As was mentioned in a previous post, I had a nagging illness of the mind, a yearning sick desire to run the Pumpkin Holler Hunnerd course. Much discussion has been bantered about pertaining to the course description. Described in such lush terms as "relatively flat, rolling hills, dime sized gravel" have been wadded up and thrown at me like rotten tomatoes. I, the sinister-minded villain had taken lightly the urgings of runners to admit that the course was indeed hard, and not exactly as advertised. So the plan was two-fold. I'd get to see the course in all it's splendor, and could aptly make a valid assessment of how the course should be rated and described for next year. Well, some close friends sprang into action offering to crew me while I suffered ran my beloved course. And, as is usually the case, misery loves company and soon not one, not two, but five others joined me for the endeavor. Dana offered to crew, Stormy conned Brynna into crewing as well, and Kathy joined in for the fun offering to pace, crew, cheer, taunt?
This was taken last year on November 5th. The leaves this year were still hanging and looking great.
The duo of Stormy Phillips and Tim Eraker are locked and loaded, ready to roll.
I'm still light on my feet and giddy before the race. The plan was a 7:00 am start, but we started at 7:10 due to emptying of bladders and picture taking.
The runners from left to right: Tim Eraker, Stormy Phillips, Charlotte Lindley, Caroline Glenn, TZ, and Dennis Crosby. Stormy had one 100 mile finish to his credit, Charlotte also had one. Caroline was looking again for her first, me for my 10th, and Dennis--I'm not sure how many finishes he has.
No starting gun, no fighter jets doing a flyover, no national anthem--just a GO. We were off. I jockeyed for position and held a lead for the first half mile or so.
Per my rules as race director, we had aid ONLY at the specified aid station locations. I wanted to experience the course just like the runners did last month. Here, we are approaching the Waffle Stop, but no waffles today. It was just a mobile aid station manned by Dana, Brynna, and Kathy.
By this time, Tim, Charlotte, and Stormy had taken a slight lead.
Dennis was not far behind me, and he passed me around mile 29, but dropped at mile 40. He was mainly looking for a good long run, having finished this race last month.
I'm heading back down the long hill, just as Caroline comes in.
Back to the start/finish, and Kathy was there to cheer us on.
The section at mile three with the bluffs on the right and the river on the left is postcard pretty.
For the most part, the river was up, and I neglected to get a pic. This is from last month when the water level was down. It's awesome either way.
No shortage of beautiful leaves. So gorgeous, I forgot about even considering the hills and larger rocks--on the first lap anyway. And so it was--I ran, listened to tunes, ran quite a bit with Charlotte, a little with Tim and Stormy early on, and with Caroline a bit in the nighttime hours.
Tim and Stormy looking strong and at this time were 4-5 miles ahead of me.
Caroline eventually dropped at mile 52 due to foot issues. Charlotte hung it up at East of Eden with an ache in the back of her knee. I was all alone, but was having a good run and all was very well with the world. At mile 68, I walked out of Last Gasp with a cup of chicken noodle soup, and if I didn't know better, I'd swear there was a sedative in it. My run was a shuffle, and my walk was a half-a-foot length crawl. I was falling asleep on my feet, and tried so hard to snap myself out of it, forcing myself to run only to stumble on a rock or to the edge of the road which at times was right off into the churning river. Somehow even in my sleep-state, I managed to keep scooting the feet ahead. Also, I was starting to find hills that I swear were not there on the first loop. Every rock I stepped on had grown from dime to half dollar size, and this last 5 mile stretch was at least 8 miles long. Even with my trusty Hardrocks and Eric's magic foot goop, my feet were slowly being turned to hamburger.
Stormy had a bit of stomach issues, and Tim had taken off on ahead. Stormy did something I would have LOVED to do--he took a 4 hour nap and waited for me to catch up. I hoped I could quicken my pace, especially after the sun came up again.
When the sun finally came up, I snapped out of my stupor and was able to focus a bit more on the task at hand. The miles seemed to be going soooo slow. I once told people there were really only a couple of hills on this course, but by the third lap, there are hundreds. Seriously, a 50' climb here and there is not a big deal, but on legs with 70 miles on 'em, they demoralize you.
Hard-Up Ahead was buzzing with activity when Stormy and I trudged through. The whole gang was there. It was so good to see friendly encouraging faces.
Well, except for Brian, who said we looked like crap and still had a long way to go. A long way, yes. Nine miles. A significant hill to climb--one that I had powered up twice already today, and I was up for the charge. It was right after Hard Up, that we had 3 miles of blacktop. This is usually a welcome sight as the surface is different and the usual shuffle works well. I always felt like I made up a little bit of time through here. This time, I counted FOUR HILLS on this three mile stretch. Steep hills. Where did they come from??
It had heated up, and I could not resist soaking my head in the bathtub rocks. Then is was up the last big climb.
This is a little out-of order chronologically, but here is Tim as he crossed the finish line.
And Tim loving on his belt buckle. Ran this puppy in 25:10. His first 100. WOW!!!
Back to my place. Stormy and I reached the last aid stop. He told me it's just me, him, and the road. And that stinking watch of his that would not quit ticking. We had a bridge to cross. (For those that don't know, the pic at the top is of the iron bridge across the Illinois River, which you cross to start and finish the race.)
We had company the last 1/4 mile. Somehow I had found another gear, and instead of ambling along at 18 m/m, we sped up to maybe 15 m/m. My finish was just that. A finish. I felt like I worked hard for it, but it worked me hard too. It took me way longer than I ever imagined, and I have the utmost respect for everyone who got their first ultra here.
So, I'll take a leftover buckle out of storage and put it on my shelf. Kathy and I are again tied at 10.
Three guys who ran 304.8 miles between them.
The cold waters of the Illinois River truly seemed like heaven to my sore feet and calves.
As is always the case, I have Dana to thank for keeping me in the game. She shoves food and drink at me, and tends to my racing needs before I need them. There was no nausea issues, no electrolyte probs, and almost no blisters. My tootsies are a bit beat up, but I was in good care the whole way.
Thanks again to Brynna, who has turned into such a great crew babe. Stormy and I are very lucky!!
In a previous post, I said that if I finished this within the time limit and with a smile, that I would feel like the course was easy-to-medium, and if I crashed and burned, I would eat crow. Well, I DO smile a lot. As sick as it is, I did enjoy the run for the most part. This race as a 50K is a very challenging, but doable race. I still hold that it is a good first-time ultra. For those doing 100K and ESPECIALLY the whole Hunnerd, it is tough. I'll vote it harder than Heartland, and harder than Traveller. It took me 31:40 to finish. On the way home, I felt the need to google for some recipes. It was actually quite tasty!