Sunday, January 24, 2016

Race Report - 2016 Mountain Mist 50K


Seeded at Mountain Mist for the very first time.
I had had been training pretty hard for this year's edition of the Mountain Mist. I hit my A goal last year, so I had high hopes and expectations of myself for this year's go-around. While I did travel for work in the weeks leading up to Mountain Mist, luckily my destination was Switzerland, so I was able to do some training runs in a very appropriate climate and environment (Swiss Alps). After my disappointing run at the Rocket City Marathon, I was hitting a pretty low point in my running and training. I hadn't really shown any speed ever since coming back from an ankle injury at Mt. Cheaha 50K in February of last year and UTMB hadn't done much for my speed either, but I did finish that thing, so there's that:-) I had started to hit the second half of the Mountain Mist course pretty much on a weekly basis, even throwing in one back to back run of said section on a Friday night followed by a Saturday morning.

I decided on a whim to actually run the Recover From the Holidays 50K on New Year's Eve, but purely as a training run. I didn't really have the confidence to truly race and to make sure I wouldn't do anything stupid, I did a 10 mile tempo run the day before. As documented in my RFH50K race report, that race turned out pretty well, indeed. Not only did it go well for me, it gave me the confidence I had been lacking for a while now going in to Mountain Mist. I was feeling ready to go. I wanted to get close to last year's time, a PR would be oh so sweet. But then race week approached and expectations started to shift.

Early on during the 2016 MMTR.
A week before race day, local and national weather services started to predict severe winter weather conditions. As race day approached, we actually started to have rain, followed by snow and sleet. With temperatures staying fairly low, the possibility of an actual race cancellation became very real. In fact, local government and public services suggested to cancel the event ahead of time to avoid any travel risk altogether. I kept a positive attitude, but planning an alternate FA event in the (in my mind) unlikely case of a MMTR cancellation. Suddenly, things just fell into place (ha, that's only what it looked like to everyone but Dink, Suzanne and their team of volunteers)! Somehow, they managed to convince everyone to move the race to Sunday. I was pumped! I would be able to put in a hard effort at the MMTR after all. Now we all just had to figure out how to make our way into the state park and to the start line on extremely icy roads.

Me leading DeWayne for about 2 seconds:-)
Race day was one of those days that I was extremely glad to have a 4 wheel drive off-road capable vehicle. The road conditions on top of the mountain were extremely treacherous. We were all basically skating into the park and the lodge parking lot. I arrived about 45 minutes prior to the race start, eager to mingle with my fellow racers. The atmosphere at the Mist is always awesome and this year was no exception. It's my home race and it certainly feels like home. It didn't hurt that I was accompanied by my better half, who was racing her first Mist this year. We made our way into the lodge, found a couple of chair to stash our stuff and get ready for the race.

One of the "smooth" sections on Railroad Bed trail.
My race plan was simple, don't go out too fast, settle into a steady pace, hang on for dear life. I had come up with a goal pace that would, in theory, get me a 1 minute PR:-) However, when we finally lined up for the race start, all bets were off. We had to move to the shoulder as the roads were completely iced over. Once the gun signaled the start, we all shuffled along at a very calculated pace trying not to wipe out and bust our butts, or worse, heads.

Favorite race pic, creek crossing just before red gate on Cold Springs trail.
Once we got off the roads and onto the trail (which wasn't any better than the roads), I settled in with a group of runners including DeWayne, Brett, and Tim, I believe. My goal was to try to stay with DeWayne until red gate, were I would slow down, if needed. DeWayne always runs a steady pace in the early part of this race and today was no exception. However, I had underestimated how much the "controlled" running to avoid ice and falling would be turing me out early on in the race. Unlike last year, I started to feel the effects of the conditions much earlier. As a result, I had to let DeWayne and everyone else in our little group go after just 10 short miles or so. I slowed a little to try to get into a new rhythm. I was somewhat successful in doing that.


When I finally arrived at red gate, the unofficial (felt) halfway point of the race at mile 17, I realized that I was a full 10 minutes slower than last year, most definitely not PR pace. I quickly made peace with the fact that conditions just weren't conducive to my attempt, in fact, I would struggle to break 5 hours. I was okay with that. Now my plan was to just keep it together and keep it steady. Entering the Tollgate/High Trail/Bluffline trail sections, I wasn't really brimming with excitement or speed. In fact, I could tell I was slowing. I was actually looking forward to making my way to Waterline. I just did not seem to have any "flat" pace. I was feeling sluggish and tired. I actually felt that I would be able to run the remaining climbs better than the flats and that turned out to be true. Not that I was running the climbs faster than the flats, I just felt stronger and moved more comfortably.

The conditions were dodgy at best and Waterline was no exception, offering us a solid sheet of ice to climb up on. However, careful footing enabled me to get across this obstacle as well. I continued to make my way to the second to last ad station at mile 25 ready to tackle the final 10K, sure to serve up some seriously treacherous terrain. Then again, the course had been pretty challenging all day. natural Well and McKay Hollow did not disappoint. Going down McKay Hollow just past Natrual Well was my slowest mile of the race. This is usually a place to make up at least a little time. Instead, it dragged down my average pace even more:-)

Slush mile was its usual self and when I finally made my way up towards Rest Shelter, I was feeling pretty good about the race that had been. Now I just wanted to hold it together and not get passed on the final 1.6 miles of the race. Thankfully, I managed to do that. I was slower than last year, but I did run a fairly even split. When I heard about the carnage out there, I realized that I had actually been lucky not to take any serious falls.  I can not wait to do this again next year! Thanks Dink, thanks Suzanne and a special thanks to all the volunteers that changed around their personal lives and schedules just to allow us nutters to indulge in this sport that is ultrarunning.

Crossing the MMTR finish line for the 6th time.
Anya's very own fan club, how awesoMe is that!!!
Anya getting her first MMTR finish and placing 4th female OA.


Coolest medal...ever!!!



The obligatory training group pre-race pic, for the first time with my wife:-)

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