Welcome! The intent of Anecdotes from the Trail is to share my experiences while trail running or racing (occasionally on the road too.) And to feature other trail runners and their accomplishments. You may see the occasional gear review or even contest. Please visit from time to time. Happy trails!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Ultra runner spotlight: Joe Fejes

Joe Fejes at Across The Years. He wore this shirt so that friends and family back home could identify him on the race web cam. (Photo: Low Country Ultras Facebook page.)
In just a few short years, Joe Fejes has managed to put his name in ultra running lore in a major way. On New Year's Day this year, he broke the record for the longest distance run at the 72 hour (yes, 72 hour) race in Arizona called the Across The Years by running an incredible 329 miles! That's after a 280 mile rookie attempt the year before. Just a couple of weeks ago, he broke more records in Destin, FL when he set the Guinness World Record of running the most miles on sand in 24 hours. He's won or stood on the podium for countless races as well.

I first met Joe a couple of years ago when he would occasionally run with our humble Wednesday morning group and drive over 40 miles at 6am to do so. Even then, all he could talk about was about racing and he was always asking questions about others racing. He ran several trail ultras before he finally found his groove with timed loop courses and he has been excelling at them ever since. A humble runner, you'll be hearing a lot more from this guy in the years to come. Oh, and he's only 47 years old!

Joe took some questions and here are his responses...

Describe what it was like to race for 24 hours in the sand and how did you prepare for it?

Running 134 miles in 24 hours in the sand was really challenging. Connie Gardner commented after the race that she thought the Destin 24 hour in the sand was as difficult as running Badwater. The weather was chilly--low 30’s and we had a wind advisory of 15-30 mph gusts. I wore a windbreaker vest and long sleeve tech shirt to help with the cool and windy weather. I loved the 7 pm start time on Saturday night as it made running in the cold windy conditions much easier since I had relatively fresh legs during the coldest hours. I also did not experience any difficulties with sleep deprivation since I was well rested for the normally difficult 3 am -6 am time slot.  Once the morning came and the sun came up it was mentally refreshing especially with the beachgoers who were cheering and shouting encouragement each lap.  The camber of the sand made for an awkward running style and the soft sand for each 1 mile lap turnaround made it oftentimes a plodding effort. I tripped several times on the ridges that developed from the beach erosion and tidal changes. The good news is I was dialed in mentally and physically for most of the race and believe I was as in good condition for the event as any event I have run the past several years. My heart rate and breathing felt great from the beginning and I ran much faster for the 50 (7:30) and 100 mile (16:05) splits than I had planned—actually about an hour and a half faster for both.  

Preparation for the event was really a continuation of the training regimen that I have been doing the past six months.  I have been focusing on shorter two a day workouts with a 6-8 mile am run and a 4-8 mile pm run a few times a week.  I have also incorporated a weekly fast 8 mile tempo run and hill repeats from time to time.  My training the past 3 weeks before the event was spot on.  I had raced a 5k (18:01) and a 10k (36:01) a couple of weeks prior and I knew I had plenty of leg speed to have a good day.  I had no injuries and was really looking forward to running hard on race day.

What exactly is the record you now hold in the official Guinness Book of World Records and how does it feel to have it?

It is my understanding that I now hold the record for the longest distance run in the sand for 24 hours.  The old official record was 83 miles set by Christian Burke in the Hermosa 24 hour sand run in California although I believe Patrick Sweeney has unofficially run 94 miles there too.  I am not sure however how the Destin and Hermatosa courses compare to each other.  The Hermosa is run in July so the warm summertime temperatures could make it tough.  I also don’t know how many other runners in the US or other countries have actually attempted to run 24 hours in the sand. If Mike Morton wasn’t injured and had run the race I most likely would have lost by 50k. In any event the record should be taken with a grain of sand.

It is always nice to hold a record although I was really more satisfied with my effort level rather than breaking the Guinness record.  I felt like I ran as hard (if not harder)  at Destin as I did a few months ago when I ran 156 miles in 24 hours at Desert Solstice on the track in Phoenix Arizona.

