other hand, if your training hasn't gone according to plan, the weather isn't
favorable, or you just can't get with the program on
race day for one of many variables, you can opt to do a shorter distance.
Because of the heat this year, about thirty-eight runners moved down to either the
20K or 50K and got credit for those distances (several runners even ratcheted
down two notches, from the 50-miler to the 20K). The only downside is not being
eligible for awards, but Jim and I don't have to "worry" about that any more!
You can see who made these race-day decisions in the results on
website. See the
"remarks" column to the right of the results page.
Great trail and no burned area on this part
of the course before Aid Station 2
I stuck with my plan to run 50K although I wasn't as well
trained as I wanted to be. It was reassuring to know that I could
drop down to 20K if I needed to.
Jim registered for the 50-miler
but thought for several days before the race that he'd probably just do 50K
because of the predicted heat. He decided about four miles into
the race that he wasn't motivated to do the longer distance. I wasn't surprised to see him at
the finish when I came in over an hour after he did. Even we
weren't acclimated to 80°. I don't
know how the northern runners handled it for 50 miles after the
colder-than-average winter weather many states endured.
FSR 234 on a short out-and-back that we
liked; Aid Station 4 was located here.
Now that you know we both finished the 50K let's go back to Friday,
where I left off in the
last entry. I told you about
the Longleaf Trailhead and campground, site of the race start,
finish, and main aid station between loops, and talked about all
the local equestrians who graciously shared the forest with 216 runners, plus
their crews and the volunteers.
FRIDAY: PRE-RACE ACTIVITIES
Jim and I pretty much had the Longleaf campground to ourselves
until 8AM Friday morning, when Race Director Dennis Bislette
and his wife Rene and several other volunteers arrived to set up
the main aid station tents along the entrance road to the
trailhead parking area. Dennis and Rene recognized us from our
website (and e-mails back and forth) and came over to introduce
themselves. We had offered to help but enough volunteers showed
up for last-minute course-marking and aid station set-up that we
Multi-MS 50 finisher Harry Strohm (standing,
white shirt) talks to another runner at the pre-race dinner.
We also got to meet one of the volunteers, Bill McMullen, who
knows the horse folks and told us more about their wagon rides,
etc. The equestrians are the ones who use the Longleaf trails the most, not the
local runners and cyclists. It's good to know that the various user groups
and Forest Service have worked well together since
the foot race was moved to this forest in 1996.
Jim and I got our race supplies, gear, and clothing ready before
heading to Laurel (about a 25-minute drive in daylight) to run
some errands before packet pickup began. Since we'd been
without cell service and an internet connection for two days, we
tried to find free WiFi at the library (no luck) or a nearby coffee
shop (not working). Phooey.
A runner (standing) checks in with "Running
Bear" (L) and Marty
We were able to get online with one of our phones, however, and
found ourselves e-mailing Wisconsin friend Mary Gorski, who was
in one of the motels in town, also waiting for registration and
dinner. We saw a post she sent to the ultra list and responded
to her right away, knowing she was on her computer. Ain't
Mary gets a better angle for one of her
As at Sunmart, we didn't know most of the runners signed up for
the race. We always look through the entry lists before races so
we can e-mail our friends and anticipate seeing them at the
pre-race activities. About the only people we recognized at
registration and the pre-race dinner, both held in the train
depot in Laurel, were Mary and an Atlanta friend, Ragan Petrie.
We didn't see a couple other folks we know.
L to R at table: Teri Lux, Mary Gorski,
Jim, Cathy Diamond
It was fun to meet some of the other runners, of course. We sat
with the four friends Mary traveled with on a "Girls' Trip" to
New Orleans and the MS50, a fine get-away from the ravages of
winter in Wisconsin (much more serious than the "ravages of
winter in Virginia" that I've joked about in this journal). You
can read Mary's lively race report at this
link and see a photo of the
five women, who were also running this race for the first time.
"Can you see me now??" RD Dennis
Bisnette and his wife Rene
model this year's shirt and greet runners
at packet pickup.
