Race morning dawned cool, but muggy. I went out with Karl Meltzer for the first 13 miles or so. I had to stick with him in fact as my headlamp broke apart about half way up the first techical climb and I had to follow in his tracks to stay on course. So much for changing my batteries the night before. I was feeling fine and running comfortably with Karl through the first two aid stations. Leaving the second aid station we started a pretty serious climb and I'm just no Karl Meltzer so he pretty quickly pulled away.
I was enjoying the morning despite the very humid conditions. Glen Redpath, who I desperately wanted to beat, caught up with me at some point around 28 miles or so. We were running together and had the pleasure of meeting a box turtle. We were quietly pushing each other for a half hour or so. Sensing a little weakness, I opened up a few minute gap on him. It was getting hot, I was out of water and knew he had to be hurting for water too as he was carrying less water than me.
I started having some cramp/heat issues somewhere around mile 40 or so. Glen also caught back up with me somewhere in there. I started doubling down on the Succeed caps, hitting the gels and trying to keep it together. We pushed each other pretty good through a bunch of technical trail miles. I was having a pretty good time still, but starting to hurt some. We finally came out of the woods and hit the road for a three mile downhill. Again, we were pushing at each other pretty hard. By the time I hit the next aid station, I was spent.
Topped up at the mile 50 aid station. This is a big one as you do a pretty long climb and it's steep. Left there feeling bloated. Nothing was getting digested. Glen quickly pulled away. I made it close to the top before I got sick. Threw up a lot of stuff and sort of staggered up to the top. After about 20 minutes of walking, drinking and eating I started feeling better. Plus, we got hit by a huge thunderstorm as I was coming down the mountain. It was fantastic. Huge downpour, lots of lightening. There was large hail I heard but I was spared that.
Took off pretty fast at that point. Not much happened until I saw a huge rattler on the trail. The rain had passed and I just thought to myself, "I better keep my eye out for a rattler the conditions are just right." Literally, I just thought it and 20 seconds later there it was. Well, my friend Mike Mason, was gaining on me. I was petering out a bit and needing some solid food and he was coming on strong. He passed me in the next aid station (65?). I pulled it together shortly thereafter and caught up to him. We ran pretty hard together for the next 24 miles or so. We got hit by another great T storm. I was loving life. Then it just rained and rained. It was cool, the woods was great and life was good for most of those miles. Mike and I were back and forth some in terms of strength but the last 13 miles we were together he had the day in hand. We did a whole bunch of 9 minute miles in the dark, rain on rocky trails. Mike dropped his pacer as he was bent on catching up with Glen Redpath. I was just trailing along for the ride as he was an animal. We were able to close Glen's 10 minute lead (Karl was too far away and out of our league to mention here) over the next 13 miles. So we caught Glen at the second to last aid station and had about 11 miles to go or so.
Problem was, I was done after catching him. So those guys took off and I was feeling spent but OK. Thinking no problem, 4th place. My goal was 5 MMT 100's with 5 top finishes. Anyway, I hit the last aid station and picked up another of Mike's pacers as he lost him while they were trying to find the trail. So we leave, climb all the way to within 100 yards of the top and take a wrong turn. So, we go right when we should have gone left and end up at the same place. Then, instead of turning right and heading to the finish, I turn left and end up going all the way back to the the last aid station. It's even worse as going down the trail the wrong way highlighted a couple of other opportunities for me to go wrong and I went wrong at every one of them. I waste 1:50 minutes and did I don't know how many extra miles. I came into the aid station, quit, swore a bit and then went back out and finished. Joe Kulak was instrumental in getting me back out there. He was suffering badly and said, come on get this done. I could see he was suffering very badly and was going to finish. We were hanging out the night before and he spoke about the importance of finishing.
I have a whole different perspective on finishing now. Karl Meltzer and Joe Kulak both spoke about the importance of it earlier in the day or the day before. Going back out and finishing after making a whole extra climb was not an easy decision. My feet were in agony. I was tired and was ready to be done for the last 4 hours at that point. In a lot of ways, this was one of my more satisfying experiences.
I was intending on not running this one again, but the course is so great and the people are even better. I'm thinking I may have to go for the gold belt buckle and do it 5 more times.
Of course I have to give credit to my wife Dee for taking great care of me all day. Ice in my bag and shirt all day. Helping get me in and out of the aid stations as quickly as possible. It's not an easy job finding your way around those large, dark VA mountains in the rain and fog. In fact one crew wrecked their car and had to be hospitalized.
Inov-8 shoes were great. I was running in the 318's. The rocks were slippery as all get out but not a problem. While the outside of the shoes got a little shredded, these shoes still have another few hundred miles on them.
Sorry for the long race report. Hope you all enjoy it despite the length.