Sunday, January 26, 2014

Mountain Mist 2014

I love and hate Mountain Mist.

Really. I love it. It's unique. It draws a very talented and well trained field from all over. It's a different race every year. It's a huge party. It's a MUST DO. We're fortunate to have a race like that so nearby. Ultra runners all over the country know about this one.

Really. I hate it. It's so difficult. It's rocky. You have to sign up on the day registration opens or you'll miss it (and you can't miss it no matter how much you hate it). Old Railroad Bed trail is on the course, and I hate that trail. It beats you to death. It chews you up and spits you out.

Maybe I love it more for all the reasons I hate it.

Then I got a call from my boss on Tuesday. "I'm going to need you to be on a plane tomorrow." I replied, "For how long?" She said, "Until Friday." Sigh. After looking at so many options, I ended up with an itinerary that had me landing in Nashville at 11:00 PM Friday night. That meant I'd be home by 1 AM at the earliest. And I'd be coming from Pacific Time. The other thing I didn't think about was that when we landed in Atlanta, every restaurant in the airport was closed. No dinner. Not good. So, will Jack in the Box at midnight qualify as pre-race carb loading?  It'll have to.

But hey, I'm not in good shape anyway, so just run and have fun and see what happens.

To O'Shaughnessy
The changes to this course are brilliant. I always hated starting cold and having to run a sub-7 minute mile just to get to the trail-head before people who are too cautious on rocky descents. I really, really like the changes that gives 3 miles for the field to even out. So, I was able to run relaxed and ease into the race and still take the descent on Walnut Hill at a reasonable clip. The course was in rare form this year with so many icicles. It was beautiful. I just tried to relax and enjoy the first 6 miles. I made it there in roughly 58 minutes. I was pleased with that.

To Three  Benches
Several runners breezed past me as I refilled my water bottle at the aid station. So, on the descent down Warpath Ridge, I was hindered by the crowd. This was just too slow. After the gnarly descent, on the flatter and easier section, I got too relaxed and tripped over a rock and had one of the worst falls I've ever had trail running. My left quad took the brunt of the fall as I landed on a sharp rock and rolled over on my left side and took more rocks to the hip and side. My rule of falling is "Get up before it starts hurting." So I popped up and barely broke stride. A few hundred yards later, I realized that it hurt. A lot.

I enjoyed some nice conversation on Power Line Trail and followed a crowd up K2 to avoid exerting too much energy on the first major climb. All was well. I got stuck behind some slower folks again on Goat Trail and opportunities to pass just weren't there. I arrived into 3 benches at a busy time and had to fill my own water bottle. That's no problem, but I was using pre-filled cups and they were frozen. I got in and out as quickly as I could. I forgot to look at my watch. But I knew this section took longer than it should have.

To Fearn, the Halfway Point
This section was fairly uneventful, too. I was able to join Alex Clark and James Falcon and Brian Thompson for some really cool conversation. Stone Cuts is one of the coolest parts of this race. Here I am exiting stone cuts.
Runner Guns. Photo courtesy of Gregg Gelmis
It was good seeing Scott and Chelsea Sciavone at the aid station. It's nice when volunteers call you by name and specifically offer to help you. Volunteers make races work. I appreciate the help, guys. I left Fearn at 2:44-ish.

To Land Trust
I didn't feel too very tired coming out of Fearn. I knew that a beating was coming my way, but I've run the Land Trust trails more than anywhere else on the course. I actually felt pretty good and just cruised on High trail and had a pretty good descent with Sally Brooking (grand masters female winner) down Bluff Line. It was quite fun. I rolled into the Land Trust and pitched a tent. Seriously. I stayed here way, way too long. I ate a couple of crackers because I'd rather eaten snot than another GU. I drank some coke. I chatted. I looked for excuses not to take the beating that the next trails would give me. I left at 3:24.

To Trough Springs
I was right. Old Railroad Bed Trail and Alms House Trail just chewed me up. They beat me. I just could not find a rhythm running these trails. I've run these trails more than any section of trails on Monte Sano, and I stil run them slower than Nana texting. It's bad.

