Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hellgate Training Run

It was really, really cold this morning as 14 of us left Bearwallow Gap.  We ran the last 22 miles of the Hellgate course.  Once we were up on the first ridge feeling the sun on our backs, it was a beautiful day.  The vistas were crystal clear.

Long story short...I feel my training is really improving but I'm concerned about a generalized, nagging soleus cramp. I think it's just a lack of training (DUH!) but I'm not sure I have the time to get it ready before Hellgate.  It feels okay while running for 3 or so hours but Hellgate will take much, much longer than that!!! 

Just keeping at it and we'll see how it goes. I have another 20+ miler planned for Monday, so that will be a good follow up test from today.

Here are some pics from the training run...

The Group.


Single file! (or so Horton says...)


Uh, Jeremy, I believe antlers grow from the top of the head...(we saw plenty of hunters today).


Krista wanted to race me to the top!


Monday, November 10, 2008

Congaree National Park run

Last Thursday, while in Columbia, SC, for the Sport, Entertainment, and Venues Tomorrow conference, I took in the Congaree.  Congaree National Park is only 25 minutes south of Columbia and really wanted to experience this place.  I had heard of it before but didn't fully realize its significance until I visited.

The Congaree acquired park status only in 2003.  It had been a National Monument immediately prior to this date but until 1976 the area was under private ownership.  Owned by a single family dating from the civil war until 1915, and then a timber company, the area was always slated for timber production...but most of the Congaree is in a flood plain which prevented (and saved) the forest from being harvested.


Hence, Conagree National Park is home to the largest Deciduous old growth (virgin) forest in the United States.  In some areas the canopy stretches to heights of 150 to 160 feet above the ground!  These are huge trees - including the water and swamp tupelo. The picture below shows part of the raised boardwalk (approx. 6 to 8 feet high) that travels through the park to protect the bottomland fungi as well as allowing visitors to travel when the Congaree River floods the area several times a year.


I decided to go for a 7 mile run, shoot a few pictures, see the vegetation and enjoy the cool morning outside of Columbia. About 6 miles into the run I encountered a family of "wild boars" (really just feral pigs since European introduction 300 years ago) and they just ran away. At first, I wasn't sure if they would be protective or not; there were several young pigs and I happened to split up the group. I stopped and tried to shoot some pictures of them - but man, can those pigs run fast!!!  Alas, I couldn't get them on film...


This is definitely the kind of place that I wouldn't compare to many other National Parks or revisit many times - but it's definitely the kind of place worth seeing and experiencing.  Personally, it was the first time I have been in a national park that was once private land during my lifetime and that provides a different perspective...during my run I was imagining what it must have been like for people like John Muir and others who worked tirelessly to protect many places that we now enjoy. Today it's just too easy to assume our protected areas have been as such and will continue to be in perpetuity for generations to come.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Mike Bailey’s 2008 MMTR Race Report


The 26th Mountain Masochist Trail Run. I like to call it the legend of the fall. I first heard about this race in 2004. I was a 22 year old kid, fresh and proud of completing my first ultra marathon. In a search for other unique ultra events, my jaw dropped when I stumbled upon an article about a race called the Mountain Masochist. A 50+ mile trail race, run entirely through the mountains of Lynchburg, and boasting over 9,000 ft of elevation gain. The race director I read was a combination of tall tale legend, and mad man. It made me realize that the 50 miler I had just run was one of the “easy”ones. I thought to myself “I barely finished an easy ultra. There’s no way on earth I could ever complete this one.”

I have waited three years to run this race. In 2006 and 2007 the race had filled up before I could get in. The reality is that even if I had gotten in, I probably would not have made the time cut offs. This year the race was the day after Halloween, which I thought was perfectly fitting. Runners will either be tricked or treated at MMTR, and they will certainly be eating pain like candy.

2008. I filled out the race application in May, and made sure I was running MMTR. Game on!

Race Day: 4am I get up and make sure that I have everything I need for a good run. The buses start loading at 5am for the long drive to the James River visitor center and start of the race. One glance out of the bus window reveals a starry night sky, a perfect beginning to a full day of adventure. It is about 40 degrees at the start and the air is crisp with the chill of autumn. A last minute trip to the little boy’s room makes me almost late for the official start. At exactly 6:30 new Mountain Masochist race director Clark Zealand signals the start of the race.

