50 Miler Training, Running, Trail Running, Ultra Training, ultra running
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Mississippi 50(k) Race Recap

Well, I survived 31 miles of the Mississippi 50!

I don’t know why I’m having such a hard time sitting down long enough and focusing for more than 30 seconds to write this recap. Hell, I drafted half of it in my head while I was running the race! But people keep asking how it went (you guys care!), so I need to buckle down and just blurt it all out. So to appease my apparent ADD mind, this recap will be broken up into two parts—the actual recap and lessons learned.

For those of you who are too busy (or don’t actually care) to read the entire recap, here it is in one quick sentence: Woke up, hurt to walk, ran anyway, run turned into excruciating limp, crossed the 50K finish line in 7:08, had a blast, sad I don’t have a buckle. Boom.

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A medal is almost as good as a buckle, and much better than a DNS

Now for the long-winded version—get your coffee ready:

Despite my hip/groin pain and the nagging voice in the back of my head telling me that I couldn’t possibly run 50 miles, I was super excited for the race. Becca, Greg, Ryan, and I piled into my Roller Skate (Rav4) on Friday afternoon and spent three hours listening to music, laughing, and wondering if my car would fall apart. I heart road trips. Highlights:

Running into packet pickup only to discover we were standing in a shady used car dealership

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The smiles of people who are up to no good

Eating my weight in fried rice at dinner

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Who knew that Laurel, MS would have some delicious Japanese food?

Learning how to KT tape my nether region

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There’s a first time for everything

Fawning over former Miss Mississippi winners

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What’s the polar opposite of a beauty queen? A trail runner.

After a restless night of almost no sleep, I stood up out of bed, felt a shot of pain go through my hip, and thought, “well fuck.” I spent the next hour pacing the bathroom and obnoxiously texting everyone who was racing that morning—”I can’t eat.” “I didn’t sleep.” “I can’t go to the bathroom.” “Do you have an extra handheld?” “I’m scared, I need a hug.” Y’all. I was a hot mess.

The 50K and 50-mile races started at 6 a.m., so those of us running longer all drove together and let the others sleep peacefully for a few more hours. After setting up drop bags and taking the obligatory “before” shots, the race started. All of the Bham runners stuck together for the first mile or so—it felt like we were back home on a training run. Comforting. Piece of cake.

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BUTS in MS

Then the group started to pull ahead, and I settled into my slow limp/run and mentally prepared to spend the day rocking out to music and meeting new friends. But my running buddy Greg was using the 50 as a training run for the Lake Martin 100 at the end of the month, so he decided to hang back and run with me. Bless his heart (genuinely!)—he knew he would have hours of slow, miserable, cranky Tanya to deal with, and he did it anyway. And we had fun.

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Or not.

The 50-miler had three long loops (12 miles) and two short loops (6 miles). The course was soft and flat—as promised—and was covered in deep mud puddles and creek crossings—as expected. I like mud as much as a little teacup pig, but these puddles were more like small lakes and could have swallowed a toddler. It was near impossible to get your footing, and by the second loop it was easier to plow through the puddles instead of trying to skirt them and falling in anyway (not that I speak from experience or anything…). Except for the silt in your shoes and never having dry feet (my Cascadias did drain well though), it was great—trail runs are supposed to be dirty! And the creek crossings with freezing water did wonders for my aching hip.

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This is fellow Resolute Runner Carrie’s “this is a swimming pool, not a trail” face.

It’s still funny to me what my stomach will tolerate during any given ultra. My go-to foods are usually chips, M&Ms, and Coke, with an occasional Gu thrown in for extra energy. My drug of choice on Saturday was Doritos—I couldn’t get enough of that shit. The aid stations were close together and well-stocked, so I only carried one handheld during the race. One aid station was even decorated like a redneck truck stop, which was so gloriously Mississippi that it was one of my favorite parts of the race.

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Care for some Marlboros and beer?
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Or possum?

