2009 Race Reports and Comments

Audrey Jackson

Mary Gorski

Mann and Mandy Conrad

Bear Facts

Stephen Harris Jay Perry Dennis thanks the crew Angela Pewitt
Robert Cooper Stephanie Hathorn Tim Yanacheck Rob Powell
Ultrarunner Troubled and Dour David Coffey Paul Van Hooydonk
Holly Motes   Best Survey Answer  

Thanks to Dennis, Running Bear and all those working behind the scenes to put on such a great race year after year.  I know it's a lot of work to coordinate volunteers, haul water out there, and mark the course. I know you did your best to re-route the course due to the unexpected burn. Thanks for updating the website so promptly. You guys do a really exceptional job of keeping everybody informed. Aid Station #2 was especially enjoyable and upbeat, a welcome distraction. Please give them our thanks. The camaraderie among the runners as well was inspiring, and we met several cool people.  Mandy and I have done the past 4 versions of MS50 and we've been able to lure more and more people from Starkville every year based on our rave reviews. Ya'll never fail to disappoint. Looking forward to next year. (Hopefully with a little less ash and fewer noisy generators).
Mann and Mandy Conrad Starkville,MS

A BIG shout out to all who organized, volunteered and participated in a GREAT trail run!


Thank you for putting on a wonderful Carl Touchstone Mississippi Trail 50. It has been since 2000 when I last ran this race, but I have a feeling that you will see me again much sooner. The entire experience was great. The volunteers at packet pick-up were friendly and supportive and everyone was cheerful on Saturday. That is quite a feat with very little sleep.
Aid stations were great. I know the course change made it longer from Aid Station #1 to Aid Station #2, but Charles and the other guy made it worth the wait. I am sorry that I did not catch his name also. My wife missed me at the end of the first lap, so she joined them waiting for me. I turned on the road and heard them yelling "Go Stephen!" That was quite a boost. They did not have to cheer, but did. They cheered on that last loop also when I needed it the most.
Once again, you put on a great race and when the soreness wears off I will look forward to coming back.
Stephen Harris


Okay, I have hosed my trail shoes off, eaten enough food to fill up an elephant, so I can sit and contemplate the trail run.  I made my goal, I ran it a little faster than last year, and I ran it faster than I did Stennis.  (I could have walked it faster than I ran Stennis). :lol: I did not make my top secret goal, but I am actually ok with that, because it was hotter this year and I felt like I had to put more effort just to keep myself going.  So, I am pleased, and I look forward to next year.
There was a great crowd of Pacers!!  The Turner's were there!!  They could not get a cross country trail stroller, so the littlest Turner stayed home!!  They finished their first trail run in good spirits and with a smile!!  I think Frank B. enjoyed running this event, and I believe he is still there assisting.  Vicki and Dawn fell, (Dawn is making this her yearly event), Vicki did not want her to fall alone, however I hear she did it with such grace and style, her fellow runners were rating her a 10 for her "drop and roll"!!  Phillip W. was there and hung with me for a while, and this year, he made it without falling!!  Kily, well, he was so jazzed, he is ready to convert to an ultra trail runner!!  Kelly, who I may have to refer to as "mini Ginny", ran faster this year, and then, because her training called for more miles, ran 4 more, just for fun!!  Terry L., well, what can you say?  He is just amazingly fast and was up there in the top 4. I know I have left out some Pacers, I apologize.  My brain and body are still trying to catch up.  It is all moving a little slow.   I met a lot of new Pacers and hope to see them at future events.
There was something for everyone, and WOW I bow to those 50k and 50 milers!!  One loop on that trail is enough for me!!  Oh, there was even some "critter" excitement!!  A horse became spooked and ran down the road.  Luckily no one got hurt!!  Anyway, a good day for a run!! Much Thanks to the Bearshall's, and Dennis, and all the other hard working volunteers.  This is one of my favorite runs and I recommend it to everyone!! 

