Out of the house at 6 am for a 400 mile drive to Massanutten 100. Temps were mid-70's and very humid- it could have been worse. Predicted rain storms never emerged, which was nice. I met my runner, Neal Gorman, at Camp Roosevelt aid, mile 63. He was about 20 minutes behind his (very ambitious) schedule and in 2nd place, 15 minutes behind Karl Meltzer. The first leg went very fast as Neal and I got to know each other. His crew members (wife, mother, sister) were efficient and encouraging at the aid stations. The second leg was a real doozy- we ascended Kerns Mountain, then followed the very, very rocky ridgeline for 5 miles. Brutally rocky, unrelenting- impossible to get moving. But Neal did awesome- I never saw him get discouraged or trip or anything. He was feeling appropriately fatigued given the mileage and had a few bad spots, but ran well. The Massanutten Mountains are definitely the rockiest place I have ever run- I have run stretches with that many rocks, but never mile after mile after mile. We loved it. My last section with Neal was particularly enjoyable, though- a gradual descent on singletrack alongside a creek. Very green and peaceful- I dubbed it the Shangri La of MMT. And Neal seemed to be running better than ever. My 23 miles and 5 hrs with Neal ended far too soon, though, as pacer 2 (Jeremy) met him at mile 87 to accompany over the last 15 miles.
After Neal and Jeremy left, I decided to keep running the course. I stocked up and pushed hard into the descending darkness. Neal and Jeremy had a 10 minute head start, which took me almost an hour to make up. I passed them, reaching the final aid station (mile 95.4) after almost 7 hours of running. I wanted to run the last 7 miles, but a few niggles in my feet convinced me that there was no point in risking injury. I cheered Neal through, looked in admiration at the runners just reaching the aid (it served as both mile 68.7 and 95.4, so most of the runners were just reaching the 2/3 mark), and called it a day at 10 pm. Total was 32 miles running in about 7 hrs (6:25 moving time) with 6000 ft climbing and 5600 descent.
I rode with Neal's crew to the finish, where I ate some delicious food and talked to Karl for 30 minutes while waiting for Neal. He crossed the line in 19:40, the 10th fastest time ever and fastest non-Karl time since 2007. He ran strong and had a great race.
After, I took a shower and crawled into my tent at 1 am, exhausted. Even though you aren't moving real fast while pacing, time on your feet and caring for the runner still tires you out. It started raining just as Neal finished and continued all night (wet rocks and wet runners resulted in many DNF's). I slept poorly for 3 or 4 hours, then wandered to the finish to eat and watch more runners (only 1 finished in the 45 minutes I was there). I packed up and started home at 7 am. I did find a runner who had made a wrong turn and was 4 miles off course, so drove him back to where he should have turned (nothing like 4 extra miles at the end of a 100). Very tired on the drive, but made it home.
Fun, tiring weekend. Pictures on my blogger.