A Long and Short Combo – The Stinger 24 Hour in Hampton, GA, and a 5k Turkey Trot in Tallahassee, FL

After a relatively good showing at Endless Mile 24 hour last month, I was cautiously optimistic about my second Stinger. It’s hard to believe that the Stinger is only in its second year because everything is so meticulously done, from an improved timing system this year to a well-stocked aid station, replete with pizza, hamburgers, hot dogs, soup, potatoes, pickles, and bacon, plus chocolate cookies and candies, and just about anything else a racer could want. Best of all, there are lots of clean heated bathrooms as well as two porta-potties adjacent to the far side of the track.

The race takes place on a high school track that measures just under 400 meters so it takes 5 laps to constitute a mile plus. Packet pickup is at 7 the morning of the race and this year runners received a long- sleeve shirt (cotton-poly blend) and a fleece blanket. Nighttime temperatures are notoriously frigid in northern Georgia in late November so a blanket was welcome and I saw several runners with the blanket ensconced around their shoulders as they trudged through the early morning cold. I was familiar enough with the weather that I had no need for a blanket – this year I packed plenty of warm clothes. I simply added and deleted clothes as needed; at the coldest point, I was wearing a short-sleeve shirt, long-sleeve turtle neck, fleece shirt, light jacket, heavier jacket, really heavy jacket, and my heaviest jacket with fleece hood. In addition, I had mittens, hand warmers, hat, and scarf. Fortunately, it did not rain at all this year, though everything had a thick coating of frost by the time the race concluded.

The only thing I find difficult about this race is the abbreviated distance – it seems like it takes forever to complete a mile – but that is all in my mental attitude. We change direction every 3 hours, which helps a lot to keep us balanced (and to keep me from feeling dizzy!). Runners can set up their tents and chairs on the grassy interior of the track. Because there was no rain this year, I was fine with my usual setup of 3 chairs and a small cooler for my peanuts and club soda.

My goals – aside from my usual ‘have fun, don’t die’ – were to do a minimum of 32 miles so I could count it for my stats. I would then aim for 50 miles. Anything beyond that would be wonderful. My ultimate goal was 100k (62 miles) but I wasn’t sure if my feet could manage that. Last year at the Stinger I did 58 miles, good enough for 2nd place female. This year there were twice the number of runners in all categories (6, 12, and 24 hour races) so the competition was fierce.

I wanted to last the entire 24 hours, but fatigue and the cold (despite my all warm clothes) finally got to me around 5 am and I put in a call to Darcy to come get me. Until he arrived, I kept moving (it was too cold to stop or even slow down) and I managed to complete 66 miles, finishing as 4th place female.

My feet suffered the usual swelling and soreness but I don’t think I did any major damage to my feet and my recurrent stress fractures. Now, one week later, the only pain I have is in my left big toe (the one I broke) and that pain is not debilitating. Maybe doing one major race a month helps with recovery and healing (funny how it took me a decade to learn this).

Since Hampton is a very small town, we stayed 10 minutes away in McDonough at the Hilton Garden Inn. It was a decent hotel with a host of eating places nearby. We dined at Taco Mac but there is a Culver’s within walking distance and many more restaurants across the highway at the mall.

A few days of rest and I was ready to attempt a local turkey trot with my son and daughter-in-law (DIL). There is a 10k and 15k but the three of us did the 5k, along with about 3500 other runners, walkers, and strollers. It was a relaxed easy race through residential streets, only slight inclines, and lots of music and good spirits. My son took off at a 9-10 minute pace and well finished ahead of us, but this was my daughter-in-law’s first race so we kept to a 13-14 minute walking pace and finished together in 41 minutes. My DIL is not a runner (though she certainly could be – she is a dancer and very athletic) but for a first race, she did admirably. I finished 2nd in my age group out of 31 participants – that was a welcome surprise. After the race, I headed home to roast a turkey and fix the rest of thanksgiving dinner. After completing a total of 69 miles this week, I certainly enjoyed preparing and consuming a hearty meal!