Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mountain Mist 2011

Today I was watching Ice Age: The Meldown with my children and I saw a quote that really applied to me on Saturday. It was from the mammoth Ellie, who actually thinks she is a possum until finally being convinced that she is not. She says, "This morning, I thought I was a possum. Now I am a mammoth!" That is what finishing this Mountain Mist felt like to me. I began the day timid and unsure and ended it strong and triumphant. Earning a course PR for me and my first PR in any distance since 2004 made this Mountain Mist an awesome experience.
So it seems that I was predicted to finish almost exactly where I did by fellow Fleet Feet Racing Team member Eric Charette. I didn't see this before the race, but rather heard about it afterwards and then looked it up. This is a conversation from facebook:
Sarah Ann White-Woerner eric, who you got for the women's field?
Friday at 6:21pm
Eric Jason Charette Sarah I think it is mostly Overton, Youngren, Hardin and Maehlmann for the girls but I've not see the whole list.
The Gear
I decided to wear two long-sleeved shirts with a short-sleeved shirt over them. The weather (20 degrees and only warming to 45) just seemed so cold to me. I wore my running cap and my good running gloves. I did decide on the shorts, mostly because I only have one pair of tights and they are not very comfortable in long runs. I wore my new Nike trail shoes (the Nike Air Pegasus+ 27 GTX) and my water belt. I wore the Garmin and am convinced that it helped me focus on speed in the initial miles. Unfortunately, it died at mile 23.5.
Race Morning
I enjoyed a snowy, scenic drive up the mountain, even spotting a deer cross Monte Sano Boulevard three cars ahead of me. I made it to the check-in in plenty of time and enjoyed taking in all of the excitement of the runners gathered in the Lodge. I thought the morning was going pretty smoothly until I got a phone call from my friend, Julia. I had read on facebook that Bankhead Parkway was closed due to ice, so I took Governor's Drive instead. Julia had tried to go up Bankhead and had gotten stuck near Fearn Drive. Her car would not go up, and she was afraid to try to turn around and go back down. She was afraid that she would miss check in, but I knew she could walk up and still make it to the Lodge with enough time to start the race. After a little reassurance, she was fine and begun walking with a few other stranded runners. Her dad would be able to get her car while she was running and return it to her house.
The race
There was a loud gunfire, and then we were off. I could smell the gunpowder as I passed the shooter. Many people have commented that the start is much faster than it was in years past, and I think so too (though I only have 9 years of experience to draw from). We were all going pretty fast, considering we had 31 miles to go that day! My first mile was 8:51 (remember I was going for 13 minute miles to get my sub-6). I knew once we hit the first part of single track trails that I would not want to be slowed down, so I wanted to get a good spot. As we settled into a rhythm, I looked down at the layer of snow at my feet and heard the soft crunching it made as I landed on it. I felt my nose beginning to drip and wiped it for the first of many times that day. I had my first fall on the icy slope near mile 1.5 when I foolishly decided to go left when everyone else was going right. The ice was visible, but I thought I could slide on my bottom. It was only maybe 5 feet or so of ice. Me and the guy behind me fell into one another as we slid down the slope. Now my legs, which were already red and numb from the cold, were also wet on the back. The first few miles passed quickly. Mile 6 was 8:10, and I cruised into the first aid station (6.7 miles in 59:54) feeling very good, grabbing some M&Ms and a water, and heading back out.
It was right around this point that I noticed Emily Hardin behind me. Emily was the winner of the San Francisco marathon back in July. I struck up a conversation with her and found out that she has been injured and had not trained much for this race. I found her to be very sweet and still in awesome shape, since she passed me around mile 17 and finished 12 minutes ahead of me. At mile 10, I faced K-2, one of the 3 big climbs of the race. I had not seen it since last year's race, but I remembered the switchbacks and tried to run the flatter portions and walk the steeper ones. Mile 10 on my Garmin was 13:12, a pleasant surprise for me (not nearly the 20 minute mile I was anticipating). Here you can see where some training would have paid off and given me a better view of what I was capable of. The second aid station is at 11.9 miles, and I made it through this segment in 50:25. Oh yeah, and I love this aid station. It is always decorated Mardi Gras style (yes, even though it is in the middle of the woods!). They had a sign up that said "Show us" which I thought was funny at the time, and they had a huge pot of chicken noodle soup that I couldn't say no to! A woman there asked if I wanted a band-aid for my leg, which had apparently been scraped by a thorn and was bleeding. I said no, and I later brushed an ice cold and hard bubble of blood off of it.
We then entered the section of the race called Stone Cuts. Again I found myself pushing hard and running/jumping up the steep parts of this section. I was running with Emily through the Stone Cuts so I couldn't pause in the really dark cave one like I usually do. We both had no idea how many women were in front of us (besides Kathy and Dana) but we speculated about that for awhile. We crossed a slippery Bankhead Road on our way to the Fearn Drive aid station #3 at mile 16.9. I passed a "perfect attendance" runner (has completed all 15 previous Mountain Mists) First Place store owner, Mike Allen, and chatted a bit before spotting my family waiting at the aid station.

