Tuesday, March 26, 2013

McKay Hollow Madness Trail 25K Race Report

Here is the race website.
Results can be found here.

Saturday, March 23, 2013 7:00 a.m.

Rick, the kids, and I headed up to Monte Sano Mountain around 6:15 a.m. in the pouring rain!  I wasn't too worried about me (as I am accustomed to running in the rain), but I was concerned for the kids.  I kept thinking back to this day when they were wet and miserable.  I had packed all of their rain gear in the hopes of keeping them dry today.  They would be helping Rick with the aid station at Mile 5.

We arrived at the race start with about 15 minutes to spare.  It was around 47 degrees and still drizzling rain.  A small pavilion housed the start/finish line spectators and was packed full of people trying to stay out of the rain.  Rick pulled me up as close to the pavilion as possible, and I hopped out and headed for the bathrooms.  I was cold from getting wet in just that short walk/jog. 

I was seeded 6th today and was hoping for another first overall female win.  I lined up at the start with Christy Scott, an amazing ultra runner who's training for a 100 mile event in a couple of months.  She's a fellow Fleet Feet teammate and a great girl.

Race number

Lined up and ready to start! (Dink Taylor, me, and Christy Scott)
All pictures from We Run Huntsville taken by Gregg Gelmis
I have to note that the guy on the left in the picture above is our local Fleet Feet store owner, Dink Taylor.  He is an insanely amazing runner.  Today in the race, he got 3rd place, but he missed getting 2nd because he had a nasty fall and cracked a rib and gashed up his leg!  He kept on running---through the pain.  He is so tough!
The Race 
Unfortunately, I was talking with another girl as the race started and missed hitting start on my Garmin until a quarter mile or so into the race.  So all of my splits don't compare "apples to apples" with last year's.  And there's no mile markers for this race!  Going only based on overall pace, I knew from the start that I was slower than last year.  I was okay with it because I haven't been on the trails since Mountain Mist and I've been recovering from an awful stomach bug.  I was happy to still be in first place for the women.
The rain and mist was intermittent (see picture below).  So visibility was not great.  I chose to wear a visor to keep the rain out of my eyes, but--oh man--I am not used to wearing a visor on the trails!  In Stone Cuts (a section of huge boulders that you have to walk through), we took a hard left and started a climb.  I could not see above me since I was wearing my visor, and I hit the top of my head---hard!---on a boulder above me.  This was in the 2nd mile of the race.  I remember thinking that I was glad no one was around me to see it!  I also took a spill in the Stone Cuts and had another almost fall on a steep downhill section (where I saved myself from a hard fall by grabbing a tree trunk).  Though I wasn't hurt from either event, falling like this blows my confidence to go fast.  Today was just too wet and slippery to push too hard out there.  I realized that early on in the race.
Race Start (I am in red near front to the right)
For some visuals, take a look at the mud and puddles today! 

I was relieved to see the kids were happy when I stopped at Aid Station #1 (Mile 5).  They told me great stories later of bumping along trails in our SUV as Rick hauled the tables, coolers, and tent needed for the aid station (it required the tailgate to be precariously left open!).  Apparently, there were lots of leftover Clif Bloks, so Rick and the other aid station volunteer were told to take many home with them.  What a nice surprise!  We plan to share these with our running friends.  Rick was also given a free taco meal at the end of the race (racers and volunteers ate for free).  Last weekend, I was given a $2 discount coupon for another HTC event.  It is refreshing to see how the race directors reach out and show appreciation to the volunteers in ways like these. 
Some free Bloks!
I made it to the 2nd aid station (Mile 10) without much difficulty.  I was enjoying trying to keep two guys (I called them "white shirt" and blue shirt") in my sights.  At the aid station, I passed them both, but they soon caught back up and we chatted for awhile.  After talking over their times and previous race experience, I realized that I could pull ahead of them and finally chose to do that with a couple of miles left to go. 
The Finish
Mile 15 (or so) was a slow steep uphill climb of 17:43.  I included the picture below of another runner crossing a section of stone that was turned into a small waterfall today!  This is right at the top of the hill.  You are very close to the finish line here.  I approached the finish line and thought it was strange because it was deserted!  I no longer noticed the rain, but it had started up again lightly.  Everyone was inside the pavilion gathered around the edges to watch the runners finish!
Waterfall finish!
I finished in 2:37:31, missing my time from last year by several minutes.  I am okay with that though.  Today I was 10/172, and last year I was 15/189, so I improved my overall ranking today.  I was first overall female today and won a pair of Solomon trail shoes and a FF gift card.  And a little snail puppet.  Gotta love the race director, Blake!

I warmed up in front of this awesome fire and enjoyed a brunch of a taco, chips, and salsa and a Coke!

Here are the goods!
Awards for first overall female
After Thoughts
Of course, whenever I finish a trail race I think, "If only I'd trained more on the course!"  But then it never happens.  We live over 30 minutes from the trails, and it's just easier to get our runs in from our house instead of adding in an hour drive.  I'd rather be with my family than spend all day on the trails.  
This year, I managed to win first overall female at both of the big local trail races--Mountain Mist 50K and now McKay Hollow Madness 25K.  Ultra runners use a website, Ultra Signup, as a way to gauge performances in ultra events.  Here is my data from there.  I see the runner ranking as kind of like a grade, and my "grade" for the 12 events that are listed here is 89.1%.  Previous Mountain Mists were a 76% and a 69%, and today's performance was a 100%.  Kind of an interesting way of looking at things, though it's only one way of evaluating your performance.  Basing your success on how well you "beat" others doesn't really tell you much about how you did in a race.  I prefer comparing myself to my performance in the previous year.  Given the conditions today, I feel like I did okay there.
Splits (again, these don't reflect the entire course.  I failed to start my watch until 1/4 mile into the race):
2:36:46 for 14.86 miles
10:33 average


  1. Great jog out there and congrats on being 1st female- again! Winning new trail shoes and a FF gift card is awesome too! I have never run an ultra and only ran a few trail races but I agree that they are different and you can't compare them to road races. For someone who doesn't have the time to commit to training on trails I'd say you do an excellent job at these races! We have a big ultra/ trail running group near where I live here but like you, I can't drive an hour to train on them all and a lot of the races are all over the state. Maybe once the kids get older/ more independent I can get into it more. I know there's a lot more to running and racing than what I'm doing but hopefully I can get to it someday!

    I think you are doing a great job mixing up a variety of racing distances and types of running!

    1. Thank, Tia. It seems like we have the same issue due to our young families! It sure makes me appreciate every run I get to make. When Rick and I did a couple of training runs for Mountain Mist, we hired a babysitter so we could train together. It was too expensive to do often, so that made it special. MM and McKay Hollow remind me of how much I like trails and like to mix up the types of running. I hope you will one day get a chance to do trails. I think you would do great at them.