My airplane is in the shop again this spring, so I am driving from Huntsville, Alabama to Goshen, Indiana. I drove a few hours after work last night and stopped near Cave, Kentucky. The night was restful, but the room did not carry the Penguins’ playoff hockey game, so I listened to it off iHeart radio from my iPad.
This morning, I drove the rest of the way to Land O’ Lakes state park where the race will be. I get my race packet and take in the area around the start/finish area. There is a fairly large parking lot, but with 400 runners combined in the 50 miler and 100 miler, I am sure this parking lot will be full well before the 6:00am start. Furthermore, since I do not have a crew, I need to get a parking space that will not be too far from the edge of the lot where the course passes before reaching the start/finish line. This race consists of six 16.7 mile loops. I decide that getting back here before 5:00am will be the best idea.
David Snipes arrives later that afternoon to pick up his packet. He flew to this race from Virginia and is staying in a hotel near Fort Wayne. Then I travel the 45 minutes to Goshen arriving at my cousin, Andrea’s place. For dinner, her brother Chris and his family join us all, and it is a nice reunion as I haven’t seen them in almost two years. I manage to get to bed slightly after 9:00pm, setting my alarm for 3:15am.
I get up at 3:07am before my alarm goes off. I got some sleep, but not as much as I would have liked. I get ready and make the 45 minute drive back to Land O’ Lakes state park around 4:25am. David Snipes arrives about 10 minutes later. We are each parked three rows away from the side of the parking lot where the course passes. I feel good and ready. My training has gone well, and I am healthy. The one concern is the weather. The temperature at the start is around 45 degrees. There is some cloud cover, but the horizon is showing the coming dawn. I have two technical shirts on—one long and one short, a buff, shorts, and my Camelbak.
Mile 4.3 44:45 (10:24 avg./mile) School House
Snipes and I start the race together, although with no plan to stick together. The course is rolling hills around many lakes. This first section is almost all a grassy trail. I make great time, and everything is going well. The sunrise is spectacular with mostly cloudy skies, but the sun does peak through as it rises. I grab a couple of PB&J sandwich quarters at this aid station and keep moving forward.
Mile 9.0 49:31 (10:32 avg./mile) Youth Campground
Leaving the last aid station, I push ahead a little from David. With the 50 miler starting the same time as us 100 milers, the field is sorting itself out. The fast 50 milers are way ahead, but the mid and back packers are crammed together with most of us mid-pack 100 miler runners. Most of this section was more grassy trail, but some of it was dirt. The course as this point is in great condition. At this aid station, I grab a few grilled cheese quarters. As I am leaving the aid station, Snipes is coming into the aid station. This will be the last time I see him in the race.
Mile 14.0 1:03:23 (12:41 avg./mile) School House
This course utilizes the same location for two of its aid stations. They are separate aid stations, but on either side of a road in the park. I am settling in for the long haul. This section was mostly dirt trail with quite a bit of it being tight single track. My pace was a little slower, but I think this is mostly due to the terrain as opposed to me lowering my effort. There are some short steep ascents and descents on this part as well. At this aid station, I grab a quesadilla quarter and a little bit of chocolate before heading towards the finish of the first loop.
Mile 16.7 33:52 (12:33 avg./mile) Sand Beach (start/finish)
This section starts with a nice, steep climb. None of these climbs are bad as they are at most only 150-200 feet in elevation change, but little of the course is flat. This is mostly a good thing as this encourages me to power hike the uphills and run the downhills. Having said that, the last almost half mile into Sand Beach is pretty flat. I feel good on finishing this first lap. It isn’t raining yet, and I feel pretty good. I pull a folding chair from my car and sit down while I eat a ham and cheese sandwich, washing it down with a pint of chocolate milk. The temperature at this point is around 47 degrees. My time for this first lap is 3:11. My ultimate goal would be 24 hours, but my main goal is just to finish under the 30 hour cut-off. So, with one out of six laps completed, I am in good shape.
Mile 21.0 49:37 (11:32 avg./mile) School House
This second time through, and my pace on this section only slows down slightly. This is good, but I wonder how well I will be able to maintain. For now, I am very satisfied with my times. I grab two more PB&J sandwich quarters and press on, maintaining forward progress.
