Massanutten Mountain Trails 100
May 8-9, 2004

by Kev Hawn

Friday afternoon
After five 100 mile runs I thought I had learned a few things. The first two were tough learning experiences. The next three brought respectable finishes and restored confidence. But as I prepared for the 2004 version of MMT100, I had a few moments of self doubt. I had heard much of the rocks and steep climbs. I had also studied the maps and course descriptions. From my past trips in OD100 and Dogwood 50K I had some knowledge of the northern parts of the trails. So I looked up from Skyline Ranch at the spine of mountain and wondered what the next day and a half would bring.

Saturday Morning
In the pre-dawn hours we stood just off the porch as Stan said a fitting prayer for the runners and volunteers. Then with a sweep of his head lamp to define the start line, we were off down the road. A quick jog took us gladly off this paved section and up the trail to Buzzard Rock. As we climbed, the early light showed the fish hatchery to the north. A new acquaintance, Gary Knipling, was with our small group on the accent. Even without the daylight, he was expounding on wild flowers and bird life. A fine muddy down hill at Shaw Gap took us back to a road section and on to Veech Gap. This is a climb I had done twice before in the dark at OD. Today I could enjoy the view and proceed with some strength. Across the ridge we traveled to Milford Gap. As I was leaving this aid station, a kindly volunteer reminded me that there were 7.5 miles to the next aid station. I quickly had both of my water bottles filled and headed out. Going down Indian Grave Ridge I noted that my quads were starting to hurt. Having only traveled about 20 miles, this was much sooner then I had anticipated. I backed off a little on the rest of the descent and hoped they would last. At the bottom I started up a pretty gravel road to Habron Gap. Another nice climb with great views of the Shenandoah River. After a little ridge work it was over to the west side for a change and through the valley to Camp Roosevelt. This was my first drop bag and the aid station workers were a real treat. They brought my bag, food, drink, anything I wanted. A quick change of socks and I was ready to go. Greg Gerhart came in while I was finishing and we exchange a few words. On the way out I saw Rob who was on his 4th attempt. He looked a little under the fine weather we were having.

Saturday Afternoon
At this point I had covered 34 miles in 7 hours and was feeling OK. Not great but OK. From here I had a nice power walk up Duncan Hollow and over to Gap Creek. More good food and out to Scothorn Gap. Then south over Kern mountain. Greg and Rob caught me on the ridge and both were moving well. Rob had made a great turn around from his stop at Camp Roosevelt. As the rocks thinned, they left me in the dust. The last part of this section was road to the visitors center. By now my legs were really betraying me and it was a real struggle to run this very runnable section. After leaving another great group of volunteers at the aid station, I looked up at what had to be Bird Knob. A green leafy spire rose above me. The trip up and down was a real roller coaster, geographically and mentally. I was surprised to see some of the front runners as I went up. On the way down more runners greeted me and we cheered each other as best we could. Mentally this was a real lift. Physically, I could go up as well as the others. But going down was becoming nasty for my quads. I started to entertain thoughts of dropping. I had now covered 52 miles, a little over half way, in 11 hours 38 minutes. Looked like a party going on at 211 east. Saw some familiar faces and moved on. Now this had become a walk heading north. The slow pace left me enjoy the valley as the sun was setting. Back on Crisman Hollow road I walked back to Gap Creek II.

This was were it made sense to drop. I had a lot of reasons to drop and to drop here. My diminished math skills said my pace was slowing and it would be a long way into tomorrow till I saw the finish. Jeff, whose Dad was crewing him, passed me on the way in to the aid station. When I mentioned my thoughts on dropping, he asked the pertinent question "What else do you have to do today". Unfortunately, I walked into the aid station looking strong. Not running but giving a good appearance. The catch 22 of this was three fold. If you look strong in that relative, sliding scale, 100 mile mirror they will not let you drop. Secondly, if you have sound logical reasons for dropping you must be mentally coherent, so they will not let you drop.

And thirdly, if they keep you moving after a rough time you will probably keep moving. All this being true, some good food, and some calm positive reinforcement I continued on. Oh did I mentioned that they also left me with the impression that I did not have to go up Scothorn Gap on the same trail as earlier in the day. Well it was only 1 little white lie and it kept me going. That brings me to the burger. All my logical reasons for dropping were now scattered in the dirt on the other side of a mountain with a name I can not remember. I an now resigned to a loooooooooong walk to the finish. And here is Kevin Black with a burger and encouragement. No time to think about what is ahead. It is only Short mountain. So I ate, drank and was merry and off I went. Short was slow. Every section from here on was slow, so Short was no worse then the others. Rocks? Dark? Slow? They were somewhat synonymous. Looking back they were the same for everyone. It is hard to imagine anyone keeping the same pace now as they could during the day on clean trail.

Early Sunday Morning
Magical night running was now fully upon me. Bright stars and a half moon peaked through the spring leaf shoots above. Occasionally a fellow wood sprit would dance by me on the trail with blue fire blazing from their brow. Time and distance were not that important now. Just keep moving forward and don't loose the trail. Both of these tasks were easier then I thought. Slow going makes route finding less of a task.

Gary Knipling passed by and proscribed the famous potato soup at Edinburg. This was quite good and with an egg salad sandwich I pushed on. At Woodstock tower I thought about taking a nap before the sun came up. But to much light and noise and I was not really sleepy just then. About a mile down the trail I was bouncing off tree limbs and bumped my head lamp into a fallen tree that was leaning over the trail. Set my timer for 10 minutes, curled up in a ball with my pack under my head and I was gone. Next I know a voice with an accent said are you OK. I answered that I still had 2 minutes of nap time. Looking at the results I think that was Hans. Skipped the last 2 minutes and was on my way.

The sun cam up shortly and it got hot. At Powell's Fort I find the Moores and some other friendly help with a fried egg sandwich. Because it is morning, I think they have just started their day. Later I realize that they, and many others, have been here for a long night and still have hours to go. I walked a good pace up the gravel road after Powell's Fort and then struggled to the top of Green Mountain. The sign post said 4.5 to Elizabeth Furnace. This leg was supposed to be 7.5 and it seemed like I had done more then 3 already. The miles seemed long. After that one more tough up at Shaw and then I fought my weary quads down to the finish. 30 hours 41 minutes. I am glad I did not drop. Now I am an official finisher and will not have to go back to get off the visitors list. This was a very pretty trail. The aid station people were the best I have come across. And the runners were great. It was a good mix of casual atmosphere, great support, and beautiful rugged country. And that little voice in my head is starting to say things like "next time you can ......"

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