Speaking of records, this past New Year’s Day you broke the course record at Across the Years running 329 miles in 72 hours. Describe your experience. How did you stay motivated for three days. What was your nutrition like? Did you ever want to stop?

You can read my full race report for Across The Year's on my buddy Christian Griffiths' blog, here. I stayed motivated by thinking about the race 24/7/365 since I came up short with only 280 miles last year. I knew if the weather was cool that I could run 300+ miles.  

Nutrition-the first 12-16 hours during a 24 hour race is a critical period for me for nutrition.  I usually have stomach issues when I am running hard early on and/or if the weather is warm. I relied primarily on Boost drinks, Coke, water and bananas for Day 1.  Day 2 my stomach settled and I was able to eat virtually any and all real food that was offered by the aid stations.  I also enjoyed the Succeed ultra drink that has a light orange tasting flavor that is much easier to handle than Gatorade or Powerade.

Did I ever want to stop? Hell yeah!!—always do and always will during virtually any ultra event!!

Go back in time, how did you get into the world of ultras and when and how did you realize that time courses were your best fit?

A few years ago I ran the Blue Ridge Relay with 5 other guys and found that I liked running at night. I  ran approximately six legs totaling 40 miles and thought it would be neat to try something longer.  A few months later I entered the inaugural Pinhoti 100 mile trail run notwithstanding I had never run a 50k or any other ultra. I dnf’d at mile 80 when my right hip flexor seized up and I couldn’t lift my leg or walk.  The good news (or bad depending on your perspective) is that I was now hooked n ultras.

I ran my first 24 hour at Black Mountain Monster a d won the race with 116 miles. I then ran Hinson Lake 24 hour and finished 2nd behind Mike Morton with 132 miles.  I learned a few days later that if I could run 140+ miles I had a shot at making the US 24 hour team. Although I thought my chances of actually making the team were slim I felt like I could run 140+ under ideal conditions. I therefore set out to improve my performance by training harder and working on the little things (weight loss, less breaks during race, better nutrition, etc.)

You had the chance to represent the USA last year at the IAU World 24 Hour Run Championships in Katowice, Poland and helped the USA take third in team standings. What was the experience like and what can you share about your teammates Mike Morton, Harvey Lewis and others?

Representing the USA in the World Championship is surreal.  It is difficult to describe the emotions I felt wearing the USA jersey and toeing the line with World Class athletes such as Yiannis Korous and Mike Morton as well as many others.  I kept wondering if it was a dream and questioning what the hell Joe Fejes was doing there.  I did however make a pact with myself before the start that I would run my ass off in case my performance could in anyway contribute to the team’s success.   I was an alternate that was running in the #6 spot so I had very little expectations or pressure to perform well.  The atmosphere of a World Championship is electric and super charged—adrenaline rush for sure.
Mike Morton-warrior, humble, quiet--motivates by actions, possesses unbelievable mental toughness and physical talent--little wonder he is in the Special Forces. 

Harvey Lewis-probably has the biggest motor on the team, fierce competitor, loves to run fast, lookout this year- I expect even bigger miles out of him.

Phil McCarthy-great roommate, consummate professional, veteran of many World Championships,  American record holder in 48 hours, quiet, he will be missed on this year’s team.

Serge Arbona-consistent, tall powerful runner, quiet, focused, capable of 160+ miles.

Jonathan Savage-encyclopedia of running knowledge, always experimenting-- always looking for ways to run better, he will also be missed on this year’s team.

What’s next on your racing calendar and what are you most looking forward to in 2013?

