Don’t Forget To Relax The Day Before The Big Race!
Mountain Mist 50K is a beast that eats up the best of trail runners. I had really hoped to spend the day before the race relaxing and picturing myself meeting my 7:30 goal. I had trained with that time limit in mind and knew it was well within my reach. But then the snow came and my meditating on time goals became stressing about an icy mountain and a canceled race.
And then a miracle happened. Something I don’t know if I’ve ever heard happening before – the race was simply moved to the next day. This may sound like an easy decision, but if you’ve ever been part of a race you know how many people and organizations and permits are involved and in order to build your volunteer crew and get all of those people aligned you would need much more than one day. But Suzanne and Dink Taylor performed miracles and built a NEW crew of volunteers (maybe half were still able to help on Sunday) and got all of the proper permissions in place and the race was on! All we had to do was get there safely and luckily we had friends who stepped up and made sure we all made it to the race in one piece and on time. Sunday.
Ice Ice Baby
This is what the road looked like at the start of the race. Normally the road is where everyone runs FAST and spreads OUT before we hit the single track trails. NORMALLY. I don’t know for sure, but I’m betting I ran that first mile on the road in 12-13 minutes. And then the trails weren’t a whole lot better. We turned into the woods and I thought YES. FINALLY. RUNNABLE! I WON’T DIE! But that particular trail had melted some and refroze and there was ice mixed with snow and let’s just say for the first 3 miles my body was completely clenched in a million different ways simply from the tension of slipping and sliding. I think I felt twice. Both times in snow, but still, I ran the whole course last year without one fall and Sunday I fell twice before I even hit the “hard” part.
Mud is Safe
We headed down off the plateau and I was in a group of runners who just embraced the butt slide down a treacherous part of the trail. None of us even cared to try to stay upright. Once we got running I realized that on this particular stretch of trails my choices were: Mud and Ice in a lot of cases. Obviously, I chose mud. Because ever step in the mud was ONE STEP I didn’t have to stress about losing. I finally was able to relax into a run a little and start to enjoy myself. FINALLY. FOUR MILES IN. I started really trying to take in the beauty of my snow-covered playground and really tried to savor the moment on an adventure that almost didn’t happen. I stopped and took this one picture.
Throwback To My Cheerleader Days
I got to the first aid station and was gaining some of my confidence back. I wasn’t that far off my goal times if I wanted to it my 7:30. Maybe it’s not out of reach? I foolishly thought. I felt good. I was finally able to run. Maybe? I started flying down Warpath and it was finally one of the moments I had been hoping for – BETTER conditions because of the ice. Last year Warpath was sloppy and I couldn’t have run it but Sunday I flew down it and it felt GREAT because so much of the mud was still frozen. And then I had – maybe my 4th or 5th fall of the day? But this one wasn’t a plop in the snow like the others. This one had my right leg bend and go behind me while my left leg stayed ahead. I landed in the herkie position and felt my knee twinge but I jumped right up (which is usually the safest bet I have learned) and just kept running hoping there was nothing serious to worry about.
Frozen Mud is GREAT
I made it to powerline feeling GREAT (with some slight knee pain) and that was another trail that was MUCH more runnable with the frozen terrain and I was thinking, Maybe…JUST MAYBE…if everything is perfect and if other muddy parts of the trails are frozen I could make up time and still make my goal. I just did NOT want to give up on it when truthfully – I knew it probably wasn’t going to happen. But I continued to run strong even with the knee pain. My friend Colleen would sometimes be a little ahead and sometimes I would be a little ahead but we were there together to check in all day which was nice. We were both very focused on not dying, so it’s always good to have a partner in those moments.
The next stretch up to the Red Gate aid station was not worse or better than it normally has been. Muddy…but typical. Ice in patches out of the sun, but nothing for long stretches like early on. I made it to red gate 14 minutes behind my goal time. I knew the next aid stop was 4 miles away and I typically can do it in 50 minutes, sometimes faster. I finally accepted that my 7:30 was out of range but that maybe I could still PR. I headed out and while the next 4 miles were runnable, they weren’t as fast as they normally are. We still had spots of ice to contend with. And the parts that were melting were getting sloppy muddy. I typically fly down this one section of Bluffline and while I was able to take it fast, not as fast as I’m used to because of the ice and mud. Everything was just a LITTLE bit slower. And I was starting to get those quad pains I get when my quads are on the verge of cramping from too much downhill. I started eating salt like it was my salvation.
I made it to the mile 21 aid station 7+ minutes slower than I’ve ever done it. So now I was 21 minutes behind my goal time and losing my chances to even have a PR. I was starting to stress because if that segment was that much slower, what if the others are that bad? I might actually need to worry about cutoff times. My friend Marty could see that I was frazzled and just asked me if I needed water. I remembered that YES! I NEED WATER! and he took my pack off, filled it up, and put it back on me. THAT is a great aid station worker. Someone who recognizes ULTRA BRAIN and just takes over for you. He reminded me I still had PLENTY of time to beat the cutoff and we headed off on the chunk of trails I know the best on the whole mountain.
