Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Palm Bluff 50 Mile Trail Race

After roughly 8 months of training, the last 3 with a great team of Sports Medicine Doctors and Physical Therapists behind me I finally ran my 50 mile trail race.

Race: Palm Bluff Margaritas and Manure
Date: May 1st, 2016
Finish Time: 11 hours, 22 minutes
Distance: 51 miles
Gain: 125 ft

We left on Saturday to head out to Osteen, packet pickup was from 3-6pm. We got there a little after 3, picked up my packet and walked around the trail area to check it out. The nerves and excitement all hit me full force, I felt so official getting my Bib number and chip timer!  The course consisted of six 6 mile loops (red loop) and six 2 mile loops (yellow loop). I had an amazing supportive running buddy set up for every loop so I wouldn't be alone. Temps were expected to exceed 90 degrees and I knew the extra support would be so needed to continue pushing me. We checked into the Hilton Express, about a 20 minute drive (10 miles) and started sorting out all my drop bags and day of race gear. We ate dinner (salmon, broccoli, potato and salad) which is a very normal pre-race dinner for me. I didn't have much of an appetite but I know how important pre-race fueling is all week. Went to bed early, I was so tired. Of course as predicted I did not get a wink of sleep. I ate a chocolate chip pancake and half of a banana for breakfast and we left.

Start line (loop 1, miles 1-9)
You can see the nerves all over
my face in this picture at the
start line.
We got to the start line at 5:30 am, my amazing support team of friends beat us there! Jason, Jessica and Terry were there waiting for us! I cannot believe the amount of loving supportive people we have surrounded ourselves with. It is amazing. There was a mini pre-race meeting at the start line, I positioned myself at the very back, only a few people behind me. Terry was going to pace me for my first loop so he joined me at the start line, and before I knew it we turned our headlamps on and off we went!

The first mile and a half was sort of a blur. Early and dark and we could only see 5 feet ahead of us illuminated only by headlamps. It was hard to take it all in at that point since we couldn't see much are were really focused on not tripping!
Terry is in bright yellow toward
the back of the pack. I am to his
right in all black.

   The sun started coming up about 45 minutes into it. Terry is hilarious and the first loop was very light-hearted and easy. The trail was all around pretty flat, it had 3 potential stream crossings (if there was more rain the last few days we would have been really wet crossing them all) but each one had a little climb down and back up. We got to hop over the first one, step across bricks for the 2nd, and balance along a log over the third! There were spots of straight open pasture under buzzing power lines, and parts of thick luscious green trail, parts with soft sand or gravel, and areas with really hard clay mud. We also passed through 2 gates that had to be open and shut each time we passed through them to keep the "cows" from getting out.

He ran the red loop with me, but waited at the aid station "with the long haired hippie" while I ran the 2 mile yellow loop. He said this was one of his favorite parts of our run together... when he was hanging out at the aid station lol. It was also the only time the entire day I would spend any time running alone.
The alien men you will read about in loops 3-4. Also, a really
hot long stretch with no shade and soft sand. Also, no cow.
 I told Terry how I had the mindset of Forest Gump, "Just going out for a run" trying hard not to think about distance or time, just finding a pace and running all day. Later he ended up making a sign I read as I passed the aid station that said "Toni Gump, run Toni Run" this made me giggle and remember how light-hearted this race was before it was so hot! Terry grabbed my headlamp from me as we approached the last aid station where I picked up Lisa to head out for loop 2!
 Terry later told me that when he finished all he could think about is "She is going to do this 5 more times!"

Loop 2 miles 9-17 
Lisa and I took off  for that second loop, I was bummed because I took off without my sunglasses. Everything looked different on the trail this time because the sun was now up and I could see beyond the 5 feet in front of me. I hadn't seen Lisa in awhile so it was fun to catch up with her. She kept me in check with my pace and heart rate, and helped me keep my eyes on the trail!

