What an amazing and truly exhausting weekend it has been. It all started a few months back when Barb Blackford suggested that MS50 might be a good first ultra for those willing to take up the challenge. We looked at the web site and description of the course and it sounded relatively flat and easy (at least as far as an ultra is concerned). The race offered a 20K, 50K and 50 mile option. At this point I was heavy into my Pine Mtn 40 training so the thought of doing a relatively flat 50 miler a few months later seemed interesting. So, I signed John and I up for the 50 miler. Eleven other friends signed up for various distances so it was going to be fun little road trip no matter what happened.
December came and Pine Mtn 40 was a disaster. At that point I just decided I had too much on my plate to stress about doing a 50 miler, especially one with a 12 hour cutoff, so I focused on the 50K. In January I was on track with a 28 mile showing at Fat Ass and running every day. Then my right hamstring started acting up. It never prevented me from running but continued to nag at me from time to time all month. A vacation came and went and in between work was stressful and hectic and the launch of a my new training group - No Boundaries Multisport - took up most of my free time. I did get a few runs in but nothing like I should have done in preparation for my race. Again, I was glad I had made that decision to just do the 50K.
Before I knew it the weekend before MS50 was here and I was no where near prepared. I had spent the last couple of weeks working on getting a personal coach setup for Ironman Louisville among other distractions and long runs let alone swims and bike rides were not part of my days. The Sunday before the race we hosted an Ultra Q&A/ movie watching party. All of the MS50 participants came over to ask any last minute questions and get some advice on what to do on race day. Nine of the eleven other participants were doing their first ultra. After the Q&A we watched Unbreakable the story of the 2010 Western States 100 mile race. What an incredible and inspiring movie!! I recommend it to anyone who has any interest in ultra running.
The Friday before the race arrived and we dropped the dog off to be boarded, packed the car and headed to Laurel, Mississippi in the midst of a major storm heading east. We had a rather uneventful journey despite ominous weather patterns swirling all around us. The weather was clear and warm and it was a pretty quick trip. We hooked up with the rest of the group, had dinner, picked up race numbers and settled in for the evening.
Once in Laurel, my phone basically stopped working almost completely. No phone, no data. Welcome to 2012 in Mississippi. There was wifi in the hotel so I at least was able to keep up with the weather and what was going on back home. Sounds like Atlanta got a nasty dose of storms Friday night and Mississippi was no exception. It started lightly raining around dinner time and continued all night.
Race morning the temps were in the 50's and it was lightly raining on and off. My first plan was to wear a running skirt, calf sleeves, gaiters, short sleeve shirt, arm warmers and a light jacket for the beginning of the race. We drove 30 minutes to the race start over many muddy, dark forestry roads in the DeSoto National Forest. We checked in for the race, setup our tent and I decided a wardrobe change was in order. I was getting increasingly cold and the nasty weather was not encouraging. I always end up wearing more layers than most runners - partly because I am slow and don't generate as much heat and partly because I am just cold natured no matter what. I know that if I got cold and wet my day would end a whole lot sooner. I added running tights a long sleeve pullover, gloves and a raincoat to my attire.
Some of the ultra newbies were starting to get a little nervous but I assured them it would all be fine. It was just going to be a long day and everyone would do great. The race started with little fanfare and we were off at 6am. The course consisted of a 12+ mile loop and a 6+ mile loop. The 50K would be 2 big loops and one little loop. The 50 miler would be 3 big loops and 2 small loops. It was already getting very light so we all ditched our head lamps in the first 10 yard as we ran by our campsite. We ran for a bit and I was feeling good. I even ran ahead of John for a while since he was conserving energy for the 50 miler. Soon, the crowd spread out and the mud began. The first couple of mud patches were annoying but passable and then we came upon a water crossing (basically a rain swollen creek). There were no rocks or logs to assist in the crossing so it was just plunge on through with water up to your ankles. OK, shoes and socks are wet!! Glad I brought spares. Continue running. More mud, more rain, and now more water. A whole lot more water. I have no idea how many water crossing there were but it was at least 5 or 6 on the large loop and 3 or 4 on the small loop -with 2 being as deep as mid thigh and the rest ankle to mid calf depth. It was nuts!
As per usual, I found myself in a weird place in the race. I was slow enough that I lost the fast group but had just enough trail and bad weather experience to be a bit ahead of some of the other newbies who would typically be just ahead of me or right near me in a road run. Thankfully, my nano was working and I had a good audiobook going all day. There was a little out and back part on the big loop so I saw a good bit of the group there but never saw the faster runners. I did see Kate Brun from Big Peach and GUTS run by me twice on the way to her first female finish in the 50 miler. She was amazing to watch as she handled the mud and hills with ease. I want to be Kate someday! I also saw Leslie Lybarger as I finished loop 2. I thought I was hallucinating since I was not expecting her to be there. It was such a lift to see her smiling face and get a hug before I started the final loop. Thanks Leslie for getting up in the middle of the night to drive to Mississippi!!
|Kate and her first female trophy!|
I stayed mostly warm all day with a few bouts of being hot which quickly passed and then cold which also quickly passed. The rain came on and off and there was a bit of thunder but for the most part it was just overcast and ugly. I felt like I was moving well although not running as much as I had hoped. The constant stop & start for nasty mud patches and water crossing made things tedious. Whenever there was a nice patch of clear trail or road I ran as best I could. Many of the faster runners would just trot on through the mud but I was always worried about twisting an ankle or getting needlessly hurt. I wasn't winning this race and it was not an "A" race so I stayed conservative and safe. I don't think I drank enough but still had to make 4 stops to pee. My nutrition consisted of an energy bar before the race, 2 uncrustables, a couple more PB&J squares, a couple of oreos and mini twix. I never felt hungry, thirsty or overly tired. As I was running along the final 6 miles I noticed my time was 8:05 and I thought I might have a chance to finish under 9 hours. If so that would be a PR even though it is really impossible to compare these types of races. I ran up to the finish line and my times was 8:53:38. Not spectacular by any means but a PR none the less.
