Wednesday, October 13, 2010

RACE REPORT: Mystery Mountain Marathon 2010

Sunday was the 3rd running of the Mystery Mountain Marathon (MMM) presented by GUTS (Georgia Ultrarunning & Trailrunning Society). Affectionately known by its followers as “M-cubed”, I signed up for this race simply because it's a flat course that lends itself to some fast times Charles was signed up. What a fantastic running adventure MMM has proved to be. I think I just fell in love with running all over again!

Before I talk about the race let me just say that if you live in Georgia and haven't run a GUTS event, you need to.

About the race...

MMM offers a 12-mile race as well as a full marathon on the same course. Full marathoners and 12-mile races shared the course for the first 11 miles on the Gahuti Trail and Fort Mountain Overlook Trail, then full marathoners split off for an extended mountain bike trail route for the remainder of the miles.

The name "Mystery Mountain Marathon" comes from the 'mystery' concerning the remains of an 855-foot stone wall on top of Fort Mountain. Nobody knows exactly who built the wall, but it's been there for centuries. Since I never would have known that had I not been told, I assumed the mystery had something to do with how one still plans to PR with over 15,000 feet of net elevation gain and that steep, god forsaken, poorly placed, evil, mean f*cked up hill in the way.

On to the race report...

At the starting area, Charles and I encountered several friends including Jason Rogers, Thomas Armbruster (Georgia Snail) and the lovely Holly Armbruster. Jason was running the full marathon, Thomas was running the 12-miler, and Holly would do some hill trekking of her own.

As the race started at 8:00 AM, we settled in with Dan B for the easy mile around the lake at the starting area. We talked about Dan's recent Mohican effort and our Foothills Trail effort.

The first part of this race doesn't look as severe on the elevation map but it has some of the most challenging hills of the entire marathon. There are technical rocky stretches that are basically unrunnable and much of the Gahuti section is also on an uneven trail along a ledge, so falling down the mountain is a... concern. Charles had mentioned that the first 11 miles miles of the race are deceivingly difficult, and he was right.

Which made the powerline hill that much worse. As we came in to the aid station, I took one look at that hill, grabbed a moon pie and started my way up. I took off and told Charles to catch me.

This is where I discovered a great secret. This secret is so secret I have to close my eyes even to type it. All 11 of the Colonel’s herbs and spices can’t believe how secret this secret is. The lost city of Atlantis just called to ask about this secret and I told it (them?) I couldn’t say and then pretended they had they wrong number. To which they said ‘we’re cold and wet down here. Can’t you just help us?’ to which I said ‘maybe you should have thought of that before…’

But I’ll share it with you now.

If I take off and tell Charles to catch me, he will either catch me or die trying.

As Charles caught up to me, we exchanged thoughts about what kind of sick person would think to throw this hill in the middle of the race. Charles affectionately named the climb "Green Hell" as I mentally drafted my letter to the course designer.

Dear Course Designer,
I have copied this letter to the CIA so that they may contact you for your assistance in the interrogation of terror suspects. I can assure you that I am not a terrorist but I would have admitted to anything after your little root-canal of a marathon course. Like I said, just tell me what you want me to admit to and I'll do it.

This climb completely screws up your running mojo and robs you of the PR that you SOOOOO deserved, and it isn't even the hardest climb of the day. Once you crest the beast, you face the 301 descent. Even with a great view of the clear valley floor about 1200 feet below, I have never been so happy for a down hill to end in all my life. I always thought downhills were a nice diversion from the gruelling grind of a good climb, but I have found that I much prefer going uphill…

The next 5 miles or so were pretty decent running. It was at this point we both realized we were starting to pull people in. As we headed into the aid station at 18.7, I took off and told Charles to catch me.

7 miles later, I finished in 6:11 and Charles finished in 6:16, nearly a 15 minute PR for him on this course. We both walked away with great race schwag and big smiles. It doesn't get better than that.
A big thanks to GUTS and Kim Pike, RD, for putting on a fantastic race.


  1. Any race that has moon pies... Well, let's just say AWESOME!

    Great job on the "trek"

  2. It's hard to see the numbers on the elevation profile, but the pictures tell the story. I saw the two at the bottom and said "friggin powerlines," though I was remembering similar hills a few states away.

    I always loved that the Paavo Nurmi Marathon has a sign marked "Tom Rosandich Mile" so you know the name of the course designer to curse as you run that bit.

  3. I NEED to get down there for one of their races. Congrats on a well-earned good time:)

  4. 6:11 on a course like that is incredible! You are such a smart pacer & freakin' strong too! Way to go Psyche!

  5. nice work!!! I always thought that 15000 feet was a requirement for hitting PRs? You mean to imply that it isn't? I'm confused. :)

  6. Great Day!!! The weather was fantastic (a little warm in the afternoon) and the company was wonderful. Next year I am doing teh full!

  7. Never felt so good to be "chicked", you were the story of the day! How you get those skinny legs to move so fast and climb those hills is the real mystery to me...:) And I even brought home a lucky horseshoe (even though it is gone now)!

    MMM has it all...:)

  8. It's time for a pre Pinhoti report!!!!!

  9. Very awesome race...Great photos.

  10. You are my freaking hero Psyche!! I am going to have to try one of these trail run/races:) Nice job!

  11. Great job Psyche! I think you have found your niche with these trail type of runs.