 I found out the beginning of loop 2 that I was the lead female
runner for the 50 mile race, I reassured the aid station I would be passed. I was worried maybe I took off too fast? I ate 1/2 a banana, a few grapes here and carried on not thinking much about being in the lead.

I decided I really don't like the first 4 miles of the red loop. It was mostly open, under power lines and on soft sand roads. There wasn't much tree coverage for shade, or fun trail to see. You hit the aid station after about 4 miles and almost immediately jumped onto the trail at that point (which provided shade). After that stretch you hit aid stations every 2 miles until that 4 mile stretch. I also decided the yellow loop was my favorite loop and favorite aid station.

During the yellow loop (or that happy loop) Lisa and I saw our first wild life of the day, a brown/black and neon green snake! We almost stepped on it! Eek!

It was approaching 80 degrees by the time I dropped Lisa off. Each time we passed through the aid station there were new signs to read, and all my loved ones were there cheering for me. Daniel had arrived by this point so it was fun seeing a new face!

Some pictures we took throughout the day to give you an idea what the trail looked like. It was a beautiful section of trail that never got boring. These pictures are in no order, and are just randomly stuck in here for your viewing ;)


Loop 3 miles 17-25.5 (roughly)
I changed my shoes here, I should have done it after the first loop rather than waiting, but I didn't. My feet were so raw from being so wet that first loop around and having so much gravel in my shoes... My change of shoes and socks made my feet pretty happy. I also grabbed my hydration pack (with my salt, gels, ect in it) and my sunglasses (thank God) and Jason and I took off. He and I are running a hot trail marathon in June, so he decided to use this as a long training run (running both loops 3 and 4 with me). He filled me in on stuff that was happening at camp while I had been running my first 17 miles, as we pushed through next 17 miles.  We talked about our upcoming marathon, and strategy for running it.

While chatting, we realized that although the race was called "Margaritas and Manure" and we had seen a lot of manure and even some cow hoof prints, we had not yet seen any cows! We smelled them on some occasions but never actually saw any! We came up with a good theory about this, you'll have to keep reading to get to that though.

Loop 3 was probably my hardest loop mentally. I had 1 negative moment (the entire day) during this loop, and spent about 30 seconds saying "what was I thinking, it's so hot, why did I think I could do this?" as I finished the last sentence we were surrounded by snakes (1 big black one on each side of the trail) at the same time. I jumped toward him screaming while he jumped toward me screaming and we were both confused why the other was jumping toward the snake on each others side... then we realized there was a snake on each side. Yikes! After we got out of there, he pointed out that as I had my first negative thoughts we saw snakes, and from then on every time I even considered questioning myself it became a funny thought because negativity = snakes. And I don't like snakes! This loop I ate half a pickle, a few grapes and an orange slice. We finished that loop pretty strong.
Walking back and forth and back and forth to and
from the aid station to see me as I pass by every
1 hour and 45 minutes or so!

Loop 4 miles 25.5-34 Over half way!!!
I have to say all the aid stations were awesome, my support crew was so quick to get me anything I needed and they kept me moving through there pretty quick. They were awesome. They were taking my pack off me to refill it while one was tying my shoes, another was pouring cold water on my head, handing me cups of water and bananas ect. It was like the Nascar Pit Crew!  Justin (my amazing husband) gave me my blue cool towel I bought last week, and it was AMAZING. It both blocked the sun and kept my body temperature down a little. I was also able to wipe my face with it (which was so refreshing).

Now it was pushing 90 degrees and around 11 am. Jason and I were both pretty delirious from the heat and miles at this point, decided the huge power lines looked like alien men... Obviously they were the ones who abducted all the cow! Brilliant! Thinking about that really made that first 4 mile stretch at the beginning of the red loop more fun to run from that point. I ate another orange slice, half a banana and some more grapes this loop.

Jason and I saw a guy passed out face down on the ground due to heat exhaustion -which was a little scary. It served as a good reminder at how hot it was out and how important my hydration was.

