Fiddy by John Fielding
The best adventures seem to have happened when, in hindsight, you can look back and say, “That was a dumb idea.” And that’s exactly what running a 50k on basically no specific training was… a very dumb but very fun adventure! How does someone even get to this point? A strange combination of events for sure…
While Ironman Florida did still occur this year, the impact of hurricane Michael meant that I was unable to go. I had put quite a bit of thought and planning into doing Ironman FL and was pretty disappointed to not tow the starting line. In addition, it had been my “epic” event for the year as well as a 30th birthday present… But alas, the right decision was to not be there. Sadly, this left me with a hole in my sense of “epic adventure”. Now that the chaotic recovery process has calmed down into a comfortable clamor, I began to dwell more and more on the big adventure idea.
As we neared the winter solstice, I was looking back on last year’s activities when I came across the Amavida Winter Solstice Run that I did in 2017. At the same time, I’d been caught up in talking with Tom at Run/Sup in Seagrove—side bar: great store; buy there—about long distance trail running. All of it culminated in a perfect storm of thinking, “I should just go do this.” Was this a good idea? Yes! Also, no!
As Lauren can attest, I can be somewhat… different… when I don’t exercise. You’ll all be very surprised to learn that I can be obsessive, etc. about such things. To recount more of my character, I’m also one of those people who just do better when they’ve had some time alone now and again. With Lauren’s consent, a few hours of running was a welcome change from hurricane time.
And also… no, this was a terrible idea. Since the storm my fitness has steadily decreased and the remaining debris means it is still unsafe to use most of the running and riding routes I normally frequent. Throw on added responsibilities from cleanup and the like and I can assure you that there was no “training” for this—which is a terrible idea. As an example for those of you not inclined to run a long distance, the build to a race this long should be done over 8-12 weeks and include several runs up to a full marathon. Instead, my longest run leading up to this was the Spartan Beast (~13.6 miles) which really isn’t even a run since it involves obstacles…
Knowledgeable enough to know that I wasn’t in my correct fitness for something like this, I decided on a Monday to go for 50k that same Friday. I was at least cognizant enough to know that I:
- Wouldn’t be running the full distance; and,
- Would need some nutrition planning.
For item 1, I opted to just lightly jog around and take walk breaks anytime I wasn’t feeling it. For item 2, I bought gummy bears. Lots of gummy bears! And also some clif bloks, clif gels, Gatorade gatorlytes, and some clif bars. I double concentrated a bottle of Gatorade powder and gatorlytes into a salty slush that I figured would be decent enough to keep me cramp free for a while, loaded up 2 liters of water, and packed my food and a change of running clothes into a camelback confident that I would probably survive. I also at least had the presence of mind to load my planned route onto my Garmin 735xt just in case. For the curious, my route began in Rosemary Beach, went west into the Pt. Washington state forest trails to the Longleaf Greenway trailhead east of Gulf Place, and returned on the paved multi-use trail following CR30A.
Friday morning arrived cold, rainy, and windy which is pretty much perfect conditions for someone who overheats easily! Honestly, I hadn’t really planned on what to do about rain and wind… but I had recently picked up the new Makani jacket from De Soto Sport. It’s super lightweight, stretchy, wind resistant, water resistant, and has a hoody. So while I hadn’t planned on it, I had picked up a great compliment to the conditions. I had my usual skin cooler shirt on underneath and it made a perfect combo for the day. When I stepped out of the car in Rosemary at 6:30 AM I was immediately pretty cold… and it was drizzling… hmmmm… This didn’t seem to be too big a problem since the running itself is usually enough to keep anyone warm in 45-50 F but I did forget to bring gloves… which turned out to be a bit of a bummer for the first 10 miles… Anyhoo, I locked up, did one last gear check, and started up some podcasts before I trotted off.
The first mile was basically enough to decide that I should really hit the public restroom in Alys Beach before going the next 2.5 miles to a bathroom near the trail entrance that may or may not be open. So my first opportunity to take this chill was nice and early A few minutes later, much lighter, I resumed forward momentum.
Part of the fun of trail running is just never knowing what will happen on the trails. First example? The entrance to the trail near the Hub was blocked by large piles of woodchips! Weird… almost like they didn’t want people using the entrance… but surely, they didn’t mean me! I scrambled up and over and onto the trail system at mile 3.5-ish.
From here, the trail system winds it’s way through Pt. Washington forest across CR395, CR283, and CR83 through a combination of logging roads and single track. The forest is beautiful and the wintery, overcast conditions were perfect for seeing the colors and animals that dot the trail system. Enjoying the scenic route as much as possible, I began dodging puddles and wash outs inevitable in what has been a very rainy season. The first few miles of trail encompass part of the Eastern Trail Lake system connecting the Hub to CR395. There were several groups of deer in the area though I could never seem to get a decent picture before they were running off.
At CR395, the Eastern Lake Trail loop ends at a parking area trailhead. From here, it’s a short jog north to the entrance for the Longleaf Greenway that goes west to Gulf Place across CR283 and CR83. And here it was that I hit the next unknow… A wooden post sign that read “Trail Temporarily Closed”… Puzzled as to what this could possibly mean, I jogged around and decided to figure it out on the trail… duuuuuuuuumb. Herein is where planning makes up for stupidity. The trail path and much of the route signage was torn to pieces and quite flooded. So more often than not, I was stopping to retrace steps, consult my watch map, and wade through shallow pools of rainwater.