When I exited Alms House onto Waterline Trail, I was in a very low spot. I cursed Dink for dangling the carrot that is a 10 time finisher award. I was thinking to myself that I'd never run on trails ever, ever, ever again. I was considering retiring from ultras altogether. I was hating life.

Then, just at the base of the waterfall, I looked up. It was completely frozen. It was a stunningly beautiful view. I couldn't get over how awesome the view was. And I said, "This is why I do this. Let's go."

Coming in to Trough Springs aid station, I looked at my watch and noticed that it said 4:18. I knew that I had a chance to break 5:30. Ok, then. I didn't have another negative thought the whole race.

To the Finish
I knew that 5:30 wasn't in the bag. But I knew I could do it. I ran a good clip on Arrowhead Trail. This is another very good change to the course. I hated this section of Natural Well Trail. And my understanding is that the washout is now completely impassable. I passed several people on this stretch and also after the trail spits out on Natural Well Trail. I am horrible at the descent on Natural Well. Horrible. I got passed here by 3rd overall female Erin Looney. She crushed this descent. I caught her back at the bottom on what used to be slush mile. I knew that I had to run well on the bottom of McKay Hollow because I knew it would be dry today and I knew the climb was going to challenge me. I didn't blister it, but I did run it consistently. I made the climb pretty good, too, passing Sally Brooking here and a couple of other people on the uphill. At the top, I ran about 8:20 pace to the finish and passed 3 or 4 more.

Courtesy Gregg Gelmis

I was 12th in the 40-49 group. That's TWO SPOTS, only 30 seconds from getting a beanie. Man, I want one of those Mountain Mist beanies. I really should have gotten one this year. I was in good enough shape. I just had some bad luck the week before and I didn't take the race seriously enough. 

I'm getting a beanie. Soon. Next year.

And I want to close with a huge thanks to the volunteers, especially the volunteers on O'Shaugnessy where it was windy and cold. Just to name a few... Dink and Suzanne Taylor for putting on this first class event. Thanks to Carl Smith for timing services as always. Thanks to Madelyn Patton for checking me in without ID. Thanks to Gregg Gelmis for always giving us some great photos to remember these events. Thanks to Mona Parker for filling my bottle at O'Shaugnessy, the coldest and windiest aid station. Thanks to Scott and Chelsea Schiavone for helping out at Fearn. Thanks to the wonderful volunteers at Land Trust aid station. Thanks to Elle Trowbridge for her help at Trough Springs. Thanks to Jennifer Bicknell for helping out at the finish. I know I'm missing several, who specifically helped me today. Sorry!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Coming Back

So it has been quite a while since I posted here. Part of the reason is that I've been battling injury. I had the stress fracture that caused me to miss all of the 2012-2013 ultra season. I missed Lookout Mountain 50 Mile in 2012. I missed Recover From The Holidays 50k in 2012. I missed Mountain Mist in 2013. I had to settle for the 25k at Black Warrior in 2013.
Then I spent the spring coming back very slowly. I started to hit a stride in the summer in 2013. Then, my calf just would not quit hurting. I went through denial. Then I went through trying to just train through it. Then I accepted it and spent 3 or 4 weeks taking 3 or 4 days off and then testing it to see if it was better. All the test did was hurt and set me back. So, I decided to just take off until it no longer hurt to walk on it. That took about 7 or 8 weeks. So, I set myself back nearly 3 months by being dumb and stubborn.
So, 2013 just was not my year. I had a pretty good October and November building a base back up. I decided that I would try and train for the Knoxville Marathon. But here it is mid-January and my fitness just isn't coming along.
Punt Knoxville.
So, I'm going to try to run a few ultras this winter and spring and try to have a good summer and aim for a marathon PR in the fall.
I was able to pace the 3:30 group at Rocket City Marathon in 2013. I was able to comfortably break 5 hours at Recover From The Holidays 50k in 2013, so that was encouraging.
Next up is Mountain Mist 50k. Then, for the first time in 5 years I'm going to do Mount Cheaha.
And today, I ran 5x1k on the track. It was difficult and slow (3:45 per 1k). I thought I was gonna fall over on the last one. But during my cool down, I got that pleasantly tired feeling. I mean, I felt awesome. That feeling that makes me think, "this is why I run." I love that feeling.
I'm optimistic about the future.