Wednesday, May 18, 2011

MMT 100 - Silver Belt Buckle and Solo Division Champ

I jumped full steam into Ultra running just last year. I did the normal progression for marathon: 50K to 50 mile to 100 miler, however I tried to do it all in the manner of months. This turned out to be too much, too soon and led to several 100-miler DNFsL  My wife kept telling me that MMT would be my first 100 mile finish – obviously since it would be the hardest one. Everything seemed to be going well leading up to the race. I had a good spring with many races and remained injury free (other than the knee banging at Bel Monte), I got in several really strong 100+ mile weeks of training and I actually took it easy the week leading up to MMT. So there would be no excuses…

I decided to do the race solo because 1) I had no crew and did not want to subject Anne to driving around the GW Forest roads chasing me around the mountains and 2) I seem to do better when I just focus on the run and not worrying about a crew, logistics, etc. I headed out to the race site at the Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp on Friday afternoon, got my packet, ate some dinner, pitched a tent in the muddy field/parking lot and tried to get some sleep. I awoke around 3 AM to the sound of 80’s music blaring from the start line. I got my stuff together and lined up to for the 4 AM start.

The race started on a 3.6 mile road section. Dave Ploskonka led the pack; with consensus picks for a 1-2-3 finish, Karl Meltzer, Neal Gorman, and David Frazier right behind. I stayed with a pack not far behind the front runners with a group that included Keith Knipling, Jason Lantz and Evan Cestari.. As we entered the trail up Short Mountain things began to thin out. The rain the night before led to some slippery rocks and the fog in the early morning darkness did make it a little hard to navigate. I was happy with the pace through this section though and just started to feel like I was waking up as I hit the first aid station where I had a drop bag; just before mile 20.

Early in the Race feeling good!

I downed my first bottle of Ensure, changed out my empty gels, and headed back out. It started to get very humid, so I decided to shed my shirt at the next aid station and upped my intake of liquids and salt. The next 30 or so miles went very smooth. I ran with several other runners, eventually working my way up to 6th place. I ran a good portion of this section with Mike Mason, and had a good time chatting with him as we moved along the course.

Mike and I covering some road miles

We hit the half-way point in about 9:30. I still felt pretty good. If I was smart it looked like I definitely could go sub-24 and possibly break 22 hours. I decided to get a little more conservative with the second half of the race as I wanted to make sure I finished well (and simply finished). I took it easy on the uphills and with my quads starting to “fire-up,” I didn’t force the downhills too much, but still ran everything that was relatively flat.

Coming into Camp Roosevelt

At Camp Roosevelt (mile 63) I had my first relatively “low” point of the race. Nothing too bad, just a little low on energy; I took in some extra calories and before I knew it I was in-and-out of Gap Creek 1 and on my way up Jaw Bone. I was very glad to be running this section in the daylight, as the top of Kerns Mountain is one of the more difficult sections of the course. It is full of little ups-and-downs and is very rocky – seemingly lasting forever. I made it through this section and into Visitor Center Aid Station feeling pretty good. On the way up to Bird Knob, Eva Pastalkova came bouncing by me – smile on her face, looking like she hadn’t yet run a mile, let alone 80. She is a really strong runner and I would end up never getting any closer than within about 5 minutes of her the rest of the race as she went on to smash the women’s course record.

By now it was dark, my quads were very sore and this was farther than I have ever run. I knew I was on pace to finish very well and just needed to keep moving forward. I shortened my stride a bit and kept on going. At the aid stations, everyone was telling me how “great” I looked compared to everyone else. I did feel pretty good, but I knew I was not moving any faster than anyone else and did not want to screw anything up by pushing myself any harder. I just wanted to enjoy finishing my first 100.

As I hit Gap Creek II, and started up Jaw Bone for the second time I ran into Dave Yeakel, who was on his way up for the first time. I met him at one of my previous DNFs, and he asked how things were going (thinking I was on my first climb as well). When I told him I was glad to be within 6 miles of the finish, he was surprised and told me how happy he was for me. This gave a little surge of confidence and I picked up the pace a bit as I came down from Jaw Bone and onto the last section of road.

I crossed the finish line in 22:45 – Kevin Sayers, the race director, was there to shake my hand and confirm that I was in the Solo Division – "Did you use any headphones?" "No" – “congratulations you are the Solo Champ!” This came as a surprise and was a great way to top off the run. I immediately sat down had some soup and a grilled cheese before hiking up to the showers.

At about 3:30 AM I crawled into my tent, but was not able to sleep much with my legs twitching and turning. A few hours later, Anne showed up with fresh coffee and donuts, I was so glad to see her. We went down and watched the other runners finish for a few hours and had a good time talking with other runners and enjoying the beautiful weather. I have nothing but respect for everyone who finishes MMT; it is a challenging course that requires true patience and endurance. Also, I have to thank Kevin Sayers and all the support crew and volunteers throughout the day and night who put on a wonderful event.

Solo Division Award
Lingering Thoughts and Lessons Learned: Me to Karl - "How do you run so fast on those rocks?" Karl's response - "practice." His accomplishments are really amazing - thirty 100-miler wins, 12 straight years with a 100 mile win, 3 MMT victories (most all time), and the list goes on...

My nutrition worked well for this race. My stomach was great all day. I drank about 5 bottles of Ensure and supplemented it with vanilla gels. The only solid food I had was some soup, boiled potatoes and little pieces of PB&J, but this was much later in the race when I was moving slower and knew I could digest it. I also drank as much as I could. Mostly water, but I did mix in some Gatorade and took salt tabs at every aid station. My shoes did not hold up too well. I wore the MT 101s and felt fine in them, but they were chewed up (soles ripping off, and cuts in the fabric) and my feet were pretty swollen. However, I did not have any blisters and I did not fall once:) 

It was also good to have a plan in my head for this race and be knowledgeable of what to expect on the last half of the course. I had the second half of the course broken down so well in my mind that as I reached my “little goals” along the way, I knew I just kept getting closer to the finish. Also at night, the more light you have the better – I didn’t pick up my hand-held flashlight until the last section – having more light definitely makes it easier to navigate on the rocks and boosts your confidence. This is also a course that requires a lot of experience and practice on technical terrain. I wish I had more of it heading in, as I feel it would have made my time better. But I am happy with my performance, and I know I can only improve at this distance and as an Ultra runner in general. 


  1. WOw, nicely done! Congrats!!

  2. Huge congratulations on your first 100, your Solo Division win and coming in 7th overall, Jeremy! Quite a list of accomplishments where simply finishing is impressive.