Strolling Jim 40 Mile Run
It's been over a month since I ran the Strolling Jim 40 mile Run on May 2nd.
The last few weeks have been very busy with work and family committments. I've spent most of my time these last few weeks going to work, preparing for several upcoming lectures, with my family, doing chores around our property and training for the upcoming Bighorn Wild and Scenic Trail 50 mile ultra.
So I didn't get around to downloading photos or writing my race report until now.
We arrived to Tennessee a few days early and enjoyed spending time with my family who live in the Nashville area.
Strolling Jim is run on the rolling country roads surrounding the town of Wartrace, TN- located about 1 hour and 15 minutes south of Nashville.
I am a dedicated trail runner and was not sure what to expect from running so far on pavement. I still remember the excruciating pain after running in my last last long road race, the Chicago Lakefront 50 mile in Fall '07.
I hoped to not have a similar experience, especially with Bighorn coming up only a few weeks later.
Tennessee and the southeast had been having severe thunderstorms and rain all week. There were widespread flash flood warnings. The route of the race had to be detoured due to the road being flooded.
We started in a downpour and were soaked within a half mile.
I remember thinking, "If only this rain would stop!"
Then after it did, wishing "If only it would start raining again!"
We do not get such humidity where I live in the Black Hills. It made the for lush plant growth and verdant scenes but was difficult to run in.
This is the 31st year that Strolling Jim was run. It is a friendly, informal event. I know many ultrarunners in the upper Midwest and also Colorado/Rocky Mountain region. However, there were no names on the entry list that I recognized. This is an entirely new ultrarunning scene.
No matter, I looked forward to making new acquaintances and contacts in this region of the country.
The organizers were excited to have me run in the race. In the 31 year history of this event, I was the first entrant ever from South Dakota. They told me I had no choice but to finish. I told the not to worry- I would finish no matter what. I would finish unless something unexpected happened, such as getting run over by a truck.
I might be slow, even need a cattle prod, but after all this was only a 40 mile training run!
One thing this race is known for, the inspiring, encouraging phrases painted on the pavement by Race Director Gary Cantrell.
Gary is also known as the RD/founder of the infamous Barkley Marathon. Since that race began in 1986, only 8 runners out of about 700 have finished within the 60 hour cutoff. It takes a sick and twisted individual to invent a race like that.
Of course, all ultramarathoners are sick and twisted…some Barkley runners continue to return year after year, knowing full well they have absolutely no chance of finishing.
What kind of person runs in a race like that?
This race has a low registration fee. Because of this, there is minimal aid, primarily gallon milk jugs of water every few miles. If you're like me and need specific nutrition and fluids during your ultras, a crew is essential.
Fortunately, because this is a road race your crew can meet you anywhere along the course. Nathan and Jeanne did an outstanding job keeping me going and not spending too much time getting what I needed. I could not have finished without their assistance.
They were awesome!
The scenery was beautiful but soon the humidity caught up with me. Only five people passed me but I noticed that they all had southern accents. There is something to be said for training and acclimating for race conditions.
"Isn't it great how cool the weather is today!" one runner said.
Sure. Easy for you to say, I thought. But he was right, it could have been much worse. The sun could've come out and it could have been hot and humid. Nevertheless, for me the humidity was challenging.
I wondered what is worse: vomiting in the dry heat of the Arizona desert as at Javelina Jundred last November or struggling to keep going in this humid-jungle they call Tennessee now?
Oh well, as the saying goes: what doesn't kill you makes you stronger…
On the way back towards Wartrace, we entered the "Walls." These were several rolling hills in a row. This was one part of the race that I was prepared for. The hills were very similar to those I train on daily. The only difference was the humidity and the pavement.
I met up with another runner who had passed me earlier: Sarah. I prefer to run with others who have a similar pace as I. I'll even slow down to stay with another runner. Others have done the same for me, I do the same for others when it is my turn.
Sarah wasn't feeling too well. Her stomach had turned. I know only too well how quickly that can happen.
Fortunately for me, despite the humidity sowing me down, my stomach held out. I only had a twinge of nausea that dissipated after taking an electrolyte cap and drinking fluids.
Sarah and I ran/walked together for the remainder of the race. She suggested I go on but I didn't really want to. Race conditions had forced me to slow down. I could have taken off on my own and finished before her and probably a couple of other runners but I didn't care. It was nice to have an excuse to go slower.
So what if I finished sooner?
Running ultras are all about going the distance and not so much about our times. I felt it was more important to stick with someone else as so many others had done for me at other races in my times of need. Now was my turn. I'd gladly do it again.
Because of the flooding, the course had to be re-routed onto a more busy highway. It added a couple of mile to the race.
I would have preferred to stay on quieter back roads. However, I run ultramarathons not triathlons. I didn't relish the idea of fording or swimming floodwaters.
Sarah told me about the tradition of soaking your feet in the cold waters of the fountain at the race finish. The last few miles, I looked forward to it. Unfortunately, the fountain was drained for repairs- no foot soaking for me today.
Maybe next year?
My finish time was closer to that of a fifty mile rather than forty mile race but no problem. My hydration and nutritional intake went according to plan and I avoided GI issues. Despite race conditions I was not used to, I finished anyway and that's what counts.
My brother David, his wife Gina and my nephew, baby Elek came to meet us at the finish.
Before the race, I told him that watching an ultramarathon is like watching the grass grow. Afterwards, I told him that in my case- watching the grass grow may indeed be faster…
A week off from running and then it is back to training for my next ultra: Bighorn Wild and Scenic Trail 50 mile race in June.
Run well, my friends, run well.