I’ve lost track of how many TUDC 50ks I’ve done. It was my very first ultradistance race and it was where I had a personal best (7:03) several years ago. Every year I can count on seeing the same friendly faces of numerous running and walking friends (Mellody, Julie, Deb, Vicky, Gary, and others), along with several ultramarathoners new to TUDC who have heard about the race and want to try it for themselves (including Phil, Elena, and Kim). It’s just a 45 minute drive for me but for those who come from farther away, lodging is available right at the start/finish line.
We were fortunate this year because the weather was cloudy and in the upper-40’s to start and the mid-60’s at the end, with no rain and minimal sun. The course is entirely paved and consists of a 10k loops on roads closed to traffic. There is plenty of space to set up drop bags or use your car as a personal aid station. This year, a marathon distance was added and, to make it easier on myself, I signed up for the shorter distance. Those doing the 50 miler have to do 8 laps, those running the 50k must do 5 laps, but marathoners only have to do 4 laps with a brief one-time additional loop at the very beginning. That worked out fine for me. I enjoy seeing my friends and the park is a wonderful example of old-time Florida. But the course includes 2 out-and-backs and the longer one seems to go on forever. After 26.2 miles, I was happy to finish.
The volunteers are wonderful, the race is chip-timed, and there is plenty of food and drink at the three aid stations. There are also real restrooms at the start/finish. There is a 10-hour time limit for all races. The race directors try to find something different for a premium instead of the usual race tee shirt. Last year we received a wonderful warm hoodie. This year’s gift was a long-sleeved hooded tee shirt with the Creature from the Black Lagoon on the front (movie aficionados will recall that the underwater scenes in the 1954 movie of the same name was filmed in Wakulla Springs). Marathon finishers received a ceramic medal with the Creature and date on it.
Fortunately, I had no major foot problems, although my left big toe (the broken one) gave me some painful moments. When I do timed ultras, I purposely try to keep my pace comfortably easy and consistent because I want to last the requisite 24 hours or so. However, when I do a half or a full marathon, I push myself harder and walk faster – I know I can’t dawdle or I won’t make the time limit. Of course, at TUDC, I knew I could manage a marathon in under 10 hours but since I hadn’t done a marathon since January 3 of this year (when I completed the last of the Lucky 13 Ocala marathon string) I felt rusty. I wanted to try and finish in under 7 hours, just to see if I could. I was pleasantly surprised to cross the finish line in 6:39.
Next year, who knows? I may return to the 50k or stick with the marathon distance. In either case, the TUMC is definitely a race to do again and again