MMT 2011 Aid Station

Rain drips from the trees. Thunder rumbles. Flashlights flicker as exhausted runners climb the muddy track, blistered and chafed, their feet bruised into hamburger. Between 2am and 6am on Sunday morning the first thing they see is me.

"Welcome to the Picnic Area!" I say. "You're at mile 87. It's 8.5 miles to the next aid station, 14 miles to the finish. I salute you — this is 33 miles farther than I got last year!"

Massanutten Mountain Trails is actually a bit over 101 miles, rocky and steep, among the most brutal trail runs east of the Rockies (excluding the Barkley Marathons of course). Weather this year makes it especially challenging. A few months ago I come to my senses and withdraw from the entrant's list to make room for somebody more likely to survive the ordeal. But I volunteer to assist, so here I am with son Robin. Storms move in as we drive out Interstate 66 though bands of fog and heavy showers. The clock in the MINI Cooper rolls over to read 0:00.

Quatro Hubbard, captain of our aid station, tells us when we phone that they're already running out of ice. We pull off I-81 at Strassburg and buy 30 pounds. A Denny's 24-hour restaurant offers carry-out but is too slow, so Robin grabs a sandwich at the 7-11 next door and I snag a bottle of chocolate milk. About 1:30am we arrive. The picnic area just off US-211 is a mess, with runner's crew cars parked helter-skelter on the shoulders of the sloppy dirt-and-gravel loop road. We find a spot and pull in near the aid station pavilion.

Then it's a night of cheering runners in and guiding them out again, with pauses to direct traffic. Robin works, then sleeps a bit during the wee hours until, after dawn, Quatro sends us down to Luray to buy jugs of water. When we get back I nap for an hour and Robin takes over guide duty. Comrade Kate Abbott, who attempted MMT with me last year, came out Friday to mark a segment of the trail with streamers in preparation for the race. Early Sunday morning her massage therapist (Farouk Elkassad's assistant) Cathy greets me. "You're all dressed up!" she observes, eying my business-casual slacks, long-sleeved shirt, and mud-covered black shoes. "Are you going to the office now?" I explain that I arrived this way after Saturday night's concert. Cathy wishes Robin and me well and sends her regards to Kate, whom she describes as my "best friend". (Hmmm, I hadn't thought of us that way, but I guess we are — as are some other dear ultrarunning buddies of mine. Quite a bond develops after going scores of miles on foot in the wilderness with somebody!)

My Tweets summarize the real-time tale of MMT 2011:

After an uneventful drive home I sleep another hour and wake to find my scalp covered with dozens of inflamed mosquito bites. Ouch!

(cf. 2010-04-03 - Chocolate Bunny, 2010-05-15 - Half Massanutten Mountain Trails, Big Stick, ...) - ^z - 2011-05-17