Race Impressions: Nice, low key and cheap race that was not far away from home. The shirts and medals were nice and the 50 milers got buckles. The weather was crappy but nothing can be done about that. I wish I had known about all the water crossings but then again if I did I might not have done the race. I did feel the landscape was kind of boring compared to other races I have done but it was probably much nicer in better weather. It was flatter than any other 50K I had done but there were a few hills and the water crossings and mud made up for the lack of hills. The aid stations and volunteers were great. Good food, smiling faces and fun little signs along the trails to keep your mind of the miles. I would recommend the race to others.
Now onto part 2 of the weekend Odyssey: The next bit of idiocy was because of an agreement between Olga Henao and Barb Blackford. Barb wanted Olga to do the New Orleans half marathon with her the day after MS50. Olga agreed but only if Barb would do the Goofy Challenge at Disney (run the half marathon on Saturday and full marathon on Sunday). The MS50 and NOLA half then became the "Redneck Reverse Goofy Challenge".They agreed and well a bunch of us lemmings followed suit. So, with the MS50K and 50 miler behind us we packed up the car, showered, ate dinner and then headed to New Orleans. Seven of us decided to do this but 2 had to head back to Atlanta for business and could not make New Orleans.
The drive to New Orleans was miserable. Not much to occupy the mind along the way and combined with our sheer exhaustion it was a fight for us to stay awake. John stopped about 25 miles out to drink some Mtn Dew and to wake up a bit. We scooted in to NOLA, checked into our hotel and dropped in bed around 11:30 pm.
The alarm went off at 5:30 the next morning followed by groans and general displeasure. We scrambled to get dressed and headed down to the lobby by 6:15. Fortunately, we were only a block or two from the start. We got our race numbers and headed to corral 17 to meet up with some friends. By now I had woken up a bit and did not feel too bad. The plan to was to walk and just enjoy ourselves.
The race started and we moved up to the start line and then we were off. John, Terrie Tillman and I started jogging and were feeling pretty good. Next thing I know we had done a mile and we were heading into an out and back along St. Charles. We moved into the center island and ran along the trolley tracks looking for some friends running the marathon. We saw almost everyone and had a good time cheering them on while running along. By now we had run a 33 min 5K and I was seriously impressed that I could do that with so many miles on my legs. I asked when we were going to do this walking thing and John said when we got to the turn around. OK, so we continued to run along and when we reached the turn around it was close to 5 miles. I suggested we run for the 10K if we could and then for fun lets just make it 6.5 so that we can say we ran half. We kept moving. We would slow at the water stops and walk quickly through but then pick up running. There were also a few picture breaks, a port a potty stop, and a beignet break (thanks to Faraz - awesome support all weekend) but essentially we ran the whole frikkin' thing! Terrie and I took turns feeling good and "sprinting" ahead or feeling like we couldn't make it but still chugging along. John stayed with us the whole time and I asked him to not sprint ahead at the end since this would probably be the only time we would ever run a complete race together. Finally we were finished with a time of 2:37. I was shocked! I couldn't believe we ran that entire race, took pictures and generally had a good time and still had a decent finish. Wow! That was fun! Especially, since my official finish showed me finishing one second before John!!! (that will never happen again1!) Gone was all that grumbling the previous night about how stupid an idea this all was. My legs felt pretty good despite a little soreness in my ankles. Of course every time we sat down it was hard to get back up but I felt fine once I started moving.
We hung around after the race for a while to check on everyone else we knew who were finishing and finally we just had to head back to the hotel to get a little nap. We slept for 2 hours and then went out for Oysters & beer and to experience a little bit of New Orleans night life. Everyone was having a great time and I just wish I had the energy to play a bit more. We finally headed back to the hotel around 10:30 and crashed.
Race Impressions: This was my first Rock n Roll race and it was great! Coming in at the last minute and avoiding the expo and lines was priceless. We were able to pick up our numbers race morning and Tshirt after with little or no fuss. The race waves moved quickly and worked great. The hotel Barb found was 2 blocks away from the start. The food and entertainment were great and overall I really enjoyed myself. However, I don't recommend doing it right after a 50K.
Weekend impressions - it was a fantastic weekend!! I had a good race on Saturday even though I was undertrained and feeling a bit injured. Guess what? My hamstring is not bothering me at all right now so I am quite grateful. I was super impressed that I was able to RUN - not fast, but really RUN a half marathon on Sunday. That really gave me a boost to my ego and was a good kickstart to Ironman training. Now we need to get the bike and swim training going.
I was so completely impressed with all the new Ultra marathoners from Saturday - Olga, Barb, Terrie, Miles, Mike L, Tripp, Kim, Maria, and Celi. You guys rocked it!! I am also humbled and impressed by the incredible efforts of Cherie and Peggy in their attempt at the 50 miler. They gave it a great shot but the conditions were just not favorable. I am confident that a second 50 miler is in Cherie's future and Peggy will get her first very soon. These ladies are much stronger runners than I am so my decision was really the right one to concentrate on the 50K.
Now, I am typing on my laptop as we drive home. Next up for me race wise is Operation Endurance 12 hr run on Apr 1st. Why did I sign up for that? More insanity. In the meantime Ironman Louisville training is starting in earnest. I am hoping to have a personal coach in the next 2 weeks and it's Game On! Look out Louisville I am coming for you.