NOV. 6, 2010
By Sheryl Mawn
My first 50 mile race.
I think (I KNOW) I signed up because of the race name. Who names a race Mountain masochist??? David Horton, of course. I started to learn all about this guy named Horton when I moved to lynchburg 8 years ago. I was an on and off road runner but after one knee surgery and "issues" with both knees decided to find something else.
I started running Candler's Mountain (Horton's trails). The soft ground and gentle downhills were awesome. No problems with my knees Then lucky for me I found some strong and inspiring friends who loved to run the Appalachian Trail! Yea!!! They first asked me if I wanted to run Terrapin Race. I kept saying no (worried that I might overdo it and then hurt one of my knees again). But then a good friend named Tracey wanted me to do the race with her so I signed up for the Terrapin 1/2 marathon and trained. It was a blast!! I made it out without any injuries. Much more fun than I ever expected. Clark Zealand and David Horton put on races that make you feel very welcomed with a relaxed friendly atmosphere. From there I had to have more. I signed up for Promise Land 50K. It was even better! So I had to sign up for MMTR!!!!!! Each race I completed I wanted to sign up for the next one. Until I finished MMTR. Hellgate 100??? Are you kidding me???
It was supposed to be very cold during the race with 60% chance of rain. Two days before the race that chance of rain was changed to chance of snow. My training partner Robyn and I both dressed way too warm for the weather that we ended up having. I had tights with shorts over them and a wick away shirt( next to skin ), technical thin shirt , under armour shirt and an extremely thin wind jacket (water resistant), smart wool hat with a thin cap over that for protection from the possible rain and gloves. I gave up the jacket, hat and under armour shirt within the first 5 miles!!!!! Wished that I wasn't wearing the tights each mile until Buck Mountain (mile 27ish).
The race starts off on the Blue Ridge Parkway for 3 or 4 miles and then you exit onto Highway 501 North until you cross the James River Bridge. My friend Robyn (the one I had trained with entirely for this race) and I were amused at the sign posted by a church we past. It said "This day is a gift to you from God......Are you using it wisely??" We both smiled but quietly thought to ourselves for a minute. I felt a bit guilty that I was using my day to see if I could run 50 MILES!! A day that I could be spending other ways with my family! Hmmm. I am sure my friend had similar thoughts as she is planning to be married in three weeks!!
After you cross the bridge and make a left you pass the first AS and then head up the trails . This is a nice area but you may be surprised to walk just a little of it. After some nice winding turns you get a little downhill in before the next AS. As we were moving along my friend felt that something just wasn't "right" with her. She wasn't feeling well. I chose to not talk about how she felt but focus on how she was going to finish this race strong and BEAT her time from last year. We moved on. We joked a little and made small talk. We came up on a great downhill and I ran fast wanting to make up some lost time. I passed a good 3 or 4 runners then looked back for my friend as I finished the hill then down I tumble. My friend was right there. No need to look for her. She smiled. "Well you did great rolling into that fall." And I think I did because I didn't hurt at all. Whew. I am pretty sure the runners that I passed got a little chuckle out of that fall.
On we go until we cross Dancing Creek into AS 3. We were both looking forward to this as this was where both of us would have "crew" waiting for us. My husband and son were there. My son was so excited to see me he was jumping up and down and had THE BIGGEST SMILE ON HIS FACE. He felt so proud to be ready to hand to me my fresh gatorade bottles and take my old ones. My husband asked if I needed anything and I grabbed a few banana halves and off I went. I turned back to encourage my friend to hurry and come on. Then we went on and I think this was where we went through a tunnel which had a fair amount of water. So if you managed to stay dry at Dancing Creek you were sure to get wet here. It didn't bother me. I learned from the earlier races from my experienced trail running friends not to worry about creeks and water and just run right through them and that is just what I did. You can waste time otherwise. My feet were dry in no time and it never bothered me.
