Monday, August 24, 2015

MMD (More and More Difficult) 50k - Wild Descents and Punishing Climbs

I was first introduced to the MMD run after reading some of the other trail runners in the area's blogs and I immediately became intrigued with the low-key annual get together up in the White Mountains. I ran my first attempt of the event in 2012 when it was in the Evans Notch area, and loved it. Mostly self sufficient except a couple aid stations at trail/road junctions and A LOT of climbing, with a course around 31 miles. I ended up sitting out the last two years and was itching to get back to seeing friends, and tackle this years course - which ended up being in the Franconia Notch area.

The course this year started at Lafayette Place and traveled up Little Haystack, then taking the Franconia Ridge Trail to Mts. Liberty then Flume. We traveled down the Flume Slide Trail, then right back up most of Liberty on Liberty Springs Trail to the ridge and continued over to Mt. Lafayette, the highpoint of the course at 5,249'. Then the plan was to go down to the Greenleaf Hut and down Greenleaf Trail to the base of the notch, then right back up Cannon Mtn. via the Kinsman Ridge Trail. From Cannon, we descended Lonesome Lake Trail to the Lonesome Lake Hut, then up F'ing Jimmy to North Kinsman. We would then make our final climb up most of Cannon Mtn. via the Cannonballs to the Hi-Cannon Trail then descend that to the finish (and after party). The statistics ended up being around 32.5 miles and 14,000' of climbing. The volunteers were awesome this year and helped everyone out with water and the food spread at the end was great. Thank you to everyone who helped out!

Strava activity here:

View down into the notch towards Cannon Mtn.

I decided to start the run at 5am to try to get some good photos from the ridge, for some reason I thought I could get there in 45-50 minutes to catch the sunrise, but I ended up taking just under an hour and missed it by a little bit. I headed out in front for the first climb and steadily made my push up to the first summit. I felt good on the first climb and the downhill/running was fun along the ridge trail, making my way to Mt. Liberty then Flume. Soon enough it was time to head down the Flume Slide, the part of the course I was unsure of my ability to get through unscathed. We ended up having pretty dry weather leading up to the day and the slide trail was not as slippery as it could have been. I didn't fall, but came close several times and before I knew it I was at the bottom and into some nice runnable trail for a stretch. Getting to the first aid station at the junction of Liberty Springs Trail first of the 5am starters felt good and I grabbed some water before making the long climb up Liberty Springs to the junction of the Franconia Ridge Trail. Getting back up to the ridge in 3 hours 30 minutes, I was moving along okay considering all the climbing we had already done.

Topping out on Little Haystack, with views of Liberty and Flume
Summit of Mt. Liberty
Early morning views looking at Franconia Ridge from Flume

Heading down the Slide

Great open ridge running
Last shot of the ridge before descending to the base of the notch, from Mt. Lafayette.
 After making it across the ridge in about an hour, I planned to grab whatever high calorie baked goods they had at the Greenleaf Hut before descending back into the notch. The snack of the day was a chocolate chip pumpkin cake, which hit the spot as I climbed down the wet, mossy Greenleaf Trail rocks. Making it down to the road in about 5:35, I still felt okay on the climbs but better on the descents - which has been a strong point of mine. Before starting the steep climb up Cannon I said hi to the aid station volunteers who were just setting up as I cruised through. After about an hour, I reached the top of Cannon and headed back towards the Lonesome Lake Trail, another exciting descent, to climb down to the Lonesome Lake Hut.

View looking at the summit of Cannon Mtn.'s fire tower
View from outlook along the Kinsman Ridge Trail on the way up Cannon Mtn.

Somewhere in this stretch, I smashed my right knee on a cut branch that I didn't see on the side of the trail. Normal bumps and bruises are to be expected in trail running, but this one was a bit more and limited my downhill ability and flexibility on the descents for the remainder of the run. This was unfortunate, for me, because I didn't have much left on the climbs at this point and normally rely on my downhill ability to carry me through the end of these long training runs. I even thought for a second that I should head back down to conserve my knee in case something bad actually happened to it. I used my (better?) judgement and continued the climb up to North Kinsman's summit.

