Monday, March 28, 2016

McKay Hollow Madness 25K March 26, 2016

Saturday, March 26, 2016

I headed up to the mountain with a neighbor and friend, Lisa, at 5:30 a.m.  We arrived around 6 and found a close parking spot.  The race starts at 7, so we stayed in the car and chatted for awhile.  It was in the 40s, so once we got out we headed to the pavilion to stand by the fireplace!

Pictures by Gregg Gelmis, We Run Huntsville
I had low expectations for me in this race for a few reasons:

No Trails
First, I hadn't been on the mountain since Mountain Mist 50K 2 months ago.  That's right, no trail runs to train for this race!

Low Mileage
When MM finished, I was ready to take a step back from running to focus on my overall health and nutrition.  I started doing the 21 Day Fix Extreme workout videos and began eating better too.  I took a couple of weeks completely off of running and then gradually added in miles until I was doing 30 miles a week.  I did a 10 mile long run on roads 3 weeks ago and then a 12 mile long run last week.  That was it for my long run training for this race.  My shorter runs have been mostly pushing a jogging stroller with a 1.5 year old, so I think they were good training runs, but my overall weekly mileage wasn't great.

Good Prizes=More Competition
I  "sized up" the competition before the race started and noticed 3 girls who looked like pretty serious competition.  One had beaten me in MM and 2 others I didn't know.  The race director had posted on Facebook that the first place male and female winner would get $350 in prizes.  I was thinking that probably attracted some competition and noticed it to be true from the looks of things at the start of the race. 

What did I have going for me?

Past Results
I've won this race a few times in the past.  It's a course that seems to suit me.

Strong Core, Arms, and Legs
Surely the 2 months of 21 Day Fix videos had to be doing something to make me stronger!  I would test that out today.

Not Nursing
I had a 9 month old last year and was exclusively nursing.  I've just weaned my 21 month old, so I felt like I could push myself to "beat" the me from last year.

A Desire to Improve From Last Year
Last year, I finished 2nd and was passed in the last climb up Death Trail.  This year, I wasn't going to let that happen.

The Race
This race is broken up into 3 segments separated by 2 Aid Stations.  This is important for me to note because I am horrible at finding my way along the trails.  The race director gave us clear and specific instructions to look for different colored flags for each segment of the race: RED at the start until the 25K runners separated from the 12K runners right after Aid Station 1, ORANGE after that, and finally YELLOW after Aid Station 2.  As long as you kept the correctly colored flag to your right, you were doing fine.  This was something that I had to be highly aware of, especially in the last few miles when I was alone.  It's silly that someone like me can be so clueless on these trails, but it's the truth.  

When the race began, I fell into 2nd place behind a girl from TN with a black Fleet Feet singlet on.  In our first ascent after about a mile, I began walking and was passed by a girl (pink arm sleeves), putting me into 3rd place.  I was trying not to push too hard in the beginning of the race in order to save for the end.  I love this race, but it's a challenge to pace it properly.  We headed into Stone Cuts, a favorite spot for me as we weaved in and out of the stone boulders.  The weather was perfect for singlets and shorts (low 50s).  The grass was just starting to green, and little purple flowers dotted the ground.  It was so pretty and refreshing to see signs of spring.  

I was happy to see my friend, Julia, was was volunteering at Aid Station 1 but disappointed that there wasn't any Gu available (FF team member joked "but we have Slim Jims.  That's almost the same thing!").  I love the part right after this aid station where we "fall down the mountain."  We pass the spot where I got engaged, and we get to run down the end of the Mountain Mist course (but we run up it during MM).  It feels so freeing to just run and let gravity just pull you down!

I can't remember exactly when I passed the FF out-of-town girl, but I passed her reluctantly (I find it easier to chase than to be chased).  And a little while after that, the now-first place girl (pink arm sleeves) was just stopped on the side of the trail, so I passed her.  This part begins a gradual climb as we approach Aid Station 2.  I ran with a guy from near Birmingham whose conversation was a nice distraction.  The ditch that was washed out was very hard to navigate (something I could have improved in training on the trails).  When we approached the aid station, the guy I was with told me not to linger.  As we started back out on the course (I was relieved to have found a vanilla Gu!), he joked that he would trip the girls we saw as we doubled-back on the course for a small portion.  Sure enough, we soon saw the girl with the pink arm bands.  She wasn't but a few minutes behind us.  I would have to go.

The guy I was running with passed me, and I was left alone as I ran miles 10-13.  This made me incredibly nervous that I would get off-course.  Each time I saw a flag in front of me, I was so happy for the confirmation that I was going the right way!  Finally, I caught up to him and a couple of other guys and passed them.

