Spring Equinox 50k Race Report (Dropped from 50 Mile)

Kristy & me ready to head to Mississippi
It was supposed to be my first 50 miler, but it definitely did not go my way from the start. Sometimes that's the way it goes. I normally try to not wait too long after a race to get my report done, but it just took this long to sort things out and think about how to put my thoughts into words. Although it didn't work out, it was a good event, an interesting journey, and a change to learn. I fully intend to take the lessons learned from this race and use them to continue moving forward, accomplish my first 50 miler, and beyond.

This was the final piece of 8 months of consistent training, which is the first piece of the puzzle of where things went wrong for me. I started my training July 21, '14 when I started training for the Pensacola Marathon, then continued on from there to train for the Mississippi Blues/First Light Marathons double weekend. My original plan was to do the Blackwater 50k after that (which I did), then take some time off training (which I did not). I have a tendency to burn out mentally and physically if I don't take a break from training for too long. Well, after pacing Will at the Cajun Coyote 100 in December, then the back-2-back marathons went so well I decided to go ahead and carry the momentum into the Equinox 50 Mile. I knew I was rolling the dice on burning out, but I was feeling good and wanted to keep going. All the way up to the day before the race I felt good. I was excited for my hard work to pay off. In those 8 months I had run two marathons, one 50k race, and one 50k training run. In total, I had run 1,017.01 miles in that training.

Sunset through the trees of Homochitto National Forest
I felt confident and ready to go went race week finally arrived. The race was on Saturday, March 21, so on Friday my wife, Kristy, and I headed out for Homochitto National Forest in Mississippi. First we went to the hotel we were staying at about 35 min away in Natchez, MS and got dinner at a very good place called Biscuits & Blues. After dinner we headed over to the park for packet pickup. It was really great to get to see some of the friends I had made while pacing/crewing for Will at the Cajun Coyote 100 (both events are put on by Forge Racing). They are a good, fun group of people.

After pickup, we headed back to our hotel where I got all of my stuff organized and ready and we went to bed a little early. It was going to be an early morning and a long day, so I wanted to get some good rest. I did sleep well, but the morning alarm was my first sign of how the day would unfold. It's good to wake up excited, nervous, or even anxious for a race. I woke up ambivolant about the race and really just wanted to turn the alarm off and go back to sleep. That's a bad sign. Had I finally burnt out? I couldn't know at the time, I just knew I'd paid for the race and driven several hours to get there, so I might as well run it. Yeah, that is really how I felt race morning.

The forecast a few days before the race
We got out to the park while it was still very dark. In fact, it would be an hour or so into the race before the sun would be up. It wasn't raining yet. The key word: YET. The forecast said "periods of rain later in the day." Yeah, my ass. It started raining not too far into the race and basically never stopped. There were a few brief times that is stopped, but it was mostly a constant presence. There would be periods of very light rain, then periods of very heavy rain. But the rain was pretty much always there. Now, normally I love running in the rain, so the fact that I'm complaining about it tells you something of how my day went. The ground was often mudding and slick, and the leaves that covered much of the ground were very slick.

Don't worry, it was much worse than it looks here
There are small wooden bridges scattered throughout the trail, which had turned very slick. I don't know about any of the other runners, but I had slipped and fallen on them several times. About 7 miles into the race I slipped on one and fell backward, landing hard on my elbows. I'd cut up my left elbow pretty badly and my right hand and elbow a little, but not too bad. I had already pretty well given up any chance of doing well at the race, and I was already wonder if I could (or even wanted to) complete the full 50 miles. Now I was in a bit of pain and bleeding. I kept moving, though.

Me, Kristen, and Kristy at the 13.7 mile aid station
I finally arrived at the 13.7 mile aid station in about 3 hours and 50 min. I knew my day was done and the 50 miles wasn't going to happen. I did want to fight through and finish the 50k, but I was starting to move so slow and was so out of energy that I expected to be pulled before I made it that far. When I got to the station, Kristen and Kristy were working and Jeff (the race director) was just getting ready to leave. It was pretty obvious that I was really struggling so they asked me what was going on. I told them that it definitely wasn't my day and there was no way I would be able to finish the 50. I told them I would pretty much be walking the rest of the way and said I'd do my best to complete 50k in time for Jeff to not pull me off course. I also asked Kristy to help me clean up my arm, which she did. I hung out at the station for about 10 minutes before finally heading out. I really wanted to just drop out there, but decided to keep walking instead.