View of Cannon/Cannonballs and Franconia Ridge, all the peaks of the day.
This stretch lasted a long time as I reached the summit in just over 8 hours and Phil Kreycik passed me at this point (he was the first person running in the 6am start group). I caught up to him on the downhill and we ended up running together for the remainder of the race. He kept up a great pace on the uphills with me dragging behind as I caught him on the downs. It was good to have someone to talk to as I had been alone for the previous 8 hours of exertion, and it helped to make the time and trail pass by. Before we knew it, we had climbed up the cannonballs and almost to the summit of Cannon before making our final descent down the Hi-Cannon Trail, another wild descent down a steep trail.
Viewpoint along the Hi-Cannon Trail looking at Lonesome Lake
All downhill from here! Coming down the Hi-Cannon Trail.
I ended up sticking with him for the downhill to try to conserve my knee and not do any further damage by falling on it or smashing it on a rock/tree again. We finished the race together, even though he had started an hour later, and promptly sat down in some chairs after a long day on the trails. Cheering on the other runners as they completed the course, I found out that I ended up in 6th place - the same place I finished in when I ran it in 2012. I am happy with the effort and it was a fun day exploring Franconia Notch.

Map of the course

Elevation profile with peaks identified
Route Statistics:
Mileage: 32.5
Climb: 14,202'
Start: 5:00AM
Summit of Little Haystack (in hrs. elapsed): 1:03, 3.3 miles
Summit of Mt. Liberty: 1:33
Summit of Mt. Flume: 1:49
Back up most of Liberty to the Franconia Ridge Trail: 3:30, 12.2 miles
Summit of Mt. Lincoln: 4:16
Summit of Mt. Lafayette: 4:34, 15.7 miles
Base of Franconia Notch (mile 20): 5:35, 19.5 miles
Summit of Cannon Mtn.: 6:34, 21.8 miles
Summit of North Kinsman: 8:13, 26.5 miles
Finish: 10:05

Shoes: inov8 Roclite 295 (old style)
Socks: DarnTough VT Herringbone
Pack: Ultimate Direction SJ (old style)
Hat & Shorts: The North Face Better than Naked series
Gels: Honey Stinger Gold and Acai/Pomegranate

Upcoming Plans:
The next thing coming up on my schedule is to attempt a sub-7 hour Pemi Loop sometime in September. I have a few friends that are interested in joining me, we just have to work out the date that works, and hope the weather is decent for the run. I have done two Pemi Loops in the past couple years at a moderate/reasonable photo taking pace and I think I am ready to leave the camera at home and put in a hard effort on the course.

After the Pemi attempt, I have the TARC 100k trail race in Hale Reservation that I am preparing for. I will start to increase the miles and intensity over the following month or so, and hope that I can cover the distance. I have not run 62 miles since I ran the Ghost Train 100 miler in 2012, so I don't know what to expect for how it will turn out. Following up that race, I hope to maybe make another attempt at the Midstate Trail Through-run (95 miles), as well as getting some redemption at the TARC Fells Ultra 40 miler in early December.

Following up these efforts, I plan to work on my career as an architect - and begin studying for and taking the Architectural Registration Exams. These consist of a series of seven exams that normally take about a month each to study for, so I figured I would make an attempt to complete a few over this winter and a few over the following winter in hopes I can complete them in a couple years.

My wife has been very instrumental in my running, and I owe a lot to her patience, support and understanding of my time-consuming passion of running in the mountains. It has come time to work on my focus on the family and I plan to do that through bettering my career and getting registered as an architect.


  1. Great write-up! So detailed and with photos!

  2. Nice rike on the MMD, Jesse and best of luck with the Architect exams!

    1. Thanks, Steve! Hope to see you at some other races/runs in the mountains.

    2. Wapack on Labor Day weekend? After that Deb and I may just go up and do hikes in the Whites until the snow gets too deep.

    3. Not this year, got some family time planned up in Maine. Nice, enjoy the fall weather coming up soon.

    4. Sounds better than 18 miles on the Wapack ;-) Have a great time up theyah!

  3. What type of watch/GPS do you use?

  4. Cool thanks, I'm trying to find the most accurate GPS watch.

    1. It's pretty accurate, although there has been a couple of times it has hiccups. Overall pretty reliable though.