50k Race Report: Carl Touchstone
Memorial 50 Trail Run
I usually keep my posts
short, but this one will be long because I have a lot to
Before I post this race summary, I owe a
note of thanks to the organizers, volunteers, and
sponsors responsible for the Mississippi 50 Trail Run in
Laurel, MS. They all should know how much runners
appreciate their efforts.
In January, I ran the
Louisiana Marathon, the premier marathon in Louisiana.
If you have not registered for the 2016 event, do so now
at www.thelouisianamarathon.com. In my post-marathon
euphoria, I registered for the 50k trail race at the
Mississippi 50. I have run this race before, and
remembering the mud fest in which I participated, I
began to experience buyer’s remorse this week and almost
did not run this year. In the end, I decided to go and
planned to sleep in my car overnight at the staging area
on Friday night. Lori, the brains behind our operation
here, suggested as only she can that I reconsider and
stay in a hotel. My running buddy Sam Amoroso agreed
with Lori, and considering both of them are much smarter
than I, I used some Hilton points to book a room and
drove up to Laurel on Friday evening. They were right!
The low temperature in Laurel was 25 degrees this
morning, and I am sure I would have regretted stretching
my legs (no short jokes, please) across the back seat of
my subcompact rental.
At 3:09am this morning, my
body woke me for today’s event. Apparently I have done
this enough times, and my body now knows how much time
it needs to “prepare” for the day’s events. That done, I
made my way to the start and began running promptly at
6am. My course included two 12.5 mile loops through the
DeSoto National Forest, and one 6-mile loop to complete
the 50k course. I ran alongside a few guys from New
Orleans for a while, and an internist named Ed from
Natchez, MS, ran with us for the first few miles. After
around 5 miles, I made an executive decision to apply
long stride and leap across one of many creeks on the
course. I avoided tromping through the creek and landed
on the other side with dry feet. Upon landing, my foot
went left, and my leg went right. I knew immediately I
made a bad choice and turned to my new pal the internist
for medical advice. He asked if I felt okay, and I said
“kind of,” and he said I could keep running. So I
followed the advice of a medical professional and ran a
few more miles. It finally got numb, and all was right
with the world.
After a couple of more miles, I
found myself alone and really enjoyed the solitude of
the trails. I found myself thinking about how lucky I
was to be able to run. I thought specifically about our
military service members injured in combat who are not
able to run because of their commitment to our country
and relished the experience. As I ran, I also found
comfort in the placards of encouragement stationed along
the course by the organizers. Some of my favorites
included the sign that read “There’s no app for this.
Just keep running!” I also enjoyed the motivator that
sagely counseled “It will stop hurting once you feel
better.” Now those are words of wisdom! I made it
through the first loop feeling fine and stopped to grab
Gu and fluids before going out for the second big loop.
Before the race, I had placed a second set of clothes
and shoes out near the course (remember the mud
reference) in case I needed to change and look nice for
the second loop. I opted out of changing in part because
the shoes I wore (Brooks Launch) drained water quickly
and dried well, avoiding blisters that I had experienced
The second big loop looked mysteriously
like the first one, but it felt a bit different. After
around mile 20, it dawned on me that I still had 11
miles to go, and the weather in my head got a bit
cloudy. Did you know that after running 20 miles on
trails you can literally spit on your own cheek? Trust
me; I did it several times. I also learned that it is
quite possible to relieve yourself while running. I do
not recommend this if you have open wounds from running
through briars, as the salt stings a little. Fast
forward 4 miles.
I entered the start/finish area
feeling fatigued and stopped to refuel again, failing to
take salt tablets or bring enough fluids with me. The
last 6 miles offered more climbs than the earlier loops,
and as such, there were more valleys. Ergo, there was
more water. I sloshed around quite a bit on the back 6,
and by the time I got to mile 27, my calves were
cramping badly. I ran to mile 28, and from that point
forward began walking hills, and even some flat areas,
to buy my calves some time. From here forward, it seemed
that every pine cone on the course wanted to be my
friend and forced itself under my shoes or bounced
around between my ankles. I am convinced that pine cones
belong on wreaths, not on trail race courses.
ran a couple of more miles and got jiggy with it when I
saw the 30 mile marker, knowing I only had one to go. At
this point the 12.5 mile loop and 6 mile loop converged,
and as I looked over my shoulder, I saw another runner
approaching. He may have been crawling, but he looked
like he was moving FAST to me. So I ran (or something
like it) as fast as I could the last .75 miles, only to
realize afterwards that he was a 50-mile runner who was
finishing his second big lap and not a competitor of
I “gracefully” crossed the finish line and
received from the race director my finisher’s items
before hobbling to my car to pack up and head home. He’s
the guy in the picture associated with this post. I’m
the tall one on the right wearing my trademark Varsity
On my way to my car, I saw a few
folks with Alabama Crimson Tide sweatshirts and
congratulated them on their support of LSU athletics.