Little did I know when I left that station, but it would be another 5 hours before I would see another person. As I walked, I thought about the day and all that was going wrong. Sure, the weather was bad and making things harder. Sure, the course was crazy hilly and making things harder. But the way I felt when I woke up and the way I'd felt all morning told me that neither of those factors really mattered. I would not have done well on this day even in perfect conditions. I was definitely burnt out and in desperate need of a break from training and racing. I was disappointed in myself for not listening to my instincts.

The good news is that the race was on a very nice trail. So during my hours and hours of walking alone, I at least had pretty scenary to enjoy. The rain continued to stop and start, stop and start, and so on. At one point, the rain was starting to pick up more and I reached an unmanned aid station on a road. I stopped there thinking maybe someone would come along to check on the supplies or something, or maybe another runner would come along. I was quite worried that I had gotten off course since none of the leaders were passing me.

I took this picture to document how happy I was when
the rain really picked up during the last section
After a couple minutes, Ed (whom I had met at Cajun) and another runner came along. They asked if I was okay and if they could do anything to help me. This is what I love about trail and ultra running. Even with just a handful of miles left in a very tough 50 milers, these guys were asking if they could help me. I asked them if they know where there would be another manned aid station since I hadn't seen one in 5 hours. They told me that the finish line was just about 3 or 4 miles away assuming I was dropping to the 50k. Then they headed out, and I headed out behind them. Then it happened. What was a fairly heavy, steady rain turned into the heaviest downpour of the day.

The trail was under water, splashing with every step, and soaking my feet. I kept trudging through just reminding myself that it was almost over. Those were some very difficult miles. Finally, I made it back to the finish line having completed the 50k rather than the 50 mile. It had taken me 10:25:05. (Link to Garmin data) I spent some time collecting my thoughts, sitting down, and talking with some other runners and my friends from Forge while I waited for Kristy to show up. She had gone to try to help a girl that had apparently gotten off course. I was told lots of people got off course, but I still can't figure out how. I thought the course was well marked and I had no trouble following it. The only reason I ever wondered about whether or not I was on course was because of not being passed by any runners for so long.

Me & race director Jeff at packet pickup
Eventually Kristy & I headed out to get the hotel to clean up before going to get dinner. I am grateful to the Forge Racing folks for a good event on a nice trail, I just wish I hadn't been so burnt out and could have done better. But such is the way ultra running goes sometimes. Some days are just not your days. I hope to return to this race next year to redeem myself. As for going forward, the plan was to take some time off, then start training in July for the Cajun Cayote 100k in December as my first of that distance. I still want that to be the case. I want to see how things go during my non-training time and will see how I feel when the time comes. I will be at Cajun whether I do the 100k or not. There is also a 20 mile and/or I could pace in the 100 miler again. I'll decide later in the summer whether I want to shoot for the 100k or not.

After getting dinner, we went back to our hotel to catch a good night's sleep. The next morning we got some breakfast at the hotel lobby, then headed out. We were just a couple hours from New Orleans, so we decided to head there to have lunch in the French Quarter before heading home to Pensacola. Neither Kristy nor I had ever been to New Orleans (well, I had at 6 months old, but that hardly counts), and we have been planning to go on a trip there, so we figured this was a good opportunity to stop in for a quick visit that might help up in planning a real trip there. Besides, who can say no to taking a chance to get real Cajun food.

It was a beautiful city and we really enjoyed our short visit to the French Quarter. We ate at the Gumbo Shop, which was AMAZING! If you ever get the chance, I recommend it. We took a little time to walk around, but eventually had to get back on the road to get home. It was a very tough race, but a great weekend. I look forward to my next adventure with Forge Racing and making it far more successful than this one.


Popular posts from this blog

I don't even know what to title this post.

2015 Blackwater Trail Challenge 50k Race Report

Is It Still A Runner's Journey?