I ran this same race last year. Similar format with a few changes. The old rule was: we were restricted from running the same loop twice in a row. Thats it! This year, the additional caveat was added that we must run the 7mi loop first, all of us, no exceptions. Not that I dislike the 7mi loop, but if its wet, the 7mi loop is a sloppy muddy mess, and I have always known this. So at the pre-race briefing, Mallory announces a new Joe Prusaitis rule. Yes, she even named it after me, as it is well understood that I would not run the 7mi unless I was forced to, so she forced me. And yes, it sucked. The entire seven miles was a complete messy slip-n-slide suck-fest.
At the 6am start in the dark, the lead pack pushes off rather quickly. Hard to tell how many are in the 12 hour race, and the relay teams starting with us further increase the confusion. Whatever my focus might have been with an early dark winter start, but with all the mud, the mud becomes the focus. I hardly notice the course markers, but at places where they must be, they are there. Not that I'm moving too fast to have the time to think about it, but with all the slipping and sliding, a few times to remove the mud from within my shoes, and another to find the shoe that was sucked off my foot, my mind was completely focused on my next step. Mid-loop, I pull my first wrist band and wrap it round my wrist, and soon after I cross paths my old friend Mike Riggs, who lives nearby and is oddly enough just out for a run. He didn't even know there was a race on. He walks with me until we get back to the headquarters, and thats the last I see of him. Takes me 2 hours to slide round the 7mi loop, so the sun's up when we do end this misery of mud.
Based on my experience last year, where I learned the 5mi loop was by far the least muddy and due that fact, the fastest, I choose the 5mi loop next, with no intention on running the 7mi loop again today. I learn later many of my friends chose the 3mi loop. The 5mi is clean and clear of mud, so I run and so does everybody else. Only takes one hour to cover 5mi compared to the 7mi of mud in 2 hours, which is not surprising. Certainly there is some mud, but it is of little significance. I collect my 2nd wrist band.
Starting the 3mi loop, I pass a few friends just coming back in from the end of the same loop. I know damn well they are not that much slower than me, so it pre-warns me of the difficulty ahead and I can only assume it is more mud. The loop starts well with a dry mile, but soon after the mile point, I am once again into the mud, and not much better than the nasty ol 7mi loop. This loop, the shortest, is also the hilliest, which is surprising so much mud would be on these steep slopes. It makes for some difficult climbing and descending, but mostly its just slow. I now have 3 different colored wrist bands.
I had set up all my gear next to the bathroom because of the seat nearby I wished to use during the race. I figured I'd need to change shoes as much as anything else. I had a tub full of extra clothing, another with food, and an ice chest with cold drinks. At 15mi, for the first time, I stop to change gear. The shoes are unrecognizable from the mud, so I figure I'll try the clean ones for the dry loop. Also I decide on a dry shirt, and I no longer need the jacket, buff, and headlamp. While doing all this, I drink a gatorade & eat a sandwich. With no intention on doing the 7mi loop again, and with just the fast 5 and the slow 3 on the agenda, I figure I'll be back here every hour give or take. So, I don't bother to carry anything more than a water bottle filled with Tailwind.
Another 5 and then the 3, brings me up to 23mi as colored wrist bands continue to multiply on my wrist, creeping up my arm, and forcing my watch to relocate. The day finally begins to warm up, insisting on a ball cap to block my eyes from the sun, and bringing a new sort of pain. A rash begins to develop, so I step into the bathroom to re-lube and make another complete wardrobe change, including shoes. The muddy shoes are my best shoes, so I switch back to them.
The 5 and 3 are now being processed in my mind as a set, and the next set brings me to 31 which is 50k, and into the ultra distance for the first time today. After all my years of marathoning, it still fascinates me whenever I run an ultra to the point I cant help but recognize the moment. But time has changed speed. Earlier while in the mud, it crawled, slowly inching forward as I dreaded 12 hours of this shit. But now, time is flying, and I try to do the math to determine in advance how many more loops, and miles I will be able to do. While the speed of time increases, the speed of my body is decreasing. Trying to determine where the two exponential curves will cross seems to be around 2 more sets, or more accurately, 3 or 4 more loops.
It is exactly the same path each time, the same loop, the same trail, roots, and rocks with one very significant change. The mud on the 3mi loop is slowly being pounded into a more dry and runable surface. So, as I slow down, the 5mi loop is starting to take longer and the 3mi loop is getting faster, but its hard to wrap my mind around it, because I'm getting damned tired and my mental capacity is now frayed. And so I run, and I try to do the math, and I try not to fall, and its all so utterly useless, but the attempt to think it out, even thought it has no real value, does keep my interested enough to keep on moving. I can still run the flats and the downs, not to be confused with the ups, which I have walked from the very first hour.
One more set gets me to 39mi with at bit under 2 hours remaining. Earlier, I could have done 2 more loops in 2 hours, but it's not earlier no more, so I suspect I'll get 1 more 5 in and then have not enough to do another, even if it's a 3. Off I go, and I do make an honest effort of it, or at least I feel I do. The reality is, I'm really dragging ass now and run my slowest 5mi loop to come in with about 3 minutes left. Not enough time for another and damned glad of it. I'm done. If I'd the time, I'd have gone, but I'm good with the 44mi I do get. Mallory takes a picture of me and another with both our arms covered in colored wrist bands