Chocolate Bunny 2010

Chocolate Bunny is quickly becoming my new favorite holiday tradition. What better way to celebrate Easter than by running 26+ miles on gnarly MMT trails with good friends in the middle of the night? If ultrarunning is my religion, then the mountains are my church and running the night section of the MMT 100 course seems like an adequate way to pay homage to the trail-running gods… or something like that.  Or maybe I just love this run because you get a chocolate bunny at the finish line?  Yeah, that’s probably it.

It was a beautiful night with temps in the 80’s. About 30 folks showed up to run the supposed 26.2 miles of the MMT course, the section commonly known as Gap-to-Gap (roughly miles 69-95 of the course).  We started just before sundown and ran into the wee hours of the night.

While running with Mario Raymond, the two of us missed the turn onto the purple trail and continued running downhill for a mile and half or so.  This turned a long 11 mile stretch into an even longer 13.5 mile stretch that had us begging for fluids by the time we reached the second (of two) aid stations.  Aside from that one small mishap (and it seems we weren’t the only ones to miss a turn), everyone had a great time while polishing up on their rock maneuvering and mountain climbing skills.

All in all it was an absolutely beautiful night with bright stars filling the clear sky and abundant rocks filling the not-so-clear trail.  It had been a few months since I had been out on my beloved MMT Trails, but as with every run out there the pain just makes me love these trails even more.

I finished up around 1:00am, running 28.65 miles in 6:03 – definitely not the fastest run out there but not bad considering the additional mileage. I was the 3rd one in behind Sean Andrish and Keith Knipling.

Now if only I could actually get off the MMT waiting list and be able to run the damn thing…

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Terrapin Mountain 50k – 2010 race report

Terrapin Mountain 50k logo

Terrapin Mountain 50k is a great race put on by my friend and Liberty University professor, Clark Zealand.  It is race #2 in the Beast Series and offers a beautiful yet challenging course in the George Washington National Forest, sharing some of the Promise Land 50k and Hellgate 100k courses.

If you recall, around the New Year I was having some slight issues with my peroneal tendon after I rolled my ankle pretty bad.  The problem was exacerbated by a certain pair of shoes (New Balance MT100’s, I still love them) but it resolved itself after some rest.  Well, having thought the problem was gone after some successful runs at Holiday Lake and R2R2R, I went for a run in these shoes about a week before race day.  Lo-and-behold, the peroneal became reirritated so I was forced to lay off running up until Terrapin.  I didn’t know how it would hold up, but wanting to stay in the Beast I decided to cautiously proceed with my racing plans (and with a goal to just finish, not race).

Having just experienced some beautiful 70 degree weather, the mid 20’s on race morning were an unpleasant surprise.  No worries, the weather would eventually become absolutely gorgeous later in the day.

Image courtest of eco-x sports

A down jacket while stretching and still freezing

At 7:00am Clark banged the gong (really Clark?) and we headed out.  The first 3/4 mile is on flat road, and with 50k and half-marathoners running together this made for some speedy pavement pounding, eerily similar to a marathon.  As soon as the road ended we started the climb up to Camping Gap, an aid station that we would hit 3 times throughout the day.  I wasn’t necessarily planning on running this 3-mile climb, but the peroneal felt absolutely fine so I allowed myself to get dragged along by the front pack.

After the climb came a brutal 5-mile descent.  Now normally some good fast downhill cruising feels great to start out a race, but this extended descent on gravel road meant faster-than-usual paces, and consequently trashed-earlier-than-usual quads.  Honestly, it was friggin fast.  I apparently ran 6:02’s, and a few days later I am now paying the price and can’t walk down steps.

Me and Jack Kurisky

Much of the first half of the race was run on gravel road, and the elevation was fairly binary.  Either you were climbing or you were pummeling downhill.  I kept company with Jack Kurisky, Keith Knipling and Darryl Smith for a lot of this running, but as we came into Camping Gap for the second time (mile 16.4), I realized that I was giving a harder-than-planned effort and staying with these guys would mean keeping up the pace.  The Beast Series is my focus of the year, and yes I’d love to do well in it, but I did not plan or train for Terrapin to be at race effort, and as I’ve learned before, an unplanned hard effort can bring negative consequences.  Acknowledging this fact, I let them pull away and I started stopping to take pictures whenever the opportunity arose.  It seemed to work and the second half of the run was at a much more relaxed pace.

