Last year, stress fractures prevented me from doing my best at Southern Discomfort. I was overly cautious after spending 4 months in a boot and I left the race after only 10 hours on the course and less than 25 miles . It was an abysmal showing for a 24 hour event but I look back on it now as a wise decision. Because I was overly cautious then about listening to my body to prevent further injury, I managed to do 7 races between September 2018 and June 2019 without any major problem.
I eagerly anticipated this year’s Southern Discomfort (SD) because I planned to stay on the course the full 24 hours, taking rest breaks, and changing shoes and clothes as needed. As an added bonus, I would get to see my friends Joyce and Ray again, since Joyce had signed up for the 30 hour option. I had no goal in mind other than to get to at least a 50k (but of course I really wanted to do as many miles as I possibly could).
This year, as in previous years, the weather was hot and humid (no surprise there – what else could I expect in Georgia in July?) but unlike the course at The General and The Mrs. in Omaha, GA, the 1.1074 mile paved loop in Albany is partially shaded and almost completely flat. The 6, 12, 24, and 30 hour races all begin at 7 am (an hour earlier than previous years), although 6 and 12 hour people have the option to begin in the evening (and several took advantage of the relatively cooler evening hours).
As I’ve noted in previous reports about SD, there is a lot to like and that is why I come back every year. Race directors Kelli and John have all the essentials down to a science; it’s hard to believe this is only the race’s third year. Usually packet pickup is at the race site on Saturday morning before the races but this year we could also get our packets on Friday afternoon at Pretoria Fields Microbrewery in downtown Albany. In addition to bib with chip, soft cotton-blend tee shirt, cap, and bag, we received a coupon for a free pint of beer. I couldn’t resist that offer so I enjoyed a pint of Rye Charles IPA (highly recommended) while chatting with other racers.
After packet pickup we checked into our hotel, the Hampton Inn near the Mall, and had a satisfying early dinner at Olive Garden. I slept fairly well (unusual for me before a race) and was anxious to get to the race site at Chehaw Park. We met up with Ray and Joyce, said hi to Anne, Sue, Drina, and Mike, and on the dot of 7 we were off. The early morning hours were pleasant, with a cool breeze, but as the afternoon wore on, the sun became oppressive. To survive, Joyce and I decided to do two laps and then a ten minute break. That plan managed to get us through the hottest hours of the day.
The well-staffed aid station had cold water, Tailwind, and lots of food, though I really didn’t have much of an appetite except for the watermelon and pizza. Although I had one bout of indigestion, it was quickly resolved by an Alka-Seltzer (thanks, Ray). I’ve decided that some of my previous digestive problems during races were caused by not eating enough protein so I made sure to consume some protein-hearty meals several days before the event.
Once I reached 50k, I felt relieved. My next goal was 50 miles and I achieved that sometime during the night. Most of the time after that is a blur and I kept going around and around, changing shoes when my feet started to hurt, resting occasionally, but mostly just going in circles, checking my lap count occasionally to be sure it was going up. At some point, I began walking with Charlie, a young pilot from Fort Rucker in Alabama, who was going for his first hundred miles. He asked if he could use me as pacer for his last 3 laps and I said ‘sure’ – he was keeping a comfortably fast pace and that helped motivate me during those wee morning hours when I would otherwise be trudging slowly and looking for excuses to rest. When he reached his 100 (and received his buckle), I had completed about 65 miles (yea!) and continued on but more slowly. As morning dawned and I was prepared to stop, Darcy arrived. When I asked at the timing tent about my mileage, I was told I was in FIRST PLACE (female) for the 24 hour! That spurred me on for one more lap; I finished with 68.65 miles, the best I’ve achieved in the past 1.5 years. I received a neat plaque as an award, plus a finisher beer glass (for completing at least 100k), and a painting done by a rattlesnake (a gift for all participants).
I would highly recommend this race for walkers and runners; it remains one of my favorites.