You know how when you were a kid, you'd be super excited about Christmas and then be disappointed because you got clothes & underwear? Yeah, that didn't happen on my trip to Tennessee. It was the best trip ever! Even with the mud and the rain...maybe because of it actually...the Jackson Jackass 50K was a wild, fun ride.
I flew to Tennessee on Thursday so I could have a nice easy day on Friday. The flights went well and I arrived in Memphis about 2:30. I drove downtown to check out Beale St. for a while and then drove to Jackson.
On Friday, I decided to check out the trail for Saturday. I probably shouldn't have but I was a little nervous about it. I didn't run the whole thing and that was probably a good thing because if I'd known what was waiting for me, I would have really freaked out! When I was done, I had a message from Joshua (@bayou) and I met him and Jonathan (@JonathanBobbitt) for lunch at Jimmy Johns. It was a fun lunch. Those two crack me up and it was great to finally meet Jonathan.
After lunch, I went to the store to get supplies for my drop bag and then went back to the hotel to put my feet up until dinner. Just before 5:30, I walked over to meet Dallas (@smithbend) at the old Country Store where we were meeting the others for dinner. We had hot chocolate in the Ice Cream Shoppe while we talked and he signed one of his books I'd brought with me. Pretty soon the other started showing up and what do you know...I was the only woman! Me and 9 Southern Gentlemen. I may have been a little quiet because I was enjoying listening to them talk. I love southern accents. Sigh. ;) But seriously, everyone was very nice and the food was delicious. I ate too much but couldn't help it! It was the best pre-race dinner I've ever had. Good food, good company, lots of running talk...what more could a runner girl ask for?
When I got back to the hotel, I put my feet up again and went to bed about 11, I think. I woke up the next morning to the sound of pouring rain. Good thing too because I forgot to set the alarm! Doh! Ate breakfast, finished packing my drop bag, got dressed, and headed to the race. I met Dallas and Emily (@trailjunke) in the parking lot and we walked over to the start. I met all the others I hadn't met which was fun and so cool to finally put real faces to all te twitter names I've been following.
It was still raining a little bit but it wasn't cold. We gathered at the start and Naresh sent us off into the wilds of Jackson. ;) OK, not really but it certainly felt like it. Yes, I was scared. I run trails at home a lot. Single track, hills, rocks. But not mud. I thought I had hidden my fear but Josh told me later he saw it on my face. It wasn't that I didn't think I could do the distance. I just didn't know if I could handle what the day had in store for me. So I let everyone go in front of me so I wouldn't slow anyone down. I found Josh waiting for me at two points on the course to give me advice and I was really thankful for that. Other than that, I was on my own most of the time.
The first lap was the hardest. I fell twice in the mud and I was really, really frustrated with how slow I was and how terrible I was doing with the mud. I'd tried to catch myself both times with my right arm and my shoulder was not a happy camper. It still wasn't 100% from whatever I did a couple of weeks ago and didn't even like carrying my bottle in that hand. But it wasn't a game changer. Just one more thing I was frustrated with. I would like to apologize for the 2 times I jerked it hard and let out a bad word or three! Anyway... I finally gave myself a firm taking to and told myself to get over the pity party. To stop thinking about it and just do it and concentrate on getting the current lap done.
I was feeling good in the beginning. Legs felt good. I felt good. When I got thru the first loop, I felt better. There wasn't anything I couldn't handle as long as I paid attention. The second loop was pretty uneventful. Two more falls, more slides really, and I was still worried about my overall time (didn't want the guys to have to wait around for me) but I just kept moving.
However, the third loop was miserable. Right as I left the aid station, my stomach went wonky. I figured it would get better but I stopped eating and drinking to give it a chance to settle. I thought I might throw up a couple times and maybe it would have helped if I did, but no. When I got back to the aid station, I didn't know what to do as far as food/drink goes. I didn't want to give up my gu brew yet so didn't get any water. Naresh (@iamarunr) talked me into some pretzels and I grabbed a handful and left for loop 4. About half way through that loop, my stomach felt normal and then it was never an issue again. I think I fell once on loop 3 and once on loop 4 so my average was going down! Woo! Things were looking up!
I realized while I was into loop 4 that I was half way thru the race but at no time did I ever think of the race in terms of miles. I didn't wear my Garmin so had no idea what mile I was on ever. I'm kind of glad. Anyway, I was getting passed by the fast guys and Emily and I would move off to the side and watch them go by marveling at how fast and strong they were running. That was a very cool aspect of a loop course. Usually fast runners are way out in front and you never see them. But this course gave me that chance and they all had encouraging words for me which helped a lot. In fact, I got way more encouragement out there than I gave. I would see glimpses of other runners but without my glasses, I couldn't always tell for sure who they were unless I remembered what they were wearing. I enjoyed my brief moments with Jeff, Jonathan, Emily, Dallas, and Josh. Emily made sure to remind me that she'd brought potatoes, pretzels, & pb&js and that might help my stomach. Dallas ran with me for a while on one of my laps and that was very cool.
