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Title:2012 Potawatomi Trail Runs: Caution -- Slippery When Wet!
Date:Saturday April 14th, 2012
Author:Juli Aistars
"I am tired of falling on my *ss!!!" was one of the lines I remember from my run at McNaughton/Potawatomi Trail Runs this past Saturday. It came from a young man just behind us wearing only shorts and Vibrams. The Vibrams have very little traction on an extremely muddy trail with steep hills, but I guess he figured that out :).

Potawatomi trail runs included a 150M event, back after a 2 year hiatus, 100M, 50M and even a 30M night run. Rich and son Eric have done a stellar job of hosting this event since 2010. It is fun to be part of an event with the home state crowd of runners and volunteers. I forgot to ask Mark his perception of race organization, volunteers, etc. being an out-of-towner from Boston. I am sure our esteemed RDs will issue a report and results, so I will not steal their thunder or give any inaccurate information by repeating the rumors I have heard about who won each of the races.

I found Mark, a lister who came in to run the 50M, at the start/finish on Friday. I also saw Catherine Harding. A 150M runner came through the start/finish and said he was tired but that was to be expected. I said, "Tired already? It's only been 7 hours!" That runner turned out to be Brad from the UL who said he would be there, but I didn't officially meet him until the next day on the trail. I was happy to see the usual suspects like the Siltmans, Donna and Steve, Jake Vernon (formerly from IL, moved to WY), and many others.

No rain so far -- a good first night for the 150 milers. The 10 mile loop through McNaughton Park has a little bit of everything -- some grassy areas around fields, rolling hills, steep uphills and downhills (what Ollie once called elevator-like descents), particularly in the first half of the course. There are lots of trees and vegetation and some sandy dunes. There is a hill that has a rope supplied -- it gets very slippery when wet and it is pretty much perpendicular to the ground :). There are two serious stream crossings, one with rocks that can be reasonably counted on to keep your feet dry and another where wet feet can't be avoided. At the start of the 50/100M at 0600 Saturday morning, the 150 mile runners had already been running for 18 hours. I found Boston Mark at the start and we planned to run together until I could no longer keep up. The trail was in pretty good shape and I wondered whether the promised rain would come along to change things. There is lots of dirt and leaves on this trail and rain turns it into another kind of course. Mark and I got in about one loop before the rains came, and the trail became wet, and slippery. My hair got plastered to my head -- not my best look. Couldn't wait to get back to the start to grab my favorite LBL hat to hide under after loop 2 :). I saw many familiar faces: Pat Gorman, Kathy Siculan, Donna Creditor, Bonnie Busch, several New Leaf Runners (IL). I believe six of them, Tony included, were running the 150 mile. I am not sure if Jake Milligan is a NLR since he moved back to IL, but rumor has it that he won the 150 :). I am always impressed by the NLR and I enjoy calling myself one. They go to great lengths to be at runs in or out of town to help and cheer each other on. The Mud Runners from Crystal Lake, IL a sister group of a sort with overlapping membership, were also in evidence.

To get to the point, the trail was a muddy mess, which made us feel like kids in a sandbox more than ever :). There were several runners with blackened backsides, some falling in front of us, some behind. This run required strategizing on how to stay on your feet, not to mention uninjured. The rules of the game were simple: find the best way through the mudpiles, around trees, up on either side, or straight through; keep moving forward as fast as possible when you felt yourself sliding backwards, use the mud to skate down the hills and accept the risk of falling -- it is only mud. Any object within reach can be used as a break or a handhold -- this does not include other runners. One thing I learned is to make sure the object you are counting on is stationary. I grabbed a log for a brace to climb and unbeknownst to me, it was floating in water, so I fell in. The advantage was that there was always a stream coming up to clean your hands off.

Mark did not get away uninjured, wrenching his back when trying to prevent a fall on loop 2. He finished up loop 3 but knew the 50M was not in the cards on this day. Eric did his level best to keep Mark in the race, but "injury" is the keyword. I had thought he was pretty close behind me, but these trails make it hard to see in most areas who is in front or behind more than a few feet. Mark was fundraising for this run for a good cause -- to increase awareness of the predicament of the women in Congo. He told me about a speaker on the subject who had inspired him. It is amazing the shocking things that go on in other countries that Americans are often blissfully unaware of. If you want to know more about the cause, email me offlist. The good news is that Mark's back will be O.K. with a few days of rest. It was fun getting to know you Mark!

The famous "out there" aid station at this race is called Heaven's Gate, and I kept accidentally referring to it as Hell's Gate. The station was moved to a new location since the old location is now a wildlife preserve. They almost took away the beautiful mile loop that winds back to the aid station, but Rich must have fought hard for it. The things RDs have to deal with that we never even hear about... What I noticed most about this aid station is the old party atmosphere was toned down and MIA was Brian Kuhn and family. Brian moved to TX a few years ago and he is missed at McNaughton. Eric did a great job of filling his shoes with his enthusiasm and encouragement along with his gang of volunteers "out there". Thank you Eric! I appreciate every kind word and every smile as I'm sure every runner there did.

I met a "new" New Leaf Runner, Raul, on the trail, going for his first 50M. The NLR are responsible for herding many an unsuspecting runner to the ranks of ultrarunner. I don't know how Brian and Kelly do it, but it is incredible. We love new recruits! I also met Runner #49 from Umstead 100 two weeks ago. We talked at Umstead when he noticed my number was #50. His name is Vinny. He was running the 150M and when I saw him, he was with Angela, also running the 150 and they were on loop #9. He said, "Weren't you wearning #50 at Umstead?" You get fingered when you wear the same outfit :). I thought running 50M two weeks after 100M was bad enough and I said so. Vinny said, "Oh, Umstead was my last training run for this." Ha!

Rich and Eric -- we are anxiously awaiting official results so I hope you took off work tomorrow. The expectation is higher when chip timing is used... :) Thanks to you and your volunteers for yet another fantastic rendition of this IL favorite. I love the buckle! Now I have buckles from the same race with different names.

I finished the 50 in a "satisfactory" time. It was great training and loads of fun. I did not take a light the last loop so I used my "mistake" as motivation to move faster. A pacer offered me his headlamp -- don't you love ultrarunners? I thanked him but told him I thought I would make it and I did.

Today I went out for a 5 mile recovery run. Three miles in, a thunderstorm hit. I was in a forested trail with some open areas. The lightning show would have been fantastic if I wasn't so worried about getting hit. It helped me run faster than I thought capable, especially through the open areas when I was the highest point :). When I got back to the parking lot, I was the only car and the only fool left. I knew the storm was coming, but decided to risk beginning the run anyway. It was sort of like leaving my light behind on loop 5. Whatever it takes to motivate...

So what did ya'll do this weekend? Don't wait too long to write those race reports.


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Posted:April 15th, 2012 10:26 pm
Last Update:April 24th, 2012 12:12 am
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