There was no anxiety level this time which was really odd. Two months prior I ran my first 50 miler in just under 11 hours so I know that I had what it took to go the distance. The only real concern of course was the mental challenges associated with the elevation changes and the 12-hour time limit/cut-off times at each aid stations.
October wasn’t really a good month for running for me. I only logged 103 miles and 32 of those were a 50k I did earlier in the month. The longest run that I did in the weeks prior to the Masochist was a 16 miler. I remember getting one of Clark’s emails stating “I hope you are all tapering”..I thought “heck, I haven’t even begun training yet!” Nevertheless, once you are registered, you are committed.
The only goal that I set for this race was to finish; that’s it! This was Ultra # 7 for me and since they were all different in nature, it was hard to judge where I would be at over the course as far as time was concerned. I asked so many friends advice about the race but when you ask 10 different Ultra runners the same question “so, how long is the MMTR”, you pretty much get 10 different answers. Their answers all ranged between 51 and 54 miles. The advice that Josh Yeoman gave me the day prior was “the race doesn’t really start until mile 29”. I kept this in mind throughout the morning basically trying to convince myself that I was going to only run a marathon but I had to run 26 miles first to get to the start point.
0600hrs on race morning- It seemed like if I wasn’t standing in line at the port-o-potty, I was jammed in the bus trying to maintain those last few precious minutes of warmth. I was very thankful for the warm toilet seat…it’s the little things in life that makes our moral high! At 0635hrs, I stretched for a few minutes. At 0630hrs, Horton said the prayer and we were off. The first 55 minutes of the race was either on the BRP or State Route 501 so I was not a fan of that BUT..I knew that once we hit aid station 1 at mile 5.7, we would all be on the Northward trek! I did my best to not look at my watch to keep track of time and distance (for mental reasons) and also tried hard to not look at the white boards at each aid station that had distances and cut off times on them. Creeping up at Dancing Creek at mile 11.2 there was a good size crowd which was motivating. Why cowbells impact the psyche is beyond my knowledge. Even better was Terry who shouted “Go Army” to me and seeing Muffy behind the table of food boosted my spirits. The toughest part of the race for me was between aid stations 3 and 7 (miles 11.2 and 22.3). I felt real alone during this time and besides the few aid stations over the period of 2-2.5 hours, I don’t recall passing anyone or getting passed. I recalled thinking about tapping out for whatever reason but I can’t recall why. Perhaps my mind was spinning with the realization that the race would never end and that I wasn’t even close to being halfway complete. It wasn’t until I bumped into Blake Edmondson around mile 22 or 23 where my mind started getting back into the fight. It was perfect timing too because I had just thought “man..20 miles down…I still have a 50k left”. As we talked and walked up the hills Blake, being a veteran of the MMTR, sort of gave me the mental snapshot of what was yet to come (hills, flat sections, etc..) and told me that if we were at 5.5 hours at mile 26.9 (Buck Mountain) then we would pretty much be good to go for completion unless of course “we totally fell apart!”.
I got to the halfway point right at 5 hours and 30 minutes. Keeping Blake’s comment in the back of my mind, I tried not to get delayed. I spent about 3 or 4 minutes at my drop bag; swapped shirts, tossed on the Sox cap and took a few seconds to enjoy the sun’s rays on the skin…I fell back from Blake but I bumped into Martha, who I continued to play leap frog with for the next 5 hours. At mile 33.6 – The Loop (in), I got a cup of warm Ramon noodles which hit the spot!! I bumped back into Blake and thanked him for his subliminal encouragement during the previous 10 miles. At about 2 miles into the ‘Loop’, I was feeling really good and started passing people (which, for me, is unusual). I don’t know if it was the Ramon or the fact of knowing that I was over the hump but I passed 7 people in that section. At mile 38.6 – The Loop (out), was the same deal with the Ramon but this time I washed it down with a half a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon..not sure who provided that but it helped the motivation level.
From miles 41-50+, Mike, Martha and I all ran together and they definitely helped me out through the tough sections. We picked off another 4 or 5 runners prior to hitting aid station 15 and with only 4 miles of downhill to go, we were right at about 10:20 hrs into it. I thought maybe it was possible to get a sub-11:00 and we pushed it pretty hard. Martha took off from Mike and I and after seeing the 1-mile marking on the ground, I was getting so excited knowing that I was actually going the finish my toughest race ever. With every bend of the road I was anxiously anticipating seeing the end but couldn’t. Once I began hearing the crowd and seeing civilization in the distance, I knew that it was only 2 or 3 more minutes of running. My first visual was the clock and it read 10:57; and change…the next was Clark’s smiling face shaking my hand and Horton congratulating me.. It was a victory for completion and a PR for me to try to beat next year. Next on the bucket list is the Hellgate and the Grindstone.
Mike ~ Psalms 144:1