Monday, September 29, 2008

Rock Cut Hobo 2008 Report

As I said yesterday, the women's course record at the Hobo 50K was shattered by two runners! I didn't manage as well as them, but did run the way I wanted to and finished in 5:40 (30th out of 70 finishers and 79 starters). Last year I ran 5:35, but died at the end. It was much warmer last year and I got dehydrated. The weather was almost perfect this year with clouds all day and the temperatures only reaching the low 70s in the afternoon. I was not feeling very good on the 3-hour drive up to Rockford. My stomach was bothering me and I made 3 stops before arriving at Rock Cut State Park. My plan was to run very easy the first loop and see if my stomach settled down. I was only drinking water and had hoped the aid stations would have some chips and pretzels to add calories (and not bother my stomach). I didn't find any food on that first 15.5 mile loop...I was really hungry and getting tired. On the positive side, my stomach was feeling fine and I was ready to refuel and start picking up the pace. I grabbed a yogurt smoothie and salt pill from my car, a few pretzels from the main start/finish aid station, and headed back down the trail for the second loop. My first split time was 2:49 (including the brief stop at my car). That's faster than I expected to run, but I was going easy and felt OK (except for the lack of calories & related energy fatigue).

On the second loop I changed my iPod tunes to actual music rather than podcasts. I like podcasts for easy long runs--they don't pump me up and get me going faster than I should, but they still ease the time on the trails. At Hobo I loaded up my three favorites daily podcasts: World Soccer Daily (the best futbol radio show in the world!), Dave Ramsey (basic, no nonsense financial advice), and American Marketplace (business & financial news from public radio). All are available for free on i-Tunes or you can get them from the shows web sites. Those "news" shows got me through the first loop, but now I needed some motivation to keep it up...that means real music. The next 2.5+ hours were spent listening to Rilo Kiley, U2, AC/DC, Black Eyed Peas, Led Zeppelin, Ozzy Osbourne, and even a little Avril Lavigne (no, I'm not a 13-year old school girl). I needed the extra musical inspiration...the miles were starting to wear on me. The nice thing about keeping your pace up on the last half of an ultra is that you get to pass a lot of runners. Nothing against those runners, but it sure feels nice to pass them. And it feels a LOT better than being passed! I kept to my standard strategy of jogging the flats, pushing on the downhills, and walking the uphill portions of the course. The course was in good shape--very little mud and only a few spots that had loose sand that made it tough to get going.

The Hobo Run has a lot of aid stations, but most offer ONLY water and maybe some sports drink. I wish they threw in just a bag of chips or pretzels. The two "full" aid stations (one was at the finish) only had a bit more to offer---fruit, pretzels, and maybe a stray box of Cheez-Its. Where were the Chips? Cookies? PB&J sandwiches? M&Ms? Oh well, I grabbed what I could at each station and kept on plugging away. I knew my pace was slowing (there were good mile markers all along the course), but I tried to increase my effort when I could. I thought I could pull a negative split...I was wrong. It was close...I finished at 5:40 with splits of 2:49 & 2:51. Not bad for an honest days work. I did finish looking good and running well--ask anyone around the finish line when I came in...I kicked it up a notch and sprinted the last 100 meters in the open meadow!

Overall I was happy with my performance at the Rock Cut Hobo 50K. It was a great long run and not a terrible finish time. I still feel good today. Hobo is a nice course with a mixture of single-track trail through forests, wider open trails through grassy areas, and even a bit of road thrown in for good measure. No serious hills, just a good variety of rolling terrain. You even get to see a few horseback riders and mountain bikers (they were all courteous). It's definitely a PR type of course...if they would provide just a bit more at the aid stations. If you normally carry and use gel packets, you'd be fine at this race. There are plenty of fluids along the course. I rely to heavily on the aid stations to provide real food...I don't carry gels and I often only drink water. I need calories (and electrolytes) from PB&Js, M&Ms, nuts, pretzels, chips, cookies, and salt pills. If the race added just minor food to the water-only aid stations, this would have been an almost perfect race. It's well-marked, has a nice finisher shirt and goodie bag (great wool socks this year), and tasty post-race "hobo stew" (with a vegetarian option).

This was race #3 of the Illinois Trail Ultra Grand Slam. Twenty-one of the 24 people who were still in contention for the full Slam signed-up for Hobo. I believe 20 finished (results are posted, but I haven't analyzed them yet). Farmdale 33 miler, the last race of the Grand Slam, is in 3 weeks. Once I get the Hobo results coordinated with the Slam participants, I'll update the Slam results.


704Studio said...

Awesome report and race, Chris!

I am trying to find as much information about running an ultra as possible, so reading your blog has been informational and entertaining as well.

I am impressed with your ability to run such a long distance on just a bit of food and water. Does Farmdale have a better selection of food at the aid stations than the Hobo? I am planning on bringing a backpack filled with fruit, sandwiches, nuts, vegetable juice, etc., and leaving it near the starting line so that I can access this food twice during the run. Do other runners leave food near the start, or should I leave it in my car? Never having run an ultra, I am not sure what is acceptable.

I ran the Wilderness yesterday and suffered heat exhaustion at mile 4, and had to jog the rest of way. I was worried my training would be set back for a few days, but I seemed normal during today's 3.5 mile easy run. Bonking during a 7.5 mile trail race has blown a hole in my confidence, though.

One more question - With 3 weeks to go, I feel I should start my taper now. I am planning to run 2 hours this Saturday, and then 90 minutes a week before the race. All other runs will be 3-8 miles, mainly easy, but with hard sprints thrown in at the end of some of the runs. Does this sound like a good plan, or should I be putting in one more week of hard running?

Thanks for your help, as you can tell, I don't know much about preparing for the race.

James W

Chris Ⓥ said...

Farmdale has great runner support at the start/finish and all aid stations. You can leave a drop bag at the start of the race (although your car will be right near the start/finish area too). At any race that allows me to park close to the race course, I just leave stuff in my car--that way ALL my stuff is there in case I need it--extra shoes, socks, clothing, food, drink, medical stuff, camera, etc.

Your plan for a long run this weekend (2 hours) and 90 minutes next weekend sounds fine--as long as they are at easy paces. Make sure you drop overall mileage too. For my "longish" runs I'll probably just do 12 miles this Saturday and then a 10 miler next Saturday (week before the race).

Good luck at Farmdale! It's a great race. Almost as good as the Clinton Lake 30-Mile Trail Run (my race).

denalifc said...

Chris: congrats on your run at HOBO 50k on Sunday. I was thinking of you guys as I helped at the PAWS 8k run/4k walk in Chicago. I was surprised to hear about the lack of food at HOBO again. At least the RD appears to have got the water/drink right finally. At least Farmdale and Clinton Lake get ALL that right (have not done McN so can't comment). Good luck at FD.

Anonymous said...

Great report Chris. Ha, thanks for not mentioning my name as you blazed by me in the 2nd loop ;-). Great splits!

Yeah, the Hobo aid could of been better for sure.

Avril? Oh my!

Ian - McN aid stations are great too.

AdamZ said...

Good seeing you again, if you feel like treking over to Farmdale prior let me know.
Take Care,
Clydesdales Running Ultra Distances

dirt_trail_runner said...


i hate to complain about stuff but...i have to agree about the aid stations. i'm a food guy and that was lacking. otherwise, rock cut is fine race.

nice job.

Anonymous said...

I'm relieved to see you back on your feet after your recent illness.

Enjoyed your race report and congrats on your finish.

Happy trails,

Connie :)