Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Potawatomi 50 Mile Race Report

No pictures, no video, but I did have 27 tweets from the course!  Saturday was a wild ride.  For this report on the Potawatomi 50/100 Trail Run, you'll get 27 pieces of wisdom from me about the race, training, racing, whatever.  These nuggets are not the same as my tweets from the course, although a few start with quotes from the tweets.  Here are the race results for the 50 miler.  I finished in 12:49 and came in 32 out of 86 starters and 68 finishers.  Not bad for an unprepared guy like me.  The theme of the weekend was "The human spirit triumphs over training."  More details below...

1. Training is important, but over-emphasized.  Over the last 3 months, I only had 3-4 runs of 10+ miles.  Longest was 12 miles.  I did one 28 mile run back in January.  I guess my friends were right about ultra running being "in my bones."  My body knew how to go 50 miles.  My mind wanted to give up, but it knew what was up too.  One foot in front of the other.  Slow steady progress.

2. Central Illinois doesn't have a lot of hills, but McNaughton Park and the Potawatomi trail finds a lot of them!  Hard to practice on hills when you don't have them nearby.  I need more weekend trips to Forest Glen Nature Preserve, Clinton Lake, and even McNaughton Park.

3. How do you plan for mud?  You don't!  The rain that came right before the race sure did create some slick spots.  Hills with mud are a particularly nasty treat in the Midwest. None of my shoes had much traction, but I'm used to lifting my feet rather than pushing off so I maintained OK balance.  Run like a dancer.

4. Minimalist and barefoot running has helped me be more agile and balanced.  It's also given me greater foot and leg strength.  That helped me during the race. Imagine if I actually did a few long runs?  Watch out next year!  Or next ultra.

5. Pacers are seriously useful, especially if you are racing hard.  Pat and Jeff kept me going even though I was just slugging along.  I easily could have dropped out at 30 miles if Jeff wasn't with me.  He didn't even leave me alone at my car.  Probably knew I'd change clothes and call it a day.  If I was really running hard, pacers would be a great advantage.

6. Sometimes you just want to be alone.  I loved having my two pacers and I enjoyed running side by side with fellow racers...but the solo time was great too.  It's a balancing act.  No pressure to talk or run at a particular pace when you are alone.  You can enjoy the scenery, walk when you want, run when you want, and crank the music when you want. 

7. Music is a great motivator.  Slow songs keep you relaxed and in-tune with nature.  Fast songs get you pumped and moving.  You need both in an ultra. Kid Rock and the Rolling Stones got me up a few of the nastier hills.

8. Heat sucks.  Especially when you haven't had time to acclimate. I think the high was around 82-85...with sun.  This July that temperature won't seem bad...in early April it is crazy hot while running.

9. Fifty miles is a good distance coming out of winter.  I've tried the 100 miler at this same venue (DNF=4, Finish=1), but it's hard to prepare in the Illinois winters.  Long runs don't come easy.  Steady training is difficult. Targeting a 50 mile ultra is a reasonable goal and a good motivator.

10. One hundred miles is a long way to run!  Geez, I barely finished 50 miles and those 100 milers kept going all night and into the next day.  Kudos to them.

11. I need to do even more barefoot and FiveFinger running.  Two people at the race were wearing VFFs.  I was amazed.  I want to be more like them.  Now that we have warm weather, it's time to go bare.

12. Horses are amazing creatures...and they crap a lot.  Didn't see a horse during the race, but I saw plenty of their "traces."  There must be a special term for mud mixed with horse manure. 

13. Deer are bigger than you'd think.  Saw three on my last loop.  They are huge when you are up-close.  Those suckers are fast and can spring at a moments notice. 

14. Frisbee golf looks interesting.  The race course goes through a section of a frisbee golf course.  Nice activity for a warm day.  Much better than running 50 miles.

15. Vegetarians can run.  Scott Jurek, one of the finest ultrarunners ever, is a vegan.  I proudly wore my new "No Meat Athlete" shirt.  Even tweeted about it.

16. After about 40 miles we all become lame philosophers.  My tweet provides all the evidence you need..."Hills without mud are still hills." Yep, sure is true.  Thanks smarty pants.

17. I knew I wasn't going to win this race. Heck, I didn't even expect to finish in the top 50% (which I still did!).  But to be passed by the leaders twice in 50 miles...that's sad.

18. Kentucky runners are different.  Ed and Jeff are two of the nicest guys you'll ever meet out on a trail.  Funny accents, but nice.

19. It's awesome to have friends at an aid station.  Particularly cool to have them on a loop course where you hit their aid station twice each loop.  That means I saw my buffalo friends 10 times!  Sweet.

20. DOMS.  It's real.  Look it up.  My quads hurt. My whole body hurts.  Even worse the day or two after the race.

21. The mind is mightier than the body...for a little while.  On my last loop I was getting really pumped up.  No one will pass me!  I will pass many!  That lasted about 3 miles.  Maybe less.  The heat and hills brought me back to reality.  I was passed several times in the last 7 miles. 

22. Chaffing hurts.  How do you avoid serious chaffing when it is hot and you are sweaty?  Change clothes?  Re-lube often?  Shower?  Run shorter distances in cooler weather? 

23. If you want something bad enough, you'll get it.  I wanted to finish and I did.  Next year I want to run faster and I will.  Great "rite of spring" to finish an early season 50 miler. 

24. Not many people buy the BK Veggie Burger at Burger King.  The cashier usually asks the manager how to ring up my order.  And sometimes the manager doesn't know how! 

25. Morning after the race I tweeted "Day after running 50 miles brings lots of satisfaction...and tons of soreness. Feel like I'm 90 years old."  Today I sill feel old...maybe 60.  Tomorrow I hope to be back to my mid-40s.

26. Tweeting from the course will slow you down.  I'm not the best texter.  I can walk very slow and sorta text.  When there are hills, mud, and lots of twists and turns, I need to stop to text.  Wonder how much time I would have saved if I didn't tweet?  One minute per tweet?  That's half an hour!  

27. Tweets from a live race are pretty cool.  My wife could follow along, a few family and friends followed, and I enjoyed reading my tweets the day after the race.  Nice quick archive of my random thoughts.

There you go...27 pieces of wisdom...or random thoughts.  Certainly more than 140 characters.  Thanks for listening.  Thanks for following on Twitter.


Kevin said...


Congrats on the finish. Very impressive result for anyone, trained up or not. I kept asking about you at Heaven's Gate. Glad you made it all the way through.


Chris said...

Thanks Kevin. The reason you never saw me is that you almost finished 100 miles before I finished 50! Well done. 3rd place overall in the 100 miler! And I thought I was going to catch you at the 30 mile McNotAgain this Fall. Only if I train hard and you get lazy.

jeff said...

good job finishing...your pre-race plan worked!!....yep, Kevin Cox kept asking about you but he would not slow down:)!!...that course is pretty slow when its muddy....now join gregg and/or I at 6am for daily 60min easy jaunts thru the woods

jason elliot said...

Nice job, Chris! It was muddy, then hot, but you persevered! It was nice seeing you out there. Wasn't this a PR for you, too?

Chris said...

Yes, it's a PR for the 50 mile distance...because it's my first 50 mile race! Super slow. I'll be back again. 50 miles is a nice distance. Challenging, but still done well before dark!