Tag Archives: Potawatomi Trail Run race report

I am now officially a special kind of idiot

9 Apr

Ten years ago, I took up marathoning as a physical challenge. This year, as I celebrated my 50th birthday, I wanted to take that challenge to another level. And thus was born the idiotic idea of running a 50-mile race in my 50th year.

Buckle and QuoteActually, everyone around me thought it was idiotic. I thought it was pretty cool. I liked the symmetry of the thing. And since, at heart, I’m a stubborn guy, I stuck with my idea.

That stubbornness paid off when, after 15 1/2 hours on the trails on Saturday, I completed the Potawatomi Trail Run 50 in Pekin, Ill. (The race features 100- and 150-mile runs, too, but I’m not that crazy.) The race takes place in McNaughton Park, a large forest preserve on the edge of town, and features a 10-mile loop that I would have to complete 5 times.

It was an amazing experience — definitely one of the most memorable events I’ve participated in. It started before the sun came up, and for me, it didn’t end until 2 hours after sunset.

Barb and I pose before taking off on another lap. I've completed 30 miles at this point, and Barb is getting ready to pace me for her first lap.

Barb and I pose before taking off on another lap. I’ve completed 30 miles at this point, and Barb is getting ready to pace me for her first lap.

Along the way, I met a lot of neat people, runners and volunteers alike. And the support I received from friends and family made the difference in my completing the event. I got texts and messages from all kinds of people before, during and after the run. Knowing I had so many people pulling for me made it that much easier to finish the race.

But I couldn’t have finished the race without the love and support of my wife, Barb. She planned on doing one lap with me — probably starting with mile 30. But she ended up doing two loops, and in the dark of night, her gentle encouragement and first-hand support was invaluable.

I am admittedly a neophyte at ultras, so take the following lessons with a grain of salt, but here are a few lessons I learned at my first ultra:

  • Traditional road marathons and ultramarathons are so different that it’s hard to even compare the two. I’m sure some trail runs don’t have as many hills as this one, but I think many do. And the extreme ups and downs on the trails first strain your hamstrings and then shred your quads. And I’ve never stepped around roots, balance-beamed over a log or arrested my descent on a nearby tree during a road race.
  • There are standouts in every sport. When I first took up marathoning, I was awed by the runners who could pound out 4:45 miles over and over again. I still am. At this weekend’s race, I watched another breed of outstanding athlete. I saw runners churn out 150 miles over the span of 48 hours, pausing for little more than one brief cat nap. (Mad props to Spencer Swearingen of Morton, Ill., the son of my colleague in Carthage, Joy Swearingen.) And I watched some young studs finish the 50-miler in just over 8 hours, 17 minutes.

See this post for pre-race insights on the park and the trail.

  • There’s a different vibe to the participants, the spectators and the organizers. I get the feeling that trail ultras attract the outdoorsy crowd. The parking lot was filled with Subarus and the finish chute was lined by tents — by necessity. Admittedly, this was a relatively small race, but most everyone seemed extremely friendly; slower runners would concede the trail to faster runners, and I never failed to hear a “Good job” from any of them. It just had a very collegial feel — except for the one bitchy runner who wanted everyone off “her” balance-beam log NOW. Oh, well, there’s one in every crowd.
  • Blisters truly are the enemy. In the couple of dozen road races I’ve done, I’ve never had a serious problem with blisters. I battled a half dozen on Saturday. From my research, I knew blisters could/would be a problem. I taped my heels beforehand because I had gotten some blisters on training runs, and my heels stayed good the entire run. But I developed blisters on the ends of several toes and one on the ball of my right foot.
  • A headlight that’s fine for the roads may not be up to snuff on the trails. I do many of my training runs in the dark, and I’ve got a couple of headlights I use for those. But it’s twice as dark in the forest after the sun goes down, and it only gets worse when it starts raining. (Yes, we endured a few sprinkles, a 10-minute downpour and a whole lot of lightning.)
  • Chicken soup is not only good for the soul; it’s good for the ultrarunner. Although the race featured a smorgasbord of foods – boiled potatoes, potato chips, GORP, licorice, Gummi worms, bacon, PB&J sandwiches, energy gels, oranges and on and on – nothing sounded very good after 30 miles. But a slightly warm Campbell’s chicken noodle soup hit the spot, and I ate a couple cups of that at the aid stations every 5 miles or so. The sodium and the broth proved to be a perfect elixir. I’m trying to figure out how I can adapt this to my road races.
  • You can’t be held to any promises made on the trail. Barb did two laps with me, and somewhere in the middle of those she extracted a promise that I would never again do another race this long or this crazy. And I kind of agreed. But I was thinking today, if I had just done a little bit more hill training…

Click on any photo below to launch the photo gallery.

Must Hike Must Eat

Nature Your Soul | Nature Your Body

Running with Scissors

Careening through life as a mom, runner, ecologist, and writer

PACWEST Photography

Image your Life

Omni Running

Running for the fun of it

A trail running guy

A journey into running trails and ultra marathons

Hike Mt. Shasta

Exploring the Mount Shasta Region

Just Call Me Shortcut

very specific thoughts from an Enneagram 5w4

distance ahead

Ultramarathons.

In the Shadow of the Rockies

Running the trails of Calgary, and beyond

Teton Romeo

Tails from Teton Valley, Idaho

Racing Through My Life

My Race Reports

wonderjess

where I do it all

Beaverhead 100K and 55K Endurance Runs

Run the remote and rugged Continental Divide National Scenic Trail in the Beaverhead Mountains dividing Idaho's Lemhi River Valley and Montana's Big Hole Valley.

The Daily Post

The Art and Craft of Blogging

One and a Half Runners

Don't be dumb in the first half, don't be a wimp in the second

amy c writes

words from a writer, runner and mama of twins

andrealinares

A topnotch WordPress.com site

Tim Tollefson

Trail junkie for Hoka One One; 2014 U.S. 50k Trail Champion; Physical Therapist, Mammoth Performance Lab Director; Coffee addict; Powered SRA Elite and GU; My wife and I have an open relationship with running...

Tasharama_A_Go_Go

Musings of a musician turned ultra runner

iowagirlontherun.wordpress.com/

Running down a dream.

Ultra Runner Girl

Writing about running, war zones, and everything in between

Dan's Marathon

Running long distances across the country

Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Ultrarunner Joe

My experiences and insights from out on the trail

seen.heard.run

stuff, tunes and running shizzle.

Jack & Viv

Running, reading and raising a family

Run Be Run

A blog about running, triathlons and everday life...for those who are happiest being in motion and chasing after it

TRAVELLING THE WORLD SOLO

The ultimate guide for independent travellers seeking inspiration, advice and adventures beyond their wildest dreams

%d bloggers like this: