Thursday, March 9, 2017

McNaughton This Year, Potawatomi Last Year

I didn't fall off the earth after last year's marathon. I've been running and volunteering and training and setting new goals. I knew pretty quickly after the marathon that I was ready to bump up my distance. There are plenty of challenging marathon and 50k races out there to try but now was the time to go for 50 miles. 

We'll leave the "You're crazy" talk out of this for now. 

I spent some time debating about which race to debut at. It was between Zumbro and McNaughton. McNaughton is a bit easier- the elevation change is slightly less and the course is less technical. McNaughton starts in the morning whereas Zumbro starts at midnight- something I'm not comfortable with yet. I know some people at Zumbro (along with that RD crush) but I know more people at McNaughton. Both are on the same day so I had to choose. I chose McNaughton.

McNaughton is this year's race name. Last year it was named Potawatomi. (There's a story behind all that, of course.) Last year, Julia and I crewed for our friend, Katie and I partially wrote a blog post about the experience but never finished it. I went back to it, polished it up a bit and here it is for you.

*** Potawatomi Trail Race, 2016
I seem to be getting a bit deeper in this trail and ultra scene. Last December I hung out at the Hitchcock Experience and saw the stuff podcasts and stories are made of. (One word- Whoa!) A few months later, a friend, Katie, asked me if I would crew and pace for her first hundred mile attempt. The April date was clear and I recruited Julia to come along. I knew I wasn't going to race during the Spring because of all the graduation stuff but I put in solid training hours because pacing someone is no slouch a job. You've got to have your act together because it isn't about you, its about your runner and getting them across the finish line.

The week before the race, Julia and I assessed our camping situation. We each had some stuff and thanks to my friend, Dave, I had some more stuff. What I didn't have was any experience setting up the tent. So late one evening, we shoved our furniture to the edges of the room and Bill walked me through setting up and tearing down our tent as I took notes via Evernote. 

The arm chair didn't make the trip.

On Friday afternoon Julia and I and all our stuff plus Jason, Katie's boyfriend and Forrest, Jason's dalmatian, and all their stuff loaded into my suburban and we headed to McNaughton Park just south of Pekin, Illinois. We would meet Katie and our other friends already there. 
Forrest isn't the best at selfies.

McNaughton Park is a really nice area and the camping area around the start/finish line is nice and reasonably flat. We unloaded our stuff trip by trip back and forth to the suburban as we couldn't back up to our camping spot. Then we began the process of setting up the tent. I was really grateful for the instructions earlier in the week and soon Julia and I were pounding in the tent pegs. Jason and Katie were working on their tent right next to us and I realized we could beat them. So, of course, I pounded those tent pegs in as fast as Julia could get them placed. 

Yes, we beat them!! 
And let's note our attire- winter coats and gear. It was mighty cold the weekend we were there. No snow but the night before when the 200 and 150 milers were out there, there was wind and rain and hail and it was miserable.

Katie and her crew plus Charlie, from Gary's crew, headed into town for some delicious supper. We headed back to the race after supper and Julia and I made the decision to sleep in the back of the suburban where were could have heat and stay out of the bitter wind. It was a very good decision on our part.

Early Saturday morning, Julia, Jason, Forrest and I stood at the start line with Katie. Our hopes as bright as her headlamp. 

Go, Katie, Go!
After the first 10 mile loop, we discovered Katie was struggling just a bit. She came to race with a good size cold, a lot of work hours and not much rest. It's not the ideal conditions to attempt your first 100 miler under but we've heard stories of far worse and yet runners finish the distance. 

Here's the deal with many Midwest ultra trail races (and the same could be said for the boys' dirt bike races), race directors and clubs seem to find an area that is full of hills, short, steep climbs and technical lines. They may not be mountains and pretty vistas but they are work. 
If the hill doesn't have a rope, is it really a hill?

They throw in water crossings and put out signs that inform you that you can cross them without getting your feet wet. Them someone comes by with a Sharpie and comments on the sign that you will get your feet wet. You spend 5 minutes navigating across. Whatever. Do this for ten miles. And repeat.

Back at camp or the start/finish line, the crew waits and eats and takes a nap and hangs out and does math figuring out how long until their runner returns.  

Have start/finish line, will host a race

Here's a runner now! Gary has been out here since Thursday going for 200 miles. Yes, 200 miles consecutively. Yes, he sleeps. Yes, we eat his sweet potato tots when he's not around. Charlie and Annie are doctoring his feet to keep them dry and as blister free as possible. They are some of the best crew people I know. 

They also exchange banter and jaw to keep Gary's spirits up. Just what he likes. I think he's eating one of my monster cookies. It's my small contribution. 

Katie goes round and round, loop after loop. Having a cold sucks. Julia and Jason assess her feet and spirit. Forrest rests as he's going to do the 30 mile fun run later with Jason. 

At the end of 5 loops, Katie calls it. She was tough for enduring so much. The weather was sunshine and blue skies but the temps were winter and it compounds all your aches and pains and mental hurdles. Julia and I tucked her into my suburban, found some hot pizza and cranked up the heat. She lives to fight another day, another race.
Katie had to share the seat with Forrest when he wasn't running.

The next morning we stumble out of the car, wander around bleary eyed and then scramble to take down our tent before rain hits. Jason and Forrest finished their fun run in the middle of the night. Others crossed the finish line, some packed it in, others kept going. We heard stories as we huddled around the camping cookstove, heating up breakfast. 
Finally, Gary emerged from the trail, 200 miles later. 
RD Eric and Gary

This is what I'm signed up for this April 8. Not 200 miles nor Katie's 100 miles but 50 miles. 
Commence the crazy talk. 


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