Conversation was a little slower, we were both very hot at this point, we did talk about dentistry, and wisdom teeth, root canals and implants. When it would get quiet, or an opportunity would arise, Jason would sing some of the songs out of the Little Mermaid which was a fun breakup of the run to have those stuck in my head! Oops, was i not supposed to tell anyone about that? :D

I texted Justin about 3 miles before arriving at that aid station requesting Chocolate Milk. I hate milk, but for some reason at this point in the run it was all I wanted. I craved it! I was praying I gave him enough time to get it and bring it down to meet me! Continuing on we were on the final 2 miles of loop 4 and Jason tripped on a section that was full of roots. No, no, he didn't fall, but as he was saying how funny it would be if he made it 15 miles without tripping it would suck to fall right at the end of his loop... but before he could finish saying it he face planted over a stump. I was so excited to witness this fall! It added an element of excitement to the run - thanks for that Jason! Fortunately he landed in very soft sand and didn't hurt himself.

Loop 5 Miles 34.5-42.5 ish
Not much cloud coverage. That
sun was so hot.
Very hot, a bit nauseous,
dizzy and all around sick
Justin met me down at the exchange with ice cold Dark Chocolate Almond Milk! Oh goodness it was yummy. My mom arrived at this point too, seeing her there was pretty awesome! She joked about not wanting to run the next loop with me because it was too hot. We chatted for a minute and all said our goodbye's.

Justin and I took off for loop 5, I knew this would be one of my hardest loops to conquer, it was the hottest part of the day and I had ran over 35 miles. My poor husband excitedly joins me and got to watch me throw up a few times, got to hear about me peeing blood, and feeling so sick and dizzy. We did quite a bit of walking this loop trying to recover so I could finish stronger my last loop. I got to tell him all the stories from the first several loops, and he filled me in on everything that had been happening all day, and all the nice messages of encouragement people were leaving me.

While walking, I was calculating how much time I had left before the course cut off of 13 hours (which was my only real goal, but I also thought it would be cool in a perfect world if I could finish in the 11th hour. I knew that was a stretch and would be so happy with 12:59:59 because I would be an official finisher with that time). I realized at this point that I had over 4 hours left... Oh goodness I am not pushing that cut off time at all!

We hit the yellow loop aid station and they were out of water, Heed (electrolyte replacement drink) and ice. They said it was on the way... so we waited. I didn't think I would be able to make it another 2 miles around without something. I ate 1/4 of a PBJ while we waited, and after about 5 minutes they arrived with supplies so I filled my water and off we went. My stomach had settled some, and I physically felt pretty strong. Justin said I kept asking if anyone was coming up behind us... he said I probably asked him 20+ times, I don't remember asking so many times but he insists I did. I had no intention of finishing first or winning any awards but because I maintained first overall female as early as my first loop, I didn't want to let it go the end of the race!
I do remember I kept thinking "oh my goodness, I can't believe I am already almost done". I was in disbelief that I was so close to finishing. 1 more loop! Jason met us right before the last aid station and snapped a couple pictures of us at the last water crossing.
The last water crossing (we crossed 6 times) by balancing
on a log off to the side of it. By the last 2 loops I was needing
a little assistance because my legs and core were not
allowing me to balance very well!
We walked the last 10th of a mile or so of this loop visiting and preparing for my final loop. Next time everyone saw me would be crossing the finish line.

Loop 6 miles 43-51.5 LAST LOOP!
 Jason had an opened IPA waiting for me to start my last loop with. That drink of beer was so refreshing and yummy, like nothing I have ever experienced! I dropped off Justin and picked up my mom who was as ready as  as she could be to endure that heat! We started off at a very slow jog. I told her about how sick I had felt my last loop, and how hot I was. I also kept saying "I can't believe I'm almost done". She kept me running when I needed to be running, and gave me time to walk when I needed to walk. My heart rate stayed in the low 140's pretty much the whole last 9 miles.
Realizing this was happening and we
were going to finish! I was going to finish!
So happy to have my mom there with
me for those final miles. She got me
started on running and it meant so much
to have her there encouraging me.

