On February 27th I caught a plane headed back down South to visit my sister, brother-in-law, and my new nephew Ryan (6weeks old!)…oh and to try and defend my surprise win at last year’s Carl Touchstone Mississippi 50. I was excited to see family and excited for a chance to splash in some mud puddles and run in non-snowy/icy conditions for the first time in a while. Trail running in Colorado from December through March consists of snow, ice, mud and every once and a while some dirt, needless to say suboptimal conditions for long distance training.
Two weeks out from the race I was hit with a nasty case of the flu which had me sleeping 12-15h/day and running ‘0’ miles over a 5 day span. Not really the ideal way to taper, but I guess I can say I got a lot of rest, right? The week before the race I felt ok, but still a bit tired and not 100%, all I could hope for was that come race day everything would be right. After a relaxing pre-race day hanging with family I drove myself up to Laurel, checked in for the race and sat by myself eating my pasta, salad and brownies at the pre-race dinner. Something about dropping into an unfamiliar race scene is very calming for me, no hype to get caught up in, no need to ‘make the rounds’ saying hello, just eat and relax.
It was soon morning, I packed up my gear and left the hotel for the start line in the Desoto NF. The temperature was a very comfortable 50F in the pre-dawn darkness, an omen of warmer things to come. The crowd very casually gathered at the start line, exchanged pleasantries and we were soon headed off down the dirt road by the hazy light of dawn. The winner of the 50k took off ahead, and soon a pack of 6-8 of us settled in around 8min pace for the long haul. Other than the occasional pleasantry we ran in silence, just the crunching leaves underfoot and an occasional splash through a muddy creek crossing. The first two 12.5mile laps went smoothly, though I could tell my body was fatigued from the flu and I was working harder than I’d have liked.
As I pushed my pace around lap #3 (running in 1st place) the heat started to kick in and the sun cooked up the moisture and humidity. I’ve never been much for hot weather, especially when I’ve been training in 10-30F temps for most of the winter. As I finished the third lap, 38miles into my day, I could tell the temperature and fatigue were taking their toll. I was overheating and slowing down, still with two short 6miles laps to go. The last twelve miles were a trudge, and as the temps pushed into the high 70s, all of us on course cooked in the afternoon sun. At mile 41 the eventual winner cruised on past me, but that would be the only person to pass me by. Despite my melt down I was able to hang on to 2nd place, running a 7:37:53, a few minutes slower than my winning time in 2013, and far slower than I’d hoped for this year, being far better trained.
While I didn’t feel good when I finished, it felt good to finish. I learned very early in my ultrarunning career that every race and each day is different, sometimes things go smoothly, other times there is more adversity to deal with, seldom is any race the same, even on the same course. Today the above average temps hit me hard and forced me to just ‘hang in there’ for the last twelve miles, I’d underestimated the heat and paid for it, but still managed to hold on for 2nd place. I’ve always enjoyed the small local hometown races, and the Mississippi 50 definitely fits the bill. I’ve enjoyed meeting some of the locals, experiencing new trails (even the mud) and of course getting to see family. And now my 2014 race season is rolling, next up the Miwok 100k in May, this time I’ll be ready for the heat of California. Special thanks to Hind clothing for supporting my adventures and to Vfuel for fueling the long days on the trail. Run fast, run healthy, but mostly run happy.