I am beginning the climb at the end of the race in the picture below.  I probably have 20 more minutes of climbing before the finish.

I'd be lying if I said this part was easy, but it's so weird because I really enjoyed it!  Except for blisters on the sides of my feet and a black toenail rubbing on my right foot, I was feeling good.  It's incredible when you put work towards something and see progress.  I was feeling the benefits of the workouts I had been doing.  They made me strong.  I was also so weary though, and I knew I still needed to GO.  So I started telling myself that very thing.  GO.  DIG.  FASTER.  Except I wasn't saying it in my head, I was saying it out loud.  I came up behind a guy who looked at me like I was crazy, but I didn't care.  I passed him and kept talking to myself.

I had gotten passed last year on this climb.  I told myself, "Don't let what happened last year happen again."  And I kept pushing.  A spectator said, "You're almost there" and I started to recognize the finish.  I knew I could hold first place if I kept pushing!

Seeing the finish area and knowing I had done it felt incredible!  It is such a joy to feel so spent.  I know I had given it my all.  It's hard to describe it, but I love this feeling.  I heard cheering and people calling my name as I ran up the rocks to the finish.

 I finished in 2:43 and was immediately congratulated by the race director, Cary Long.  He gave me a bag full of prizes.

I am most thankful for the coupon for new trail shoes (my current pair is too small but it's hard to justify spending money for shoes you only wear 3 times a year).  The Garmin watch they gave me is so nice too, but it will take some learning to know how it works!

Below is something I hesitate to publish, but here goes.  On the left is a picture from 4 months ago on my training run for MM.  The right is me today.  I don't know exactly how it happened, but I gradually got more and more out-of-shape over the last year.  I knew running could not fix it when my marathon last fall went terribly and I felt so awful after every single run I did.  So I focused on my health and let running take the backseat for awhile.  Today I proved that was a good decision.  I shaved 15 minutes off of my last year's time and finished feeling strong.

McKay 25k ReParticipant Name: Katie aehlmannRace Name: 2016 McKay Hollow Madness 25K Race Date: 3/26/2016 7:00:00 AM Distance: 25000 meters (15.625 miles) Finish Time: 2:43:00.266 Overall Place: 19 out of 189 Overall Female Place: 1 Female Place: 1 Runner Place: 20 Madison Residence Place: 4 Pace per Mile: 10:26 Average Speed: 5.752 miles per hour Pace per Kilometer: 6:31 Average Speed: 9.202 kilometers per hour

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Mountain Mist 50K Sunday, January 24, 2016

I had three things stacked up against me leading up to this race:

Injury-In the 2 weeks leading up to Mountain Mist, I had only run maybe 3 times.  My right IT band was sore, and I had played it cautiously and stuck to the elliptical machine.  Because of this, I'd had only one training run on the trails.  

Weather-Friday had early rain, followed by 1-2 inches of snow, and then freezing temps.  We were all worried that the roads leading up to the mountain would close and force the race to be cancelled.  All day I was glued to my phone, checking for messages about the race.  They said there would be a decision by Friday night and that it would come from the Huntsville Police Department.  In all the previous 21 years, this race had never been cancelled.  I was so jumpy and out-of-sorts all day as I waited.  Finally, an announcement of a 24 hour postponement came!  I couldn't believe they were able to pull that off!

Going it alone-Though I wanted it to be my husband Rick's 10th year too, he was injured and wouldn't be running.  I decided to enjoy my experience as much as I could, but it was bittersweet to prepare for this race without him.  

I was determined to make this race happen in spite of everything above!

I headed up to the mountain at around 6:15 a.m., taking Governor's instead of our usual Bankhead route (still closed due to ice).  We were warned that the park would be icy, and they were right.  I nervously drove 5 mph into the park and quickly found a parking spot, relieved that I hadn't wrecked Rick's car!

The race begins at 7:30, and we were able to stay warm in the Lodge until just before start time.  It was around 15 degrees at the start and would warm to 40.

Photo from We Run Huntsville Gregg Gelmis

The Race
As the race began, I could not believe how icy the roads were and how it forced us to run so slowly!  I watched people try to run on the ice and fall like dominoes.  The rest of us gingerly stepped to the shoulder and ran nearly single file on the safer snow. 

Once we entered the trails it got a little better but not much.  I felt like I was constantly looking out for ice.  It made it so hard to relax.  With a time of 1:06, I made it into the Aid Station 1.  This was much slower than I'd expected.  

As I approached Powerline, I enjoyed talking with a guy from Atlanta running his 9th Mist and a friend, Ashley.  Powerline was actually not muddy today since the mud was frozen.  

