Getting down here to the "Deep South" was no easy task in itself. We had to fly into Jackson, Mississippi and due to record breaking tornado and storm activity, we had to sustain a pretty severe delay in Atlanta. We were checking our option for a return trip home when the plane finally arrived to whisk us away to Jackson.
Dammit...now I actually have to run this thing.
Coming off a tough 50 miler last week, I was unsure about the potential outcome of this race. I've been feeling out of shape and unmotivated for the last few months and have been too busy to even think about my races and training. But who can pass up a trip to Laurel, Mississippi?
Here I am right before the race, looking all serious and contemplative. Notice I'm wearing my awesome race shirt from the 50 miler I ran last weekend. I love the shirt...you can't beat quality swag!
As promised...we were off on time! I'm buried in there somewhere.
The 50k runners and the 50 milers started at the same time. For the 50 mile runners, we had to do THREE 12.5 mile loops, then head out on TWO 6.3 mile loops.
Due to the rain leading up to the race, the trails were nasty, muddy, sloppy and some of the water crossings were swollen to waist level, when they are normally ankle deep. The trail is mostly runnable, but the greasy mud added a level of complexity.
The pictures below illustrate the trail conditions...
I finished my first loop in 1:56 and felt like I could maintain that pace for most of the race. I was feeling surprisingly good, and just allowed my body to dictate the pace.
As always, Jo was taking care of my crew needs and did an amazing job. There is no better ultra crew in the world!
This is me after the first loop. I have mud ON MY SHIRT!!! Seems a little excessive to me. Brand new shirt + mud = pissed off Kelly.
Nonetheless, the brownie I was eating seemed to make it all better. I love me some brownies!!
My second outing on the big loop was 2 minutes slower, coming in at 1:58, and my third loop even slower at 2:04. I had completed 37.5 miles in 6:01:02. I still felt good, but the trail was being chewed up and brutalized by the relentless foot traffic. I was looking forward to getting off this section.
Coming in to finish my last 12.5 mile loop before I started the "little loops".
After finishing the big loops, I was excited to head out onto new trail...new scenes...and hopefully less mud and standing water.
I was 6 hours into a 50 miler, and I had to essentially run TWO 10k's to complete before I could finish the race. I like breaking my race down to more manageable pieces...running an ultra is like eating an elephant...one small piece at a time!
I was happy to see that the small loop was slightly flatter, a little drier, and easier to run. In my first loop, I passed a few 50 mile runners and felt good to be gaining spots. I was running with heavy legs, but still felt good. The new trail revitalized me and I felt like the end was near.
I ran that 10k loop in 1:02:01, which I was pretty pleased with after 44 miles of running!
Here I am getting some food before heading back out. This was the point that I absolutely knew that I was going to have a good day. Pure happiness!
As I started my last loop, I realized I was well on pace for a 50 mile PR. My current PR came only a week ago at the Febapple Frozen 50. Not being overly sentimental, I was willing to crush it if I had a chance!
I ran my final loop like a man possessed! There were several runners on this section of the trail, but several were 50k runners, finishing up their day.
I forced myself to run hard in spite of the pain that was building in my body. I pushed harder than I normally do and it was excruciating. My legs became heavy and laden with lactic acid. I wanted to walk, but pushed that thought from my head. I was grinding my way to the finish and vowed to hold my pace at all costs.
I had to pause at this runner when I passed him, and was thankful that Jo took a picture of him. This is EXACTLY what I hope to be doing at his age. I love stuff like this! This is my buddy Leon in 40 years!!!
I was able to pass two 50 mile runners on my last loop that I had been seeing from a distance all day. They both looked fast and fit, but they had faded in these final miles. I am always reluctant to pass fast runners in fear of simply having them pass me back. This can lead to "ego running" that leads to us swapping places several times and tends to sap my reserves and leave me feeling foolish! But after sizing them up for about a mile, I decided I could put them behind me and keep them there. I gave them encouragement as I passed and got the same in return. It's a satisfying feeling when you see runners pull away from you all day and then manage to pass them near the end. I was pleased.
The last 1/4 mile of the race is on a hard packed gravel road. When I emerged from the trail onto this surface, I let my legs fly! I knew I was going to score a big PR and I was feeling great!
Finishes like this leave me hanging between laughing and crying. I'm swept up in emotion, but my mind is racing and doesn't seem to know how to react. All I can say is...these are the moments I live for.
A few pictures of my finish...
I finished that 10k loop in 1:02:23, only 22 seconds slower than the previous loop. This gave me a finishing time of 8:05:26. This is 16 minutes faster than the PR I scored last weekend in New Jersey. I was elated!
I want to take a moment to mention the volunteers. The aid station crews were amazing. They were engaging and entertaining. The food was great and everybody was very helpful and supportive.
The entire race staff did a great job and I think this is a very well managed event and would encourage others to travel down here for a great event.
For finishing the 50 mile event, we receive this...
I am very proud of my buckle collection, but I am conflicted about giving buckles for races below the 100 mile distance. I'm pleased to have it and I think its a beautiful award, but as a 100 mile runner, I simply don't know what to think. I'm not condemning, or passing judgment. I'm simply conflicted.
Jo and I have next weekend off, but will be heading down to Virginia on the 17th to run in the Instant Classic Trail Marathon. I'll be doing the full and Jo will be running the half. It should be a great weekend and we're excited!
I hope to see some of you there. Until then...happy trails!