Well, I expected this to be a tough race, and I was right. But, as always, there are lessons to be learned. I drove into Clinton, Mississippi, on Friday afternoon, and arrived just in time for the packet pick-up. Many of you may have been to the packet pickups for half and whole marathons, and they look something like this:
This is what I was used to before I started doing trail ultra marathons. In contrast, this was the packet pickup for the Big Butts 50k:
Notice anything different?
And this is the kind of stuff you could expect to find in a marathon packet:
And for Big Butts, this is what we found in the packets:
|We run so that these will never fit.|
Granted, we also got a really cool micro fiber sweat towel, and a tech t, but the ginormous undies were the highlight.
In an earlier post, I mentioned that the reason I do all of this training is because I LOVE the race environment at trail ultras, and that was just re-confirmed at this race. It started when I got to my hotel, which was about a mile from the race start, and was one of the two host hotels for the race. Before I even got out of my car to check in, I could spot the ultra runners. They are super fit, but slightly disheveled. They carry themselves with a quiet confidence. These are very talented athletes, minus any ego you may find in other extreme sports event. You see more than your share of cargo shorts, sandals, and race t's. There is also alot of handshaking and back slapping among the runners who recognize each other from other races they have done together. The ultra running community is small. It is odd to go to any race near your home and not recognize people you have run alongside in the past.
In the last few days before the race, one of my trail running buddies and best friends, Christina Gravish, decided she would like to give it a shot. She was definitely well trained for the race, it was just a matter of sweet talking the RD to let her in. It didn't happen, but being the laid back guy that he is, and being that it is a public park, he said that although she could not officially participate, he gave her permission to bandit the race. Yay! I would have a buddy to suffer with!!
When we went to the race site for packet pickup, we noticed that there were NO park bathrooms. There were also NO porta potties brought in for the race. With this being a trail race, it wasn't like you could just duck into a McD's along the course either. Can you say "One with nature"? So, the idea of toweling off in the park bathroom sink was out the window. Thankfully, my crew included Eric Gravish, King Supreme Take Care of Problems guy. We went to Walmart and picked up string and a tarp, and I grabbed a few gallon jugs of water later that night. From this he fashioned our own private shower stall. Its good to have handy friends!!
Race morning was pretty laid back, as usual. I got to see Lane and Erica from Pineville. Lane is an excellent runner, but we both knew that this was going to be a tough one. Lane's pictures tell the story:
From the peak of fitness and health to on the verge of heat illness. Everyone suffered in this race.
So, when it was about 8:00, we lined up at the start line - well, technically there wasn't a starting line. The RD drew one in the dirt with his shoe and said. "Start here". He gave us brief instructions about the course, and we were off.
There were runners doing the 50k (31 miles) and the 100k (62 miles). There were a total of 80 runners on the course, 17 of which were attempting the 100k, which no one finished last year. The course was a 6 mile loop, and after 5 loops for the 50k, there was a 1 mile out and back (on pavement - in the full sun - in the middle of the afternoon - after you had already suffered through 30 hot trail miles). The 100k'ers had 10 loops then a 2 mile out and back. Who says RD's aren't sadistic?
The race started at almost 80 degrees and 96% humidity. From the beginning, it was a struggle to keep my heart rate down. We kept pretty even splits for every lap, with very little deterioration until the last lap when cramping and nausea set in.
|If fitness models were as tough as Christina,|
this is what they would look like.
But, we stuck to the plan, and it worked out as well as it could. Things didn't start to think about falling apart until the last lap. This is where the cramps, side stitches and dry heaves started. But, we knew what to do. We backed off on the pace in the exposed areas, and tried to push it a reasonable amount in the shade. We poured water over our heads and down our shirts. We took salt, and drank lots of water. And, WE MADE IT back to the start/finish for the 30 mile mark. This is where Christina made the very wise decision to end her long run. She had been fighting nausea for the entire last loop, and since she wasn't an official participant, there was no official time for her and no post race schwag, so there was NO reason for her to do the 1 mile out and back on pavement and in the full sun at almost 3:00 in the afternoon. She left that to the stupid people. So, off I went.
This last mile SUCKED. It was one of the longest miles I have ever run. After 30 miles of steep climbs and descents and shoe-sucking, slippery mud, hitting the pavement and feeling the heat radiate from the road while the sun beat the tar out of you from above was a special kind of torture. On the 1/2 mile out, every turn was followed by disappointment when I didn't see the turn around sign. All perspective of distance was gone. When I finally saw the little white "TURN AROUND" sign, I had to laugh out loud. There was no one anywhere near to see that you actually made it to the sign before you turned around. In fact, there were no race officials on the out and back at all. You could conceivably have rounded the first turn, sat down for a bit, then headed back in and no one would have known but you and God. Guess that's all I needed to know to make me run just a few steps past the sign before heading back.
Before the race, my loose goal was to finish under 6:30. When things went awry in the last lap, I amended that to sub 7:00. When I reached the turn around, I looked at my watch and saw that I had about 12 minutes to spare before it hit the 7 hour mark. I would be hard pressed not to make it a half of a mile in 12 minutes, so I slowed my pace some to avoid puking on my own shoes as I crossed the finish line.
And finish I did - in 6:53:30. I was 6th overall female, 3rd in my age group, and 29th overall. And what did I get for all that effort and pain?
|What do you mean there's no margarita in it???|
|My favorite part - how the sun looks a little "off",|
and the fact that "YOU FINISHED" is a big deal.
|31 miles in the heat and humidity of late July|
in Mississippi over tough trails.
What's next? Bring it on!!
Regardless of how tough the race was, quitting was never an option. As I have said before, when it comes to these races, I make a plan and try to stick to it. When that doesn't work out (it rarely does), I amend the plan, and try to stick to the new one. This can happen many times during a race. But, the plan NEVER includes giving myself the option to quit. If I ever do DNF, it will be caused by injury or illness, not just from being tired of being tired.
So, there you have it folks. My first and probably last time doing this race. I say probably because I can be talked into a whole lot of stupidity by friends, so I can't rule it out. But, stupidity shared makes for great memories!!
Oh yeah - and if you are wondering if any of the 17 that signed up for the 100k finished it?? 4 people did. The winner of last years 50k, Sarah Woerner, won the 100k this year with a time of 10:49. This was almost a two hour lead over the other 3 finishers (all men). WooHoo!! GO GIRL!!