100 Miles to My First DNF Potawatomi Trail Runs 150 Mile Race April 2017 April 2017, Pekin IL, Potawatomi Trail Runs. The Potawatomi Trail Runs in McNaughton Park include a 50, 100, 150 and 200 mile race. And a 30 mile “fun run”. I’ve participated in the 50 twice and ran my first 100 there last year. It’s a hilly 10 mile loop. Not huge climbs like in Colorado or California, but sustained up and down all day. And steep. The hills have names like Golf Hill, Highway to Heaven, Powerline Hill, etc.; which makes them easy to remember. Or probably more so – difficult to forget. My training in the winter and spring had been sporadic at best. I probably wasn’t trained for 100 miles, and I was signed up for 150. I like to have six or so 26-35 mile runs in the four months before an ultra-event. This time I had only had time to do three. Granted one was a 40 miler in January to celebrate my 40th birthday, it still wasn’t enough training. Additionally I hadn’t been spending enough time on trail, opting for road runs for the convenience of being near home and not using hours and hours up traveling to the trailhead. So my training wasn’t what it should have been, but I believed I could probably overcome the lack of training with raw talent and bullheadedness. My training had also been substantially faster than it has been in the past. Opting for several quick 10-milers rather than weekly long slow distance on the trails. Nonetheless, race day arrived and I set up my tent. The 150 starts Friday at Noon. And you have Until Sunday at 4 to finish. First loop 10 miles, 2:15. Trying to hold back. We spread out quickly. Second loop 20 miles, 2:25. Settling in. Starting to enjoy it. Third loop 30 miles, 2:20. Getting into ultra pace. The truth is, I don’t remember any details of this at this point. But I need to document why I DNF’d. Fourth loop, 2:29. Fifth loop 50 miles, 2:39 (12:08 total time, 1.5 hours faster than my first 50 at this event in 2014). A fellow barefoot runner, BroadArrow, is running in this event (the 100) and is sharing my tent. Each loop I come through he encourages me to slow down and enjoy the day. Unfortunately, my body is starting to feel speedy, and my mind is seeing visions of age group awards. I’m run-drunk, and not listening to common sense calls to maybe rest a little. Sixth loop 60 miles 2:43. I peek my head in the tent at BroadArrow and ask “Hey, man! Do you know what a million dollars is like? That’s how I feel right now!” BroadArrow knows I’m running too fast and I’m having way too much fun at 3am. He can see that a crash is coming and again encourages me to take it easy. Maybe take a little nap. But I ignore good advice and tear off down the trail again. On straightaways and slight downhills I’m even striding out and really running. Like, marathon pace running in the dark and laughing at how good I feel. Loop 7: 3 hours. This is easily the best I’ve ever felt for 70 miles. I’m floating up and down the hills. Completely unaware of the price I’m about to pay for ignoring good advice and not really having a plan coming into the race. Eighth loop, 2:44. The 100 mile race starts. Many friends pass by me and I see many familiar faces. The fresh runners and sunshine lift my spirits. So I click off a little bit faster loop. But I’m starting to notice some ultra-discomfort, and perhaps some ultra-soreness starting to ultra-settle in. Ninth loop: Uh oh. 3:20. Somewhere around 85 miles my body tells me that 65 more miles will be extremely uncomfortable, and perhaps impossible. My mind goes back through the last 24 or so hours to figure out where things went wrong. I knew coming in that I was undertrained, but thought I could overcome it on raw talent. In retrospect now, if I would have slowed the heck down, I probably could have overcome it. But at this point, 85-90 miles in, I change from a runner to a hiker to a walker… to a man whose every step hurts so badly. My knees wont bend, my hips are locking up. Hills are taking forever. Tenth loop. I’m going to go 100 miles no matter how long it takes. But I realize when it takes me 1.5 hours to go 3 miles to the first aid station that I will not be finishing 150. I’m walking like a man with 2 splinted legs. Stiff and peg-like. Tenth loop: 6 hours and 18 minutes. A whopping 38 minutes per mile. I grind through it and get back to start/finish. I find the race director and explain that I’m done for the day. He asks me twice, “Are you sure?” “Yes.” And he takes the timing chip off my ankle. 100 miles 30:13:56. My first DNF. Quitting with 50 miles to go. So, the entire point of this race report is to document this moment, and consider what could have been done to prevent it. I knew I was undertrained, so I signed up for this race largely out of ego. Now I believe I could have finished it, if I would have done the following things. One – Poor race plan. This was the first ultra I went into without a real plan. I really just rolled over, wiped my nose, and tried to run 150 miles. Hindsight being 20/20, if I would have started with 3 hour loops and maybe took some 10 minute naps along the way, or at least sat down for a few minutes -I suspect I could have continued and would have avoided the eventual ceasing of my joints. Two – Incorrect training. I trained like a road marathoner, not a trail ultrarunner. This was largely due to circumstances in my life but I didn’t do anything to fix it. In retrospect, I should have found some local trails to run hills on in the least. And could have made time to get out to the trails a few more times. I found some speed again (like when I was a kid), and was enjoying running fast again (which there is nothing wrong with) except I took my eyes off of the race plan and went with the flow. Three – Ego. I ignored good advice. Not just BroadArrow, but others saw that I was experiencing a runner’s high (hours of it). Quite a few suggested taking a break or walking a loop or just slowing down a little. I ignored it. I let my ego drive the ship directly into an iceburg. I’m not upset about the DNF. I came out of this race uninjured and can focus on my fall 100, Superior. I was running again immediately. Lessons learned. Plus I was high as a kite for 70 miles, completely in the moment. It may be the worst 100 miles I’ve ever ran, but it was also the best 70 or so miles.