Thank you, thank you, thank you!
To the 18 or so folks that came out on a Sunday night, in thee woods, in Hernando County, to help a young guy celebrate his birthday. On Thursday I was 48 years old, by Monday morning as we wrapped up our run, I was 49 years young!
We started at 8PM with 16 or 18 of us running, a few twists and turns aside, the Blue bike trail to Nobleton road. From there 10 of us went on to Ethel's stop at Nobleton Park, where I was finally able to get rid of 8 or the 10 quarters that had been jingling in my pocket for 14.5 miles. Ethel was a no-show, but we managed ok without her.
Andy and Andrea kept the griping to a minimum, even though they "Hate that stretch!" Hey A's, you may as well get used to it, because other than 8 miles in the first 1/4 or Arkansas, that's what you're getting! At least, I only gave you 5 miles of road!
When we got back to drop 1 at midnight, 7 more of continued on for the full route, Patrick (who had biked 105 miles, and run 4 on Saturday, he's really tough, of course, he also made us all tougher, our ears anyway!), 3 A's (A1 - A3 and 3 J's, John Wood, John Pyle, and Justin).
We negotiated the Vortex without getting lost (thanks Woody), then we popped out again at Nobleton Road. From there our really long trek to Croom Road Commenced. Even though they did a little trail modification on us, we somehow managed to pop out on Croom Road (thanks again Woody!) after about a ten mile stretch.
From the Croom Road drop 1, we refueled and took off again. Last time we did this section on the south side of Croom Road on the blue bike trail I was feeling good and picked up my pace. This time was similar. I started feeling good, even after 30 humid miles, and steadily pulled away from the gang. Sometime in the middle of this 9 mile leg, I started stretching my stride out and running all the hills. After a bit I was all alone and having a birthday blast. I kept pushing the pace until I hit Croom Road again. After a couple of minutes A2 sprinted out of the woods and shortly thereafter, the rest of the magnificent 7 arrived and we strolled to drop #4.
From drop 4 we all stayed together for the 6-7 miles back to Croom Road. There was a few signs of fatigue and a bit of grumbling from the crowd, but all in all spirits were high as we closing in on the completion of my 49 mile birthday run.
We refueled for the last time on Croom Road and set out for the final 2.5 miles back to the cars. Andrea, Patrick, Justin, Andy B, and I were holding steady and all running well (John Pyle and Woody had headed up the road). Not too long into the final stretch Andy B decided it was time to put the hammer down and put an end to this madness. It was finally light out. . . again (I love those light to dark to light runs!) so we could safely pick up the pace, but who wants to do that after 47 miles? Who, I guess, Justin and the two Andy's. Because when Andy B took off, Justin and I followed shortly thereafter. Justin and I worked like mad to catch Andy with exactly 1.4 miles left. We were content to follow Andy till the 1-mile mark. when I scooted around him and left those guys in the dust, for about 1/2 mile, when I died. Justin (he's solid! What a good runner this guy is!) went around me so fast I wondered if I was moving in the right direction. With 1/4 mile left Andy B came upon me and shamed me into jogging it in. He said something subtle, like, "What's the matter MFer, you were a man a minute ago!" Thanks Andy, you're right. I finished in a limping jog, and then hobbled over to the nearest picnic table and collapsed on top of it. Andy B on the other hand went out and ran a couple of hills (he's ready for a sub 23 hour finish at Arkansas.)
Soon after the rest came in looking fresh. We showered up, and and Andrea bought me breakfast at Denny's. It was a great birthday. Thanks all.
Oh, and I earned a letter. We're now at Pinhoti T. Just a Rail to go!