after leading for a while and going out hard for the win. I was climbing stronger than he was but he was descending strong. I struck up some conversation and we chatted away a few miles. Jordan thought we were in 9th and 10th, but I was under the impression we were in 10th and 11th.

I didn't battle Jordan for 10th, I let him pull away, and I got back into my zone of freedom, no self imposed restrictions of time or place, just running my own enjoyable jaunt through the hills. This felt good.

I crossed the line in 11th place. The 51 miles with 9200' climbing took me 8 hours and 3 enjoyable minutes.

Sitting around after the race I thanked Clark for a job well done. He defines class act. Clark is a genuinely nice guy who runs a fantastic race.

Eric came up to our hotel room and showered and we killed some post race beers. I was really glad to catch up with he and Robin.

During the awards ceremony my enjoyable time out in the woods had momentarily vacated my mind and I was kicking myself for not being up there with the top 10. I was frustrated with myself, but then I remembered how good I felt and how much I had to do the following week and I relaxed into positive vibes.

The Lookout Mountain 50 Mile is December 14th.

My takeaway points...

In retrospect, my low mileage was probably a culprit to my lacking performance. I suffered a bad sinus infection after a marathon on 9/28 and couldn't run for two weeks. I also tapered for that marathon which means a month of low mileage, since I was fried after a summer full of running.

Luckily I didn't make a surge in the middle of the race like planned. I knew I would blow up if I did. Stephanie's crewing was top notch and saved me time. I luckily have a lot of experience and knew what I needed to do to get in a decent time with minimal training miles under my belt. My stomach was great, nutrition was perfect, and energy was constant throughout on race day. My time and placement were pretty pitiful, but in all truth I had a good race considering the variables.

The month of October, although it held very few miles was a blast at least travelling a lot, getting in a ton of climbing mountains in NH and playing a TON of music.

carb loading pre race! 

Getting in some practice on the ride home, making up solos to Avett Bros. poor poor Stephanie! What a trooper! 

strategy session pre race
I'll try to get some more pics up soon...