Kate Abbott's 2011 Bull Run Run 50 Mile Race Report

Home, under blankets. Sipping bourbon. Stomach rebels for the next 8 hours. Pure hell. Lying on Jack's dog bed outside the bathroom. I may just die. I will NEVER do this again. No way for Hampton 24 hours next week. Why did I DO this to myself??

(photo by Bobby Gill)


Third time for me at BRR 50. Morning of the race, the biggest concern for me is the damp cold and the mud from the rains the day before. Per our usual routine, Mark picks me up at 5:15 and we head to the start. He is kind enough to tune the radio to 105.9 and I drink green tea and listen to him chatter about gels and Succeed! caps. After a slight wait to get into the parking lot, we get the MINI Cooper through the mud on an uphill so we can push it back to the road if need be after the race.

Pick up our numbers and swag (very nice race shirt as always and so nice to have women's small sizing). The usual cast of characters is in the lodge pre-race, nervous energy in the air. I pack my camelback with all I can possibly need for the run. Biggest debate is over whether to carry new cell phone. Ultimately, I put it in a plastic bag because I am convinced my husband will call me lost or looking for something, and since he is working the Do Loop aid station with the boys, it is best if I answer the phone. He never calls during the race.

I become convinced at the start that I need a headlamp. Surely I will fall during the first mile (never mind that it will be quite light by then). During the lap around the park before we get on the trail, I part with my security blanket headlamp and Mark kindly puts it under the wiper blade on the car as we pass it. It only cost 2.99 so no matter if it gets wet. Sure hope it doesn't rain...

The Race

Onto the trail and northbound. Mud and bluebells. First water crossing and the stones are covered. Not as bad as when we had the huge downpour a few weeks back but I elect to walk thru the water. Good thing I wore race ready shorts because the water is thigh deep and cold. I call out the runners who are taking off their shoes--"wussies!" Mark is with me at this point. Next water crossing is manageable and we use the stepping stones. However, the third one is even deeper. I hike up my camelback and walk thru, using my hands on the stepping stones. The rushing water has the toilet flushing effect on me and for the first time EVER, I manage to pee in my shorts. What a relief--now I do not have to find a bush.

Continuing northbound, the treacherous slick troll bridge--I use my hands to climb up. This makes my hands cold for the next two hours--so cold I cannot make my camelback tight so it flops around. Mark holds my soaking wet gloves and I ask him if they are making him cold. Turns out that will be the least of his concerns.

Slightly before the turnaround, I encounter Dr. Farouk from the House of Pain (tag for FB). I tell him proudly that I peed my pants and he tells me he went swimming. I assume until the following Monday when I visit the House of Pain that he dove off the troll bridge bank and swam across somehow with his camelback on his head and that he planned to do so on the southbound leg. This assumption is enhanced by the troll bridge keepers, who when I ask if swimming is an option, tell me: "No, but we did have one swimmer." Turns out the swimmer was a different runner and Dr. Farouk actually fell into the water and hurt himself at the second northbound flooded water crossing. His bruises look awful on Monday.

Uneventful except for mud for the remainder of the northbound trek. Oh and my fretting over whether I soaked my ipod in the water crossing. Southbound gets a little more exciting.

Second to last water crossing before the turn up to Hemlock. I decide that the cold water is great for my hamstrings and butt and to rinse out my shoes. I accomplish all of this as Mark manages to fall into the water on my right, soaking everything except his left ear. He clambers up, looking every inch the drowned rat and exclaims: "well, that was quite bracing." I cannot stop laughing for the next two miles. I apologize for making fun of him, as do the two guys behind us who were bemoaning the lack of cameras for this spectacle.

Uneventful trip up to Hemlock and back down the the trail. I am starting to lose Mark. He catches up at the soccer fields and asks me nicely if I need anything. I grit my teeth at him and say: "just trying to get thru the worst part of the course." He slinks away and runs behind me for a bit until I get over myself. I lose Mark somewhere between Bull Run Marina and Wolf Shoals aid stations. The impossibly fast leaders are coming northbound. Pass Caroline Williams at Wolf Shoals and Ken S. right before Fountainhead. That is what he gets for calling me slow. I do give him some Advil because his knee hurts.

Fountainhead and headed for the Do Loop talking to a newbie who asks me if I am the Kate with the race reports on the VHTRC web site. I admit to that and he tells me that he is glad that he is with me since I am so slow and usually just ahead of the cut-offs. Sort of a back-handed compliment but ok. Looking forward to Do Loop and seeing husband and the boys. It is of course lovely to get a kiss from each on the fly on the in-bound loop. They look like they are having fun. Hand off my dead Garmin. Outbound I give them my smelly top layer and Jacian tells on his brother: "Joaquin says you are really slow."

Fountainhead heading to Wolf Shoals, playing ping pong with two women. One is alternating between running very fast and singing. Sort of weird but ok. Stomach starts to protest and I know I am in for it later. I have been eating every hour and a lot of solid food. No sugar except for two cokes and one of Kathy's brownies at Do Loop. Out of Wolf Shoals I start to run with the wolves--those really big, fit ultrarunners who scared the crap out of me at JFK 50 in 2008 because they looked so lean and mean. Turns out they are very nice. Eventually I pass them. I would love to break 11 hours and I should have but for this darn mud. Sucks the energy out of the legs and you cannot fight it. Bull Run Marina-I ask one of the volunteers how much is left in the camelback. He kindly checks and says "a lot". Grab gingerale and keep running. Stomach is pretty bad now...just hoping the flood holds off. Queasy too..oh no....

The Finish

Onward up the trail counting down the last five miles and trying to run. I can now walk downhill faster than I can run. Still passing people so that is good. Looking for that final big hill, not caring about the steepness just want to be done. See a guy at the top and tell myself I will beat him in. I catch him at the top of the hill and he asks if it was the last hill. I tell him yes and run for the finish. Rounding the corner there is the finish clock...darn it, slower than last year. Now the guy from the hill is trying to beat me so I sprint and beat him by 3 seconds. Done. Nicest finisher's shirt yet. Catch a shower--the mud in the shower room is incredible. Trying to warm up now and waiting for Mark to finish. Drinking protein shake makes me colder. Veggie burger goes down ok. He comes in just under 12 hours and we head to his car as fast as we can to turn the heater on.

Next Morning

3 am, lying on the couch. Starving. Cook eggs and grits and ham. Eat half and fall asleep for three hours. Almost miss my own yoga class at 7:15. In a daze I come home. Feeling better but tired. Sleep for three hours. Totally back to normal (well except for the bruised toenail but who cares I can wear flip-flops to work).

Bring on Hampton!

for Kate Abbott's other BRR stories see: