Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Alabama's Toughest Trail Run

I've gotten a little push from some folks for a Mountain Mist report. At least I have a reader or two left! :)
I Finally broke 5 hours!!!!
Photo Courtesy of James Hurley

First, as usual, I have to give credit to Dink and Suzanne Taylor for directing this most excellent event! Also, I'd like to give credit to Huntsville Track Club for their excellent timing services for this race. This is really one first class ultra. It's a privilege to have an event of this quality so close to home!

Yes, I remembered my shoes this year! I don't think Matt or Lanier will let me forget that mistake from last year. I was a little confused about what to wear. I felt cold, but I knew that the temperature would rise and that I would get hot. I opted for the less is better philosophy and went with shorts, short sleeves, and gloves. That ended up being wise as it did get warmer than I expected.
Photo Courtesy of James Hurley

One of my favorite parts of this race is hanging out with friends pre-race. Chatting strategy, giving encouraging words, laughing, seeing folks I don't always see, etc. etc.

To Aid 1

I actually started on time this year! Yay!
I was a little concerned about the race to the trail head. I hadn't warmed up at all, and I'm just not used to blasting out at that pace. I do better to start slowly and then finish strong. I ran about a 6:50 mile to the trail head and scooted down Walnut hill pretty quickly. I immediately slowed down on Mountain Mist trail to relax a bit from the fast start. Several folks passed me here. I just let them go and ran my own race. I hung for a while here with FFRT teammate Tim Pitt. I late on Mountain Mist, just before the climb to South Plateau.

From there I ran mostly alone until I caught the current female leader on the Family Bike Trail. I ran with her to the aid station, but I could tell that she wasn't going to be able to maintain that pace.  I don't know what happened to her after I passed her. I hit the aid station at 53:21. That seemed to put me well on course for a sub 5 hour.

To 3 Benches
I flew down the Warpath descent passing several people, which was tricky on the downhill. Then I settled behind a group after it flattened out at the bottom. When we exited the woods headed toward the power lines, there were only two left in the group, Matthew Vest and me. I learned that he also had a sub 5 hour goal, and we ended up running most of the rest of the race together, taking turns leading.

I set the pace on the K2 climb, and it seemed to be just about right because Matthew didn't feel the need to pass even though I offered. Also, I had plenty of energy for the goat trail after we topped out. Like all the aid stations, I was in and out as quickly as possible at 3 benches. I was only there for as long as it took to fill my bottle. 1:39:51 and still on track for 5 hours.

The "Halfway" Point
The aid station at Fearn is considered the halfway point, even though it is at about 17 miles. It typically is the halfway point for time. The run from 3 benches was fairly uneventful with Matt leading most of the way here. He really enjoyed the trip through Stone Cuts.

There were some nice photos at the Cold Springs crossing just before the aid station.
Photo Courtesy of Marc Davis

My goal was to get to the halfway point without being tired. Mission accomplished. I felt really good. Also, my motto all day was, "Take what the course gives and give what the course takes." Again, in and out of the aid station as quickly as possible. 2:29:24, right on track for 5 hours.

To Land Trust
This was another uneventful section of the race. I was a little slower coming down Bluffline than I should have been. I'm not sure why. It felt fast, but it wasn't very fast at all. I was starting to feel a little tired in my legs, but I still felt good, as good as I ever remember feeling at this point in the race. 3:03:53.

On To Waterline
This was without a doubt the best I have ever run on Railroad Bed Trail and Alms House Trail. Here, I put some distance on Matthew. But it came at a price. When I got to the end of Alms House Trail and turned left onto Waterline, I felt completely beat up! I ended up walking almost all of Waterline. I saw Matt behind me, so I sped up a bit and realized that I was about to puke. I actually wanted to puke. I knew I'd feel better, but it just wouldn't happen. I was having an awesome race to this point and probably had a legitimate chance at sub 4:50. But I fell completely apart from this point onward. Matt passed me at the top of Waterline and encouraged me. I stayed with him to the aid station. 3:48:54. I knew that I could run the last 10k in less than 71 minutes, but I wasn't sure I could keep it together from here to the end of the race.

To Rest Shelter
I hung on to Matt as long as I could. He pulled away and out of my sight at suicide drop. I was sick, miserable, and wanting to puke still. So, I ran gingerly and cautiously down the steep, technical descent to McKay Hollow. I really ran this section as poorly as I could have. I struggled badly, but I never fell.

Slush mile wasn't as bad as I expected, but I was struggling to just put one foot in front of the other. I was longing for Rest Shelter climb because I knew I'd be near the end. It couldn't come soon enough! When it came, I couldn't run a step. I could see David O'Keefe up ahead, but I knew I had no chance of catching anyone. I had passed William Ansick back on Bluffline, and he passed me fairly strongly on this climb. I just had nothing left. I wanted to puke. Badly. I just couldn't. Ugh. It was so bad that when I got to the top of Rest Shelter climb, I asked if I could drop out! With 1.8 easy miles to go, I asked to quit. I'm thankful that the aid station volunteer wouldn't let me do that!

The End
On that 1.8 miles that I was talked into running, I was barely able to slog it out. It was my stomach, not my legs. I just felt awful. I fell twice during this stretch, the only times I fell all day! I was just enduring, running slower than a 10:00 pace. I just couldn't go. I just fell apart. If not for the stomach issues, I really believe I could have finished much stronger. I finished in 4:56:53 which was better than my goal.

Oh well. I'm very pleased with the race. I broke 5 hours and I know I can do better. With better course conditions, a little better luck with nutrition, and more trail specific training, I can run this course faster. But I ran the best I could on that day!

1 comment:

Dana said...

SO happy about your FANTASTIC PR...and at the same time SO sorry about your stomach issues. But, way to gut it out. ((VERY THANKFUL for the last aid station worker who wouldn't let you quit!!!))