Friday, February 10, 2012

Mountain Mist 50k - 2012

Welcome to my race report for this year's (2012) Mountain Mist 50k, the South's Premiere Trail Running Event. There a few photos available, I have them all collected at my Picasa account.

I woke up 0600, pulled on my gear, kissed my lovely wife and pulled the covers up tight to her, then headed up to Monte Sano by 0635. Spent some time jawboning, talking TeamRWB photos with David Riddle, Marty & Carol Eaton, Suzanne Erickson, and others; enjoying the brisk morning, casual chatter and catching up with some folks I hadn't seen in a while. Took a photo with the TeamRWB athletes in the race before the start; none of us would see David Riddle until much later in the day!
From Mtn Mist 50k - 2012

The race started 0730, I was in mid-pack, just stayed steady and chatting with a few folks. Overcast but only a bit chilly at the start, I had nothing but a short-sleeve tech-shirt and a set of gloves (shucked those by the first aid station). The normal conga line ensued when we hit the trail, I took it easy down the Cold Springs section, then onto the Mtn Mist. Had to pee 3-4 times in the first half of the race! Steady pace, slower than norm (obviously) thru the aid station at O’Shaughnessy Point.
From Mtn Mist 50k - 2012

From Mtn Mist 50k - 2012

Ran into Perry Sebastian (GUTS) and jawboned for a bit on the early part of Warpath Ridge. Then got on the stick and descended it faster, it is a home-court advantage. Muddy as hell, pretty treacherous. Lost a shoe at one point, got stuck in the mud. Must have been a funny sight with me hopping around on one foot back to the stuck-in-the-mud shoe, then sticking my foot back in the shoe and breaking it free of the mud suction! Passed some more folks on the Red Lizard portion before breaking out onto the Power lines. Took some time to swallow calories and electrolytes, then braved the sticky mud around the PowerLines trail. Decent running as we re-entered the trees and finally began the climb up K2. Ran fairly steady; most folks at the pack were power-hiking.

Ground down the Goat Trail, hips and sciatic are beginning to feel stiff from the morning's efforts. Mentally I was OK but not great. Made A/S #2 w/o incident, re-filled my water bottle and kept rolling. Talked with Janice Anderson for a few hundred meters, then into the line of runners again. Pretty sloppy going around the backside, including the climb back up towards Stone Cuts. The Cuts were fun as usual, but my hips were not cooperating very well and I was grumbling and grunting a bit. Had some low points in through the Sinks Trail, legs not cooperating much. Finally found a good place to pull-over on Mtn Mist Trail, took a 5+min break there to relieve myself. Climb up thru Cold Springs was OK, steady. Made Fearn Dr in about 3:27, so right on my target of 3.5hr (aiming for a 7hr finish today).

From Mtn Mist 50k - 2012

From Mtn Mist 50k - 2012

The first parts of the Land Trust were not fun. Mud along the High Trail was pretty nasty. Lost a shoe again at one point. I enjoyed weather and the muddy trail, but my hips and sciatic were grumbling at me, tough to run hard through that. Pushed steady down the Bluffline, but needed a 10min walk break once I reached the intersection at the bottom of it. Trail over to the Land Trust a/s was sloppy as well, but I arrived faster than I anticipated.

Old Railroad Bed wasn’t bad, though several folks passed me in there as I took some walk breaks. Finally re-gained a good rhythm on the last mile of Alms House, had another lady right behind me and caught a good groove over the rocks; this is always a tough portion of the course, even on a dry day. Passed 6 people right at 3 Caves, then found another gear to start climbing the Waterline. Passed about 20 people total between these aid stations, ranked #107 for the segment (vs 163d place), I always like to make a strong showing here. Got the top with a steady effort and then headed for the Trough Springs parking lot.

I stripped off the singlet underneath my TeamRWB shirt at the road crossing, Suzanne Taylor graciously took it back to the lodge for me. Re-filled the bottle and headed out. Hips really don’t like me now, and this is the toughest section of the course, especially on muddy days. Crossing SOB Ditch fun as always, but the rest of the trail gets worse every year from constant erosion. I wonder if there is a possible long-term plan that we can put together to stabilize some of the Natural Well Trail, from the old 4WD road to the section pas the well. It is really treacherous in the mud.

Let myself down the trail into McKay Hollow (vs running down it hard), slipped once and fell on my ass on a rock. That hurt! Ground out the climb back into the bottom of the Death Trail. Then entered the Slush Mile, and today it earned its namesake! My shoes were soaked before, now they were obliterated in the mud. Worst I have ever seen it, fun and challenging if you put the right mental filter on it! Got thru the Slush Mile, made another silent prayer and thanked Him for keeping me safe and smiling this far into the race. Took a walk break up to Kathy’s Bench, then reached for the reserves and ran (barely) the climb to Rest Shelter. A point of pride to be able to climb at that point, but it is a gorgeous early afternoon, and this is the last Mountain Mist, and what other way would I want to finish it off?