Smiling at my children (at aid station #3)
Photo by Gregg Gelmis

I completed this segment in 54:59 (and total up to now of 2:45:17), and I stopped to kiss and hug my son, daughter, and husband. The next section of the race takes you through the Land Trust. It is the second half of the race that is my favorite because it is more difficult, but I began feeling tired at around miles 18-20 and was worried that I had started too fast. Luckily, I felt better after slowing down a little. It helped to have a little comic relief at mile 20--a Halloween skeleton someone had left on the trail that cackled, "Is that a mask? No, it's your face!" as I scurried past. It would've been a whole lot funnier if others had been around me, but alas, I was alone for much of this section. I made it into the 4th aid station at mile 21 in 42:06.
The next 10 miles are the toughest of the course, not only because of the Waterline and the McKay Hollow climbs, but because you are doing them when you are already tired. I did not have anyone around me for most of these miles, so I passed the time by singing songs in my head to myself. "White As Snow," an old church hymn that we sing at my church was one (and appropriate for the weather conditions), and "Let's Get It Started" was my upbeat and motivational one.
I was also trying to do some math in my head about what my overall time would be. I knew I was way ahead of the 13 minute miles (only one mile was 13 minutes, and that was the K-2 climb), so I was still on track for a sub 6 hour time. Breaking my old PR of 5:46 was a possibility (I guess I would call that my A+ goal--secretly there all along!). Yet I also knew that it was way too early to get confident.
I took my Cliff Shots on the climb to the waterfall. The waterfall (around mile 24) was icy and very fun to climb. I have learned that the best way to get up the really steep part at the end is to walk up the little stone steps leaned over on all fours, like a dog. As I did that on Saturday, I saw two men in front of me teetering as they tried hard to hold themselves upright. My way made much more sense! Right after I reached the summit, I fell hard on my hand and knee, and both bruised afterward. Still, it was a lucky fall for me since it was not on my ankle. I jumped over the deer carcass I had seen the last time I was up on the mountain (though much less remained now--eww!) and made it to aid station #5 in 54:29.
Now I must say that I was very disappointed to not see Rick and the kids up here, but it turns out that my son had a pottying accident and they were getting a change of clothes. I got a vanilla gu here and stopped to talk to HTC President David Purinton, who was slowed down by an ankle injury. I wished him well and headed on to McKay Hollow. Looking back, I think I was a little too cautious on this section. I usually love the fast downhill segments, but I was worried about turning my ankle as I did two weeks prior. So there were many places where I gingerly stepped. I saw a couple of people behind me (one was a girl), but they were not pushing the pace so I took it easy. I had a couple of times where I could not see the trail markers (they were all white on one side) and had to stop and look for the right way to go.
The tough climb at mile 29 caused my lungs to heave and my heart to beat like it was trying to come out of my chest. Then, before I knew it, I saw the rest shelter on Rest Shelter Hill, and I knew I had made it. I saw race director, Dink Taylor, sitting so that he was the first thing I saw coming up the hill. He said something like, "You look happy now!" (because I guess I was grinning from relief at being done with the hill). The volunteer asked me if I needed anything, and I said no but thank you. Wow, and I meant it. I am so thankful for all of the volunteers. This was aid station #6, and I had done this section in 1:16:08 (my slowest section but much expected).
The good news was that I had taken my Sportsbeans on the climb and actually felt good enough to take off running the final 1.7 miles to the finish. I passed 3 men on my way, encouraging each as I passed, "We're almost there!" I did the math in my head at the top of Rest Shelter Hill and knew I had a PR, but I wanted to run hard to get the best time I possibly could. I thought about making the most of this day and about getting a time that I would be proud of, and, truth be told, I was already a little sad that I might not run the race next year (if I am pregnant). I finally saw the finish, actually first I saw Rick and the kids, and I heard them yelling encouragement. I saw the clock---5:37:57--50th overall and 5th woman. I had done it! I took almost 9 minutes off of my PR--5:46:32. I was greeted by a blogger friend, Dana, and then my family. Inside the Lodge, I was given my handpainted finisher's plaque and a cool reversible black hat for my age group award (3rd). Another awesome experience at Mountain Mist!
My two favorite spectators

