This year, our babysitter met us at our house the morning of Mountain Mist. Then Rick and I headed to the mountain at 6:10 a.m. We got our timing chips on our shoes and chatted with other runners. I felt like I was "analyzing" each runner's outfit, trying to decide what I should wear. It was in the high 30s at the start, and it would end at 50 degrees. Rick had bought me my first pair of compression socks earlier in the week (the forecast changed as the week went on but was originally much colder). I wanted to wear those, but I opted not to wear my arm sleeves or a hat. With gloves on, my arms and hands were still freezing, but I hoped I would warm up. Outside, we enjoyed watching a proposal--Blake asked Sarah to marry him with the runners at the start line in the background!
|Photos by We Run Huntsville (Gregg Gelmis) unless noted|
|I am to the right of the guy in blue right behind Blake--smiling at the happy couple!|
We were off for a nice fast start. I was cold, so I was happy to get running.
|Rick and I are on the right.|
Here I am entering the trail head in the first mile. The guy taking this picture (Gregg Gelmis) is on a ladder! Rick stayed in front of me during the first 3 sections of the race. And I didn't really have anyone with me. Running alone for 31 miles wasn't in my plans, but luckily I am able to stay alone with my thoughts without too much trouble. Two girls started ahead of me (they were actually toeing the line with the top men), but I passed them both before the first aid station.
Making my way around the mountain...
My first split at Aid Station #1 was 53:53 (right on track with last year). I had again memorized my splits from the previous year (so I remembered 55-50-53-39-47-1:13). I was going to try to stay ahead of them.
As we approached Powerline (beautiful wide open area with powerlines above us and lots of grass around and fog today), I faced some trouble. I was following a line of around 8-10 men when I heard someone shout from behind me, "You're going the wrong way!" Well, I actually thought they were kidding. I said something to the guy in front of me about it, and he said, "I know this guy's going the right way!" (gesturing to a guy in front of him). Rick was in front of me as were other runners I knew and trusted. So I made the hasty decision to go with them.
After 100 yards or so, the trail started to feel wrong. I hadn't seen any flags in awhile (they are spaced pretty regularly), but we were going on a straight section so that didn't seem too unusual. Then we saw them---runners on a parallel trail below us. As soon as we noticed this, we ran through a patch of thick brush to get down to the correct trail (only 10 feet or so away). People that were behind us (including the 2nd place girl) were now in front of us. But I was mostly bummed because I didn't know if that disqualified us--to have gotten off trail like that. I thought briefly about turning around and going on the right trail from where we'd gotten off of it, but none of the other runners who'd gone off course did that. I decided to tell the race officials at Aid Station #2 about my error and to keep going. I was dying to catch up to Rick to see what he thought of that whole incident, but he had gotten even further ahead of me and was now 5 or so people in front of me. At Aid Station #2, I finished in 49:06 but lost time telling the race officials about what had happened.
I headed towards Aid Station #3 with an uneventful section of running. I spent a lot of time thinking about that section where we'd gone off course and about what that meant for me. I also enjoyed the beautiful Stone Cuts section of the race. This is where you wind through a maze of stones and into a tunnel-like area. It is so cool to race in something like that! This section also has a stream crossing close to the aid station, so Gregg usually gets pictures there. Fun to have a picture of this part of the race!
|photo by Brien Clark|
Shortly after this picture was taken, I headed into Aid Station #3 in 56:09. This was the only section so far that was over my time from last year, but I knew it was because I'd talked to the race officials at the last aid station and that time was added to this section. I was okay with that. I felt very good still and knew I could easily get my time from last year if I kept it up.
I made it into Aid Station #4 in 37:44. Aid Station #4 starts the toughest sections of the race: Waterline and McKay Hollow. But remember, I had done my 2 training trail runs on these difficult sections of the course. Unlike the first part of the race which was unfamiliar to me (only see it once a year), this part was very fresh on my mind. I knew what was coming. I actually found Waterline and the trails leading up to it to be a lot of fun. I passed a couple of men here or there but mostly was alone. As I was approaching Waterline (on a very long slightly-steep segment), a guy I passed said, "Uh, you know this continues for a pretty long time?" I think he was annoyed that he was getting chicked (and I was running while he was walking)! I could had said many things, but instead I just turned around, looked him in the eye and said, "I know" and kept running. I never saw him again! I caught up to Rick on Waterline. We made it together to Aid Station #5 in a time of 46:36 for me (around 8 minute improvement from last year). Aid Station #5 is known for their potatoes dipped in salt. YUM!
