The 2014 running of the Martha Moats Baker 50k saw a record field set off at the start. 48 runners showed on race morning for the 7am start. After getting their race numbers Sharpied on their hands and a bit of a briefing from RD Dennis Herr, the starting whistle blew and the runners took off up The Wild Oak Trail (TWOT) for that initial LONG climb up the steady ascent of nearly 7 miles to the top of Little Bald.
The weather-guessers had predicted that the weekend was likely to be a washout. Rain was considered a near certainty at some point during the race, and thunder boomers, particularly in the afternoon, were a possibility. The weather was chilly at the start, with temps around 60 in the TWOT lot. Things got colder (at least for the volunteers) as the temperature on the top of Reddish Knob, the site of the first aid station 12+ miles into the race, was in the low to mid 50s for the rest of the morning. There was a rather dense fog up there as well, and the runners reported the fog to be prevalent for much of those early miles. There was an actual August wind chill on Reddish! The runners were dripping from what had to be nearly 100% humidity, but the lack of sun and heat made for a great day for the race. This was reflected in the conditions and moods of the runners throughout the day. There was not nearly the degree of MMB suffering we have become accustomed to over the years since Dennis created this race in 2008.
The lead runners were clearly reveling in the autumnal cool. Event and course record holder Dave Frazier shot out to a strong early lead, reaching Reddish in exactly 2 hours. That’s right - 2 hours to cover just over 12 miles, 2/3 of which were serious climbing miles, first up Little Bald and then up Reddish Knob. Sean Andrish cruised into aid station #1 eight minutes later, followed in similar fashion by Nick Combs and then Josh Ott. Dave extended his lead in the next section, the generally downhill Timber Ridge trail. He arrived at the SLAB about 53 minutes (and just over 7 miles) after leaving Reddish.
Dave had doubled his lead over Sean to this point, and also was 7 minutes ahead of his 2013 record pace. By the final aid station at mile 24.4 (the Grooms Ridge trailhead), Dave was still 7 minutes ahead of his record pace, and was now 20 minutes up on Sean. Dave lost those 7 minutes, along with some of the contents of his stomach, during the nasty climb up Grooms Ridge, but finished strong to take the win and to tie his course and event record time of 5:18. Sean finished strong to take second in 5:36. Brad Hinton completed the podium by taking third. Brad had a steady race. One week after running a blazing 3:36 in the Dahlgren Heritage Rail Trail 50km near Fredericksburg, he got off to a comfortable start at MMB. Steadily moving his way up through the top ten runners, Brad came in to the final aid station tied for third with Josh Ott. Josh finished two minutes behind Brad to take fourth.
The women’s race was taken by Sara Fanous, who finished her first running of MMB in 8:33. The women’s course and event records remain in the West Coast hands of Amy Sproston, who ran a 6:15 in 2013. The course was altered in 2013 by the addition of the new Narrowback trail between aid stations 2 and 3, which also necessitated removing the entertaining Hearthstone trail section from the lower half of the course below aid station 1, since it was no longer a useful connector trail to the rest of the course. So both event records were set on the current course.
The traditional “party course” run pulled 11 participants from the field. This course consists of running the same course through the last aid station, and then opting out of the final two trail sections for a short jog down the dirt Tilghman Road back to the TWOT lot and an early finish at just over 25 miles. Enrique Rubio was the first runner into the parking lot after he took the party course (though in Enrique’s case the party was back in Northern Virginia). The first woman to finish this “marathon” was Angela Russell, who walked it in to the start/finish lot in just a shade over 6 hours.
The course was marked this year by Vince Bowman, who was out on his mountain bike on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning ensuring that flour would mark the runner’s path at all key points along the way. The runners were highly complimentary of the course markings, and the virtual absence of any wrong turns by runners during the race was evidence of Vince’s accomplishments.
The runners were also supported by numerous aid station volunteers this year. In addition to seeing RD Dennis Herr at the aid stations, the runners were helped by Justin Peake and Antoinette Landragin at Reddish Knob; by captain Bill Gentry and Erin Frazier at the SLAB (also known affectionately by the runners as the G-Spot, in honor of that aid station’s traditional captain); and by Tara Rohland and Matt Banning at Grooms Ridge.
Thanks to all of the runners who came out to play on these great trails again this year, and to those fantastic volunteers who took care of them along the way. Hope to see everyone back again in 2015 for MMB. Dennis announced at the pre-race briefing that he plans to revive his infamous Lovers Leap 50k on the same weekend in 2015 to allow runners to double their weekend pleasure and double their weekend fun. More details on this race, held on a very challenging course just north of the MMB course, will come out in the months to come - but Dennis is “promising” that unlike the last running of the Lovers Leap, this 50k will be a lot shorter than the 43 miles of the last one.
Quatro Hubbard’s photos on Flickr