An incredible run


Dana Stetson


Carl Touchstone 50K Trail Race. “Stream crossing” was the first thing Gary Griffin said when I asked him about the Mississippi 50K. Much later on I would remember this conversation as a remarkable omen, but at the time it seemed quite abstract.

Kate McFall and I had been looking for a good trail ultra for a long time. For one reason or another no suitable candidates had emerged. Then, along came the Carl Touchstone 50K. It was near perfect. It was close enough, it was fairly easy and it was a reasonable distance in length.

In the week before the race, you could see mighty forces at work. Nature was arranging a classic drama. The weather in Mississippi became bizarre. As floods replaced drought-like conditions, the easy course became hard. Driving over it was wet and during the night, the storms got worse, along with predictions for more.

An ironic incident occurred as we watched the weather channel early on Saturday morning. A storm/flood warning was followed by a statement advising people to avoid crossing moving water. The rain stopped for the race start, leading some to believe that you might stay dry. Wrong!

One third mile into the course you knew you would be wet all day. There were multiple water crossings, some as deep as my chest, and a few with water moving quickly. There were ropes at all the major crossings and these made it much easier. The big crossings were not a problem. In fact, after a while you would look forward to the cold water on your legs. The problem was shallow water. There were miles of calf-deep muddy, clay sections. You tried to slosh/run through these sections, which was the hardest part of the race.

The race consisted of two big (12.5 mile) loops and a final 6.1 mile lap. The race and the weather brought out the best in all who were involved. As in all disasters, this one had the effect of creating some memorable moments. As we drove back to Tallahassee, we were laughing about the twists and turns that somehow ended up dropping you into the middle of a Mississippi swamp. The truth is, unless you were there and somehow survived it, you can never appreciate how incredible this run was.