My favorite part of the first half of the race was seeing the beautiful woods.  It was just magical to see the snow all over the ground and branches.  There were icicles hanging from every rock.  I was just in awe of how beautiful it was.  I was so glad to be running!   

I ran the Stone Cuts section of the race with teammate Linda.  You actually pick your way through some huge boulders, kind of like going through a small cave.  I love this section!  We enjoyed knocking down a few of the icicles and hearing them smash on the rocks.

Right before Aid Station 3, I realized I'd overdressed.  Tights?  Not needed today.  Long sleeves either.  Nor gloves, nor hat.  I had tossed my sunglasses and ear warmer headband at the last aid station, and I tossed my gloves and hat at this one (though I never could find them back at the Lodge where they were supposed to be waiting when we finished--bummer).  I was doing some back and forth with the 5th place girl (Anya), and she passed me here.  My time was 3:10.  This is Mile 16.9, but it is considered the halfway point since the back half is harder and more technical than the first.  I knew my time would be well over 6 hours today.  

I ran most of the back half alone, lost in my thoughts and focused on not falling (which I only did once and it was only to my knees).  I took Advil at Aid Station 3 and never felt bothered by any pains, though I did notice a big blister on my big right toe.  I also never felt too tired (was fueling with Mello Yellos, Gu, and Clif Bloks).  Even on Waterline (huge climb near Mile 24), I felt okay.  The mud started after Aid Station 5 as we descended into McKay Hollow.  It was so slick that I could not run down as I usually do.  By this point, I was telling myself, "You've done it!"

I ran to the finish and saw my husband and kids cheering for me!  My baby was on top of Rick's shoulders.  My son was shouting about looking at his snowman which I could not do!  I was still so focused on the ground and on not slipping.

I finished 5th OAF (2nd local) and improved my rank as the race went on, so I am happy.  Our race director, Dink, posted that the these were the worst conditions he had seen in all 22 years of the race.  I picked an epic year to reach 10 finishes!

Katie Maehlmann
Bib 303 Overall place 69
O'Shan Point rank 83 Time 1:06:08
Fearn rank 74 Time 3:10:11
Final Rank 69 Final time 6:25:18

I received this message about the 10 time finishers: 

Congratulations to our newest TEN TIME FINISHERS (in order of their tenth finish):

Katie Maehlmann
Tim Lee
Enid Gonzalez
James Duncan
Blake Thompson
Bruce Tanksley
Madison Magargee
Welcome Class of 2016!

I was the only female to reach 10 finishes today.  What a journey!  A look back over the last 10 finishes will be posted soon.

Monday, January 25, 2016


A short update---69th overall 5th female
My time was 6:25.

10 time finisher's jacket
age group medal (2nd place in my age group)
finisher's slate award

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Mountain Mist Instructions

I included this on my blog since it gives the background of Mountain Mist.  Dink writes a letter like this every year, but I have never found it to be so sentimental and honest.  I am so glad his dream is being realized and that I am a part of it.  
Dear Katie,
Please make note of the race start time, 7:30 a.m.
Mountain Mist Final Instruction's 2016
Welcome to the 22nd Annual Mountain Mist Trail Run. It's hard for me to believe that I had the idea and took the initiative to put together the first ever trail run in Huntsville when I was only 28 years old. Not only was it the first trail run, it was the first race to go beyond the marathon in Huntsville. I had a vision of Huntsville runners getting off the road for a change and venturing out onto the trails, running beyond the marathon. It was also the only trail run in the state of Alabama at the time. I also felt like if I could establish a good trail race in our area, it could possibly influence others to create other trail races in the state.
I remember when I first started running the Mountain Mist trail back in the 1980's. I am certain that I was the first person to ever "run" McKay Hollow. I ran the trails of Monte Sano on the weekends, usually alone but I did encourage my friends to join me from time to time. I would do long runs on Saturdays and Sundays on the trails. I would never see another runner on the trails, just an occasional hiker, hunter or even guys on 4-wheelers. After several years of running the trails and more trail knowledge, I put the course together in my mind, laid it out on paper to the Huntsville Track Club board members along with plan of execution, and Mountain Mist was created.
22 years ago, my biggest concern with the race was out of state runners getting lost on the trails, it is still a concern today. We mark it best we can and since the trail is usually so muddy this time of year, it makes it easier to follow as long as you are not in the top 10, just follow the muddy footprints. Weather is the second biggest concern. This year, it looks like it is going to be pretty cold and with rain throughout this week's forecast; it's going to be a slippery, wet, muddy trail run.
Another concern I had 22 years ago was this, believe it or not. I was worried that the course was going to be "too easy." Back then, the shortest trail race around the South was Pine Mountain 46.2 mile trail run in Georgia. There were no 50k trails races back then. In fact, the first Mountain Mist was advertised as a 30 mile trail run, it was more like 29.5 miles. It was not until 3 years later that 50k races emerged and Jim Oaks and myself decided that we should go ahead and adjust the course and make it a 50k.
That first Mountain Mist, I waited at the top of the infamous "Waterline Trail" for the first runners. To my surprise, when DeWayne Satterfield was the first one to reach me, he was barely jogging, his face full of despair and he was doing what we refer to as "the ultra-shuffle." I just smiled and felt a since of pride, I knew I had laid out a course that would challenge all comers. In my own words "No one is ever let down, just shut down, beaten up, broken and left bleeding."
That first Mountain Mist had 36 finishers. This Saturday, we should finish more than 300 runners as usual. I was out on the trails this past Saturday; I saw more than four large groups of runners out on the trails getting ready for the race. My vision and goal of a thriving trail/ultra-running community has long been reached. There are multiple trails races of all distance here now along with several trail races all over the state of Alabama including two 100 mile trail races. I like to think Mountain Mist was the leader; it set the stage for trail running in Alabama. Mountain Mist is a classic. I see the hats, infamous skeleton shirts and other Mountain Mist swag at races all over the country. Be thankful you will have a chance this Saturday to experience another Mountain Mist Trail Run. Thank the volunteers who give up hours and hours to make this race happen, there are many. Be thankful for your health and that you are still out there; enjoy "The South's Premier Trail Run."


