29 Aug 2011

Cheat Mountain Moonshine Madness 2011

Author: Matt Young | Filed under: race-reports

August 26-27, 2011

It was my first 50 miler and my first night race.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from either.  And as I begin to write this report it’s been over 36 hours since the finish and I’m still not sure what to say. It was a tough night for me. That may sound crazy to most and maybe like the understatement of the year but it was harder than I thought it would be.  I didn’t think it would be easy but I was gauging it against Highlands Sky which is also very hard but very rewarding.  So I guess I’m having a hard time making sense of it all.

When I went back and read prior race reports to help develop my race plan and equipment needs I found very little that I could use.  I took Adam’s advice and picked up the Petzl Myo XP and had good and small handheld for foggy conditions and as a backup. I carried another small backup headlamp in my pack, and a few other emergency items in case I got lost in the dark (a whistle and box of matches).  By the way, this course was very well marked and I never once was off course or even close to it.  I carried my Nathan hydration pack and began with 40 oz of water. I had gels, chomps, and sustained energy which I planned to use together. And I had my back up mini-snickers.  The standard S-caps and caffeine pills were close at hand too. It ended up that the few gels and chomps with caffeine were enough that I never needed to take any caffeine pills.  But my thought process was to bear the extra weight to make sure I had what I needed.  Again, it was my first 50 at night and I just wasn’t sure.

I wore short sleeves and a bandana. I had arm sleeves and throw away gloves in my drop bag but didn’t need either. In my drop I also had two dry shirts, and pair of road and trail shoes and miscellaneous “just in case” items.  I didn’t use any of it.

The entire course has an elevation gain and loss of 6300 feet with almost 2000 feet in the first 13 miles.  So in the first few miles I hooked up with my friends Michael and Chris and we picked up Gray and the eventual female winner, Kate. Or, as I call her, Kate the Hitchhiker.  Kate, Gray and Michael went on to run fantastic races. And for a little foreshadowing, Chris and I went on to struggle.

Course Profile

CMMM 50 mile course profile

I had a side stitch right from the start. I run very little in the evenings but it seems when I do I get side stitches.  So it wasn’t a good sign but it went away after a few miles. Then my inards started brewing and I only wished I could turn the gas I was producing into some forward propulsion but it didn’t work that way.  Round about mile 11.5 I bid my little pack farewell and made a pit stop in the woods.  I carried tp with me so no worries there. I knew it was inevitable so I gave in to the urge in hopes for relief and comfortable running.  I also thought I’d catch back up with my friends at the next aid station.  Didn’t happen.

Aid station 2 at mile 13 came and went without much fanfare. I filled up my pack to about 40 ounces but hadn’t used even 20 ounces of my water. It was a bad sign that I completely missed. The next  five miles were single track. My eyes ranged 5-10 feet ahead of me for the next hour as I tucked in behind some other runners and listened to their conversation.  Sometimes I just like to listen and not talk. I was in that kind of mood.

At aid station 3 around mile 17 Dan told me Michael was just there and left a few minutes ahead of me. So I took off and hoped I’d catch up with him.

I don’t remember much about the 5 miles of trail between AS 3 and 4.  We were down along Shavers Fork and had to climb back up Cheat Mountain so it was a lot of up hill again. In fact, my slowest mile was in this section.

I arrived at AS 4 at mile 23 and the drop bags. I was about 5 hours in to this thing now and about where I expected to be. My friend Diana grabbed the Mountain Dew she had stashed for me and asked how I was doing. Dave joined us and then Potts. The truth was, I felt bad. I was slow and tired and I’d just run 23 miles and I had 27 to go. That’s a tough pill to swallow at 2 am when I’d been running for 5 hours in the dark and I had a long time to run ahead of me. But its’ also what I signed up for and there’s no whining in 50s.

I thought about bed and I thought about my girls at home. It was a weird kind of desperate feeling.  But when I told my friends that I didn’t feel good they asked me what was wrong and I said, “I’m tired.” And sometimes simple words mean a lot. Potts just said, “Just tired? You can deal with that.”  And turned to help someone else. And he was right.  Who signs up to run 50 miles at night and doesn’t expect to get tired?

So I got the reinforcement in my drop bag, drank my Mtn Dew (thanks Diana) and was about to leave.  Chris’s wife Amanda saw me and came over and I asked her how far ahead Chris was.  She said he hadn’t been through. I thought she’d missed him and hold her he was ahead of me.  Low and behold, here comes Chris. He stopped when I did around mile 11 and had been just behind me the whole time.  I was glad to see him and we left AS 4 together.

Shortly after leaving we witnessed one of those images that I won’t soon forget. Alarmed by the sound of wretching ahead we looked up just in time to see Rick (last name withheld until I get permission) bent over hurling.  Between our headlamps and his own we had a vivid silhouette of Rick emptying his stomach and all of the newly acquired fuel he’d just taken from the aid station.  Chris said something like, ooh, maybe he should quit.  It looked and sounded that bad.  But I figured after all the races Rick’s done that this wasn’t his first time puking and sure enough as soon as he finished he turned and started running up hill.  It gave us a good laugh and we took off too.  It’s funny to say but it was kind of inspiring.

The next section was a little road followed by trail. It’s a good time to say that on my very last long run two weeks before this race that my IT Band on my left leg started acting up just as we finished.  I took 4 days off, iced and rested and it didn’t bother me again during my taper.  But I had a sneaking suspicion it might rear its ugly head and it did.   During the next section of trail it got progressively worse, especially on the downhill. I took the bandana from bald head and tied it tightly to my leg just above the knee. It helped a little but I was hindered from running down hills the way I would normally.

