Oh, Dan, that quote is so appropriate for my 50-mile
attempt yesterday! I wanted so much to finish the race, and thought I was
trained adequately to do it. I wasn't hoping for a fast time. These days, I'm
happy just to finish within the time limits and not get pulled at an aid station
for being too slow.
But the brutally hot, humid weather and my personal
physical limitations put the kibosh on that. <sigh> Another DNF.
However, there is an upside to my story, which I'll explain
later, and I haven't given up hope for the Bighorn 100-miler in three weeks. The soul to dare
lives on . . .
MUGGY, BUGGY, SLUGGISH DAY
After a fitful night of sleep, we were up before dawn for
the 40-minute drive to Berryman Campground and the start of the race. We found
parking very close to the start/finish area, got our gear, walked around a bit, and
mingled briefly with the other folks who were starting at 6 AM.
I heard two men ask the RD if they could drop down to the
marathon from the 50-miler. I didn't know until after I was finished just how
many folks did this! Because of the weather, no one was permitted to move up to
the 50 from the marathon, only vice versa.
How hot was it?? I never heard officially, but everyone
agreed it had to be over 90 degrees. It was unseasonably hot for May.
Everyone was complaining about the heat and humidity. No one I heard all day
said they were prepared for it, whether they traveled from farther north or
The race directors, Victoria and David White, were very concerned. about the toll the
heat would take on the runners. We saw no medical support anywhere. We didn't
hear of any medical emergencies, but the potential was there. David and Victoria
did their best to protect the runners by allowing an easy switch down to the marathon
distance, relaxing the cut-off times, and providing adequate water and ice to
all the aid stations.
I loved the relaxed atmosphere at this race. The Whites
want people to have a good experience and come back. They are personable,
easy-going, well organized, and simply cater to the runners. Good folks, as were
all the volunteers at the aid stations. When runners feel welcome and cared for,
they will return.
I talked to several people who were doing their first
50-miler or trail marathon. This is a good course for that purpose. Much of the
course is runnable. In addition, the marathoners can be out on the course as long as the
50-milers. The 50-miler has a generous 14 1/2 hour time limit for the early
starters, and last year there
were times posted in the results even beyond that. Several
female marathoners came in after nine, ten, even eleven hours. I'm glad they had the opportunity on this difficult day to
achieve their goal of finishing the race.
AND THEY'RE OFF!
I counted about twenty 50-mile runners who began with Jim
and me at 6 AM, an hour before the regular start for the two races. It had been
light for almost an hour, so no one needed lights. We fell in behind most of the
other runners so we wouldn't have to move over for the faster ones. The first
mile we followed Rob Apple, from Tennessee, and Tony Bierman, from Illinois,
chatting about races and the Appalachian Trail.
It took a
little over two hours for the front runners in the marathon and 50-miler to
catch up to us. Then we had to make way for another thirty or forty runners
before the end of our first loop. We managed to pass a few of the other early
starters. We lost a little time stepping aside because the single-track trail
was too narrow to run side by side.
More troublesome was all the poison ivy and/or poison oak
along the trail! We both put on Technu pre-exposure lotion to protect against
poison ivy and oak. Jim avoided it (so far), but I got some on my arms, legs,
and hands when I got off the trail to let people pass and to climb over
blow-downs where they were easier to cross in the woods.
For once, I felt good running "right out of the box." Jim and I got into a comfortable groove and averaged about a
14-minute pace the first 14 miles or so. My "best-case
scenario" goal was an average of 15-minute miles for a time of 12:30 over 50
miles. I wanted to go a little faster in the morning when I was fresh and the
temps were cooler.
We both felt good. We were drinking plenty of water and
Perpetuem. Jim had his Perp more diluted. He carried just one bottle of it and drank plain water at
the aid stations.
My Perp was more concentrated, and I chased it down with water in a second bottle
I carried. I took two Endurolyte capsules the fist hour, then four to six per
hour after that. Jim took very few capsules.
