Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run
I Left My Bile At Massanutten
by Steve Markoe
It was a hard even writing this because I am still quite disappointed. I never was able to really be challenged and my day never started on the right track. I was extremely nervous from the start. We started out on the road in the dark where I was fine but my heart was pounding. We made the first climb and we hit the ridge of the mountains and it was all rocks. I slipped and I felt all of the contents of my stomach trying to get out one way or another. So from mile 4 I was nauseous. Somewhere on the top right after they took my picture I had to pull over the trail and start vomiting. I couldn't stop. The O'Connor brothers were great trying to calm me down.
Photo: Aaron Schwartzbard
We went into the Shawl Gap aid station where I was given ginger ale to try and settle my stomach but no help I vomited again. The O'Connor brothers were great because they stayed with me telling me we can get through this and get back into the run. I felt so sick...We got to Veach Gap 11.8 where I then drank some coke hoping to settle my stomach but no more than 500 yards I got sick again and the coke came spewing out of my mouth and nose. Carbonation out the nose is quite fun... We then started to climb up to Milford Gap and I had nothing in me and my stomach was in knots and the roof of my mouth was burned from the bile. I believe Chris looked at me and said I was pale white.
Somewhere around mile 13 I told the O'Connor brothers to go and I was going to DNF at Milford Gap 16.9 miles. I felt depressed and horrible. I pulled my Crackberry from mile Camelbak and noticed I had reception and 8:45AM EST or 5:45AM PST I text msg'd my wife Sarah that I'd be done at mile 16. Four minutes later my Crackberry was ringing and she was on the phone trying to talk me off the ledge quitting. She convinced me to keep going. I started to walk and my nerves settled down a bit and I saw no confidence ribbon anywhere and I thought I was lost.. I turned around thinking I had gone the wrong way and I had to go ½ mile till I saw a ribbon and I was on the correct trail. I was all alone. I had been passed by everyone. I started to walk because running wasn't an option; Sarah was going to call me back when she got to work. I looked down at my watch and saw it was 9:35 and I to get to Milford Gap in 10 minutes to make the cutoff. I started a slow jog then a run as I began to race the clock.
I pulled into Milford Gap at 9:49. It took me 4hrs and 49 minutes to go 16.9 miles. I hadn't fueled since 5:30AM. They let go maybe because there was no way to DNF at this aid station because there was no crew access. I was feeling a little better and I ate a few saltine crackers and a few pretzels. When of the volunteers who was felling my camelback said my phone was ringing. I left the aid station and I called Sarah to let her know I was going to give it a go. Sarah kept telling me I had to down a power gel ASAP because I needed to fuel and I was falling behind and I needed to try and catch up. She said she'd call back in 15 minutes and I'd better have taken a Gel. I consumed a Tangerine Power Gel. It tasted absolutely gross. I felt like I was consuming an Orange Tequila paste after a hangover. I believe after 10 minutes I was sick again.
Sarah called back we talked awhile and she told me to talk a Power Gel every 15 minutes and I needed to fuel to fight my body from shutting down. I told I would but had to go because the trail was getting technical and I couldn't stay on the phone and down a power gel. I think I was able to put down 3 power gels. I hit a downhill and started to run. I remember Brian O'Connor telling me I needed to run it out. It was a 1000ft decline and it was a goodtime for it to happen. I began to run and run fast. I started to catch other runners. I passed 4 runners and came off the trail onto a road where I caught up to two older gentlemen running the race and they said, "Hey you're the guy getting sick! We counted you out along time ago." They told me to slow down and the key for me was to make the next aid station Habron Gap before the cutoff. We did a slow jog for a few miles. When the road began to climb I pulled away and I passed a few more runners and made it into the Habron Gap aid station. I made the darn cutoff by 15 minutes and dam I had to go on. I texted Sarah that I was at mile 24.4 and was going to keep going.
I also texted Chris' wife in California. I texted her I didn't have his dads cell phone and let him know that I have risen from the dead. The climb after Habron Gap was 1700ft. For those out west I compare it to Michigan Bluff climb but not as steep except for the end.
The nausea kicked in full gear. I couldn't fuel I was sick to my stomach. Everything I fought off was in full gear again. On the decline down now I was dealing with nausea, a slight headache and my intestines were starting to cramp. I still managed to pass a few more runners and pull into Roosevelt Camp 20 minutes ahead of the cutoff. Chris' dad was there and it was nice seeing a friendly face. I couldn't eat but I took some pepto bismo for the intestines and managed to eat some more crackers. I changed shoes and went on my way. Chris' dad said he would see me at Gap Creek 5.6 miles away. It was only 1100ft climb and an 800ft decline over 5.6miles. My body started to shutdown. The front of my skull ached, I was dizzy and sick as can be for that 5.6 miles. My world was crashing in on me. I tried and tried to call Sarah on my way into Gap Creek. I wanted so badly to have her talk me down off the ledge again. I just wanted to hear her voice. I had no cell coverage so I sent her a text. It took me 2 ½ hrs to go 5.6 miles. I pulled into Gap Creek 11hrs 28mins only traveling 38.9 miles(actually 40.6 due to turning around for awhile) I didn't know what to do. Next crew access was 10 miles away. I have never been in the state I was in running before. I threw in the towel and I was crushed. I put my head between my legs and cried. Soundandcrunchy's dad drove me out and asked if I wanted a ride back to the cabins and I replied no I wanted to stay and watch the O'Connor brothers. I felt like pond scum but didn't want to miss the rest of the race. We pulled into 211 Aid station. It was hard being there. I had DNF'd and felt like a total failure and that everyone around me felt the same. I didn't eat till around 6PM.
I saw the O'Connor brothers coming into 211 up to Birdknob and back in from Birdknob. I told Sarah that I would get myself back together and pace later because according to the Pacer's Union rule book Chapter 7 Bylaw 11. Once a union member paces another union member's spouse you are obligated to pace without any notice or excuse. After a few aid stations later and 3hrs sleep I was able to pace with the O'Connor brothers last 17.8 miles which was the highlight of my trip to MMT. That story though is someone else's report.
I never got to truly challenge Massanutten. The climbs were steep but not something I couldn't handle. The terrain was rocky. There are rocks and boulders on at least 60% of the trail I was on. It was hard running on a lot of sections because of all the rocks. I kicked many rocks and twisted my feet over many sections. I hated Massanutten but I plan on returning to have the mountain try and break me again.
All I can say is Sarah saved my day. I would have never made it to mile 38.9 or go on to pace another 17.8 miles. I was prepared to turn around at mile 16.9 and walk back to the cabins.
The O'Connor's are an inspiration to see gut it out and I learned a lot from watching them make it through Massanutten.