Official times and splits50 152 5:37:57 Katie Maehlmann 33F Madison AL

(UPDATED 1-27-2012 I finally cleaned the section up a little, so it hopefully is more readable now!)

The split times can tell alot about how you did in the race--your times and also your ranking at each aid station. Look at the last set of splits where I listed and made my ranking bold.  You can see that I improved my segment rankings as the race went on.  That is a good way to finish!

So here are my splits from Saturday. For fun I found my splits from my worst time (7:03:49 in 2008). They make for an interesting comparison.

Katie Maehlmann 33F Madison AL
overall 5 5:37:57
30 114 Katie Maehlmann 30F Madison AL
overall 30 7:03:49
50 152 Katie Maehlmann 33F
74 59:54
52 50:25
49 54:59
56 42:06
52 54:29
50 1:16:08
overall 50 5:37:57
After race
I was so relieved to have "only" gotten bruises and scratches on this run! The next day, I was sore and stayed home from church. I did a short workout on the elliptical machine and walked around my neighborhood. On Monday, I did a 6-mile run but was very stiff for the first block or so. Today (Tuesday) I feel almost back to normal. Time to get ready for the next marathon next month!

Friday, January 21, 2011

On Knowingly Doing Bodily Harm...

So, my 6th Mountain Mist is less than 11 hours away and I am readying myself in the best way that I can--preparing my Cliff shots and Sportsbeans in little zip-lock baggies, making my 1/2 gatorade and 1/2 water mixture for my water bottle, and finding the appropriate attire for a 20 degree start (complete with a last-minute facebook discussion with Dana Overton and Kathy Youngren). Yet the biggest part of this preparation for me is the mental aspect. I keep thinking back to the warning-ridden email (mentioned here) sent out by the race directors informing us of the bodily harm that we will be enduring tomorrow. I think about the utter ridiculousness of wanting to go through that. And then I think about how this race fills up so quickly, with people from all over the nation wanting these spots. I remember the bravery that it took me to register and run this race 9 years ago. And I try to convince myself that any pain I inflict on myself will be worth it, that it will be so worth the stories and the memories that I will have forever.
And now, a brief update. Rick is not running the race tomorrow. I have asked him to do a post on his injury and his disappointment. He is actually handling it pretty well, and he plans to take the children to the finish line tomorrow. Man, will I be looking forward to seeing those three faces tomorrow afternoon!
Finally, a pre-race foot and toe picture (sorry, but, yes, I am posting pictures of my gross feet!). I "only" already have one black toenail, so the good news is that I can only get 9 more at the most tomorrow! And the ankle picture shows the swollen ankle and bruising below it from my fall on the trails two weeks ago. The thought of my ankle and that fall is not helping my confidence much right now, so I am looking back over my favorite inspirational running quotes. I will be reflecting on a quote tonight that I first saw and liked 9 years ago. I liked it so much that I made a cute goodie bag for Rick and printed this quote on the outside of the bag. It is from Jack Lovelock, who says, "Big occasions and races which have been eagerly anticipated almost to the point of dread are where great deeds can be accomplished." Here's to many great deeds being accomplished out on those trails tomorrow--black toenails and all!
My one current black toenail
Hard to tell, but this is the swollen ankle and bruises from my last trail run.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mountain Mist Strategy