Jim and I were two of the first runners in line to receive our
numbers and entrants' shirt, a short-sleeved synthetic number in
fluorescent yellow that will be great when running in the woods
during hunting season (half the year in some places) and when road
cycling. If a driver can't see that shirt, (s)he shouldn't be on
the road!! We also saw samples of the soft microfiber hooded wind
shirts for the finishers, in navy or a butter color, the
plexiglas finishers' "medal" on a ribbon, the
finishers' buckles for the 50-milers, and the attractive plexiglas trophies for overall winners and 10-year veterans of
Dinner was included in our race entry
fee; guests could pay $8 each. We had a choice of tasty
spaghetti sauce with or without meat, a salad, broiled garlic
bread, cookies, brownies, and beverages.
Mmmm . . . dessert, above.
Full house, below.
After most of the guests were done eating Dennis conducted his
pre-race briefing, gave out door prizes, and answered questions about the race.
Cathy Diamond (L) and Barb Fagan (R) listen
as Dennis (in yellow shirt) gives his pre-race briefing
We left Laurel a little after 7PM for the drive back to the
campground. Even though it was dark when we got back, we could
see that many more horse trailers and campers had come in while
we were gone during the afternoon. It was a lively group, just as with the campers on
Friday nights at Huntsville State Park, only here they kept
their generators on all night and we could hear the horses and
mules occasionally neigh and bray.
I hesitated to wear earplugs to sleep, however; I might
not hear the alarm in the morning. We were in bed by 9:30PM and
went promptly to sleep despite the noise outside. I don't think
runners sleeping in tents fared so well.
SATURDAY: RACE DAY IS NIGH
I saw the lights of the first car going around the campground
loop about 4AM. I sure hope that wasn't Mary and her friends.
When they asked at the pre-race dinner how long it would take
them to drive from their motel in Laurel to the race site in the
morning, I over-estimated by 20-30 minutes. Mary hasn't let me
forget about that! At least they got a good parking place.
The campground was a beehive of activity by 5AM and really
packed with all the horse trailers, campers, wagons, AND
runners' tents, vehicles, and RVs. Our thermometer already
registered 60° at the normal lowest-temperature
time of day. We had no doubt the predicted high of
80° was inevitable.
We wandered over to the timing tent
about twenty minutes prior to the 6AM start of the 50K
and 50-miler to check in (the 20K began at 8AM). We made one
last pit stop in the camper, put on our fanny packs, said
goodbye to Cody-pup (who did just fine all by himself in the
camper until Jim got done), and headed back to the start. We love it
when we can camp close to the start and/or finish line!
Jim and Cody inspect the trail near the start of the race
(photo taken 3-4-09)
Just one day before the beginning of Daylight Savings Time, it was
light enough at the beginning of the race to render flashlights
unnecessary. Jim started with me near the back of the pack so he
didn't go out too fast. I lost him when we left the double-track
trail for single-track less than a mile into the course.
At that point Jim still wasn't sure if he was doing all 50 miles
or just 50K. Since we both had twelve hours to finish our races,
he needed to go a faster pace than I did if he was going to
finish the 50-miler on time (at some point it's too late for
those folks to change their mind and get a 50K finish without
putting in some bonus miles).
I didn't lollygag, but neither did I push the pace much in my
50K. I couldn't think of any good reason to! My next race
isn't until the middle of June, and it's also a 50K. Because of
the allergy I developed at Huntsville State Park I wasn't able
to get in as many training miles as I'd intended. At MS50 my
goals were to have fun, avoid injury, hold a steady run-walk
pattern, just get a finish so I'd have Mississippi as a new
state, and not fall into one of the mud pits!
Nice single-track trail after the first big
mud pit ~ a mile into the loop
I did not carry my camera during the race. In retrospect, I
should have so I could have gotten pictures of runners and
volunteers. It's not like I was trying to win an award or
anything. Photos of the course in this entry are ones we took
earlier in the week on training runs (I'll
credit Jim for the ones he took).
Here's a picture of the Longleaf Trail system again:
And this is the modified course:
All three races used the 11+ mile loop at the top, shown in
orange in this version, and one or more short out-and-backs on
dirt FSR 234 (marked "turn around" at top of map).
The two longer races also did a 5+ mile total out-and-back two
or three times (shown on
the left side of the red loop down to Aid Station 1). I won't go into any more
detail than that because this course is an anomaly due to the
controlled burn. Next year's course is most likely going to
incorporate the yellow and green loops, as in previous years.
