May 19, 2018 - This was a runner's course. With the exception of a couple bushwhack sections a solid runner could run this entire course without ever needing to slow to a walk. The endless undulations of the verdent woodsy trail in south central Indiana's Brown County State Park, a rather generic name for a remarkably appealing tract for outdoor enthusiasts, never ceased to hold my attention and continually offered challenge. Despite not having the best race, I came away feeling really good about this one.
It was not that I wasn't prepared. Just the opposite - I was primed and stoked to perform well. Legs and lungs were good. Healthy. No dragging injuries. All systems go. The drive out was long and tedious and somewhat exhausting. Despite having a good night's rest at a local mom and pop motel - Hickory Shades - I awoke in somewhat of a residual dream state that I just couldn't seem to snap out of before the start.
My biorhythm chart showed my physical and emotional rhythms were both at their nadir. I cannot always schedule races at their peak. I seemed to be in a funk right from the start as the 50M and 50K runners headed off at 0615 under a very humid 66 degrees from the race venue at Mike's Music and Dance Barn.
After hanging back on the intial dirt road section to back off the field, the course tilted up to climb to the ridges four hundred feet above. The trail was thick with deciduous leaves that covered squishy underlying mud, with plenty of windfalls that were purposefuly left so that we had to climb ove them. Getting into queue we ran and slugged up the hill intermittently to gain the ridge, which was alright by me because I was having trouble getting enough air to really engage. I could tell my legs were not getting enough oxygen, so just bided my time until my system adjusted.
People who'd run this many times said that this year things were drier than usual. I guess when it rains more, this is more a Dances With Mud event. I was grateful for that. It took about 45 minutes or so for my body to find its rhythm and allow me to run without thinking about breathing. Finally.
A lot of the course follows winding trails on the ridges. There were not too many roots and even fewer rocks, compared to most of the trail runs I do. The running was easy as I managed to ease into a 12-minute tempo - enough to keep me well under the cutoffs without straining. Every race is still a training run for me. I never give 100% - to avoid either physically and physiologically crashing. The order of the day for me was to run up the abundant hills and nurse the downhills. And that's how it went - I would pass all the walkers going up and be passed by all the folks with younger legs coming back down. Everything was going according to expectation.
I still wasn't feeling the magic, however. I took one face plant and drove both knees into a rocky surface. It was the only fall of the day, but left both knees tender. The real problem was my perennially sore peroneal tendon on my outside right foot. Catching myself on a couple stumbles really aggrevated it. It is always something I have to slow down for to avoid blowing it out.
The day moved along quickly. The forecast for intermittent rain all day did not start until midday. Temps were not too bad, but were still a bit warmer than I like for a race. I rolled into the aid station at mile 27 in a tad over six hours, well under the cutoff. I didn't feel bad, aside from my foot aching severely. Legs were good. Energy level was good. I had the option at this point of continuing on with my intended 50M or cut it short at 50K. I let discretion rule and finished the final four miles downhill in a soaking thunderstorm, tiptoeing through the same sloggy, leafy mud we had come up from the start, more slippery and tenuous in the rain.
There is no hero is me anymore at these events. I turn 66 this week and have done far too many of these to let pride or ego step in front of practicality. I was not on my game and more of the same was not going to change anything, so I called it after a most pleasant short day on the Indiana trails.
I had a good time on this, my first racing adventure in the Hossier state. It is a race I wouldn't hesitate to do again. It leaves me with very good feelings for the Dances with Dirt people and organization. I am so very glad I will be doing both other DWD 50k races at Devil's Lake in Wisconsin and Hell in Michigan later this summer. And guess what, my physical biorythm will be peaking for both. I can't wait.