I've learned from a few people lately that strategizing about a race is a good idea. It may seem like common sense for most, but for me I never thought much about why to use the elevation profile, why to specifically segment a race mentally, or why you should pick places to surge or slow down. But when you are trying to shave minutes off of already good times, it is the details like this that do matter. Rick proved this theory to me when he studied the elevation profile before the Marshall Marathon and decided on his strategy from there, and he used this smart thinking to help him take nearly 2 minutes off of his old PR (see here). It's a lesson to me that knowing the course and how you plan to attack it can help you perform your best.
Fellow Fleet Feet team member Eric Fritz helped me also start the initial plan for my Mountain Mist time by introducing me to "A-B-C" goals. This is simple really. He says that you should have three goals for any race--the "A" goal, or what you would ideally get in the race, the "B" goal, or what you would still be happy to get, and the "C" goal, or your least of the three and your "I'll take it" kind of goal. As I thought about this year's Mountain Mist, I decided to make my "A" goal to break 6 hours, my "B" goal to get between a 6:06 and a 6:17, and my "C" goal to finish sub-7 hours. I came up with the "A" goal based on the fact that I've broken 6 hours once before (in 2004), and my marathon times this year are close to what I was doing back then. Plus now I have more experience than I did back then, and, hey, I'd like to think that I'm tougher now and I want it more! This goal seems both achievable and challenging. As my "B" goal, I would be happy to be between a 6:06 (my second best time ever) and a 6:17 (my third best time ever). And I think my "C" goal is very achievable, since the only time I've gotten over 7 hours was when I was not in very good shape. Of course, I could fall or get injured and then not finish at all or finish in 8 hours (the maximum time allowed). But these things are not ideal!
Secondly, Eric suggested to use strategy to attack the three main hills in the course--K2, Waterline, and Rest Shelter Hill. He recommends using a walk approach to these hills and allowing 20 minutes time for each of the hills (as these segments are roughly a mile a piece). This then subtracts nearly 3 miles and one hour off of the part of the race that can feasibly be run (by us "normal" people anyway--I am aware that some trail runners run these hills). So you are really looking at 27 miles of somewhat non-hilly race to be run. In order to figure out what my running pace should be for these 27 miles, I located a pace calculator and entered "5 hours" (the "A" goal's time left over minus the hills) and "27 miles," and I got 11 minutes and 06.66 seconds. So I should run faster than an 11:06 pace for those 27 miles. Gulp. That seems pretty fast given that these trails are pretty rocky and muddy and may even be icy on Saturday. And one more thing getting in my way--Rick may be using the Garmin (if he can start the race he will have it on). So now I am thinking to print up a "cheat sheet" with the aid stations and the time I should have at each of these stations listed on it. This will help me use strategy to stay on track during the race.
Here is that infamous segment from our race instructions emailed to us runners today from Suzanne Taylor:
"You are the one responsible for entering this race, you better be prepared for the course itself. The rocks will have no mercy. I have seen this course rip apart many a "good trail runner." Mountain Mist is trail running in its finest form. No one is ever let down, just shut down, beaten up, broken and left bleeding. You first timers beware, this course may cause you bodily harm. Even though you have entered the race and paid the fee...YOU CAN STILL BACK OUT! No one will laugh at you, just tell them your family still needs you and you want to continue running in the future, they'll understand! Otherwise, "know your limits and then completely ignore them." "
After chuckling about how some first timers may be nervously reading that like I once did, I enjoyed reading through the list of entrants for the race.
I came across this:
29 XL Rob Apple 49 Murfreesboro, TN 573
The number on the far right is number of ultras run. Oh my goodness!! I will be in the same race as a guy who has done 573 ultramarathons?!?!
You can read all about Mountain Mist and see more of the incredible competitors in this race here.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mountain Mist History

Before I post on my strategy behind running the 2011 Mountain Mist, I wanted to look back over the past 9 Mountain Mists and to give a little account of each one. As you will see, this race is such an important part of Rick's and my past. We love this race for much more than the finish times, but for every story that is behind each of the 30 miles of this amazing course.

This is the year we fell in love while training for Mountain Mist. You know you are really a running couple when most of your courting/newlywed pictures are at a race start--ha! Notice the only pictures are of us next to each other with big cheesy smiles on our faces (while in the other years there are actually pictures of us running). Hey love birds, wasn't there a race that day too?





Photo credit note: The majority of these pictures were from our camera, some (2008 and 2010) were from previous Mountain Mist in the "race photos" section of the website or facebook.
Just google "Mountain Mist 50K," and you are going to get a bunch of cool stories about this awesome race (click here, here, here, here, here, and here to see some other past runners' race reports that I found through Google). Wow! This race draws people from all around, and we locals are so lucky to have it so nearby. I actually thought about running it for a couple of years before getting up the nerve to train for it. I found a running friend, Jennie, to train with me. And I asked Rick to help me learn the trails. He was a mountain biker and a runner and was also training for his first Mountain Mist. I was a graduate student at Auburn University at the time. When I came up for Christmas Break, I trained hard on the trails. Our first date was January 3, 2003, and we were so cute and in love by our first Mountain Mist.

