Sunday, June 29, 2014

I only fell on my face once - Native Jackal Trail Marathon 2014 Race Recap

Yup.  You read that correctly.  TRAIL marathon.  An actual rooty, stumpy, dirty trail. No water crossings though because I'm pretty sure I am not yet mentally prepared to handle that.  Maybe later though.  Plan was to use this race as my last long run before my upcoming ultra at the end of July.  Because it's just "easier" to do a training run when it's an actual race.  This race is day 5 of a 5 day series known as the Jackal Marathons in west Tennessee (Jackson, TN and surrounding areas).  Hence the reason I ran a marathon on a Wednesday!  The drive up was long but I got to see parts of Mississippi that I'd never seen before - Starkville, Tupelo, etc.  We ended up staying in Corinth, MS, the night before the race because there really weren't any hotels right near the race.  We crashed pretty hard once we got to our room.

We didn't have to trespass.

In the morning, we got ready and started the hour drive to Chickasaw State Park in Henderson, TN.  This race was a loop course.  Each loop was 2.65 miles long and we would repeat that 10 times.  The plan was to do two extra laps to make it a 50k.  We had no idea how difficult the course was going to be, but we did know that it was 2880 ft of both elevation gain and loss.  We naively set a goal to complete each loop in 30 minutes, giving us a 5:00 finish time, but also said that this might change after we ran the first loop and saw what we were actually up against.  This race was very small.  Only 15 people were registered, 14 started, and 10 finished..........

From the Jackal Marathons Facebook page

Immediately upon starting the first loop, we were going up on asphalt.  In the first mile (or at least I think the first mile since I don't wear my GPS for trail runs), we were going up up and up.  This was obviously going to be a tough day.  There were beautiful views of a lake next to us though.

Pretty lake.

After going up up up on the asphalt for about a mile, we entered the trail part of the course.  It was a lovely single track trail.  Very rooty and stumpy in some sections, but otherwise nicely manicured.  You definitely still had to watch the ground the entire time.  

Here we go.
Somewhere soon after entering the trail we started up the first "oh shit" hill.  This hill made your entire body hurt climbing it.  Several times I had to stop and catch my breath and that was just walking up it!  In the first loop, I was pretty sure that a 5:00 finish was not going to happen.

Pictures don't do "oh shit" hills justice.  This climb was almost vertical.

After the "oh shit" hill, we made our way down and then around a pretty muddy section.  Later on in the race, someone had made a small bridge of branches over the muddy sections.

Someone made a nice bridge of branches over all the gross mud.

As I said before, the trail was pretty rooty in some sections so you constantly had to pay attention to where your feet were going to land.  

I pretty much walked this section every loop.

Other sections were less technical but it was still a good idea to pay attention to the ground.  There were several places where we did cross water, but there was always a little bridge to run over.

I like little bridges.

Somewhere along the loop there was another "oh shit" hill and then several other climbs that involved some "stairs".  We also did a short section right next to the lake again. 

The other "oh shit" hill.
Trail along the lake.
Who doesn't love stairs?
I liked seeing these stairs because it meant I was almost done with the loop.

At the end of each loop we descended a very uneven set of stairs which brought us back to the start/finish area.  I finished the first loop in 34 minutes so I revised my goal to under 6:00.  After each loop I took in some type of nutrition (Hammer gel or half a Larabar) and a salt tab.  It was pretty hot/humid out.  This worked well for the first 5 loops and after that I started to take things off the aid station table - Coke , Sprite, Gatorade, and OREOS!  I've never had so many Oreos in my life!  Those things were so so so tasty.  I also doused myself with 50 different types of bug spray every couple of loops.   If you don't know, I am TERRIFIED of horse flies!  I even carry a flyswatter with me when I run trails (the other runners got a kick out of this).  I am dead serious when I say that I have not really been bothered by the horse flies ever since I started to carry this fly swatter with me.  They must know that I mean business!  My loops were staying anywhere between 34 min and 45 min, plus a few extra minutes whenever I stopped at the aid station.  Somewhere along the way, a 6:00 finish was revised to a 7:00 finish.  I only fell on my face once and that was because I looked behind me to see if anyone was there.  Yeah, don't do this when you run trails.  By the end of the day, we were out in the full sun when we were on the asphalt (first part of each loop).  It was pretty hot, but I have been spending a fair amount of time running in the heat so I was definitely prepared for this.  When I got ready to do my last loop, I was told that only one woman had finished so far.  I didn't really think much of it though, so I took my sweet time and took pictures all along the final loop (all of the above pictures were taken in the last loop).  I think I did the last loop in 45 minutes and upon finishing was presented with an award for being overall second place woman.  Say what???  Oh, and my finish time - 7:03:53!!!  My second worst time ever (but I guess my PR for a trail marathon).  

Second female!

And there was absolutely no doing two extra laps to make this a 50k training run.  I think that 7 hours on my feet will have to do for my longest run for my upcoming ultra.  This course was way harder than the course for my ultra in July so I'm just going to have to call myself ready as I'll ever be.  I have one more hard weekend (July 4th weekend) with three consecutive days of running double digits with one of those days being 24 miles.  That'll have to do.

I absolutely loved this race.  Everyone was so laid back and friendly.  I hope to do a race or two (or five) in this series next year.  
  • Registration for this race was $38.25 (trail runs are usually cheaper than road races).  
  • We stayed one night in a hotel and my part was $54.  
  • My part of the gas was about $30.
  • We ate dinner in Starkville Tuesday night and dinner in Oxford Wednesday night.  I spent about $42 on food (I treated JB to dinner Tuesday night).
Well now I have 4 weeks until my next race which will undoubtedly be my first DNF!!!!!


  1. Wow, that sounds like a tough course. Congratulations on taking 2nd female overall! I love the vision of you running with a flyswatter. Did you leave it at home for this race?

    1. Thanks! I had the fly swatter with me. I stash it in my hydration vest like a samurai sword! Haha