"And the rain came . . . 15 years of Masochism"
October 18, 1997
by David Horton
For the third year in a row ... it rained all day Friday and Friday night, the day before the race. For the third year in a row ... it "did not" rain on race day, even though the fall foliage tour of the Blue Ridge Mountains were cloaked in heavy fog and mist for much of the day.
Twenty-five women and 144 men from 24 different states began their point-to-point trek from the Blue Ridge Parkway to the quaint little town of Montebello. Many runners were returning for their yearly visit, while others were using the Masochist as their entry into the ultra world. With 16 aid stations and a beautiful and challenging course, it is perfect for a first time ultra ... and what a great weekend it was!
From the pre-race buffet of all-you-can-eat pizza, lasagna, spaghetti and dessert on Friday night to the breakfast at Shoney's on Sunday morning, made for many special memories. New friendships were made and old friendships were renewed. It's like Christmas in that there is a meeting of people who are very special to you and understand why you would want to run 50 "Horton" miles.
The rewards of a well run race to a race director are immense. So to are all the of details, tasks, responsibilities and an enormous amount of hard work that goes into putting on a first class event. Only an ultra race director knows the huge task of directing a race. For me, running a 50 mile race is much, much easier than directing one. Don't ever take for granted the work that a race director puts into the preparation and coordination of a race. In preparation for the MMTR ... I like to do things I think the runners will like and appreciate. I try my best to make the MMTR an enjoyable experience!
We marked the course with white streamers on Thursday, two days before the race. Turns and tricky intersections were marked with red streamers, and side trails and roads were blocked off with red streamers as well. On race day, I drove ahead of the lead runners (where possible) and made sure the streamers were still up. On sections where I couldn't drive the course, I ran and re-marked if necessary. Trails and forests are open to the public ... and who's to say after we marked the course on Thursday that people (not knowing what was going on) would tear the streamers down ... it has happened!
I firmly believe that "all" race directors should check the course on race day and make sure the course is still properly marked. From personal experience, I also think race directors should NOT run the races they direct. There are too many incidents that arise that need direction and decisions that only the race director can make.
The men's field looked very, very tough this year. Courtney Campbell (VA) had won the 1995 and 1996 race, setting the course record of 6:59:26 in 1996 and wanting to make it three in a row. Ed Kostak (CT), 2nd in 1996, wanted to be the first hiker to win the Masochist. Seeded 3rd this year was Mike Morton (MD), coming off a win and course record at the 1997 Western States 100 Miler. Former course record holder, Eric Clifton (MD,7:02), wanted to return to the winner's circle as well.
The dark horse, seeded 5th, was Josh Cox, a 22 year old student at Liberty University. Cox has one season (Spring 1998) of track and field eligibility left. He has been a standout cross-country runner at LU -- running around 30 minutes for a 10K. However, he had never raced beyond 13 miles. Earlier in the week, I met with Cox and told him I thought he should pace himself off Campbell and Morton ... and who knows?
In the women's field, Janice Anderson (GA), course record holder and winner in 1994, 1995, and 1996 was seeking her fourth victory in a row. Rebekah Trittipoe (VA), 2nd in 1994, 1995 and 1996 was hoping to move from 2nd into 1st place this year. Eliza MacLean (NC) was there in case one of these two faltered.
From the early aid stations, Campbell, Morton and Cox led the way. However, through aid station 5 (14.9 miles), Campbell and Cox led with Morton and an unknown runner #166, Randall Ussery, only two minutes behind. Ussery is a 22 year old first time ultra runner from Harrisonburg, VA. What is the ultra world coming to...two 22 year old first time runners in the top four?
Through aid station 9 (24.6 miles) these four runners stayed that way -- three minutes separated 1st from 4th. On the tough climb up Buck Mountain, Campbell pushed the pace and separated himself from the other runners by aid station 12 (32.1 miles). Cox was 6 minutes back, with Morton and Ussery 7 and 10 minutes behind Campbell. At this point, it looked as if Campbell was about to win his third Masochist in a row.
Campbell maintained a lead of 5 minutes over Cox through aid station 14 (41.5 miles). From this point in, Cox literally sprinted in ... quoting Bible verses ... Isaiah 40:31 and others. Never had anyone ran with the wind like he did on this very difficult section of the course.