I nearly backed out when I sat in my dorm room reading the pre-race instructions: "You can still back out. Your family needs you. This race has left many a good trail runner beaten, bruised, and bloody. You will do bodily harm." Was this really my thing? Rick convinced me that I was ready. He was ahead of me the whole time that year, but he managed to find a pen to write, "Hang in there. See you at the finish" on the inside of a paper cup at the mile 25 aid station. I still have that cup. It provided me so much encouragement and happiness that day. I remember loving the aid stations (like little parties--each one was so fun and had such yummy treats--M&Ms are my favorite), the Stone Cuts (amazing that I was in a race yet in the middle of the forest inside a wall of stones in the pitch black!), and the ice along the course (very cold year).
The next 8 Mountain Mists have been a series of ups and downs, as you can see with this summary of our times. Each one holds different memories, some good and some bad. I can't look back at 2004 without remembering the elation I felt at breaking 6 hours or at 2008 without remembering the huge burden I felt to get back into shape while limping in at over 7 hours. These are just times to you, but they tell me so much more.
Years     Katie                                                  Rick
'03         6:17                                                    5:53
'04         5:46                                                    6:09
'05         6:42                                                    6:31
'06          X (pregnant 1st child)                       6:37
'07         DNF (pregnant 2nd child)                 6:34
'08         7:03                                                    DNF
'09           X (failed to register in time!)            X
'10         6:06                                                   6:18       

1st Mountain Mist
January 25, 2003
Katie 6:17:05
Rick 5:53:56

My most vivid memories were of that oh-so-memorable first race.
But here are a few more memories from years 2-9:

2nd Mountain Mist
January 26, 2004
Katie 5:46:32
Rick 6:09:35

This was a very warm day. We took a little disposable camera along and snapped pictures along the way. We had just gotten engaged (on a trail run at the top of Rest Shelter Hill on January 3, 2004--one year from our first date). We later named our first dog Monte.

3rd Mountain Mist
January 27, 2005
Katie 6:42:55
Rick 6:31:21
Muddy and rainy! The race finished at The Lodge (the site of our wedding reception)

4th Mountain Mist January 28, 2006
I was pregnant with our son.
Rick 6:37:37

5th Mountain Mist
January 27, 2007
I stopped at 16.9 miles since she was 11 weeks pregnant with our daughter.
Rick 6:34:06

6th Mountain Mist
January 26, 2008
Katie 7:03:49
Rick dropped out at mile 2 stress fracture in pelvis
Beautiful fog that year!

7th Mountain Mist
We did not register in time (by now this race was filling up quickly--lesson learned) so we volunteered at aid station mile 25 at Monte Sano Blvd.

8th Mountain Mist
January 23, 2010
Katie 6:06:04 
Rick 6:18:34
The muddiest Mountain Mist I've done! I ran right through the puddles from the very beginning, saving a lot of time.

We are less than a week away from this year's race, and a week from today the story will be written. I sit here wanting to prove myself before possibly taking another couple years off to have a baby, and Rick is two weeks from having done a run due to some back pain. He's wondering if he can even start this year. Yet we stay optimistic. We are both hoping to have a good finish with good stories to tell.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Winter Running

