The weather in South Carolina was perfect for my birthday run at a pleasant 58 degrees especially since it was freezing at home. The drive from my hotel to the race start was a short 15 minute trek with little traffic of mostly people headed to the park. Oak trees with low hanging moss lined the entrance of the former plantation which now served as our race venue. I had no prior knowledge of the trails in the area but saw several marshy sections (uh oh!) on the way to the parking area. Blisters were the first thing that came to mind but I was ready with quick drying (DryMax) socks and Desitin (Thanks to Tanya!) to seal out the moisture (No blisters for me!). There was even talk of river crossings but I suspected that it was just to intimidate those unfamiliar with the trails. Either way I was not backing out of my first big challenge of my 50th year!
This race would be my first long run on a tightly looped course (10 loops of 5K each - never again!!!). The first mile was great with mostly flat wide jeep road covered with small rocks, sand, or grass. But by mile 2, our feet were a little wet from a stream making its way across the road with no way to get around it. Oh well, this is trail running! Mile 3 was mostly single track with enough water and deep mud to give me flashbacks from the Mississippi 50. For the first two loops, I just went right through the middle since it was futile to try to avoid the mud bath.
Once I mentally got pass the fact that parts of this course was going to be challenging, I got into my groove. Up until the 25K, I was on pace for a 28 minute PR at the 50K distance. Then my IT band started to hurt. Just a little at first so I checked my form to see if that would head off any further deterioration of my pace but it was not to be. After a couple of more laps, my leg was on fire and I just wanted to finish. With 3 laps to go, I plotted to "put the hammer down" on 2nd to last lap but I could not get my legs to go. The wonderful race volunteers were rooting for my success; they gave me high five's and cheered for me as I came through before my last lap.
After a brisk walk pass the initial rocky section, the caffeine and sugar from my Dr. Pepper gave me energy I needed to crank out the last 5K in less than a minute slower than lap #6. This race turned out to be much more challenging than I had expected. Not sure if it was the looped course (mind numbing), the flat terrain (went out too fast), or the boggy sections (energy draining) that tested me the most, but I dug deep to make it to the finish line. I also wanted to honor the 121 enslaved people who had worked on this former plantation by finishing what was undoubtedly easy compared to their daily lives in the 1800s. Si Awon Baba!
The inaugural Ultra Chili 50K was a well-organized event with fantastic volunteers and refreshments that never ran out. The Charleston County Parks and Recreation gets a thumbs up for supporting what is surely to become a very popular event. All I can say is way to go Charleston, SC. I guess I will have to come back to run the Bridge Run in 2016. Arrivederci!!!