I tried to finish my gu brew before I got back to the aid station so I could switch to my water bottle. I realized that I'd only had 20 oz of liquid in more than 4 1/2 hours and that probably wasn't a good thing! On the next pass thru, I did grab my bottle with water and some potatoes w/salt and some peanut butter crackers I'd brought. Laps 5 & 6 went well. They passed in kind of a blur. I'd learned where my bad patches were so I could avoid falling again. In fact, I have to say I really enjoyed those laps. I'm not sure why but when I was in the "lost" section, I found myself singing as I ran. I don't think anyone was around to hear me, but if you heard a coyote howling...that was me. ;) I couldn't remember many songs though so went to some old faves: Amazing Grace, You Are My Sunshine, The Jello commercial jingle (watch it wiggle, see it jiggle...), and an old lullaby my aunt used to sing to me. Strange choices, I know, but they made me smile.
After one of these laps, I remember being super, super thirsty and Naresh filled my bottle, waited for me to drink it, then filled it again. He talked me into more food and I took some pb&j and some potato. Heading out to the last lap, Josh gave me some Aleve. My shoulder was killing me. I'd tried not to use that arm at all but had to at the rope section and a couple of other muddy hills and had used it to stop a couple of slides. But my poor left arm did most of the work that day. The Aleve helped a lot.
Finally, finally, finally...I was on my last lap! I kept thinking as I passed through some of the muddy sections "yay, I don't have to do that again!" I was going along pretty well and then BAM! Caught my foot on a root and went down onto my left side! Thank god. I landed on my knee and shoulder but the nice thing about the trail was that it was nice and soft from all the mud. Picked myself up, dug my bottle out of the mud, cleaned it off with a leaf, and went on my way. I didn't sing on that lap really. Just a little Amazing Grace. Figured I could use all the help I could get. ;)
And then I saw heaven. As you got near to the aid station, you could glimpse the blue tarp there thru the trees. And then the guys would start shouting encouragement and it would make me so happy to hear them and know I was close that I'd pick it up a little. I never saw them at that point but it was comforting to know they were there. Then I'd turn the corner and usually see Naresh waiting for me. But this time was different! You see, when you finished the 7th loop, you had one more mini loop of less than a mile to do. When i finished loop 7, Josh and Naresh were waiting for me. I didn't stop and then surprise! Josh joined me for my last loop! He told me to do whatever, he was just going to keep me company. And then we heard someone behind us and it was Naresh! He joined me for my last loop too! I cannot even begin to tell you how much it meant to me to have them with me for that last loop. The two of them have inspired me no end and not just because they are two of the toughest ultrarunners I know but because they are two of the nicest, most generous men I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Perfect example...Josh had a cracked rib and Naresh had hurt his knee. Neither of them should have been running but they ran with me to celebrate my finish. :) That is what I'm talking about when I say they are generous. I would have cried they made me so happy but there's no crying in ultrarunning. :)
So...we turned that last corner and I was done! Josh gave me my medal and we took some pictures and it was the most fun and satisfying finish of all my races. My second ultra and my first 50k. Woo! Josh had asked me while we were running if this had been harder than the 12 HR I did and I said yes. It was much more difficult and challenging and intense. But also a lot more fun to run with so many people I'd gotten to know. And the challenge made the finish that much more satisfying! I did it!
I was the last one to finish so when I was done we cleaned up the area and went back to the cars. We made plans to eat together after and decided on Coyote Blues. Ha! Loved that! I'd told them I was dreaming of burritos that last lap and Coyote Blues was a Cajun Mex restaurant. I went back to the hotel and took the fastest shower of my life! And one of the messiest. Mud everywhere! But I was hungry! Coyote Blues was a lot of fun. I had some crab enchiladas and they were delicious. And then I had dessert. Oh yeah! Raspberry cheesecake. I can't even remember the last time I had cheesecake. It was all good. The conversations were the best though. I had a great time hearing about the adventure of the others. Then dinner was over and I went back to the hotel and made like a spud. I was wiped! I didn't feel too bad though. I had some scratches from sliding into trees, raw spots where, my belt rubbed, and an achy shoulder/arm but otherwise I was good. Not even any blisters which I thought for sure I had (it must have been the mud that saved me - like a spa mud treatment for my feet because they sure were soft after! Ha!).
A Big Thank You
I cannot end this post without saying thank you to these people:
Josh - Thank you for inviting me and believing in me. For all the work you put into the race and for being a great host. For seeing my fear and being encouraging. And especially for running with me at the end,
Naresh - Thank you for being Race Director, crew, and course photographer! I know you must have been disappointed that you couldn't run but you always had a huge smile and tons of encouragement & advice. And thank you for running with me so I could see the Bedrock sandals at work!
Jeff - Thank you for the work you also put into the race and on the trail and for your encouragement while I ran!
Jonathan - Thank you for giving us all a reason to run together and get cool bling. I really appreciated your encouragement out there too. And not once did I curse your name. ;)
Dallas - Thank you for inspiring me and for coming all that way to run with us even though you don't do trails. For pacing me and encouraging me. For signing my book, for our Hot Chocolate "date", and for buying me dinner.
Emily - Thank you for bringing real food! Potatoes are my favorite ultra food! And thanks for your encouragement as well.
I am grateful that Josh, Jeff, Dallas, Chris, and Naresh waited SO long for me to finish and made me feel like a rock star at the end. I'm so grateful I finished. And I'm grateful I didn't see any bears or bobcats, just a squirrel. Squirrel!
Wait, where was I? Oh yeah. Most of all, I'm grateful I had the opportunity to visit a great state and meet some awesome runners!
I have to say that for a first 50k, the Jackson Jackass 50k was a pretty epic one! Did I mention I love the medal? Sweet bling!
Well, that's it for today. Thanks for reading!