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Mississippi Trail 100 miler - Rain, water, mud, and more...

I don't consider myself an excellent writer or blogger and this is my very first blog to ever write. What I want to share is my personal experience and this race report comes from the Mississippi Trail 100 on March 1-2, 2024. A little background before I get into the race is that I ran Rocky Raccoon 100 miler a month ago in Texas and walked away by running 80 miles. The trails endured over a foot of rain during race week and pretty much flooded the trails. There were sections that were runnable but for the most part it was just one big mud fest. And with the number of runners running, the trails became worse as the day and night went on. After 80 miles I was completely done and just lost the energy to go any farther. A few days after the race I was still reeling in what happened at Rocky and it wasn't sitting well with me, so I knew about the Mississippi Trail 100 in Laurel, MS. I signed up for it and quickly thought to myself how I was going to recover from 80 miles of a mud-fest at Rocky to trying to PR a 100 miler at MS Trail 100 just a month later. I didn't run much at all from February 3 - March 1, maybe 50 miles as I wanted to rest and recover as much as I could to be ready for the MS Trail 100. I didn't run six days before the race up to race day, so I was rested but was also wondering if I was ready.

Wednesday night, February 28th I was packing my bags and getting everything together for the race. This would be the very first time I've gone to a race by myself with no crew, friends, or family so I had to make sure I had everything covered. I packed up my truck (which was my personal aid station) and went to bed early enough to get a good night sleep. I worked 1/2 day on Thursday Feb. 29th then headed south on I-55 towards Laurel, MS. I arrived at the Holiday Inn Express hotel around 6pm, got checked in, then immediately went to Applebee's down the road for a big pasta dinner. Full of carbs and food I went back to my room to get all my things ready for the race. The race started at Noon on Friday, so I had time Thursday night to pack my vest and organize my personal aid station bags. The race was seven 12.5-mile loops and two 6-mile loops and after each loop I would run right past my truck so that was very convenient to grab whatever I needed. I woke up around 7 am Friday feeling rested and fresh to run 100 miles. But when I woke up, it was raining very hard and not letting up. It was a legit monsoon outside as everything was flooded. So, all I could do was hope the trails were high and drained quickly. I went to the lobby to eat breakfast and I saw my good friends Derrick and Candy Baker. I sat down with them, and we talked about all things running and how we were going to tackle the MS Trail with the rain that was falling. After a quick breakfast we all headed towards the trails of the Desoto National Forrest where the race was held.

Loop 1.

I arrived and parked next to the Bakers, and it was still raining very hard. I wasn't quite prepared to get soaked before the race started but there was no choice. The rain wasn't letting up and it rained on us the first 3 hours of the race. We all made our way to the start line and at Noon we took off until we reached 100 miles. The first 5 miles weren't too technical, but it had so many creek crossings that were overly flooded from rain, run-off water and any other water that made its way to the creek. Each creek crossing was at least hip deep with the one at mile 5 chest deep. The current in the creek was so strong that it was sweeping us off our feet and carrying us down until we hit some trees to hang on and pull ourselves to land. Loop 1 was my fastest loop mainly because I was fresh, and the trails weren't stampeded with runners' footprints yet. The 6-mile aid station was put on by M.U.T.S which is the Mississippi Trail Ultra Society. They were fantastic and one of the best aid stations I've ever had the pleasure to meet. Their enthusiastic attitudes where what we needed each time we came through. The next 2.5 miles after the 6-mile aid station was mentally hard for me. I hated coming through here each time. It wasn't tough, it just felt like forever. Because I knew by Mile 9, we would hit an out and back road. We went 1 mile down the long hill and 1 mile back up it. By the time I got here, I had about 1.5 miles until the start/finish line and run the loop again. This was the easiest section as I felt like I breezed through each time.

Loop 2.

Started this loop around 2:45pm and knew I could finish it before dark. The goal was to reach 30 miles by the time I had to pull out my headlight. This loop seemed fairly easy I guess because the rain had stopped by then. What I didn't know was that all the water crossings were about 2' deeper than the first time we went through. The waist deep creeks were now chest deep, and the chest deep creeks were over my head (6'). Everyone who came through were swept off their feet and were forced to swim. I really couldn't believe I was actually in a trail race. At that moment my main goal had changed to pure survival to finish. I knew this was going to take everything out of me to finish as I ran about 90% of this race completely alone. I had a goal of running this race under 20 hours, then quickly changed it to under 24 hours. It was on this loop where all my goals went out the door and I only had 1 goal and that was just to finish under 30 hours.

Loop 3.

This loop I had to bring my headlight as I wouldn't finish in time before it got dark. I felt strong on this loop and ran just about all of it. I got to the 6th mile right at dark and the M.U.T.S. were having the best party. I kind of wanted to stay there a while and just cut-up with them, but I knew I didn't want to waste all my time at aid stations. I finished this loop maybe an hour after dark had set. I was still feeling good, but the legs were starting to become very tired. The end of this loop was mile 38. I got back to my personal aid station and changed socks and shoes. I had a lot of sand in my shoes, and it was just crushing my feet. By doing all this, I think I spent 20 minutes here, but it had to be done.

Loop 4.

