Sunday, November 07, 2010

Masochist Indeed

Keith Knipling warned me to run well at Masochist one has to be in great shape due to the all-encompassing conditions that the course throws at runners.  The course includes mostly double track trail and jeep roads, with decent climbs, some flat road and single track trail, speedy competition and definitely fits the bill as a runners course.  My smallest hope was to finish Masochist with a time beginning with 7.  Fortunately, that worked out.  The rest?  Not so much.  Don't get me wrong, it was a fun day and Masochist is a worthy event for any and all lovers of long distance running.  The weather was nice and cool for a long day on mountain trails.  The sun shined.  And the fresh snow presented along the second half of the course after surmounting Buck Mountain was a nice surprise.  I realized early on yesterday- as in around mile four or five- that my body lacked a certain amount of energy necessary to run strong for 50 miles, especially once the climbing began in earnest.  So for me, it was a hard day.

Masochist starts along the Blue Ridge Parkway northwest of Lynchburg, Virginia and tacks an eventual northeast route, culminating a 2,000 ft net elevation gain (9,200 ft up, 7,200 ft down), and finishes in the picturesque surroundings of Montebello; a quaint mountain hamlet offering numerous activities for the eager outdoors lover, in addition to sweeping mountain vistas.   The race began with a brief out and back stretch of road running along the Parkway.  It was fun, though likely unwise, clocking 6 something minute miles with a crew of running friends and acquaintances during the pre-dawn hours.  Once we hit the trails not too long after crossing the James River for the second time, at Cashaw Creek, the actual running up began and my body asked the unthinkable: do you mind if we walk a bit?  I acquiesced.  I was asked this question often throughout the race and, more often than I am proud to admit, consequently reduced my stride to a hike.  I knew I would be challenged with tired legs going into Masochist, and at this early stage of the race the general state of fatigue I have endured since completing the Slam surfaced once again.

Fortunately, I am fairly stubborn when it comes to running and was not about to let this situation interrupt the day's main priority: enjoying one last go of mountain running competition before escaping to a wonderful hibernation of rest and recovery after a fun year of uninterrupted running.  Very shortly after Cashaw Creek the front group thinned out and a few lead runners continued forward, including- eventual winner- Scott Jamie, Chris Reed and Jeremy Ramsey among others.  I eventually caught and passed two or so other runners before too long and was then passed by Adam Hill on the speedy descent to Irish Creek.  Adam's passing, I believe, left me in 6th position and I followed his distinct, red shirt up and down the bending jeep roads until it finally disappeared halfway up Buck Mountain.  At this stage, the "race" became completely uneventful for me.  I was all alone, comfortably running through my fatigue, and would only catch glimpses of two other runners for the rest of the day.

By the time I entered to The Loop, at mile 33.6, I was only moments behind Chris and Adam, eventual 2nd and 3rd place finishers.  Halfway through The Loop, climbing the technical, leafy, snowy single track, then running down the same, in my basic Asics trainers, my gas needle edged closer to red.  Climbing and technical single track trails I enjoy very much, though this section was a stark reminder of my woeful unpreparedness for this day's race.  I walked a lot of the climbs, though eventually somehow passed another runner exiting The Loop and claimed 4th position.  It was of no great consequence since by the time I exited The Loop I had surrendered additional minutes to Chris and Adam.  Moreover, Scott was clearly out of reach.  The next few miles of down hilling were a welcome reprieve as I made my way to Salt Log Gap.  After a few more lonely miles of up, then down, then punishing up to Porters Ridge, the only bit of real "race" excitement all day caught me off guard as I approached the last aid station at mile 47.1.  An unnatural sound of rustling leaves to my rear roused my senses, and I turned my head to see Jon Loewus-Deitch right on my tail, seemingly appearing out of nowhere.

Immediately my race/survivalist instinct surfaced and I realized that the somewhat pitiful, though enjoyable, pace I had grown accustomed to since The Loop would no longer suffice.  I zipped through the Porters Ridge aid station and pressed on the gas.  Jon lost a few steps here I think and I clocked 6 something minute miles for the next two miles, descending Porters, until he was completely out of site.  I reached the pavement for the last mile of my Masochist debut, committed to enjoying the fleeting moments of 2010's final competition, though constantly looking over my shoulder for Jon.  He was not there so I stepped off the gas a bit and cruised to the finish for a 4th place time of 7:55.  Thanks to Gaby, as always, for the excellent company and support, and all of the fun spirited volunteers.  Thanks to David Horton and Clark Zealand who host a top notch event in the Mountain Masochist Trail 50 Mile; all of the positive stories I have heard are true.  I am sure all of their races are just as fun, and tough, and look forward to running them all eventually.  Congratulations to all of the finishers and to Scott, Chris, Alison Bryant and Jill Perry, for securing 2011 Western States slots.

Clark Zealand's warm greeting at the finish.  Picture ripped off from Clark's Flickr page.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats, Neal! Great job on the race. I enjoyed the report. And now for a day (week, month, etc...) of rest!