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!

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.


  1. Congratulations. Enjoyed the report. Good luck at Georgia Death Race in March!