Tuesday, January 31, 2012

2012 Mountain Mist 50k

I’m going to keep this race report fairly brief…I hope. While not a big focus race for me in 2012, Mountain Mist 50k is a fun trail race back in my hometown and a great way to kick off another year of racing. I approached the race with very little taper, but didn’t expect to need totally fresh legs to win the race. There were a few wild cards, but no fast and experienced trail guys in the field.  The race played out mostly as I planned, and I won easily in 3:45:58. I was especially happy to bring the TeamRWB singlet across the line in front since it was my first time representing the team in a race.

TeamRWB was well represented.

The big variable this year was the condition of the trail. Last year the course was frozen solid which actually made it faster than normal. Before the race this year, everyone said the course was going to be slow and muddy. It was very wet and muddy in places, but I really don't think the mud slowed me down that much. I was surprised though, how washed out the trail was in many areas. With the dirt washed away, more rocks than normal were exposed, and I think the ruggedness of the trail slowed me more than the mud. One section in particular, where the side of the mountain is literally sliding away, the course had to be rerouted and left us to navigate through a series of blown down trees that weren’t there last year.

Got my game face on.
As the race started, one of the wild cards, Daniel Mueller, and another guy I didn’t know (turned out to be Run Bum, aka Sean), took the race out quickly. I hung back and let them learn the hard way. Run Bum came back quickly, clearly just enjoying himself for a bit before settling into a more realistic pace. Daniel lead through the first aid station, with Josh Whitehead and myself cruising through a minute back (two minutes faster than I split last year). Josh is a fast road guy, but has limited trail experience, and he quickly fell off my shoulder as I bombed down Warpath Ridge. Daniel and I found each other a couple miles later after he made a wrong turn. We ran together uneventfully until the Fearn St aid station at mile 17.

Daniel won all three of the races in last summer’s Chattanooga Stage Race, which made him a credible threat, but that’s really all he had on his resume. Consider me impressed that he was still on my tail at that point in the race. That’s farther than Hal Koerner and Josh Wheeler made it with me last year. Plus, we were two minutes faster than my “halfway” split from my previous year’s course record. I had begun pressing just a little bit around mile 15 to start testing Dan and pull him a little out of his comfort zone. He was running really well, so I was actually quite surprised when he fell off quickly as I breezed through the aid station and continued pressing. It sounds like Daniel still has some road racing goals he wants to pursue, but he is a very good technical trail runner. If and when he decides to focus on trail ultras, he will be a force to be reckoned with. You heard it here first, folks. He ran 4:08 in his first 50k—at Mtn Mist. Impressive.

Now I am alone and 2 minutes ahead of course record pace. The first 17 miles actually weren’t as wet and muddy as I was expecting, but the last 14 made up for that. It was like a completely different trail. I decided to push on and see if could reset my CR. I made a rookie mistake around mile 22 and slipped on a super-smooth, algae-covered creek bed and went down hard. I’m very lucky that I didn’t break an arm or ribs. I landed on the back side of my left shoulder and somehow missed falling directly on a scary looking rock. I took a minute to gather myself and decided to be a little more conservative for the remainder of the race.

Photo by We Run Huntsville
At the mile 25 aid station.
I felt like I had a relatively strong climb up Waterline, but because of the trail conditions and fall I was now almost 2 minutes off CR pace at the 25 mile aid station. I had also stopped to give my 1-year-old niece a kiss before reaching the actual aid station. That's something I would have never done last year when I came tearing through that aid station like a man possessed. Of course, during the race I don't know my splits to the detail that I know now. I can't tell you how surprised I am to see that my last 10k split, on some of the most technical sections of trail, was only 1:13 slower than last year. I was already just cruising it in when I took another hard fall right after reaching Natural Well, which caused me to run even more carefully. While I blazed through Slush Mile, I didn't think my climb up Rest Shelter was terribly impressive. It must have been decent though, considering how fast I ran on that section.

As I reached the top of Rest Shelter I thanked the retiring aid station captain, Grady, for his many years of service, and then sped away on the flat and smooth trails. Although I knew I wasn't going to be able to break my CR, I had come up with a new goal: to stay under Dave Mackey's CR time set back in 2007. I couldn't remember exactly what his time was though, so I just ran as hard as I could for that last mile in an attempt to break 3:46. I sprinted across the line with 2 seconds to spare.

With race director Dink Taylor.
While I wish I could improve each time I run a particular course, the more I think about the 2012 edition of The Mist, the more pleased I am with my run. I ran super strong through some less than ideal trail conditions.  My energy level was fantastic the entire race, and I never felt any hint of bonkage. My nutrition plan worked fine, but I've got to learn to eat more in preparation for Western States. And I have to admit, the 50k distance is starting to feel almost short.

Unfortunately, Mtn Mist has been quite boring for spectators wanting to see a good race the last 3 years. I have it on good authority that next year you can expect to see a competitive race. So, I want to ask you reader, if you could pick ANYONE to come race The Mist in 2013, who would it be?

Don't ask, because I don't know.
A little muddy out there.

Thanks to Sarah Tei, Eric Charette, and Bob Vasse for the pictures.


  1. Congrats David on another fast Mt. Mist 50k. Looking forward to a great 2012.

    I would like to see in 2013 an appearance by Max King...Think he might be able to run with you further than mile15...Thoughts?


  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Enjoyed reading!!! You write well! Congrats, once again.
    You said we could pick anyone, so I pick Josh Cox. I would love to see how fast he could run a trail 50k or longer. I believe he would pull more people into the sport.

  4. King. Fast and good on trails. A Riddle-King match up happens and I'll sit out a year and spectate.

  5. Bring Scott Jurek out of pseudo-retirement? In any case, if there is a race to be had next year, glad I am taking over for Grady at the Rest Shelter a/s, will have a first class seat to the action!

  6. Tim, if you believe what Dink is saying, then you might want to get your lawn chair ready.

    Josh (Nemo), Max would definitely be able to hang around longer than halfway. Then the question would be, could I hang on to him?

    I would love to get Wardian in for the race, and bring Mackey back.

    Josh Kennedy, while Jurek is definitely a legend, I doubt he has the leg speed to run fast in a 50k like the Mist.

  7. Nice run David. I hope to try and shake your hand at LBL. I'll be running the marathon as a training run for an April 60k.