Saturday, April 14, 2012

2012 Mill Mountain Mayhem 10k / RNUTS 4 of 6

 2012 Mill Mountain Mayhem 10k

The History
    The Mill Mountain Mayhem 10k is perhaps the best course of the 6 race RNUT series. Not only is it a brutally punishing "gut check" race with roughly 2000' of elevation gain, but it also utilizes a scenic route that includes the recently restored Mill Mountain Toll Booth, the Mill Mountain Star overlook, and the very popular Mill Mountain trail system. As with the Montvale Park 10 Miler, this race has also been around since 2009 and I started running it in 2010 and intend that it be an annual event as the final lead in race for the Blue Ridge Half Marathon that has so far consistently fallen on the following weekend.
Elevation Profile as captured by my Garmin in the 2011 MMM

     My results history with this race has been good so far with a 53:45 for 2010, my "rookie" year, and following it up in 2011 with a 47:51. My finishing times and paces are how I view my progress as a runner, but I try to look at all angles and I do get at least some measure of satisfaction in noting that my Age Group finish place progressed from 6th out of 7 in 2010 to 1st of 11 in 2011 and that my Overall finish place progressed from 46 of 131 to 8th of 133.  I hope to maintain the forward momentum across all statistics, however my main statistical focus for measuring progress is on pace, not time or place.

     Pace, not time? Why is that? It's just the nature of trail events. Trail racing doesn't follow the same rigidity that usually accompanies street racing. The bulk of the courses usually stay the same, but trails change over time and so does the dynamic of the race itself. Add to that the relatively young history of these events themselves (most RNUT races have only been around for 4 or 5 years) and it is easy to see how some courses need to be altered from time to time to accommodate larger crowds, popular opinion, or perhaps just the discretion of the race directors themselves as they make tweaks to add to the whole race experience. The 2011 course was altered slightly from the 2010 course to make it slightly longer, but in doing so the Mountain Junkies created the finest visual race finish of any race I've been a part of with a descending zig-zag above eye level right before completing the course.

     Another fine memory from the 2011 event was racing the section of the Star Trail from the Mill Mountain Star down to the Parkway. When I look back at all the miles I've ever ran, I look at that section of trail as the absolute most reckless racing that I've ever done. When I hit that section in 2010 I was still a much more conservative runner and prone to slow down to avoid things like twisted ankles and broken bones. By 2011 I had was hitting some kind of peak that had me feeling just about indestructible. I hit that section of trail with all its loose rock and protruding roots and practically slid down the mountain with every foot strike. I somehow managed to stay on my feet and finish the race and thought "What in the heck did I just do?" A "good" finish may come down to how daring I can be with that part of the course, lets just hope "daring" doesn't translate to "foolhardy" or "injury inducing"!

 The Event
Warming up

      In a nut shell, I'm not really sure what happened out there today. Of course I'm going to waste several hours over the course of the next week pondering what might have caused my finish time of 49:25 at todays Mill Mountain Mayhem 10k to be slower than last years 47:51 when my recent training statistics suggest that I should have been capable of a PR. I can easily write it off as just a random less than typical day, but I tend to think it may have had been either A) lack of recovery time or B) mental complacency. Either way I still had a great time and finished in the top 10%, so I'm not going to beat myself up too much. Probably a few good baseball bat strikes to the shins will be all I need to remember to not make similar mistakes going forward.

     After the initial spacing out during the first mile of asphalt, I found myself starting the 2nd mile and entering Monument Trail in about 10th place, I didn't hold back much for the 2nd mile and I passed 1 and got passed by 1 during that section. Monument Trail takes the course back to the asphalt on the "old" road going up Mill Mountain and I remember thinking "Do I want to conserve my energy or try to hold onto the leaders while I can still see most of them?" I decided to conserve energy. I knew I had some high intensity intervals in me, I just chose not to use them, thinking that a PR was all but a sure thing. I fell into a comfortable groove over the next 2 miles and just let runners pass me whenever they wanted the spot.
Race start.

About 1 mile in just before turning on to the Monument Trail.

     By the time I got to the Mill Mountain Star I felt rather good and even goofed off a little for the camera which is not something I've been known to do (I'll post that picture when it becomes available.). I couldn't see any runners behind me, so I decided to stay in my comfort zone going down the Star Trail unless I was in danger of losing my spot. Given the rocky terrain on that section of trail it was probably a good decision, but sure enough just after crossing the intersection with Walnut Ave I could hear a runner coming up behind me. I had lost track of what spot I was in but I knew I wanted it so I turned on a great deal of juice for the last 1/4 mile or so and did manage to hold that spot.
Water stop crew! Includes Denise, Faith and her friend India.

Exiting the water stop
Cuttin' up a little bit.
     Finishing, I looked at the clock and was visibly disappointed with a 49:25, but after considering all the other facts of the matter, it was hard to not have a sense of satisfaction for finishing in the top 10%. Other encouraging statistics include finishing 3rd in my age group out of about 10 other men and finishing 2 years in a row at under 50 minutes.
40-44 Age Group Top 3

Shirt Back with 2011 and 2012 Age Group Medals. (Note: Please support Mountain Junkie sponsors.)
Shirt Front with 3rd place Age Group medal.
     To the extent that this race is a referendum on my chances of PRing at my "A" race, the Blue Ridge Half, next Saturday, I can only say there is a significant probability that my training has locked my race pace in at the 13.1 mile distance and that the complete absence of a fatigue factor over the course of todays race continues to speak well of what might happen.

     Final Results: 2012-time 49:25.72, pace: 7:47/M , Place 18/185 overall,3/11 in my age group,18/116 among men
Garmin Data: HERE


  1. Don't worry too much about not hitting the time you were hoping for. To me, it looks like a solid training run for next week!

  2. I can see it that way for sure. Seems to me that since I have revolved my training plan for a half mary, that I may have been over trained for a strong 10k today. I'm not going to read too much into it.

  3. It was great to meet you at the race Phil and finally put a face and a handshake with you DM profile. Great performance and really nice race report. Good luck on your half next week.

  4. Thanks! I had meant to find you at Iron Mountain last summer, but time did not permit. Nice meeting you!

  5. Nice race report Phil, had a blast running with everyone this weekend! I look forward to attending more RNUT events in the future.

  6. Thanks! Mountain Junkie events, and the RNUTseries are about the best thing the active outdoor community have going for us in this area. Hope to see you around!