Dear Mr. Bisnette et al.,
Thank you so much
for the opportunity to run your race this weekend. As
advertised, it was an ideal first 50 mile run. In fact,
all of the information on the website and Facebook was
very accurate. The course was perfect with just enough
hills to keep it interesting but not too much to be
intimidating. Similarly, just enough mud to make it feel
like you're accomplishing something but not too
overwhelming. I hope to return in a year with deeper
standing water to get the full experience. All of this
"character building" was tempered by a comfortable place
to set up a drop bag to visit on each loop.
wanted to apologize for being disrespectful and missing
the start of the race. I left with plenty of time from
Hattiesburg, but for the life of me I couldn't see
Forest Road 270 in the dark. The directions on the
website were excellent, but I had to backtrack to
Richton, figure out how to set the trip odometer in my
rental car, and then follow the directions more
precisely before I could see it. It was much clearer
once the sun was up…and the race had started.
be honest, although I felt like a jerk for showing up
late, it was kind of fun to have the chance to run
through so much of the course alone. Giving everybody a
half-hour head start allowed me plenty of solitude
towards the beginning of the run. Also, even when I
caught up to people, I tended to pass them fairly
quickly for at least the first half, so even more time
to enjoy being alone in the woods.
appreciate you allowing me to start late without a
hassle. Further, I was pleased/embarrassed to see the
acknowledgement of my late start on the results page
(#434). Thanks! Once again, I apologize that my mediocre
finish time has to clutter up your results page.
After all of the years of this race, I assume that you
know that it's great, but I couldn't resist reminding
you. Thanks again for the wonderful race!
Michael Davis, Ph.D.
Georgia Tech Research Institute
TWENTY YEARS OF
RUNNIN' AND THEY GIVE YOU THE DAY SHIFT
Rich "The Troubadour" Limacher
Back in my
day, we had Bob Dylan. I think he started out as
some kind of Yankee (possibly Damn) from Minnesota,
but doubtless ended up in the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of
Fame. In his equally nowadays unknown Subterranean
Homesick Blues, he sings this lyric: "Twenty years
of schoolin' and they put you on the day shift."
[Ever your pseudo-scholar, I've footnoted it
See the last stanza.]
If you're searching for
relevance, you won't find any. Or maybe there's
this: I have now run your usually soggy
Mississlippery footrace for 20 years. (Hubba hubba.
Yay me-and two other guys.) So there's been three of
us who've run this thing (or some version thereof)
for not only two decades, but also two decades in a
row! Except for 2006 and the aftermath of Hurricane
Katrina, when the race was cancelled.
That's almost 20 consecutive years, almost from
March of 1996 to March of 2016, and almost 20
completions of the 20 distances I signed up for. But
as I've told countless others over the centuries,
"Mississippi is the only race I know where a finish
isn't guaranteed, not even by the people who put on
the race!" Indeed, it's the only known race that's
ever been "called on account of rain" twice!!
But I get ahead of myself. This is supposed to
be a grand, perhaps subliminal, retrospective of one
lone runner (perhaps crawler) over the course of the
past score years. I just wish I could remember them.
In 1996 the very man we memorialize, Dr. Carl
Touchstone, was alive and well and putting on an
ultramarathon in the middle of the Mississippi
woods. (Its predecessor was a road race, consisting
of many loops run on pavement around some MS town
I've never been to.) This was now woods indeed: deep
in the middle of the DeSoto National Forest, where
Robin Hood and his Band of Merry Men gave me the
idea of coming from the Middle Ages. I think. Hence
my e-mail "handle." Well, it probably wasn't Robin
Hood. It was probably the Sheriff of… Cook County,
Illinois. I developed my e-address because nobody
knows how to spell "troubadour" and you cannot
believe how much this has cut down on my SPAM. Plus
the Sheriff hasn't been able to find me either, in
order to serve a summons. But I digress.
Carl, who fast became my great friend in this brave
new whirled called "ultrarunning," just so happened
to hold his first woodsy footrace right smack on my
birthday. And for my being from the Middle Ages and
born some 800 years previous, that took some
research! But Carl did it. So of course I showed
up-and wham: his dear wife Wanda even brought a
birthday cake to the race. Heck, they sang to me
after I finished! No one's ever done that! Never
before nor since. (At a race, I mean.) So, it was
evening and morning The First Year.
Second Year, our Carl staged another race in the
woods, and I similarly attended. And during those
early years of creation, I actually did manage to
finish 50 miles. Our Carl wasn't overly impressed,
though. When I looked up his running records, his
times beat my times by hours! But Carl was also good
friends with Norm and Helen Klein, who put on
(perhaps the most famous ultra of all) the Western
States 100-Miler, and so I managed to run that that
year as well. Hubba-hubba. Yay me. None of those
folks were impressed.