After the second stint at Camping Gap came a nice climb up and around the White Oak Ridge.  At the top we would find our first orienteering punch (to prove we did the loop).  As I was approaching the punch, Justine Morrison appeared out of nowhere looking speedy as always.  In a normal race I’d fight to the death if given an opportunity to prevent being chicked, but given my earlier decision to tone it down, I took a picture and let Justine pass, continuing on to chick more and more of the suckers ahead.  She ended up finishing ninth overall and beating out the second place woman by more than 20 minutes.  A true rockstar, to say the least.

Justine Morrison at Terrapin Mtn 50k - 2010

Justine at orienteering punch #1

Coming down the White Oak Ridge, I started passing runners coming in the opposite direction.  This is always a good time, yelling encouragements  to strangers (“Looking good, keep it up!”) and taking pictures and heckling friends (“Oh dear god what is that bright yellow thing coming towards me?”).  If you don’t get that second reference, see the picture I snapped of Alisa below.  She was so fast (or so bright) that she was blurry.

Alisa Springman running the White Oak Ridge

Neon Alisa

After the downhill meet-and-greet section we hit Camping Gap for the third and final time (mile 22.1).  Leaving, we were immediately greeted by some fairly technical trail (a first for the day) and a good climb up Terrapin Mountain.  Orienteering punch #2 was located on a rock ledge with a spectacular view at the top of the mountain, then we started our descent which quickly lead to punch #3.  This one was located immediately after Fat Man’s Misery, an angled, narrow and slippery passageway between two giant boulders.  Seriously, this thing is a sonofabitch.  Don’t let the picture of Mario below fool you, he’s a small dude (no offense my man) and it is downright dangerous passing through here.  Oh the things we do for running.

Mario Raymond in Fat Man's Misery

Mario Raymond in Fat Man's Misery

After the fat man we had a good gnarly technical downhill, just to be sure that if there was any strength left in your quads, there wouldn’t be at the finish.  The rocks in this section were big, loose and scattered – a perfect storm for rolling ankles and eliminating Beast Series racers.  Needless to say, I stayed super focused and applied the brakes liberally on this descent.

At the very bottom of the descent was Terrapin Mtn Lane aid station (mile 25.6), a brief half-mile ascent, and then a long rolling cruise on singletrack as we headed towards the finish.  There were plenty of stream crossings in this section, but surprisingly they weren’t overflowing as one might expect after a record snowfall has just melted.  I’m not complaining.

At this point, I came across a group of soldiers wearing full uniforms including combat boots and rucksacks.  The lead soldier carried an American flag.  They marched/hiked the half-marathon course and were coming into the last two miles of their long slow hike.  One soldier offered me his ruck but I politely declined, mustering something about not wanting to take away from his sense of accomplishment.  Either way, that was pretty cool seeing them out there carrying the flag.

Soldier carrying American Flag at Terrapin Mtn 50k


With a little more than a mile to go, the course turned back on to the road we had started with.  This was a very welcome sign (as was the “one mile to go” sign), and within no time I was coming across the field at the Sedalia Center, finishing in 5:03:51, good for 12th place overall and 11th male.

The post-race lounging was a great time.  There was good BBQ, hanging with VHTRC and Lynchburg friends, and watching runners come in while looking out onto a mountainous backdrop on a beautiful day.  You really can’t ask for anything more…

VHTRC at Terrapin Mtn 50k

VHTRC peeps

Full results
My pictures on Flickr

Magnus Gluteus Maximus 50k

Oops. Looks like I once again forgot to blog about an ultra. A few weeks ago was the VHTRC’s Magnus Gluteus Maximus FatAss 50k. Great times were had by all. I ran 24 miles to be “conservative” while recovering from my Grindstone/Masochist tendinitis (which I am happy to say is long gone). Anyways, here are a few shots since I’m not going to get around to writing more about it. We ran. We drank. We were festive. THE END.

The rest of my pictures from the event can be found here.

Browtown Loop 4th of July run

Independence day is celebrated slightly differently in the VHTRC than with most typical Americans. Yes, we wear our red, white and blue and we drink our beer, but instead of sitting around on our lazy butts, we prefer to take in the enjoyment of the beauty that mother nature has bestowed upon these wonderful United States of America.

