Mountain Mist 50k 2017


Some races require a plan or strategy to be run well.

Previous years I’vrunan Mountain Mist like a training run.  I don’t think much about the course because I know it.  I live in Huntsville and I train on the trails almost every day of the week.  So, previous years I would show up, run hard and be toasted by mile 20 all three years I’ve run the race.  Not this year.

Finishing Mountain Mist 2017

Finishing Mountain Mist 2017


This year, I listened to all my Huntsville running peers that do well on the Mountain Mist course.  The somewhat well know strategy that one must take on the Mountain Mist trail is as follows:

  1. Don’t overdress.  Mountain Mist is in January.  It’s going to be cold.  Suck it up and wear shorts and short sleeves.
  2. Aid stations aren’t for visiting.  Fill up your bottles and grab some food to go if you’re not carrying your own food.
  3. Run the first 4-5 miles hard enough to stay in the front of the pack.
  4. Eat something and drink what water you know you need for the weather conditions.
  5. After five miles, stop pushing.  Keep a good comfortable pace but don’t get anywhere near redline.  That means something different for all of us.  For me, walk any long or steep climbs, run the downhills relaxed and if it’s in between, keep a level of effort that is sustainable for an extended period of time.   I did this by talking to other runners.  I figured as long as I could chat with others, I was keeping the effort level down where it needed to be.
  6. Eat something and drink what water you know you need for the weather conditions.
  7. Remember that the halfway point on Mountain Mist is usually at the 17-mile mark.  This is important as this is also where you can start pushing the effort level up a notch.
  8. Eat something and drink what water you know you need for the weather conditions.
  9. After the halfway point, I started running a bit harder.  I still chatted with folks, but I had more of a game face on.  If the person I was chatting with was moving slower than my pace, I started looking for a way to pass them.  I didn’t speed up.  I just kept the same pace and proceeded past them.
  10. Eat something and drink what water you know you need for the weather conditions.
  11. Previous races, by the time I got to the second half of the race, I suffered on the climbs.  This time, my goal was to have energy for the 2nd half of the course climbs.
  12. Don’t run the climbs.  But… power hike them.  What does that mean?  It means I’m working hard but I’m keeping my heart in check.  Except for the real steep sections, usually I an hold about 15:00-15:30 on climbs.
  13. After the Waterline climb, it’s time to go up another notch.  You can still blow up so don’t get carried away, but it’s time to do some running.
  14. Keep your effort at that notch all the way to the top of Rest Shelter then run as fast as you can.  It’s only 1.6 miles.

Did it work?  Well, my previous PR was 6:28.  This year I finished with 6:05.  I negative split the race.

Waterline climb

Waterline climb

After taking it easy on the first half, I passed many, many runners in the second half of the race.  For the first time ever, I didn’t feel destroyed after finishing.  I probably could have come in sub 6 if I pushed in a few places where I was talking or following someone else.  I’m not sweating it.  I peeled 20+ minutes off my time and felt better than ever.  My goal for next year is simple.  Do what I did last year again.  Who knows, I might be able to make 5:45.

Highlights of the race are:

Seeing Wonda at the closed road crossing, the Land Trust aid station and of course at the finish.  She always makes my day.

I enjoyed talking to Ed Johnson, Eric Fritz, Martin’s wife Anya, Rick Gray, Joel Tapley, Scott Bell, Jeff Morgan and Christie Scott.  I talked to another runner from Birmingham but I didn’t get her name.  Doug Daniel cheered me in at the finish.  He was waiting for Beth to finish with his mom.  Paul had a great race and waited around for Jeff and me to finish before he headed out.  He PR’d with 5:28.

I got to see Jeff Morgan finish his second ever 50k.  He finished right behind me.  I thought we were going to finish together but at some point, he slowed and I think I got swept up following another runner.  Jeff finished the race looking strong.

After the race the pasta was awesome.  I bumped into James Falcon and he told me how he didn’t break 5 hours like he planned but he did come in with 5:13 and he seemed happy with it.  I personally couldn’t imagine running 5:13 at Mountain Mist.  For James, he rocks that course.  He paced me 60 miles at Pinhoti 100 last year and he was telling me a story about checking his pee to make sure it’s clear during a longer run he did on the Katy Trail (rails to trails) run he did in November.  I almost obsess about that to make sure I don’t get dehydrated a the end of a 100 miler.