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Carl Touchstone Mississippi Trails 50
Report(MS): Rich Limacher
It just goes to show ya. Our beloved Carl Touchstone (who is very, very dearly missed today, I promise you) even he himself, bargaining like crazy with all the sponsoring angels, cannot stop the Mississippi RAIN once it starts to really RAININ'. And I'll bet you there were an awful lot of us recently prayin' to him to try and do exactly that. I know I was. Right about from the first time I reached that point between miles 5 and 6 on the Dogwood Loop where The Big Creek crossing is. "Creek"??? How 'bout RAGING RIVER(S)??? ("Rageeng Reeverz??? We doan need no steengkeeng reeverz!") Man, this thing was damn near over my head! Even on the first loop! And I stand six-foot-two in my soggy socks! I promise you something else: All those folks shorter than me were swimmin'! Again!! They had to be, otherwise they would have sunk to the bottom and drowned. I say "again" because it's happened before. Yes. That same "creek" rose up ANGRY in '98, and ultimately the good rangers of the DeSoto National Forest came and closed us down. That's right. I have Carl's own letter sent to all of us afterwards sitting right here beside me. It's postmarked 12 March 1998, and in it our dearly missed race director told us: "We sincerely regret having to cut the race short by 1-1/2 hours, but that was solely for the safety of the runners. The fact that we had a race at all on that day was a miracle. Our prayers were answered." Hmmm... By the way, Carl began that letter by exclaiming: "Well, we did it! In spite of thunderstorm warnings, tornado watches, and flash flood warnings, we had a fun day." Hmmm. Again. By all my accosting the accounts of all the other accountants who just did it this year, our 2001 race was completely WORSE than that circus of '98. This time, never mind the "warnings" and "watches." Hey, we had the real thing! Thunderstorms, big time! Flash floods like you never seen!!! (Even the puddles were waist-deep!) And--almost, maybe, but not quite--tornadoes too! (Hey, didja watch the news? A week or so before this year's race, Mississippi really did have tornadoes! Sweet Cheezesiss! The governor declared parts of the state "disaster areas"!!!) Hmmm, a third time. I remember runnin' (hah! WADING) through the trail (yes, "through" is the correct word, not "on" or "along the top of") and looking up at the sky when the wind picked up. Hoo-boy! Them clouds was green!!! And the trees were sideways!!! I'm thinkin', "Oh great. It isn't The Barkley that's gonna do me in. I'm gonna die right here in Mississippi!" And then, seriously, I think... hmmm... a fourth time. "Gosh, does Carl miss me, too? Is he askin' me to join him a.s.a.p.?" Well, all right. Maybe that is a kind of a sick joke. Actually, the thing I remember feeling most ALL DAY last Saturday was how Carl really is looking after us. In the face of all this natural disaster, I never once felt like I was in danger of death. Heck, I can swim, and I'm sure Carl knew that. And I'm also pretty sure "the word got out" last time enough so that only THE bravest and strongest signed up this year. I'm tellin' ya, I was surrounded and drowned by talent. Even my "buddy" Edith from Illinois (of all places) came down this year and kicked my ass. And Steve Michael was there from Georgia, splashing past. As did "Spyder" herself, Sarah Tynes (damn, is she getting awesome, or what?), along with a whole 'nother carload of kickass Georgians. That's it. I'm movin'. I'm joinin' the Confederacy. To hell with all this Chicagoland ice and snow. So, okay, with only the toughest of the tough splashing through the Mississlippery trails (I kid you not; at least 80% of the path was under water, with depths varying from a couple inches to just under six feet!) what chance did I have? Certainly nothing competitive, but, Lordy, I did plan to finish! Especially when, after my second loop, I asked the start/finish aid station captain if it was still OK for me to continue. "Sure," she said. (And GodBLESS the volunteers, eh? I mean it. I cannot imagine standing outdoors all day long in a torrential downpour. Many of them had no tents. Most of the other tents blew halfway across the forest when the winds picked up. And one of 'em, yes, Fat Rabbit himself, flew all the way down from Wisconsin just to help the new people in charge. I know because we found each other on the same plane!) And speaking of newly in charge people, hey, Steve DeReamer and Brooke Touchstone did a magnificent job under all these incredibly severe conditions. Brooke even ran the 50K herself (much of it in front of me; gosh, she's an awesome ultrarunner) and Steve (darn it all anyway) "was there for me" at the end of my third loop. Unfortunately, he was also telling me that, once again, the rangers came and closed us down. Protest as I might that I still had enough time on the clock (I swear I would've made it this time, even with the duathlon swim tossed in); Steve rightly said no. He gave me my finisher's award anyway and sent me over to the sagging tent for some soggy chicken. (Note: I am not complaining about the chicken. At that point, I'd've eaten soggy shoe leather. But Carl always did feed us after we finished, and I'm ravishingly pleased to see this continue!) Spyder and Company, of course, were already in the tent. Her buddy Drew Hackett somehow managed a PR (!!!) over THAT 50K course. Congrats to him, too, and I still wanna move to Georgia. Don't try to talk me out of it now, 'hear??? Gosh, it was great to "picnic in the rain" with all of them. I think (although I can't quite be sure) that THIS is the reason why I do this. No, not the chicken but the chicks. All right, and the dudes too. Okay, the people! It's the people who also endure this stuff that keeps me--and probably a bunch of others--coming back. There is great camaraderie in a Mississippi monsoon. And say what you will about rrrRon McBee, but the dude himself was also there and running VERY WELL waaaaaaaaaay in front of my soggy ass. Live and in color, he is a perfect gentleman. We had a good time visiting both at the prerace meal the night before and at the starting line the day of. Dontcha even know, people, he's just bullshittin' with y'all on this List? He's a satirist! Several centuries ago there was another great wit who did the same thing. He managed to piss off EVERYBODY in the U.K. and beyond. Our children now study him in English class. Think about it. His name was Jonathan Swift. Well, I don't know what else to tell you. I did three laps of a four lap race and earned a finisher's prize. How about that? And this was the SECOND time that's happened. I don't know about you, but I'm startin' to think Carl Touchstone's Mississlippery Fifty must be about THE toughest footrace of all time. Hey, has The Barkley ever been "called on account of rain"? I don't think so. But The Mississippi has! TWICE!! yyyYour sssoggyass doublepour, Retch Limacher TheTroubadour@prodigy.net "The Sinkist Formerly Known As Float"