The Longleaf Greenway entrance was around mile 10 and it was about this point that I was forced into a run/walk scenario more by trail conditions than by fitness. Either way, the trail reconstruction was only a 2 mile or so stretch before evening back out to navigable, if somewhat flooded, trails. So it was that with wet feet squelching in shoes, and a few cuts on my legs from saw palmettos that I exited the forest around mile 17.5 at the Longleaf Greenway Trailhead in Gulf Place and began the paved trail trek back to Rosemary.
Happily, I had done a good job to this point of taking in food and such and considered making longer albeit light jogging efforts now that I was free of the flooded puddles… Mostly, though, I kept everything light and ate often while recalling that I had nearly passed out on this same trail under full body cramps while running long distance. There’s also something disconcerting in the knowledge that there’s still about 15 miles to go… Anyhoo, the cold wind and rain had made the trail a desolate place this particular day and I was perfectly content to go on walking, jogging, and—above all—eating gummy bears all the way to mile 21 where I came across a pedestrian bridge I had worked on that was washing out Having just sat through the whole “ethics in engineering” thing for my license update I felt compelled to stop and do the whole “if you see something, say something” thing… So I grabbed some pics, did some non-destructive testing (jumped up and down on it… seemed fine), let the correct people know that we needed to shut the bridge down, and headed back on my merry way.
It was at mile 23 that the shift happened. It was at this point that my feet were just plain tired of it… literally. It was now becoming somewhat painful to trot for more that about 2/3 of a mile before needing to take a walk break. Fortunately, I was in an area I know really well for running and had a definite number on just how much more of this hurt would be in the locker… 9 miles! Yay! From this point forward, I practice my internal motivation and my “runner’s shuffle” and, of course, kept eating through my gummy bears
It was during this stretch, at mile 28.5, that the sun came out for the first time. The sun and I have a complicated relationship. It doesn’t seem to like me and I’m not overly fond of it. I prefer cloudy days. It’s much nicer for my eyesight issues, problems with glare, and general ability to overheat in almost any conditions. With a brief, squinty scowl at the emerging sun I realized I had completed the “loop” section of the run. I was now back on the same section of trail from Rosemary to the Hub that I had run in on. The sun consented to return behind the clouds and I managed to finish out the remainder of the 50k in a painful walk/shuffle format.
Upon return to my car, I was certainly nervous that I would be in full body cramp mode and possibly light headed. On my 29 mile run last year I was stretched out in the back of my truck for about an hour with cramping and dizziness before I managed to hobble around. It was at that time that I swore I would never do that again… probably. Ha! Nevertheless, I was in much better shape this time around. Still, I wasn’t much for walking. I managed to hobble into Amavide Coffee Shop and grab to some coffee and a smoothie before posting up in my car in front of the heater for a few minutes to make sure I was ok to drive.
Since the run, I’m now dealing with the fun consequences of doing something I know better than to do—go way beyond my trained fitness level. I’ve seemingly avoided significant injury but am certainly limping around a bit on a bruised left arch/ankle. I don’t typically have visible bruises but I can make out the swelling and light bruising on the inside of my arch. Still, I can at least say that I’ve scratched my “epic adventure” itch for the time being and honestly would give that whole experience another shot sometime
So… if you’re thinking about trying a 50k, I recommend training for it… it’s probably a good idea. If you don’t, at least have the good sense to go buy a bunch of gummy bears the day before And, for the curious, my list of gear I used:
- On-running Cloudace Shoes
- DeFeet running socks
- On-running Hybrid Shorts
- De Soto Sport Skin Cooler Short Sleeve
- De Soto Sport Makani Wind Jacket, unexpected MVP of the day! Hadn’t planned on wearing it, ended up never taking it off
- Run/Sup running hat
- Aftershokz Trekz Air bone conduction wireless headphones… invaluable for listening to podcasts and/or music while being active as it still lets you be aware of your surroundings. Worth the money!
- Camelback Ultra-10 Pack, the stuff I used
- 20-oz Gatorade Thirst Quencher double concentrate + 2 Gatorlyte packs
- 3 Clif Gels, citrus
- 2 Clif Bars, macadamia nut
- Clif Bloks energy chews, raspberry
- 2-liters water; ran out with 1 mile to go.
- A LOT of gummy bears… no idea how many. I got them in bulk from Lucky’s Market… As an aside: bulk is by far the best way to by gummy bears. That way you don’t suffer the shame of saying, I ate XX packs! It’s all one bag!
- Random leg cramp dissolvable chews that I got in some race packet one-time…
- Stuff I also had in my pack but didn’t use…
- Toilet paper in a ziplock bag. Never leave home without it.
- De Soto Sport skin cooler Coolwings
- Zoot Ironman tanktop
- Extra socks
- iPhone w/ back-up headphones
- Driver’s license and debit card
And remember, it you don’t want it to be sweat soaked… put it in plastic, sealable bags