Saturday, March 28, 2009

McKay Hollow - Mud, Crud, and Vomit

McKay Hollow Madness Trail Half Marathon

62F Degrees

42nd Overall

5th in age group
Time 2:35:18

56 Miniutes second aid station.

2 hours 7 minutes Last Aid station

I played the “go, no go” game I always play before a race. I always seem to choose go. Picked up the race bib and thought about just packing it in. Ran into a friend who had been doubtful about running the race. He was there and going to race and that tipped the balance for me. I had to run the race now. We had done some training runs together. Rain stopped at race time.

McKay Hollow is run on Monte Sano Mountain in Huntsville, AL. Mountains are a relative term for Alabama. The race traverses up and down and around the sides of the mountain. The trails, well that is also relative.

They are trails in a very broad sense. After the over night rains they were muddy rock strewn paths with large rocks to scramble over for a little change of pace. Slick and muddy ascents and descents were particularly interesting. Early on I moved up trails energetically and the down hills were controlled falls or fast joints. In the latter stages of the race I was a lot more deliberate on the descents and walked the ascents. My fatigue made me more cautious. Many places were just climbable and I could not imagine anyone running them.

Started the race at a sane pace and for the first 20 or 30 minutes ran close to some friends. They finished the race 15 full minutes ahead of me. Before the first aid station I ran through mud, rocks, puddles, and vomit. I encountered what resembled vomit several times before the first aid station. I had initially been concerned about the water crossings with all the rain, however the trail itself was a water crossings in many places.

The slower pace of the race allowed for conversations when there was somebody closed. After the second aid station I was by myself for some distance. Eventually a commercial pilot caught up with me and we ran close together for about 45 minutes. Some extreme conditions bring out camaraderie or at least a feeling that we are all in this together. The conversation on occupations and hometowns passed the time and helped me endure my waning physical reserves. He finished over 6 minute ahead of me.

The water crossings I had been so concerned about turned out to be traversable. I waded across most choosing not to balance on the slippery rocks. Immersing my ankles into the cool cold water was soothing to my ankles and feet. The water helped removed some of the caked mud from the shoe treads to improve traction on the trail. I passed the last aid station at about 2 hours and 7 minute into the race. The last and longest ascent was ahead. I tried to take it easy and be cautious. I had come to far to break something or really sprain an ankle. Before the last ascent, I was greeted by the race winner who had hiked back down and was sitting in the stream relaxing in a the cool water. He yelled encouragements and how far we were from the finish. He said we were around 12 minutes from the finish.

The last part of the trail was slow going. It would of been very hard to run even if I still had any energy left. I did manage a trot when a photographer emerged about half way up. After scrambling up the so-called trail, I trotted to the finish with a time of 2 hours 35 minutes and 18 seconds. I finished 42nd overall and 5th in my age group. I was happy to be finished and gladly accepted the coveted McKay Race Shirt.

Great race and I plan to run it next year.

Here are great recaps of the McKay Madness Half Marathon:

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