Audrey Jackson, President, Pine Belt Pacers

RD Dennis Bisnette, (who has this weird idea that a good manager selects competent folks, instructs them on his desires, then turns them loose) gave me a free rein on registration this year. His management style apparently does not allow for incompetent folks. Since we had a large number of cancels last year, I figured I could let 225 people register and then let cancels take us back under our NFS limit of 200. Admittedly I wasn't paying close attention and overshot a little, but at 235, the 40+ cancels we had last year would still save my hide, right? Of course after three weeks w/o any cancels it was time to worry. The thought of 35 folks with no pre-race food, no race shirts, no finisher mementos, and nothing to drink at the aid stations race afternoon was scary, especially since Dennis kept predicting lynch mobs taking over the registration table and deaths on the trail. I renewed my passport and prayed for a cool day. A few additional people even snuck in after registration was closed. (Both sweet talk and threats were effective). Somehow the number signed up grew to over 260! Finally a few withdrawals came in and I reassured Dennis that it was not necessary to keep threatening me like that. As it turned out, only 225 showed up for the race Friday, 216 came to the starting line, and 216 finished. I don't know how Dennis will explain the overage to the Forest Service. Maybe he will lie like he did to me about whether or not he had ordered extra stuff. Maybe they won't let us do it again. But if a ranger asks you how many people you saw at the race, be honest (especially if it's a deposition). There were never more than 150 folks at the start/finish line at a time, so that's the most you could have possibly seen.

Race day was clear, sunny, with low humidity, and temperatures approaching 80. Forty runners switched to a shorter race because of the unusually hot weather. We may have the only 50K in the country where 60 people sign up, 60 start, and 90 finish! Despite the hot weather, some fast times were recorded, including a new women's record in the 20K. Leigh Armstrong from Birmingham AL lowered Mandy Conrad's 2008 record time of 1:40:06 to 1:38:21.

Because of the seasonal burns (they are part of the forest management, to lower forest fire risk and provide food for the game), we had to change the course considerably for this race, and not use the small 6.1 mile loop. At the last minute Dennis and Randy mapped out a 16 mile loop consisting of the regular long 12.5 mile loop with two out and backs for a total of 16.7 miles. So the 50 milers did the full loop three times, the 50K folks did a full loop and most of a second, and the 20 K folks did just the short loop as usual. The 50K and 50M winners now hold the course records for this new course, and hopefully they will never be challenged.

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 runners are the best of all. Hope to see you next year.


Compare and contrast!

On Wednesday I was shoveling snow in Wisconsin.   On Saturday I was
getting sunburned and sweaty in southern Mississippi.

Life is good!

My first visit to the Carl Touchstone 50 m/k (and 20) in Laurel,
Miss., came about because a friend of mine fell in love with trail
running after doing her first 50K last fall in Wisconsin.  "Now I
want to do a 50-miler!"  said Teri.

But there were criteria.  The trail needed to be as gentle as her
southern disposition (she lives in Wisconsin but grew up in Alabama),
and headphones had to be legal.  The idea of running without earbuds
was a concept entirely foreign to Teri.   I can't fathom life without
chocolate chip cookies so can certainly relate to her addiction

Several people told me that Carl Touchstone was a well-organized
event with relatively easy trails (we didn't tell Teri about the year
that runners needed to clutch a rope to traverse across one of the
streams -- thankfully, this year it was only ankle high).  And rumor
had it that participants could wear headphones. For me,  as a
Wisconsin girl who spends most of her winter in the snow, the idea of
running outside in shorts in early March sounded nice.

Time for a road trip!

Our little gang of Mississippi travelers grew to five.  Three of us
would do 50 miles, two would do 50K.  We decided to fly in and out of
New Orleans -- mainly for the cheap airfare -- but also to do some
sightseeing in the French Quarter.  We all enjoyed carbo-loading with
colorful beverages with colorful names, along with some
powdered-covered beignets (fancy donuts).  Protein came from
alligator appetizers and po-boy sandwiches.

We were set, at least as far as nutrition was concerned.

I've done a number of 50K events in the past two months, but they've
all been on XC skis.  Would sliding across snow translate well to an
event that requires sliding across mud?  Would my legs be tricked
into thinking that training in ski boots was the same as time spent
in running shoes?  Would Teri's iPod battery last all day?  Would
Barb be able to finish her first 50-miler?