Because of the rolling terrain and fairly smooth running
surfaces on the single-track trails, double-track jeep roads,
and dirt fire roads, this is a good race for runners who want to
run a fast time (although the mud is an obstacle even in dry
years, and rising creeks are problematic in wet years).
It's also good for clumsy runners like me because there aren't a
lot of roots or rocks to trip over. That didn't stop me from
falling about six miles in, however. I was busy talking with
another runner as we made our way along a fairly smooth section
of dry double-track trail when I hit the dirt. Nothing hurt as
I continued on and I was able to remain upright the rest of the
Part of the long out-and-back section on
the red loop; photo by Jim on 3-5-09
Both Jim and I preferred the large 11+ mile loop much more than
the long out-and-back section on the red loop. Yes, it was fun
to see the other runners on that section but it held some nasty
mud holes, was not very attractive forest land, and just seemed
endless each time we ran it. One of the main reasons Jim dropped
down to the 50K was to avoid doing that out-and-back the third
Cody skirts one of many mud holes on the
long out-and-back section; photo by Jim on 3-5-09
Hammer Nutrition was one of the race sponsors, to our delight.
Jim used the Heed from aid stations as his primary energy drink
and carried a flask of Hammergel. He also got water, ice, soft
drinks, and some solid food along the way. Jim stayed pretty
much on top of his fluids and electrolytes all day, considering
the heat. He urinated regularly during the race and his feet and
hands were not swollen.
A couple miles before Aid Station #2
I prefer to use Perpetuem in a run this long so I don't need to
eat real food at aid stations (it has protein and fat, as well
as carbs). I mixed up my usual concentrated batch of Perp --
enough to last 7-8 hours -- and carried that in my hand-held
bottle. I had a bottle of water in my single fanny pack to wash
down the Perp. I emptied it between every aid station and kept
it as cold as possible. One aid station ran out of ice in the
heat of the afternoon, to my distress. Very conscious of the
heat, I also drank a cup of Heed and a cup of water every three
to five miles at the aid
Two views of the trail after AS2
My main mistake during the race was not carrying my own Hammergel in a
flask. I relied on gel from the aid stations but they ran out
and I couldn't get any for most of the second loop. I felt like
I had enough energy but I was hungry the last couple of hours. I
may also have taken in too few electrolytes. Even though I was
taking an average of two Succeed! caps per hour, I urinated only
once during the race (8½ hours) and
my hands were a little swollen at the end.
Stream between AS 2 and 3
I ran much of the first loop at a comfortable pace with
intermittent walking breaks. I figured I'd be lapped (looped?)
by both the faster 50-milers and the 20K runners. I was right!
My piddly 14:11 pace the first 16.7-mile loop made me a
target to be caught and passed by the speedsters coming up from
behind. That wasn't a problem on the double-track and road
sections the last few miles of the first loop, but on a couple
miles of single-track I was startled several times by runners
who failed to warn me they were right on my heels. If I know
someone faster is coming, I'll move over. I hate it when I'm not
given proper notice. (No, I never wear headphones and I'm not
More mud between AS 3 and 4; keep in mind
this was a dry year!
Jim ran fast enough his first loop (16.7 miles) that only
one or two of the 20K runners caught him. More of the 50-milers
lapped him on his second loop. He held a steady pace on both
loops in the 50K. Our second time around was only 15.2
miles because we could eliminate the
short out-and-back section
on FSR 234, but we still had to do the much-maligned 5+ mile
out-and-back on the red loop.
The official distance for the 50K
was 31.9 miles, which explains why some runners' times
look slow. Jim's Garmin Forerunner 305 registered a total of 32.1
Smooth, rolling double-track on the way to
After exceeding my goal pace the first loop I decided to walk
more the second (and shorter) loop. Although I was keeping up
with fluids and felt energetic, I had some trouble breathing in
the smoky air. Or maybe it was the pollen. I just know that I
was getting increasingly congested as the race wore on. Walking
helped with that problem.
I ran most of the last four miles,
however, when some ancient remnant of a competitive urge struck and I decided to pick
off some of the runners/walkers ahead of me. That was fun,
especially the ones I passed in the last mile! (Go ahead, call me a
One last burned area before the end of the
It was still good to see the finish line, though, and even
better to see Jim there. He finished almost an hour and a half
before I did: 7:02 hours to my 8:30 hours.
