28 January 2023

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Crossing the boardwalk/bridge on Old Railroad Bed Trail 
At the heels of my latest 100 mile finish in MO two weeks ago, it was time once again to put on my trail shoes and get ready to earn my twelfth finish at the 29th edition of the Mountain Mist 50K, a race that is quite literally in my backyard and has a special place in my heart. It was my second ultra ever in 2009 and has become my favorite ultra of all time, which means something considering that I've finished 150 ultra marathons and started even more:-)
Making my way through the Stonecuts
My good friend Tobias had flown in from Utah to run his first southeastern ultra and to hang out for the weekend. He couldn't have timed it better as the weather conditions had probably been the best in years. Temps ranged from the low 30s at the start to the mid 50s by the end of the race. The course had some pretty muddy sections, but other than that, the course was in great shape. My buddy Sean and I had been out on the course earlier in the week to clear more than 20 trees off the trail. Thankfully, the thunderstorms that followed didn't create new trail obstructions.
Crossing the Mountain Mist 50K finish line for the 12th time. PC 
Toby and I arrived at the Monte Sano lodge, the staging area for the race, an hour prior to the race start. The lodge was already buzzing with excitement for the day to come. Nearly 500 runners packed the lodge and huddled at the two fireplaces and around tables. The Mountain Mist 50K has been the trail running family reunion of the southeast for many years, at least for me and I know of a few others that feel the same. The race started unceremoniously with the usual musket blast, startling some of us who expected a countdown or something. GPS watch buttons were pressed hurriedly as runners quickly took off to jockey for position as they tackled the 31 miles with 4500 feet of elevation gain. 
Not one of my fastest or slowest times, but well over an hour slower than my PR for this race.
I started the race as I always do, trying to gauge my current fitness level and lining up behind the first few lines of runners in the front of the field accordingly. As per usual, I took off too fast, but I settled into a sustainable pace by mile 5. I ran straight through the first aid station at O'Shaugnessy Point and continued to run with a small group of runners. as we headed towards the Stonecuts. I won't give a play by play of the course as I've done so in my previous race reports about this race, but there were a couple of significant changes to this year's course. This year, runners went straight down the closed Bankhead Parkway from the start line at a the lodge before entering the Mountain Mist trail. This provided about 1.5 miles of wide road for the field of runners to thin out before entering the single track trail. In addition, runners ran a newly added trail extension just before arranging at the third aid station at Oak Park. The final change was a recently completed trail reroute above the infamous Waterline trail section. 
Many miles and beers have been shared with these guys.
My race went pretty well through the first 20 miles, when a rock decided to get in the way of my left foot causing me to take flight and wondering what bone I would break once I landed. Thankfully, I landed on the single hand bottle I was carrying. I exploded on impact sending both its fluids and the top of the bottle flying across the trail. I lay there for a minute gathering my thoughts and thanking my stars for not having broken anything. I was definitely startled and walked for a bit before starting to run again at a severely throttled pace. I'm not sure if it was still mental or physical exhaustion, but about a mile later I could tell that my race had taken a turn for the worse. Runners started to pass me as I was slowly hiking up the Waterline Trail. This continued for much of the next 2 miles all the way through the second to last aid station of the race. a sub 5:30 finish time pace had quickly turned into "I have plenty of time to walk it in" pace. However, after feeling sorry for myself as I hiked down Natural Well Trail a quick look at my watch suggested that I could at least break 6 hours, if, and only if I started to run the flats and descents. I started shuffling, finally stemming the flood of runners that had started to pass me in drives as I walked up Waterline Trail. 
Many 5AM morning runs and trail beers with these guys.
By the time I arrived at the final aid station at the rest shelter, Josh and his crew of volunteers greeted me with a smile and a cold beer. As I checked my watch, I decided to decline the beer. I had just about 20 minutes to break 6 hours and as tempting as an ice-cold beer was, it would have to wait until after the race. Post race bars are the best and this was no exception. I crossed the finish line in 5 hours and 57 minutes, happy to have collected my 12th finish on the way to 20 finishes, which is another huge milestone for many Mountain Misters. 
The second annual Throwdown (at the Mist) was won by the Chattanooga crew. Pictured here are half of the 50 runners from Chattanooga, Nashville, Atlanta, Birmingham and Huntsville. PC Pete Schreiner @schreinertrailphotography
I was also co-hosting the second "Throwndown at the Mist". Huntsville had won the first competition in 2019 before Covid put a pause on any additional events, until this year. This competition within the competition had been cooked up by my buddy Yong Kim from Nashville with the initial event consisting of teams from Nashville, Chattanooga and Huntsville. I was one of the original Huntsville team captains and team members. Our 2019 team was fortunate to feature none other than Dewayne Satterfield an ultra running legend and 25 time Mountain Mist finisher and an all around incredibly kind human who left us much too soon. Dewayne still inspires may of us to give it our all as we toe the line at the Mist and make our way through its gnarly but beautiful course. 

This year also featured teams from Atlanta and Birmingham in addition to the OG teams. Chattanooga came prepared and did not allow for any doubt about the outcome of the day. At the end, they took first, second, third and fourth place overall plus another top ten finisher to take the overall thrown win in dominant fashion. No matter the result, everyone left the event with a big smile on their face. I know I'm already looking forward to next year. Who's with me?!?

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