Equestrians and cyclists also use the Berryman Trail. Rob
and Tony said we'd probably see more horses than bikes over the holiday weekend.
We ended up seeing about ten horses and riders during the race. I saw only one
cyclist. We met these four riders about twelve miles in:
We were both running smoothly and comfortably. I was very
careful not to fall down, but after about 3 1/2 hours, I could start feeling my
feet and calves tighten up when I'd land differently, have to reach my leg 'way
up and over a blow-down, or stubbed my foot against a rock. My fears were
realized when I had to stop running occasionally to stretch and massage my
calves. My wheels were coming off . . .
I was very disheartened. I was worried that my adductors
would seize up like they did in a training run in late April. The pain was
excruciating then, and recurred every 15-20 minutes even when I was walking;
running was out of the question. At Berryman, I really needed to get fifty
miles to prepare me for Bighorn. And before I'd run even fifteen miles, I
was breaking down and nothing I did regarding fluids and electrolytes seemed to
After the Brazil Creek aid station (15.5 miles), shown
below, I sent Jim
on ahead so my slowing pace wouldn't ruin his race. We had slowed to an average of
per mile because of my cramping the last couple miles before that aid station. I
could see the handwriting on the wall.
A VICTORY OR A DEFEAT?
The next nine miles were incredibly
frustrating for me as runner after runner passed me. I
couldn't run for more than a quarter mile before I'd have to stop and take care
of my cramping leg muscles. They cramped even when I was walking. Stretching,
massage, and two electrolyte caps at a time would help for a few minutes, but
soon the hamstrings got into the act. Fortunately,
the adductors never seized up.
I was drinking 32-40 ounces of water every hour, but
I wasn't peeing. In fact, I went almost eleven hours without urinating, which
has occurred in several other races, too
Where did all the fluids go? Sweat the first few hours, but then I stopped sweating and my
hands swelled up. I was concerned about either heat exhaustion or hyponatremia.
Both can have serious consequences to a runner's health.
Volunteers at the last two aid stations were very helpful,
giving me cold, wet towels and ice to use on my face, neck, and legs. I walked a
great deal of that nine-plus miles, my frustration growing when I couldn't run the very
runnable sections. I knew it would be futile to keep going when I got back to
the start/finish area, which marked just past the halfway point for the
50-milers (we had to do a short out-and-back at the beginning). I would have
another DNF. I wouldn't have an important training component for Bighorn. And I
couldn't add Missouri to my list of marathons and ultras completed in the "Fifty
States and D.C." club. I had failed. I just hoped Jim was doing well and would
complete his race.
I felt ashamed, not proud, when I went to the start/finish
area to check in with David, who was timing the runners. Marathoners crossed the
line and were done. Fifty-milers kept going for another 24.8-mile loop. Family
and friends waiting in the shade for their runners applauded me. I felt like I
didn't deserve any praise.
David asked me how I was doing. He asked everyone that on
this very hot day. I told him about my leg cramps and the futility of going on.
Then he surprised me and completely made my day.
"Would you like to do another mile and get a marathon
finish?" he asked.
Suddenly, I had new life. I was toast, but I could do
another mile if it meant a legitimate finish in the marathon! He offered this
option to every 50-miler who "dropped" at the halfway mark. (And has done it
other years that weren't so hot.)
This year, about half the original 50-mile field either did
this extra mile at the end (which the marathoners did at the beginning of their
race), dropped down to the marathon before they started, or quit at an aid
station somewhere during the race. It was a first for Berryman to have such a
low 50-mile finish rate. I felt better knowing I wasn't the only one having
serious problems with the heat.
Fried or not, I went back out immediately with another
couple of runners to do the half mile out to a cone and half mile back. I was
embarrassed a second time by the applause of the "audience" when I returned
sixteen minutes later (I still couldn't run because of leg cramping), but I was
pleased to receive an official marathon finish, attractive medal, and a new
state in the "Fifty States and D.C." club. This gives me twenty-nine states.
Only twenty-two to go. (Ha - I've been working on this since 1982!)
