MMT 100 Report

Massanutten Mountain Trails 100
May 8-9, 2004

by Karen Shiley


2000 was my first introduction to the MMT course as I went to crew for my old man, Evan Sandt, at his first attempt at the distance. The experience was thrilling in a good and a scary way. I was captivated by the mountains and the people. I didn’t know many VHTRCers or ultra runners at this time and met Joe Clapper, Anstr, David Horton, and John Geesler. I watched as people succumbed to the intense heat and hail and I watched as they battled it out. Sunday at noon I hiked out of Elizabeth Furnace to see fellow Buzzardette, Marcia Peters, in her first 100 as well. The people I saw coming out of the woods had the blank stares of “Night of the Living Dead” in their eyes and on their faces. I was hooked.

Karen eating her soup at Edinburg 2001 I went back to crew for Evan again and now began to see MMT as the official start of summer. I looked forward to it more than Christmas - the camaraderie, the scenery....I actually felt great happiness that there were people (insane enough) to do the race so that I could come watch! By now I knew the whole cast of VHTRC characters: Gary Knipling, Chris Scott, Michelle Harmon, Peyton.......the list goes on.....and I loved spending the weekend in the woods with all. Did my first 100 - Arkansas Traveler (26+ hrs)

2002 Evan took the year off to injury and I went on to pace Buzzard, Leo Lutz, for the last 42 miles. I was amazed with how tired I was for a week+ to come with just doing half the race. I would have to do this race....someday. Completed Mohican (23:50)

2003 Evan came back to finish in sub 24!! I crewed through the rain, rain, rain. Smelled the potato soup for the 4th year in a row at Edinburg (in the rain) and decided I wasn’t sitting out anymore....2004 it would be. Did the Vermont 100 (22:22)


Non-existent.....I effectively began my taper for the 2004 MMT in November 2003. Did successfully convince 3 other Buzzards (Harry Smith, Tom Rineer, and Diana Stump) that MMT was the race for them.

Honestly, my attempts at training were well intended. I was scheduled to do Catawba, but the flu got me two days before and left me weak and tired and unable to run. Set out on several attempts at long runs in Jan and Feb before realizing that I needed to be Dorthy Hammel to make any real progress on PA trails at that time of year. Did get in a good long run at the Buzzards Marathon, HAT, and BRR and after each one felt like going longer would not have been too painful. I was optimistic that my endurance was there!

I have been approaching 100 milers at a rate of one per year with the thought that I want each one to be something I truly look forward to. The list of things that can cause a DNF at these events is probably longer than the race itself and I’m ever conscious of that. However, I at least want my mental framework to be there 110% before I toe the line and I felt like it was for MMT. I had spoke to many people who had walked the last 20, 30, 40 miles and finished under the cutoff. I was thrilled with the knowledge that I would see Sunday’s sunrise and looked forward to the concept of hiking much of this race in the later hours.

The Race

Arrived at Skyline Ranch for the briefing and was lucky enough to receive a subscription to Trail Runner magazine which I took as a good sign for the days to come. Evan and I went into Strasburg for a real nice dinner at a Mexican restaurant and arrived back to the ranch just as the rains ended. This was a lucky thing as we were camping out in the back of the Subaru. Slept like a baby and had precious few butterflies in the stomach on Saturday morning. Being familiar with the 2nd half of the course, I was anxious to see the 1st half and set off down the road at the start with Buzzard Tom. We chatted about what the day would bring and all felt well. As Tom left me in his dust I gradually hooked up with Kerry Owens who I would run off and on with for most of the first 25 miles at a comfortable pace with easy chatter. The day was turning out to be beautiful and I was constantly impressed with the great views, ridge lines, and blooming spring flowers.

The section between 25 - 50 miles was spent with 3 main people: Gary from CO, Bob from OH, and Al of PA.....All were real easy to talk to and get along with and it felt like the time was flying. Bob and Al are both home brewers as well and we discussed hops, ales, malts, and brews for many miles. There were several “milestones” that I looked forward to putting behind me at this race and the ridge line after the 1st jawbone climb was one of them. Al and Bob made this section a whole lot nicer and we were on the road to the Visitor’s Center before I knew it. I had yet to have a real “down” period yet and was feeling great – though perhaps socializing too much at the aid stations with crew Evan and friends Amy & Steve as my pacer Marcia reminded me that it was not happy hour (-:

The section between the Visitor’s Center and 211 proved to be my first real low however as I mistakenly thought that after coming down from the bird knob loop you turned right and just ran a short distance down the gravel nature trail path to 211 (and McDonald’s french fries). ½ hour later and at least 3 mud bogs later, I was still working my way there and growing increasingly discouraged. All was made well at 211 with good food, a happy meal toy, fresh shoes, and socks....and a pacer! Having run the last section alone I was very excited for some company and good friend Marcia and I had given each other the silent treatment for the past two weeks in the hopes of having hours of good stories to share in the night. It worked and the time to Gap Creek #2 flew by. The best story from this section was our conversation about the locusts that arrive every 17 years. As we ended the story we ran through a stand of trees that sounded like they were about to take off in flight with the deafening buzzzzzz of locusts in their branches. We ran low to the ground, hoping not to be carried away, and kind of not really caring at this point if we were. A special treat awaited Marcia at Gap Creek as her husband, Larry Slacker Boy Peters, showed up to help crew and mountain bike. Spirits remained high and the hospitality lacked none of the usual Chris Scott charm as I believe I was handed a delicious quesadilla by Melaine immediately upon my arrival. Life was good and the section to Moreland Gap continued in the same manner.

Brick wall #2 came somewhere in between Moreland and Edinburg as the rocks, miles, and darkness crept up on me. Regardless, that is a really cool section of trail if you are in the frame of mind to enjoy it. City lights on both sides of you, wind howling in the night, and cool looking rock formations abound! And best of all, it leads to POTATO SOUP! When I got there I felt like I didn’t quite know what to say.....nothing needed to be said as Brenda kindly handed me a cup of the holy grail with an ice cup to cool it down. The only sorrow was in leaving but we did quickly and set off into the night and the 8.7 mile brick wall #3 that followed. I could not keep my eyes open to save my life and would try to walk for 15 minutes and rest for 1 minute by holding on to a tree with my eyes closed. I was so scared that this exhaustion would continue even when the sun came up and I was very scared to think of the possibilities of not being able to continue because I couldn’t stay awake. After 4 horribly painful hours of trying to maintain consciousness the sun did come up and the spring came back into my step. I felt great for several miles, almost the whole way to Powell’s Fort. As I felt myself waking up I began to tear up with the realization for the very 1st time since I had put my check in the mail that I could finish this thing. There were still some major downs resulting from foot pain, dried out contact lenses, and whipped legs but I at least knew that the finish was within my grasp. The uphills felt great and I tried to walk them as quickly as possible while slowly jogging the flats, and just trying to stay upright on the horribly painful downhills. The sight of the ranch nearly set me off in another set of tears but I think I was just dehydrated enough to prevent the flow.

As they say, “there is nothing like coming across that grass field and seeing the finish line” and like I say, “there is nothing like being across that finish line and having a beer”.... MMT is a truly awesome event thanks to the course, the mountains, and mostly because of the people. Thanks to everyone who made my first one that I’ll never forget!

MMT 2004 Report | MMT Home Page

Kerry Owens and Karen Shiley coming into the Shawl Gap Aid Station

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