By the time 3 o'clock rolled around and packet pick-up was officially available, it was raining pretty hard. We attempted to find the park (which we've been to together twice and April has been there another time or two on her own. And it never fails. EVERY SINGLE TIME we get lost. It's like this park does not want to be found by GPS). We literally turned around and went the same stretch of interstate at least 4 times. Wasting an hour in the process.
I started to freak out.
I cursed the park. I cursed the directions from the website which don't take you from Downtown Memphis to the park. Nooooo.... they start you at Hwy 51. How the hell am I supposed to know how to get to Hwy 51?? Who do I look like? Rand McNally? I vowed to never run another race in that park again. Finally. We figured it out and headed that way. It was raining hard.
When we finally got to the packet pickup, I hopped out... picked up my shirt and my number and hopped back into the car. It was the quickest, easiest packet pick-up ever. I also got a glimpse of the medals. Very, very cool.
The rest of the night... was spent grocery shopping, booze shopping, making homemade pizzas, and getting ready for the morning.
Around 9 o'clock, I came to the conclusion that I didn't want to run this race. It was still raining... it was supposed to rain all night and the idea of spending 7 hours in the mud just wasn't appealing to me. I was stressed. I opened a bag of Hershey's Kisses and proceeded to eat half the bag in about 7 minutes.
Finally... around 10:00 I headed to bed. I set my alarm for 5:15 and told April I wanted to leave the house by 6:15 (Race Start time for the 50k was 7:30). I fell asleep easily, but woke up every hour or so and groaned when I could hear the rain pounding against the window.
I was a little slow moving in the morning and we managed to head out the door around 6:20. Rain still coming down. For breakfast, I ate a banana, a cup of yogurt and a cliff bar.
When we got to the race, we started to pull into the grassy area that they had told me would be the parking lot at the packet pickup and we encountered a volvo that was coming towards us, but sitting still. It was a faceoff. What the hell is this guy doing??? We kept saying. Why doesn't he just park??? And then as he skidded towards us, we realized... Ohhhhhhhhh. He's stuck in the mud. Eventually he made it past us, Mud flying everywhere. He rolled his window down..."Sorry!" He said. "I just got mud all over your car!"
He wasn't kidding.
As soon as I got out of the car and saw that, I busted out laughing.
I ran to the porta potties and then ran back to the car. I tried to get psyched... but I REALLY didn't want to do this. At all. April tried psyching me up...
That, my friends, is the look of fear and dread.
I realized I only had like 7 minutes till the start I and I needed to use the bathroom again, I grabbed my stuff and headed to the porta potties. By the time I got out, the "instructions" were being announced and I got there just in time to hear... "ok, 90 seconds till the start" and I almost got trampled as everyone started heading out.
I lined up with everyone else and looked around... not many of us.
Yup, that's all the 50k runners.
It was only lightly raining at this point. We started off and everyone slowly jogged to the trail. It was probably about a quarter of a mile (if that) of asphalt, before we hit the trail. As we hit the trail, two ladies passed me and after that.. I was the second to the last runner. I settled in and tried to enjoy the muddy trail. It was wet, it was muddy and the first 3 miles were awful. My feet were cold and wet and numb. I felt miserable. I didn't know how I was going to manage to run 32.6 miles in these conditions.
The first segment of the race is the longest before you get to an aid station. It was about 5.1 miles till the first aid station and honestly, it felt like 10 miles. It took me about 1:08 to get there. Around the 1 hour mark, I ate a shotblox. I had a strategy to make sure that I eat a little something at least every hour, no matter where the next aid station was.
It was kind of weird getting to the aid station. Because, I got there and there were like 6 dudes standing under a tent. As soon as I approached, all conversation stopped and all eyes were on me. I can't remember what I ate at this first aid station. I know I drank some Heed (which I LOVE), and I might have just had some chips at this stop. I joked a little with the workers... said thanks and headed back down the trail.