Coming in to AS 4 I did not have a crew. Because I took longer than expected to get to AS 3, my husband had to return home to take my son who was to travel with another family for a hockey tournament taking place in Richmond. They both had hoped to see me at AS 3 and AS 4 then leave to drop him off. Bummer. I was definitely behind the time I had planned and slower than what I had even done in the training run. I waited for my friend who was getting help from her crew. I encouraged her to hurry because we needed to pick up pace. I knew something was wrong. My friend had completed NINE ULTRAS! Including a previous MMTR. Hmmmmm. Off we went. This part is a short uphill then nice long downhill. Great. Pick up speed. Ok, now we are moving. My friend expressed to me that she wasn't sure this day was going to pan out for her. She was not feeling well and with all of her race experience knew that this feeling meant trouble. My stomach started feeling funny. Was this all in my head. Did I need a quick bathroom break? Hmmmm. I kept running. Then I finally decided to take a quick bathroom stop. I had told myself NEVER to put this off as it will only impede your ability to run fast. Perfect spot away from where anyone could see me. Then I saw someone look back at me. Ooops, sorry if I yelled for you NOT to look. I am sure he didn't do it intentionally. OK. I feel better. Wow! I can not see my running partner. Good. She is booking it! Yea! I can catch up. She stopped as we approached Forest Service Road 39 where her crew was waiting. I grabbed some fruit from the AS and said to her to come on that I was going to go ahead. We were coming up on a long road portion and I knew that was going to be hard for me. She is an excellent road runner and I felt confident that she could catch up. As I headed out I turned to look at her and I could just tell this was it. I wasn't sure she was going to continue. I knew how much she trained and worked for this race. My heart sank. I wanted to go back but I knew that I could not do anything for her. I knew she would want me to keep going. I knew that she would want me to realize my goal. I hoped I would see her in just a short while. I picked up pace. I had to. I was now pushing it to make the cut off at Hwy 60. I passed so many runners. I tried to encourage them to come on and run with me. We had to pick it up to make cut off. I didn't see anyone come with me. Most just look tired. One said to me "if you have it in you". WHAT???? If I have it in me?? Are you kidding. I didn't train for this run for over 4 months to not even make the half. I really took off. Woo Hoo! I made it to Hwy 60 with maybe 10 minutes to spare. I had expected to be here at noon with 30 minutes buffer. Happy to make it but what a let down. But good news. There were so many people at Long Mountain Wayside/Hwy 60! It was nice to see so many families and friends out there to meet their runners! I saw Wendy, a familiar face and she said "great job" and encouraged me on and then I saw my husband! Yea! This is where I hoped he would remember what I had told him before race day. Do not be upset with me or take anything I say personally. I looked rough. He asked what he could get for me. I said (in a stern voice) get my jacket and that I was going to grab a banana and keep going. I had to make up time. He must have not only remembered what I said but he also had a banana waiting for me because I didn't even see the AS table and I did not grab any thing.
He fast hiked with me for a few minutes up Buck Mountain and let me talk about how bad I felt about my friend. Then pumped me up with great words of encouragement and said I will see YOU on the other side of Buck Mountain at the LOOP! Off I went. Buck Mountain really wasn't that bad and if I only had a better buffer I think I would have enjoyed it. After all, this was where Robyn and I had previously seen a black bear when we were out training!!!!!! Wait! I know that person!! Here comes my friend Blanks running towards me with POUNDS of camera equipment! He is an extremely fast runner who is not in the race but out pacing others and always takes photos! I can't imagine what he thought of how I looked. He boosted my spirits, gave me motivating words of encouragement and even took a picture of me. I smiled. Can't imagine how that pic will turn out! He had already run that mountain 3 times in the last hour and a half with friends (and I am talking the fast running friends)!! I forged on. Now I was about to get the biggest boost yet.........someone was running toward me calling my name! I had asked my dear friend Jen to pace me for 6 or 7 miles and to meet me at the road leading up to the Loop. When I never showed at the time I had given her she took off looking for me! I was so happy to see her. She gave me cold water, life saver candy and even brought me an apple. But most off, she brought me a brand NEW ATTITUDE! She ran with me, beside me, behind me and in front of me when going into the steep part of the Loop. After the Loop levels out (and YES it will eventually) We chatted. We had agreed ahead of time that I would run fast down the loop and head on without her. She had to take the downhill with caution due to an upcoming 1/2 marathon the following weekend. She gave me her ipod in case my battery died. Gave me the apple she brought . I told her I LOVE HER!!! And off I went! OK. This is it. Somewhere I read that most people never run far enough to find their second wind. I found my second wind!!!! I was flying!! I came out of the Loop and grabbed fruit and potatoes at the AS. Said thanks and off I went. My husband caught up to me. Asked me if I needed anything. I kept going. This second wind felt GREAT. 30 minutes later. That's it. That's the second wind. Really. Hmmm. Ok. Run a little. Speed walk a little. Next AS (11, I think) came quickly. There is my husband. He cruised with me 10 minutes or so. I said don't ask me HOW I FEEL! Just tell me some jokes. He always has jokes. That was it. I would not see him again until the finish. I had finally built up at least a 30 minute buffer so I wasn't exactly panicked. Still, we always have the "times" fixed in our head that we "want" to make. This, I am sure is funny to the better runners!!!!
I kept moving forward happy now that I was wearing my tights for sure as it was COLD! The light snow on the mountain was beautiful! I worked on eating a few cliff blocs and a few sips of gatorade. I had tried hard the whole race to remember to eat every 15 minutes or so and always took sips of water or gatorade. I even started out taking S caps every hour until around hour 6. My hands started to swell just a little so I backed off of the S caps. I passed AS 12 with just a quick hello and pick up of something I do not even remember. I then decided that I could not have more than 7 miles to go so I was going to put it in the highest gear I could (ha!). Then I turned and saw the steepest mountain to climb. Ok. Just climb as fast as possible. I reminded myself that I am great on the uphills. I had to repeat that a few times. Not sure I ever convinced myself. After I crested that mountain I started running even on the steep inclines. I then started passing others!!! Several others. This felt good and gave me energy to see how many I could pass. A part of me felt a little guilty. These were really nice people. I didn't want to deflate their spirits but I was feeling good.
I passed the last AS. I could not BELIEVE it!!!! I knew that there were only 4 miles left and I was almost there!!! I grabbed a potato said thanks and off I went. I wanted to see how fast I could run these last 4 miles. I actually had energy and something left in my legs!!! Could it be that running the first half slower than I had planned actually helped me have this ability to still run after 46 plus miles!!!! My friend Robyn had told me that it would. I now believe her. The one mile sign could not have come soon enough. It took forever!! It was cold!!!! The downhill was long and ROCKY. I just glided over them! I know for sure I had some help. 1 mile sign! The LONGEST mile ever! I ran as fast as possible! Passing two others walking. I hoped they were not mad at me for passing! I wanted to get across that FINISH LINE!! Whew!! I round the corner and I see Clark and his HUGE smile! I see Horton and his HUGE smile! I think they shook my hand. I don't remember! My husband was right there and I gave him the BIGGEST HUG!!!!!!! I made it 50 plus miles in the mountains. Elevation gain 9,000 some feet. Elevation loss 7,000 some feet.
After thanking my husband I went back for a picture with Clark Zealand, David Horton and Dr. Wortely. They are as happy for you as if you came across that FINISH LINE first. Amazing. They have a gift.
AS for that church sign I read earlier on in the race, was I using the gift of this day from God wisely? The wonderful conversations on the phone with my two college age daughters post race (who were just amazed at THEIR mother and proceeded to tell ALL of their friends within earshot of my accomplishment), the look of absolute admiration from husband's eyes and most of all the unbelievable pure excitement my eleven year old son showed for me upon seeing me post race answered that question.
Thank you Clark for allowing us runners an experience I am sure we will never forget. Memories to talk about for many years. Thank you David for creating such a race and keeping it going! Thank you Dr. Wortely for supporting the race all these years! And a HUGE THANK YOU to your many volunteers!!!!