Rick in the 20 degree weather with icy beard
This past week has been filled with the most snow we in Huntsville, Alabama have seen in a long time. On Sunday night, Mother Nature delivered almost 8 inches of snow to us. I woke up to a picture-perfect white landscape outside my window and a surprising day off for my husband, Rick. But. The snow was everywhere, roads and sidewalks included, and this was not the usual dusting that melts in a few hours. On the first day, I worked up a sweat by trying to push my daughter in the jogging stroller down the street to our neighborhood sledding hill. The stroller was very heavy as it barreled though those 8 inches! Going up hills was next to impossible, much harder than pushing both children on a regular day. Some of my running friends did brave the snow for a run that first day, but I opted for the elliptical instead. It felt very unusual to start out my week without my morning run with the group. (By the way, plastic bags wrapped around your feet and under your shoes is the way to go for the snow running). Jane and Julia definitely made some good memories on their snowy run Tuesday morning and proved how die-hard they both are!
Staying inside and missing my Wednesday and Friday runs is taking its toll on me. Tuesday my concern was having enough of a path to run on (the roads were not well plowed at all). Wednesday through today (Friday) the concern for us all has been the ice on the streets and sidewalks and now the bitter cold (lows in upper teens). That is bitter cold for us! Schools were out all week...meaning most of us moms are stuck inside with our little ones who are climbing the walls! I have had now 6 straight days of the elliptical machine. With my swollen ankle from the trails last week, I am looking at the snow as a blessing in disguise for keeping me off the roads and hopefully letting it heal. But getting an unexpected break in my routine is a hard way to feel ready for a 50K next weekend.
The pictures above and below are of my husband, Rick. Right after Christmas we were able to get up and run together since we had family staying the night. After a frosty run, I looked over and saw his frozen beard. I had never seen such a thing, so I ran to get my camera. I love how the sunrise is in the background, highlighting his rosy cheeks. This is winter running at its best!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

2010 Wrap Up

I have never been one to care too much about New Year's resolutions, but I am one sentimental chick! So I love looking back over previous years and seeing growth or change. And it does inspire me to improve. Isn't there something nice about knowing that you have a fresh start as clean as the world looks with all this white snow outside right now? Sometimes a good "do-over" is all it takes, and it is through looking back that you find out what you were capable of, and that lets you dream about what you can be capable of. So I use my previous races and experiences to set higher goals for myself. After all, it was the great Michelangelo who once said, "The greatest danger for most of us in not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it." And since I like aspiring to great things, looking back over the past year gives me that good baseline for my goals for the coming year.

So here is what I found through looking back at 2010:
  • I worked my way back down to a Boston-qualifying time at the Rock 'N' Roll Mardi Gras Marathon in New Orleans, LA on February 28, 2010 (time was 3:35:57).
  • I ran my fastest time since having children at the Marshall Marathon in West Virginia on November 7, 2010 (time was 3:29:25) see blog entry here.
  • I won three local races: the Monte Sano 5K on September 4 (time 20:40) see blog entry here, the Run Through the Roses 10K in my hometown of Madison on May 1 (time 44:30), and the McKay Hollow Madness trail 1/2 marathon on March 27 (time 2:36:27).
  • I tried pacing for the first time at the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville, AL on December 11 (time 4:12:47 pacer for 4:15 group) see blog entry here.
  • I experienced my first DNF in a marathon due to extreme stomach issues and heat exhaustion in the Go! St. Louis Marathon in St. Louis, MO on April 4 (and bravely wrote about it here).
  • I ran my first race with my entire family, the Cotton Row Run 1-mile on May 31. It was so fun running with my two-year-old (see here)!
  • I found a stranger's running blog and felt connected with similar experiences enough to email her to say "hi." She proceeded to invite me to run with her running group. That runner was Jane, and the group, called the Crazy Girls, has become an awesome and integral part of my training and my life. They are each dear to me and inspirations. They have opened the door to early morning training, the key to my training in this stage of my life. Thank you, friends.
  • On a related note to the above, I retired the jogging strollers for all but a handful of runs. The single stroller still gets lots of walks with my daughter inside, and the double gets a few with both. But running while pushing them both is no longer a part of my weekly routine.
  • I was chosen to remain on the Fleet Feet Racing team with their newer, stricter qualifications. This has helped me push myself in many ways. It is such an honor to run for Fleet Feet.
  • And finally, in March of 2010, I started this blog with this entry. Learning to write about my runs and the experiences related to them is a new challenge for me. I hope it will be something I can look back on, years from now, and be glad I took the time to do this.
2011 will be another year full of running adventures, for sure. So far I plan to run Mountain Mist in January, the Myrtle Beach marathon in February, and the Go! St. Louis marathon in April (getting some revenge from last year's rough encounter). I hope to keep these races near or better than what I was doing last year. And I want to run many familiar local races but maybe try some new ones too. I'd love to get a sub 20-minute 5K and am within roughly 30 seconds of that goal. Not a whole bunch of concrete goals for me yet, but just the overall desire to keep striving and improving. So here's to a year of fresh starts and new goals!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mountain Mist Training

