[Editor: This is a guest post from Roman, as submitted to The Darkside Running Club. The race website is http://www.ms50.com/. ]
This was my first attempt at a distance greater than 50K. Billed as “easy” 50-miler, I figured it was right up my alley. I had kept this one in the back of mind for well over year and if there was a time for me to accomplish a 50 mile run, this was the time to do it. I ran the Atlanta Marathon on Thanksgiving morning and Tallahassee in early February, so I was as ready as I was going to be.
From the website it seemed like it would be very casual and not a lot of climbing. Looking back, it really eliminated any potential excuses of why I wouldn’t or couldn’t finish.
Joe and I drove up on Friday night for the pasta dinner. He owed me a crewing favor since I went out to Pinhoti with him back in November. After dinner at race headquarters, we headed out for a few beers at a local Applebee’s. Three $0.99 Miller High Life’s was just what I needed to ease the tension and give me a good night’s sleep.
With the time change, it was just a regular Saturday morning for me. We got up at 4 CST, had plenty of time to eat, get ready and drive out to the trail before the 6 a.m. start. The 50-milers and 50K’ers all started together. We would run the same course except they wouldn’t do one of the out and backs. The course had been altered a few times because park services scheduled one of their controlled burns and wiped out part of the trail. Originally we were supposed to run four loops of 12.5 miles. The 50K’ers were supposed to run two of the 12.5 mile loops and one 6 point something loop. That 6 point something loop is what was burnt over. So literally a day or two before the race, the RD changed the course so we’d run about a mile of the original course, do and out and back for about 2.1miles, turn around and run back to the split and continue the original 12.5 mile loop. Total for each loop was 16.7 miles. There was a second out and back of about 1.5 miles that the 50K’ers would only do once. I’m really making this more confusing then it was; only an idiot could’ve gotten lost or confused.
The start was completely informal, it went something like, “Alright, everybody move behind the clock…..ready go.” There were about a 100 runners, I started in back so I couldn’t tell if anyone really shot out to take the lead and if there was, it probably was only a handful of people. The vast majority of us ran as a one big herd.
The course is a horse trail so it was plenty wide enough, many of us ran 3 wide with room to spare. I previously looked at a topo-map and there seemed to only be 100 feet of elevation change at any point on the trail. In other words, it was very flat, or at least the first lap was.
First couple of miles started on the “low” portion of the course. The trail was extremely damp, and many of us tip toed around or tried our best to avoid the mud pits. After about 3 miles we got to a creek crossing. I followed the pack to a narrow spot a few feet off the trail and gingerly made it across while staying dry. A few hundred feet further, we hit a couple of mud spots that were completely unavoidable, all of us trudged through the ankle deep mud.
The first aid station was at the end of the first out and back, we turned and headed back to the original course. By the time we got back to the creek crossing, it was useless to try to tap dance around the creek, it really wasn’t worth it. Even though it wasn’t much past 6:30, it was getting real warm out, the cool water felt good.
Spent the next few miles chit chatting with other runners and we wondered when we’d reach the second aid station. It turned out to be about 6 miles, but it felt much longer. The second aid station was manned by two guys who were having entirely too much fun. They made signs advertising cigarettes, beer, pork rinds and even put up a life size picture of Elvis on one of the trees. These guys were a welcomed break.
Next two aid stations were each about 3 miles apart. After aid station four, we did a 1.5 mile out and back, ran past aid station 4 again and finally about a 2 mile run back to the start finish line.
For the record, first loop was easy. Started the second loop and was feeling really good. Did the out and back and fatigue started to set in. The temps started to creep up and it felt like it was already over 80 degrees. The 6 mile stretch between aid stations began to be a bit grueling. I kept my fluids up, but for some reason was struggling. There were a few spots where I wondered where these hills starting coming from because I didn’t recall them on the first loop. I got to aid station 2 and received the warm welcome of the two jokers manning the station. It was a welcome relief. I got a few laughs in, loaded up on some Heed and took off. By the way, personally, don’t care for Heed. While crewing for Joe at Pinhoti, we tried some and a friend described it as skim milk, with Alka Selzer and salt. Aid station two here had strawberry heed, which to me tasted like original heed with strawberry nesquik.
After aid station two, it was mentally easier since I could easy break the run up into smaller segments and basically just aid station hopped. My strength and energy level were good as I kept passing some of the 50K’ers on their last loop. As I neared the start/finish line at the end of lap two, I saw Joe in his running clothes. He was obviously really bored and wanted to get out and run.
We started off on loop three with a minute or two of walking. We started running and after about 5 minutes, I was exhausted. It became a struggle to find the strength to even make it a minute of running without a break. We run for a minute, my heart rate would sky-rocket, I’d break out in full sweat, then be huffing and puffing. This lasted for probably the next 5 miles. Somewhere around mile 36, Joe asked if I’d taken any E-caps. I said no because they didn’t have any at the aid stations. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a few and gave them to me. After about 20-25 minutes, I started feeling better. Instead of running for 1 minute, walking for 2, I was able to run for about 5-6 minutes. The reason I made it only 5-6 minutes was because even more hills started appearing. I wish I could say I was hallucinating, but in reality I was just tired.
When we got to aid station 2 again, I mentally felt I could finish. My spirits improved and was able to keep running. We continued our run/walk combination and by the time we got to the finishing area I felt good enough to sprint on in. Now at this point, sprinting was probably a 9 minute mile, but for me, I was flying.
I crossed the finish line, retrieved my belt buckle and finishers wind shirt and then sat down. Joe teased me that there was beer but I was too tired to even fall for it. When I sat down to examine my feet, I saw that my socks had completely come apart at the balls of the feet. As I said earlier, the low parts were wet, but at the high parts of the trail, there was lots of sand and fine gravel. It was like I had sandpaper in my shoes for the last 10 plus hours.
The course overall was easy as I was lead to believe, the only thing I never accounted for was the heat. It really took its tool on me more than I thought it ever would. The E-Caps were the saving grace because if I had any more Heed, well let’s just say I would’ve thrown up even earlier.