Mile 25.7 1:03:30 (13:31 avg./mile) Youth Campground
I am doing okay, but my pace slows. However, I have my eye on the goal, which is to finish. If I can get under 24 hours that will be awesome, but I won’t be disappointed if I am slower. During this section, I begin to feel a couple of drops of rain. I was hoping that I might get 2-3 laps done before the rain started, but it is not to be. Hopefully, the course will hold up well. At this aid station, I get some more food and make my first sitting restroom break. The temperature is still in the high 40s, and so far, I am very comfortable in terms of staying warm.
Mile 30.7 1:13:26 (14:41 avg./mile) School House
Pace slows down a little more, but if I can keep my pace faster than 15 minutes per mile then I will do very well. The technical portions of this section are definitely harder than the other sections. The rain continues to fall. It is a light rain so far, and the course is holding up well. I get a half of a hamburger to eat at this aid station and indulge in some more chocolate.
Mile 33.4 39:12 (14:31 avg./mile) Sand Beach (start/finish)
I continue to make forward progress as the rain picks up a little. I am still warm enough with just the two shirts and a buff. The dirt is now turning into mud, but so far it is only a little slick—not much to worry me. I stopped by my car at the end of this section lap and grab a blueberry muffin to eat. I was it down with a little more chocolate milk along with some Conquest. My cumulative time at this point is 6:57. It is early afternoon, but the skies are dark with the complete cloud cover.
Mile 37.7 1:03:15 (14:43 avg./mile) School House
The nice thing is that my pace has stabilized right about where I need it to be. The bad thing is that the rain continues to fall—sometimes moderately and sometimes lightly—but always it is falling. This section isn’t too bad as the grassy trail sections are holding up well so far. At this aid station, I eat some potato chips and a cup of soup. The temperature remains in the high 40s. I am cool when it is raining moderately, but comfortable when it is only raining lightly.
Mile 42.4 1:09:59 (14:53 avg./mile) Youth Campground
The course is not officially falling apart in my view. The mud is getting deeper, and I see several people with mud on their backsides where they have slipped and fallen. I jokingly accuse them of sliding down hills intentionally to gain an advantage. My pace continues to be solid, and if the rain would just let up, I would be much more optimistic about my chances. At this aid station, I get some more soup along with a grilled cheese sandwich quarter.
Mile 47.4 1:31:48 (18:22 avg./mile) School House
The course is now a quagmire! We are slip sliding all over the place while trying to make forward progress and stay upright. I am still running down the hills, but it is a much more cautious evolution on each one. The uphills are slower as each step includes a slide of a foot or so. The important thing at this point is to stay mentally into the race and keeping making forward progress. I eat some more quesadilla quarters at this aid station and do not spend any more time than necessary in the aid station as I don’t want to get comfortable not having the rain falling on me. Each one of these aid stations has large tents to protect the awesome volunteers.
Mile 50.1 49:27 (18:19 avg./mile) Sand Beach (start/finish)
I spend the majority of this section, psyching myself up to get this section done so I can get started on the second half of the race. I do not want any thoughts of quitting after 50 miles to enter my head, and I hope that by starting the fourth lap, I will be over the hump and onto my 10th 100-mile finish. This is my 17th 100-mile race that I have started. My finishing record stands at 9 finishes and 7 DNFs. Some think that DNF stands for did not finish, but it also stands for do nothing fatal. A lot of things can go wrong over the course of 100 miles, and the weather is just one of these things. My pace is slower than I would like it, but with the extremely muddy conditions, I don’t think I can do much about it. Back at my car, I decide it is time for a jacket. I strip off my two shirts, put a long sleeve dry shirt on, and then put my Patagonia Houdini jacket on. I also trade the buff in for a wool watch cap. My thinking is that I need to stay warm as this is going to take me a while longer. It is only 5:30pm, but I also strap on my headlamp as it will most assuredly be dark before I make it through the next lap. I see Snipes and the guy that was going to pace him at the start/finish area. He dropped after two laps with no desire to battle the mud. His pacer shows no inclination to pace me, which I am fine with. At this point, I don’t think I could ask anyone to come with me and endure the rain, mud, and water. These conditions are just plain nasty. My time for the halfway point of the race stands at 11:31. While I am still technically under 24 hour pace, I think it is very unrealistic.
