“Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly
Into the mystic” – Van Morrison
There’s something about this park, this event that brings me back every year. It’s become part of the magic of birthday week – to run for miles (& miles) in the deep mystical foggy quiet with only bullfrogs & birds & alligators for company.
I had trained differently for this one – a lot of strength training + swim workouts – in addition to the run miles, so I was interested to see how that worked. Having finished Cowtown 50K a month earlier feeling good, I set my sights on a new 50-mile PR finish time.
Even made my own “pace band” – noting time I would need to be at each mile to make a PR time. Covered the paper strip with tape (insta waterproof!) & fixed it around my wrist, like a bracelet. (Actually more like a cuff as I had to make 2 strips (50 is a lot of mile marks!) & my wrist is not that big.) Slept in that band the night before the race. (Yep, I was a little “focused”).
Checking & & getting set for start – temps in the still dark foggy light rain were hovering @ 75 with humidity at oh-god-please-kill-me-now levels, but forecast to drop with impending cold front.
Listened to RD Rob’s “Don’t be a Dumbass” talk (99% gator safety but applied to most everything) and we were off.
Into the mud! Preceding full day & night of rain had left big sections of trail covered in incredibly sticky shoe-sucking mud. Within minutes, my shoes had gained what felt like several pounds’ worth – I was running in Herman Munster shoes! Stopping to scrape it off didn’t really help as they just clogged up again. Whew! Strength training. Luckily, the 50-mile course is 3 loops of 16.68 miles, so when I came back through the start/finish, I changed into my road shoes – smaller treads = less space for mud to fill.
Out for second loop! and promised cold front moved in. Wind picked up with a bit of sideways rain. Temps dropped (and dropped! 25* in an hour). Less sticky humidity – so, yay! Checked my watch @ mile 30, saw I was 18 mins ahead of PR pace! Heard my magical friend FF’s voice in my head saying, “Go! Go! Go!” and I could hear the smile in it. I laughed & thanked him out loud – and hauled ass.
(He later told me he always keeps a candle burning for me on race days, whispering encouragement into the flames. I love and appreciate that connection so very much.)
Quick transition after lap #2 – volunteer asked me 3 times if I was cold, if I wanted a jacket? My response? “I get to have a jacket when I’m done!” (Sometimes I’m a little mean to me.)
3rd loop was the celebration! – solidly ahead of PR time, running steadily. Out around the lakes, left over the bridge, around the cones, dog leg right around the park, then up over the road, past the blow-up alligator (!), out to the aid station & back.
Then run it in. (My watch quit in the final 2 miles — so all I could do was run as hard as I could for the finish.)
And that finish time? was a new PR by a full 32 minutes!
I finished happy, strong, uninjured — celebrating being alive & in that place. A new 50-mile PR. And being 58 years old.
What Went Well – pretty much everything
- Nike running skirt & tank – comfortable, no issues
- Houdini jacket – carried, didn’t use til I finished! But super lightweight, tucked easily in Salomon pack
- Taping – with RockTape. Still some issues with right quad/calf due to prev dog bite injury, but tape kept muscles & tendons warm & I was fine.
- Electronics — Garmin died @ 48 miles, but I was close enough to finish. Brought 2 pairs of earbuds for music.
- Shoes – Altra Lone Peak for 1st loop, switched to Altra Paradigm after — which worked beautifully
- Nutrition – Shot Blocs, drink mix, couple squares of PB &J and some grilled cheese
- Salomon vest with water bottles
- Aidan’s talismans – the ones that got me across the Sahara and Iceland. They are well worn and much loved.
- Trail Toes lube – water, mud, 50 miles of running and I had zero blisters. Zero.
- Strength training + swim workouts – added to my run training, has made a huge difference in overall strength which was super helpful in late stages of the race
- Pace band – so I didn’t have to do race math in my head (which never, ever works! when I get tired & low on calories)
Not So Well
- Trail shoes – picked up a ton of sticky/grassy mud in the treads