Massanutten Mt Trails 100
Kristen Kern, Randy Dietz, and Gary Knipling finish the MMT
Sue and Bethany with their pacers Muffy and David; Photo: Bunny Runyan
Rain, mud, wet, and fun. That was the MMT 2003. There were two great races. Tom Nielsen held off Robin Kane by five minutes to claim the mens title. Both Bethany Hunter and Sue Johnston obliterated the course record, but Bethany was able take the win from Sue.
As usual, MMT's great aid stations were the stars of the show. Debbie Morrin and Mark Prescott got people off to a great start at the Shawl and Veach aid stations. Vic Culp prepared the runners for the tough Habron Gap climb for the ninth year in a row. At Camp Roosevelt, Peyton Robinson had a "camp" with masterful organization. What can you say about Gap Creek? Since this is a family Web site, you can't say much. Jeff Reed and Paul Courry took care of folks at the Visitor's Center and 211 as they crossed the big road. Marty Lindemann, with professional help from Jeanne and Larry, made Bird Knob an oasis at the otherwise lonely south end of the course. Steve Eggert and Tom Green prepared runners at Moreland Gap for infamous Short Mountain section. At the end of the Short Mountain, Brenda's famous soup awaited runners at Edinburg Gap. At Woodstock Tower, Karsten Brown again provided aid to runners as they completed their second eight-mile stretch in a row. At Powells Fort Camp, Marg and Stan, with help from some other Marylanders, helped people for the second year in a row. Finally, Janice and Bob Heltibridle, with sister Jean running, did both the Milford Gap and Elizabeth Furnace aid stations. Elizabeth Furnace has creature comforts (a shelter and a toilet) but it is open forever. At the finish, Bunny Runyan welcomed runners as they completed their long jouneys. The only problem at the aid stations was getting the runners to leave.
Woody: The mascot of the 2003 MMT was clearly the wonder dog, Woody. Woody had run with some of the marking crew on Friday. About a mile into the race itself, Woody fell into the pack on route 619 and ran all the way to Gap Creek I -- almost 40 miles. He probably would have gone further, and earned a Visitors Award, but he was restrained there and adopted by Maria, who is now deciding whether he will go to Tech or UVA when he grows up. Woody is a true running dog. He would go into aid stations where there was food, people, water, and places to sleep. But he wouldn't stay. He had to be with the runners, and the front runners for that matter. Will Woody come back next year and go for a finish?
The Weather: Well, the weather could have sucked far worse. The rain came straight down and the thunder and lightening were not too violent. The makeshift shelters that the aid stations had, for the most part, survived. The rain stopped Saturday evening and it did not get too cold over night. Just a typical May in Virginia!
Live Updates: We did pretty well with the live updates on the Web this year. Valerie was able to post fairly frequent reports and we even had pictures. The only problem was when I was typing fast (it was 10¢ a minute, for crying out loud!) and said, "The rain has stopped and the race has stopped." Sorry about that! The race did not stop.
The Rivalries: You don't really go to an event like MMT to see a race. But this year, you got two races. As I drove from the Visitors Center (47 mile point of race) north on the Crisman Hollow Road, the leaders were coming toward me. Tom Nielsen was first. Just behind him were Aaron Schwartzbard and then John Geesler. As I approached the Kerns Mountain trailhead, Evan Sandt came by with Robin Kane on his heals. Five guys within two miles of each other. Almost 30 miles later at Edinburg Gap, things were much different. Tom was still ahead. He looked good, but not great. Fifteen minutes later, Robin Kane came in with pacer Derrick Carr. Robin looked ok too. Derrick told me that they had made up 10 minutes on Tom over the last section. (That was wrong, according to the splits.) As Robin left, it looked as if he could catch Tom. He did, but could not hold on and lost by five minutes. Robin ran the race of his life. His time would have won three prior MMTs.
Meanwhile, the women were having a slug fest. There was absolutely no surprise about Bethany. It's not that she is a good runner. That is a given. It's that she can take the rocks without losing her cool. She had proved that at the MT Ring last September and, more recently, on the Tuscarora Trail. She and David blew into Edinburg Gap on a mission. (What else do you expect if David is your pacer?) She had her soup and was gone. Fifteen minutes later, Sue came in. She looked good. She always does. How could you bet against her? Well, just like Robin, Sue caught Bethany, but also could not hold on. Sue's time would have won all of the prior MMTs.
It all reminded me of the first MMT which I was privileged to see from the front of the pack. My job then was to go to each aid station to be sure it was set up. I got to see the epic struggle between John Geesler and Joe Clapper. It was just the two of them -- no crew or pacers. John was leading but was feeling the strain. (John always feels the strain!) Joe looked better, and as he left Woodstock Tower, it looked as if he could catch John. He never did. The similarity with this year is that, even if Joe had caught John, John never would have let him past. Neither Tom nor Bethany were going to let anyone past. That is the responsibly of the leader. The duty to defend the yellow jersey. You don't pass the leader at MMT.
Transition: This was the last year under the leadership of Ed Demoney. Stan Duobinis will be the RD next year. While a lot of people have contributed to the success of MMT, it is all Ed's baby. First, he devised the course. The MMT course is a masterful work of art. Tough but with just enough "easy" miles to make it doable. Then Ed found the Skyline Ranch Resort. What a great place to have the event. Finally, Ed exploited his great relationships with the Old Dominion Endurance Ride group and the Forest Service. MMT is a living monument to Ed's skills as a manager and ultra runner.
Course Marking: Scott Mills and his course marking crew have come to be taken for granted. That the course was well-marked is expected at MMT. What we are really proud of is that the course markings are all gone. They were gone on Sunday afternoon. We took them down as fast was we put them up.
All the Other Stuff: The radio people were instrumental in keeping track of everyone. So was Bill vanAntwerp. There are three unsung heros who make MMT what it is. Bill Sublett drives the truck that delivers the drop bags. He is a master at organization. He has it down to a science. Bill vanAntwerp goes to each aid station as it shuts down. He is the "grim reaper" who cuts people off. His job is thankless but critical. Finally, there is Valerie Meyer. Because of her, all the data comes together and comes together quickly. She doesn't sleep, but she is the key to it all. We didn't lose anyone this year. That is good.
Way Behind the Scenes: There are so many who work to keep these trails clean. Ed Brimberg of the PATC works tirelessly to clear the trails. He went over many parts of the trail to remove down trees and limbs. The MORE mountain bike folks do a lot of work on the trails, especially in the north section of the mountain. This year, MORE specifically timed a work trip to help our event. Finally, the U.S. Forest Service folks are the ones who remove the really big blow downs. You can thank them for a lot of step-overs and climb-overs you did not have to do north of Edinburg Gap. If you liked how clean the trail was, be sure to join us next year for our work party, or join one of the PATC work parties sooner.
Ten years ago, we decided that we would put on a 100 miler. We felt that Virginia needed a well-run trail 100 miler. We were presumptuous enough to think we could do it. We knew that we had to do a good job. So with Ed's leadership and a lot of work, we pulled it off. MMT is not perfect and we realize that we have not abrogated Murphy's Law. If you come to MMT, we don't guarantee perfection, but we do guarantee that we will make it the best event we can. We will prove that Massanutten Rocks!
Ed Demoney, Bethany Hunter, and Tom Nielsen
The Gap Creek Aid Station Crew