Would sun and 80-degree temps really feel good on my winter-white skin?

We got to the park early on race day -- thank you Sue Norwood for
telling us that it took twice as long to get there from Laurel than
it actually did.  Although she apologized the next day (she and
husband Jim did their imitation of Mapquest at the previous night's
spaghetti dinner -- included, by the way, in our entry fee; the
dinner, that is, not necessarily Jim and Sue, though they were a nice
addition to our table), we realized that she had our best interests
at heart.  We got there early enough for a fabulous parking spot
right next to the port-a-potties.

Away from our porta-potty parking place and over to the race start.
We bumped into a few familiar faces including fellow Wisconsinites
Ann and Tim.  They skipped the New Orleans tour and opted to drive
down (and back).

The gang from Milwaukee: Teri, Eileen, Cathy, Barb and Mary

Someone must have yelled "go" because the herd began to move past the
start line and down the trail.  A controlled burn re-routed the
course but since it was my first time there it didn't seem any
different to me.  The trail was generally gentle with only mild
elevation changes.  To toss a bit of challenge to the course there
were a few stream crossings (but again, none were waist high as in
the "rope year") and some nice sections of shoe-sucking mud.  I
reminded myself that some people pay a large sum of money for mud
baths and we were getting them as a bonus to our race experience
along with the spaghetti dinner, shirts and buckle.  Southern

Which reminds me, the aid station volunteers had their southern charm
turned on high for the entire day.  At the second aid station a
lovely gentleman would walk down the trail to great runners with a
cup of ice water while taking their order for further refreshment at
the aid station.  I could get used to this.  The only thing missing
was sweat tea.

Anyhow, my buddy Barb and I were running the first loop together
(50-milers did three, 16.7 loops, 50-kilometer runners did two loops
with one of the out-backs removed).  An accomplished ironman athlete,
she was just beginning to venture into the world of ultras.  We
chatted up a storm with a fellow from Tulane, learning first-hand
about New Orleans' post-Katrina world.

But enough about chatter.  Over the fields, through the streams.  A
slight scent of burnt wood still hung in the air giving me a craving
for a s'more, or at least a toasted marshmallow.  Mmmmm...

On the first out-back Barb and I saw the rest of our group.  Cathy
and Eileen seemed in good spirits, Teri mentioned something about the
river crossing not being in the race brochure -- I didn't mention
that there was no race brochure.  Through the DeSoto Forest we
ambled.  Then Barb had her first ultra-running foot issue -- a hot
spot was developing.  I felt darn special to be with her for this
first-time ultra discomfort.

At the end of the loop we came back to our bags where I had a stash
of foot-fixing supplies.  I taped her hoof and she was ready for
another loop.  For her, the second was her slower loop. For me it was
my happy loop.  Although my legs had felt a bit heavy all day, on the
second loop it seemed like a heaviness that would get no worse.  I
spend time in the weight room, surely I could lift a couple of heavy
legs for a few more hours.

By the time Barb came through on loop two, Cathy and Eileen were
finishing their 50K; just in time to help Barb do another foot-fix.
Cathy had never done foot repair before but you know what they say,
sometimes the first time is the best.  It must have been because with
the new tape job Barb was able to take off and pick up her pace on
that third loop, comfortably knowing that she was going to finish her
first 50-miler.

As for me, I started to get tired of lifting those legs.  Was my
running pace really any faster than my walking pace?  I alternated
back and forth trying to guess. Tired, but spirits still good, I
passed a few folks, some of whom were having a tough time with the
summer-like temps.  Lifting his head from a nice hurl a fellow runner
told me how much he enjoyed the ultra experience, "except for

Me too.  But thankfully I wasn't doing any of that.  Just tired.
Nothing hurt, nothing broken.  I thought that perhaps Barb would
catch up with me and we could finish together.

I should have done what Teri did.

Yes, Teri.  The person for whom this trip was organized.  Where was
Teri?  Due to a number of factors, not the least of which was a nasty
flu bug she had endured just a few days earlier, Teri decided
pre-race to drop to the 50K.  At Carl Touchstone runners can move up
or down from their original distance race day.  Still a bit run-down,
Teri decided to take her time and just enjoy the 50K.  Her first
50-miler could wait for another day.