This chunk was quite runnable, and I know it so well that it felt comfortable. I still wasn’t moving as fast as I wanted, but I was running and that’s all that mattered. It wasn’t terribly muddy, but muddy enough to slow things down. Some ice, but not tons. I knew where I needed to get at what time in order to relax about cutoffs and I was pretty sure I’d make it. My only problem was my quads twinging like the wanted to cramp. I was taking more walk breaks than usual because I knew if they full on cramped before the next big climb up Waterline I’d be screwed. I just wanted to try to get past the last cutoff before they cramped, if they were going to.
And then I fell for the millionth time (Seriously, I lost count) and landed like I was praying. On my knees, but with my butt on the backs of my feet. Quads in a FULL and unplanned stretch which made them both SCREAM in agony. I had to hobble a bit to try to get them out of that constricted state and then the cramp threat got much worse. Last year I topped Waterline and collapsed in a creek from a calf cramp, I DID NOT WANT A REPEAT OF THAT because my last 6 miles last year were terrible and I cried across the finish line. I didn’t want that type of finish this year. I wasn’t going to make my goal, I wasn’t going to PR, but I was going to finish and I wanted to do it happy. SO! I took my time from there on out. I ran a bit and then when the quads twinged, I walked. NO BIG DEAL. I started settling into the fact that I was almost to the last cutoff and almost home free.
(I say this 50K is more like a REALLY REALLY HARD trail marathon followed by a 10K cool down.)
I started climbing Waterline and while I was still in a lot of pain from my quads and my knee, I had entered that joyful part of running where I could let go of the stress of goals or cutoffs and just push it to the finish line. The fire department had put a rope at a tricky part we’re used to climbing. It was fun to use, although I’m not sure it made it any easier. I happily thanked all of the volunteers out there and proceeded to the final aid station where I happily greeted more friends and volunteers. This was the last cutoff and the family’s of two of my friends (Chelsea and Chuck) were both there and optimistic my friends were going to clear the cutoff. This was SUCH GREAT NEWS. I had seen their families along the way at every stop and by the time it was over they were like my family.
I Take Back Everything Good I Said About Mud
The next 4 miles was just solid mud. The only time we got a break was if there was puddles instead and I actually much prefer the cold snow-melt puddles to the mud because the water doesn’t fight you like the mud does. The mud holds your foot and makes you WORK for it. The puddles are cold and refreshing but the mud at the bottom is not thick enough to suck your shoe off…MOST OF THE TIME. So I’d run through puddles when I could. If you have good socks and trail shoes the water wicks out and drains out of your shoe so having wet feet all day wasn’t as terrible as it sounds. The mud on the other hand was TERRIBLE. I lost traction so many time sliding down Natural Well I started worrying maybe I’d end up falling off the mountain.
I can taste the finish line.
Then we finally made it to the Rest Shelter climb…1000 feet up before our last 1.6 miles to the finish line. I ran into more friends on Rest Shelter and I was so happy to be out of the mud that I greeted them with joy and smiles. I loved seeing their beautiful faces as they passed me. I was still having to take random walk breaks to keep the cramps at bay, but I made it up Rest Shelter and carried a permanent smile for the last 1.6 miles. Every hiker or volunteer out there was greeted by a smiley dorky delirious runner saying, “GOOD AFTERNOON!” because I had made it. I had an easy trek to the finish line. I was basically done. I started being able to hear the cheering and my smile just got bigger. I WAS ON MY WAY.
This was an amazing experience. I can’t believe all of the efforts it took to make sure the race happened and I’ll be forever grateful for everyone who played a part in giving me that experience. From my friend Colleen who let me crash at her house to Alvin and Libby who made sure I got on and off the mountain safely. To Cam for helping me with my jacket and to Marty for filling my pack. To all of my friends at the aid stations and all of their families spectating along the way. I constantly feel blessed to be part of such an amazing community and this event really highlighted those blessings 10-fold. I’m proud of my friends who toed the line, even if they didn’t finish. I’m hoping they all still carry a special place in their heart because we all were part of something INSANE on Sunday and we should cherish that forever.
Kim Is A Badass
There were moments Sunday where I started to feel down and gray. Mostly because of all of the falling or slowing down or just general misery and I honestly – every single time – started repeating to myself: KIM IS A BADASS. Because you know what? Who cares if I finished 5 minutes slower instead of 30 minutes faster than last year, I did something amazing on Sunday. Every step was a step of a badass and I didn’t know want to forget that. I just said that to myself over and over until the funk faded. I AM A BADASS. I’ll not let mother nature take that away from me.
If you get 10 finishes at Mountain Mist you get a 10-year jacket. I’m now 2 finishes in, 8 more to go. I figure as long as I cross the finish line looking forward to the next one then it’s a good day. And I definitely am looking forward to Mountain Mist 2017.