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.  

Few More Marathon Pics

Your Race data:
Bib # 825    
Place *384 
Chip Times:
10K 56:25:00
1/2 Marathon 1:59:26
30K 2:49:44
Finish Time 3:58:29
Gun Time 3:58:55

Monday, December 14, 2015

Rocket City Marathon 2015 Race Report

It's always such a full-circle experience to return to the Rocket City Marathon, as it was my first one 14 years ago!  On Saturday, December 12, 2015, it was also my 33rd marathon!  I was co-leader of the 4:00 pace group with friend and fellow Fleet Feet Racing teammate, Christy Scott.

Our expo is held at the VBC in the South Hall.  I headed over there around noon on Friday, December 11 to get my race packet and pace sign.  Everyone was talking about the record breaking warm temperatures.  The temperature was expected to start in the 50's and get up to the 70's during the race.  

Saturday morning began for me at 2:30 a.m., when I woke up and could not go back to sleep!  Rick had to get up at 3:00 to get ready for his course sentry responsibilities, so I lay in the bed listening for him to wake up and then listening to him as he got ready and left.  At 4:00 a.m., after tossing and turning forever, I decided to just get up.  I showered, ate a FigBar and drank some Gatorade.  My stomach was in knots and upset.  I took Tums and Pepto chewables and hoped for the best.

I got my baby up and nursed her (at 18 months, she still nurses in the mornings).  I left at 5:40 to bring her to my sister's house (the older 2 kids were already there sleeping).  I handed her off, picked up friends Alison and Susan (both first time marathoners!), and headed to the race.  We arrived around 6:30 a.m., not leaving too much time for bathroom visits with a 7:00 a.m. start!  The race begins at the VBC, so there are tons of bathrooms inside to use.  I much prefer them to port-a-potties!

The Race
I found my friend, Christy Scott, and we held up our pace signs and chatted with runners.  A common question was whether or not the signs are heavy.  After pacing for 5 years, I can honestly say that carrying the sign is not a problem; however, this year the dowels were larger.  Simply carrying the sign lower for most of the race solved that problem, though I made sure to raise it up for spectators and photographers!  FF teammate Marty Clark joined our pace group with his friend.  Marty was planning to pace his friend for a 4:00 time.  

Off We Go!  First Half--Easy Going: 9:16, 8:57, 9:03, 9:11, 8:58, 9:08, 8:56, 9:04, 9:12, 9:00, 18:19 (Miles 11 and 12), 9:15

We were aiming to finish around 3:59 (a 9:06 mile).  We didn't focus too much on getting exactly 9:06 for each mile.  In fact, we were pretty relaxed about the whole thing.  Seasoned.  Before the start, one girl asked us how we keep the pace, and we both had trouble verbalizing it right away.  You just know.  You can feel it (and of course, you rely on watches and Garmins!).  Our half split was right on at 1:59:26.

During the first half, I chatted with 3 of my neighbors who were also running today--and they all started with our group!  We also made conversation with the other runners.  Runners like to know if we are on pace, so we made sure we announced that at every mile marker.  The first half of the course is mostly run in neighborhoods, some of them in our historic downtown.  Then at the halfway point, the course takes you back to the VBC, so we enjoyed a large cheering section and the satisfaction that we were halfway to our goal.  

Photos courtesy of We Run Huntsville

Second Half--Quick Changes: 9:04, 9:09, 9:00, 8:52, 9:06, 9:05, 9:01, 9:11, 8:48, 8:51, 9:02, 11:52 (Mile 26 and .2)

Mile 15 takes you on a long straight section on 9th Avenue, parallel to Interstate I-565 and close enough to see the cars whizzing by.  This section is pretty boring, but I like it because I know my favorite spot--the Space and Rocket Center--is coming up.  As I was running this section next to Christy she suddenly said, "Katie, I'm going to have to walk for a bit."  Before I knew what was happening, she had fallen back and I was the only pacer.  This is the hard part of pacing--you have to stay on pace.  I couldn't wait on her or stop and ask her if she was okay.  I had to go on.  I'm realizing all of this in my head and holding up my pacer sign high, hoping she could see it from where she was, when I felt someone hit my sign.  It was Marty, holding Christy's sign!  I was relieved that he had taken her sign but disappointed because I knew that meant she wasn't coming back with us.

As we headed into the Space and Rocket Center (you go around their parking lot and then through the Rocket Park behind the museum), I distracted myself with some songs in my head (I liked "Eye of the Tiger" by Katy Perry and "I Know I Can" by Nas today!).  I was more concerned about pace than I was before because Christy wasn't with me and she had a Garmin (I only had my stop watch).  It's easy to feel a pace when you are fresh, but as you tire it gets harder to judge pace based on feel alone!  I made sure to look for photographers near the rockets--they make great backdrops for the Rocket City Marathon!

I loved the section where we run behind the Space and Rocket Center on a gravel trail, and I love the Botanical Gardens (we were welcomed into this section by a lady in a huge butterfly costume who was dancing--awesome!).  As I left the Gardens, I was given a baggie filled with ice water which felt so good and cool.  I held it in my hand, put it on my head and face, and then poured it into my water bottle to drink.  I'm holding the baggie in the picture below.

I had been eating Gu (they offered it at several aid stations along the course--not just the 3 places listed at packet pickup), some chews, orange slices, and a pretzel offered to me along the course.  I'd also had lots of water and Gatorade.  Taking my second dose of Advil around Mile 15 was a crucial move for me since I'd had lots of leg pain/cramping in Columbus.  

The last 5K of the race went well, and it was hard to hold back from running faster.  Marty and I still wanted to be on pace.  He and his friend plus a few people here and there were the only ones still at our pace.  We passed many people walking by this point and left many people too.  I don't normally drink while I run, but I took a beer offered around Mile 23 and enjoyed the excited cheers from the Hashers.

I knew we were well under pace as we approached the finish line, so I slowed for the last mile + .2 though Marty went ahead.  I wanted to be close to 3:59.  This picture shows how wet my hair was--from sweat and the water I'd been throwing on my head at every aid station!  I am in the finisher's tunnel here, only feet away from the finish inside the VBC.

I love our finish line!  I could hear and see the people cheering.  If you enlarge this picture, I like how there is a man in the background just smiling at me as I finish.  People were saying, "Good job, right on pace."  My official time was 3:58:29 (chip).


I grabbed my mylar blanket and medal from the volunteers and headed to get food.  Three people came up to thank me for pacing them at the end!  Chicken noodle soup sounded delicious and salty so I took some.  I sat down to watch the finishers and eat a little.  I knew I didn't have long because I needed to get back to my kids.  

Only 5 weeks after my last marathon which was a real low for me, I ran right on pace today and felt good for the entire race.  Since the weather conditions were similar, I think the experience I had at Columbus helped prepare me for today.  I dealt with the warm temperatures better than I might have without my Columbus race.

My fellow pacer, Christy, finished in 4:10 and did amazing dealing with nausea but still pressing on.  Seeing Marty take her sign left me with a feeling of appreciation for our team and for what we do for each other.  Our Huntsville community of runners is like no other!

I learned about pacing and came to a new appreciation for this task.  Feeling responsible for the pace group helped me to stay on pace through some of my lower points towards the end of the marathon.  I felt an obligation to the runners who were counting on us.

I also learned not to be so hard on myself about the past years' pacing experiences.  We all are doing the best we can, learning and running and pacing.  Today things came together for me, but I know that it would have been okay if they hadn't.