Well, Mountain Mist 50K is right around the corner. It is such an awesome race and holds very fond memories for me (and hopefully for my husband, Rick!). We started dating while training for our first Mountain Mist together, got engaged at the top of Rest Shelter Hill on a training run, and even named our dog, Monte, after the mountain it's run on (Monte Sano).
Training for my sixth Mountain Mist has not been ideal, but I am hoping it is enough to take me to a pretty good time for me (sub 6-hours). I have some marathons in recent months plus a 20-miler two weeks ago (though road runs, they are good for endurance), and I have done two trail runs in the last month. The first was the week before Christmas and was 15 miles. The second was last weekend, and it was 19.5 miles. They were both the second half of the course (look at the link above to see a course map and elevation profile). The second half is definitely the more challenging, with two pretty hard climbs when you are already well into the race. Since Rick is also training, I don't get a lot of time on the trails. So I have to make the most of it!
My training run this past weekend was just a lot of fun and good learning for me too. All runners are invited to the training runs held on the several Saturdays leading up to Mountain Mist (this year Christmas and New Year's Eve fell on Saturdays so there were less training runs. There were no "official" training runs on Christmas though I'm sure some still ran! Another run--the Recover From the Holidays 50K--was held on New Year's Eve and I believe replaced the training run that day). The runs are held at 7 a.m. and begin at the hikers' parking lot. I went up with my friend Julia, who is training for her second Mountain Mist. A huge group was gathered this time, a big difference from the dozen or so that came out the Saturday I came in December. I guess the weather was a little above freezing, and I thought it was interesting to instantly recognize the more seasoned trail runners waiting in the parking lot wearing their shorts (and not tights). We met up with our friend, Mike, who wanted a similar mileage for that day and also wanted the miles on the second half of the course. Somehow, the massive group got going without much notice and I ended up dead last. I followed along for a little while, and eventually we came to a stop about 5 miles into the run where we split from the other group to follow Mike's route. A fellow Fleet Feet Racing Team member, Eric Fritz, came along with Mike.
I like the training runs because you never know who you might end up running with. Single-track trails are very narrow and don't allow you to be side-to-side with anyone. But you can still carry on a conversation with the person in front or behind you without too much trouble. I figured I would run with Julia for most of the run, but I ended up being in the front of our little group with Eric most of the time. I had never run with him before, and he had the greatest stories to share and really helped pass the time. He told me how he broke 20 minutes in the Cotton Row 5K with Rick pushing him on, how he ran his first 100-miler (he has a good write-up on his blog), how he helped pace the 3:20 marathon group, and about pacing strategies for Mountain Mist (those I loved and will "reveal" in a later post). He runs the trails frequently and with some other awesome Fleet Feet Racing Teams members (Rob, Kathy, Eric C., and Dana to name a few). I loved how we stopped at one point to hunt for some stashed water jugs along the course (turns out it was not too clean and we opted not to drink it). The worst part of the run was near the base of McKay Hollow, where I landed funny and rolled my ankle on some rocks. I had never done that before. Later it swelled and, more than anything, shook my confidence a little. I also fell when my new shoe's laces got caught on a branch. The branch held my foot and I tumbled down (but it was a slow fall and I easily landed on my bottom).
I finished the trail run muddy and tired, two essential components of any good trail run! It was great running with good company and preparing for my favorite Huntsville race!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Back From the Abyss

My story of recovery surprisingly (even to me) does not involve any kind of treatment center or counseling; in fact, I was never officially diagnosed with anorexia nervosa. I graduated from Auburn with honors and moved back to my hometown for my first job. I got busy with life and all the stress that my first job brought. And my parents continued to urge me to eat. I believe that anorexia is a disease that can be best nurtured by those that have alot of time to focus on themselves. Fortunately for me, I became busy and simply wasn't able to do some of the things (multiple work out sessions, serious food restriction, etc.) that I did back in college. As the weight gradually came back on in my 22nd year, my face bloated. This was a very hard thing for me to accept, as I felt it made me look "fat." Here I am below with that puffy face.