MMTR was my first race as a member of the Brooks Inspire Daily running team, so when the race began I was a little too pumped. I had in mind a realistic goal time of less than 9 hours, but during the first 3 road miles, I blasted out into the dark morning with the elites. The only problem is that I am NOT an elite, I am a middle of the pack runner who is has clearly let his curiosity get the best of him. I looked around and recognized some of the faces in the dark. Wow, it’s Eric Grossman, look Zach Miller, Lon Freeman, and there’s Sean Andrish! Hey that’s a lot of Innov8 and team Montrail shirts. I felt more like a goofy fan than a runner. Anyway, that all lasted about 15 minutes as the real fast guys dropped the pace to 6 minute miles, and left my 7 minute pace poking around in the dark. A 7 minute pace to start a 50 miler? What was I thinking? Then again, what was I thinking running a marathon, or 50k on 5 straight weekends? Maybe I just love running that freaking much, that I wasn’t thinking. We’ll find out later in the race if this was a fatal error.

Aid 1(5.7…err 7miles?) So, the elites came through the first aid station anywhere between 42 and 47 minutes. I cruised in around 53, still a 7:47 pace, and again too fast too early. But, feeling frisky I kept running fast, although I did back off a bit on the early climbs. Through the first 25k I was in the top 25, and passed through the 14.9+ aid point in a relatively brisk 2:30. At some point around here the eventual female winner Justine Morrison came running by. This was another clear indicator that mid pack Mike had gone out too fast.

16-20 miles- The race was still pretty easy at this point, as no serious climbs had really occurred yet. I was switching running and walking some of the early ascents, but I knew we would be earning those 9200 ft pretty soon. I ran into Jared Hesse and Jonathan Basham and had fun chatting with those guys for a bit. I was very surprised that Basham was behind me that long, but after a few miles of socializing he clearly decided to kick into a higher gear leaving me and Jared behind. The fact that I was ahead of JB was sign #3 I had gone out too fast.

At this point you are wondering what the result of going out too fast did. Well, at around mile 22 it did a lot. My long climb up Buck Mountain was slow and slower. In this stretch I found myself walking even flat fast sections, and when I did try to run my legs felt like petrified logs. I remembered what Clark had said at the dinner the night before. “If you’re having a rough time, just enjoy being out there. Enjoy God’s creation, enjoy the mountains, and enjoy the fall colors.” I kept reminding myself that there was no other place that I’d rather be than in the mountains, and experiencing creation in 3-D. That mantra stuck, even though my sub 9 hour finish had gone out the window, and even when I was being passed by a number of runners. My only reprieve came at what I call the “Rocky” aid station. I have heard stories about the Rocky music echoing through the mountains, and the Bible scripture written on posters along the trail. After what seemed like an endless climb up Buck Mountain, the summit was in site. I kept reading the inspirational Bible verses, and admit that I got a little emotional as I got closer to the aid station. I felt spiritually recharged, and gained a little bounce back in my stride.

The Loop: I was feeling good until this section. I had heard plenty about the infamous loop, but also some good things. I was told to try and complete it in under an hour. Going into the first flat section, I felt great. I figured I could do the loop in 45 minutes at that pace. Wrong. The loop gets a little more fun, and a little more gnarly. It’s not necessarily difficult, but I found myself dragging trying to get through it. Again, I got passed by a few more runners, including the talented Heather Fisher whom I saw back and forth for much of the day. The loop took me over an hour, and the next few miles after the loop would prove to still be a struggle. I remember getting passed by my buddy Marc Griffin, who ran a very strong race, and set a new MMTR PR for himself. At this point, I was questioning whether a 10 hour finish would be still be realistic.

40 miles to the Finish: I managed to get my groove back and made a strong push to make up for lost time. I ended up passing the likes of Krista Meisch, Jenny Anderson, Byron Backer, and Drew Ponder. All are very fast runners who had been experiencing some rough moments. Right after leaving the final aid station, I took the worst fall of the day. Head first down the trail (he’s safe!). No Blood. Crap! Looks like I won’t be getting best blood. I got back on my feet, and finished off the last 3.5 miles in 30 minutes. With the finish area in site, I picked up some steam, breezed by and gave Clark Zealand a big high five. I finished in 9:31. On a day so many runners struggled (very high drop rate, even for MMTR), I am more than happy with my rookie MMTR performance. It gives me all the more reason to be back next year and do better.

