The 2010 McNaughton Park 50 mile Trail Run was better than expected. The race website (www.mcnaughtonparktrailruns.com) tantalizing suggests:
"... comparing the high altitude, long climbs of the Western mountains to McNaughton hills is like comparing being eaten by a shark vs. being eaten by a 1000 piranhas ... both are unpleasant ... just in different ways." – Bring it on! Here is my story.
Race day was Saturday April 10th, 2010. Though this is my race report the truly note worthy story is that of Chris. He is new to running, perhaps 2 years and in training mode for his second marathon. His work colleague, Ken, suggested he come join us and run the last 20. When we arrived Friday to pick up our race packets, as casual as they come he requests of the RD “Can I sign up?” So Chris is now in, his first ultra and we are now a team of three. I’m thinking “Good on you Chris, but how will this turn out."
My objective in running this event was to get some hill training in. I am new to ultra running, have completed two 50s this year but they were both relatively flat. I was using this event to train for Dances with Dirt Gnaw Bone, IN (May 15th) that I was told has a big hill in it. When I mentioned this to a running friend he queried, “You’re running a 50 to train for a 50?” I think he was being ironic but I didn’t care. My real motivation was more than just hills.
Race start was at 6:00AM. It was light-ish and though a number of runners wore headlamps I decided not to and that wasn’t a problem. The course is five ten miles loops around McNaughton Park. We left the start/finish field and after a few hundred yards swung left descending to a meadow that we looped around before picking up the trail and the subsequent fun. Still bubbling with excitement, I met up with a group of three who in listening to their chatter were in for the 100. To break the ice I quipped “Hi can I join you for a while and by the way…are you doing anything interesting today?” They laughed politely but they were a close knit 3-some and I did not beak into this group and we soon parted company. I was greeted by a gentle climb and many ups and downs. Breaking through the trail back into the meadow we were greeted by the sound of bagpipes. As the piper came in to view he was wearing a large green St. Patrick’s style hat; I stopped and snapped a photograph. My legs were still warming up and I was finding the going surprisingly. With only around four miles into the event and the thought of four more loops doubt started to creep in, surprisingly early. That startled me. At some early point we were welcomed by a very steep climb “Golf Hill”. Being well used there were stepping holes in the dried mud to gain purchase. In previous years, if it had been raining, a rope is provided to haul you up. Once crested you pick up some beautiful trail and reach a large private dwelling that I marked as the half way point of the loop. Going then got better with around 3 to 4 silly hills. Some kind soul had spray painted the trail with a few feet spacings: “This is…The Last…Hill!” At the top you are welcomed by more trail graffiti “SPRINT!” Sharp turn left to the Start/Finish about 200 yards away. Crossing the blue mats I hear the beeps and look up to see the clock “1:55:06”. Drats a bit too fast, was shooting for 2hrs. I restock at the aid station and start my second loop. Much to my relief this loop felt a lot better than the first and I was over my first loop low. In fact, loops 2 through 4 were quite pleasant.
The parts of the trail runnable were breath takingly pretty and the hills, well as one runner joked, “At least I can walk now." Each loop was “funned-up” by two short creek crossings, ankle to mid calf deep, and very refreshing, especially as the day wore on and heated up. As expected, some runners would dip into it to refresh themselves.
After loop 1 I became separated from Ken and Chris. A short while after finishing, I went back to the aid station and saw Ken sitting on the bench knocking back a drink. I had my camera with me and asked someone to snap a shot. He looked happy and quite fresh. He had paced Chris for 95% of the show. I have to mention that this was also a training run for Ken who is Western States 100 bound in June. We both grabbed some food and Chris was sailing in, blue mats beeping in a tad under 11 hours. Placing 20th out of 76 finishers- totally impressive. To add more kudos he didn’t look too frazzled.
Weekend warriors. At the finish, I spy an unoccupied fold away seat in the drop bag tent and take up residency. A few minutes later the owner trots in, he still has one lap left and obligingly allows me to stay seated. Lets say the fatigue started to settle in and I was letting my social guard down; I farted, “Hey that’s my chair”, “Sorry mate." Guy gets out a book “Special Operations Soldier." Maybe this was stoking him up to finish that last loop? He appeared in no hurry. Thoughts of David Goggins doing the 150 in 2008 had filled my mind earlier to spur me on.
I watch Zach Gingerich (course record Umstead 100 just two weeks earlier) finish his 7th lap as Ken and I take on board more fluids. Inspirational.
So what next? Gnaw Bone, IN May 15th. But where is this all leading? Now recovered I feel strangely unfulfilled as though the main event is yet to be attempted which leads me to the nagging question I suspect most new ultra runners posit “Do I have a 100 inside me?” Time will tell.