Cox caught and blew by Campbell at 45 miles. Campbell later reported that Cox must have been running at a five minute pace when he passed him. Running without a watch (and never having set foot on the course), Cox pushed the pace all the way in crossing the finish line in a course record time of 6:57:10. Cox claimed that his legs were trashed and he didn't think he could walk much less run another step, but that God carried him the last 8 miles and that he really didn't feel anything from that point on. Cox had also developed diarrhea and had to stop 8 times to fertilize the woods ... who knows what he will run if he gets that problem under control.
Campbell finished 2nd in a time of 7:06:46, while Morton came in 3rd with a time of 7:20:13. Kostak was 4th in 7:22:45 and 5th place went to Tim Hewitt in 7:30:07. Rookie ultra runner, Ussery faded to 6th to finish in a time of 7:39:07, a very good time for his ultra debut.
Janice Anderson reported Friday afternoon that she would be unable to attend. This left the race wide open for Trittipoe to win. And win she did, leading from the first aid station to the end, finishing in a very good time of 9:11:58 (placing 24th overall). What a remarkable record Trittipoe has had at the Masochist, placing 2nd in 1994, 1995, 1996 and finishing 1st in 1997. In that time frame, she has had seven stress fractures, yet she has always been fit for the third Saturday in October. Some runners perform very well when the big races roll around.
The MMTR has a medical director and medical personnel available for emergency situations, and this year it came in very handy. James Moore (VA) was stung by a bee and had an allergic reaction. Medical director, Dr. George Wortley, had to give him more than one shot to help alleviate the reaction.
Scott (Maineak) Grierson (2nd fastest on the Appalachian Trail), made it down from his winter hibernation state of Maine for his sixth finish. Grierson finished, but slightly over the 12 hour time limit for awards. However, he did not disappoint the cheering crowd as he "kicked" down the last 100 yards to cross the finish line, and then jumped in the nearby trout pond as is his signature finish!
One surprise entry was Don Winkley (TX). Winkley finished the Trans-America Footrace with me in 1995. Less than three weeks earlier, Winkley had finished the 1,000 mile race in New York in 14 days and 10 hours. Winkley showed that he could run trails as well as the road, finishing in 11:30:55, for 119th place.
The Masters winners were Dave Drach (NC) 8:14:51 and Jeanne Christie (DC) 10:17:55. The grand masters winners were Frank Probst (VA) 9:26:51 and Sheryle Stallings (OH) 10:30:49. The super masters winner was Bernie Davis (VA) 10:53:33. The Mountain Man and Woman awards (top local finishers) went to Cley Bullock (9:13:12) and Rebekah Trittipoe (9:11:58).
Monogrammed 10 year finisher jackets were awarded to Bill Turrentine, Eric Clifton, Mike Price and Larry Lovell.
A new tradition that was started at the 1996 Masochist was continued in 1997. Specially monogrammed golf shirts were presented to the top 10 male and top 5 female finishers. Dave Drach suggested that we expand it to the top 11 men ... guess who was in 11th place this year?
Tom Green kept his string alive as he completed the Masochist for the 15 time ... the only person that has run the MMTR every year since inception. I had a special monogrammed golf shirt to present to Tom on Saturday night. As I unwrapped the shirt and began to read the inscription "Mountain Masochist Trail Run 50 Miler ... Tom Green ... 15 MILE Finisher." It was supposed to have read 15 TIME finisher! I was totally embarrassed!!! Needless to say it is at the shop being redone ... sorry Tom! I asked Tom how long he was going to keep running the Masochist and he said, "How long are you going to have it?" What a testimonial! (Of course this was before I presented him with the shirt ... he may have changed his mind since then!) There are tremendous rewards, but also a tremendous amount of work. The greater the price paid ... the greater the reward!
The finishing percentage was just over 90%, slightly higher than the previous 14 years of 83%.
We keep single year age records for all males and females. We now have single age records of men from 16 to 66. For women age records go from 22 to 54. I think other races should consider doing this as well. This is a motivational aspect for many runners. I wonder who holds the 33 year old male age record at the Masochist?
What does the future of ultra running hold? Younger and faster runners such as Cox and Ussery, and decreasing ages of all runners. The average age of the top 10 in 1997 was 31.3, in 1992 36.8, and in 1983 34.3.
What was the highlight of the weekend? Four people finishing within 1 minute 5 seconds of the cut-off time to the encouraging cheers of everyone at the finish. That's what ultra running is all about!