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May 22, 2010 – Des Plaines River Trails – 50 Mile run

June 1, 2010

2010 has been a slow running year for me so far – a fatass 50k; a 30 mile run at Clinton Lakes; and a DNF at mile 30 at McNaughton. It was with a bit of trepidation that I set the alarm for 4 am Saturday morning to get up and run 50 miles.

The DPR trail runs is a new race in the northern Chicago suburbs, containing a 50 miler, a marathon, and a half-marathon.  Run by a few other people from my running group (the CHUGs), I felt I would be doing a disservice by not running this race. Starting in the northern reaches of Lincolnshire, the race was supposed to be a long out and back, with the far turnaround near the Wisconsin border. Unfortunately, God decided to halfheartedly start another great flood but gave up after a few hours; this meant civilization as we know it was able to continue (whether this is good or bad is up to the individual reader).  But it also meant that the race directors had to change the course, as significant portions of it had gone from dry to wet and then from wet to decidedly submerged.  Fortunately, the marathon course required very few changes, so the fifty miler was just 1 and 6/7ths of the marathon course.

I make the drive up from the southern burbs, amazed as always at the number of people driving about Chicago at 4:30 in the morning. I remind myself that most of them are probably just drunk, and the miles just slide on past.  In a car, at least.

At the start, I run into some fellow CHUGs, meet some new people, and get my bib – #4!  Woot!  My second lowest bib number ever.  I get pinned, get my running gear ready, and get ready to run.

The course is primarily along the Des Plaines River trail, which is a rails-to-trailsish, flat, gravelly, flat, runnable, flat trail, which is also flat.  Seriously, a curb is a mondo hill on this course, and running in the hilly (by Chicago standards) Palos Preserve serves me well as we start running at 6:00 AM.

I decide to take the race really slow, as there’s a fourteen hour time limit and I’m in no hurry.  My PR at 50 miles is 8:10, and I’m not interested in even getting within three hours of that. So I just plug in the mp3 player and get busy memorizing the course, which starts as a two mile run south, then eleven miles north, including one interesting bit alongside a busy highway (necessitated by one section being underwater).  The first 11 miles or so pass quickly, chatting with a half dozen runners, including an engineer who lives in Columbia, Missouri.  As Stephen Wright says, it’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it.

The two miles to the north turnaround have a few interesting pitches where water is across the trail.  Well, about mid-calf on a couple of sections, but it feels great to run through, and I meet Jerret running the other way a mile out from the turnaround.  We high five while running in calf-deep water, eleven and thirteen miles into a fifty mile run.  Twas a good day.

The turnaround arrives and passes, and I start seeing the marathon runners as I hit the sixteen or seventeen mile mark (who had started two hours earlier).  They seem to be going so fast. Whatever.  I run into Ian, who’d go on to complete his first marathon in over ten years, and offer him some words of encouragement and Clash lyrics. 

The marathon mark hits at about 5:20; a very slow marathon, but again, I’m in no hurry, and have 24 miles to go.  I try to swipe some Gatorade, but am told it’s for those who’ve already finished. D’oh!   Note for the Race Director later. 

The second loop goes slowly but steadily, as I start power walking and focusing on not doing anything stupid.  The only scary part was watching a gentleman pass me on the final leg, only to catch up to him at the next aid station, and listen for them calling an ambulance.  Yikes!  Glad I’m not doing anything stupid – which, yes, was a thought I had at mile 48 into a 50 mile journey.  Self-awareness and self-delusion are fickle things!

I make the final turn in, and even run the last hundred yards, which actually feels good.  I get another belt buckle for my troubles, thank everyone, head home (nothing like driving in Chicago traffic when feeling slightly nauseous!), order a pizza, and then do absolutely nothing for 24 hours.  It’s amazing how I can go from Mr. Endurance to Mr. Couch Potato.

“Out of the woods and into the paved rich world of car.” – Richard Hugo

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