I could subtitle this post many ways..."Monkey is Finally Off My Back"..."Fourth Time is a Charm"..."The Three Day Stage Race"..."Ramblings of a Winner"..."40-40-20"...or most simply, "I Finished." By the way, that's me in the photo--runner #580. The timing chip kind of looks like a prison work-release bracelet. Anyway, I started at Noon on Friday and finished at 12:26pm on Sunday. Total race time was 48:26. Wow, that is slow! At the finish line, I traded my timing chip for the coveted 100 Mile finisher belt buckle (photo at end of this posting). This was my fourth attempt at the 100 miles at McNaughton Park--the first three ended with DNFs.
DAY 1...Friday I ran an easy 40 miles and called it a day a little after 10pm. The weather sucked---high winds and rain on/off all day. The trail was muddy, but not too bad. I felt good. I planned on doing only 30 miles on Friday, but these 40 miles came easy. The whole day was actually fun. No pressure. No worries. I socialized with other runners and aid station folks. Heck, I even lounged at Heaven's Gate (photo at left). Brian and his buffalo crew did a fantastic job all three days at Heaven's Gate. Best aid station at ANY RACE in the country! When the 4th loop was done, I ate and went to my tent to sleep (you don't sleep much at the start/finish area--lots of commotion, people, announcements, etc). It was nice getting off my feet for 7.5 hours. I heard the 6am start of the 50/100 milers, but stayed in my sleeping bag for another 30 minutes. When I came out it was drizzling. I had some coffee, three snack cakes, a fruit smoothie, and headed down the trail for day two.
DAY 2...Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. Well, my pain started at mile 41. I knew Friday was too easy...something had to challenge me. When I headed down the first hill from the start into the big open field my left knee was hurting. The loop around the field was a circuit of pain. I could only manage an odd walk/skip that kept the knee from taking too much weight. At the totem pole aid station (around mile 2.6) I took 2 Advil. The slippery mud and cold stream crossings were killing me (at least the second creek had a fantastic bridge--photo at left). When I got to Heaven's Gate aid station (mile 5.9) things were feeling a little better. I managed to get back to the start and grabbed an Aleve. Within an hour, I was feeling better and starting to do a regular run/walk routine. I took a couple extra strength Tylenol on the next loop and the pain started to really subside. Day two was a lesson in pain management. I would have dropped at 50 miles if it weren't for drugs and the knowledge that I had another whole day to finish up. The course got progressively worse with the extra 150 or so runners on the course chewing up the trail. The rain came and went all day. We even got a little sleet and snow! But less wind than Friday. I finished another 40 miles around 7:30pm. Adam was at the finish line (he had just finished his first 50 miler) and he handed me a beer. Why not? I ate a soy burger, drank a beer and headed back to my tent for some sleep. I only had 20 miles left for Sunday.
DAY 3...It's nice to wake up and know you have 9 hours to "run" 20 miles and finish a 100 mile race. Andy is very generous with his cut-offs. The 100 milers can start with the 150 milers (like I did) and have the full 52 hours to finish. I got out of my tent around 6am, and headed for the fire pit to warm up. Grabbed a pancake and coffee too. I had a chocolate milk & Advil back in my tent and then headed down that darn hill for my 9th loop. For this loop I wanted to see what a full fast walking loop would take...I finished in about 3:10. Not a bad 10 mile walk after already having done 80 miles. I only had one loop to go! My knee was hurting a bit, so I took another Advil. I wanted to finish strong...I planned on running my 10th and final loop as my fastest of them all. I took off down the first hill and into the big field feeling OK. I had my iPod, stomach full of food, and only 10 miles to go. The trail was actually in better shape this last loop than it had been since Friday. Less runners and the continual wind seemed to dry up some of the mud. There was still tons o' mud, but it was thicker and tackier than before. You could actually get a bit of traction on it. When I arrived at Totem Pole, now with 92.6 miles under my belt, I thanked Rich and his crew and headed back down the trail. I pushed hard on all the flat sections and power walked the hills. Made it to Heaven's Gate around 11:30am (now mile 96.9) and requested a soy burger for my return (I love that 1-mile roller coaster loop that brings you back to Heaven's Gate). The buffalo were cheering me on and I ran that loop fast--upon returning to the aid station I saw Gregg and yelled out "Is that all you got MPT!" There would be no dying on this course this year. I grabbed my soy burger, thanked all the volunteers, chatted about 5K PRs, and sprinted back to the trail--only 3.1 miles to go. I intended to run that whole section back to the finish, but it's not easy eating a burger and running...especially when you have already done 97 miles. I held up pretty well, but it wasn't my intended sprint to the finish. Finally I reached the last left turn into the open field and the finish line was in sight. I pushed hard up that slight incline as Andy the RD called out my name and said all sorts of weird stuff about me..."Chris is director of Clinton Lake ultra (true)...Chairman of the Illinois Grand Slam (half true)...President of Second Wind Running Club (not true)...Mayor of Pekin (not true)...and now a finisher of McNaughton Park 100 Miler (true!)." Thanks Andy. Hey, I still had 3.5 hours to spare. Maybe I'll try the 150 miler next year...not.
