8:11 p.m. - 2007-10-14
What was I thinking?
Farmdale Trail Run
Where: East Peoria,IL
Weather conditions: Overcast, slight precipitation, upper 40's
Surface:fire roads, wooded paths and meadows
I'd really been dreading this thing all week. I hate doing even 5K's on Saturday mornings because it means running a race at the equivalent of my midnight. Unfortunately most of the interesting ones are on Saturdays so here I was. I had been concerned about working 10 hours and then having the juice to go out and run 8 miles. Earlier in the week (Tues night-Wed morning) I'd worked 2 hours over on the front of my shift and then 2 on the back. I was pretty tired when I got off. I theorized that if I could go out right then and run 4 miles after 12 hours work, then 8 miles after 10 hours work should be tolerable. So I went out and even though I was really ready for some sleep, did my 4 miles and actually felt better after the run than before I started. So when Saturday morning rolled around, even though my first instinct was to just blow the whole thing off and go to bed, I bit the bullet and headed for Peoria.
I'd grabbed some food and fed my face on the drive. I wanted to make sure it had plenty of time to digest before I tortured myself with whatever was to follow. I'd driven about 30 miles before I realized I'd forgotten my gps watch. I'd hooked it to the battery charger before I left for work the evening before and that's where it remained, fully charged and unusable. Oh well!
The packet pickup and sign in was from 6 to 7am. I'd printed maps of the area along with driving instructions and had them on the seat beside me. The sun doesn't rise til about 7am now which meant finding my destination and reading the maps in the dark. (note to self: future directions should be in braille) Once I got to within a couple of miles of the rendesvous site, I started seeing other wandering headlights and just fell in line behind them. I figured they'd know where they were going and just followed them to the parking area. Retrieved the packet, registered, signed up for some drawing and headed back to the truck to get myself together. The guy in the truck next to me seemed to be dressing for some winter activity. He was wearing some sort of spandex leggings with a heavy pair of shorts over the top. He'd put a long-sleeve wicking shirt on over his wicking t-shirt and had a fleece pullover on top of that. He strapped some kind of hydro-pack to his back over the top of that. There was a 33 miler going off at the same time as the 8 miler. Those 33 milers are nuts whereas I'm just weird (or so I'm told). I asked if he was doing the long run and he said was doing the 8. My own preparations involved putting some sunblock on my nose, lips and ears. It wasn't real cool outside but it was looking enough like rain, with the occasional spit, that I grabbed the rainjacket out of my golf bag and put it on. As we waited through the pre-race instructions I could see my breath, so I was glad I had the jacket. I could always shuck it if I got too hot. With very little ceremony, the instructions ended, the horn sounded and we trampled off into the woods.
The first half mile was down a gravel fire lane so there was plenty of room to pass or be passed as the case may have been. The course then took a left turn through a dry creek bed and onto a single lane trail.
The trail was a twisting, turning, up and down single-file grind over stumps, roots, dry and wet creek beds and under branches for what I'm guessing was about 3/4 of a mile. It's been a very dry summer in these parts and the course review had warned that the lack of rain had contracted the soil and left the roots more exposed than normal. They weren't kidding! I was sort of locked behind a group of 8 or 10 people with little room to pass, so I just settled in and tried not to trip. The girl ahead of me tripped a couple of times but managed to stay on her feet. If she'd fallen, I'd have tripped over her and whoever was behind me would have fallen on me etc. You really could see no further down the path than the heels of the person ahead of you. Once we reached a clearing I was ready to shed the jacket. I'd just gotten it tied around my waist when we reached a service road. I got out and sailed around the moving impediments in front of me. I had a clear shot down the road for another half mile before the course led back onto a single lane trail and more of the hills and hollers. I really felt no desire to increase my speed from that of the pack I was following. But I wanted to get away by myself in order to see the trail in front of me and not and not get tripped by somebody else. Just ahead I was getting glimpses of another body and realized it was the guy from the parking lot dressed for the winter carnival. I caught him just as we reached an opening about 5 people wide where there was a 15ft stream to cross. I'd hoped there'd be stepping stones to keep me from getting my little piddies wet. Wasn't happening! He hesitated and looked. I said "fuck it!" and just got wet. I wasn't looking forward to running the next 5 miles with wet shoes and socks but there wasn't any way around it. Reached the first aid station at about 3.5 miles. Swallowed a cup of some blue stuff alleged to be gatorade. It tasted like nothing I was familiar with and was actually of a heavy consistency. But it was wet and didn't kill me so I trudged on. The next couple miles consisted of more ups and downs and what had actually been a pleasant run until then had kind of worn me down. I'm a flatlander and this hilly terrain was working muscles in different ways than I'd been using them. I could feel fatigue in the muscles around the knees, ankles and shins. It was at this point I became aware that I was actually in danger of injuring myself. Because I wasn't mentally fresh and was now physcally fatigued, there was potential for me to trip or turn an ankle. You had to really be alert and have motor control or you were in for a long crawl back to a place where you could get help. If I was at home just running around the neighborhood I could just quit. Here, I was several miles from the truck and quitting wasn't an option. So I continued on, catching sight of a another guy in a hydro-pack and a woman just ahead of him. I followed them through a meadow and onto a service road with a long, very steep uphill grade. It was steep enough to seem as if I was climbing a ladder. I was taking these short little choppy steps and seemingly going nowhere. I quit fighting it and started walking. I was able to take large steps walking and actually ascended it quicker than running. The 2 ahead of me continued running and I actually gained ground on them. The top of the hill yielded the second aid station. I looked for something not blue this time and drank the yellow potion. I asked one of the volunteers if I was at about the 5 mile mark. He told me I was "already at 6 and living the dream". I laughed to myself and thought about how some people have different ideas about dreaming.
The guy with the hydro-pack hadn't stopped and had passed the girl who now ran just ahead of me. We continued along a field. Judging by the size of the turds I dodged, I'm guessing it was a bridle path. I hauled down the honey ahead of me and gradually got to within 50 feet of hydro-boy. We reached the last aid station and headed back onto a single file, root-trip trail. I was pretty much ready for it to end at this point. Like most quality nightmares it tortured me a little while longer. I never got closer to hydro-boy. My ankles, toes and knees had now taken all the beating they could for one day. The coup-de-gras involved me catching my toe on a root and miraculously saving it. My hands and arms flew behind my body as I lurched forward. If I hadn't gathered it up I'd have given myself a dirt facial. My adrenalin was rushing pretty good now and I was at least alert, if not completely in control. I kept at it and made myself finish. I came out of the woods for the last time back in the visitor's area where it all began. I put on what was my best sprint to the finish trying to get there as quickly as possible and not fall down in front of everybody. From somewhere to my right I heard "Good run, Joe!". I looked to see the smiling face of the race director trying to give encouraging words to someone who's obviously dying. I crossed the line in 1 hour 30 minutes more or less. I haven't seen the official tally yet but it's irrelevant. I'm sure some guy ran it in about half the time it took me because somebody always does. The eats afterwards were good. I had a bowl of potato soup and a sub, grabbed a cinnamon roll and headed back to Champaign. As I was leaving the lot, the 33 milers were still passing though the 11 mile check point for the first of their 3 times. Fuck that shit!
previous - next