Mile 54.4 1:05:43 (15:17 avg./mile) School House
That being said, with warm clothes on and more food in my belly, I feel pretty good. And, this section is holding up the best as most of it is grassy trail. Since I am feeling good, I decide to push the pace slightly to see if I still have a shot at a sub-24. The rain continues to alternate between moderate and light. When I get to the aid station, I am slightly disappointed my split wasn’t faster. So, I resign myself to not getting a sub-24, but I am steeled to the fact I am going to battle through this crap and get my 10th finish. I eat more potato chips and another cup of soup at this aid station. These volunteers are truly awesome. Each aid station has more runners in it—runners trying to warm up or ready to drop out of the race.
Mile 59.1 1:30:58 (19:21 avg./mile) Youth Campground
With a sub-24 hour finish out of my mind, I focus on steady, forward progress. I also try to think about anything except throwing in the towel on this mud fest. There are definitely fewer runners out here now. Most of the 50 milers have either dropped or have finished. Probably about half of the 100 milers have dropped. I roll into this aid station just as darkness is fully descending on Northern Indiana. The course continues to get worse. There is mud and water in many places that is ankle deep or deeper. I have done nothing with my feet yet as they seem to be fine (for the most part) and doing anything would be rather pointless. As I enter this aid station, I decide adding another long sleeve shirt would be prudent. I get my drop bag and after removing my jacket and wet shirt that I will put two dry long sleeve shirts on under my wet jacket. I continue to eat and drink plenty.
Mile 64.1 1:53:21 (22:40 avg./mile) School House
The decision to change into more dry shirts was a good one, and maybe the weather will let up its relentless rain at some point soon. This cannot happen too soon. Unfortunately, it will not be during this section. I battle through the mucky, muddy, slippery course. The goal has been reduced to the bare essential—forward progress—hopefully staying upright. Leaving the aid station, I turned on my headlamp. It is working well, shining through the rain drops. At some point along here, the leader of the race passes me for the second time. He is now on his sixth and final lap. I get to the aid station, and it is very crowded. There is a lady sitting on a chair that is dropping out, and there is another runner that is unresponsive sitting on another chair. The aid station workers are starting to call for a paramedic, when this unresponsive runner comes back. I grab some food and my first Coke as it is time to get some caffeine in my system for the cold, wet night.
Mile 66.8 58:13 (21:34 avg./mile) Sand Beach (start/finish)
Leaving the school house aid station, I manage the steep climb immediately afterwards, and then the rain, which has been light to moderate most of the day, unleashes in a torrent for about 30+ minutes. The trail is now a flowing stream of mud and water. I am splashing along in places that are mid-calf deep. My formerly warm body is now soaked to the bone. With a rain like this, any jacket wouldn’t stand a chance, and mine is thin and light. I try to pick up the pace to keep warm, but as I get closer to the start/finish line, I am not only soaked to the bone, but now chilled to the bone as well. My shivering is nearly constant. About a half mile out, I take inventory in my head of what dry clothing I have left in my car. I think I have one more long-sleeve shirt and another light jacket, but that is it. In the theme of doing nothing fatal, I decide that I will end my race at this point. I turn in my timing chip at the start/finish line and begin the process of cleaning myself up. It has been 17 hours since the start and is now 11:00pm.
Snipes was waiting in his car in the parking lot, having cleaned himself up hours ago. We talk as I get my stuff and head to the showers. It is just one of those days not conducive for us to finish a 100-miler. The mud on my feet and in my shoes is caked on the skin and inside of the shoe. The water in the showers is lukewarm. It takes me about 45 minutes to get reasonably clean. I am shivering the whole time and do not stop until I am back in my car with the heater warming me up. I climb into bed around 1:00am. Almost 22 hours after I left it.
This is my only planned 100-mile race this year. I have no other long races planned until the fall. I am not sure when my next one will be. Until then…
Never stop running,Darin
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