Sunday, May 17, 2009

MMT- Never a dull moment

My race:

A nice cool 5:00am start, in which I ran the first 2.4 road miles in 18 minutes to the Buzzard Rock trail head. I ran smooth and well paced for the first 24.7 miles arriving at Habron gap at 9:41am. I was being conservative for the remaining 77 miles, and felt in complete control. The weather was warm, but overcast and generally comortable until about 10am. A friend at an aid station told me that Bryon Powell had picked me for a top ten finish on his popular iRunFar blog. Flattering, but I am glad I didn't know that before the race, because my only goal was to finish.

After leaving Habron, it became very hot on the next long climb. Over the next four hours we would encounter very hot and humid temperatures. By mile 27 my body stopped sweating. I had noticed my bandana and arms were bone dry when they should have been soaked. Many runners ran with empty bottles, and I made sure to refill and soak in the streams. During the long 9.5 miles to Camp Roosevelt I felt nauseus, dizzy, and tired. On the decent down to the Stephen's trail I came across runner #130 (Martin) who was limping badly. He had rolled his ankle pretty good so I decided to stick with him for a bit and keep him company. We had a nice conversation, sometimes an expletive would pop up as he tripped over the rocks. We joked around, and when the trail became less rocky he told me to move on.

The 9.5 miles to Camp Roosevelt took over three hours. The day remained toasty, the horse flies were eating me alive, and I still felt like poop. Entering Gap Creek at mile 39.8 we ecountered our first thunderstorm. The rain brought a welcome cool down, and I had a great second wind on Kerns Mountain. The high point was short lived and I was feeling lousy again all the way to Bird Knob. It was weird how my legs felt fine. I had no blisters, feet felt good, and nothing was really hurting. However, my energy was gone and I couldn't take advantage of the fresh legs. I was drinking a lot, sweating again, and eating well. Apparently it was not enough and my body was not getting the needed energy from the food and liquids (including lots of salt).

The climb up Bird Knob was slow and frustrating. I was averaging two miles per hour, which was slow enough to endanger me at later cut-offs. At the top of Bird Knob the booming rumble of thunder and black blouds rolled closer. Within minutes I was being pelted by heavy rain, wind, and stinging hail. The lightning was getting kind of sketchy and the temperature was actually getting cold.

In a matter of minutes we went from 80's to 60's. The trails turned into streams that were several inches deep. The rain was cold, and my slow walk wasn't enough to stay warm. I had no dry/warm clothes for another 15 miles. The sun was getting lower and I was beginning to shiver from the cold alot. To think that five hours ago I was suffering major dehydration from the heat, and now I was close to hypothermic. At my slow and feeble pace it would take at least five hours to get to my next drop bag. I knew I would not make that long cold and wet. I dropped at 52 miles, and sat in a car for three hours until the aid station closed down.

The Accident: At 1:00am myself, volunteer Harry Smith, and runner Bill Wandel were making our way back to the Skyline Ranch. Harry was driving, it was raining on and off, and the roads were very slick. As we were coming down Fort Valley rd, just five miles from the ranch, our Jeep's right wheels slid off the road. Harry thinks his vision of the road may have been hindered by headlights from a car coming around the turn. With no shoulders on the road, the Jeep took a slanted dive towards a creek bed. We slammed head on with a tree at about 35-40mph. Harry yelled "hold on, we're gonna hit!".

I was half asleep, but fully awake during the seconds before impact. It was a loud crunch, and then everything was over. I had no idea if the jeep was going to flip, slide down to the creek bottom, or hit something. It was a relief to still be conscious, but I felt a burning sensation in my legs, and Bill Wandel(who was in the back seat) was now on my lap. I did not know if mylegs were cut, bruised, or perhaps broken.

The seconds before impact are the scariest, but the minute afterward is hectic when you're trying to figure out what your body looks like in a smoke filled vehicle. The Jeep had filled with powder from the airbags and the odor began to have a suffocating effect with the windows closed. I asked Bill if he was ok, and he said he couldn't move. I was forced to crawl out of the drivers side door, which was now pointing up towards the road. I was worried the Jeep would still flip, or slide down the embankment, but a large rock had been holding it in place. The same rock, however, also prevented us from opening the passenger side door to get to Bill.

After about five minutes we pulled Bill out of the car, and he seemed to be in shock. Bill leaned against the Jeep for ten minutes as we waited to flag down any passing cars. It was a surreal sight standing out in the rainy dark while our Jeep was sitting smashed off the side of the road. The headlights pointed aimlessly through the trees, and the horn sounded a continuous buzz.

Shortly after two women were able to call 911, but it was still about 25-30 minutes after the crash that the fire department and ambulance showed up. Bill was the first to get treated and was placed in the ambulance. EMT's tended to my abrasions and cuts, and brought Bill to the hospital for further review. Bill was not wearing his seat belt, and his head shattered the front windshield. He also hit the dashboard with tremendous force, thus causing some cracked ribs and other internal injuries. We are all hoping his wounds are minimal.

Back to MMT:

Men's race: Karl Meltzer won more than two hours ahead of second. Mike Mason had a ground breaking performance taking 3rd behind Glen Redpath, and Keith Knipling finished a tough day looking strong to take fourth. Todd Walker was having a great race, but got lost and told me he ended up running 105 miles instead. Potential contenders Bradley Mondgold and Jeremy Ramsey did not start due to sickness/injury. Darkhorse pick Nick Pedatella, whom I passed on the way to Habron Gap, dropped due to injury, as well as Karsten Brown.

Women's race: Amy Sproston took first, and challenged Sue Johnston's legendary course record pace early in the day . She was my pick to win, and I called it saying she would finish top ten overall. She finished 10th. Sheryl Wheeler came out of nowhere and made a late push during the night to take second. Robin Meagher held on for 3rd.

Today's MMT saw the greatest number of drops ever, due mostly to the extreme and unpredictable weather. Anybody who finished this race would be qualified to teach a course on toughness and fortitude. Congrats to all finishers. And last, but not least thanks to all the volunteers who spent days in the same rough conditions to help us out.

***Accident update 10:30am 5/18/09***
I heard from Harry Smith this morning, who was the driver in the accident. He said Bill Wandel should be getting out of the Winchester hospital today with minor injuries. Bill is feeling well and his spirits are good. I had a very restless night due to the burning pain in my right leg. I changed out the bandages and took some ibuprofin and fell asleep at 6am. I am feeling much better, but still a bit sleep deprived. Overall, I thank God that no one was seriously hurt. We're all very thankful.


Runner Tammy said...


I am so sorry you had to drop, but completely understand and agree with your decision. You could teach a class on toughness yourself!

The race conditions sounded unusually difficult with the cold front arriving including several storms to make an already challenging course super challenging (I can barely hike the rocky trails at MMT).

I will keep Bill in my prayers and of course you and Harry.

Definitely take care of yourself and make sure to seek medical help if you do not feel okay (whether your body in general or your legs, neck, back, etc). As I might have told you, I was hit by a car about 15 years ago and it was only with lots of physical therapy and a few surgeries (by a wonderful sports orthopedist), that I am now able to run 100's.

Regardless the outcome of this race, you are still a champion in my opinion!

Take care,

I am a runner. "We are what we repeatedly do" said...

Glad to hear you and Bill are doing okay. Wow what a day for you! Get yourself healed up and I'll see you out there soon