Thursday, November 8, 2012

Race Season Is Here!

Last Saturday, after seven months of recovery, short races, and a three month build-up, the Mountain Masochist 50 (aka MMTR or, if you are really Old School, "Masochists") was finally here! This was the 30th anniversary of the race, my sixth start, and the first with a new start location. I drove down Friday afternoon with VHTRC bud Rob Colenso and fellow CAT Mark Hampton. Both were running MMTR for the first time, and it was going to be Mark's first 50. We checked in, listened to Horton describe "4-8 inches of snow in the Loop," re-connected with old friends, and sat about tweeting about the course conditions and posting photos on Facebook to alleviate the nerves.

hanging with Meredith Terranova at the pre-race dinner

I was so happy to be able to catch up with longtime pal Meredith Terranova, who was running her fourth MMTR. Meredith and I met out on the course in 2007 and have been FB and blogging friends ever since. She came to MMTR this year to celebrate her 38th birthday and take in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are a far cry from the desert trails near her home in Austin Texas. I admire Meredith so much---she is an amazing person, wife and support crew/pacer to hubby Paul, talented runner, and awesome swimmer--she swam something like a million miles in Austin's Town Lake this summer to raise money for charity, and she is also a very well-respected sports nutritionist in her free time. I loved that were both eyeing the award for the top-10 men and women (a sweet Patagonia Down Sweater) and appreciated that she is just as competitive as I am!

After dinner it was time to go to the hotel and get ready with bunkmates Prissy Nguyen and Martha Wright. The three of us were quite a sight---drops bags, gels, Bag Balm, Vaseline, Perpetuem, Clif Bloks were scattered about the hotel room as we chatted about race goals and got ready for the early wake up call. I didn't realize how much I missed racing until it was time to get organized!

Race morning came quickly and before we knew it we were at the start at Wildwood Campground under clear skies and 30 degree temps. Wildwood is a MUCH better start for MMTR---a lovely jaunt around the lake with 300+ headlamps bobbing was a cool sight to behold, and we were able to spread out nicely on about one mile of pavement before ducking into the woods for good. Mark, Rob, and I started together and made an easy jaunt of the first 5 miles of singletrack and fire roads. We saw a gorgeous sunrise along the ridgeline, something we never saw in the previous years, and chatted and laughed the early miles away. I was enjoying our easy pace and slowly we started to pass the middle of the pack, little by little.

Around mile 16 Mark and I parted ways and I saw two women ahead of me on the long downhill towards the Lynchburg Reservoir. David Horton drove by and reported that I was 13th woman. Hmmm...all I needed to do was pass the two in front of me and then I would be 11th and knocking on the top-10 door. Sweet! A few miles later I passed Bethany Patterson and was suddenly number 10, so I switched into race mode as we made the long climb up to Long Mountain Wayside, where I would see crew Harry Landers and Bob Clouston. But first I ran by Bill Gentry and his son Ben who were walking towards me on the road---how awesome it was to see them and feel Gentry's classic positive vibe! Thanks dude!

refueling at mile 26, Long Mountain Wayside
Harry and Bob got me in and out of the aid station lickety-split and soon I was hauling up Buck Mountain, feeling pretty good and running a lot of the uphills. I came upon Meredith at almost exactly the same place I had seen her in the last two MMTR's, and we had a good laugh about the fact that we were now number 9 and 10 female. She was moving really well so I just hung back and let her take me along. It was awesome to work together with such synergy and I loved focusing on the simple things of pace, fuel, breathing, and staying in the moment. Climbing Buck Mountain at MMTR brings back many mixed feelings so it was good to be able to just run mindlessly for once!

approaching Wiggins Spring AS, mile 32 with Meredith
When Meredith and I started the climb towards the Loop (and the snow), I gave her a fist bump and said, "let's get it." The climb on dry fire road came and went quickly and soon we were running in packed snow with drifts of 5-10 inches on either side in the Loop. At first it was easy and fun. The sun was shining, we were talking about all sorts of random things, and the trail was a net downhill. Meredith was running really well, considering it was her second race ever in the snow, but soon it started to get tedious and slippery and became work. The new section of the Loop to the Mt. Pleasant overlook was really tough. The frontrunners were flying down towards us looking stressed and I learned why: the snow was easily 6-12 inches in places if you didn't land right, and it was sucking valuable energy. I started to think about the folks who would be running close to the cut-offs on a "normal" race day, and hoped that Clark had extended the absolute cut-off given the conditions (he did, by 30 minutes).

At the top of Mt. Pleasant we had a glorious, 360-degree view of the The Priest and Three Ridges to the north and Apple Orchard Mountain to the south. But we couldn't stay long because women # 11, 12, 13, and 14 arrived in succession within minutes. The race was on! Meredith and I plugged into our iPods and started HAMMERING the downhills. The snow certainly helped and made it fun, but it was also stressful and hard work. Soon there was a train of women in 8th-14th place within yards of one another, and it was clear that someone was going to put hammer down as soon as we left the Loop and the snow.

And that's exactly happened. Lee Conner dropped into 8th and I followed with Beth Minnick right behind me.We hauled down the road sections and climbed hard up the long roads. It was a beautiful day, bright blue sky, cold, and a bit nippy, and I was really enjoying the racing vibe. Lee started to pull away and Beth came upon me as we entered Forest Valley, which had equally deep snow and more brutal climbs. I put my head down and stayed focused on my pace, which seemed to work as I made some distance from Beth and closed the gap on Lee. The snow was a blast in the final downhill section--no roots or rocks to worry about, just puffy snow to bomb through. WOOP!

Finished at last!
Approaching Montebello, I glimpsed Lee crossing the finish line about 45 seconds ahead of me, and was so happy to come in ninth female in such a strong women's field. I had told my hubby before the race that on paper there was no way I could finish in the top-10, but in those snow conditions in a 50 mile race, anything can happen, and it did. As soon as I was finished, my ultra idol Krissy Moehl  approached and congratulated me---wow! Krissy is a humble but fiercely competitive and talented ultrarunner, and she herself had a close race to the MMTR finish line. Her race report included a few thoughts about the art and science of racing and competing. I love and admire her spirit and attitude!

with Krissy at the finish, star struck.

The MMTR finish line was a blur of cheers, hugs, photo shoots, more cheers. Patagonia sponsored a post-run tent with soup and quesadillas, and the Montebello store had their yummy chili. As always, it was fun to watch the day's stories unfold on the road to Montebello. Here are more pics from the finish...

with hubby Rusty...

with MMTR founder and friend David Horton...

with Meredith after her 11th place close...but she is all smiles as always...

and with Mark after his awesome 10:28 finish, and super crew Harry Landers.
30 years of Masochism! The iconic race that David Horton created is alive and well, and doing better than ever with the new changes to the course. It is always a wonderful reunion of friends, a worthy challenge, and a great way to kick off my race season. Next up: Hellgate 100K, my absolute favorite race. But first, a little rest and recovery.

Happy Trails!

MMTR results are here.


Neal Gorman said...

How fun to run in the snow. Congrats on top 10!

run4daysbill said...

Proud of you, buddy!

Right after you passed us, Ben goes, "Man, Sophie looks like she just started!!!"

Me: "Yep, buddy. That's what she does."

ultrarunnergirl said...

Hooray for race season! You are burning 'em up at these races Sophie. Congrats on your top 10 finish and so glad to see you popping up on my Google Reader again!

Steve Pero said...

Very nice race, Sophie....and also a nice course description. So many memories I have at that race! Hope to return someday, when we move back East....oh yeah, and got to get Hellgate done, too ;-) Good luck there!

Casseday said...

Great running Sophie. Congrats on a superb finish!

jennifer Nichols said...

congrats sophie!! great race report! I missed MMTR so bad this year! I am so not missing it next year. I know I"m a little late posting! but just wanted to let you know how proud I am of you and how thankful I am to have you for a friend. :) you are the one of a kind!!! see you at VDM! :) xoxo