Post Race: Right after the run, I take a chilly dip in the pond near the finish. It oddly feels amazing and horrible at the same time. Either way, I never expected my legs to feel so good after this race. I also decide to try the bench press contest. I figured the worst that could happen was either injury or embarrassment. So, I put my 155 lb frame under the barbell, and managed 14 reps. Man does running 50 miles drastically decrease your ability to bench press! Who knew?

Final Thoughts: This race lives up to everything you will ever read about it. It is clearly not for everyone, so if you are a middle of the pack runner, training is essential. Do not show up thinking that you can just complete this on a whim, or because you have a number of ultra finishes. You won’t, and this is not just another ultra. It is a rare treasure that I suggest most trail runners attempt at least once. The volunteers at MMTR are as vital, if not more, as your training. THEY are what help you and me finish this race. Also, Clark Zealand did a tremendous job keeping MMTR alive and well. He had some big shoes to fill, but he filled those shoes like fat man in a phone booth. I think we have many more years to come of this legendary autumn event. And I use the word event, because it is not just a race, it is an experience.

Thanks for everything,

Mike Bailey

2008 MMTR Photos

Here are some links to MMTR photos:




MMTR Pictures

Peggy Ankney's Mountain Masochist Report

Mountain Masochist Nov. 1, 2008 Race Report

After crewing my husband, JR, twice on this race, I knew I could never do it. “It’s too hard!” was my reply to David Horton every time he asked when I was going to run it. But for some reason, and perhaps it was the fact that the race HQ was a nice hotel, I decided to sign up for it this year with JR. We started training for it in the spring. We ran Promise Land in April, two marathons over the summer, and the 40 mile Oddesey Adventure race at Douthat State Park in October. We also ran 31 miles of the Grindstone course the weekend after the race to clean up the rest of the course markers. To mentally prepare, I printed out a course map and elevation chart and hung it on my office wall, watched Jeanne Craig’s 2007 MMTR video on youtube, and read as many race reports as I could find. For the race itself, I studied the splits from 1998-2000, looking at those who finished between 11:30 and 12 hours and noted these splits after the Long Mountain Wayside on my course map, which I carried with me. But sometimes too much information can be a bad thing: Jeanne finished MMTR (her first attempt) in 11:44, a time I hoped to match, so I looked up her Promise Land time to see how it compared to mine, and was horrified to see that she finished over an hour before I did. JR told me it’s not a linear comparison, but it didn’t do a lot for my self-confidence. This could be my first DNF. I was scared. When I said that to David Horton, his response was, “You should be.”

A few weeks before the race, JR developed an IT band issue that affected his sciatica and had to back out of the race, so he was my crew for the day. Our ultra-runner friend Bill Potts had nearly the same thing happen but recovered, but on race morning developed flu symptoms and had to back out and asked JR if he could ride with him for the day. So I had a two-man crew for the day.

The start on the road was nice and easy, and I enjoyed watching the transition from a starry sky to day break and seeing the gorgeous fall colors. As in most races, you have to take care not to go out too fast – I was trying for an 11-minute mile, but someone near me had a GPS and when he told me we ran the first two in under 20 minutes, I backed off a bit. I didn’t stop at the first or second aid stations, save for a quick kiss from JR. Then we get off the road and started climbing on hard pack and dirt roads. As someone who likes to stop and joke with the aid station volunteers, JR had warned me to get in and get out as quickly as possible. For that reason, I planned to use a Nathan for fluids and carry gel and electrolyte tablets so I wouldn’t waste time at the aid stations. He was also ready with snacks and Ensure at the accessible aid stations, and was able to get me out fast. The first half of the race was beautiful but uneventful, but I was hoping to get to the Long Mountain Wayside well before the 12:30 cut-off. I was a little confused by the cut-off time for station 6, since the time was painted over from last year, and couldn’t tell if it was 10:35 or 11:35. It was about 10:30 and it appeared I wasn’t going to make it to Long Mountain Wayside at 11:30 as planned. As it got later and later, I wondered if I would make it in time. I finally saw the photographer at 12:15, who told me the aid station was about a quarter mile down the road. It turned out I made it at 12:22, just 8 minutes before the cut-off. As I changed shoes, feeling kind of spacey and dazed, JR took care of me, force-feeding me endurolytes and Ensure. I asked JR if he thought I could finish. Although he wasn’t sure, he answered confidently in the affirmative.

