Where To Begin: Bear Bait 2019 Race Recap

I honestly don’t know where to begin in the telling of this story.  There was so much excitement leading up to this event.  My training had been spot on and my legs were ready to run.  I had been doing a few extra tire pulls to prepare my legs for the more challenging trails in Florida as opposed to the trails I’d just run in Texas the month before.

After stuffing the car to the tippy top with just about anything a runner would need for an ultra, I drove over to pick up my sister (she was traveling with me and acting as crew).  Miraculously we found  space in the car for her stuff and drove south towards Florida.

We made it to our resort and were tickled to learn we’d been upgraded to the Presidential Reserve!  It was pretty snazzy digs with reserved/restricted access parking and everything.

As soon as our roommates arrived, it was off to packet pickup and dinner.

The next day we fiddled around in the morning then it was off to the trail to set up tents, etc for the morning’s race, then an early bedtime.

Things didn’t go amazing at the trail~very strange set of circumstances but needless to say, this runner returned to the hotel a very upset panda and didn’t sleep well.  I maybe got 45 minutes of sleep and spent the rest of the night crying due to the stress at the trails earlier in the evening. I was a mess!  LOL!!!

We were planning on heading to the trails pretty early for a 6:30 am gun time.  Seeing as the resort was an hour from the trails, that meant an early o’clock wake up call.  After tossing and turning and crying, I gave up sleep as a lost cause and got up at 1:00am.  I got myself ready for the race, made some toast, drank some coffee and loaded up the car.

It was so much fun seeing all my running friends from Mississippi!  Many of them were running their very first trail run that day and were nervous and excited and I was excited for them!!!

It was also great to meet a few Twitter friends for the first time IRL!

*Evie, please forgive me for posting your “mud mask” pic.  It really is a badass pic and the only one I have of you from the weekend!

It’s always great to bump into Jennifer!  This is the 3rd time we’ve met up at a race and she snagged 2nd OA Female in the 50k!!!  BOOM!!!

The morning was warm~ish and humid.  Definitely not Mississippi summer hot/humid but seeing as we’ve had a few weeks of weather in the 30’s, it was warmer than what I’d been running in recently.

It’s been funny, even on days when we’d be in the 40’s, I’d pile on every stitch of runner gear I owned.  I knew (from weather stalking) that it was going to be warmer than what I’d been training in.  I purposely was trying to make myself as overly warm as possible so I wouldn’t melt on race day.  That worked out pretty well.  YAY, right?

The gun went off and my body was tickled pink to be grabbing the miles.  The loops were pretty much exactly where I wanted them to be.  They were about 5 minutes faster per loop than I had originally planned but the circumstances the evening before at the trails had forced me to change up my racing plan a bit.  All of a sudden it started pouring.  I’m talking Forrest Gump movie pouring and the trails flooded.

The wind started blowing like crazy!!!

It was a blast!  Who knew such extreme weather could be so much fun!!!

The trails quickly filled with water and I was afraid I might need floaties or something because some of those puddles were getting knee deep on this vertically challenged runner.

About mile 18-19, my eyes started doing their “thing.”  I finished my loop and quickly headed out for another loop.  I was still running strong and wanted to get as many loops in as possible before the sun went down.

The temps were dropping.  It was raining heavily and the wind was still strong.  I learned that on that last loop I had been running through a tornado warning….which in my book is totally awesome!!! It’s not every day you can say that you’ve raced through one of those!

As I progressed through the next loop my eyesight quickly deteriorated and I was forced to drop to a walk.

The trails at Bear Bait aren’t technical at all but there are a few sections with some roots that can be a little tricky if you can’t see where you’re going.  Between the flooded trails and my left eye deciding to quit completely, I was walking carefully and doing #runnersmath.

See, I’m not the speediest of runners you’ll meet on the trails but I’m about as tenacious as they come.  This kid can put it in low gear and go…for a long, long time.  I was doing the math, figuring out how long the loops were taking me if I was able to maintain my current pace.  If I was able to maintain that pace until my pacers were due to arrive at the trails, how fast would my loop splits need to be to make the cutoff.

That’s when I knew my race was over.  Holding that current pace, I wouldn’t make the cutoff.  If my eyes would have held, there would have been no problem.  My walking pace, navigating the flooded trails, there was no way.  It was simply physically impossible!

I was such a sad panda!

A Mississippi running friend met up with me a half mile from the S/F.  I was walking and he slowed to ask if I was okay.  Now, if you know me at all, you know I am not a crier.  I just don’t do it!  When he asked if I was okay, I completely fell apart.  Poor, poor man.  I bet he never asks me that again!!!  Hahaha!!!  He offered to walk with me and I told him to finish his race.  He was only a half mile from wrapping up his 50k (which he crushed, BTW!) and I wasn’t about to mess up his finish time.  Finally, he took off and I wrapped up that loop.

After chatting with the RD, well, he flat out told me it would be unsafe for me to continue, which is nicely saying, “Honey, you’re done” and that was the end of my 100k.  25.50 miles is a far, far cry from the 100k I had gone there to run.

Just because my race was over, I still had friends out on the trails.  There was no way I was going to leave them there to finish their loops without a cheering section!