I am running the Palm 100k on March 23 in Fort Lauderdale and the Draggin Tail 50k in Bristol Florida on April 6  as tune ups for the 24 Hour World Championship that will be held on May 11 in Steenbergen Netherlands.  The USA team is loaded with talent this year with Mike Morton and Harvey Lewis returning along with Jon Olsen and newcomers Nick Coury and Scott Traer.  I am also super excited and very scared of attempting my first six day race in December at Across the Years in Phoenix. The three day event beat the hell out of me and I am not sure how I will fare over six days. 

What would you recommend to someone training and preparing for a 24 hour race?

Training- (1) Lose weight. (2) Run a bunch--I would recommend a minimum of 50 miles a week consistently over 6-7 days. I usually top out at about 90 miles a week primarily getting my miles in via two a day runs of 8 miles in the am and pm.  I also recommend incorporating into your training dedicated hill repeats, tempo runs and speedwork. I do not believe in tapering other than cutting back slightly on your miles- I run up until race day. (3) Race strategy is key into maximizing your mileage—you need to stay on the course as much as possible moving forward—no time for chit chat.  If you take a break during the race make sure it is planned for a purpose (potty, food, drink, rest legs, etc.) and keep it to a minimum. I also recommend that you have a race plan. I usually have simple benchmarks: 3:45 first marathon; 7:15 (50 miles); 78 miles (12 hours); 15:30 (100 miles), “balls out” last 8 hours. (4) Weight training-if you can find the time it doesn’t hurt to condition your core and supporting muscles just to give you a mental edge that you are fit from a whole body perspective; (5) Plenty of sleep the last few days before a race. 

Joe, thanks so much for taking the time to answer a few questions and good luck this year. I have no doubt that you will accomplish all of your goals.

Javi, thanks again for giving me the opportunity to talk shop on your blog.  Looking forward to running with you in 2013.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Trail runner Spotlight: David Riddle

David Riddle crosses the finish at the 2013 Mt. Mist 50K setting a new course record with a 3:36! Photo: Eric Charette

I first heard of David Riddle when he won the Stump Jump 50K in 2011. I ran that race too, and when I arrived at the finish line and learned that someone had not only set a course record, but had also gone sub-four for the first time in the race's then ten year history, I was blown away. Soon after that, it seemed that I would read about David every where. As you'll read below, he had quite a year in 2012. Then a couple of weeks ago, I would once again run a race that David would win and also set a course record with a 3:46! This year's, Mountain Mist 50K in Huntsville, AL.

I had a chance to ask David a few questions and you can read his responses below. I'm grateful to David for taking the time for this Q&A. He's an amazing runner, and a humble one at that despite his accomplishments. You'll be hearing a lot more from this guy in the future.

Hi Dave, How did you get into the world of ultras and trail running and what motivated you to do so?

I started running competitively many years ago on my 7th grade track team.  I continued racing on the track, roads, and cross-country courses, gradually improving as I progressed through high school, college (at Auburn), grad school, and then post-collegiately.  After college, I tried for a few years to qualify for the US Olympic Marathon Trials, but they lowered the standard from 2:22 to 2:19 around that same time.  Although I was able to win the 2009 Rocket City Marathon, my 2:26 finishing time and PR left me far from the trials standard.  I grew up just outside of Huntsville, and had moved back after college to begin my career as an aerospace engineer.  The passionate ultra runners living in the area (think Dink Taylor, Dewayne Satterfield, Rob Youngren, etc.) started rubbing off on me, and it wasn't long before I was running on the trails.  I jumped into a Fat Ass 50k as a long run one day with that attitude that I could drop out whenever I felt like it.  I never dropped and broke the course record.  I guess my personality just meshes really well with the running lifestyle.  Trails and ultras were just another way to continue enjoying the sport and improving myself.

You just came off a course record setting win at the Mountain Mist 50K. How do you feel about this win and given this year's muddy conditions, do you see yourself coming back to Monte Sano for yet another record attempt on hopefully a drier course?