Chris was having trouble with his groin. He’d strained it somewhere along the way and it was getting worse.  So we were the running / walking wounded traveling through the night.

But a lot can happen in 50 miles so there’s no excuses.

Other than my IT band I was feeling better than I did at AS 4. I was more alert and more optimistic.  I didn’t feel quite as tired in my mind.  I’ve discovered that there’s something very significant in being half way done.  When you’re halfway done you begin counting down miles rather than counting up. And I can’t really explain why that makes a difference for me but it does.

But by the time we hit  the tiki torches leading us in to AS 4/6 around mile 33 my IT band was worse and hurt on the down hills.  My sides were cramping and had been for a few miles.

Chris and I had been running together for 10 miles now since AS 4. I went immediately for my drop bag, grabbed the Mtn Dew and a few chomps and gels and got ready to leave.  It was somewhere around 4:15 or 4:30 and we had 17 miles to go to the finish line.

Chris told me he was dropping.  His groin was worse and was pulling up in to his abs. It sounded bad. After a short attempt at convincing him to continue I told him I was sorry for him. Then I said something that was pretty selfish. I told him I was more sorry for me.  I was struggling and didn’t want to run 17 mles in the dark on my own.  It’s always better with a friend.  I wished him well and I turned to leave and walked down the road as I got situated.

But he couldn’t handle actually dropping and yelled for me to wait up as he caught back up.  Maybe I’d guilted him in to running and he felt sorry for me but in the end, he was glad he finished.

In the next 15 miles we saw no one ahead of us and no one behind us.  We walked the hills and tried to run the down hills. My stomach cramps were worse and I ran clinching both sides with my hands, leaning over to find relief, stretching and changing my breathing patterns. All of it provided temporary relief but it was always short-lived.  My original race plan included running the majority of the final 17 miles since it’s a net downhill and very runnable.  We ran but not as much as I wanted too.  Most importantly I think, we prayed our way off the hill. It was a struggle to say the least.

With two miles to go a couple guys passed us.  We didn’t really care.

The sign for Camp Pioneer appeared after a short rise on the road and it was a relieving site.

Adam was at the finish to ring the cow bells and welcome us. Michael was waiting there freshly showered and I knew he’d been there for a while.  The other finishers were hanging out in their finisher camp chairs when they could have been sleeping somewhere. I was glad to be done.

I had heard that CMMM was easier than Highlands. It wasn’t for me. I’d also heard that you could add about an hour to your Highlands time to estimate your CMMM time and that didn’t’ work for me either. I was finished and I was glad for that.   I’d rather finish stronger than I did. I expected to be exhausted but I don’t like injury (ITB).  And the stomach cramps are a real bummer.

A few lessons learned.  I was dehydrated and didn’t do a good job of monitoring my water intake. From now on I’ll carry bottles that I can easily tell I’m getting my 20 ounces per hour.  Also, I’ll stick with my calorie plan.  Because of the early stitch I delayed my calories and spread them out more than planned.

Last, travel as light as possible. I didn’t need the extras and the aid stations were well stocked. There’s part of me that always wants to be more than prepared and I guess that’s normal when you don’t know what to expect.

By the numbers:  50 miles in 10:30:31.  That’s a 12:40 overall pace and a 11:50 moving pace (without stops).  Best mile: mile 1 in 8:55. Slowest mile: mile 20 in 20:11 (523 feet of elevation gain).  Averaged 82% of max heart rate and 6063 calories burned. Finished 29 out of approximately 100 starters and 75 finishers.  For those of you that like data check out the garmin stats here: The numbers are off a little because I wasn’t with it enough to stop my timer at the finish.

Race details, reports, pics and results are here:

A big thanks to Adam Cassedy and all of the volunteers that put this race on. The aid stations were great and the different themes were entertaining. They were staffed with great folks who cared for the runners and a lot of runners who knew what we needed.  They stayed up all night too but didn’t have the pleasure and diversion of running.  Thank you.

In the days following the race my friend Bob helped me remember that it’s only by the grace of God that we run.  I’d just finished the longest race of my life and I felt disappointed that I didn’t “do better.”  And by better I meant in the overall standings. I’m not sure what I expected but I realized it was unfounded and prideful.  I rely on grace and thank God I can run. Bob reminded me of the verses in Romans 5:1-6:

“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. 2Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

3We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

I resolved as I finished the race that I didn’t’ care to run 50 again. Now, with some runner’s amnesia and relying on the grace of God I can see it happening again.   But I think I’m better suited for a morning start.

Matt and Chris

Matt and Chris at the CMMM 50 finish

  1. Adam Casseday posted the following on August 30, 2011 at 5:12 am.

    Great report Matt. I had no idea that you and (especially Chris) had such obstacles out there. I’m glad that you both persevered. Congrats!

  2. Michael Black posted the following on August 31, 2011 at 7:57 am.

    Great report Matt. I fully expected you to catch up to me quickly after your trip to the woods… Fortunately, my run got better as I went forward. Adam did an excellent job organizing this event. I like the dark for a while, but it sure gets boring after 5-6 hours.

  3. Gray posted the following on August 31, 2011 at 10:20 am.

    Thanks for letting me hang with you guys in the beginning. Glad you pushed through and finished.

  4. Matt Young posted the following on August 31, 2011 at 10:28 am.

    Gray- Sure thing. Great run and a strong finish. I hope your batteries held out : ) I’d feel pretty bad if they didn’t.

  5. Chris Williams posted the following on September 6, 2011 at 3:32 am.

    Thank you once again for the strength to finish. I know it is not by our stength alone, but by the grace of God. But you are a great inspiration to me, not only in the sport of ultras, but in my spiritual walk also. Hope to see you at the next 50 miler.

Leave a reply