Thursday, March 3, 2011

Mount Mitchell Challenge 2011

Well I have to say the 1st race of 2011 went down much better than I had imagined. I've been battling nagging little pains here and there since Hellgate and have not gotten the training in I needed to tackle 40 miles with much optimism. I was hoping Mo's Birthday run the last weekend in January would be a confidence builder and solid training run for Mitchell but it was the complete opposite. I felt sluggish, struggling to keep with the group, by the time we reached the turn around I new i was toast. My ankles were killing me and I knew the return trip wouldn't be of much benefit so I called it a day. I hadn't run more than 17 miles since hellgate going into Mitchell and I envisioned reaching the parkway in pain and having to drop down to the marathon. I was ok with that and with my training it was all I could really expect.
The weather forecast was looking very promising after 2 years of epicness I was ready for a break. The trail was to be clear except for a few areas of ice at the top, reports were that what was there was bullet proof and might warrant the use of traction devices. I was looking forward to not wearing a pack but decided to use one to carry the microspikes, a wind shirt, extra perpetuem, gels, etc. it is much lighter without the bladder and it came in handy once I shed a layer. I decided on capri's, short sleeve shirt, arm sleeves, fleece headband and a light capilene long sleeve. smartwool socks and pearl izumi syncrofuel xc.
It was strange to make it to the starting line feeling comfortable, not worried about the weather. Hugs all around and before I could blink we were off on another grand adventure. I was feeling relaxed and happy to be surrounded by so many people I love and the chance to meet new people along the way. One of my WNC favorites Dave Pryor and I ran down the road thru montreat admiring all the wonderful houses and catching up. Dave dropped at the summit in 2009, volunteered last year, so 2011 was his year! i knew he would have a good day and run strong. I hadn't been able to keep up with him on the last couple of training runs I'd seen him. He moved on ahead as I heard a "bear" behind me, a bear by the name of Dennis Norris. I was beginning to feel I had gone out to fast at this point and my legs were feeling heavy. Dennis and I both struggle to stay injury free and have trouble passing up fun for any type of serious training, haha. Dennis is super speedy and soon he was out of sight. I met a nice first time trail runner from Florida doing the marathon on the way up the last of the pavement before we turned onto the trail.

 This first section of trail is great, gentle runnable, beautiful, much more enjoyable than running up Appalachian Way which we had to do in 2010.  I tried to just get in a rhythm but it's hard because everyone bottlenecks into the single track and tend to get backed up when there are obstacles to pass. Downed trees, stairs, tricky footing. Before long we were headed up the toll road and things began to spread out, I did a mix of hiking and running, just enjoying all the rocks ; ) I came across Ashley Funderburk and another Charlotte runner and chatted with them which was nice as I was about over the toll road and ready to head up the state park rd and get a break from the rocks.
 I took out a hammer bar and munched as I climbed up the road, stopped and took a picture for someone, the views were incredible. nothing like the scene last year where we had to stay on the road all the way to the summit, fighting insane wind and freezing temps. so this year it was back on the buncombe horse trail, they guy in front of me pointed out a cut in the trees off in the distance that marked the spot where we would climb to the summit. As we ran along the horse trail he spotted a cell phone on the ground. I recognized it as the one I had used earlier to take a picture for someone. He picked it up and two steps later I looked to my right and saw the same guy in the woods taking a "break". We informed him we would leave the phone there on the trail for him :)  I was just relieved those award winning pictures I had taken weren't lost, whew. It wasn't long before a familiar set of legs came by, they were so familiar yet something seemed odd? the shorts, they were so short?  my eyes had not deceived me, it was in fact Doug, but dressed in a pair of Henrys shorts! then another great surprise came up the trail, Kathleen! I had been looking over my shoulder for these two all day. Doug motored on looking strong as Kathleen and I chatted it up, then another surprise, Dave was hot on our trail. We made our way up Commissary Ridge, waiting for all this bullet proof ice so we could break out the microspikes. We had a great little conversation about life and Dave and I reminisced about our 2009 adventure up Mitchell. It began to get slippery and we decided to slip on the microspikes. Luckily Kathleen had put hers on at the hotel because I never would have figured it out in my oxygen deprived stupor. They weren't totally necessary but did lessen the fear of falling. We popped out at the top and headed to the summit, got our numbers marked and decided to go all the way up to the observatory. I couldn't pass up the view. We were advised to keep the traction on until we were down the first part of the Black Mtn. Trail. This section is steep downhill, tons of rocks and roots. I stopped about half way down and took off the microspikes. I was happy to drop down on the gravel road, and get off the technical stuff for a while and enjoy some more views. The gravel road is the last notable climb, before the pounding downhill on the state road. My ankles were not happy as soon as they hit the pavement and the slightly banked downhill just added insult to injury. Maybe it was the overload of vitamin D after a long, dark, cold winter but heading towards the toll road I got really happy, as a guy I passed pointed out. I'm sure the aid station workers thought I was loony toons. I felt great rolling down the toll road, even the rocks couldn't get me down.  I got to run a bit with Stan but was mostly alone and decided to jam out to some tunes. I was stoked to make it to sourwood gap, have some quality beer and still be feeling good. I pushed that last section on the road and skipped the last aid station. It got hot on the road and of all times I didn't have a hat or sunglasses. I was so happy to see everyone at the finish, basking in the sun and the accomplishments of the day. A glimpse of spring on a february day was worth the two years of harsh conditions.
 In 2009 (epic weather) it took me 8:56:33 In 2010 (shortened  course) 7:31:39 and in 2011 - 7:32:54


  1. Good job Beth. Looking forward to seeing you this weekend!

  2. I was just getting ready to email you inquiring about your MMC 40 RR? I check blogger and HERE it is! awesome job! you rocked it! I'm so happy you had a good day!
    kathleen ran?? really?! I had no idea!!
    excited to run with you this weekend! great pictures btw!!



  3. I have to say that I was so happy to see you running comfortably again. It is your turn to feel good again. Other than it being warm, the weather was near perfect. Sunburns and all! Great run Beth.

  4. You sure look strong in the photos. Great run for you (and Rick.) Sounds like you had "my kind" of weather this year.

  5. Just found your blog, Beth. I enjoyed remembering a great day!