♪ Yo listen up here’s a story ♪ About a little guy that lives in a blue world.. ♪
In a moment of inspiration as I was driving down to the Mississippi 50k, I decided that I would memorize this deeply moving 90’s pop song so that I could serenade my friend Sarah during the race. I was so committed to this plan that for thirty minutes I listened to this lyrical masterpiece on repeat at full volume. They say practice makes perfect but apparently that does not apply to my singing. During the race I tried belting it out no less then eight times and failed each time as I mixed up the words eventually trailing off into faint muttering. If you were at the race then yeah, that was me. I’m Chelsie by the way, and my friend Sarah is the one who puts up with all this nonsense. She’s the one who recommended the Mississippi 50k, expressing that it was sure to be a “muddy good time”. This was apparently one of the driest years the race has seen and we still trudged through mud puddles shin deep at times. It was a blast!
We car-camped in the Long Leaf Trail Campground, less than a minute’s walk away from the race start. The sun rose as we started off, revealing the emblematically Mississippi land with a vast expanse of pine trees and grassy undergrowth surrounding us. The 50k would take us for two laps of a big loop (12.5 miles) and finish with a smaller loop (6 miles). 50 mile runners would have to be extra mentally tough and run an additional big and small loop.
In the early miles I made sure to tease Sarah for her abnormal hatred of socks. She didn’t even wear socks during the night as she froze in her car, meanwhile I was wearing two pairs. To even the playing field I admitted that I only tie my shoelaces like every six months – that’s weird right? She looked a little concerned and suggested that I tie my shoes a little tighter for the day which I most certainly ignored. Of course I lost my shoe in the first deep mud puddle. And the next one. I should probably listen to her more often (but don’t tell her that).
The course had mile markers which are relatively uncommon in trail races and with plenty of aid stations thrown in the mix, the miles passed by quickly. The most memorable aid station was “Bubba’s Truck Stop”, complete with helpful rednecks and sign advertising opossum on the half shell. The people who volunteer at races are a special kind of crazy and we love them for it.
Multiple times throughout the race I tried giving Sarah the “save yourself speech” wherein I tried to convince her not to wait up for me should I start metaphorically dying. She wasn’t having any of it so for 31 miles we joked around, made fun of each other, and splashed through mud puddles. I was definitely better off for it. She did say that she never has to worry about having to talk to people when I’m around so I guess there’s that?
We chatted off and on with some different runners we met along the way, probably annoying some and entertaining others with our strange conversations. I even saw a runner friend I met at a marathon in Louisiana, and we exchanged congratulations for our years’ exploits as he passed. The ultra-running community is pretty great.
We completed lap one (12.5 miles) in 2 hours and 15 minutes. Since we were parked in the campground, we were able to drop a few layers off at our cars without having to stray from the course. I wasn’t feeling great but my spirits were still decently high probably because at this point I was just surprised to be feeling better then Sarah. This was short lived however and Sarah’s low point was a lot more graceful than my complete bonk (coming up). We were still running a decent pace and continued bickering like an old married couple, which for us means everything is good. At some point during this second loop, the first and second place fifty mile runners lapped us. They were amazing.
In the final miles of the second loop, we ended up with a runner from the U.S. Air Force that ran the entire distance holding an American flag. We ran behind him for a little while, getting whipped in the face with our nation’s symbol of freedom, or just freedom for short. We joked that he needed to train an eagle to fly with him as he runs.
We finished up the second and final big loop in 2 hours and 30 minutes, 4 hours and 45 minutes into the race. With only six miles to go, Sarah started to smell the barn and was feeling good again, ready to finish the thing. This is unfortunately when I started to suck wind. She could have taken off and left me in the dust but she stayed with my whiny butt. I even gave her the “save yourself” speech again.