This loop started around 8pm and fatigue was starting to set in. A month earlier I ran 80 miles at Rocky Raccoon in the mud and water and here I am doing it all over again. I truly don't think I was fully recovered from Rocky, but here I was on loop 4 which would put me at 50 miles when I finished. On this loop, the mental toughness started to kick in. I was alone, it was dark, I was soaked, feet were hurting, no one around, and here I am wondering how I was going to get through 50 more miles. There comes a time in a 100 where the darkness sets in or the doubts and this was that time. For me, it lasts from Mile 40-70. Those are the tough miles as I try to grind out 40 miles quick, then hang on for 30 miles and by the time I reach 70 miles I feel like I'm so close to the end. I managed to make it back to the start/finish line around 11:30pm, grabbed some snacks for my vest and immediately headed back out for Loop 5.

Loop 5.

This is the loop where I almost took a trail nap and was falling asleep walking. So, this loop was the hardest of them all. I was so tired from running/walking that I just wanted to lay down on the ground for a few minutes. But the ground was muddy and wet, and I just didn't want to do that. I forced myself to keep moving and just to complete this loop. This loop was from 11:30 - 3am and it was every bit of tough. The creek crossings were still there, and we were still getting soaked each time. I don't remember much of this loop as it just all ran together. All I knew was to get back to the start line as quick as possible so I could take a nap. It was dark and cold, and I just couldn't stay awake. Finally, I made it back to the start line and I took off my soaked socks and shoes. I climbed in the back of my truck, set an alarm for 30 minutes and quickly dozed off. When the 30 minutes went by, I immediately set it for another 30 minutes to get a full hour of sleep. It was around 4 am when I woke up and it took me about another 30 minutes to put on clean socks and shoes and get back out on the course. The stop lasted 1.5 hours but I needed it. I felt refreshed to finish the 100 miler and sunrise was about 2 hours away.

Loop 6.

Here we go for loop 6 at 4:30am and I felt really good. My mind was rested, and I got some good food in me at the previous stop. I ran half of this loop but at a much slower pace. I was really waiting on the sun to come up as I knew this would be a huge boost mentally. About 10 miles in this loop, I could see the first peek of sunlight and man was it refreshing. I was feeling great, running great, and ready to finish this 100 miler shortly after Noon. The 24-hour window was out the door, but this race was pure survival. I made it back to the start line and the timing people said, "one more big loop, you got this." That was so nice to hear as I went back to my truck to re-pack my vest. I was ready to tackle this last big loop. I probably stayed at the truck for 5 minutes, eating some potato chips and taking a swig of Dr. Pepper, then I bolted off for Loop 7

Loop 7.

Loop 7 was such a huge relief to be on as every step I took was my last on this set of trails. There were parts of the trails that were mentally tough, and I was so glad to be done with them. I made through all the water crossings and to the mile 6 aid station. The M.U.T.S. aid station were always so positive, and it was kind of sad not seeing them again. I told them they all should sign up for Mamba as I wanted to see them all again. They were the lifesaver to us runners during the race. Around mile 10 was the out and back road and this was so nice to be done with as well. I actually ran the entire mile downhill but walked back up it at a quick pace. Finally seeing the start line for the last big loop, I was so close to finishing. All I had left was 12 miles, which was two 6-mile loops on a completely different set of trails. I got back to my truck and took my shoes off because I had debris all in it. This was an every lap thing to do. Fueling my body with chips, candy, some coke, and Easter peeps, I was back on the course for the final 12 miles.

First little loop (6 miles)

So, the first mile of this loop was on the same set of trails that I have previously ran the entire time. After the first mile, we turned left to go on the blue trail, and it was fairly easy. There were some water crossings, but it mainly just got my shoes wet. There was a lot of mud everywhere so no drying of the shoes on this section. This loop seemed so long because I didn't see any one and I was just walking by myself. I tried to run some of it, but the legs were so tired it was hard to keep them moving. I could feel them becoming really tight, so I stopped a few times to stretch them out. After 6 miles, I made it back to the start line and back to my truck. I saw my good friend Derrick as he was finished with his race. They were packing up, but it was just so good to see him and his wife and chat with them for a bit. But the other part of me was telling me to get back on the trails as I was at Mile 94. I was so close to finishing.

Last little loop (6 miles)

Off I go at Mile 94, and I ran the entire first mile to Mile 95. I was motivated to finish this thing. Never have I ever wanted to finish a race so bad, but this was one of them. About Mile 97, I met up with one of my Mamba 100 milers, Jennifer Cecil, and we walked it in the rest of the way. Jennifer was running the 100 miler as well but had one more loop to do. I was in no hurry to finish as I was enjoying good company to talk to during the final miles. And then at Mile 99.5, I ran it in for the last 1/2 mile. What a huge relief to finish this 100 miler. I'm not sure I'll ever run a 100 miler like this again. Finish time was just over 27 hours.

Final thoughts:

Going to a 100-mile race all by myself, running all by myself, no crew, no pacer was a first for me. The goal was to go there, finish the 100 miler, and meet some Mamba runners. All of that was achieved so I would say it was a very successful trip. I was really looking forward to trying to run a 100 miler under 20 hours, but I'll have to save that for next time. I'm not sure when that next time will be, but soon hopefully in the next year. Thank you to everyone for your encouragement and support. I would not be doing any of this if it wasn't for my family and my good friends. I appreciate every one of you.

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1 Comment

Jim Cross
Jim Cross
Mar 10

Nice write-up James. It was good sharing a few miles with you and I'm glad you got it done! I don't know how you remember what happened in each long lap. They all blurred together after the third or fourth for me. I managed 8th place at 24:53. Sub-24 was still possible until I hit mile 90 or so when the tank was empty and I had to walk most of the final 10 miles. Well done and I hope to see you at another race one day, maybe yours. Jim

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