Jaret Seiberg's Report
When I need advice on running 100 milers, I turn to ultra gurus Michele Burr and Ed Schultze.
For the 2003 MMT 100 Miler, Burr warned me not let the bad spots get me down and Schultze told me his new philosophy is to run slower to finish faster.
Little did I realize how valuable their wisdom would be.
But I get ahead of myself.
First off, I write this partly so I can remember what I did right and wrong at MMT 2003. But I also do it because I have found runner’s reports invaluable sources of information before all three of the hundreds that I have run. Hopefully this will come close to the valuable posting already up on this run.
Right at 5 a.m. 117 of the 129 idiots who signed up for the MMT 100 Miler were sent on their way by Ed Demoney, the director of this incredible event which covers 101.8 miles and includes 12 major climbs with 19,000 feet of elevation gain.
I was with Russ Evans for the first section of the course to the Shawl Gap aid station. We ran a quick, but conservative pace on the road and seemed to climb up the mountain very well. We passed a startled Joe Clapper, who must have been out putting up glow sticks.
My goal – besides finishing – was to break 28 hours. I didn’t really think it was possible, but wanted to set something that was a bit aggressive, yet at least potentially achievable.
At Shawl Gap I already was 15 minutes behind on the 28 hour plan but did not worry because it was early and I felt great. I switched from a handheld to a CamelBack. Then my real troubles began.
John Dodds and Mike Bur were at the aid station and both were kind enough to help me. I asked John to pour half a bottle of Gatorade into the CamelBack and then fill the rest with water.
Instead of dumping the Gatorade as I intended, Mike urged me to drink it. It was warm and I thought that was a very good idea. In fact, I probably would have drank it even if Mike did not suggest it. Why risk getting behind on my electrolytes? Turns out it was the start of 40 miles to stomach agony.
Essentially I overdosed on Gatorade and had serious diarrhea going up Veach. Don’t worry, I was far off trial. All that mud anyone behind climbed through was really plain old mud.
I compounded the problem by thinking my stomach troubles were from an imbalance of electrolytes. So instead of easing off, I drank more sports drink and had a PowerGel on the way up Veach.
After scratching the leaves again on the way down from Milford Gap, I was starting to feel a bit better into Hebron with the possible exception of the fact that I was cold and soaking wet from the early afternoon thunder storms, which somehow appeared at 6 a.m.
At Hebron, Bill Van Antwerp burst out from behind some trees and was kind enough to fill my CamelBack with water, which was all I could stomach. (I did not ask what he was doing in the woods.) I stole a spectator’s chair and put on dry shoes and socks, which was part of my strategy to emerge blister free.
Going up Hebron, I felt a bit weak from my early stops behind various bushes on the section from Veach Gap to Hebron Gap aid stations. So I recalled Russ Evan’s report from a few years ago where he said he ate a gel going up every climb. I decided to do the same thing.
Stomach pains returned with a vengeance.
By the time I reached the Stephens trail, every time my foot hit the ground I had a searing pain in my gut. It was ridiculous. On top of that, it was raining pretty hard and I was getting pretty cold.
I entered Camp Roosevelt ready to quit. I never got that option. Between Michele, Mike Bur, Peyton Robinson, and John Dodds, I was given food, told to slow down on the next section to make my stomach feel better, and had my CamelBack refilled with water.
With Dodds leading me out into the rain, I was out of the aid station. Instead of riding back to the ranch, I was once again wet and cold on the trail with bad stomach pains.
Yet I kept remembering Michele’s comment that everyone gets a bad spot in a 100 Miler and the key is to keep moving because eventually you get over it. I figured that meant the stomach trouble had to end soon. After all, it had been with me for 20 miles already. No way it could last longer.
I walked almost the entire way into Gap Creek. Russ passed me early, looking very strong. Even a few guys running their first 100 miler passed me. By the time I got to the top of the hill leading into Gap Creek, I still felt horrible despite all the walking.
So I ran into Gap Creek ready to quit.
Yet again, I never got that chance. Amy Bloom and Steve Platt escorted me to an empty chair in the tent. Maria Bertacci found my drop bag, which was this enormous duffel bag which I used to carry my other drop bags up to the Ranch the night before. I switched CamelBacks and Amy filled the new one with water.
Chris Scott made me a fresh grilled cheese sandwich, Steve found me dry socks and my jacket in the duffel bag. (As an aside, finding anything in that bag was not easy. It was large enough for a child to use as a tent.)
When I tried to suggest that my stomach had been bothering me for 25 miles, Amy said she had a magical cure. No, it was not the Tums, which I would later find out that Kerry Owens, my pacer, thought were candy sweet tarts and popped a handful in her mouth. Rather it was Midol. She swore it would cure any type of stomach cramps. I believed her.
Before I knew it, I was back out in the rain.
I still felt like crap on the climb up Jawbone and when I turned south on the MMT trail I started puking. This was the first time I ever threw up during a run. I puked five times in 45 minutes. Then my stomach seized up and I had to scratch the leaves again.
Then I puked again.
At that point, I made a major decision. I would finish MMT. It might take a full 36 hours but I knew I would make it out of the Visitor Center and Bird Knob long before the cut offs even if I walked those sections. I thought I could then go slow and still stay just ahead of the sweepers.
