May 22 2008
I decided last December that I was going to do Massanutten as my first 100 miler. Little did I know that the race would essentially begin on that ill-fated winter day so far away from the proposed May 17 start. Merely signing up became a race as the race closed in a matter of hours. After being lucky (or unlucky as I felt a few times Sat. night) enough to be on the entrants list, I planned a few weekend trips over to VA to make sure I knew the entire course and what to expect. After seeing the entire course, I had a very healthy respect for it. Lots of long climbs and tons of the infamous MMT rocks made me have a few doubts in the recesses of my brain about my sanity in choosing this race as my first go at 100 miles. Nonetheless, I decided to train very hard and be ready to run on May 17. My confidence grew as I secured a stellar crew, pacer, and fueling plan. All that was left on race-day was to put one foot in front of the other for 101.8 miles….just that easy.
5:00 am: The race started under clear and crisp skies. It starts out with a few miles of pavement before hitting the Buzzard Rocks trail. The pace was quite brisk up front in those early miles. I just sat back and just let everyone go. I settled in somewhere around 10th place in those early miles.6:00 am: Very early on I felt nauseous. I had never felt this way before in a race or training run. After about an hour of running, I vomited; another first. I just wanted to curl-up beside the trail and sleep and I was only 6 miles into the thing! I remember thinking, “How in the world am I going to finish this thing.” After using my fingers to help rid myself of further stomach contents, I started feeling better. I think the problem was too much salt early on and that I just couldn’t stomach it. My fueling plan consisted of pre-mixed Succeed Ultra and Clip2 with S-caps! already added to the solution so that I did not have to think/remember to take the capsules every hour. This was a mistake at least early on, but luckily as time went on I was able to stomach the salty solution despite the continued nausea. I came into Shawl Gap (mile 8.7) at 6:23 a.m., somewhere around 10/11th place, and got a new Fuel-belt from my crew.
8:54 am/ Habron Gap: (mile 24.4) I felt pretty good in the long section without crew access from Shawl to Habron. I picked up a few spots and cruised on the 4 mile road section into the aid station. I made a very quick stop at Habron and picked up a new belt and a hand-held to fuel me over the big climb and long section to Roosevelt.
10:49 am/ Camp Roosevelt: (mile 33.3) Still feeling quite smooth and comfortable. I just focused on fueling in this section. From Roosevelt to Gap Creek-1(38.9) and up Jawbone, I tried to just focus on running within myself and to force myself to fuel.
2:06 pm/ 211-1: (mile 48) I reached my crew in good shape and in 5th place overall. I grabbed another loaded Fuel-belt and started up Bird Knob. Around the top I caught up with Sean Andrish. He was having some stomach issues, but I knew he would be flying coming back down the mountain. I think the stomach nausea was contagious because before I got to the aid station at the top of Bird Knob I started feeling sick as well. I made it to the aid station and decided on just some good pure water. Nothing else sounded even remotely interesting to my gut. After about a half mile from the station heading back down the mountain, I got to examine my stomach contents again. I was convinced at that point that the salty pre-mixed solution was the culprit so I decided that once I got back down to 211, I was going to have my crew dilute the solution and try to keep it colder if possible.
4:12 pm/ 211-2: (mile 58.2) This is a very hectic aid station. I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible after informing my crew of the fuel changes. I grabbed another loaded belt and in the process passed Harland Peelle to move into 3rd.
5:40 pm/ Gap Creek-2: (mile 64.9) The entire course was very wet from all the rain the area had seen in the previous days and the water and rocks had taken their toll on my feet. Before the race, I was unsure whether or not I would change shoes. Gap Creek helped me make this decision. My feet had been wet all day and I had the blisters to prove it. My wonderful crew patched my feet, changed my socks and shoes, and had me quickly ready to make my assault on some of the most critical miles of the course. The goal now was to chase down the leaders. Keith and Todd were 45/46 minutes ahead respectively at this point. It was neck and neck with those guys and I was counting on them racing each other being their undoing.
6:22 pm/ Moreland Gap: (mile 67.7) I ran hard up Jawbone and into Moreland, closing the gap to 38 minutes on Todd and 33 minutes on Keith. This is where I picked-up Mongold to pace me. He was in typical Mongold fashion and pushing me to start to drop the hammer.
8:06 pm/ Edinburg Gap: (mile 75.9) Bradley and I ran Short Mountain very hard. I decided that I was going to do my best to put pressure on the guys up front and see if we could catch them. If I had anything left, now was the time to use it. We closed the gap on Walker to 28 minutes and Knipling to 24 minutes. We ran almost every step out of Edinburg to the top of the ridge and slowly settled in to darkness.
10:04 pm/ Woodstock Tower: (mile 84.1) We ran this section very hard as well. I may have walked a few moments, but that was quickly quelled with indignant shouts from Mongold, “Come on Casseday! Quit walking!” That was the night’s mantra. We had gained more ground in this section. (19 minutes behind Walker and 18 minutes behind Knipling.) I tried to force down a Boost at the aid station, but I was only able to get in a few meager sips before Mongold insisted that we were wasting time. “Let’s go get those guys!” he said.
11:25 pm/ Powells Fort: (mile 89.3) This is a relatively easy section and is a net downhill. It should have been easy, but this was one of my lowest points. I took some caffeine to try to pull myself out of the funk because I felt like I was just plodding along. I tripped, stumbled, and fell several times in this section and started to lose it a bit mentally. The caffeine helped, but I felt like we lost a lot of time on the leaders through this section. At Powell we were informed that Walker was 23 minutes ahead and Knipling was up 14 minutes. So it didn’t go as bad as I thought, but I still wondered how much I had left after all this late-race surging.
1:20 am/ Elizabeth Furnace: (mile 96.8) We ran hard out of Powells Fort on the dirt road section, but I was unable to do much more than walk the climb on the single-track. I think that exhaustion and a small bonk were starting to set-in a bit. I kept it together and ran pretty solid down the backside of the mountain into Elizabeth Furnace. We were 23 minutes behind Keith and 24 minutes behind Todd at the aid station. I knew at that point that there was no way we were going to catch them before the finish. Keith and Todd are amazing runners. Guys like that don’t make mistakes or give up easy; especially at the end of a race.
2:37 am/ Finish: (mile 101.8) Mongold and I just enjoyed the final climb over Shawl. We didn’t push and simply power-walked it, talking the whole time and just enjoying the moment. There was a whippoorwill calling us toward the summit and I just took in the experience; soaking in the day’s events. It was a great feeling reaching the top of Shawl that night. It was great to get to share those moments with Bradley as we ran down the mountain and our feet finally hitting the pavement leading us back to the lodge. It is hard to explain how great it felt and the emotional influx that occurred when I saw those lights across the field at the finish line. My mind was so vibrant and alive; not numb as so many others have described finishing 100 milers. I was focused on how blessed I am to be able to achieve something of this magnitude; I was focused on the prayers and well-wishes of those that I know care so much about me; I was focused on the moment. Then it was there. Then I was finished. 21 hours, 37 minutes, and 37 seconds.
Finishing a 100 mile race is quite analogous to this other race we all run; Life. There is a distinct beginning and end and it’s what you do in the middle that makes all the difference. It’s not about who finishes first, last, “third”, or anywhere in between. Life and running are about purpose and aim; it’s about the middle, the process, the adventure. Running this race was an amazing adventure and I will always cherish the moments spent in the Massanutten Mountains that day.
Hebrews 12:1 ….let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.