Here’s my race recap for the 2023 Southern Tour 50 miler, first race of the year!
Why I ran
Last year, I was supposed to run The Southern Tour 50 miler but an ice storm pushed the race from Saturday to Sunday.
I don’t race on Sundays 😫
Pssst- totally fine if you do, no judgement- it’s a personal boundary for me to keep focus on the Lord’s Day.
When I told the RD Tom Clifford at Without Limits, he shared he was also a man of Faith and understood.
With zero struggle, he deferred me until this year.
I’m very grateful.
The weather was perfect for running- low 50s.
Was able to pick up my packet on eace morning for a 6:30 am start, which meant headlamps.
Real talk: I underestimated the terrain (single track stretches, rocks and roots) but settled into a snappier pace once the sun came up!
The 50 mile course was five 10 mile loops and I finished the first in 1:42:54
Not only did I underestimate the terrain, I forgot how mentally challenging trails can be.
You can’t exactly put your headphones and dissociate- you need to think about footing and pay attention.
Case in point: I got lost for a bit early on but a spectator pointed me in the right direction.
It’s a completely different vibe than road running, which is what I’ve done most recently.
Alas, a welcome change.
I like hard things on purpose.
Finished the second loop in 1:49:21, stopping (again) to change socks and care for my feet
There are multiple race options at this event, including a relay, 50K, and Last Man Standing event.
It was helpful for pacing when the relay members, with their fresh legs, were on course.
We had different colored bibs, so when I saw other blue bibs (50 mile) there was an extra dose of encouragement.
We were out there for the long haul, so there was a sense of camaraderie!
Kind like a “team”.
Second loop, including another sock change (because your feet will give up before your body does) took 1:59:12.
If you do this race, make sure you bring your own water supply on course (fuel belt, camelback, handheld- whatever).
I learned this lesson the hard way.
There are no aid stations except in the camping ground area at the start (where I was changing socks).
Now, in that starting area you’ve got a lot to fuel with: Without Limits nutrition, Honey Stinger waffles, Gu, bananas, water, gatorade.
But that’s it.
You’ll see it every ten miles. Fine for food, but not so much for water.
When you feel thirsty you’ve been dehydrated for hours?
Well, I was thirsty almost the entire loop (but made it in 2:09:52).
I am doing a 100 miler in March, so this was intended to be a long training run within that cycle.
Side note: if you’re an ultra runner, this is a great approach. Intentionally schedule races for your long efforts. Who wants to run 26, or in this case 50, miles on their own?
Anywhoo, with four miles to go, I passed a woman with a blue 50 Miler bib on.
I has seen the top females in the first loop on a switchback, but they were so far ahead of me I thought “there’s no way I’ll ever catch up. Forget it“
I’m glad didn’t count how many of them there because it would have been too much pressure to know the woman I passed was third.
Wheels were falling off at this point anyway.
The course was quite isolated; when I did see a 50 miler participant they were walking.
Another thing I didn’t realize? The gap between the woman and I much closer than I realized.
In my mind, she was like a full mile behind by the final stretch.
It only ended up being :30! 😱
I was completely oblivious to it but apparently it was an all out sprint at the finish scenario.
Almost ten hours of running…and making the podium came down to :30.
If I had walked even once when my head was begging me to in final miles, I’d have lost the spot.
The takeaway? Give your best because it’s your best.
Finished the loop in 2:12:31, the race in 9:53:49, and secured third female overall (by the skin of my teeth!).
That’s about twenty minutes faster than the last time I did 50 miles.
Not to mention 15 years and four kids ago!
Who should do this race?
We live only an hour from the race site, just north of Wilmington. To me, this is a no-brainer for someone who lives on the coast.
Easy drive, lots of distance options.
It would be a great friend weekend type of event too.
Anyone looking for a festival-like experience should consider camping overnight- it’s a whole thing.
Everyone seemed to be having a ton of fun. Most had RVs for overnight, but there were a few tents, too.
I don’t think the terrain is too technical for a beginner but would recommend the relay event if you don’t have a ton of trail experience.
Thank you for a great event, Without Limits.
I’ll be back!
Next up for me? Oak Island Marathon, another race-as-a-training.
(but I wouldn’t be mad at a BQ, ya heard?!)
You can find my running adventures and general ramblings on Instagram. Let’s connect!