The first loop was tolerable pain-wise. Don’t get me wrong—every single step hurt, but it was a manageable pain for a while. Sunrise in the forest was gorgeous, and it was still early enough in the day where it wasn’t too warm. Around mile 8 there was an out-and-back section on a hard-packed fire road, and that was where I had my first breakdown mentally. I loved seeing my friends again and there were signs with useless fun facts to distract runners from the suck, but that road hurt like a motherfucker. I was ready to sit down and call it a day right then and there had we not been 1.9 miles from the Start/Finish aid station.

I’m not sure what made me start the second loop after mentally bonking, other than the fact that I wasn’t crawling (yet), and was stubborn and unwilling to let go of the 50 that easily. By that point our friend Olivia had caught up to us and  made it in and out of the aid station like a ninja—I need to learn how to do that! I took a NASID (I know, I know), ate a Gu and Doritos, and off we went for 12 more miles of fun.

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Assessing our nasty feet

I was flying high once the food and meds kicked in! I felt more energized, my limp was less pronounced, and I even managed to pee without squatting on a thorn bush or anyone seeing me (I hope). The 20K race had started at 8 a.m., so I got to see the rest of my friends out on the course, which is always a good morale booster. And then we reached the out-and-back section again. And it hurt, again. I don’t remember anything other than walking, complaining, and apologizing a million times. Oops.

At that point I had 1.9 miles to make my decision to start a third loop or officially drop down to the 50K. Even though I knew I had slowed significantly (the second loop was half an hour slower than the first) and was hurting badly, I kept wondering if I could put on my big girl panties, suck it up, and finish the race. I know it’s wrong, but I felt like I was giving up too soon and was weak by stopping. I’m pretty sure I talked over my decision out loud for everyone around me to hear—I bet the other runners wanted me to drop just so that I’d shut my trap.

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In comparison, the first loop took about 2.5 hours

I also think that Greg knew long before I did that I needed to stop, but to his credit he didn’t say a word and let me come to the decision myself. I tripped over a boulder (or maybe a rock, or more likely my own two feet) and while I didn’t fall, I overstretched my hip in the process. Holy shit did that hurt—it took every ounce of strength to not fall down and ugly cry, and that’s when I finally gave up.

Back at the Start/Finish aid station, I got a hug from Becca and tried and failed to change shoes and socks. Like, I touched one shoelace and gave up. I can’t even remember if I ate or drank.

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Becca is 25 weeks pregnant and her baby has run more races than I have – badass mom right here!

I had seven hours to run/walk/crawl six miles to officially finish the 50K, and despite me looking more like Quasimodo than a runner, I would be damned if I didn’t at least have a 5 and a 0 in my official finish. So I said goodbye to Greg and my shot at a 50 and turned onto the short loop.

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Literal fork in the road where I had to make my decision

Here I broke all sorts of trail runner etiquette and talked to the hubs, my parents, my sis, and my trail friend Dan to tell them that I was alive, but dropping down. To be fair, there were no other runners anywhere near me, and I was lonely and trying desperately to keep myself together. It happens. Looking back, the final six miles went by quickly despite the death march. I tried out a “run one song, walk one song” system, but that soon turned into “run the chorus!” and then “run one line!” and eventually I just said fuck it. I did run the last half mile to the finish line though and the race photog captured just how awesome I felt.

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This is my new winner for worst finish photo

I finished the 50K and spent the rest of the afternoon with my friends who had run the 20K and 50K crewing our Bham runners and cheering everyone on. It was the first trail race for most of these ladies, and they killed it! Kelly got second female in the 50K, and Lara got third female in the 20K. Birmingham must have an extra dose of crazy in the water supply—we breed some badass trail runners!

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Resolute Runners celebrating an awesome day on the trails

I know I’ve said it before, but I love the ultra atmosphere. There is nothing like standing at the finish line of an ultra with some new friends watching runners finish a ridiculously long race. The emotions on their faces were enough to make me choke up over and over again. And all of our runners did great—Lisa, Coach Alex, and Ryan all finished their first 50, and Greg finished without even looking winded.