The gang’s all here

This was my first ever Browntown Loop, but the tradition has been carried on for 9 years now. Roughly 25 runners met at the Massie’s Corner and carpooled to the trail head. Now, like some other shindigs that I’ve been to with the club, an organized event is not technically allowed on these sections of trail, so the disorganization of the event allowed those “in charge” to deny any sort of responsibility for the run and/or post-run party.

The course took us through the usual Shenandoah National Park, an out-and-back to an overlook (pictured below), across Skyline Drive and onto some country roads that ultimately lead us into the small town of Browntown. I ran with Brad Hinton, Brian Schmidt and John Cassilly for the majority of the run. Sean Andrish also made appearances at the beginning and end, but his knee was causing problems from a fall a few weeks back so he took a shortcut across the AT instead of heading into Browntown. Once in Browntown, we were treated to our only aid station of the day, the general store for the small town. Being the frontrunners, we purchased some ice, water, soda and snacks and left any unused goods for the next batch of runners to make their way through.

Sean Andrish, myself, Brad Hinton and John Cassilly at the overlook
Two elusive loverbirds caught in the act. Get moving, you two!
Brad, myself and Schmidty at the Browntown general store

Heading out of Browntown was a few more miles of road, followed by a nice steep climb up to the AT and Skyline Drive. After having left us many miles back, Sean Andrish caught back up and his knee was feeling better than ever. Great for him, bad for me! This dude is speedy, and for the last few miles of downhill, John Cassilly and myself struggled to keep up with Sean, Brad and Schmidty. Schmidty is actually tapering for his first 100 out at Vermont in a few weeks, so if this is his taper speed, he’s gonna rock it out at VT. (Side note: I am late in writing this blog post and Schmidty just yesterday ran the VT100… 5th place!)

John and myself finished the 21-mile loop in 3:56, just a few minutes behind the speed demons. It was a beautiful run to celebrate the 4th and we were able to soak in the cold stream post-run for recovery. I am glad to say that my IT Band didn’t act up one bit, and it hasn’t in over a month, so it looks like I’m back in action! The mileage is slowly getting back up there and I’m feeling great.

The perfect end to a great run
Of course there was some post-race beer drinking. We are Americans afterall! For more pictures of the race and the party, check them out at my Flickr page HERE.

MMT Training Run #2

The second MMT Training Run of the year was this past weekend, running south from Camp Roosevelt thru Gap Creek and north up to Woodstock Tower. I have been having some IT band pain in my left knee for the past two weeks, a result of running too fast (if that’s possible) at Holiday Lake. I had hoped it would be well enough to run all 25 miles of the training run, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case and instead I dropped at mile 16. I like to think that my decision to drop was one based off of sound reasoning for my health rather than the fact that there was beer at the mile 16 aide station. I’ll let you be the judge on that one.

The gang

The run itself, when not in pain, was pleasant. I ran with Phil Rosenstein and got to hear stories and strategies from Badwater and his recent trans-American run. Shortly after leaving the first aide station at mile 8 my IT band pain came back and I was having a hard time lifting my left foot over/around the jagged MMT rocks (see below). I knew that backtracking to the aide station would be useless since they would have moved on to aide station #2 by that time (gotta love roaming aide stations), so I just kept moving forward and eventually made it to the next spot to drop, mile 16.

MMT Trails

Most of the day’s fun was had after I stopped running and got to hang with Tom Corris and the rest of the drinkers… err… aide station volunteers. Tom found a deer hoof and it was immediately put to good use.

High five for the aide station crew!
Captain Hoof

And then of course the fun continued once we made it back to the finish line. Rick Kerby one-upped Tom’s deer hoof and found a mounted toilet seat in the woods. Clearly it needed to be brought back to the parking lot social gathering.

Duty calls
Unsure of how to react to Rick on the crapper

All in all, another good day with the VHTRC crew. Sad that I didn’t get to run the whole thing, but I went to physical therapy today and my therapist thinks my IT band will be good to go in no time. Until then I’ll just try to enjoy my forced downtime.

Link to Kirstin’s pics from the day.
Link to Q’s pics from the day.