McNaughton Park 150, 100, and 50 Mile Trail Runs, Pekin, IL

Elevation Gain: 8000'

April 11-13, 2008 - It's a reasonable observation to say that I am a fair weather runner. My two greatest nemeses in sport are hypo- and hyper-thermia. Being chilled to shivers by cold rain and wind or suffering heat exhaustion take the joy out of training and racing. Count me out. The conditions prior to and during the McNaughton Park Trail runs this year were generally out of my fair weather zone. I suppose I was on the lookout for any legitimate reason to sit on the sidelines. As the day unfolded I found my reason.

An inch of rain the day before the event with winds gusting to sixty miles per hour, temps in the thirties and forties, cold horizontal rain, sleet, and even snow flurries were backdrop for the play that would unfold. Mike Monyak and I drove all night to arrive the day before at a reasonable time to allow for ample rest before Friday's start. Watching the weather channel from the hotel offered little solace for our concerns over ugly weather.

Friday's start was at noon for the 150-mile event that Mike was entered into; as a 100-mile entrant I opted to start with the 150 milers rather than wait for Saturday's start at dawn. My overriding objective for going to McNaughton originally was to chauffeur Mike back to Pennsylvania after his 150-mile ordeal. (Driving a vehicle home ((especially for 11 hours)) after such a difficult physical outting can be more challenging than the event itself. The sport of ultra racing is generally not a solo achievement, as supportive crews and pacers are generally needed to enable any kind of reasonable success.) My race objective was always secondary, but it was still great to toe the line for 100 miles under any condition.

Weather conditions were reasonable to start and the small field hoofed it down slippery slopes in an enthusiastic start. All events are run on a ten-mile loop course, with three aid stations. Each loop consists of 1600 feet of climbing and descending on mud and grass surfaces with two 20-feet, calf-high stream crossings. Rocks and roots were not big obstacles here. With the intermittent rain and increasing foot traffic on the trails, however, the mud became more slippery and thicker with time.

I went out with the leaders on the first loop and would lead the event for six to eight miles before tripping and falling mid-way in the second loop and recklessly smacking my head against a root or rock and aggravating my injured IT Band of my right knee. The muddy surfaces descending thereafter became real tenuous with my knee sensitivity, but the real problem was a severe headache that developed after falling. I continued running into the third loop after yielding the lead, but was slowing in misery from a likely concussion. At the conclusion of three laps my reason for DNF'ing found me. (Be careful what you wish for.) Concerned about my knee, but more about the headache that was sharp and wouldn't soften (I virtually never have headaches), I stopped and handed in my chip to the RD, without regrets. I've DNF'ed before and lived to race again. Sometimes discretion should get the better of valor. Today was one of those times, especially with the nasty weather.

While I recovered over the next day and a half, sleeping in the back of the van, Mike continued to circle the trail around McNaughton Park in the absolute worst of conditions - 15 laps in 50 hours before he completed the distance. (Understand that Mike hates running in the rain and cold even worse than I do.) Incredible is hardly a fair descriptor, as Mike's will to accomplish this is quite credible. What impresses me the most is that he hadn't run for over the six months prior and virtually walked the entire distance after the first loop. I am impressed and hold his achievement high on its deserved pedestal.

From the race finish, Mike layed down in the back of his van and didn't get up on his legs again until his wife helped him into the house at home the next day. I had rested enough while he was running to fulfill my mission, with or without the race under my belt, and deliver Mike home safely. And I have healed enough since to race another day.

Larry Creveling
Mike Monyak finishes 150 miles.  
Oh-rah, Marine!