When I signed up for the Wambaw Swamp Stomp put on by Eagle Endurance it was about 24 hours after finishing up my first last man standing style race at the Country Mile (read more about that here) and my goal was to do a distance that was challenging. I tell my runners to never sign up for something this quickly after a race but I'm a human too and darn do those post run feelings just get you sometimes! Plus it's a local race and I love Chad (the race director) and I usually do all of his runs.
I only had about 6 weeks in between these 2 races and after a BIG training block going into Country Mile my coach had me cut way back on the mileage and intensity. It always feels good to have that downtime after a big effort but sometimes I get antsy to get back into training again. I really didn't even have any runs over 12 miles during this time so I was a little nervous going into it.
It seems that every year the first really hot weekend falls on the same weekend as this race (it's also Mother's Day weekend) which means there's not much heat acclimation that happens leading up to this. Temps were HOT (around 80) and I brought my usual aid station contribution of popsicles. As it got closer to race day I decided that my goal was to just have fun. Country Mile was a lot of fun but it was also stressful as there was a lot of logistics that went into race day. The great part about this race is that it's an out and back distance of 50k total. This meant I would have access to my car to get changed, get ice, grab food at the 50k mark.
Going into the race I felt strong but also a little nervous about my lack of longer runs but I was ready. This has sort of become my Mother's Day gift to myself---running around the woods and eating snacks. I had a few friends and clients running the race so that made it fun too!
I had a solid fueling plan that I've used many times and it's never failed me. Every hour I consumed:
-2 scoops Tailwind + 18oz water
- 1/2 Kodiak Cakes chewy bar
Eating this every hour gave me:
Fueling is a very individual thing so this may or may not work for you---try it out and let me know how it went! I also had a popsicle a few times throughout the day and a PBJ when I went back to my car. I didn't have any bloating, nausea, upset stomach---none of that!
The course is really pretty. It's your usual east coast trail with roots and no elevation changes. There are 3 aid stations (one at the start finish/ one a few miles in/ and one at the turn around) that are all stocked with your typical ultra snacks. This time of year everything is green and flowers are blooming. I saw a few pitcher plants and I think this is the only trail that I've seen them on. A fellow runner stopped as I was taking pictures of them and we talked about how the people running this race really fast (they were some FAST times) probably missed out on seeing these. It's always interesting to me how even in the same sport (ultrarunning) we all experience it in so many different ways. I love to notice all the things in nature around me. Do I want to get faster--sure but not if it means I miss out on all of that.
At the 50k mark I was able to go back to my car. I got inside and cranked up the AC and had some lunch. I did NOT want to go back out there. I was really hot and it was wearing on me. After messaging a runner friend I realized that nothing on my body hurt and that I still had lots of energy left and to quit now wasn't the right choice. It was hard to leave the AC in the car but I did and went back out there for some more miles.
There was a lot more walk/running happening at this point and I had heard that most of the runners signed up for the 50 mile distance had dropped down to the 50k mark because of the heat. There were only a handful of us left out there. As I got close to the turnaround (mile 41 ish) I realized that I was ready to be done. I evaluated my body and nothing was wrong. No issues at all.
But I was hot and tired and just ready to be done for the day. And the weirdest thing happened---I was 100% ok with being done. When I thought about how I would feel about this decision the next day, I had no feeling of regret. I felt at peace with this choice. I was taking a DNF because I did what I set out to do--have a fun day running around the woods eating snacks. Part of me wonders if I should have done the 50k option but I knew that I could do that distance. I wanted a challenge but I also wanted fun. I don't intend on making this a habit but these local races are really fun and I love to support them but I can't always go hardcore.
I will say that the reaction from people was really interesting. Some people said they were "sorry". When I text my husband he asked who stole my phone. Yes taking a DNF is very not in character for me but I feel like it shows maturity which is something that hasn't come naturally to me as a runner. Sometimes I want to do all the things all the time and it's part of the reason that I like to work with a running coach--to help keep me in line!
The next day I still felt really happy with my choice to take a DNF. I ran 41 miles, felt strong, powered through the hottest day of the year up to that point, practiced fueling with no GI issues, and got to hang out with my friends in the woods.
Kayla Fitzgerald is a Registered Dietitian & Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor and founder of Endurance Nutrition located in Charleston, South Carolina. She works with clients from all over through 1:1 nutrition coaching, small group coaching, and online courses. Her goal is to help you fuel your body for whatever the day has in store whether it's a 100 mile race or getting through the work day.