That gave him plenty of time to eat some post-race food (submarine
sandwiches), tend to Cody, socialize with other runners, and get
in position to take my picture as I came in to the finish:
Both of us were slower than we were at Sunmart in December but
this course is almost a mile longer and there were more
obstacles (mud, heat, smoke, uninspired terrain).
I'm happy with a time only four minutes slower than at Sunmart
because I've been resting more than running since the end of the
year. MS50 was a stretch for me, with no proper long runs in
preparation and all the allergy problems I had recently in
Texas. I finished fifth of six women in the F50-59 group. That
was my last race in that age category; I'll be 60 in
three weeks. I would have been second of three F60-69s if I'd
been born just a little earlier!
I think Jim's feeling some fatigue from all the miles and races
he's done in the last four months. He also had trouble "getting
into" this race mentally. Although he was
25-26 minutes slower than at Sunmart, he ended up placing well,
49th of 92 finishers in the 50K and
second of eight in the M60-69 age group.
Filthy -- and almost as fried as the
forest! (finish photos by Jim)
And here's a surprise: the first woman in the 50K race
over age 60, Janet Bodle, was faster (6:16) than the
first man (6:51) over 60! You go, girl!!
Janet is a force to be reckoned with. She's obviously out to set
records in her new age group, as evidenced by her outstanding
performance last October at Mountain Masochist, where she became
the first woman over 60 to ever finish that long-standing race
(and wasn't even recognized at the lengthy awards ceremony). You
can find lots of race results for Janet, a partly-retired family
practice physician from California, in an internet search. I'm
betting she'll set some records that will be difficult for other
women in their 60s to beat.
I don't believe there are age group awards or an awards ceremony
at MS50. The top runners in each race apparently receive their
trophies and finishers' jacket when they cross the finish line.
Check out the
results page, where you can see
how the runners did in all three races.
Jim and I received our finishers' awards (a butter-colored wind
shirt and a plexiglas "medal" on a ribbon, shown above) after we got done but
we had to remember to ask for them. I'm glad Jim was there to
remind me. All I wanted to do was eat some real food and get
cleaned up; my shoes and legs were a muddy mess. Dirty
Girl gaiters kept my ASO ankle supports, Injinji socks, and feet
fairly clean, though.
That's another distinct advantage to having a camper (or "mother
ship," as Mary Gorski calls big RVs) at
the finish ̶ we could
take our showers and eat dinner very soon after finishing the
race. Once we were clean and fed it was fun to sit outside the
camper and talk to other runners who were parked near us. We
went to bed fairly early and didn't hear a thing all night. This
time we could both wear earplugs to shut out the noise.
SUNDAY: AU REVOIR
TO OUR WINTER ESCAPE
Time "sprung forward" during the night, resulting in a loss of one
hour on our body clocks. We love Daylight Savings Time, though,
since we tend to sleep till 7 or 8 AM anyway. We'd rather have
the extra hour of light in the evening than the morning.
Heading eastbound toward Virginia resulted in a double whammy
today. We lost another hour going from the Central to Eastern
time zone. We weren't in any particular hurry to get home and
knew it'd take two days to comfortably drive about 760 miles. We
knocked out 488 of 'em today, stopping at another Sam's Club for
the night in eastern metro Knoxville, TN. We should be home by
Smooth sailing along a jeep road at MS 50
We had a beautiful day to drive, more like late spring than late
winter, temperature-wise. It was a balmy 64°
when we left the horse people to themselves at the Longleaf
campground south of Laurel, MS, and in the 70s all day.
watched in dismay, however, as we morphed back into more wintry
flora the farther north we drove. The redbuds were in full
bloom until we reached the Tuscaloosa, AL area. None were
blooming yet in Birmingham, and hardly any little green leaves
were out. We did see some daffodils, forsythia, crab apples, and
Bradford pears in bloom but it still looked more like winter
than spring in Tennessee. And we still had farther north to go
to reach Roanoke.
<sigh> We are already wishing we'd
procrastinated farther to the south for a longer period of time!
Next entry: what and where is "home?"
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the Ultra Lab
© 2009 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil