Sunday, January 27, 2008

2008 Mountain Mist

Saturday, January 26, 2008 will go down in history as the day I considered myself a true ultra marathoner. No it was not my first ultra, but this was my first true ultra, ultra.

31.07 miles of mountainous terrain in 30 degree weather, battling 350 other competitors in a footrace; That is my idea of a good day.

I ran very well early, running conservatively through the first aid station. The lead pack went out strong, but I held back, knowing that there were so many miles ahead. Jon Elmore and I ran through the first 10km at 8:18 pace.

The second leg included the drop along warpath ridge out to the power lines. We were running with the speedy downhill runner Dana Overton. I could barely keep up with her as she totally disregarded personal safety in attacking this downhill. Once out on the power lines, the mud began to cake on our trail shoes, making it difficult to maintain any sort of pace. Heading back into the woods and up K2, I realized that if I was going to make a move (albeit an early move) it was going to be here. I ran the switchbacks aggressively, and power walked the steep inclines. By the Goat Trail, I had built a small lead on Jon. Then onto the Goat Trail I felt great and really pushed hard through this section, passing quite a few runners. Though the section pace was slower with the K2 climb, I was ripping off sub 8's to the 2nd aid station.

At the 2nd aid station at Three Benches I met Laura and after quickly taking my prepacked aid and switching to water (as the Gatorade was upsetting my stomach slightly) I went out to encircle the Stone Cuts. Around this time I began running with Jamie and Wendi (Parker) Dial. Jamie is a very good ultra runner, and despite his pacing Wendi, they pushed me to keep up the brisk pace. We stayed together through mile 17 at the next aid station.

Things were developing just as planned. My pace was good, I was no longer fighting stomach issues, my hydration and fuel plan was working out well and I just felt good. This was the last time that I could say this.

Heading out from the 3rd aid station, I knew that my worst sections were ahead. The rocky Tollgate Trail where there is no clear running line, followed by a watershed downhill trails back to the 4th aid station. I held up pretty well, still leading the Dial's until mile 20. I decided that I need to empty my stomach in the woods and lost my pace pack for the rest of the race. I think that I held with them as long as I could and I just couldn't any longer. If I could have only stayed with them.

With a quick intake of fuel and hydration at the Land Trust aid station, I headed out to tackle rail road bed. Rocks, Rocks, Rocks. I think at one point I was moving backward... I was passed 4 times before Water Line and I was starting to melt down mentally.

Then came my shining moment. Powering up the 750' climb on the Waterline trail over eight tenths of a mile. This section requires the runner to ascend along a narrow rocky path on the lower section, and then cross the waterfall twice, scale a rocky, muddy slope by grabbing rocks, roots and trees to pull yourself up, only to face the top section which has stone steps set into the incline, but fatigue leaves the legs so dead that you can hardly lift them to make the next step. I managed to close a 1/4 mile gap and pass 4 runners by leaping up onto an embankment and while risking a nasty fall, I heard some spectators near the top utter the words, "Look at how strong that guy is!" That totally made my day.

I could tell that I was no longer on sub 5 hour pace, but it didn't matter. I was doing it and doing it well, especially for a first time (mountain) mist-er.

After Aid station 5 at Trough Springs, I just kept on with forward motion. My downhill along Natural Well was slow; embarrassingly slow. It was slower than my climb up to Rest Shelter at mile 29.3. I was power walking up the hills faster than I could descend the muddy, slippery rocks and the downhills. I did manage to pass a few in this section, including James Falcon. He was running strong early, but was struggling late with IT band problems. I felt bad for him, but needed to push on for a strong finish.

At the last aid station, the aid workers asked me what I wanted. I told them to be in 34th place or better. They told me that I was in 31st place and I knew that I had a pretty strong hold on it. Now the mission was to break 5:15:00. I had to drop the pace to 8 minute miles for the last 1.5 miles to make it, but I did.

In the end I was able to beat my pre-race rank (34) by placing 31st with a time of 5:13:28, good enough for fourth place in M30-34.

Other good friends had great days and ran some great times. Brian Robinson (barely missing the 5 hour barrier), George DeWitt running a rookie 4:31, John Elmore not quiting late, Joey Butler finishing his Grand Slam bid, Jamie Dial pushing Wendi to a sub 5 hour finish and so many others. I met some great people out there.

Thanks to Laura for her aid and all of the aid workers for being so nice at each station.

Aid Dist Mile Time Pace Sum Time Ave Pace
1 6.47 06.47 0:53:45 0:08:18 0:53:45 0:08:18
2 5.22 11.69 0:48:12 0:09:14 1:41:57 0:08:43
3 5.33 17.02 0:50:57 0:09:34 2:32:54 0:08:59
4 3.98 21.00 0:37:32 0:09:26 3:10:26 0:09:04
5 4.04 25.04 0:50:12 0:12:26 4:00:38 0:09:37
E 6.03 31.07 1:12:50 0:12:05 5:13:28 0:10:05

Eric's Mountain Mist 50km Race Pictures (click on picture below)

It was a pretty good day.