I didn't get any pictures of the course, but some friends got some pretty good shots.
This race report turned out much longer than I planned. Most of it is for me to remember and reflect, so feel free to just look at the pictures and skim if you want.
For a few years I've heard lots of good stuff about the races that Jim Craig puts on with Angry Cow Adventures I have heard that his races are very challenging but fun, and he treats every entrant like a super star, regardless of ability. I wasn't planning to do a 50k this year, but I was going to be working nearby and bike racing season is over, so I said, "Why not?" and entered. After seeing a map of the 5ish mile course (which I would run 6 times), I knew it was going to hurt. The only question was how much.
I found my way to Indian Cave State Park Friday night just before they closed the gates at 10 p.m. I had no idea where I was going, but another guy (who I'll call "Mercedes" since he was driving an older one) drove into the park just after me and looked like he knew his way around. I said, "You here for the race too?" He didn't even know there was a race, but was impressed that I was going to be doing a "supermarathon" as he called it. He and his dog were there to camp with some friends, but he told me I could just drive around and should be able to find a spot. I drove for 10 or 15 minutes through the park looking for a familiar vehicle or some kind of clue that I was at the race site. Just before a "road closed" sign I saw an "Angry Cow Adventures" sign and figured I must be close. I also saw someone parking a truck with a 50 mile sticker, so I figured I must be in the right place. I introduced myself (found out his name was Jeremy, not realizing until later that it was Jeremy Morris, a super fast guy who won the overall title for the Red Dirt Trail Running Series) talked to him briefly, and decided that we were probably in the right place according to the maps. I set up my tent just a few feet from my truck, rolled out my bag and fell asleep looking at the stars, which were still out when I woke up with a glow in the east.
I brewed a pot of coffee and ate some roasted beets mixed with sour cream and lots of salt (always have before a race) and a couple of small tortillas filled with a mix of boiled eggs, avocado, onion and lime juice that I'd brought in my cooler. Then I got into my racing clothes and put on warmer clothes over the top since it was only in the upper 30's. I had a few minutes before I could check in, so I relaxed in my warm truck for a few minutes until I could check in at 6:30.
After getting my number and putting it on my race belt, I started seeing some friends arrive and had a chance to chat with them. I usually spend most of the actual running time alone at the majority of the events I do, but I love the social part of before and after races.
Of course just as everyone else was arriving and the parking lot was filling, my morning coffee and all the fiber from the prior three days hit me at once. I hadn't seen any bathrooms in the immediate area but had seen some driving in. I got in my truck knowing that I would lose my prime parking spot, but I didn't think I had time to walk to the bathrooms and make it back to the start. I started down the road and had barely gotten out of the parking lot before I found bathrooms that I had missed driving in. By the time I got back my prime spot was gone, but I was able to still park at the end of the lot furthest from the start area.
I took off my warm clothes and got down to shoes, socks, compression sleeves, running shorts, hat, sunglasses, and my long-sleeved tech shirt from the Drake Half-Marathon. I didn't realize until later that it's the one that says, "In it for the long run" on the back. I later laughed thinking that I was wearing that for a 50k race with many people who have run 50 and 100 mile races. I debated wearing gloves, but figured I would warm up quickly and wouldn't want them.
Just as we were about to start, someone, I think Reg Bollinger, suggested that we get a photo of everyone participating. Great idea.
I briefly considered sprinting ahead at the start so I could say I led Kaci Licktieg in a race, but I knew I would be suffering plenty later in this race. No need to make it worse than necessary. If you don't know who Kaci is, you should. She's one of the top trail runners. Period. Not "in the Midwest" or "on the women's side". One of the top trail runners. Here's her blog and you can find a lot more about her with a google search.
The first mile or so was mostly downhill, with some steeper and more technical sections of downhill, which I absolutely love. Maybe from having so many bicycle crashes, I'm not scare of falling, so I descend faster than most people at my level. I soon found myself running and chatting with a small group that included Kevin Riessland, Angie Hodge and another lady that they knew but I did not. Among other topics was the unknown lady saying that she always is afraid that Kaci would lap her at the GOATz 50k race, to which I replied that Kaci had never lapped me there. Because I'd never raced it. I also remember saying that I had made the wrong decision in opting to not wear gloves since I couldn't feel my hands. After more conversation I introduced myself to the unknown lady and found out that she is Kaci's mom. No surprise that they are equally nice.
Even though I felt great, I knew I had no business at all running with that group. I've seen Kevin and Angie run enough to know they are much stronger and faster than me. I forced myself to slow down and go at my own pace, keeping a close watch on my heart rate. I knew if I kept it in the low 140's I could maintain that for a long time. But even doing that, I was able to occasionally see glimpses of Angie's pinkish/orangish hat up ahead of me even at mile 4. I kept telling myself to slow down, but my running felt effortless, like I could go like that all day. I was shocked that I was almost back to the start/finish area before the three leaders, Kaci Licktieg, Jeremy Morris and Miguel Ordorica, went past me on their way out on their second lap.
