Monday, July 14, 2014

The Midnight 50K

July in Arkansas, and it's hot. Part of the charm. A quintessential July-in-Arkansas experience is the Midnight 50K, now called the Full Moon, but it's hard to break the habit of the old days, so I'll keep calling it whatever I want to.  I have done this run since 2005 or so, when it consisted of a few idiots and some Christmas lights in the parking area at Lake Sylvia.  It has exploded in participants, being a user-friendly way to get into ultra distance (dirt roads, gentle hills, short drive from Little Rock, etc.).  I have missed it the last 3 years because, for some reason, I have had increased inflammation and disease activity during the summer.  Is that a common autoimmune pattern?  It was great to line up and head out for a long night run under a Ouachita Forest sky that I have seen so many times before, that feels like home to me.
Ouachita night sky

My friend AJ and I arrived at the campsite, set up, drank 2 beers each, and headed over to the start/finish at the girl scout camp, which was already a party in progress. I immediately made the rounds, hugs and smiles with so many of the folks that I have gotten to know over the years.  So good for the soul.  A 7pm start meant that the first few hours were very hot, with full sun for a little while. I had no expectations for this run, and was really happy just to be starting. My IT's (both) had been getting sore, and I have been wondering if I am going to have another typical summer mini-flare. I was prepared to drop to the 25K, or walk for a significant portion.  This run goes by pretty fast, because it's a straight shot up a dirt road with convenient 8-mile chunks... one aid station at 8 miles, then the turnaround, then the 8 mile station, then the finish.
The course is made up of constant rollers, although nothing with a grade so steep that it isn't runnable.  If it weren't so hot, this course would be very, very fast.

Glow stick and Copperhead juxtaposed. Photo: Will Landreth

I took it pretty slow from the start, and really wasn't comfortable on the run until I got through the first aid station 8 miles in.   I ran with Stacey, Jason, Cliff, and James pretty much the whole way to the turnaround, leapfrogging each other as we altered our walk breaks, and conversing about the running world.  I got into the 8-mile AS at 1:30, and into the turnaround at 2:55.  I have never done this event and not thrown up at some point during the run.  It's a joke at this point.  Well, my stomach was uneasy early.  By the turnaround at 16 miles, I had some mild nausea and stomach discomfort, and hoped for the best on the way back.  I pulled ahead of Stacey at this point and hoped that I could hold it, although I wasn't running as fast as I wanted to. My stomach discomfort reached a moderate level for pretty much the entire back half, although it was never so bad that I had to stop running for more than an occasional quick break or uphill. Around mile 27, it finally happened.  I felt the familiar urge, leaned over into the ditch on the left side of the road, and heaved whatever it was in my stomach that wanted out.  At that point, Stacey passed, asking if I was ok, but mercifully not dwelling.  That's always embarrassing, but we understand when to stop with concern and when to let the person deal with their issue in peace. I'm glad it was her who witnessed the vomit session, and not the group of 25K walkers that I had just gone flying past.  I could see their headlamps coming around the bend, so I cut myself short and scurried on to avoid a scene. It wasn't long after that I passed PT, who was walking a downhill. I asked him the same question that Stacey had just asked me, and he remarked that he needed new legs. I didn't feel so sorry for myself after that, as I was still running. I had to repeat the vomit sequence again just past the 5K to go mark.  This time, I was a new person after the upchuck.  The nausea was gone, I felt amazing, and I was ready to go.  So, I did.  That last 5K felt awesome, coupled by my love for that section of the course... it's where the Traveller course merges, the dirt road flattens out, the pines part overhead, and you can usually see a sky full of stars.  This night was too hot and hazy for stars, but the locusts in the pines were singing, and I enjoyed coming home to this stretch of the road.  As it turns out, I finished only a minute behind Stacey, and 2 minutes behind Deb. If my puke break had come sooner, I might have been able to catch up.

This finish line was a full-on party, and we stayed until the race clock read 7:30 elapsed, about 2:30am. A hot breakfast provided by the Williams Junction fire department hit the spot.  I had a really great time.

I'm happy that my body allowed me to run that event decently. I'm curious to see what is in store for the next several weeks.  I have a few events planned for the long-term, but nothing else that is coming up for the next couple of months.  Have a great summer-