I arrived in Pekin a little after 6PM on Friday night. I met my friend and virtual training partner (we communicated over IM) Howard at the hotel and headed over to the race site to pick up our packets. The race shirts were great, they were Brooks long sleeve wicking T’s. I knew from that we were in for a good race environment. Most of the Sprint Tri’s, 5k’s and 10k’s I have done give away cheap normal T-shirts, so this was a great start. We talked with several people that had run the race before and some that had done many other ultras all over world as well as some elite athletes that were friends of the race director who were there to help out. We ate the dinner and talked to some other folks who had traveled from all over to attend. After a couple of hours we decided to head home and start winding down. Winding down was not easy. I was pretty excited about my run and there was a band playing next door. Around 12:30 I finally got to sleep, but was up again at 3:30 and decided that I might as well say awake and get ready for the day. I threw on my running short, shoes, and a long sleeve shirt and went out for a short jog to get moving. It was really stuffy out and warm, not good since the sun was not even out yet. I doulbe checked all of my gear and headed out the door to meet Howard to leave for the run.
We arrived around 5. We talked and tired to relax the last few minutes before the start. The clock reached 6 and we were off!! A stampeed of 200+ runners headed down a slighly muddy hill, ready to be on thier feet for the next 4 – 36 hours. The first few miles were realatively flat, especailly in comparison to what I was about to find as the course weaved around the woods. This run was very different for me. I was not used to walking, but that seemed to be how you do a run like this. You jogged when you could and when you got to a hill, you walked up it. In the beginning, it was hard to set your own pace. You would get caught up in a group of people walking up the hills and since it was single track most of the time, passing was not easy to do. It was actually a great thing that I did not pass or I would have gone out way too hard and had a hard time finishing.
We weaved all around the woods and came out into an open field. At the top of the field was the first aid station, 2.78 miles in. I grabbed a little water, but not much else and charged on. From this point, the course got rough. The down hills got steeper and so did the climbs. I just followed the people infront of me, walking up hills and joging when it was “flat”. Out of the woods we came again to the next aid station. I had them fill up my water bottle and I headed on. We looped around and came back out by the same aid station then out into an open field. I met up with a few guys running my same pace and we continued on together until the end of the first loop. I came in 2 hours 5 minutes and was winded, but not feeling too bad. I headed over to my bag where I ate a Gu, swapped my water bottle for my PowerBar mixture and headed down the hill for miles 11-20.
Loop 2 was starting off great. My legs felt good and my feet were doing well even though they were a little wet from the creek crossings. After the 1st aid station of the loop, my knee started to bother me, I tired to shake it off and not pay attenetion to it. The pain would come and go. I mostly noticed it when I was decending, which happened a lot during the middle part of the course. Luckily I met some great people to run with and talking kept my mind off of it. I finished the 2nd lap in about the same time as the first 2 hours and some change. As I came up over the last hill of the loop, I could see the Start/Finish. My wife and father-in-law had arrived to cheer me on, it was just what I needed. They followed me to my bag where they asked how I was doing, what I needed and so on. We talked for a minute or so then I was off again. “See you in a few hours” my wife yelled and I disappeared down the hill.
Lap 3 was going to be hard. My quads were tired, my feet had some blisters from being on them all day and they were wet from creek crossings, my left knee was making it almost impossible to sustain any type of speed going downhill. I pressed on to the first aid station. I had got there, I was in the single digits now, less then 8 to go. The problem is that the middle section of the race had the most climbs and decents, but I had got this far. By this time most of the runners had thinned out and I “ran” the majority of the last leg alone. The hills seemed a lot bigger then before and the downhill parts were killer. I went down sideways and hopped on my right leg and did as little as I could with the left, sort of draggin it behind me, I had to look rediculous. I arrived at the 2nd aid station, caught my breath, ate some grapes, a piece of a banana, filled up my water bottle and took off. I was super tired and it was getting really hot out. Over the next mile I drank most of my water, luckily the course loops back around to the 2nd aid station. I filled up my bottle again and headed out. From here there was only a little over 3 miles left, “just a 5k” I said to myself.
The last few miles were all mental. I just kept telling myself “don’t stop!” I quit looking at my watch because at this point, it did not matter. All that mattered was that I was going to finish. The ground was leveling out and I tried to run as much as possilbe. I ran past a log that someone had carved in it “1.00 miles.” I was going as fast as I could (which at this point was not fast at all) just trying to get to the end. I rounded a corner and was out of the woods, 1 last hill and I was out. I climed to the top of the hill and saw the Start/Finish. I yelled out my bib number. I looked over and saw my wife and father-in-law cheering. I just tried to finish strong. I crossed the finish line in 6 hours 46 minutes. The race director high-fived me, handed me a big silver belt buckle that said “30 mile Finisher.”and that is all it needed to say.