At the start/finish line aid station I just topped off my water and went back out. I didn't check the time when I came I finished the lap, but I did look at my Garmin in the first mile of the second loop and realized I'd done the first loop in about 50 minutes. Big shock since I was optimistically hoping to average an hour per lap. I ran briefly with a few other people, but for the most part I ran alone, continuing to monitor my heart rate, feeling great and forcing myself to slow down through the 2nd lap. It was very uneventful. I started to feel a little hungry, so I took a little more time and ate a piece of foccacia bread, a muffin, and grabbed a small can of Coke to take with me but was in and out of the turnaround/aid station quickly.
Early in the 3rd lap I had my first minor difficulty. I was feeling a hot spot on the bottom of my right big toe on a steep downhill. Luckily I've paid attention to my smarter, more accomplished trail running friends and took their advice and took care of the small problem before it became a big problem. I sat on a log, took off my shoe and sock, slathered on some Glide, put the shoe back on and got back on the trail. No one passed me, and it couldn't have taken more than a minute. The rest of the 3rd lap was pretty much a replica of the 2nd. I finished the lap with the time showing 2:30, so I had averaged right at 50 minutes per lap! I was way ahead of my goal time. I got another Coke and piece of bread and headed out for lap 4 full of confidence.
The confidence drained in a hurry. Down the first hill my legs hurt, and I was putting on the brakes instead of letting it flow and enjoying the gravity of the downhills. Instead of forcing myself to walk the uphills like I did the first three laps, I kept catching myself walking the runnable parts and had to force myself to run at all. I wasn't enjoying the view any more. My heart and lungs were good, but the lack of time on my feet had caught up with me. Then I looked down at my feet and saw the hole in the side of my shoe. It looked better and less torn up than I felt. The first 3 laps I averaged about 10 or 11 minutes per mile, but now it was 13 to 15 minutes per mile. I still felt I could finish, but not anywhere close to what I had been thinking just a lap before.
I staggered up the last hill of lap 4 and headed to my truck at the FAR end of the parking lot to get different shoes. "Mercedes" was just coming out of the woods with his camping friends, gave me a big smile and said, "You did it!". I had to reply, "Not yet. I'm only two-thirds done" and showed him my shoe. While at the truck I grabbed a couple of pickles from my cooler and filled my coffee cup with the juice. I've never found anything better than pickle juice for fighting cramps, so I hoped it would work. I drank half and put the cup against a tree in the drop bag area, hoping no one knocked it over so it would still be there for my last lap. I refilled water, got another Coke and piece of bread and headed back out. I walked the downhill, eating, drinking, and trying to refocus.
It wasn't good, but lap 5 was definitely better than lap 4. I still had to force myself to run and didn't quite let it all out on the downhills, but it was better. I hurt, but knowing the end was near, I was able to push through. I did get lapped by a few people, including Angie and Kevin that I'd been with on the first lap, but that wasn't unexpected. The unexpected part was that they didn't lap me sooner.
At the start/finish I downed the other half of my cup of pickle juice, got another piece of bread and Coke and headed back out. It still hurt, but knowing it was the last lap, I was able to get a little more flow to the downhills and run the runnable parts. I did yell out, "F' you, Jim Craig!" going up the steepest climb the last time, not because of disliking him, but because I had conquered the toughest obstacle he had put on the course for me. That felt great!
Shortly after that I caught up with my friend Colleen Duda who was pacing Bill Lauer. He was having some cramping issues, so I gave him an unopened gel containing some electrolytes that I had found on the trail, and then went on ahead. Apparently it worked, because they passed me shortly after that. I heard Colleen tell him, "only a mile to go". Apparently part of being a good pacer is being a good liar, because I knew it was at least a mile and a half, probably two. But it worked. I never caught back up. In the last mile I actually felt like I was "racing", which was a goal to be able to do that on the last lap. I kept hearing a group behind me, but I was able to push hard enough to stay ahead of them to the finish line.
The finish line food was outstanding! Colleen's Catering makes some incredible potato soup. It was so good that I just kept getting more bowls of it instead of even trying the other stuff. It even made up for me being too slow (official time of 6:11:42)to get any of the Hamm's at the finish.
I'm not going to call myself an "ultrarunner" since according to my Garmin it was just over Marathon distance, not a full 50k. It was definitely more difficult than the one Marathon I had done before, however.
Jim Craig lived up to his reputation. Even though we had just met that day, he knew me by name when I came into the finish, shook my hand and congratulated me, and thanked me for coming out for his race.
I got the same attitude from everyone there. The top runners greeted me on the trail, congratulated me and made me feel like I was one of them, even though I'm nowhere close to them in ability. the not at the top runners did the same thing. They are exactly why I say, "I'm not a runner; I'm a bike racer. I just run so I can hang out with the cool kids".