I feel really great after the win at Mtn Mist this year.  I think that was my best race in almost a year.  It's a huge confidence boost and shows that I have a great combination of strength and speed right now.  I don't think the muddy conditions affected me too much. The trail was actually drier than I was expecting.  It could have been a very different experience for those father back in the pack as the trail tends to get chewed up quickly, but it was in pretty good shape for me.  I plan to continue coming back to Mtn Mist simply because it's basically my hometown 50k, but breaking my new course record is going to be really tough.  I'd also like to get a 10 year finisher jacket, so you'll see me running in the Mist again.

Riddle and Henshaw lead the pack at the
'12 IAU 100K World Championships.
Photo: Darryl Schaffer
You raised a lot of eyebrows in 2011 when you won and broke the 17-year old course record at the JFK 50 and then earned the top American spot at the 2012 IAU 100k World Championship. Describe both of those experiences.

Breaking the course record at JFK was a surreal experience.  I really hadn't even dreamed that I could run that fast.  It was just a very special day where all the ingredients came together perfectly and I ran an amazing race.  Having the chance to run down Michael Wardian in the last few miles of the race allowed me to push my body to a place where I couldn't have gone without some external motivation.  That race gave me a new level of confidence that I could compete against some of the best ultra runners in the country, and it also taught me to stop placing limitations on my abilities.

The 2012 IAU 100k World Championship race in Italy was another great race for me.  I knew I was in excellent shape going in, but I wasn't completely sure how fast I'd be able to run.  I started the race uncharacteristically fast and really got caught up in the international competition early.  I didn't back down though, and just tried to hang on as long as possible.  It started to unravel for me with 20k to go, but I was able to hold it together enough for a 5th place finish and top American spot.  The 100k hurt a lot more than JFK, but I was really proud of how I handled the pressure and toughed out a strong finish.

In your first 100 miler attempt at last year's Western States, you came in 11th with a sub-17 hour finish. Do you have plans for another 100 miler any time soon? If so, what will you do differently, if anything, to improve upon your Western States finish?

Riddle at '12 Western States.
Photo: Dusty Davis
I don't currently have any plans to run a 100 miler this year.  I was really pleased with how my first 100 miler turned out at Western States, but my biggest limitation is my lack of trails and terrain to train on for a big mountain 100 miler like that.  I gave it a go last year, running some longer, more mountainous stuff, but it's clearly not my strength.  I plan to get back to my specialty and run more moderate 50 milers and 100k's this year.  I think one day in the future I will run a hundred again.  I think I can make huge performance improvements at that distance by adjusting my training and dialing in my nutrition.  I've already mentioned lack of elevation change in my current training, but also I don't do many super-long, slow runs that would help my 100 mile ability.  And having your nutrition right is so much more critical in a 100 mile race than it is in a 50 mile or 100k.  If I can really get my fueling figured out, I think I could run a great 100.

What's in store for you and racing in 2013?

My racing schedule for 2013 is a mess right now.  I am traveling a bunch over the next few months both for personal trips and work, and just haven't been able to schedule any races in the near term.  I've been wanting to do the Chattanooga Stage Races for a while, so I am hoping to do that one and then I'm on the US 100k team again.  That race was supposed to be in South Korea in October, but South Korea had to back out just a few weeks ago.  The race is supposedly still on, but they are looking for a new venue to hold the race around the same time frame.  That's a tough question to answer, because I really just don't know. 

What would you recommend to someone doing their first 50K?

It's hard to make general recommendations for a first 50k, as my advice could vary significantly from person to person depending on their experience and ability level.  But, typically I'd like to see someone who has a couple road marathons under their belt.  Then, assuming the 50k is a trail race, I'd highly recommend this person get some decent mileage on trails similar to the race course.  I think many road runners underestimate how different the trails can be, and allowing the body to learn how to be dynamic on the trails is very important.  I don't think a first time 50k-er needs to boost their mileage a lot over what they'd run for a road marathon.  And if this person is spending a good bit of time on the trails, then their weekly mileage might actually come down.  Total training time becomes more important than straight mileage when preparing for a trail 50k.  Finally, I would caution a first timer to go out very conservatively in their race.  A tough trail 50k like Mtn Mist can easily take 1.5+ times as long to finish as a road marathon even though its just a few miles longer.  For this reason, you can't afford to bonk, so the beginner needs to go out easy and eat steadily throughout the race.

