Potawatomi Trail Runs 2013 – Race Report
How can I sum up 11 hours and 50 miles into one easy to read and not boring blog? I seriously don’t know where to even start! So, here we go!
Steve and I got up early 4:00am and we were still cutting it close. I was lucky enough to have Steve book a hotel room at the Holiday Inn in Pekin so we were able to get a good night of sleep and a shower. Days before the race I decided I actually wanted to shower the morning of the race and do my hair Silly I know. Usually I shower the night before race day, but with my new short hair, sleeping on it wet means a crazy mess the next morning. Plus, I planned on rocking this race so I wanted the hairs to be pretty! haha JK. I just wanted my hair half way decent. Yes, I worried about my HAIR before running a 50 mile trail race on a challenging course.
I had packed multiple outfits for race day including 2 pairs of tights, 2 pairs of capris, a pair of shorts, 4 long sleeve shirts (different thicknesses), 3 pairs of short sleeve shirts, 2 tanks, 4 pairs of socks, and 2 sets of undergarments. I had NO idea what I wanted to wear or what to expect from the weather.
All week, Pekin was expecting high 60’s along with clouds. Toward the end of the week, the weather forecast changed to wind, clouds and rain, still with the high 60s. My training consisted of snow, cold, wind and ice. These expected temperatures were 20-30 degrees warmer than what I had been training in all winter long. No wonder I was confused.
We fueled up on some oatmeal and bananas and were out the door before long. When we arrived the park was glowing with headlamps. Runners were everywhere getting ready for the race. Steve managed to get an awesome parking spot close to the start finish line. We got very lucky there!
We had set up our tent the night before. It would be our little mini base camp. We put all of our gear inside and got ready. I picked up my timing chip stopped at the bathroom for one last visit before the race. We headed to the start line 15 minutes before the race and were updated on the conditions. The race directors offered advice and encouragement. Before I knew it we were ready to take off. I decided to start toward the back. I wasn’t planning on running particularly fast and I needed to control my pace. I thought that running behind the group would help.
Just after the start we headed down a wide dirt and rocky hill. The ground was very uneven and worn. There were rocks and drops everywhere. Everyone was clumped in a group heading down this hill. It was dark still, only headlamps lit the ground. I had to pay attention to my footing. Once we got to the bottom we ran around a huge grass field. After just about a mile we hit our first single track which took us up our first hill and back up into another field. We crossed the field and headed down and back up. The race directors told us that the first half of the loop was more hilly than the second half. They were right. Before long we were crossing small muddy streams and heading back up some more hills.
The sections seemed to be well divided, when you were on single tracks you were there for a long time and there were lots of hills. There was also a good section that circled a field which was fairly flat and run-able. The first half of the course was the hilliest, while the second half was more run-able, however there were still plenty of hills mixed in with the single tacks at the second half.
I walked most of the uphills during the first lap. I ran the downhills and flats and kept a pretty good pace. I latched onto a few people. One guy in blue for the first half. I never really found out his name. I’m sure it was kind of awkward for him.
Around mile two we crossed a bridge and a spectator said to me “Nice Job, second female right here!” and gave me a high five as I ran by. I was just about floored.
At that point I remember saying to the guy in blue in front of me “Why did he have to tell me that… It’s going to make me run faster…”
He said back to me “Well, it’s still early. Anything can happen, just remember that.” That really put me in place. 2 miles into a 50 mile race. ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN.
I ran behind behind the guy in blue for about 3 miles before started talking a bit more. He kept a good pace so I stuck with him. Finally we ran into some gassy ultrarunners as we climbed one of the big hills. The gassy runners let out some pretty loud and smelly farts as he climbed. It sucked to be behind them but it was a bit of an ice breaker. They let us pass and joked around about putting us through that.
I found out the guy in blue was also running the 50 mile race. We talked about the weather too. I told him I wanted to outrun the rain. According to the weather channel application, Pekin was expecting rain around 3. I told him I was hoping to be done then. He looked at me, and probably thought I was crazy. “I know I won’t be done by 3.” He replied. I worried for a second, He seemed to be doing alright, this wasn’t his first 50 mile race. Was I running too fast? Maybe I underestimated the course? I was aiming for the 8-10 hour range, but my ultimate goal was to finish. I was scared to run over 10 hours!
At the mile 5.2 aid station, named Heavens Gate, people were sitting around a campfire near an aid station tent stocked with food and people. It was still a little dark but I could see Steve sitting around the fire with other guys. He started cheering when he saw me and took pictures as I approached him. I was feeling good, so good. I gave him my jacket and was out of there before I knew it! This is the point in the race that I jumped in front of the guy in blue and started tailing another guy in blue, but this one looked like David Spade… from the back anyway. He would yo yo in front of me. He’d completely bomb the downhills almost Killian style and power hike the uphills. He was an uphill warrior. I’d always catch him on the flats. Eventually we started talking, he was much more social than the first guy in blue. We’d talk a bit, he’d get farther ahead because of hills, I’d catch him at flats, we’d talk again. Whenever someone would try to pass him he’d do his best to keep up and pass back. It was an interesting game he played.