There was just no way that I could subject myself to 30 miles of stomach problems at this point and then drop out. I recalled Ed Demoney’s comments at the previous day’s briefing that it is easier to finish the MMT in 2003 then to have to return in 2004.
To celebrate, I puked for a seventh time.
Around this point, the weather had improved and I was running with a guy from Winchester. Have no recollection of his name, but this was his first 100 miler and he was cranking pretty well.
We hit the road at the unmanned aid station. The cookies looked very tempting and before I knew it, I ate four of them. We ran at a pretty good clip into the Visitor Center aid station.
I yelled my number to Martha and Jeff Reed was kind enough to hand me a plastic bag with a turkey sandwich. I was starving at this point and filled the bag with apple slices, banana, and Pringles before running out of the aid station.
Turning right off of the Wildflower, I began my feast. I was still a bit queasy, but the burning pains were gone. I passed a few people on the way up and saw Bethany and Keith come powering down the mountain.
About this point another thunder storm rolled in and it really started raining. By the top of Bird Knob, the winds were howling and it was cold. I was so thankful I took my jacket from the Gap Creek aid station.
There had been comments on the VHTRC listserv in the past few months about jackets and how the Gore-Tex ones can’t really keep you dry because they also trap your sweat. That may be true, but I love my Marmot Precip because when I get cold, I know I can put it on and get warm regardless of whether I’m still wet.
The aid station folks at the top of Bird Knob were great. In the midst of a storm, they had dry spots for us to sit down and I found my first hot soup of the day. It was wonderful.
I arrived into 211 east just before 7 p.m. and found Mike Bur and Kerry Owens, who promptly told me I was on my own until Gap Creek because she just wasn’t ready to start running yet.
Soup was again available and I had a cup along with more food. I finally caught up to Gary Knipling at this aid station and group of four of us took off toward Gap Creek II. Of course, I forgot my backup flashlight. We kept up a pretty good pace as Gary also did not have a light and we wanted to get to the road before dark. Of course, that did not stop Gary from nearly causing a four-person back up by coming to a sudden stop when he saw some flower he claims never to have spotted before on the MMT course.
Amy and Steve greeted at Gap Creek II and after a quick change of clothing I had Michele putting new duct tape on my feet. I enjoyed some quesadilla, grabbed my lights, and headed out with Kerry, whom had never run any parts of the MMT course.
I left right at 8:45 p.m. As anyone who was there knows, it rained almost all day. From the time Kerry joined me, it did not rain again.
We went up Jawbone Gap and found Stuart Kern and his brother at the top waiting for their pacer. We would leap frog with Stuart for the next 10 miles or so to Edinburg Gap.
At Moreland Gap, one of the volunteers took my CamelBack to refill while someone else gave me potato soup, which was quite tasty. I left the aid station with a cup of mountain dew and a cup of soup. Unfortunately I did not have my CamelBack. On the plus side, I had not gone more than 50 yards before I realized what I was missing.
My legs felt great at this point and we moved up Short Mountain with good speed. I found the top very difficult to navigate at night. The rocks were very slippery and that really slowed us down. We ran the downhill portion and the flats into the Edinburg aid station, where I had more great potato soup. Thank you Anstr and Brenda.
The section to Woodstock seemed to last forever. Coming into the aid station we passed several runners. They would be the last runners we saw on the course.
I did not get to rest at Woodstock. Kerry turned from mild mannered ultra runner to Marine Corps drill sergeant. She ordered me out of the chair, telling me that ``No one ever finished a 100 miler sitting down.’’
She retained this persona for the rest of the run and probably cut 45 minutes off my finishing time.
Out of Woodstock, we moved fairly well on the trail though the rocky downhill that leads shortly to Powell’s Fort aid station nearly killed me.
At Powell’s Fort, I duct taped a hot spot on my foot to prevent a blister and grabbed some fruit. The volunteers there even made me a delicious fried egg sandwich. We walked the up hill road section and around the reservoir because I wanted to save my legs for the two major remaining downhills.
We basically ran the final 3 plus miles into the Elizabeth Furnace aid station. My feet were starting to hurt so I stopped at one point in a stream to let them soak. Kerry’s glare was enough to get me moving.
I loaded up on salty food at Elizabeth’s, passing on the pizza. We climbed quickly up Shawl Gap – Kerry did yell at once for moving too slowly -- and ran surprisingly fast down the other end. As we got close, we even ran those final hills before the ranch.
Finishing in 29:03, I thought back to Michele and Ed. My bad spot did pass as Michele promised and by going slower early as Ed suggested I had preserved the leg strength to run at the end. This was the first of my hundred milers where I could actually run consistently during the last 10 miles because I had not burned out my legs.
My goal had been to finish, but I was hoping to break 28 hours. Using the times from several folks who have run this previously, I thought I had a chance. By the time I got into Gap Creek I, was well off of my estimate, with most of the time lost since Veach. I picked up some of that time going Gap Creek to Gap Creek, but lost it all again from Moreland to Woodstock. Those sections are just long and slow, especially when wet.
Crossing the finish line, I could not have been happier with time. Besides, now I have a reason to return. And I did not even get a single blister.
To Ed Demoney, Anstr and all the volunteers and aid station captains: Thank you. MMT is tough, but beautiful. Every ultra runner should try it at least once.