Carl Touchstone Trail 50M, Laurel, Mississippi 2,3

Elevation Range: 215' - 359'       Elevation Gain:  2181'        RESULTS
March 1, 2014 - Making tracks on a snowy cold wintery morning has always held great
appeal for me.  Since moving south I can say I do miss it, but as for racing there is
nothing more appealing than warm sunshine and dry weather.  While Mississippi
has no guarantees this time of year, it was a good bet for a great outing... and I
would not be disappointed this year.  Temperatures ranged from a comfortable 48
at sunrise to 64 when the sun went down, climbing well into the 70's when the sun
was at its highest.  That's what I came here for.

Nonetheless, the warm day spoiled the effort of about a third of the field that chose
to drop down to the optional 50K distance when things got hot.  The only spoiler for 
me was the mud, but hey, you don't come to old Miss and not expect mud.  Despite
a reasonably dry week before the event, the mud was pervasive with multiple
stream crossings on each loop.  Given that I had sustained pes anserine tendonitis
while negotiating the mud three weeks before at Delirium in South Carolina, and was
still not back to racing health, I knew it was going to be problematic at the outset.
Using kinesio tape to support my knee tendons and an extreme bit of caution I
engaged the race knowing it would be a compromised effort, but I was still going
to have fun.


The Mississippi 50M had been an item on my bucket list for quite some time, so I
was thrilled to be here.  It is a classic with super organization and nice swag.  Since
I finally got to toe the line on such a beautiful day, I wasn't going to let some
innocuous injury sideline me, and decided at the outset to pamper my injury and sit
back on my heels for however long it took.  Maybe it is an aging thing, but there
is just not that much pressure any more (mostly internal) to perform up to the 
level I am capable of.  With so much racing I can afford to save that for those
special days when everything works perfectly.

The course is run through the De Soto National Forest about a half hour south of the
town of Laurel, covering three loops of 12.5 miles and two loops of 6.1 miles on the
Long Leaf Trail, each time winding back past the start/finish with access to my 
"stuff".  The mostly flat trail on long leaf pine needles undulates mildly to cross
various stream basins; despite being mostly a double track trail one finds oneself
constantly running around big mud holes taking up the entire trail.  Sometimes you
could get around them with minimal negotiation with the mud, sometimes you had
to go into the weeds and briars, and sometimes you just plowed straight through.  I
would not have minded running straight through all of them, except you are never
sure of the depth of the water, the suck factor on the bottom, and just how
squirrely the bottom would be.  I don't mind getting a shoe sucked off, but not under
eighteen inches of muddy water.  I could see that one could conceivably actually
not be able to locate a shoe in the mud, given the right circumstances.  I chose to
walk around every one that I could to reduce the lateral stress on my pes anserine
as much as possible.  If I was going to run injured, I had to make accomodation.

So I found myself mostly lolly-gagging along the course from the beginning.
Nonetheless, I rounded the first loop in 2:19, a pretty good time at better than
five miles per hour.  It didn't feel like I was racing, given my deliberate pacing.
My knee was tender from the beginning, but I was not going to let it be an excuse.
On top of that I had torn a calf muscle on the same leg the Tuesday before when
I tripped over a nasty root at home.  Three days was not enough time to heal it,
so it hurt with every step as well.  Add to that the start of a sinus infection, I should
have been having a bad day, but I was enjoing my all day run in the sun.

Temps got warm quickly, so I stripped down to basics by 8:30, and was strangely
having leg cramps already, despite loading up on electrolytes.  I had been reading
about this recently, so just took more, and then more again any time I felt cramps
coming on.  Both hamstrings were tending to cramp badly, which was concerning
so early in an all-day event.  Apparently it was warmer than my body was ready for
and the sweat was cleaning me out.  The heat impacted most people apparently,
with so many cutting out of the 50-miler.  I was bound and determined to go the
distance, no matter what, but was not going to be in a rush about it.  Afterall,
I had a right to go slower - this was my third 50-mile run in the past four weeks.
A body has a right to be tired, I guess.

I found myself still managing better than a 5 mph pace at the half way point at under
five hours.  All things considered, I felt good about it, but by 11 a.m. it was getting
noticeably warm, and my tempo was seriously dropping back.  It was interesting how
tired I was becoming by using my left leg more to compensate for my injured right
leg.  Somewhat hobbling through the woods all day was exhausting and I found
myself seriously wanting to fall asleep while running.  I've run all night and never felt
like that before.  So, I started drinking Coke at the aid stations, which seemed to 
keep my eyes open for the rest of the effort.

For some of the second loop I enjoyed the company of a young woman from Kenya;
Dorothy Cheruiyot was engaging and kept my mind off the mental ennui of doing
another loopy course.  I hated to see her fly away from me finally, but was starting
to slow and didn't want to hold her back.  The results showed that she dropped
down to 50K, probably for the heat, and didn't go sub-ten on the 50M as she was
aiming for.  I hope to share the trail with her again.

The second half was slower, but I hung on and didn't walk much, proceeding at my
all-day shuffle rate.  Mixing it up with the other runners kept it light.  I thoroughly
enjoy the camderaderie at these things, and will be hard pressed to give it up
someday - because of the people.  Lots of first-timers on the 50M; it was great
to share their emotion.  But I can see the end approaching, for me.  It just needs
managed to get the most out of it.  I'm not quite down to the worm in the bottle,
but the chips and salsa are running out, and I'm not sure where or if I can get more.

I am treading a very fine line this year.  For the first time ever I expect to cover
more miles racing than training.  I'm not sure that going into each race under-
trained is such a good idea.  Fred Davis seems to be getting away with it, but a
price must be paid in one way or another.  For me, like Fred, I expect I am going to
have to be satisfied with slower finish times.  Training is necessary to keep the
legs prepared for higher tempo running.  Without enough of it I am related to
slowing sooner, then counting more on my mental toughness to go the distance.
The key is going to be staying injury free, which I am trying to manage.  With over
three ultras a month scheduled over the next six months, it will be incumbent on me
to constantly be managing all aspects of my life for optimization.  There is no room
whatsoever for waste or overindulgence or I risk crashing and not being able to
meet my objectives in even a compromised fashion.  Time to get serious.

I finished my Mississippi 50 in under 11 and a half hours and was satisfied to collect
the buckle at the end of the day.  I'm getting enough buckles; if I keep at this for
much longer I hope they start giving away suspenders, as I might find those more
useful at this point in life.  Without much cleanup or rest I started the 11 hour 
drive home.  After arriving safely and a good power sleep on Sunday, I can assess
the damage.  The tendons are still sore, but racing on them doesn't seem to have 
slowed the healing process by much.  Will take some time off and keep the pes
taped.  With four ultras before Easter and two trips to PA and FL it is time to go into
super time management mode before the real races start in April.  At least I am
past all the sandy southern loopy races.  Winter running in the south has its
advantages, but I really miss the rocks and going vertical on hills you can't see over.
No more loops and no more sugar sand for a long while.  Looks like an exciting year 
ahead, and I aim to enjoy the ride.