Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Humbled - Part Deux

This past weekend I joined in with The Virginia Happy Trails Running Club for MMT Training run #4 in the series of 5. This week we were to run from Moreland Gap up to Elizabeth Furnace - mile 67.7 to 96.8 of the course. Back on February 18th, I joined in for training run #3, which had to be rerouted from the original intended course. However, I did get to experience Short Mountain covered in snow and ice, and would able to see it Saturday in all its rocky glory.

Just as it happened 3 weeks ago, I was the one bringing up the rear as we left Moreland Gap at 8am. I had seen this section before and had an idea of course, but no clue to the rockiness of the terrain since it was covered in snow. Everyone forged ahead and all I could think of was "here we go again". I tried to keep the second to last runner in sight as my carrot to keep moving. I have no problem running by myself, but it's just discouraging when everyone TAKES OFF.

It's a few miles to the top. We have about 30 miles to do for the day. I let them go.

Throughout Short Mountain, I move cautiously, yet as swiftly as I can. I reach the aid station only 15 minutes faster than 3 weeks ago. A bit discouraged, but I have caught up with 8 other runners. I am happy to be with the group since the next 22 miles are all new to me. We leave together, run down the fire road, and enter the trail for yet another long climb to the top of Powell Mountain. The weather is gorgeous and the trail very runable when it's not going uphill at a 5% incline. Again, I just keep moving. I keep the others in sight and try to gain some ground with some short bursts up the hill for a few yards.

Every little bit counts as it's more than just 'time on my feet'. Today is about practicing nutrition. I guess on the high end that it will take me 10 hours to finish. I guess on the high end that I need 350 calories/hour to stay fueled. On most days, 3500 calories is what I'll eat in a day. I use a mix of Powerbars, Clif bars, Clip2, CarboPro, GU, and Ensure to try to meet my goal.

I thought the section along Powell Mountain was very runable. I was able to catch up with, and then pass, a few runners while latching on to others for company and conversation. Sometimes talking leads to slowing and, and if that happened, I went ahead a little ways and ran at my own pace. This is a training run and meant to simulate race day-like situations. I don't want to be in a situation like that where I get too comfortable running someone elses pace/race.

Rolling into minimal, but welcomed aid, at Woodstock, I was feeling good and wanted to keep moving. There was little water, so I saved it for others since I had my 3 liter Camelbak. I figured it would last the 5 miles (1:40) to the springs at Powell's Fort. Another good section to run and I stayed with 4 other runners most of the 5 miles. The spring was a welcome relief. I tried to keep my break close to 5 minutes and took the time to refill my bottles, camelbak, and to rinse off my face. This next section was a long ATV/fire road that I will definately be running/hobbling during the race to help gain some time. For now, it was a chance to chat about MMT, VHTRC, and just the day. It was a welcomed break some 5 and a half hours on my feet. They were feeling each and every rock, so the stream crossing was a nice break, too, to help cool them off.

Three of the four I had been running with went ahead and I eventually followed, leaving the fourth behind. We soon picked up the Tuscaroroa trail and had a nasty, winding climb to Meneka where Tuscarora eventually started going downhill for about four miles to the end. I heard the voices of the four up ahead, but could never catch them. I was zapped on the downhill and shuffled a lot. Negative thoughts creeped back into my mind - "if this is how I feel when running the last section on fresh legs, how on earth will I survived after the first 2/3 of the course?"

Some questions are to be left unanswered until a later time.

I ran into the Signal Knob parking lot after being on my feet for just under 8 hours. My car, fresh clothes, and my bare feet slipped into my Crocs were what I craved. I was one of the last 4 to finish, but there was a good crowd of folks still partying in the parking lot just waiting to welcome us home.

I look up at the mountains and I am in awe. "I just came from up there," I think to myself, leaning forward in the car to get a glimpse up and out of the front windshield. It's a max height of 2700 ft or so somewhere, but it sure seem like a lot more when you're out there hoofin it.

I managed to do a slow, easy 8 miles or so mid-Sunday afternoon. My feet were tender as a I ran a loop of the 24-ATR course, but the muscles felt good. I had to fast walk a few of the short climbs, but I was moving.

So this is what it feels like to get into "MMT Shape".

Some questions will be answered at later time.


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