HOW DID JIM'S RACE GO??
I am so proud of Jim! The heat didn't seem to affect him
nearly as much as the majority of the runners. He drank a lot, but didn't take
anywhere near as many electrolyte capsules as I did. He prefers to eat more
salty food at aid stations than I do. Everyone's different. Maybe I took in TOO
much sodium, potassium, or other electrolytes. It is my understanding that both extremes (too much sodium or
too little sodium) can cause the problems I had.
Jim ran the nine-plus miles from Brazil Creek to the
start/finish area fifteen minutes faster than I did (it took him 6:15 to do the
first 25.2 miles). After getting more supplies from his drop box, he headed on
out for his second loop. He told me later how hard that was mentally. He wasn't
hurting, but he was hot and tired. It would have been more fun to quit, grab a
freshly-grilled hamburger, and sit in the shade!
When I came in at 12:30 PM, he was gone. I didn't see him
again until he finished six hours later with a time of 12:50, a little faster than the thirteen
hours he predicted. I almost missed him at the finish! He did a great job of
running fairly even splits the first and second loops.
He partially credits his feeling good and running
consistently with running a little slower pace with me the first 15.5 miles. If
he'd gone out faster, he might have crashed during the second loop. We started
off but slowed down considerably between the third and fourth aid station when I
started cramping. We only had a 15:55 average pace at Brazil Creek, Aid Station
#4. Jim was able to speed up when he ran by himself, ending up with a 15:24 pace
overall. He kept splits at each aid station
Jim was just ahead of Rob Apple most of the day, wondering
the whole time when Rob would catch him. Rob is an affable forty-something who
runs ultras about every weekend, racking up hundreds of finishes. Rob's pace and
finish times are very consistent, and close to Jim's recent times, so he's a
good fella to keep in sight. Jim ran with him some at the Vermont 100 last
summer and both finished pretty close together.
Rob didn't catch up to Jim until about a mile before the
finish at Berryman. They ran together and talked to the finish, where Rob slowed
down to let Jim finish first (since he'd been ahead of Rob for 49 miles). This photo shows Jim as he was crossing the finish line.
Rob is right behind, with Victoria tearing off his finisher's tag:
Jim happily displaying his patriotic (for Memorial weekend)
red, white, and blue finishers' buckle:
Jim dug into his freshly-grilled hamburger, bratwurst, and
baked beans as he rested in the shade next to the picnic shelter at the finish
line. He was tired and a little stiff, but nothing really hurt and he didn't get
any blisters. It was a great training run for Bighorn mileage-wise and mentally,
helping him feel more confident about his preparedness for the hundred-miler.
I'm very proud of him! He excelled in very tough conditions.
MISCELLANEOUS POST-RACE THOUGHTS
I had a long but relaxing afternoon sitting around the
finish area while I waited for Jim. I finished at 12:46 PM and he came in at
6:50 PM. I had to get up and walk around several times to keep from getting
stiff. I continued to have some leg cramps just sitting there! There was more of a breeze near the picnic shelter, shown below, than
out on the course where the trees were more dense.
Even though I consider this race another DNF (did not
finish) because I didn't complete the race I intended to run, I take some
comfort in the fact that so many other people also dropped down to the marathon
because of the heat. I've learned when I can push harder and when it's dangerous
or futile. I didn't want to do permanent damage to my body. I'll just have to
work harder at Bighorn and cross my fingers for cool weather there.
At 57, I was the oldest woman entered in the 50-miler.
There weren't very many women at all who finished it. I uploaded this entry
before the race site had results posted, so I don't know how many runners
finished the full fifty miles. David said it was fewer than half who began the
I have yet to come in dead last in a race, although I've
been close! Even though I was embarrassed by a 6:46 trail marathon time, there
were quite a few marathoners who came in after me (taking into consideration my
one-hour head start). Four women finished between nine and eleven hours and
We always enjoy seeing old friends at races and meeting new
ones. The "old" friends we saw this time were Norm Yarger and his wife, Joyce
(Norm opted out of the 50 because of a hamstring injury; Joyce finished the
marathon); Earl Blewett (early 50 start, marathon finish, predicted correctly on
the internet ultra list that the race would be a "death march"), Rob Apple (early
start, same 50-mile time
as Jim), and Herb Hedgecock (RD of several races in Kentucky, finished the
"New" friends included Eric Grossman, who won the 50-miler
by about 55 minutes in a time of about 7:25. Eric now lives near Damascus, VA
and is directing the new and difficult Iron Mountain 50-Miler in early October.
I'm intrigued because I loved the Mt. Rogers area when I ran/hiked the
Appalachian Trail there last summer. The race includes a part of the old AT that
has been relocated. Eric is a friendly guy who hung around the finish area for a
couple hours watching other runners finish.
I also got to meet three ultra runners from the Nashville
area, two of whom were running their first 50-miler (both dropped down to the
marathon), Tony Bierman (Jim ran with him more than I did), Tracy Thomas (fast
female runner and physical therapist who gives helpful advice on the ultra list), and others whose names I didn't catch or don't
remember. I have CRS, remember? (If you don't remember, see
entry from last year's journal.)
I had to shake my head in wonder when a young lady (I later
learned this is Raz Estridge, a familiar name on the ultra listserve) came
across the finish line of the marathon with her dog in tow. Actually, the dog
was pulling HER across the line with the leash! "B-dawg" (Booper) is apparently a familiar
sight at ultras where she is allowed to race. She had her own number and I
laughed when I saw Victoria pull Booper's finish tag! I'm curious to see if
the dog is listed as an official finisher. I couldn't catch up to Booper to get
a photo until she got
to her owner's car, eager for some air conditioning and a drink of water:
There were more rocks than I expected, and quite a few large blow-downs,
but the hills were tame compared to where Jim and I train. The course is
not that difficult. David White said someone used a GPS on the Berryman
Trail to measure the elevation gain, and it averages only about a
hundred feet per mile. The hot, humid weather was the culprit in slower
finish times, more DNFs than usual, and many people opting to take the
all the course was shaded, which provided some relief from the hot sun. The
thick leaves and other greenery were visually
pleasant, although they created more humidity and blocked any breezes. The "long
green tunnel" was rather stifling, in fact.
I wouldn't want to run the Berryman Trail during or after
much rain. This was the driest the course has been, according to veteran
Berryman runners. OK by me. Although I don't mind wading through creeks (and
would have appreciated the cooling effect during the race), there are several
places along the loop that would be muddy quagmires on a wet day. We still had
to dodge some mud (and a lot of horse poop!) on this very dry day.
Normally runners have to cross several creeks on the course. Not this time,
however. All were dry except Brazil Creek, which was about ankle deep at its
lowest point at the crossing. When Jim and I got there fifteen miles into the
race, another early starter was sitting on the bank with his shoes off, feet in
the water. Because I was feeling the effects of the heat already,
Jim recommended I sit in the cold water. Ahhh! It was hard for me to sit and get
back up because those motions made my legs cramp even more, but the water helped cool my core body temperature. Too bad we didn't
get a picture of that!
I'm writing this on Sunday, a relaxing rest
day for us at the campground. We retrieved our ultra Labs from doggie jail (a
nearby kennel), gave them a bath, did four loads of laundry, read, wrote letters
and this journal entry, fiddled with photos, took a walk to stretch sore
muscles, talked to one of Jim's sons, ordered a GPS unit for our next adventure,
and chilled out (literally and figuratively) in our air-conditioned camper.
Early tomorrow morning we'll head west and
north toward our next destination, the Bighorn Mountain Range in northern
Wyoming. We'll have time before the Bighorn 100-miler to train and acclimate in
the mountains and visit friends and relatives in Montana. Stay tuned for
mountain photos in a few days. There is likely to still be snow at the higher
elevations in the Bighorns. After another 93-degree day in Missouri, we're
looking forward to some chilly nights in Wyoming!