I left Columbia around noon on Friday with Jeff and we arrived about 3 pm at the Berryman Campground. There were no empty camping spots to park his truck/camper so we asked a guy if we could park in his campsite. He was hiking and didn’t mind. We then picked up our race packets and Jeff took a nap. While he was napping, the guy that let us park told me he was leaving since he didn’t realize there was a race going on and didn’t want to deal with all the people on the trails on Saturday.
Jeff cooked steak and a potato for his dinner and I had a whole Roly Poly Basil Cashew Chicken. About 9 pm the wind picked up so we put everything inside and went to bed. Then it started to rain and rained 4 solid hours, stopped, and rained off and on the rest of the night.
We got up at 5 am and it wasn’t raining. We had heard the day before there were many trees down on the trail due to a storm a week earlier. We could see where trees in the campground had been cleaned up. The trees on the trail were not cleared and we would have to go over, under, or around them. I figured with the mud and trees that I would need to revise my goal. I had hoped to come in under 8 hours, but was thinking if I could come in under 9 as last year that would be reasonable due to the conditions.
We were off running at 6:30 am. I started out slow and ran first mile in 9-something. GPS was not accurate (about 6% off) on this trail but did give me an idea. A guy named Dan was running behind me and it was his first 50 miler. He said he wanted to run around 8 hours. After a few miles, he told me he was going to slow down the pace and I went ahead.
From this point on, I mostly ran on my own passing back and forth a few people. I had to stop at about 8 miles, find some nice wet leaves, and go to the bathroom. No one passed me during this stop. I stopped at every other aid station to refill my bottle and eat about ¼ of a peanut butter and jelly. I probably should have been eating more, but didn’t feel like it and hated wasting time at aid stations.
I heard music behind me and there were a couple guys running with hydration packs and playing soft music. I would pass them back and forth several times. I ended up passing 3 people before the end of the first loop. Pat P. was running the marathon and we ran near each other for awhile and then he went ahead and ended up finishing 3rd. The last third of the loop had the most downed trees which really slowed me down. I came in about 2 minutes behind Pat at the end of my first loop in 4:08, 23 min slower than last year’s first loop.
I decided that I would not change my shoes. There was so much water and mud on the trail, it didn’t make a lot of sense since they would get muddy within the first mile of the second loop. My feet felt okay other than they were wet. I could feel the Body Glide on them so figured they would be okay for another loop. I had scraped my back under one of the trees and had that cleaned up and drank an Amp before starting the second loop.
I felt okay, and happy to be starting the second loop, but this feeling didn’t last long. The mud on the second loop seemed so much worse and was bringing me down. In some places I decided to walk through the mud rather than running it. I really had a bad attitude about the mud and was not enjoying it. I took the pace easy and did not push it. I was concerned I was taking it too easy but just could not motivate myself to go harder.
At about 7.5 hours, my GPS has 0% power so I shut it off. It continued to show the time for the rest of the race so I had some idea how long, but may have been better off not knowing. I was ready for this to be over and figured at the pace I was going I had another 2 hours. I was fed up with the mud. I decided if I ever did this trail race again, I would run the marathon. One loop in the mud was doable but 2 loops is too much knowing what is coming in the second loop. Of course there is no guarantee what the trail will be like on race day and this year we were just unlucky. I questioned why I put myself through this and whether I should do another 50 miler ever again. I was thinking how ridiculous that I thought I could run 100 miles later this year. I had a very poor attitude, but kept moving and trying to run.
I was getting passed by other runners and ended up getting passed by 6 runners. I kept hoping that maybe I could run with one of them since I really needed someone but figured if they were passing me, then they were feeling better. I was able to pick up the pace when the 6th guy passed me and stayed with him for a few miles and then he went ahead. A few minutes later, I felt like something magical happened and suddenly I was able to run faster again and felt good. I caught up to him at the next aid station with a little over 5 miles to go. He took off with a girl not running the race and she paced him to the end.
I could see them for awhile, but eventually they went ahead. I decided to just make it to the next aid station and hoped no one would pass me. The last aid station was 2.3 miles before the finish. I figured I could run that section in at least 30 minutes and possibly finish around 9:15. I hadn’t considered all the downed trees that would slow me down again, but with my slightly faster pace maybe it was possible.
I kept pushing on and made it through the mess of trees and mud to the finish in 9:15:36 without being passed again. I was glad to be done and not hurt. This would have been a good day to do only one loop and I would have been happy and placed well. The second loop was frustrating, not being able to keep my pace and getting passed by so many people. The times were slower this year but I felt like I was struggling more than most. I was not having a good day.
I was able to eat right away and the solid food was really good after drinking Accelerade and eating 9 gels. I have decided I need to find something other than Accelerade to drink since it is not working for me. It made me feel bloated a good portion of the race and my stomach did not feel good. Thankfully, I had run out of it with about 14 miles to go and started drinking Gatorade and things returned to normal.
There were 70 people signed up for the 50 miler but am not sure how many started. I placed 12th overall which was disappointing to me. Jeff finished 11:02, 43 minutes faster than last year and also ran negative splits on the loops. I was just amazed at how much he improved with the conditions. Dan, the guy I ran with at the beginning and wanted to run 8 hrs finished about half hour after Jeff so unfortunately he was probably having a much worse day than me.
After a decent night’s sleep, I was ready to start thinking about attempting a sub-8 hr 50 mile next year and again considering the 100 mile trail race in November. I am glad this one is over and I guess what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. My plan is to take it easy for about 3 weeks and then figure out what I want to do next.