|Just couldnt catch this guy - photo by RBear|
First, thanks to my buddy Hagy for coming along, splitting up the driving and listening to me talk about running (I could go on and on and on). We hit the road Thursday after work with the goal of making it to Lexington where I planned on getting a good nights sleep. The next day we would head south to Mississippi where another good friend had generously offered to host us. While this didnt exactly happen, we had a great time drinking some beers and jamming to youtube with Drew and his better half (Kelsey).
Got a pretty early start the next morning, expecting about 9 hrs to Oxford, I had begun carb loading the night before with miller lite so i continued my carb heavy diet by eating almost nothing but carbos all day... Muffins, tortillas, bananas, raisin bread are my usual favorites. Hagy and I rolled into Oxford around 6 pm. Found Ty’s house tucked away nicely in the woods and got the full tour. Ty awesome place by the way, mad props. Logistically speaking, this was a tough race to plan for; I still had 4 + hours south of Oxford to Hattiesburg where I was staying the night before the race. Probably back on the road by 7-730. About half way through this drive I hit some torrential downpours really slowing down my progress. Thinking about the race, I knew that this probably meant it would be muddy. Finally made it to Hattiesburg by 12, checked into a hotel room where I double checked my gear, filled my water bottles, and passed out for 4 hours. I was awoken by my alarm at 4, jumped in my car, got a coffee at McDs and started trying to find De Soto National Forest where the race was being held. Ended up being an hour drive through the backroads but I made it in time to pick up my packet, take a portastop, and drop my dufflebag at the start where I could access it after each loop.
The course itself consisted of 3x12.5 mile loops followed by 2x6.5 mile loops, each loop brought us back past the start where I had left my bag with extra gels, a fresh pair of shoes, water bottles, salt pills and my ipod. There really wasnt much time between when I arrived and the race started. maybe 20-30 minutes. Usually I like to arrive an hour early, but it just didnt work out this time. However, there was no time to wait around and become nervous. All of a sudden there were 2 minutes until race start and the usual scramble where everyone lines up. The start was very casual. The race direction (RD) just kinda said ok Go!... And 200 people stormed off into the woods.
The beginning of these types of races is always interesting. They started the 50k (31 miles) the same times as the 50 mile and those 50K runners take off like jack rabbits. Some 50 milers took off at comparable paces, but I had no intention of going out that hard and I just settled into a relaxed rhythm letting my heart rate dictate my pace. Everyone was friendly as is typical at trail races/ ultras in general. After about 10 minutes I started chatting with a Chris Dollar who had asked if I was the kid with the Michigan plates. Apparently my haircut (or lack thereof) made it obvious that I was not a local... I continued to run with this guy from the next 3-4 hours. He was friendly, and was a faster marathon runner than me so I was curious how he would do in this event.
|Best aid station sign ever|
The first three hours passed relatively uneventfully. Probably the coolest thing was that the 20k race was starting just as I finished my first loop and as I came running in to finish the loop everyone was cheering and applauding. The trails themselves were not too bad during the first loop. The rain held off and since I was towards the front of the pack the mud wasnt too gnarly and the creeks were not very deep. However, about 3:30 into the race the heavens opened and the storms that everyone had been predicting began. The mud went from intermittent to shoe stealing deep and sometimes it was impossible to tell if a puddle was ankle or thigh deep.
A quote from the Race Director "But contrary to rumors, we did not have rain. Rain is when the ground gets wet and there are puddles and you see drops on the windshield. We had a monsoon, with creeks appearing out of nowhere and covering the trail and coming down the access road, and through the s/f tent, and rising to waist deep in the woods. There were no puddles or mud, just ponds to run through"
The entire time I was running through this crap I just kept thinking, man I love this shit. I had decided to wear a new shoe I hadnt raced in before and had opted to go sockless. Turned out to be great choice on both counts. New Balance Minimus folks. If you get ur hands on a pair ull understand what I mean. Anyways after the second loop I noticed the Chris wasnt talking very much and was starting to breath kinda hard. He was having stomach issues and suggested I continue on while he slowed down to digest, I pressed on, wishing me good luck to which I thanked him for the company and took off into the rain on my own.
Somewhere between 5 and 6 hours an aid station volunteer informed me that I had moved into second place and that several other runners had "dropped" because of the weather. This was just the encouragement I needed and I begun chasing down whoever it was ahead of me. Looking at my splits, I came within 4 minutes of this guy during this loop. However, running nonstop for 6+ hours was starting to take its toll on me. Strangely, my legs felt fine but my stomach was going south fast. At about 6hrs I started feeling barfy and had to really force down gels. Thinking long and hard about this I realized I probably had been hitting my calorie window very precisely early on, but had eaten too much during hour 5. The type of sports drink (HEED) they provided was clear and had almost no flavor, however I ended up drinking several water bottles full of this when i only wanted water. Too many calories when running overwhelms ur stomach and can be quite unpleasant. I think i puked a little bit and just spit it out into the rain. No biggie. I drank only water for the next 30-45 minutes and started to feel much better.
With about 40 miles in the bank and only 10 remaining, an aid station worker told me that I was in first place. I became very excited. I didnt remember passing any other 50 milers, but at this point it was hard to tell who I was lapping and who I was passing. I did my best to maintain a consistent pace and not bonk despite having little fuel during the last hour. I kept my pace consistent but probably slowed a little bit.
Coming into the 44 mile mark a different aid station worker informed me I was in 2nd. Boo. Much to my disappointment I had been wrongly informed earlier on and had been thinking I was winning for the last 45 minutes. Oh well. By this time I was feeling much better so I slammed a couple gel packs and decided to run with everything I had left and try to catch the person ahead of me. I think he knew I was coming because he really turned on the jets during the last 6 miles too.
I ended finishing in 2nd overall, only 8 minutes behind the leader, who was awesome friendly and an experienced ultrarunner. Even better though was the 8:02 on the clock. That meant I had shaved over an hour off of my best 50 mile performance and in incredibly challenging trail conditions (although the course itself wasn’t too challenging). I didnt hang around the race for too long after I finished, but saw in Chris running in just as I was leaving. He ended up taking 3rd place in his first 50 miler. Watch out folks he is gonna be a good one. Not only was I freezing, but I also wanted to get back to oxford and see what was going on with Hagy and Ty. As I was driving away I noticed the park service talking to the race director. Apparently they were forcing him to shut down the race because of the dangerous conditions. Any 50 milers who had not finished were given credit for the 50k and no one was allowed to start new loop.
|Where exactly did the trail go? Jump on in.|
Picked up a McFlurry and inhaled it on my way back to oxford. Got back to Tys by 7pm, showered, drank some beers, had a huge blue cheese burger at Boure'. Whew. Great recovery. Passed out hard. All in all a fantastic weekend. I think my shoes are ruined but it was worth it. Ty and Drew thanks again for the hospitality. Might just have to head down to MS again next year and try to get that 1st place. If you are still reading this I commend ur diligence. This looks like a lot of words.