Even though my heart was heavy, it was time to paint a smile on my face and to genuinely be happy for my friends as they crossed the finish line.  I’m so tickled especially for my friend Nancy, who completed her first ever 50k.  She was radiant as the RD put her medal around her neck!  I’m so very, very happy for her!!!  I’m also tickled she was able to be paced by the generous friends who had come to Florida from northern Mississippi to pace me.  They hit it off big and had a great time on the trails!

I’ve have a few DNF’s after my name but none of them have really bothered me the way this one has.  My legs were ready. They still are!  My eyes said, “No.”  I swear this is the most frustrating thing ever!

So, let’s discuss the eyes a bit:

Things they have determined through researching this weird thing that happens to me.

  1. I’m not the only ultra runner with this problem.
  2. It seems to happen to runners who have had eye surgery and I’ve had cataract surgery on both eyes.
  3. It seems to happen more often on events held at low elevation.
  4. If it happens once, it seems to happen again.

What have I done about it?

  1. I’ve visited 2 different eye doctors.
  2. I have given both of them all the printed articles pertaining to this condition.
  3. I’ve participated in survey’s in the ultra running community that are asking questions and gathering information.
  4. I’ve fired one eye doctor.
  5. I’ve had a plug inserted into my right eye tear duct.
  6. Two times I’ve had amniotic membranes put on my eye and covered with a regular contact lens to protect the membrane while it dissolved into my eye.  This takes about a weeks time and then they remove the contact lens.
  7. I’ve been frustrated with the eye doc doing these procedures because he’s willing to try things but unwilling to discuss when it happens~running.  He bristles when I try to tell him about when and where it happens.
  8. I’m shopping for another eye doctor and have found one that sounds promising in Hattiesburg, Mississippi (about 3 hours south of me).  I’m trying to get an appointment to see her.
  9. I race with protective eye ware and use those fancy eye drops you read about in the articles.

This only happens during a race and only trail races.  It’s never happened during training or during a road race.

Don’t know if this answers any of the questions that you might have had while reading about this?

Now, about my next race and why I chose it:

My next race is March 16-17 in Alcoa, Tennessee.  It is the Pistol 100.  If you’re thinking, WHY are you trying a 100M when you just had problems with your vision at a 100k!?!  That’s a legit question and I’ll try to answer it for you.

The Pistol 100 is on a paved 10 mile loop trail.  NO TRAIL.  It is also a lit path.  If my eyes decide to “do their thing” during this event, I don’t have to worry about killing myself tripping over roots, etc.

I am allowed pacers from the very beginning! People who enjoy running but aren’t a fan of running on trails, they’d love pacing at this race. *hint:  I’m still looking for additional pacers*

Because it IS paved and at a higher elevation, I’m hopeful that my eyes will behave.

It’s disheartening to train so hard, knowing you’re rolling the dice as to whether your eyes will let you run.  The races they let you run?  Holy Cow~They’re amazing races!!!  They make me appreciate all the more the gift of running because it truly is a gift and I love it!

I’ve learned not to take these races for granted.  It’s a very special day when my body will cooperate and “let” me run the miles and see the goals I’ve set for myself become a reality!

So, even though this past weekend wasn’t what I had hoped for, the miles I was able to run?  They. Were. Awesome.  I’m excited about smashing a huge goal, the goal of running a 100M become a reality!!!





7 thoughts on “Where To Begin: Bear Bait 2019 Race Recap

  1. Leon Gray

    A great recap even though it was not what you wanted. Great that you were able to hang around and cheer your friends along.
    I’ve cataract surgery on both eyes and because of the past issues with the right eye and the accident with the 2 month comma I am now totally blind in that eye. The left senior eye functions ok but could be better but we’ll see how we do after 15+ hours. This is the first I’ve heard of eye issues like you had.
    I don’t think we’ll have any rain since the race is in the high desert in AZ.

  2. Ken Steere

    DNF’s suck. I have had 2 in the last 6 months. I’ve had to cut others short.
    I would love to run a couple of those 10 mile loops with you if you still need pacers. Let me know. I have no issue running in the middle of the night. I actually ran a marathon starting at midnight in August 2017. We did night training runs to get ready for it too.

  3. ILA

    This was such a wonderful write up. Things don’t always go as planner even when we plan for what might happen! With that being said, you still won. You stood up, suckedit up, and was there for your friends! That’s a SheRo in my Books. Much love to to my Sole Sistah. You make us women PROUD!!

  4. Laurie

    Melinda, so sorry to hear about the night before the race. I think your next one will be better. Looking forward to reading about your 100 miler! You are amazing! If I lived closer I would apply to be one of your Pacers! Good luck, friend!

  5. Keri Leggett

    So enjoyed reading this Melinda. I have a lot of running issues because of my eyes also. It’s so frustrating ! Just saw Dr Lauren in Hattiesburg (retina specialist). Found out it’s just a side effect from my having surgery for a retina detachment several years ago. Cold weather and wind reak havoc on my vision! Wishing you the best in Tennessee !

  6. Karen greenawalt

    It was. Good to read your story, I know you worked really hard for this race, some days just do not work. Glad you are not hard on yourself over this! You are still loved for who you are. Keep looking forward, there are more races, just learn from this last one. Keep your head high and go get them!

  7. Michael c Taricani

    You gave it all you could. Sometimes things happen. I know the feeling because I had a DNF last year at Anchor Down even though I was better trained than ever before. Just need to move on to the next. We learn from all races, whether a DNF or a finish.

Comments are closed.