The next aid station was 2.1 miles away. It was nice to know that I didn't have to go another hour before I had some type of human interaction. At the next aid station, I had a banana slice, water, and a golden oreo. This aid station kinda let me do my thing... they kept talking amongst themselves, so I quickly ate and headed back out.
At this point... I was starting to feel MUCH better. My feet had gotten used to the wet, cold, mud and it was at this time that I started to meet the frontrunners on their way back to the start line (the course was one big loop that we ran twice, with a couple of other little loops). It was also at this point, that I realized that 7 hours wasn't going to be realistic. The conditions were just too tough. You got such little traction. If the trail wasn't 3-6 inches of mud, it was 6 inches of puddle or creek. I almost lost my shoes to the mud about a gazillion times. (Thank god my feet were so swollen that my shoes were tight). The rain was also finally stopping. By the time I got to the 10 mile aid station, I realized... well... I'm definitely going to make it, but it's going to be a long day. I knew I had the strength to get it done, but I also knew that it was going to be a long day. I still had about 22 miles left to go. While I was chowing down on Heed, Oreos, and Peanut M&Ms, one guy approached the tent yelling... "Where do I go, where do I go?" all the aid station workers were like... "umm... right here." He's like... "What do I touch, what do I touch?" And as he touched the tent and turned around and continued on... one guy said.. "well, i'd say there's the 25k lead runner." (The 25k started an hour later than us).
I headed out back into the trail, realizing that this next stretch was going to suck. Meeting (and eventually getting passed by) all the 25k runners on the muddy, narrow trail wasn't going to be fun.
And it wasn't. I suffered my first fall as I tried to step aside to let a 25ker pass me. I swung out to far, lost my balance and bam. Face down in the muddy water. The good news? It was a soft, soft fall. And... bonus... it was about 11-12 miles in before I had my first fall! And not another 2 miles later... the same exact thing happened to me at Feb's Corner. There was a race volunteer there to tell people which way to go (it's hard to remember always left at Feb's Corner when you're running so much) and I swung out, again, to let a 25ker pass me and slipped in the mud again. "Did I do that?" He hollered back. I just picked myself and headed back out, as the volunteer said... "That's apart of it!" Seriously, lady? I mean, I realize you're doing us a great service by being out here and I appreciate it... but please keep your commentary to yourself, until you fall flat on your face in mud. Thanks.
By the time I passed the last aid station before the halfway point, I was feeling really good. I had been fueling up properly, I was running a lot more than I thought I'd be able to (the first half of the race, I don't think I walked a mile altogether... I just ran really slow, slower than I knew was possible). I was reciting in my head exactly what I was going to say to April when/if I saw her at the turnaround... "I have good news and bad news. The good news is that I'm going to do this and the bad news is that it's going to take me a lot longer than 7 hours."
At this point, I was meeting the REALLY slow 25kers. So, slow that they missed the frontrunning females of the 25k and 50k, because they were on a different segment of the trail and one of these 25ker ladies actually told me.. "you're the runner-up female! Keep it up!" hahaha. Thanks lady.
Every person that I encountered on the trail, I gave a friendly, "good job." "Nice job." or "looking good." I tried desparately to come up with other phrases, but my mind was starting to fade a bit.
It was along this stretch of trail, that I finally passed a girl that had been a good bit ahead of me for the entire race. I was gaining ground on her though, and finally I passed her and made my way to the half-way point. The half-way point was also the 25k finish line. Which... kinda sucks and kinda makes you feel like a bad ass. Here I am standing at the table shoving pringles and a cliff bar down my mouth getting ready for another 25k, while 25kers who had just finished were loading up their hamburgers with ketchup. One guy said to me... "you are tough." "Tough or idiotic?" was my response back to him.
I glanced around for April, but didn't see her and figured she must have still been running her long run, so I headed back out to the trail.
No turning back now... the first 25k was over and done with... now... 16 more miles to go.