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Lisa and Alex crossing the finish line

Since last week I hobbled around some, partly from the hip pain and partly from normal ultra soreness. I hurt a lot less than I did after the Mercedes Marathon and I can walk again without pain shooting down my leg. I’m taking those all as good signs. My plan is to not run for another week, cross train and stretch a lot, and reevaluate from there.

So if you’re still reading, thank you to everyone for your well-wishes and kind words, and come back tomorrow to see what this crazy experience taught me.

More shots:

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The hubs showing his support from home
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Hooray for beautiful sunsets
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One of the shallow puddles
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Don’t let the pine straw fool you – those puddles were deep enough to suck your shoe right off
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A sight for sore eyes
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Ryan hamming it up at mile 44
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All smiles now that his babysitting duties were over
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My attempt at cheesing for the finish photo

14 Comments

  • Karri

    Proud of you, Tanya! Most people would have quit before even starting. You deserve a cape, not a buckle for doing what you did.

    • Tanya

      Thank you, Karri! I would TOTALLY wear a cape! I would probably get it caught on a tree and accidentally choke myself, but I’d still give it a try.

  • Rachel @ Running Backwards in High Heels

    I am so proud of you for even making it to the start line.. that takes guts and probably a LOT of stubbornness. Qualities I like in a friend. 🙂 You’ll get a buckle, this just wasn’t your time. We want to see you healthy and ALL SMILES when you cross that finish line for it. Take of you… you’re the only Tanya we’ve got!! P.S… I’m trying the trails this weekend. Just for you!

    • Tanya

      Aw, you’re making me blush Rachel! Thank you, you’re absolutely right. My next 50 attempt will have the BEST finish photo ever! And I can’t wait to hear about your trail run – take lots of photos and blog about it 🙂

  • Courtney @ Don't Blink. Just Run.

    Ugh that sounds agonizing! I can’t even believe you did as much as you did when you woke up with it hurting like that. I like your perspective on “shallow” puddles that come up over your ankle. You’re a special kind of crazy! 😉

    You’re amazing – 50K *or* 50M – it’s just a letter. A letter that doesn’t spell DNS.

    • Tanya

      It was tough Courtney, but I figured the other option of not running at all would have hurt (my pride) a lot more! And I LOVE this – “50K *or* 50M – it’s just a letter. A letter that doesn’t spell DNS.” I’m stealing it for tomorrow’s post. You have the right perspective, and I need to remember this!

  • Al DiMicco

    Holy crap Tanya! You’ve got nuts& guts girl! That is amazing that you hung in there to even start this thing. Good thing I wasn’t with you ’cause I would have been the angel on your shoulder that tried it’s hardest to talk you out of it. I just don’t understand stand how the hell you managed 31 miles on a gimpy wheel. Yep, you didn’t get a buckle, but you get the Nuts & Guts award. See you soon.

    • Tanya

      Nuts & Guts? Al, are you trying to kick me out of BUTS? To say, Nashville or GA? 😉

      I think you would have been there right alongside me going, “we can do this!” You inspire me with every race that you run, and I’m pretty sure that you’ve probably run a few yourself with a gimpy wheel…

      Great seeing you off the trails last night!

  • Yo Momma Runs

    Girl, I still can’t believe you made it 50K with tape on your business.:) Seriously, you have definitely shown that you are tougher than 50 miles. Now all you need is some down time to recover, and you’ll be back to show 50 miles who’s boss. Or maybe just jump up to the 100 mile for fun.

    And can I steal that finish line picture you took of me and Alex. I kind of (ok, all the way) cried when I saw it.

  • Emily Roberson McCoy

    Hell YEAH 31 miles is bad ass! Tanya, you are amazingly resilient, and that is truly something to be admired.

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