Getting Verbal Directions (stay with someone who knows the course)
Jenny Preparing her pack
I didn't make it up for a training run last year before my first masochist. A friend of mine has a cabin in the area and we had gone up in October for a wine festival and I managed to check out the "loop" while we were there, but that was all I knew. I prefer going into a race not knowing the course, but it may not be the wisest choice considering I did get off course last year. This will be Jenny's first year at Masochist and she was wanting to go up for the training run on the second half of the course so I decided to ride up with her and get one last long run in. We drove up Friday after work, stopped @ Macado's in Salem for dinner and some great people watching. Checked into the hotel in Lynchburg around 9:30? and I have to admit I went straight to bed, I hadn't slept well the night before and had been looking forward to some sleep. I knew 4am would come all too soon and it did.
Rob Running Strong
I jumped up and showered and packed up my stuff and we made it to Sheetz with plenty of time to round up some coffee and breakfast. I had been to Sheetz many times with Rick for his pre & post race ritual, but had never actually ordered food. I have to say it's a pretty nifty system. Many runners slowly gathered, some old faces, some new. We caravaned to Montebello, which took longer than I had anticipated and there was another large group of runners waiting there. Everyone piled in to carpool to Long Mountain Wayside, we hitched a ride with Stewart and Aaron, both training for their first ultras. The drive to the start (which is actually 26.9 miles in the race) was beautiful, the sun coming up, the leaves, the mountains, the big ole moon, it was spectacular.
Running Up or Down?
We unloaded, signed in, Horton gave us a pre-run briefing and prayer and we were off. It was a good group for a training run. We bounced back and forth with people, settling into a nice relaxed pace. We got to run with Mike Bailey (capon cohort) and Rob French (nc runner), Guy Love (our home town boy away @ VT), Jack (very enthusiastic DC runner). I recognized some parts from last year and others were unrecognizable. We made it to the Buck Mountain AS FS520/48 and I distinctly remembered it from last year. Dan, Andy, and Angie met me here last year and drove past me on the way to the loop. I thought this would be a good spot for a group shot and then Snipes and his entourage rolled up just in time for the photo. Don't mind Mike in the background doing his business, he is special.
We all climbed up the road to the loop entrance where some wonderful soul had put out aid for us! thank you! jugs of water, chips, crackers, protein bars, and much to my delight, chocolate covered coconut squares!!
Surprise Aid Station = Happy Runners
Coming Down the Loop
Happy with our surprise snacks we all cheerfully chatted as we entered the loop. It is deceiving that loop, it's nice going in, gentle, flat, cushy trail, lined with rhodies, it makes you happy after all that gravel road and then..... THE CLIMBING, THE ROCKS, THE DOWNHILL AND ROCKS covered with LEAVES. Of course it didn't seem bad since we hadn't run 34 miles but I knew in two weeks it would be a different scene in the loop than it was this fun, jovial day :) As were coming down, one of Horton's students, Jamie introduced herself. She rocked Promise Land this year, but has been battling the pesky ITB and was testing the waters for Masochist.
Somewhere between the coming out of the loop and Salt Log Gap the group got jumbled and people went "missing"... We approached the intersection where I took a wrong turn last year and I made my bets that Guy and Jack hadn't seen the streamers and continued on straight.
I had flashback to this section from last year, once I recovered from making the wrong turn and started this climb I was very tired and it just seemed like a bunch of zombies wandering thru the woods. I thought maybe this section just seemed tough last year because I was tired but I think it's just tough in general. There were lots of leaves and the trail hard to follow at times. I paused with Jamie for a bathroom break, (girls gotta stick together) i don't like to be alone on the trail either and you always feel like you're getting left in the dust when you take a break. The guys went on ahead and the trail seemed to get increasingly hard to follow. A while later we came up on Marc and Rob who had noticed the group had sort of gradually disappeared and decided to stop and wait (nice guys) We decided that several people had to have taken wrong turns and continued on. Rebekah came speeding up around this time feeling good and I decided to pick up the pace and run with her a bit, trying to get any hellgate advice she could offer. We ran across Blake who felt he had taken a wrong turn and was waiting on someone to come by. I tried to push it a bit on the pavement in anticipation of race day and was happy to see all the speedy guys lounging around in the grass in front of the montebello store. It was a perfect day and I was happy I had gotten to spend it in such a beautiful spot with such great people. We had fun pondering the whereabouts of the rest of the group, hoping no one was really lost, and then cheering as everyone came in. Everyone was fine and accounted for so we loaded up, took Stewart and Guy back to Long Mtn Wayside and headed home.