This certainly made sense but after eight hours fellow 50K runners
Eileen and Cathy started to worry.  Where was Teri?  Leisurely is
leisurely but Teri had done a 50K before in well under six hours.
Over an hour later and still no Teri?

While Barb and I continued on our last lap of the 50-mile, Eileen and
Cathy backtracked the course in search of Teri.  About a half-mile
from the finish our wayward runner was found sitting on a log, shoes
off, giggling away at "The Devil Wears Prada" on her iPod.  Evidently
she had been taking periodic movie breaks throughout the run,
figuring that she had all day.  And she really loves that movie so
once started, it was hard to stop.

Eileen told her to get up and get moving -- she was a half mile from
the finish!!!  Teri later said that she had no idea, and again added
that she really loves that movie.

By the time the last sub sandwich was eaten (post-race food from the
Carl Touchstone staff) Barb had finished her first 50-mile race (with
the scars to prove it), I got to add Mississippi to my list of states
in which I have run, Eileen and Cathy not only finished another 50K
but also put their search and rescue skills to the test, and Teri was
able to not only enjoy a wonderful day in the southern Mississippi
woods but also take in some cinema time as well.

Life is good.

BTW, I have some photos at http://www.maryg.smugmug.com (first
gallery).  However, as of today they are primarily pictures of five
goofy women from Wisconsin doing tourist time in New Orleans.  I'll
get a few race-related photos up soon.
Mary Gorski


This was my second year to run in the MS50, and just like last year, 
this was a wonderful event and a treat to take part in.  Thank you for 
continuing to give us Mississippians a local ultra to run each year.  
The volunteers are as great as any at any race I have run. This 
continues to be one of my favorite races.  I look forward to returning 
next year, and the year after that.   For a write-up, see www.jay-perry.blogspot.com
/s/ Jay Perry

p.s.  Last night when I returned home and began, slowly, unpacking my 
truck I found a set of keys that do not belong to me.  I feel awful 
thinking about someone looking for their keys, but I have no idea who 
they belong to or how they came to be in the floor board of my truck.  
It is an oval "Ford" keychain with 2 older looking Ford keys.  Again, 
I feel terrible, but cannot imagine how they ended up with my stuff.  
Please pass the word along so I can return these keys to the rightful 


Carl Touchstone 50K - my first podium!

This was my second time to run in the Carl Touchstone 50K (aka MS 50). The race features three distances: 20K, 50K, and 50 miles. I ran the 50 miles last year but since I was using this as a training run to peak for the Vermont 100 in July, I opted for the 50K this year.

I decided to camp at the start/finish this year with Stacy, Mann, and Mandy. There is plenty of space to camp, but it is primitive camping only. I recalled last year arriving at the start/finish the day before the race around 4:00 p.m. and it being almost completely empty. This year, however, was a different story. This race is run on the Longleaf "Horse" Trail in the DeSoto National Forest in Mississippi. The key word in the preceding sentence is "horse" because when we arrived at camp we felt like we were at some type of horse commune. The place was packed with horses, trailers, campers, etc. We were treated to various horse sounds for much of the night.

After setting up camp, Stacy and I went into town to pick up the various items each of us left at home. We returned to camp to eat and sip on a cold beverage. Mann and Mandy came back after the pre-race pasta dinner. We visited for a while and then each headed off to bed until morning.
We were up by 4:00, dressed by 5:30, and racing by 6:00. It was fairly warm when we woke up, a sign of a very warm day to come. The National Forest Service was doing burns in the area, so the race course had to change at the last minute. Hats off to Dennis and the other race volunteers for making the needed changes and updating the website promptly. Basically it meant we would run an additional out and back on each loop that we had not run in previous years. For the 50K, our first loop was a 16.7 mile loop and the final loop was 15.2 (yeah, I know, that adds up to 31.9, or .8 more than a 50K . . . what can I say? We got the extra .8 free with our race fee).
The race starts in the dark, but a headlamp is not needed because light is fast approaching and we run on nice wide, pine trails for a nice stretch. We then took a left for the first of two out-and-back sections. This first out-and-back was wide and wet. There were several creek crossings that were wide enough that you just had to hammer through them and let the shoes drain later. I felt really good the whole first lap. I hooked up with a fellow Starkvillian, Steve Elder. He and I chatted a bit as we clicked the miles away. We were both running strong and feeling good. We went out with a group of 8 or 9 runners. The front 3 or 4 quickly distanced themselves from us and we settled in in that next group. We leap frogged a couple of guys several times.

