2010 Mount Mitchell Challenge

The 2010 MMC course was changed due to heavy snowfall. The route changes worked well for me, as I am much slower on trails than road, especially on descents. This year, the route went up Appalachian Way, which is a steep road rather than the usual trails; steep enough that I saw no one running, even towards the front of the pace. The toll road (miles ~4-12), which is rough, rocky trail was snow covered almost from the start. The snow was hard packed and I found it easier to run on than the underlying rock, though still not trivial. I started off with YakTrax, but one broke after a few miles, and I discovered I was better off without them. (See Traction Aids.) After the toll road, the route followed 128 to the summit, rather than the normal trails. The road had been scrapped and was mostly clear of snow. I did fall near the summit, mostly due to a lapse in concentration; it only resulted in bruised butt and ego. There were a couple of spots exposed to the wind where single digit (f) temperatures and high winds created a frostbite risk, but overall, the temperature and weather was fine. Compared with last year, the conditions were wonderful, but then, last year was truly grim. The Downhill Intervals proved worthwhile on the descent from the summit, and I was able to maintain a comfortable sub-6 min/mile pace without destroying my quads. This year the course was 'out and back' rather than 'lollypop', so you got to see all the other runners, which was sociable and fun. The return on the Toll Road was rather warm, and I would have been happier in shorts, though stripping to my Heat Gear Top helped. The descent down Appalachian Way was too steep for me to make fast progress, and about 8 min/mile pace was my limit. I finished feeling strong in 5:08 for 3rd place, 38 minutes behind the winner.

1 The good and the bad

I always try to list out the things that went well and badly as part of the learning experience.

1.1 What Went Well

  • I used Leukotape P and Mastisol for Taping some blister spots. The Taping staying in place even with the feet smothered in Vaseline.
  • I used Inov-8 F-Lite 230 which provided good feel and grip. I cut the sides off the heel and took out the insole, but nothing more dramatic. I did not want to use my Modified Nike Free Shoes as they have no grip at all, and don't work with YakTraxs.
  • The Dirty Girl Gaiters kept the crap out of the Shoes and helped keep my feet a little warmer.
  • Lots of Vaseline protected my feet from the cold, even when my feet got a little wet. See Running in the Cold
  • I took more energy gels than I have before as part of my ongoing research/experimentation. I had 6 Gus on the ascent, and one on the descent. I did not take any other fuel, as the Gus seemed to be enough.
  • I seemed to be the only one not carrying a bottle or hydration pack, but the cool conditions and layered clothes meant hydration was not a problem. I skipped all but two Aid Stations, where I drank about 6 oz at each.
  • A neck gaiter provided flexibility in keeping warm when the wind hit and staying out of the way when it was not viciously cold.
  • It was great to see so many familiar faces at the race. I love the sociable, friendly nature of ultrarunning. I also think that the best ultrarunners are not necessarily the fastest; people like Doom and The Sultan transcend the clock.

1.2 What Went Badly

  • My Yak Traks died early on – some more thoughts at Traction Aids
  • I do not do well at altitude, even as low as this race is. When I'm rich and famous, I'll get an Altitude Training System.