Elizabeth Azze's Race Report from the 2014 MMT 100 Mile Run "Tough decision but best decision"

The days leading up to the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run in the George Washington National Forest of Virginia, the area suffered intense rain storms, the roads, rivers and streams were flooded. For some reason I didn’t think much about the trail conditions while driving on the winding road towards the start. I should of known better when we were following a truck plowing the road of debris and mud but I was overwhelmed by the vibrant colors of green, the wild flowers, and the sounds of the flowing water. Everything felt alive, begging for adventure.

We arrived at Caroline Furnace Lutheran Camp early to find only a couple of people have arrived, one being Karl Meltzer. We talked to him about his current plans as well as his past experiences. He is always fun to catch up with.

We waited for a bit for the rest of team to arrive and headed down to the race meeting, picked up our numbers and headed back to camp for the night.

This year both the mens and women's fields were loaded with great runners! Leading into this years race I felt I was much stronger than 2010 when I finished in 25:41. My training has been going well and my strength was definitely there due to improving some specific movement patterns and focusing on my mobility and strength.  A few times per week I focused on key movements that included deadlifting, squatting, lunging, reaching, crawling, turkish get ups, kettlebell swings, single leg strength and others.  I fully believe that the proper sleep, managing stress & eating well, along with the integration of recovery weeks and a balanced training approach has kept me from being sidelined due to an injury over the years. My 1st hundred was back in 2001 when I competed in the Susitna 100 in Alaska.

We lined up for the race start at 4:00 am. For some reason I didn’t want to stand with the top women so I went to the middle of the pack. At that moment something within me didn’t feel like pushing myself, I just felt like running as I pleased. My legs were still a little tired from the Rock the Ridge 50 Miler I did less than 2 weeks ago.

The race started on an uphill road section for 4 miles then headed onto a single track trail or was it? I thought I was running through a stream for a mile or so until the first real climb of the day started. We got to the top and the sun was beginning to rise, I stopped for a bit to look at the view.  While chatting with Shannon Macgregor for some time, you could sense his excitement with every foot step as he moved down the trail snapping photos.

I got to the first crewed aid station in 2:30, about 20 mins behind my normal pace. At this point I still knew there was a full day left of running and I wasn’t in a hurry. I continued on running through endless mud bogs and flooded trails. I looked forward to mile 20 where my good friend and fellow teammate Zsuzsanna Carlson was volunteering. When I got there I could tell by her facial expression, she was concerned. I grabbed some stuff and said see you at mile 63.9 Camp Roosevelt. This is where she would jump in to pace me.

Still feeling so so, I continued on jogging toward Joe at mile 33.3. As soon as I left here I began to pick up the pace naturally. I felt strong from this point on until mile 62, the mud and flooded trail sections were relentless, as soon as your feet dried out you were in either a creek crossing or a flooded trail.  At some point during the day I start to think we were all crazy, then an hour later my thought changed to how lucky we are that we are all crazy and driven for adventure.

From aid station #5 (33.3) to mile 62 I felt like I was back on track and feeling great. During my time of taking it easy I kept my nutrition and hydration dialed in. I thought to myself if I stayed in the race I can still finish this in under 26 hours. I was thoroughly enjoying myself running, dancing and singing through the mess of a trail. Then at mile 62 or so a deep mud bog took me down. I twisted myself in such a fashion I didn’t even know how to get myself out, my shoe, gaiter and sock got sucked right off and in the process I managed to hyperextend my knee and my right achilles didn’t feel too good either.

I tried to get myself together to run/walk into AS#10 mile 63.9. Finally arriving, I was greeted by an awesome crowd of people, all of the aid stations were fantastic! I sat down to change my socks and clean myself up a little, I was feeling great energy wise and mentally I was focused on finishing. I quietly informed Joe of what happened and he said lets see how you feel during the next stretch.

Zsuzsanna enthusiastically jumped in to keep me company, I informed her of my pain as she filled me in on the days events. I ran a bit on the single track with pain in every step, I tried to push through it because thats what we are supposed to do during ultra’s right?

After hobbling down hill into Jawbone 1 in frustration, I sulked down into a chair weighing my options, would I tell a client of mine to push through this type of pain? The clear answer was no.  To some this sport is about finishing by all cost but I knew I was smarter than that. I had nothing to prove and a lot of adventures ahead.

After all these years of running 100 mile races I know what deep lows are and that little person within us who wants to sometimes quit. I’ve had many a conversation with that person in the past, in some races winning the battle against that person is what gets you to the finish line but unfortunately this wasn’t the case.  

After some conversation with Joe and Zsuzsanna, Joe asked me to walk, you know he has seen the sore ultra walk before, the hobble, the stumble etc.. as soon as he saw me walk and a few assessments, he encouraged me to go no further.  I came to grips with the fact that aid station #10 was going to be my last for the day. On a positive note I felt like I had a blast and was in total control of my hydration & nutrition for the entire 69.6 miles.

The MMT 100 is a must do event, the whole organization is top notch and embodies the grass roots traditions of ultra running. Thank you to all the wonderful volunteers, RD’s, my teammates and of course to my husband Joe, his continued support and ability to capture our adventure and yours, is truly amazing. He has his own private adventure, staying up for days, navigating, crewing, capturing awesome photos and video, he is a machine.

Huge Congrats to all who braved the day or days! I’m sure this years MMT will be one for the books! Everyone was on fire! I love that there are so many strong runners especially women who took it up a notch this year! Kudos and maybe I’ll see ya next year :).

Happy Trails!

Update! 5/23/14 - It is the Friday after the race and I am still hobbling around and favoring my right leg.  Thank god I stopped when I did. All I can think of now is getting back to training and continuing on with the adventures! Please be smart out there and know the differences between pain that can sideline you and keep you from achieving your goals, and pain that is just our minds trying to get us the hell out of here.