Caught up with John Nevels and Lonnie Vogan up at Rest Shelter. Grady offered by a beer, but politely turned that down for another hour! The last 1.8mi were the most pleasant, linked up with John and finished off the race. We chatted amiably along the way, and the final 15-20min went by fast (at least emotionally). But I was ready to be done. I urged John to get ahead of me at the last bridge crossing to get his own finish line photo, so he bolted up front (got some legs left), finished 3-4 sec ahead of me. Then I made an uncharacteristic leap as well, just to put the finishing touches on the race. The fifth, and final, Mountain Mist 50k for me.
From Mtn Mist 50k - 2012

From Mtn Mist 50k - 2012

Spent some quality time jawboning around the finish area with Paul Dubey, Jeff Bryan (newly minted 10x finisher) and others. Stripped my shoes off, wandered inside, sucked down some Recoverite. Back outside into the gorgeous sunshine and talked with some more folks, thoroughly enjoying the crowd, the view to the south, and the afternoon. Content inside, emotionally. Grabbed some pizza and soda back inside, talked with Suzanne Erickson a bit, called Kirsten to let her know I was done and OK. Wandered in-out a few more times. Finally took up the offer of a Yuengling from Paul Dubey, sat there sipping it and talking with Rob Youngren and Eric Fritz. The big bags under Rob’s eyes became the tell-tale signs of an all-night run, the crazy dude did a reverse double stunt again! Finally put our backs up against the fireplace wall outside and drew heat from that. Saw Matthew walk by with the scout troop and waved to him. Around 1700, as the lodge was clearing out, limped out the truck in my bare feet. Went over to the camping around to check on the scout troop for a while, then went and found a shower, some dinner, and a bed!


But yes, this is the fifth and final Mountain Mist 50k. For several years I had planned to become a 10x finisher. I love running up on Monte Sano, and thoroughly enjoy the Mist course and the runners out there with me. I was actually entered in the HURT 100 in Hawaii, among the toughest and gnarliest 100s on the planet, ran each mid-January just outside Honolulu. I had taken a long break after Western States, running scant few miles in July-August. The only serious running I did was a stunt with TeamRWB on 10-11 Sept, going about 60 miles overnight from the West Point cemetery, right down 9W to Ground Zero and Liberty State Park with seven other ultrarunning nuts. After that I was wiped out for the better part of a month. I had little desire for running beyond some easy miles now and again; I was enjoying some Fall mountain biking and spending time with my CrossFit brothers and sisters at CF Huntsville. I was actually entered in the HURT 100 in Hawaii, among the toughest and gnarliest 100s on the planet, ran each January just outside Honolulu. If I was going to pull it off without seriously hurting myself, I needed to start training around early October.

But by mid-October, I took a good long look in the mirror and looked at my motivation for the race, and in particular the training necessary. And you know what? It simply wasn’t there. I had no appetite for it, and I knew it. In contrast, when I began the 6-month road to Western States just before Christmas 2010, I was dead-set on the path ahead, the miles to come, the long grinding trail runs, the deadly WODs at CrossFit, the crushing sessions in the squat rack, the excruciate massage sessions that I would submit myself to, and basically whatever it took to be prepared. But for HURT? Nothing. I just couldn’t see myself grinding down all the miles, there was no motivation nor deep longing for it.

During the past few months I have enjoyed a period of contentment and satisfaction with ultrarunning. Over the Fall and early Winter I simply never developed the deep desire to put in the training miles to do well at the Mist, never felt that strong pull and the call of the trail. Ever since completing Western States, there hasn’t been a strong desire to put down big ultra performances. Western was really what I got into ultrarunning for, and having the sterling silver belt buckle on my mantle at home what was I really going after. And now that I have it, I don’t feel burned-out, but rather fulfilled and contented; the burning desire in the gut has been satisfied, “the stuff in the basement”. After 25 years of chasing, I did what I had set out to do. Sometimes these clips from Rocky Balboa express the deep desire I felt, and the knowledge I could do it. And now the "stuff in the basement" has been qualled.

I had enjoyed some longer trail runs, especially a day exploring Desoto State Park over on Lookout Mountain. But getting ready for the Mist felt more obligatory rather than with a strong drive for serious running performance like it did a year ago. It was fun and enjoyable, the runs I pulled in January before the Mist become long runs that went past enjoyment of the trails to more simply grinding it down. I did not enjoy the ache in my legs, nor the stiffness in my hips; not during the run and sure as heck not the next morning! I wanted to run decently at the Mist, to make a good showing and have it be enjoyable, but I also knew it was be a tough day just to keep a steady effort and finish with grace and satisfaction.

So I pulled that final pitch up the Waterline, that slippery, treacherous descent into McKay Hollow, the muddy crossing of the Slush Mile, the grinding climb past Kathy’s bench and up to the Rest Shelter aid station (where I will take over next year as aid station captain), and finally the pleasant last miles with John Nevels heading back to the Monte Sano Lodge and the finish line. I took a matter of satisfaction and pleasure that this was the final trip across the Mountain Mist course. I looked down into McKay Hollow, towards the sun in the western sky on a gorgeous afternoon, taking in the view. I smiled gently and took pleasure in the running conversation with John, a very good young runner and budding professional engineer in his own right. I took satisfaction and contentment in those final moments of the course, and watched the sun set over this chapter in my athletic life. And the next chapter is just beginning….

From Mtn Mist 50k - 2012

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