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Ultra Running with Jen – MMT Race Report – Part 1 – “The back story”

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Here it is, folks. I’ve been told people want “all the details” about the race so I won’t hold back (okay I might just a little).. but I will swear and talk about poop and get weirdly descriptive about stuff. So, one way or another, I hope you enjoy this long journey.

I’m breaking it up into two parts – the first detailing why I returned and getting back into the swing of things and my races leading up to MMT. And the second part will be the couple days leading up MMT and the race itself, broken down by the sections between aid stations.

Part 1A

Last September I made up my mind to get back into trail running and run MMT again after a 4 year hiatus. I had five finishes under my belt, the last in 2013 with a 32:07 finish, my best time of all five. I had realized I was working practically every day either walking dogs or caring for animals in some capacity as part of my other job, and I could go as long as 6 months before having a day with ZERO requests. I had put aside something I loved doing to grow the business. At this point, the business was doing fine, but I was still saying ‘yes’ to 99% of the requests. I wasn’t doing fine. I wasn’t happy.

I was talking business stuff with Erin, one of the owners of Old City CrossFit, and she told me (not suggested) that I needed to take time off from my dog walking/pet care business. I needed to start saying ‘no’. I needed to take a weekend off for myself and another to train for the race. I thought that would be too much time off, but looked at my calendar for the next 3 months and saw I didn’t have anything scheduled for the first weekend of October, November, and December, and got the ball rolling. I emailed my clients that I would not take requests for those weekends – Friday night to Monday morning – and I wouldn’t have a backup. It seemed easy to do on paper, but it was really hard to finally press ‘send’ on that email for fear of any backlash or losing clients. But the response was extremely positive for the most part, which felt like a huge weight off my shoulders. Next I looked ahead at the calendar of races leading up to MMT, and picked weekends off for February through May that had races. I took the first weekend off in January to recover from the holiday rush of animal care, but was able to get in a race the following weekend with some help. More on that later.

End of 2016
Started off by buying supplies – hydration pack, salt tabs and other supplements, trail running shoes and other gear, etc. I had a few things, but some of my nutrition had expired, my old pack got moldy from water sitting in the bladder, and I like to have multiple shoes to rotate through as I would use multiple shoes during the race.

Oh, and I also started running. I went out to some familiar trails, particularly Fountainhead Regional Park, where I could pick up the Bull Run Occoquan Trail. The park is a quick drive from DC and this trail is used in the Bull Run Run 50 mile trail run, which was on my list of races to do this year. So it’s easy to get to and was a good place to start my return to trail running, easing in with runs of 5 to 12 miles.

One reason why I was so hesitant to start up again is back in January 2015, I fell on a patch of ice while riding my bicycle and partial tore the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in my left knee. Doctors determined that I didn’t need surgery, but said to avoid doing deep squats and lunges, kickboxing, and sports with cutting or quick lateral movements, particularly soccer. I asked about trail running, and they paused before responding “I would advise against it”. A bit of a crushing blow. However, I continued to run during CrossFit workouts, and I ran the Rock and Roll half marathon 2 months later and continued to squat and do lunges. Regarding the latter, I kept form, depth and weight in check, and wearing neoprene sleeves as the compression seemed to help. And at one point this year I realized I hadn’t been wearing them for months and there was no pain.

I went out to the trails as much as possible. Even on weekends I had to care for animals, I’d get them done early, or take care of them post-run. If I got up late on a day with no animals or if it was cold or raining, I still drove out to Fountainhead to do something. Sure I spent more time in the car on the commute than I did actually running on some days, but it was close and I wanted to make it a habit. Race day might not be cool and sunny, so I had to be prepared for any type of conditions. And, sure, there were some days I slept in with a case of the ‘don’t wanna’s. But one thing I noticed was zero knee pain.

But sometime in November I was doing a run and wanted to do a quick little out and back on a short section to get in 2 more miles at the end. No less than 10 steps after my decision, I stepped wrong on a stick and felt a weird ‘shift’ in the bottom of my foot. There’s no other way to describe it, but it seized up immediately and I couldn’t “push off” when walking. I limped back to my car and thought I had done some serious damage to my foot and stopped running the rest of the year. My training at this point shifted to lifting weights – squats, deadlifts, lunges, good mornings, etc. And I believe this made all the difference.

Part 1B
In January I finally went to the chiropractor about a ‘thing’ I had going on with my shoulder. It had been bothering me since August, and when I couldn’t turn my head to check the traffic when I was biking, I knew I had to do something about it. An adjustment to my hips along with additional work did the trick, and I decided to make this a staple in my training. I also started running again when I read about the upcoming run Waterfall Trail 50k. What a better way to jumpstart my training than running a 50k? It was not on my weekend off, but on the weekend of my birthday, so I figured ‘what the hell’. I’d done stupider things before.

The run went well – see report here – and I learned a lot during my first trail race in YEARS, but I also knew that I had a looong way to go if I wanted to do 100 miles. It was good to knock the cobwebs off and be among trail runners again even if I didn’t feel like one.

Started to get my nutrition in check via Renaissance Periodization (RP). I needed the accountability, and it was *easier* to run lighter. I also did more specific weight training – lunges, BSS, squats, deadlifts, core work – in addition to CrossFit a couple times a week.

My next race was The Reverse Ring, a 71-mile circuit run of the Massanutten Trails. I first (and last) completed this in 2009, and knew it would be a *REALLY* big test on a lot of fronts. You can read my write up HERE.

I continued to surprise myself at the Elizabeth Furnace 50k in March – see report HERE– and had high expectations for the next two races, my ‘A’ races for the year, Bull Run 50 and MMT.

Bull Run didn’t go ‘as planned’ – see report HERE – but I followed it up with a good night run with at the Bunny Run – short report HERE – where I thought I had things figured out with nutrition, hydration, shoes, etc.

This was my final tune-up, however, I basically stopped after this. I stopped eating well, my training was sporadic, my sleeping was really inconsistent, and I stopped running. It might be hard to comprehend, but I don’t like running. It’s hard to explain, but if I had to choose between doing nothing and running to train a 100 miler, I would do nothing. It might be a bit cocky as well to say that I’ve done the race enough and been out on the course enough to *know* how to run it and what to expect. It might be cocky to say that I’m a mentally strong runner when it comes to MMT.

And I definitely relied on that cockiness and experience starting at 4am on May 6th..

.. to be continued..