It was fun catching up with her during our run, hearing about her new dog and talking about my last 44 miles! I ate an orange slushy popsicle at the first aid station we passed, and said my goodbye's to the volunteers there. My mom asked me around this time if I would run another Ultra, I thought about it for a second, and answered "yes... in the winter". I really enjoyed this whole race, and all it's challenges. I loved feeling so physically and mentally pushed, and being able to overcome it all. I feel stronger in ways I never imagined being able to feel.

When I would take an extra long walk break, and struggled to start running again, my mom would say something like "I think someone is coming behind us on the trail" and that was all it took to get me moving again, then she would throw out "I was just kidding, no one is back there" LOL. Once I was moving I could keep going, but trying to start running while walking was really hard. She did whatever it took and I didn't have the energy to question her or look back so I just started running when she'd say it and go as long as I could before needing to cool down again. I was still in first place (to my knowledge) and letting someone pass me the last few miles seemed pretty silly.

 I felt pretty good physically at this point but it was so hot. The sun was so draining. I finally got to the yellow happy loop I ate a homemade oatmeal cookie (seriously, best cookie I have ever eaten). We got a little breeze and a few minutes of cloud coverage. Mom reminded me how much I loved this loop and how good it was to me! I passed a guy during this loop and was getting really excited to run the last 2 miles. My Garmin hit 50 miles and I remember saying "Mom, I'm really going to do this!!" Still in disbelief! At that time my dad texted to see how I was doing and she told him I had about 1 1/2 miles to go... that sounded CRAZY!

This is me saying "OH MY GAWD
I have less than 2 miles to go!!!

All this time I didn't really think about how much time I had left, just running as much as I could until I finished. We zoomed through the last aid station not wanting to stop I knew I only had 3/4 of a mile left or so, and was beyond excited. The last section was mostly soft sand but I didn't care. Mom and I cruised through the trail and she kept saying "you're almost there Toni, you did it you're almost there, it's right around the corner". She split off from me letting me round the last corner and cross the finish line.

Mom waiting in the background watching
me run ahead to the finish line.
When I came around the corner I saw everyone standing there cheering for me. This was a surreal moment for me. This was the finish line of a 50 mile trail race. Something I wasn't sure I would complete and before today doubted myself often!

As I crossed the finish line with my jello legs and heavy feet I tripped on the blue mat.. Thank God I caught myself and didn't fall, but seriously, what a funny picture that would have made to see me flat on my face at the finish line.

Official time was 11:22:29. Yep I finished in the 11's! Can you believe that! On top of that, I found out I was the overall female finisher (1st place female!!) and 4th OVERALL finisher. Only 3 people finished ahead of me. That is just crazy. I was given my 50 mile finisher medal, and as all my family and friends closed in on me I felt more love and support than I could have ever imagined. I bent over and put my hands on my knees, everyone worried something was wrong but I took a minute to just soak it in. I was so overwhelmed with everything that had happened over the course of the day.

Everyone waiting for me to cross the finish line. Daniel,
Jason, Jessica, Justin, Terry and my mom!
Oh gosh, I am done!!!

Overall Female Finisher for my first 50 Mile trail race!

So dirty!!
Some of our best friends and
the people I have spent
most of my training runs the
last 8 months with!!! <3 td="">

Now to recover. I seemed to have broken a bunch of blood vessels in my legs, my feet and ankles are both really swollen and bruised, my legs feel a bit like jello and everything on my body feels a bit bruised- my arms and even the inside of my mouth! Overall I feel great, no pain just a general fatigue. Lots of RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) for the next few days!!
Remember when I said I should have changed
my shoes after loop 1.. I had 3 of these bad boys!
Very red/purple bruised bottoms
of my feet and swollen ankles!
So many little popped blood
vessels on my legs and feet

1 comment:

  1. Wow mom I love it I wish I could be a runner like you.������