Well at least I thought it was funny.
the 50k in 4 hours, ~26 minutes. My time was about 5
minutes slower than my PR for this race set in 2011, but
it was still good enough for a first place finish.
This past week, Elliott has been reminding me that
“anything is possible.” I attribute his interest in this
message to the fine faculty at Our Lady of Mercy
Catholic School here in Baton Rouge, and I thank them
for their positive influence on our kids. I remember
thinking after the race that Elliott (and our Mercy
family) is right, and that my win today is a testament
to that truth.
My post ends with attribution.
Today was a great day to race, and I promise you that I
could feel God’s presence with me the entire morning.
That may sound cliché to some, but I was there, and He
was with me every step of the way. I also thank Mrs.
Incredible a/k/a Lori for helping to make my running
possible. She gets me and is my jewel. I also owe a huge
shout out to my training group. More than friends, they
are my family. There are too many of them to list here,
but they know who they are. If YOU want to meet them and
benefit from their friendship as much as I have, report
to City Park most Friday mornings at 5am or Garden
District Coffee most Sunday mornings at 6am. Finally, I
extend a note of gratitude to Jenni Peters and the
Varsity Sports family for making our community a better
place to live. I have never met anyone else as selfless
as Jenni. She welcomed me to the flock with open arms,
and I am a better person because of her.
you will excuse me, my tennis ball of an ankle just
reminded me that there is a growler at Red Zeppelin
Pizza filled with a stout IPA to which I must attend.
For the past three years, I’ve
planned a trip down to the gulf coast of Mississippi to
visit family and run the annual Mississippi50 race in
Laurel (inland). Training for the 2015 race was going
well, lots of hard trail miles on the abnormally warm
and dry January Boulder trails mixed with twice a week
weight training sessions, focused on strengthening
glutes, hips, core and overall balance, had me feeling
good about my prospects for a PR and another shot at a
A little over a week out from the
race I went to the race’s website to check the schedule
and directions only to see the date “March 7th” stamped
in red lettering at the top. Wait a second, I thought it
was on February 28th, because that’s when I’d scheduled
my flight and hotel, %$#@^%. I went into a panic,
searching the facebook page, my race confirmation email,
everything I could find said March 7th. So I immediately
started to look into rescheduling my trip, but the
flight change on United (they suck) was going to run an
additional $500-600, and my sister couldn’t change her
vacation around, so I gave in that I was going out the
weekend before to see family, and might just have to
skip the race, despite all the training. :(
half of the snow we received in late February 2015, it
was the snowiest February on record in Boulder (>50")
I continued to search every nearby city, finally I
found a Frontier flight for $300 direct from Denver to
New Orleans (2h drive) that would allow me to work a
full day Friday, fly out, get a full nights sleep and
run the race; now to procure a few rides and this just
might happen. With only 10days until the race I found a
friend willing to pick me up at the airport and give me
a ride to the race, and my sister would pick me up after
the race, then drive me back to the New Orleans airport
Sunday, it was going to work out! Back to focusing on
training, tapering and just enjoying time with the
A little dry trail running in Mississippi the
weekend before the race.
As luck would have it,
Boulder got completely snowed under in late February, so
my pre-race trip to Mississippi actually allowed me to
get in some nice long trail runs on dirt (no snow/ice)
the week before the race. I also got to spend lots of
time with my sister, brother-in-law and nephew; the most
important thing. So on 3/1 I caught a late night flight
from Gulfport back to Colorado, finally getting home at
2am after numerous delays and a dead car, ready for a
whirlwind week of work before flying back down South
only five days later.