I had made my D-game – getting to this aid station. Now to work on my C-game: getting through as many aid stations as possible before being pulled. As I headed up to climb to Buck Mountain, Bill Potts yelled, “Climb hard!” When I think of all the things that helped me succeed in this race, I’m sure it was JR and Bill’s help and encouragement at that point that are responsible. Sophie Speidel also gave me this advice – find a mantra. During this section, I revised a Doors tune, and my mantra became “the Pain is deep, dark and wide. Break on through to the other side.” I repeated this an untold number of times in the next 5+ hours. I climbed damn hard, taking baby steps at a quick pace, and passing people (slowly) until I got to the top, the Rocky theme blaring away, all smiles because I had made yet another cut-off. The wonderful man at the aid station encouraged me, saying it was all downhill and to just take it at a nice jog. My confidence boosted, I made up some time and arrived at AS 12 with a 25 minute cushion. JR says that’s when he was really sure I would finish. We hiked hard up to the loop and I felt strong going into the loop. JR ran most of it with me, until he came to the aid of a runner in trouble. He was able to meet me as I came out of the loop and loaded me up with more endurolytes, gel, water, and a quick kiss, saying he would see me at the finish. If I could just get to the last aid station without being pulled, I’d have my B-game – finishing the race over the time limit.

The rest of the race is a bit blurry, but I saw a woman who I thought might have been Vicki Kendall, so I asked her if she was. She said no, but Vicki is behind us. I was amazed – JR told me that if I stayed near Vicki I would finish, because Vicki is a finisher. How could I be ahead of her? Then again, I hadn’t run the Grindstone four weeks before this race. So I hiked or ran with the two women, Jill and Carol, who are very strong uphill climbers. They seemed confident we would finish, but I was taking nothing for granted. The hardest section of the second half for me was between AS 15 and 16, with a big steep uphill section on single track. I would lose Jill and Carol on the ups and catch them on the downs, until we met up at AS 16, 20 minutes ahead of the cut-off with only a few miles to go and slightly over an hour. It looked like I just might actually finish this race! We high fived, and I ran ahead, not wanting to leave any possibility of failure. For some reason I though it was four Horton miles to the end, so I was pushing it, but I mentioned this to someone and was told it was only 2.9 Hortons, but actually closer to 3.5 miles. I backed off a bit because the terrain was rocky and downhill, but once I got to the steep gravel downhill on the road, I let loose and ran all out. I saw JR just before the 1 mile marker in the road, and he ran with me for the final mile. With over half an hour to finish, I knew I would do it, though I was still in a state of shocked disbelief. I ran across that finish line, just as I had done dozens of times in my head, but this time I was handed a finisher’s shirt. My personal best time for my first 50-miler: 11:38:55.

The first ultra I did was Holiday Lake, and it was originally intended to be my first and last. But after finishing, I considered running Promise Land. I have now run a total of 9 ultras. As of yesterday at 6:30 pm, I was convinced I won’t run this one again because it’s so hard, but those LUS jackets look really nice…


Saturday, November 1, 2008

Justine Morrison is the 1st overall woman in the 2008 Mountain Masochist Trail Run.

Click here to see his splits, visit in the next few days to see all his section times.

MMTR Winner 2008

Eric Grossman wins the 2008 Mountain Masochist Trail Run in a winning time of 7:08:48.

Click here to see his splits, visit in the next few days to see all his section times.

Tech Update

Live Splits are fixed Please go to
to see the times as runners come through the stations, we have around an 2 hr delay right now.

Audio Update Station#4 - Clark Zealand

Audio Update Station#2 - Clark Zealand

Audio Update - Station#2 - Clark Zealand
Web Page Live Splits is Fixed

Technical Difficulties

Our website provider did not auto renew our domain so the website with the live splits is not functioning. Sorry for the trouble we are working on fixing it but without success so far.

Thanks for your patience.