Thursday, June 23, 2016

RACE REPORT: Native Jackal Trail Marathon

I ran only the last marathon
The fifth and final marathon of the Jackal Trail Marathons, near Jackson, TN, is the toughest of five marathons in five consecutive days from Saturday thru Wednesday, and it will certainly test the human heart.

I've run 20+ marathons, but yesterday's marathon was by far the hardest I've run. I've run 50Ks with more elevation gain over an hour faster. 

This marathon differed from all the rest based on one factor: HEAT. And horseflies. As if 26.53 miles is not enough, welcome to increasing heat and horseflies on every 2.65 mile loop that must be run 10 times.

One hundred and four degrees heat index by 3:13 p.m.

We started at 8:30 a.m. I finished at 4:00 p.m. 3 hours drive one way. Bananas and Ensure on the drive up. Hot wings, fries and coke on the way home. 6 hours of loud music. 7 hours & 30 minutes of testing. I passed. I resisted quitting for hours. A handful of times I thought I may get to the point of danger and quit out of fear for my health. 

It subsided. 

Photo: Karl Studtmann
I took pictures throughout the first loop when the course was shaded and spirits were high. Very few horseflies then. I took my pepper spray like I try to do now on every run. In a state park, what could happen?

Two loud-barking and charging dogs at the top of the longest hill. That's what could happen. Great! Only have to pass them 9 more times! I was ready. Each pass, I pulled out my spray and ran confidently by the house while my strength weakened in the heat of the day. 

So glad I had it.

Another thing I was glad I had by the end of the run was my frogg togg towel. Not necessarily because I could squeeze water out of it onto my head occasionally, which was helpful, but because I could swing it like a horse's tail to fight off the yellow jackets and biting flies. By the 8th loop, I really wondered if the bugs would not be the cause of me choosing to quit.

I took a handheld water bottle which I used throughout the race, but also my Camelbak 50 oz. backpack. I ran only one loop with it, because the extra weight was more than I could bear. Dramatic, I know, but it took everything I had to finish this thing, including running without my shirt for half the race. A soaking wet shirt was more than I could handle. I NEVER run without a shirt. Modesty and the extra five pounds had to go.

I think two handhelds would have been the proper way to hydrate in this race.

Thinking I could run sub 6
The first five loops (13.1 miles) were bearable. I was running the flats and downhills and walking all the uphills. At the halfway point is when the you-need-to-quit-demon hopped on my shoulder. I wouldn't thump him off until lap 9. 

I finally restored my salt levels to feel "good" again on lap 9, and thought he was gone for good, but he jumped back up on a hickory stump and said, "Boy let me tell you what..." Just like Johnny, I knew I had him by then, but the little devil didn't leave skreeching until the end of lap 10.

Since this course passed through the parking lot, I set up my personal aid station in the back of our CRV like I did for my hundred miler. I had two chairs sitting in my parking space with my cooler, extra shirts that I changed every two laps, and everything else in the back of the car. I would lay my wet shirt and visor in the sun to dry and re-wear. I did this until I deemed the shirt too much of a hindrance. I knew that if I intended to finish then the farmer's tan would have to make an appearance!

I had 32 oz. bottles of Gatorade, water bottles, and a cooler full of ice to dip my frogg togg towel into each time I passed the start-finish. 

The VERY HELPFUL volunteers would fill my handheld full of ice and water each round, and I would take an extra bottle of ice cold water from my cooler. It would freeze my hand for about two tenths of a mile. The water bottle was gone by a half mile from either pouring it over my head or drinking it.

I then had only my handheld for a little over two miles. It never lasted the entire loop. I ran out of water every time about 3/4 mile from the start finish. That's how hot it was. I used 35 oz. of water every 2.65 miles. 
At the start before the race (still no clue)

I met the gentleman in the red shorts, Frank, walking up the longest hill on loop 9. He was running his fifth marathon in five days. He's 68 years old. I just thought I'd done something before I encountered The Jackal Marathons. Ultra runners are a rare breed, regardless of age. A 69 year old passed me with half a mile to go.

These people rock!

The Race Director, Joshua Holmes, who started the Run It Fast running club, is the nicest guy you'll ever meet. He ran all five marathons, too, I think. He makes you feel very welcome and special calling you by name as if he's known you all your life. He comes across as very generous which is what's so confusing about how hard these runs are!

Lake Placid (TN)
The name of the small lake we ran around is "Lake Placid." It is within Chickasaw State Park a few miles west of Henderson, TN. It has paddle boats and a roped off section for people to swim in the lake like most places.

As the day progressed, people would be eating in the pavilions and swimming, but I did not see anyone in the paddle boats. 

There was a dock crossing the entire lake for about 150 yards with a passage way through it, but I guess it was too hot to be in the boats without a roof over them.

Loops 6, 7, and 8 were the worst for me. This is when I struggled the most. There were times in the direct sunlight walking up hills with little to no water that I thought I may be pushing my luck, but as bad as I felt, eventually, I recovered. There were a few times I told myself, "That's it. I'm quitting." But a few minutes later I felt like I could keep going, and I always told people who asked how I was doing at the start-finish, "I'm not quitting." 

Bless the person who donated this!
Even though I felt terrible. I tried to be honest without getting down on myself. I knew when I chose to keep going that the heat, hills and horseflies would punish me for defying them, but it was worth it. 

There was a bench someone donated to the park about 2 miles into the loop. I sat on it during laps 6-8. Someone always came by with an encouraging word soon after I sat down. They would ask how I was doing. I didn't lie. I felt blah, but I immediately got up and got going after they passed by.

After one loop when I had gotten back to my car, a man approached me with some Endurolytes.

He said, "My wife (who must have passed me while I was sitting on the bench) told me to ask if you needed these?" I said that I sure would if I didn't already have some. Although I was drinking some sports drink at the start-finish, I'd been drinking only water during the run, and it caught up with me. My salt got too low and I felt awful. Obviously, I looked it, too.

Bridge after a long downhill
I liked the course set-up. The less than 3-mile loop was encouraging. It had 3 or 4 major hills, and when the sun beat down on the path where they were, it could really zap you! For some reason, on loop 9, I regained my strength and ran strongly. I guess my salt stores were back up. I walked past the bench on the last two laps.

There were a number of bridges that crossed small creeks or ravines. There was one long boardwalk type bridge that crossed a swampy area. I kept hearing something out in the swamp, but I didn't want to know what it was. Never saw any snakes. Only squirrels. And the two dogs, of course, but they barked at me only one more time.

Although marathons are all different, after running a number of them, the conditions can become familiar enough that they all seem the same.

It is worth it!
That certainly changed yesterday! I feel reborn in a sense that even after running over 20 of them, there are still challenges out there to keep them fresh.

All in all, I am very satisfied that I overcame the obstacles of the race. 


No comments:

Post a Comment