Taking the little guy out for
an ocean side jog on the beach walkway.
less than five days after I’d left the South, I was back
on another plane, this time bound for New Orleans. All
went smoothly on Friday, and Jerry (my savior in New
Orleans) and I were sound asleep by 10pm. The alarm
blared at the all too early hour of 4:15am, so I went
about with my standard pre-race rituals, ate my two
poptarts, then Jerry and I hopped in his car to head for
the Desoto NF. Temperatures were a brisk 28F at the
start, nothing abnormal for Colorado, but definitely
chilly for Mississippi. After quickly catching up with
the RDs Dennis and Renee, along with fellow Rocky
Mountain Runner Jack and his dad Ed, it was almost go
time. I really enjoy these small local races, there’s no
big hoopla at the start, just a handful of family,
friends and volunteers standing around in the cold
morning air. As the ‘gun’ went off, three of us (Jack,
Arthur, and myself) took off out front running a very
comfortable 8min/mile, allowing our legs to settle in
for the long haul. We chatted as we swapped leads,
splashing through the many creek crossings, stomping in
a few mud puddles, coming through the start/finish in
1:39:46 for the first 12mile lap, a little faster than I
was planning, but comfortable none the less.
three of us continued to leap frog back and forth during
lap #2, returning back to the start/finish in 1:42:27, I
quickly grabbed a few gels and blasted out of the aid
area ahead of the other two. Jack caught me part way
into lap #3 and we ran together until around mm32, where
he pushed ahead. I was feeling a little off so I let him
go, deciding to instead focus on holding steady and
preparing for a strong finish through the last 13miles
of the race. I came out of the third big loop in
1:48:17, having lost a little time, but still moving
alright, now a few minutes behind Jack, but securely in
2nd as we’d lost the rest of the pack after lap #2.
As I started into the first of two short 6.5mi
loops, my energy dropped, my pace slipped to 9:30-10ish,
and I knew I needed a little pick-me-up at the next aid
station. I got in to the aid, slammed half a glass of
coke, ate two snickers and chugged off down the trail.
The temperature was still quite pleasant (high 50s) and
this loop only had a half-dozen or so water crossings,
so I continued to push onward. Finally around mm42 the
caffeine and sugar kicked in, and my legs suddenly had a
good bit of pop, back down to 8:30-9min pace and off I
went. I hit the start/finish after a 58:17 loop, not bad
considering the low I’d had, but found out I still had
some work to do, I needed to run a 52min last loop (for
<7hours) and to pick up 3min to catch Jack who was in
Celebrating the win with my sister and
nephew, best High-fiver ever. Photo courtesy of Jamie
I flew out of start/finish a man on a
mission, both for time and place. A mile down the trail
another runner told me I was only 30seconds back! Holy
hell, I was catching up fast, that really energized me,
so I just put my head down and ran. I caught Jack just
before the last aid station, he was looking pretty beat.
I tried to give him some words of encouragement, but
knew that if I wanted to hit 7hours I had to keep
pushing. I put my head back down, embraced the pain and
just kept moving my legs as fast as they would go. With
2miles left it became apparent that I wasn’t going to
make sub-7hours (needed to run two 7min/miles), so I
took it down a small notch, all the while glancing over
my shoulder waiting for Jack to sneak back up on me. I
finally made the last turn down the straight away with
1/4 mile to go, no one in sight, and knew the race was
mine and even though I wouldn’t break 7hours, I’d PR by
a massive margin.
I crossed the finish line in
7hours03min38sec (26min PR), having run a 54:49 final
lap, very happy, very tired, and a little sore. Hugs
from my family, who’d come for lap #3, high-fives from
my 1yo nephew, and finally I could stop running. Jack
came in at 7hours16min, for a very strong 50mile debut
and 2nd overall, giving the Rocky Mountain Runners from
Boulder a 1-2 sweep on the men’s side. After three years
of flat, muddy, wet running in the Mississippi forest,
I’d finally had the race I’d hoped for. An even paced
run, with a strong finish, where I felt like I gave the
course everything I’d had on that day. The sun was
shining and it was in the 60s, so I was happy to hang
out with family and a few friends, enjoying the laid
back atmosphere and the Southern hospitality. I’ve
always been a big proponent of the homegrown low key
races, put on by people who give so much of their time
and energy simply because they love the sport and all
the people in it. While I definitely pushed myself and
competed on this day, Jack and I spent most of the miles
in friendly conversation, and not until the last 15miles
did we actually start racing and challenging one
another. Ultrarunning is about pushing your physical and
mental boundaries, but doing so in an environment where
ALL runners support one another, regardless of pace,
experience, or age, this is what makes it a truly
Jack and I after the run, Rocky
Mountain Runners go 1-2 at the Mississippi50.