Stage Race...I intentionally wanted to turn this into a 3-day stage race. That strategy worked for me. It made the event fun for the full 48 hours. I could have cut back on my sleep time and run a faster 100 miles, but I don't think I could have finished if I started at 6am on Saturday morning. Maybe with 3-4 hours less sleep each night I could have still finished (around 40-42 hours?). With better course conditions and less sleep...maybe under 38 hours? I could try only one night sleep next year...then I could finish in under 36 hours! Hmmm...
Food...Andy makes sure the runners have lots of food. A little short on the vegetarian side, but I brought my own soy burgers and veggie ramen for them to cook. I had a cooler stuffed with fruit/yogurt smoothies, chocolate milk, cheese sticks, iced tea, and soda. The Heaven's Gate group did a nice job of keeping me stocked with veggie options...hot mashed potatoes, soy burgers, homemade cookies, hot chocolate...it's nice having friends on the course.
Water & Mud...the course started out slightly muddy, but eventually became a nasty mess. On Saturday, the new cohort of runners (from the 50 & 100 miler race) really tore the course up. And the continual rain didn't make things better. Improvements from last year were the added bridges/boardwalks (and logs) on the low area between miles 1-2. It was possible to keep your feet dry through this whole section. Last year I'd change socks and shoes at the start and they would be muddy and wet after a little more than a mile. Very depressing. This time I could go to the last creek crossing (photo at left, almost to mile 9) with semi-dry feet (muddy, but fairly dry). It sucks having wet feet for 100 miles. With the downed tree I used to cross the first creek (didn't discover this trick until loop 6), I could keep my feet pretty dry. The mud oozed through my shoes and socks, but it wasn't the deep sogginess you get from wading across swamps and streams.
Sleep...I got two nights of "sleep." It's not really sleep when you have music, people, and announcements going on 24 hours/day at the starting line. Still, it was a welcome relief from the trail. I huddled in my sleeping bag (with extra fleece liner) inside my tent and listened to the rain and sleet patter off my rain fly. I felt bad for those people on the trail late at night. The time off my feet certainly lifted my spirits and helped heal some of my aches and pains.
Research Study...Jim from Monmouth University conducted a research study with the ultra runners. It was fun filling out a pre and post survey and then being interviewed at the finish. Felt like I was giving back to "the sport." I hope he gets some good psycho-social data and continues his research in this area. I'd love to see more data (not just physiological) on ultrarunning and its affect on runners.
Random products to thank:
Hydropel (no blisters even with water/mud all over the course)
Tylenol, Aleve, and Advil (got rid of the knee pain)
Boca Burgers (soy protein kept me going for over 2 days)
SportShield (better than Body Glide)
My split times & medal:
TOTAL = 48:26:05.81 29:04/M 100.000
Lap 1 2:13:34.27 13:21/M 10.000
Lap 2 2:29:55.30 15:00/M 20.000
Lap 3 2:24:44.46 14:28/M 30.000
Lap 4 3:06:14.29 18:37/M 40.000
Lap 5 12:04:04.89 72:24/M 50.000
Lap 6 3:03:41.06 18:22/M 60.000
Lap 7 2:57:07.99 17:43/M 70.000
Lap 8 3:06:49.77 18:41/M 80.000
Lap 9 14:25:33.63 86:33/M 90.000
Lap 10 2:34:20.15 15:26/M 100.000