When is an ultra run like a prize fight?

13 Oct
A face plant on the second lap of the course gave Barb a black eye and a swollen lip, plus several other bruises.

A face plant on the second lap of the course gave Barb a black eye and a swollen lip, plus several other bruises. This photo was taken the day after the race.

If the weather is nearly perfect, and the trails are dry, the light is good and there are no obstacles per se, how does a trail runner come out of a race looking like she’s gone through a 10-round prize fight?

It’s those pesky tree roots on a narrow single-track trail. At least that’s the story my wife, Barb, is offering.

Barb was looking for an extra challenge as her 50th birthday approaches in early 2014. After I did a 50-mile trail run earlier this year, I suggested she try an ultra — and she bit.

She thought 50 kilometers (31 miles) was crazy enough, so she decided to run the Farmdale Trail Run, which includes a 30-miler. To make it a 50K, she added a 1-mile jog before the race even began.

Due to the federal government shutdown, the race was moved in the last week to Jubilee College State Park, which is located just north of Peoria, Ill. The original site was supposed to be just south of town, but Farmdale is operated by the Corps of Engineers.

There were a few showers in Peoria before the race started, but when we arrived at the park, the trails were dry, and the conditions were really perfect for a run.

The course was mostly under tree cover, single-track and — although there were some steep sections — along rolling hills.

Barb wanted to complete the run in under 8 hours, and she kept up a very steady pace and met that goal, finishing in about 7 hours, 43 minutes.

The biggest challenge was staying on her feet, but she wasn’t alone. Despite the nearly perfect conditions, there were a number of tree roots on the single track, and if you weren’t careful, it was easy to snag a foot. I noticed an inordinate number of runners who came across the finish line with their shirts covered in dirt or their arms and legs covered with trail rash.

But I think Barb got the prize for the day. She fell at least once on every lap, and she did an epic face plant on her second lap and rolled into a log. That resulted in several bruises, plus a swollen, black eye and a fat lip. Trying to take a drink from her water bottle on the next lap, she just laughed. Every time she tried to squirt in water, it dribbled out the side of her mouth due to the fat lip.

One more example of women being tougher than men.

The day after the race, Barb is sore and tired, and her shiner has made for a hell of a conversation piece. She said she looks like she’s been fighting for Team Miesha, referencing the UFC television show.

But after a few extra ibuprofen, she’s doing some chores and made a great seafood chowder for lunch.

I think she’ll forget all about her sore muscles by the time the Belize marathon rolls around in early December. At least I hope so.

♦ ♦ ♦

If you’re interested in doing a trail run or an ultra, there’s an active group in central Illinois. Check out these links:

♦ ♦ ♦

And if you haven’t read my post about the 50-miler I did earlier this year in nearby Pekin, Ill., here’s a link to that article. It’s a great race, and it also includes 100- and 150-mile options.

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6 Responses to “When is an ultra run like a prize fight?”

  1. fullmoonrunner October 13, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    Oh gosh that looks really sore! Amazing achievement to keep going though regardless, extremely well done!

    • msmidt October 13, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

      Yes, I was very proud — but not at all surprised — by Barb’s resilience.

  2. Jim Brennan October 14, 2013 at 6:21 am #

    What an awesome way to celebrate 50 years. Go girl! Great post, keep em coming.

    • msmidt October 14, 2013 at 1:49 pm #

      Thanks for the kind comments, Jim. I was very impressed by the guts Barb displayed. She doesn’t let much slow her down.

  3. Ethel Isaacson Gentes October 14, 2013 at 1:47 pm #

    Great Article Mark.

    • msmidt October 14, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

      Thanks, Ethel. I was a bit concerned about rain that day, as you had worried, too. It poured on us when we left Peoria, but by the time we got to the race site, the ground was dry. I think we dodged a bullet.

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