Last year I feel as though I had logged more fast hard
training miles, but this year I trained smarter. Mixing
in hard slow mountain miles with some faster paced tempo
runs and my twice a week weight training sessions. As
with many runners I suffer from Noassatall, it’s a
terrible disease where you butt doesn’t do any work,
letting your quads and hamstrings overwork, not a very
efficient way to run. So a smart race plan, listening to
my body during the race and a little weight lifting in
training are what I felt made the difference for me this
year compared to the last two years. So whatever your
goal, train smarter, not just harder. Special thanks to
Vfuel for supporting my craziness and powering my race
(9 Vfuel and half a dozen snickers were all I ate). Run
fast, run healthy, but mostly run happy.
Noassatall is a real disease, affecting real people, my
friend Ginna at Boulder AcuSport has a nice write-up on
the topic. Friends don’t let friends have a lazy ass.
We started to not post this
report for reasons that will be obvious if you try
to read it, and then in comes another report that
actually agrees with it! Both came from runners who
have run 10 or more MS50's. So we post it here as a
warning of what too much of a good thing may do to
The agreement comes first because if we put it after
the rant no one would ever get to it:
I agree with Rich, I enjoyed the signs but you
started wishing they would change them out after
each lap or at least mix them up. But the aid
station workers are fantastic and I try to tell them
thank you every time I go through. Great race, good
- Harry J. Strohm, II, CPA, GCR, DPJ,
BSS, LLD & MSM
CPA - Certified Public Accountant
GCR - Gravitationally Challenged Runner
Doctor of Porta Johns
BSS - Bull Sh*t Specialist
LLD - Leg Length Deficiency
MSM - Mississippi's
Report starts here (The Troub is not real good at
You youngsters will have no
idea what the following examples refer to:
LET OUT A WHOOP
FLEW THE COOP
YOU NEED YOUR HEAD
YOUR BRAINS ARE IN
Or maybe this one:
TO MOST BRUSH SHAVERS
IT'S QUITE CLEAR
YANKS AREN'T COMING
THE YANKS ARE HERE
Perhaps I oughta
(And BTW, "yanks" don't refer to
myself invading the South, exactly. No, they refer
to whiskers getting yanked by brushes and other
stuff being dragged across your face. Me in the
South? Well, keep reading.)
In between each
and every one of those short little lines, there
used to be, oh, about 500 feet. Maybe more. Maybe
less. (I was only a kid at the time and didn't---or
couldn't---count.) And each and every one of those
short little lines comprised a sign. Yes, some kind
of small wooden sign, painted up nicely (red &
white, as I recall), attached to a stake, and driven
into the ground at regular intervals. Where? Along
the sides of that good old ribbon of (disappearing)
The idea was, of course,
advertising---but also entertainment. In the days
before YouTube, old folks used to get their kicks...
on Route 66. Among and along... many other highways
Oh wait. Silly me. Today's amazing
Internet Super Highway… has EVERYTHING:
So there you are.
Since I was way too young
to shave back then, I don't rightly recall the
product itself. But I did have a grandpa, and he
used that horrible old "mug and brush" method. And
what I think THAT was, was the do-it-yourself
technique of putting some kind of soap or cream into
a mug and whipping it into a froth with a brush,
painting it on your face, and then shaving it off
with a straight-razor. (The kind that "Polk Salad
Annie" used to tote, in her spiteful rigidness.
"Lawd hev murcy.") Here. YouTube has that, too:
Burma-Shave, then, was probably the time-saving
answer to unhandy mugs, lousy brushes, and dangerous
weapons. I'm thinkin' it came in a tube and was the
hapless precursor to Gillette's foam-in-a-can and
all these goofy 5, 6, 7-bladed throwaway
contraptions advertisers expect us to shave with
Not me. I use Norelco.
didn't sit down here to yap about razors or shaving,
or even about old roads and advertising jingles.
Nope. I sat down here on accounta I promised
Running Bare (oops, I mean) Bear that I'd write up a
little "experience report" of my recent experience
[It just occurred to me. Thank
goodness his nickname is "Running Bear" because,
well, if he went by the other spelling, then chances
are good he really WOULD need Burma-Shave. And
probably lots of it. Ya think?]
part (or most) of my experience down South, slogging
along the various trails of his Mississippi
50M/50K/20K race in memory of my terrific old friend
Dr. Carl Touchstone, was noticing how, apparently,
lots of Mississippi volunteers must also remember
those great old Burma-Shave signs because… well…
because they cleverly made up a LOT just like them
and set 'em out before nearly every aid station. Not
to get us to shave, of course, or even necessarily
to shower---but to entertain us. Certainly my buddy
Harry and I were entertained. And we talked about
those forerunner Burma-Shave signs which, of course,
the both of us are ancient enough to remember.