Thursday, January 21, 2016


And there it is.  With my 10th Mountain Mist 50K so close I can almost taste it, our town is under a Winter Weather Advisory tomorrow until 6 a.m. race day.  We are projected to receive 1-2 inches of snow.  Roads could become treacherous and close, and the race could be cancelled.

I'm trying to ready myself for the possibility.  Some have suggested staying on the mountain with friends who live up there or running from the bottom of the mountain (roughly 2.5 miles) to get to the race start if roads are closed.  Runners usually approach race cancellations with desperation.  

I just hope we can run it in the snow!  The snowy woods are absolutely magical.

**************UPDATE: The race is rescheduled for Sunday, January 24!  Good decision since there was lots of ice today (Saturday).

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Mountain Mist 50K--Training for my 10th finish!

In Alabama, we had record flooding over Christmas Day 2015.  The day after Christmas I set out for my first trail run to prepare for Mountain Mist 50K on January 23.  I planned to meet a group at 7 a.m. on the mountain, but Bankhead Parkway was closed due to flooding!  Fellow FF teammate Loren was also trying to go up Bankhead, so we both had to turn around and go up Monte Sano Boulevard instead.  The group had already started by the time we did all of this, so we started with Loren's friend Megan.  Gregg Gelmis from We Run Huntsville snapped a few pictures before we left and was the photographer for all of my pictures today!

Katie (me), Megan, Loren

With Gregg

 I ended up running mostly with teammate Linda once our little group caught up with some of the bigger group.  We ran the back half of the MM course, around 15-16 miles.  It was so fun today with all of the stream crossings and waterfalls!  Every time I got muddy or warm (it was 70 today!), there a would be a stream right on the trail!  The water felt so cool and refreshing!

 Linda and I are on Waterline.  This is a gradual steep section around Mile 23 of the course.  We are walking it today as I will probably be on race day also.

We are approaching the waterfall!  It was much bigger today than usual!

How many times in life do you get a chance to go behind a waterfall?  That is what I did in these next few pictures.  As I tried going through the waterfall to come back out, the water almost knocked me over (as it did a few times in some of the heavier stream crossings).  It was a good reminder to me of the amazing, dangerous power of moving water.  

With  3,872 feet of climbing, this race is tough!  How to prepare for it?  Of course, getting out on the trails as much as you can helps.  Today's run of the back half of the course had 2 of the course's 3 major climbs, so it makes sense to train on this section and not the easier first half.  I also did a 20 mile road run on New Year's Eve with lots of hills in it.  Getting hill training, long runs, and trail runs in as much as you can helps you to be ready for race day. 

Here's the map of MM.  The climb in these pictures is on this map right before Mile 25.  Our course today took us from Mile 16-Mile 30 on this map.  Lots of climbing!

Finally, here is a list from the MM Ultra Signup site of the people who are eligible to complete their 10th Mountain Mist this year.  Women are listed in bold.  This means I am the only woman attempting her 10th finish this year!  As usual, I am feeling so nervous and scared!  With less than 3 weeks to go, I am questioning whether or not I am ready.  I just keep thinking "If I could finish last year, then I can finish this year."  That is the mentality that got me through the past 9 finishes.  Some years I felt so ill-prepared, but knowing that I had done it before got me through.