Thanks Dave. Good luck this year!


You can follow David on Twitter at @rundavid1 and check out his blog at http://riddleruns.blogspot.com/.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Goin' Muddin'!: Mt. Mist 50K 01.26.13

Not all, but a good chunk of the GUTS runners represented at the 2013 Mt. Mist 50K
Before I jump into my race report for the 2013 Mt. Mist 50K, allow me a moment to dust off the old blog by catching you up on what's happened since my last race report, last year's Double Top 100K. It's hard to believe that it's been ten months since my last completed race. Because of one thing or another, I haven't been able to  put in the miles that I would have liked, both on the trail and on the road. First, I rolled my ankle back in March shortly after Double Top and although I had plans to dial back my running miles over the summer anyway, I still had the SweetH20 50K to tackle in April. I lined up at the start of that race but ten or so miles into it, my ankle started complaining. I made it to the river crossing and pulled out at 18 miles. It took a while after that race before my ankle started feeling normal again. Then in July, I dove down a flight of stairs in my house after my son who was falling and when I landed on my back I tore the ligaments out of my left shoulder and clavicle. I had surgery to repair it and I was basically out for a month and a half from consistent running. In September, I started back up in earnest. I didn't think I had a Fall race in me due to my low mileage, but I thought if I put a race on my schedule that it would help to motivate my come back, so I signed up for Mt. Mist. In the meantime, I had the opportunity to sweep the second half of the Duncan Ridge Trail 50K. Running the sixteen miles over the difficult terrain of the Duncan Ridge, but at a slow pace, was going to fit right in with my training for Mt. Mist, but something strange happened.

Me and Woody pre-race in the lodge.
At Duncan Ridge 50K, I helped the turn around aid station out until the last runners came through. At around 1pm, I left the aid station and made my way down the trail towards the finish. I soon turned a couple of runners around. Only three miles in, my ankle started to hurt. Six miles in and I could barely walk. I called the RD and he was able to find a couple of other runners to finish sweeping for me. I was disappointed. I guess my injury from earlier in the year came back, but the strange thing is that a few days after trying to sweep the course, the ankle felt more or less fine. In December, I had a second surgery on the shoulder to remove the hardware that was installed in the first one. While not as intense as the first surgery, I ended up not running for about a week after this surgery. Which puts me at the Holidays about a month before Mist and my weekly running mileage was averaging 20-25 miles. Not where I needed to be. I took part in the annual GUTS Fat Ass in January and ran three loops to get 15 miles in. That would end up being my longest run in about six months...

…and my longest run leading into Mt. Mist 50K. 

The Mt. Mist 50K has been on my short list for quite some time. Here in Georgia, a ton of trail runners make the pilgrimage to this race every year. The race is one of the most popular ones in the Southeast and sells out quickly. I had missed the opportunity in the past because I was too slow to sign up before it capped out. Except for this year, which I made it a point to sign up the day it opened. My buddy Woody signed up as well. Fast forward to this past weekend, Woody and I headed up to Huntsville on Friday and after a mandatory pit stop dinner at Terminal Brewhouse in Chattanooga, we arrived in Huntsville at the Monte Sano State Park Lodge with just a few minutes spare to pick up our race packets. We ran into a few friends and caught up but quickly headed out to get some rest at our hotel.