Here's the first sign that greeted
us---boom---right out of the box:
WILLIAMS' ASHES WERE SPREAD OVER SAN FRANCISCO BAY.
Whoa. (Did he have that heavy of a beard, so as
to remind the sign makers of Burma-Shave?)
Nah. I think this just happened to be the first sign
out of the truck to be planted trailside.
BUCKINGHAM PALACE HAS 602
A DUCK'S QUACK
DOES NOT ECHO. NO ONE KNOWS WHY.
WHEN THE GAME TWISTER FIRST CAME OUT, CRITICS CALLED
IT "SEX IN A BOX."
And how about this one:
WOMEN ARE ATTRACTED TO MEN IN BLUE.
Hmmm…. and there I was, wearing what a favemost
female running friend of mine once called "Little
Richie's Snowsuit." (It was damn COLD starting out
in those woods this year. We ALL were bundled up!
And me luckily in blue!)
A gal coming against
me on the out-and-back road section even said how
much (hahaha) she was attracted. Upon further
reflection (like today) however, what I'm thinkin'
she was most attracted to was the sign.
my all-time favorite aid station had to be the first
one: BUBBA'S TRUCK STOP, all decorated in gas
station kitsch with advertising to match.
Bubba's Daily Specials Menu was
AND WATER and other delights, like:
AND POSSUM ON THE HALF
"Y'all come back 'n' see us now,
And we did. 50Kers gassed up at
Bubba's twice; 50-milers three times.
year, I'd like to see:
(Ha! Ya thot
I wuz gonna say "Shave," dintcha?)
straight-razors would be necessary if they really
did serve big snakes, especially live ones.
remember asking specifically for POSSUM ON THE HALF
SHELL, and Bubba, I think, said they were
temporarily out, but that if I could wait, he
thought he could go out and get me one. Possum,
sure, but my question was concerning the half shell.
Oh wait. This was a gas station. He could just pull
down half the Shell sign, couldn't he?
other cool signs seen along the trailside:
BUTTLOAD IS AN ACTUAL UNIT OF MEASURE: 126 GALLONS.
A STARFISH HAS NO BRAIN.
THERE IS NO APP FOR THIS. KEEP RUNNING.
these things are truly delightful. They make you
smile, laugh maybe (probably not the third time
passed though), and give y'all something to think
about. As far as my own personal experience went on
this particular Mississlippery Experience, what can
I say? This was my 19th trip around the bases. (Two
other gentlemen as well. There's currently a 3-way
tie for THE MOST STUBBORN, SENSELESSLY REPETITIVE,
AND UNIMPROVABLE OLD FOGEYNESS AWARD.) And I got 'er
done before dark.
My bride was there (with
TWO ambulances) to greet me at the finish line, but
not Running Bear. [Hey, if he weren't the
"Webmesser," he might not read this, or even know
that I was there.] Apparently expecting him to sit
in the timing tent for weeks at a time while I'm
"out there" is asking too much. Bride, too. She
knows better. She takes the rental car to
Hattiesburg and has a wonderful time while I trudge.
But I digress.
What I mostly wanted to
tell y'all with this writing is about how, back in
the day, THE greatest (and most terrifying!) sign of
all didn't used to be in the woods; it was out on
the highway, right at the point where we turn to get
into the DeSoto National Forest.
happened to be another advertising sign, doubtless
put there by the property owner himself.
TRAPPER JOHN'S GATOR FARM.
They raise alligators here?
SO WHAT IF ONE ESCAPES INTO THE DE SOTO NATIONAL
That one sure used to get my
attention, I'll tell ya.
Have a nice year,
y'all. Come back an' see us!
Recent survivor of the following:
(Now celebrating 801 years of
experience with mud, danger, and very "close
Yankee Folly of the Day:
/ IF YOU DON'T KNOW / WHOSE SIGNS / THESE ARE / YOU
MUST / STILL BE SITTING / INSIDE YOUR CAR.
P.S.: If you made it this far you obviously could
use some counseling:
do it in the woods. Even when it's too cold, or too hot.
Hope everyone had a great pre-race supper and race
day. The temp was a little cool at the start but soon turned into a
perfect day for a nice run in the woods.
Once again we had a great
group of runners, plus Rich Limacher come to our run. We had a
good crowd despite a lot of new races competeting with ours this
Many, many thanks to everyone who registered, ran, watched, or
commented on the race. Trail runners have to be the nicest people on
the planet. And MS50 trail runners are the best of all. Hope to see
you all again next year.