So I am still alive and kicking. I am a wee bit sore. No, make that a lot sore. Mostly knees hurt, but strangely enough, so are my shoulders. Maybe Camelbak should put a warning on their product that extended use may cause shoulder soreness.
But I am skipping head. Let’s go back and start from the beginning.
I set my alarm for 3:31 AM Saturday morning, but I was laying there at 2:45 unable to sleep. Might as well get up.
I finished packing my last minutes items, and I headed for the WWC. A little before 4 AM, I was rolling in to the parking. Strangely enough, I wasn’t even the first one to arrive.
I had picked up my number and hoodie the night before so my only task was to setup my drop bag. With it in place, I settle back to relax in my car. I was going to be on my feet for a while today, no point standing around.
About 4:45, they gave us the prerace run down. Nothing unusual was noted, but they did tell us to be cautious on the damp trails. Michael rolled through on the Thursday which had left them wet. The low morning temperature left a dew covering the trail.
As the clock counted down to the start, I took a deep breath and said a mental pray. Hopefully, today all the training I did would pay off. One major thing going in my favor, the temperate was about 50 degrees. This was way cooler than the 75 or more degrees on my previous training runs.
A 5 AM, we were off. No parade lap for the 50 milers. We went perhaps 50 yards and ducked directly on to the trail. I was hoping to settle back in the pack and go out as easy as possible. With 50 miles ahead of me, I opted to no warm up, but it was tough hitting the trail with this method. I struggled to get going and settle in to a comfortable pace.
The led guy quickly jetted off to run his own race. I found myself leading the second pack of 6. Two of my biggest worries for today were walking and falling. I feared both would happen in the last half of the race. When I get super tired, it seems that I find a way to fall.
We were about 3 mile in to the run. At this point, the trail pops out on a clear cut section for the Duke Energy Power lines. I planted my right foot just like I had been doing. This time my foot slipped, and I went down hard. My right knee and right elbow both hurt. Worse, I suddenly blocked the trail for the 5 guys behind me. I didn’t even think about it. I popped right up, shook it off, and went back to running. I was bit more tentative for a while.
Somewhere in during this section, I heard somebody call my name. The trouble night time races and head lamps, recognizing any one is nearly impossible. This time, Justin was calling it out. Justin and I had stumbled across one another out on the East Main trail about 4 or 5 weeks ago.
We quickly hooked up and were soon pulling away from the others. By 6 miles, the two of us were running together, and we were well in front of the others.
Justin and I went back and forth leading. Whoever felt the best took up the mantle of leading. We finished the Goat and Toilet Bowel sections, and we then made our way to the East Main trail. I was thanking my lucky stars that I had run the Tread Nightly half marathon. I knew exactly what to expect.
Justin got way from on my on this section. He was pushing the pace to a level that I was not comfortable.
In the middle of the East Main trail, we pick up the Prairie Dog Trail. This trail is open, and for the first time, I noticed the darkness fading way. By the time, I was on the back side of Prairie Dog, I was able to turn off my head lamp. I would not need it any more.
We ran through the grass in this section, and the dew on the grass soaked my shoes. I hate that feeling. Then, I was back on the East Main and making my way along the back side of this trail. This year, I ran so runs and races on this section of the trail that I don’t know even need to look at my Garmin to know how much is left.
Off of East Main, they had us running up the gravel road to reach the access point to North Main. Off North Main, I popped out right along where the people go down to do the flat water paddling. Then, it was just follow the gravel path around the channel back to Belmont Island where the start finish was located.
One lap was in the books. If running wasn’t hard enough, we cross the start finish and have to make an immediate left turn to climb a flight of stairs. No point in crying about it. Everyone needs to do it, so I just closed my mount and got it down.
I dropped my head lamps and grabbed out a new Cambelback. I looked to my right to see Justin go around me and head back out on the trail. For some reason, I thought he was further ahead but I guess maybe I was wrong. I down some Apple and Blueberry baby food and grabbed a bagel to eat on the run.
Now, back on the trail, I wondered how much of a lead that Justin had on me. But it didn’t take long, and I had him in sight. I was probably running a little too hard during this section but the impulse to close the distance was too great.
Soon, I pulled in behind him. He offered to let me pass, but honestly, I was happy with the pace and the company.