I felt great heading into the last section of the race. I thought Rick would stay with me, but I gradually pulled ahead and did not look back. This is our approach to racing. We each do our own race and do not wait on the other person or slow the other person down. We have to do this---make each race count. We take each race as the opportunity that it is and make the most of it.
I did not feel like I was running fast, but I did keep going (many people have to walk even the flat sections by this point). I went faster down Suicide Drop into McKay Hollow. In McKay Hollow, I ran.
I did allow myself to walk the beginning steep section coming out of the mountain until I got to "Kathy's Bench." A photographer caught me walking the section right before Kathy's Bench.
|Photo from We Run Hunstville (Brien Clark)|
I ran/shuffled to the top of Rest Shelter Hill (Aid Station #6) and ran to the finish. At Rest Shelter, you have 1.8 miles left to go, and I had made it there in 52:12 (by my watch). I made the last 1.8 in 14:41 (by my watch), and I finished in 5:11:03 (official time). This marked my first Mountain Mist 1st place finish and a course PR of around 15 minutes for me!
|Photo from We Run Huntsville|
My friend, Dana, and I pose with Dink.
The finish line is a fun area outside of the Monte Sano Lodge where family members and runners gather. I went inside to get my prizes (hat and finisher's slate award) and my bag and saw Rick out of the window. He finished right behind me in 5:18 (also a course PR for him). He had fallen on a rock and gotten a bloody knee. I love that Gregg took a picture of it! I also love the picture of Rick smiling with his knee all like that. He looks so rugged, tough, and handsome. :)
We got some free tacos and talked with other runners, including David Riddle (men's winner and new course PR holder of 3:36:52--see article in Running Times here). Then we headed home and took the kids to a birthday party. As usual, that night we went to the post-race party at Duffy's Deli for white chicken chili.
I definitely feel like I "understand" this race more now. I think I have figured out how to run each segment and could even improve on what I have done. I have finished 8 Mountain Mists, and I would like to do 10 (you get a fun jacket for that). I would like to aim for a sub 5 hour time for one of those. My splits here show that I finished the last 2 segments the 13th fastest man or woman but finished overall in 21st place. That means I have more skill/talent at the end of the race and can gain and an edge there. It is definitely fun to pick off runners and beat them at the end!
Training for this race was not too extreme. As usual, I kept all weeks at 50 miles or less. Rick used Dink's plan to train for this race, but I used this race as a long run during my marathon training for Little Rock. In my approach, I did several long runs starting with the Huntsville Marathon. I did a 22 miler, a couple 17's and a 20. We trained with 2 15+ mile trail runs on the second half of the course. I did have to taper for this race because I knew I could not run it tired. I have been doing core work (Jillian Michael's DVDs) and noticed a TON of difference in my core on the course. My abs felt much stronger, and so did my back.
I think the most credit for my run today should be given to how I fueled and hydrated. You HAVE to to do this properly if you don't want your energy level to drop. Last year, I ate a bunch of junk along the course (M&Ms, etc.) and, while that worked for me last year, I wanted to try a different approach this year. If I am demanding so much of my body, I want to treat it right. I ate 2 Kashi pumpkin spice flax granola bars (just because I like them) before the race. I then ate 1-2 Gus at every aid station or along the course (for a total of 7 or 8). I took vanilla Gu since I love that flavor and 1 Mandarin orange. I ate an orange slice at every aid station too. And I filled my bottle with Powerade or water at every aid station (the volunteers are great and do this for you). My key "fixes" were 2 Advil at Aid Station #3 (I had the volunteers take them out of my water bottler holder and put them in my gloved hand) and caffeine in the form of 2 packets of Clif Bloks right before the steep Waterline section (where that guy was in a sour mood because I was passing him). I know from previous experience that I need an extra boost at Waterline, so I give myself something before it every time I run it. I plan to take this approach (being well fueled and hydrated) to the marathon too. It made such a huge difference to me today!