I finished the first 10 mile loop in 1:51:54. I was all smiles, I felt strong, and ready to get out there and fight through lap 2. I told Steve I felt good and I felt strong. I felt anxious to get through the aid stations and to keep moving. I grabbed pretzels, potatoes and bananas from the aid station and gave Steve my headlamp. I told him the course is beautiful. I was loving every minute! Before long I was out again, just a little bit behind my friend “David Spade”, his real name was Paul. He was impressed with my aid station times apparently. “Well, you sure know how to get through the aid stations… You must have done this before.” he said. I told him that I was running my first 50 miler, but I had been running a 50k a month to train. I also told him about my runstreak and other running adventures. Imagine that, most of our conversations were about running, races, ultras, all the fun crazy stuff that crazy runners talk about.
We ran the next lap together and chatted as we trotted along. He was running the 100 mile race, which was crazy to me. He was pounding out the miles hard! I couldn’t imagine running like that for 100 miles. He would yo yo ahead a lot, but watching him and talking to him helped to pass the time. Toward the end of lap two we were walking more often. I decided to stick with him, just so I could pace myself a little better. He told me that he had a friend coming to jump in and pace him. We were on course to complete the second lap under 2 hours. To him, that was bad. He said he needed to slow down. He invited me to run with him and his friend, or not, or whatever.
I finished the second lap in 1:55:28. At this point I was getting warm. It was around 10am it was mostly cloudy with no rain. I told Steve I needed my saucony sleeves as I shed another layer. He quickly got them for me and refilled my hydration pack. I dug out my mp3 player to keep me company on this lap. This would be my lap, to run how I want, when I want and not worry about pacing with anyone. The music was refreshing! Everything was going so well. Within a few miles I took off the sleeves and the wind started to pick up a bit. My heart rate was skyrocketing on the big hills. Once I got to the top of them I would walk a bit to let it settle back down.
This loop I spent mostly alone, only to see people at aid stations and in passing. It was ok though. I was focused. Toward the end of the 3rd lap I started to get some minor cramping in my abdomen. I had been sweating too much and hadn’t been supplementing with salt. My knees really started to hurt on the downhills. At one point I thought and said to myself “CRAP!”. I started to worry that I was going to fall apart at 30 miles.
It was that point in the race that I decided I wouldn’t think ONE NEGATIVE THING. This was my race, the race I’d been training for and looking forward to. I would not LET this become a negative experience. “Hurting right now means that I’m alive!” I thought, who cares if I walk a little, the only thing I need to do is finish! I took a little bit of time to hike a flat spot and then started to run again. It felt better. I started to forget what part of the trail I was at and when I ate last. I lost track of time a few times. Things were starting to get tricky.
Steve was ready to go at the end of the 3rd loop. He grabbed me a salt tab and also had some oatmeal ready for me to eat along with a cold bottle of coke. I had to shed another layer it was really starting to warm up and the sun was even peaking out every now and then. I decided to do a few stretches before we headed out. Because of all the excitement we forgot to refill my hydration pack and grab extra GU. I had one left and Steve had one left. Steve offered me his. I had a moment of panic but rememberd the aid stations really had everything I needed.
I was really excited for Steve to join me. I was excited to share the course with him and to guide him on an adventure! We ran along, chatted and had fun. He made me laugh a lot! I loved it! I told him my legs were starting to feel the miles, I told him my knees were hurting. The downhills were painful and the uphills were hard! About two miles into the fourth lap my cramps were gone and my knees actually felt a little better. We hiked a bit and kept my heart rate in check on the uphills. I was taking in as many calories as my stomach would tolerate. Some of the uphills were starting to make me nauseous. But I was still able to eat. The aid stations were so well stocked. At the totem pole aid station I was able to eat ginger snaps and ginger ale to tame my tummy. We were even surprised by a woman in a squirrel mask hiding behind a tree. Pretty cute I must say.
We still ran the runable portions of the race and finished the fourth lap in 2:26:40. I was slowing down. I was officially past the farthest point I’d ever run! Every MILE was a NEW PR!
Finally we were ready for the last loop. I was restocked with GU, water and even ice in my hydration pack. We grabbed some food from the aid station and headed out. At the bottom of the hill I stopped to stretch one last time. We did a bit of running and a bit of hiking around the flat portion. We glanced across the field to see a trail of 8-10 horses being ridden on the trail. It was an amazing sight. We ended up running right along side them. They were beautiful!
The last loop was very smooth even though my knees were hurting from the hills. I reminded myself that this WAS THE LAST LOOP and I could run where I didn’t think I could. Honestly, I did start to get loopy. After 4 loops I had a hard time keeping track of what came next. I asked Steve…. “Where’d the creek crossing go?” There were times that I thought I knew what was coming next, but was totally wrong. I confused trails that we had already run on the loop with trails that we hadn’t. I was switching words (which I do occasionally anyway) even more. I lost track of time and started to panic about eating 10 minutes after I had just eaten.
I had a hard time not looking at my Garmin. It died at 8 hours. I couldn’t see my heart rate or pace which was a little frustrating but Steve kept me on track. His Garmin was picking up my HR. I’m sure he got sick of me asking
“What’s my Heart Rate?”
“What time is it?”
“What’s our pace?”
“Do I need to eat yet”.
Within the last 3 miles we got passed by some 50 mile race runners that were so EXCITED to be so close that they ran their hardest here! It was amazing to be passed like that!! Honestly, inspiring! Somehow and from somewhere they found the energy after 48+ miles to dig deep and RUN hard!