Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run

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A Deer, A Snake, a Frog, and a Snipe, of sorts…

by Rande Brown

Massanutten: what a name! It invokes both fear and reverence, same as the name Moses, Zeus, or Clint Eastwood. Though this was my fourth trek across the MMT course, I am always surprised by the way a familiar trail can be so "new." Like the climb out of Habron, for instance; when did they add that? Scientists say, as a survival mechanism, our brains tend to erase memories of pain and suffering. That climb is memorable though, and long too.

Rande Brown
Rande Brown near Milford Gap.
Photo: Aaron Schwartzbard

Shoe-sucking mud and cold, deep water were a clever addition to the course this year. Whose idea was that? My routine sock changes were an exercise in futility, as a stream crossing seemed to immediately follow each aid station. And that, of course, was then followed by another punishing climb.

I've read of other runners who have seen wildlife on the course but until this year, the spirits and spooky strange phantoms of Short Mountain were the only wild things I've ever encountered. On the climb out of Camp Roosevelt though I saw a vulture so low and close its size implied pterodactyl. The cold, empty shadow of the foul bird passed right across me, and I hoped it wasn't a dark omen of bad things to come.

On the run down to Gap I, I saw Mark Radon jump no less that 17 feet in the air as a big yellow-phase rattlesnake lit the air with that unmistakable rattle-buzz sound of death, the same sound that can floor the mightiest man with racking fear. Later, a neat little sign indicated that, on this very spot there had once been a really scary snake.

As I slopped along the dark trail leading to Gap II, the music of Spring Peepers filled the air and I actually saw one of them, which is rare and special on any occasion as peepers are small, elusive frogs in spite of their raucous chorus song.

In the deep night after leaving Edinburg, my light illuminated the eyes of a deer standing on the trail. I stopped and we stood there looking at each other, it with its weird blue glowing animal eyes and me with my weird blue eye glowing in the center of my forehead. It snorted once and ran off. And so did I.

Hours before morning, I welcomed the sound of the ever-present whippoorwills as they repeated their names over and over insisting that the sun would soon rise. I questioned their timing though, as the predawn darkness dragged on for, I know, 20 hours.

At Powell's Fort, I felt my lowest, gnawing a cold piece of bacon and contemplating the miles ahead. David Snipes came bounding in all bright and insistent that I get out of the chair and get moving. He sighted the fact that I have consistently beaten him in prior races and he wasn't about to let me "walk it in" without a fight. In fact, his words were, "I want to kick your ass fair and square, so get up and let's go!" It was a worthy challenge and a fine gesture too so I joined him for a good strong run to the end.

Crossing the field on the approach to the finish I intentionally trailed a pace or two behind Dave, he deserving to cross ahead of me. "No way, he yelled, get up here! A deal is a deal and it is time to race." So once along side of him, we sprinted the last 50 yards - water bottles flying, arms swinging, chests heaving, and the awaiting crowd going wild. Stan called it as we rushed the line, Dave winning by a nose. I had been officially "Sniped", fair and square. It was a mighty finish and a fabulous end to an awesome 100-mile adventure. Thanks Dave, for the motivation and thanks MMT for another memorable weekend!

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