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!


  1. Congratulations on a great race and a new PR! And in shorts...that is pretty hardcore. It was so cold Saturday!
    Really great race recap, you make it sound fun. Reading it almost makes me want to do it next year....almost.;)

    I tagged you in my post today, check it out!

    Have a great day!

  2. Awesome run, my friend! And April is right, you do make it sound so fun! Way to go! I love the pictures of you. You look like you are having a blast!

  3. Thanks April and Jane, for reading the blog and making such nice comments. I hadn't realized that I made it sound fun! But I guess that's because it IS fun running trails (to me anyway)! And thanks for tagging me in your post April. I will have to see if I can find enough interesting things to write about me (that is quite a challenge!).