The alarm clock went off way too early, but it didn't take long before we had eaten breakfast and were on our way back to the lodge. The top of Monte Sano sits at about 1,600 feet which is about 900 or so feet higher than the average elevation of Huntsville. So up the mountain we drove. The night before we dealt with a thick fog, but the morning of the race the skies were cloudy but no fog. The race was set to start at 7:30am and we pulled in around 6:30am, quickly found a place to park and picked up our timing chips. I was able to make the group photo with the other GUTS runners, about 50 or so taking part in the race. We then lined up right outside for the start. Woody made his way towards the front of the pack and I stayed back a bit with my buddy, Andrew. Andrew was going for his tenth Mt. Mist finish which would earn him a special jacket. I was happy to be there to witness Andrew get his jacket, but more on that later.

The gun went off and 400 or so runners started off on what would end up being a beautiful day for running. Tons of rain fell the day before and the earlier forecast called for doom and gloom on race day, but the sun broke through the clouds about an hour and a half into the race and temps would peak in the high 50's later in the day. Perfect conditions except for the mud. From the start, we had mud and muddy puddles all over the trail. We were goin' muddin'!

Powerline cut out.
I got into a nice pace with Andrew and the first few miles went by rather quickly as we were talking and catching up. Much of the early miles are down hill and except for occasional rocks and the mud, it's actually a tame part of the course especially compared to the later miles of the race. I was feeling pretty good as we were geting into a good pace. We followed the side of the mountain for a bit then came up to a flat section that I later learned is part of the course of the Dizzy Fifties, a loop race later in the year. Here the mud was manageable and we got in a couple of decently fast miles. Andrew and I were running at this point with a group of other runners, many of them also GUTS runners like Steve, Sarah, Kim and Janice. After a short technical decent, we came out into a powerline section that ended up being one of my favorite of the course. Out of the trees, you had a chance to look around and see the surrounding foothills. Plus the sun was starting to break through the clouds.

On the powerline section, the mud was intense. Before the start of the race, Woody talked me into wearing my Saucony Peregrines, which even though I had never run long in them had more traction than my other shoes and were a little lighter. This actually helped out a lot during the course. I was glad I had listened to him. The mud caked up on the shoes with the grass and it made the rocks that much harder to handle. We came off the powerline section and had our first real climb of the day some where around 9 miles in. Andrew said the climb was nicknamed K2. What ever it was called, it was something to see a whole line of runners just walking their way up the switchbacks ahead of us.

Once we leveled off, I thought I'd try to pick it up a bit and see how that would turn out. So I slowly made my way past a few folks, left Andrew and the other GUTS runners that were with me behind and soon found myself running alone for a bit. I came in to the second aid station, grabbed a few peanut butter stuffed pretzels and Coke and kept on. I was thinking to myself that I was probably going to regret this push on the early miles but it would end up fine.

Coming into aid station #2 (photo: Vikena Yutz)
I caught some other runners and we made our way up and around another decent climb. The trail wrapped around and interestingly enough came up to a summit of a hill where these giant stone formations formed a cave. I later learned these were called the Stone Cuts. These things were beautiful. You literally have to squeeze between gigantic rock formations. You could also see holes in the rocks which looked pretty dark and deep, but there was no time to explore. Plus you had to respect the two Emergency Rescue volunteers that were waiting on the other side of the Stone Cuts. There must be a reason they were there. I got through the rocks, came out of a steep little ascent and I was back on the trail. Down we went again and then back up towards aid station #3.

When I got to aid station 3, my buddy Joe was haning out and cheering on friends. While I grabbed something to munch on, he mentioned that the station was around 17 miles in. 17 miles, huh? Well, I was feeling pretty good and better than expected. This was now officially the longest I had run in over six months. My legs were holding up well though, but I knew the hardest part was yet to come. We crossed the road and hopped back on the trail. Down we went on the Bluffline Trail. Lots of rocks and mud made the descent a bit tougher than it would normally have been. I ended up tagging along with another runner for this section and the next several miles. He had run Mt. Mist 13 other times previously and knew the course well. I stuck with him and we had a decent pace going navigating the mud and rocks. The Railroad Trail section of the course was more of the same mud and rocks. When we hit aid station 4 at around 21 miles, I thought "this is it, I'm going to burn out any minute now." But I kept up. The next couple of miles were, you guessed it, rocky and muddy. We crossed the same creek a couple of times and that made me think of the famous Waterline waterfalls that we were soon to hit.