Steve and I finished the first section in 2:25, which is about 8:40 a mile. While we were on the 2nd, shorter loop, Steve mentioned that he had run a sub-3 hour marathon. It was about this time that I realized I was an idiot for trying to run with him. While I'm in pretty decent shape, I am not a sub-3 hour marathoner, at least I don't feel like one. Predictably, Steve started to stretch it out in front of me some. Also, I started to get just a little nauseated. It was getting insanely hot for this time of year. The temperature was in the 70's already and it was still early morning. I made a rookie mistake of running out of water between aid station 1 and 2. Fortunately I was without for only a short time. I am still tinkering with my sodium intake. I used Nuun for this race for the first time, and really like it.

By this point it was just survival. I was trying to be cautious and not hammer too hard. I would be conservative on some uphills and run the downhills. This seemed to work well, and kept me in the game for a while. Mentally I was just working on the constant forward motion mantra. I knew I was in the top 5 at this point, but not sure whether I was 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th. When I got to the last aid station, I was fairly certain I was not going to catch Steve, but badly wanted to make sure no one caught me. I continued walking the uphills and running the downhills. I kept thinking "what if someone passes me and it is for 3rd place." As I approached the final half mile I made my last look behind me. Seeing no one, I stepped it up and ran as hard as I could, finishing in 5:01.36, a personal best by 46 minutes, good enough for 3rd place. Had it been a traditional 50K (31.1 miles), I would have broken 5 hours. I was shooting for 5:15-5:30, so I was very pleased, especially considering the heat - it was close to 80 at this point.

Running another great race, Mann was not far behind. Mandy finished her first 50K in under 6 hours, no small feat in that Mississippi heat. Stacy pulled out a top 25 finish as well.

Tim Fromm, from New Mexico, ran strong the entire race, winning the 50K comfortably in 4:21.59. Local favorite, John Brower, defended his title winning the 50 mile race in 7:21 - 20 minutes ahead of second place John Cobbs of Alabama. Kris Whorton was the 1st female 50 miler in 8:05. Lisa Dahl, Minnesota, won the women's 50K in 5:30. Full results are here.

All-in-all, a great day on the trails with friends.

UPDATE: After returning home and unpacking my car, I found an oval "Ford" keychain with 2 Ford keys on there. I feel awful thinking about someone looking for these keys, but have no clue who they belong to or how they got in my truck floor board.



Report submitted to Ultrarunner:

Carl Touchstone Memorial Mississippi 50 Trail Run

The 13th Carl Touchstone Mississippi Trail 50 (MS50 for short) was held March 7, 2009 on the Longleaf Horse Trail in the De Soto National Forest. The weather was on the warm side, with temperatures in the high 70’s, but the course was fairly dry. A new record was set again in the female division of the 20K. Mandy Conrad had held the record for several years, but came in second in 2007 with Karen Trittschuh from Florida breaking Mandy’s previous record. So in 2008 Mandy Conrad came back on a mission, winning with a new record time. But in 2009 Leigh Armstrong from Birmingham AL beat the heat and lowered the record to a very fast 1:38:21!

The first place winner in the 50 Miles, John Brower of Ridgeland MS, was also the winner in 2008. He finished 20 minutes ahead of second place, John Cobbs from Birmingham AL, despite running 30 minutes slower than he did in 2008 under cooler conditions.

This is a great event to try your first run at a longer distance, and 87 of the 264 entrants were doing just that, running their very first 20K, or 50K, or 50 mile event. You can also changes races during the event, and over 40 runners moved up (2) or down.

Richard Cozart from Panama City FL participated in his tenth MS50, and was presented with a special 10 year award trophy at the prerace dinner.

Thanks to everyone who came and hope to see you next year.

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