Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mountain Mist 50K Race Report January 26, 2013

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!

The Race

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
I instantly saw Race Director Dink Taylor and told him what had happened to me and others on Powerline. I did not want to take an official time if I had not officially run the course.  He said others had done the same thing.  He said (as did Rick when I caught him on Waterline), that our error had made us run long and thus was not a big deal.  He also said that sometimes he purposely doesn't mark places where runners can go off course long.  And Powerline is one of the places where even seasoned MM runners can get easily confused.  I felt better after talking with him.  I was given an orange tie-dyed hoodie as a prize (it was draped over my shoulders like that by James Hurley and in my fatigue I just left it---not going for a preppy look!).

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.

Closing Thoughts 
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!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Quick Mountain Mist Update

Today's Mountain Mist was muddy and fun!  I wasn't expecting to get my course PR, but it happened!  And I finished first overall female too.  Sometimes the two go hand-in-hand for me--when I am in first, I really want to finish with a good time because that time represents the entire women's side of things.  I think that motivated me to finish strong.  

My time was around 5:11:02.  That is a 15 minute improvement from last year.  Rick also PRed.  Great day for us! More details to follow!

Photo by Christy Scott

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mountain Mist 50K Race Preparations

I will be seeing a lot of these woods on Saturday!

If you haven't seen the Mountain Mist trails before, you may picture them something like the one above--wide and paved.  This is NOT what the majority of the course is like though!  This trail race is the only trail race I really know (I've done the race 7 times already), but apparently it is tough compared to others.  Every year, we get an email with race instructions.  The first year I entered, I almost backed out when I read the paragraph I copied below!  Now when I get the email, I just chuckle a little as I think of the newbies reading it.  I guess this is like life.  If you are too scared to do something others tell you that you can't do, you will never do anything!  Just get out there and try it and form your own opinions.  I know I can conquer this course---and I aim to do it on Saturday!

From email from Race Director 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."

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mountain Mist Trail Runs

So most people hire the sitter for New Year's Eve night, but Rick and I chose New Year's Eve afternoon for a perfect way to send out the old year and ring in the new.  We left at around noon to head for the trails for the first time this season (they are 30 minutes away).  We did a 15.5 mile run, headed to a sandwich shop to grab dinner, and were home by 5.  Then we showered, ate, and toasted the new year with our kids.  It was their first year to understand what a new year is (5 and 6 years old).  They loved the sparkling white grape juice and enjoyed "clinking" the glasses together!  

Trail run Monday, December 31, 2012
Picture of us on New Year's Eve post-trail run

Muddy legs!

Sparkling grape juice to toast in the new year (a few hours early)

We repeated the exact same run that following Saturday (January 5), this time starting around 9:00 a.m. and also using a sitter (I have to wonder what the sitters think of us when we come home stinky, sweaty, and muddy--that we are crazy?).  

On New Year's Eve, I found it hard to acclimate to the trails.  It felt so jarring to bound on the rocks on the downhills.  It took awhile to get used to that feeling again.  Today, I felt much more used to it.  I had Rick repeat the exact same course (he asked if I wanted to start in a different place or go back a different way at the end, and I said no).  It helped me to know how much further there was left and to remember what came next.  Like the great gentleman that he is, he let me set the pace on both runs.  I am happy to note that we improved our pace by 20 minutes on this second run.  I felt strong enough to pick up the pace in the last mile (which is on road and downhill---not the actual course finish).  I included a profile map so you could see the elevation change in this beast of a race!

Trail run Saturday, January 5, 2013

Elevation Profile of Mountain Mist training run (back half of the course)

New Trail Shoes and More

Photo from here

Mountain Mist 50K is in less than 2 weeks and it's taper time.  I can't say that I feel really happy with how I've prepared, but it's close to how I trained last year and I did okay.  I really meant to post more about my training, but all I can find the energy to say now about it is that it's been hard.  I am trying to do marathon training (since I only have 6 weeks before my next marathon), and training on the trails doesn't fit too well with that.  I did a 20 miler on Saturday on the roads.  We've had nothing but rain for a loooooonnnng time here in Huntsville, so the trails are nice and muddy right now.  It would have been really interesting to run on them this weekend!

I know I shouldn't care about how my new trail shoes look, but I do and I'm hoping they get really muddy really fast.  I had a pair of Nike Pegasus trail shoes from a couple of years ago to run in, but I have since decided that I actually like my toenails and have thus had to go up a half size.  Since I run for Fleet Feet, we can order shoes directly from Nike for a good discount.  So I ordered a pair in my new size and they did not have the right color.  I had them order another color even though I could not find it online at the Nike store. Mistake!  When they came, they were WHITE and LIGHT GRAY with a little mint green trim.  Trail shoes!!!!!!!!!  Who runs trails in white shoes?  They are so nice looking that I actually wore them to church this morning (I was working and had to dress in T-shirt and jeans, so I thought, "Why not break them in?"). No, the above is not the picture of them.  That is a picture of trail shoes the PROPER shade of gray to be used on trails!  I can't find a picture online anywhere but I will try to take one before they start looking like real trail shoes. :)

Guess what?  MORE rain tomorrow!  Oh goodie!  But this week, it turns into a cold rain.  The good part of this is that I have learned a great method for drying your shoes---stuff them with newspapers and leave them in front of the refrigerator.  Who knew?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Only A Marathoner's Child

"This weekend I played basketball.  This weekend I went to a marathon.  This weekend I went to Cheeburger Cheeburger."

We are busy here in Madison getting ready for the big Mountain Mist 50K that is only 3 weeks away now!  Rick and I have done some good long runs together with the help of family and sitters.  It seems like my running is "feast or famine" right now.  Over Thanksgiving, I ran so much since we were both off and could both run each day.  I didn't run as much in between Thanksgiving and Christmas though.  Then I ran a lot over the Christmas Break, running on my own, reconnecting with Jane, and also running trails with Rick.  I even braved a short run of loops around my neighborhood (and past my house) while the children stayed home alone!  This was a milestone event---the beginning of a new chapter.  I've also done a 17 mile and a 22 mile run in preparation for Mountain Mist.  But this week I focused on beginning my marathon-pace runs and speedwork for our upcoming marathon (Little Rock in March).  I finally got on a training plan and hope to stick to it until Little Rock.  I am finding it really hard to train for both events at the same time.  I did speedwork today and know I will be sore for my 2nd trail run training day tomorrow.  But I'm excited about the new year and its possibilities.  I've loved reading about your resolutions and year-end reviews on your blogs!  Some of you are so focused and determined that I am really inspired.

Above is one of my son's journal entries.  He is in first grade and is just now learning to write 3 sentences about a given topic.  Each Monday the teacher has the students journal about their weekend.  I found this entry about the weekend Rick and I ran the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville.  I simply love how he writes about the marathon like it's no big deal at all----right in between basketball and a meal out.  And I love his little picture he drew (in the middle below the writing).  He drew himself cheering for the runners as they finish.  I like the detail on the finish line chute (he studied the finish line supports and drew them in--that diamond-like pattern under the sign).  Though I wish I could say that is Rick and me finishing the marathon, he did not draw us in (remember, this is the first marathon he's gotten to watch us finish).  But this is his work, and this is what he chose to remember about that day.