The famous waterfall on the Waterline Trail.
We left the Railroad Trail behind us and switched to the Alms Trail until we finally hit the bottom of the Waterline Trail. Now I had heard so much about this climb. And admittedly, I was bracing myself for it. But the first few miles of the climb are disarming. It's a straight medium grade trail on top of a stone bed that while is relentless going up, it wasn't very technical at all, until...

I saw a rock formation up ahead and then I noticed all the runners to the right at a stand still. The runner in front of them was looking across to the left and was obviously studying how to go across and then scramble up the waterfall. When my turn came, I crossed the waterfall and then scrambled up the side of it following every one else up and up, grabbing small tree trunks and what ever I could to help me up. I'm sure everyones blog entry for this race has an aside for this section of the course, but it really is that crazy of a climb from the waterfalls. Once above the falls, there is still some more climbing to go. By the time we got all the way up and started approaching aid station 5 at 26 miles in, we basically earned back all the the descent miles from aid station #3 to the bottom of Waterline. At the aid station, i refueled again on pretzels and Coke while sucking down a GU. Once back on the course, we descended and on the way down I picked up Eric, a local runner who I had run with before, and the two of us chatted while making our way. As we made our way down, he had me stop and take in this giant rock well off the trail. It was impressive. It must go hundreds of feet down. Eric joked and said that local trail runners would toss a rock in there as they ran by to see if one day they could fill it. What ever the case, I didn't want to be falling down that thing.

Smiling at the finish!
After a short ascent past the well, the next section was pretty technical and the mud reared back its ugly head which once again made traversing the rocks difficult. Down we went into what's called McKays Hollow. I was feeling the effort now from the big climb earlier. The footing was lousy and being tired, it was hard to get a good groove going. Down, down, down. I knew there was only 3-4 miles left, but I also knew that we were going to pay for all this downhill. Eric dropped me and I ran alone for a while. But before he left, he mentioned something about free tacos for all the finishers. That was incentive to get this done. The trail leveled off at the bottom and I crossed a creek. It wasn't long before I saw what was in store. I looked up and a few runners were ahead of me. We came around and soon started climbing. And climbing. Happily, I got a second wind at this point and picked up my pace. Now I wasn't running, but my power walking got me past the other runners and I surged up the hill. Up and up I went. I heard voices and eventually I was at the last aid station. I asked a volunteer how much was left and he said, "1.8 easy flat miles back to the lodge." This put pep back in my step and those last 1.8 miles ended up being my fastest of the whole day. Although I was passed by a runner or two, I did some passing of my own. I could hear the murmur at the finish line before I could see it. Once across a little footbridge, the finish line was in sight. Ran in at 6:46:46. No where near my fastest 50K, but given my base mileage going into the race, I was quite happy with that. It was good to have a race under my belt again.

Woody was at the finish to greet me. He threw down a 5:07! The winner was David Riddle who broke the course record with a 3:36!! Pretty impressive stuff given the mud. Woody pointed me in the direction of the free tacos and beer and I made a bee line for it once I picked up my finisher's award, a really cool slate shell with some original art. With food and brew in hand, I went and sat with the fellow GUTS runners and we cheered others as they arrived. It was good to see Andrew cross the finish line about 10 or so minutes after me and earn his jacket for having run ten Mt. Mist races.

I really enjoyed the race and I was glad to have finally run it after having heard so much about it. I plan to come back and be in better shape. Next up, the Georgia Death Race in March, a 60-mile race from Vogel State Park to Amicalola Falls State Park in North Georgia. We'll see how that goes.

Course profile
Course route
2013 official results

I tried to capture the mud on my shoes,
but this photo doesn't do it justice.

2013 Mt. Mist finisher's award

Great swag! Love the visor and shirt.