We chatted back and forth until we came to the first aid station again. He stopped to grab something and then was soon back on my “six”. We ran the back side of the North Main trail, and we were making our way toward the South Main trail. I noticed Justin hadn’t said anything in a while, but then again, I didn’t find it strange. Conversations often ebb and flow depending how certain a person is feeling. Passing by the flat water access area, set of switch back follows. When I hit the first switch back, I looked around and didn’t see Justin. Not only did I not see him, there was no sight of him. I guess he decided to slow down. He never said anything.
From this point on it was just me and the trail. The last time that I had seen the leader, he was headed down the Goat while I was still headed up it on my first lap.
I was catching a few of the 50kers and a few of the 50 milers. At the point, the North Main trail nears one another, Chris and I exchanged hellos. He was running the 50k. He would go on to win it in I believe 5:09. Chris is an amazing talent.
Coming in to the start finish area on the second lap, my body was starting to feel the pain of miles. I climbed the steps but not as briskly as the first time.
From my gear back, I pulled out my 3rd Camelbak, another packet of baby food, a bagel, and 16 oz, Sierra Mist. I downed all of it except for the Sierra Mist which I drank over the next mile. My brain needed the sugar, and the fog of fatigue lifted ever so slightly.
I was now on my 3rd lap and would soon be new running territory. Rather than thinking about the entire lap, I concentrated on the individual little trail sections that I was running. I would finish it off and then start to think about the next. I had run the entire distance but now my legs were feeling the effects more and more. How much longer would my legs last? But somewhere down on the Thread trail, I found a rhythm that suddenly felt comfortable. Each hill that I hit I just stayed with the stride as if it were my lowest gear and let it do the climbing.
Through North Main I kept running, and then on to South Main I went. I admit the 3rd time up Goat Hill was truly tough. By the last aid near the Lake Loop, they now recognized me and call me by name. Hearing your name does help.
Down the gravel road I went to pick up the last loop of the East Main trail. Some guys were finishing their 2nd loop of the East Main and shouted encourage that all I had left was East Main. Yep, this is true, but this perhaps the toughest section of the entire course.
My legs were still moving and as long as they were moving so was I. I knew that I was in 2nd place, the question lingered in the back of my mind – could I hold it or would someone catch me. Whenever I had an opportunity, I always looked around to see if anyone is near.
I caught a few more 50 milers heading up to the Prairie Dog trail. One guy was huge. At least compared to me he was huge. I stand just shy of 6ft and 145 pounds. This guys had to be every bit of 6’5’’ and 250 pounds. But there he was moving right along on the trail. I was impressed.
Passing by the Tributary Trail, roughly 3 miles are left on East Main. I hit the tough hill section where I expected to walk but again my legs climbed the hills. Crossing back over the last mile and half section of East Main, I could feel my legs really starting to hurt. They hurt running up hill, but they hurt even more running downhill.
I never happier than when I exited East Main for the final climb. Up the gravel road to the North Main trail, I took it even easier in this section. In another race I had fallen twice here. My legs churned on and so did I.
Coming out on the gravel path by the channel, I knew I was going to do it. While I wore my Garmin for the entire run, I made a point to not look at it.
My goal here had been to run between 11 and 12 hours. My first was lap had been roughly 3:10, and second lap was roughly 3:13, so the question was how much did I slow down on the 3rd lap.
Turning right on the bridge, I caught sight of the finish clock. 9 hours and 53 minutes. The clock was ticking toward 54 minutes. Even after 50+ miles, I found the desire to sprint. Although, this was not one of my faster or prettier sprints, I was finished in 9 hours 53 minutes and 57 seconds to finish in 2nd place overall. Jenny handed my WWC 50 Miler belt buckle. Unlike nearly all of my other awards that I have won over the years, this is going to be one that I wear.
I put in a ton of work to earn it, and I am going wear it proudly.
Sorry, this was long post but 50 miles is a long ways.
As I wrap up this post, I want to give a big shout out to Martin. He nudged/pushed/encourage me with some great advice for refueling during my race. Having him to bounce stuff off of really paid dividends for me. There is no way that I could have done this race without his help. Appreciate it, Martin.
Another big shout out goes to the guys at the WWC for putting on this race. They must have put out a million purple arrows to keep us on the course. Even if I had not known the course, I don’t think I would have gotten lost.
Lastly, someone asked me if I were going to do this race next year. I smiled and looked them straight in the eye. I told them is not the best day to ask me that question as I hobbled back to chair. LOL.
The Cool Down Runner