So here I was, trying to pep myself up knowing full well I was losing it. Whew, only six more miles. I got this. And Sarah was like, “Ooh! There’s a runner up ahead. I think we can pass ’em!” I told Sarah that I was so cranky that I wanted to chuck a pine cone at her. She laughed and challenged, “You wouldn’t!” So of course this gave me just enough energy to pick up a pine cone and chuck it at her.
We eventually did pass a runner and then we came up on a group of horses. I asked Sarah what we should do hoping she would suggest that we walk until we came to a crossroads. No dice. We politely told the riders that we were going to pass them and that was that.
We hit the final aid station and continued on with me starting to bonk to the point of not talking. That’s when you know I’m feeling bad. I pretty much just tucked in behind Sarah and followed her footsteps for the final three miles until the finish. I only spoke to complain about how much I felt like doo-doo whereas Sarah was saying nice things and encouraging me, basically pacing me for the final 3 miles. That’s true love right there.
Speaking of love, we soon caught up to a couple, each with a handheld water bottle in their hands. The water bottles are significant because for a brief moment they held hands with their water bottle hands and it was adorable. Anyway, the thought of passing anyone made me even more tired and I may have muttered to myself something like, “I don’t wanna..” In fact, I think this is when I decided to chuck another pine cone at Sarah, only this time I didn’t give her a warning. And instead of a softer, worn-down pine cone I accidentally picked up one of those super spiky ones. And instead of hitting her shorts I hit her on her bare calf. As it left my hand, I immediately regretted it as I realized what a jerk move it was. She spun around confused, probably wondering for a split second if she would find her leg on the trail behind her. I felt so bad! Then again, feeling bad is probably what gave me the energy to pass the cute runner couple which made Sarah happy in the long run.
As we approached the finish, Sarah and I could see that we were close to finishing just at 6 hrs and we booked it. Right before the finish chute, Sarah being the humble and way-too-considerate person that she is, stopped abruptly to let me go ahead before I could process what was going on. I slowed and turned around, waving for her to come on but it was too late, I was already passing through the finish. For the record, I am still mad at her for this. To make matters worse, the volunteers at the finish line asked who came in first because that person was the third place female. Normally this would be exciting news but it I shouldn’t have been the third place female, it should have been Sarah. The volunteers handed me my a trophy and they gave Sarah a pair of socks as a consolation prize. Remember that Sarah hates socks?? Of course she has refused to trade prizes with me, although the debate is to be continued. Cutting the the trophy in half would be difficult so now I’m thinking something like the Ya Ya Sisterhood of the Traveling Trophy?
After scolding Sarah for being too considerate, we plated up some delicious rice and beans and just relaxed for a little while before having to drive home. We inspected the sand and mud in our shoes. At some point I overheard the man and woman parked next to us say something about the rice crispy treats she had brought. “As in home made rice crispy treats?!” This brought on some quality conversations about what an awesome running food rice crispy treats are, how homemade is so much better then store-bought, and other important running topics. The woman offered for me to have some but I half-heartedly declined. Luckily Sarah sensed how urgently I needed them and said something like, “Yeah, she’ll take one”. The woman opened the lid to the container revealing the perfect marshmallow to rice crispy ratio, those things were amazing. They sent me home with an entire container with the reasoning that I could share some with the kids when I got home. Yeah… they didn’t stand a chance, those things didn’t even make it home. So thank you kind strangers (angels?), I wish I had gotten your names!
We saw flag guy again and when he told us his name is Eric, it occurred to me that even his name is patriotic – AmERICa. (It may be my only original thought ever but you can steal it if you want dude, just make sure to start training that eagle. And seriously, thank you for your service!).
In sum, this was a really well organized and great race. I was able to run a personal best of 6 hours and 5 seconds for the 50k, probably due in part to all the fun we were having and Sarah keeping me accountable at the end. For those of you following my adventures, this race marked my fourteenth state and was wonderfully Mississippi in every way. If you are considering it, take the plunge and as Sarah said, prepare to have a “muddy good time!”
^Official music video for the “I’m Blue” song, for those of you who didn’t grow up in the 90s