Third-thru-I-don't-know-how-many-years, Carl and his
race experienced something which to me was very
unusual: monsoons. The rains fell so hard and heavy
that, yes, "the good Lord wasn't willing and the
creek did rise"-practically over my head! So the
good rangers of the National Forest came and called
off the race-during the middle of the race! They
didn't want any drownings, they said. Thus Carl
couldn't let me finish the 50-miler, but he did
allow me to run the "little loop" (at that time it
was called "The Dog Loop") and so finish the 50K. I
remember being disappointed. It was my slowest 50K
ever. Today? OMG I'd take that time in a heartbeat!
Sadly, waaaay before his time and way before the
race blossomed into what it's become today ["What's
it become today, Rich?" I have no idea. But it's
good!] Carl succumbed to a horrible cancer. I was
devastated. We all were. But then Steve DeReamer
stepped up and directed the race and so it became
The Carl Touchstone Memorial Mississippi Trails
50/50 (and later the /20 was added). Oh yes, and
there's a picture (somewhere on this website) of
Steve himself somewhere at Western States at some
time in his life, also obviously influenced by Carl,
if not by Norm and Helen, to suffer through 100
miles. Maybe he figured race directing a distance
half that size wouldn't amount to double the work.
But certainly it does require that. And Steve
hung on as long as he could until Dennis Bisnette
has now taken over (and done a superb job!)
currently memorializing our friend Carl year after
year, which is why I keep showing up. (By the way,
the good Rangers of the National Forest also "called
the race" once during Steve's tenure as well. That's
twice. "On account of rain." Who knew? Baseball gets
called on account of rain, not footraces!)
have other memories as well, except I'm too old to
remember them. Oh wait. Once those Mississippi
Monsoons were so severe, the trails became rivers
(all underwater!) and the mud was so much like
quicksand that it actually succeeded in sucking my
sole off. No, not the shoe-the sole! It severed
right off the shoe! Can you imagine? Fortunately it
happened not too far from my parked rental car, and
I was able to change into a spare pair that luckily
I'd prophesied enough to bring along. My race was
saved, and my unbroken "streak" remained unbroken.
Over the years, Carl has looked out for sad sinners
What else? Oh, all those highly
entertaining trailside signs! Wow. Like Burma-Shave.
(See my previous year's report.) This year, Bubba's
Filling Station boasted similar signs, and so I
asked them: "What in the world is Pee's Cornbread?"
Bubba's volunteers laughed and offered to sprinkle
me some… but I declined. Which reminds me of another
sign: something to the effect that the Ancient
Romans used their urine for toothpaste. (Gag!) Where
do they get these tidbits? These highly suspect
factoids? Another one said, "There are 177,147
different ways to tie a tie." It took awhile to
commit that to memory. I'm currently trying to
disprove that number.
Oh, one last thing (and
this is about Carl and why I've missed him so much
over all these years): The very first year that
"parking tags" were issued by the National Forest,
some of us didn't know what to do with them. At the
pre-race banquet, I remember Carl saying that those
new fees had all been paid (as they continue still
to be paid) out of our entry fees. So when I showed
up on race morning, and (I'm such a dufus) decided
just then to rummage around my pre-race packet and
find the parking tag, I bring it to Carl at the
check-in table and ask: "What do I do with this,
Without missing a beat, he takes it
out of my hand, balls it up, and pitches it into the
nearest trash barrel. "That's what you do with it,"
he says. "Your parking has already been paid."
You can't beat a guy like that, which is why I
keep returning in my own feeble attempt to keep his
memory alive. I just, you know, keep showing up and
watching my race times go further and further into
the trash. I'm pretty sure Carl isn't honored by
Nevertheless, the first thing that
happened after 20 years when I and the other
"perfect attendees," Harry Strohm and Bob Wilkerson,
showed up for the banquet was: Dennis had us gather
'round and then told us, "You don't have to pay
anymore." Hey, sweet! And thanks!!
this maybe means is that for the rest of our muddy
earthly lives, we get to run those lovely, soggy,
and often underwater Mississlippery Trails for free.
And no matter what, those three different-distance
races always take place between 6 AM and 6 PM. Or,
in other words: "20 years of runnin' and they give
you the day shift."
But of course your
results may vary (YRMV), so don't quote me on this.
[End of memory]
do it in the woods. Even when it's too cold, or too hot, and they could
care less if it's too wet.
Hope everyone had a great pre-race supper and race
day. The temp was a little cool at the start but soon turned into a
perfect day for a nice run in the woods.
Once again we had a great
group of runners, plus Rich Limacher come to our run. We had a
good crowd despite a lot of new races competeting with ours this
Many, many thanks to everyone who registered, ran, watched, or
commented on the race. Trail runners have to be the nicest people on
the planet. And MS50 trail runners are the best of all. Hope to see
you all again next year.