Summer 2001
Around age 23, I really began to feel back to "normal." I no longer worried so much about what I was eating. Though I was still a vegetarian then, my other food restrictions were lessening. It was around this period that I also began marathoning. I truly believe that running at the marathon level took some of that compulsive behavior (restrictive eating) and funneled it into a socially acceptable pathway (marathons). Marathon running, I think, will always be a little bit about my perfectionism. It is not just fun for me; it is not just a means of fitness. It channels my drive to push myself. Everyone would say that severe food restriction is bad. Many, many runners see nothing wrong with running high mileage, closely watching what we eat, constant weighing, etc. So the challenge for me becomes drawing my own lines in the sand in the right places for me.
Space Academy for Educators in the Summer of 2001 was a turning point in my life. These two pictures show a Katie that was beginning to look healthy and to feel happy again.
Fast forward again to 2006, when my husband and I were expecting our first child. One of the amazing things about anorexia is that any temporary "kinks" you throw in your reproductive system while you are starving can fix themselves when you gain weight back. I wanted a healthy baby more than I wanted anything else in life--more than being thin. A step in my recovery was to stop weighing myself. The number on the scale usually started me on the dieting and over-exercising path each time I didn't like what I saw. Yet I had successfully gone from a size 0 to a size 2-4 and felt okay with that. I kept those clothes in my closet and, as long as they fit, I knew I was doing fine. But I worried about what "getting fat" during pregnancy would do to my mind. After much thought, I decided that I wanted to see what the scale said through the nine months of pregnancy, for my own health and for memory's sake. As it turns out, I loved my first pregnancy and took a healthy break from running and gained 31 pounds. I happily ended that pregnancy at 154 pounds. Here I am the day I went into labor with my son:

June 30, 2006 Laboring at home
After having my son, body image issues did come back as I struggled to fit into old clothes and to run somewhat competitively again. I didn't restrict my eating, but I didn't like how I looked. Here is a picture from the Big Spring Jam 5K almost four months after I gave birth.
September 2006--Barely fit into the racing outfit
My journey back to health would not have been possible without God by my side. Through His awesome grace, He blessed us with a second pregnancy only five and a half months after our son was born. And this time, we had a little girl. I happily gained 37 pounds through this pregnancy and weighed 162 pounds, my highest weight ever.
August 2007
After my daughter's birth, I had a very hard time taking the weight off and finding "the old me." I am almost three and a half years into this part of my journey. In 2010, I was blessed again with an awesome diverse group of girls with which to run. They have encouraged and inspired me to get into better shape. And they see me as the runner I am today. They help me to quiet the voices that still whisper, "You are fat." I know that I have a support system of people who love me--these friends, my husband, and my family. So I work to find the balance between running and eating that works for me. This has included adding meat back to my diet (I missed you, Chick-Fil-A nuggets!), throwing out the scale (and, I think, on a related note, not logging miles), allowing myself to eat any food guilt-free, and gaining a new acceptance of this well-spent body.
Body image and runners will always be a tricky mix. Sometimes runs with my friends end up feeling like confessionals where we divulge all of our eating "sins" from the previous days. Runners size each other up before races, making judgments of times based on physiques. We gloat about refusing a dessert like it is a medal-deserving decision. We run a 20-miler and then enjoy a day of "guilt-free eating" as a result. We learn to tune out with mantras as we inflict pain on ourselves during runs. And we love watching our numbers as they change in our favor--our race times, our mileage, our weight. Anorexics just don't have the ability to say, "That's enough. You can stop begin so hard on yourself now." But since many anorexic behaviors are seen as strengths by runners, the line between healthy and not is often blurred. Battles wage every day in the minds of the anorexic to find the balance.
I have to make a conscientious effort each day to not let a negative body image engulf me. I am no longer that rail-thin gaunt looking teenager. I am a muscular marathon runner and a mother of two. It helps that I have a husband who loves me for who I am, strong runner's legs and all, and to know that the extra pooch on my tummy is the result of carrying two babies and not something to abhor, starve, or run off. I have learned to enjoy my body as it has taken me, happily spent, across the finish lines of almost 30 marathons and ultramarathons and dozens and dozens of other races too. May it hold up for many more! I have learned to love the fuel that is food, of every kind and quantity, and to eat it with pleasure. I no longer hate who I see in the mirror, for I know that this vessel, this shell is only one very small piece of who I am.
As I look back at my life, I can say that I am thankful that I went through the past nearly fifteen years of ups and downs in my weight. With the wisdom that has come from overcoming anorexia, I hope I can help others avoid the mistakes that I've made, to climb their own way out from the abyss. I wholeheartedly believe the expression that I find myself chanting during the later miles of the marathon, "That which doesn't kill you makes you stronger." My life experiences have shaped me, and I would not trade the bad in for good. This is who I am. And anorexia will always be a part of that picture.