I'm still #47 on the waiting list for the Massanutten Mountain 100 race this May, but comrade Kate Abbott is already in and we're training together in hopes of running it together. Today, Friday, we both play hooky from work to get a preview of the first dozen or so miles of the course, including the infamous Short Mountain. I arrive at Edinburg Gap early but miss the turn to the parking area and have to circle back to find it. My wanderings include an involuntary trip up the All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) Off Road Vehicle (ORV) drive, scary scraping of the MINI Cooper's chassis on the ice, and a nearly-slip-off-the-road turnaround. I'm properly parked just as Kate arrives. We leave my car behind and ride together to the Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp where the race starts and finishes this year.
Today's trek is mostly a fast walk with occasional runs where possible. In near-freezing weather just before 9am we're off, climbing steadily for the first 3+ miles along Moreland Gap Rd. At the orange-blazed Massanutten Trail we begin a segment that Kate did last year with Carolyn Gernand. Instead of thorny blackberry bushes we crunch along through brown leaves and shallow snow, sporadically interrupted by icy patches. Pickup trucks are parked on the forest road that we cross after a few miles. We take off extra layers and roll up sleeves as we warm up.
Kate's cellphone rings as we plod along the ridgeline of Short Mountain. It's Caroline Williams, fellow runner whom we helped crew for at MMT last year! (cf. Massanutten Mountain Midnight Madness) I text a memo to Twitter/Facebook: Massanutten Trail - Short Mountain ROCKS! From the start we've climbed ~1600 feet. Then it's down down down, ~1100 feet, until after ~4 hours we arrive at mile ~12, my car, and refuel. In the actual race this would be within the cutoffs, but not by much. Today we've got enough time to spare that we decide to continue for another couple of miles along the Massanutten Trail. We climb ~1000 feet to Waonaze Peak on Powell Mountain, then take the Bear Trap Trail down to the ATV/ORV path, aka Peters Mill Run Road.
I stumble on a stick and fall, but land on hands in the snow with minor abrasion. The ATV lane is covered with ice and mud, so our shoes become heavy. We're finally back at my car, ~16 miles total, and take off shoes to avoid mess. Kate returns via I-66 to pick up her sons and I take I-81 and US-340 through West Virginia and Maryland to dodge bad DC-area traffic before a holiday weekend.
^z - 2010-01-19