Thursday, December 1, 2016

Big Butts Make the World Go 'Round

I only have myself to blame. 

"Never say never. Nothing is impossible..."

I had always viewed ultras as the one thing I would never do. I like long distance, but running one step beyond 26.2 miles? Nope.

However, after Christy and I had a delightful time strolling through the woods at the MS50 20k, and the Big Butts 100k advertised a 2-person relay option where each would run "only" 50k in increments of the team's choosing, I thought, "What the heck." As a team, we could alternate running the 10ish-mile loops (three times for each). And, for some reason, that just sounded so much more doable than running 50k consecutively.

One of the hallmarks of the Big Butts race is the
enormous pair of tighty whities in the swag bag.

So, I said to Christy, "Let's do it!" And she agreed.

Because training for a 50k during a Mississippi summer always sounds like a good idea.

By the time race day arrived, the venue had moved from the Butts Park mountain bike trails and the Choctaw cross-country course to the asphalt and sidewalks of the city of Jackson. The forecast had been for thunderstorms and somewhat cooler weather (and by "cooler," I mean low 90s), but the day dawned bright and sunny and temps at the 8:00 a.m. start were already in the 80s. 

After a fierce game of "rock-paper-scissors," I drew the first lap, and set off at the back of the pack, committed to sticking to my plan, knowing it was the only way I would finish. The plan was simple, born out of trying to train on hot, humid afternoons: run very slowly for 5 minutes, walk for 1 minute. I carried Skratch in my water bottle that I sipped continuously and ate a gel about every 20 minutes. There was a well-stocked aid station about halfway through the loop, and I used that to refill.

I finished the first lap in just about 2 hours. Slow, yes, but I was nonetheless pleased with my pace. I had more than 20 more miles to go, and it was quickly turning into a very hot day with a "real feel" of over 100 degrees. 

While Christy was out on her first loop, I ate, drank, and changed clothes. Strategies, I am convinced, that really helped me get through the day. I had PB&J Uncrustables, Pringles, Coke, frozen Snickers. The race provided pickles, hot dogs, fruit, and lots of water. And I made sure I kept moving so I wouldn't get stiff.

Part of the race entry was diapers. It was like an inside joke.
The second loop started badly. I was worried. Maybe I wouldn't be able to finish. It was so hot. I got to the aid station and decided I needed to take a minute.

The volunteers were absolutely awesome! They were all running buddies, and they took care of anything we needed. They got water, food, and ice for me, and even texted Christy and Meg to let them know how I was doing. Truly, these events would not be possible without volunteers like them. 

After my minute (it might have been more like 10 or 15), I pulled myself together and mustered on. That second half of that second loop ended up being the best part of the whole day, I think. I managed to pick the pace up, it rained briefly, and I finished feeling pretty good.

Relatively, speaking.

Christy headed out, and I changed, ate, and drank to get ready for the last 10.4 miles. Our two middle loops were probably the hottest part of the day, so Christy struggled like I did, but made it back with plenty of time to spare, and then, all I had to do was put one foot in front of the other for 2 more hours. Another friend, Ken, joined me on the last loop for moral support...and quite honestly, his continuous chatting was a welcome distraction.

I don't remember many of the details of that last loop. Not many people were left on the course. Most of the starters, both individual and teams, had dropped out at this point. Ken and I managed to catch up to and actually pass another couple of ladies on relay teams. We walked a bit more than I had on the previous two loops...anything that resembled a hill. Breezed through the aid station, chafing at the bit, wanting to get it done.

Christy and me all smiles before the start.
And then. It was done. I rounded the corner. About 11 hours after we started and nearly 7 hours of running, I got back to John's front door. No official "finish line." No medal. But a bunch of really cool people congratulating me for completing a 50k.

It was pretty awesome.

But...I think it's a one-and-done kinda thing for me. Never again.

Never say never...