Tuesday, April 20, 2010

McNaughton 50 miles "Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must, just never give up!"

McNaughton 50 mile race, Pekin IL. Race started at first light on April 10th, 6am. It is a 10 mile loop you run 5 times for 50, or 10 if your doing the 100. I had not run McNaughton before. My running mentor Dorn gives me a lot running advice. He had run McNaughton about 7 years ago and told me it was very similar to the Clinton Lake 30 race we had both ran 2 weeks ago. I found Clinton Lake very runnable. The uphills were gradual to slightly steep and the downhills were a little technical but very runnable. I finished Clinton feeling good and thinking if needed, I could go run 2 more laps strongly.
With this information I planned my pace for my first lap. I ran exactly what I had planned but it turned out to be to quick for me. McNaughton was a very different course. Each 10 mile loop had 1600 feet of elevation gain. I knew this, but have never really paid attention to elevation charts. It's an ultra, I know I'm going to see big hills. I just deal with them one at a time. McNaughton hills were some of the toughest I've seen. They are either straight up or straight down. My knees were hitting my chin on the climbs. I definitely had to use my hands on some. Usually when you walk a tough uphill, your rewarded with a downhill. McNaughton downhills were steep and technical. At the beginning of the race I ran these because I love technical downhills, but I paid the price later. Next time I'll take the downhills a little slower. They tore up my muscles as much as the uphills. I'm not saying they were impossible. I just paced myself incorrectly and they wore me out. If I had ran that first lap more conservative I would have felt a lot better through out the race.
Along with the challenging hills we crossed "Lick Creek" 3 times per loop. ( A total of 15 times) This was knee deep, clear running water which felt great on our tired legs! Lick Creek was always a welcome sight, each crossing I took the time to splash the cool water on my legs. The 10 mile loop also had plenty of fun, easy running single track and a couple big open meadows. I was lucky to see a heard of deer running effortlessly across the meadow.
Fueling myself has been a reoccurring problem I need to work on. When I do my training runs I don't need food. I can run 20 miles comfortable on water only. Even a 30 mile run I don't need much more than that. I get past 30 miles and I need something else. I tell myself when I show up for a 50 mile race that I will just force myself to eat. But since I don't practice eating while I'm running, I can't seam to do it. In the next few weeks before Ice Age 50 I'm going to work on this. My plan is to use Vanilla Ensure shakes. I have had a few successful races last year drinking these. I have also started to drink sweet tea I make myself on training runs. I think the caffeine and sugar should give me a good boost later in my runs. Now I just have to practice and find out if it upsets my stomach.
This was a day for me that finishing the race was a victory. We crossed the finish line in 13:45 and got our big huge belt buckle! I had fun running the last couple laps with my girlfriend Karen. She was patient with me when I had to take a break on the side of the trail as my stomach violently rid my body of the little bit of stuff I actually did eat. We laughed with other runners and enjoyed hearing about the different races they have done, shared our own stories with one another. I love that about ultras. I may have been tired and dry heaving but I was still having fun with my trail running friends!
When I came home and reflected on the race. I thought to myself, "If I paced myself better It would not have been so hard. In fact, I bet I could pace it well enough to finish 100 there." I'm thinking that is a good goal for next year. If I am able to run healthy through out the winter, I'm going back to tackle the 100! Now I just have to find a few friends that will run a 10 mile loop with me. So for now, I'm going to go run some hills, stay strong, work on refueling, and come back next year and kick McNaughtons butt!
"Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must, just never give up!"


  1. It took me 2-3 years and a dozen ultras before I figured out the fueling/hydration thing. It does require practice, even on your 20-30 milers. Treat them like they are a 50M and work on a set number of calories per hour, even if you have to force them. When I have hit the perfect formula (twice) I had awesome races. When I didn't fuel often enough (or early enough) it was bonk-city and the last half was a death march!

  2. Well done Michele! Clinton Lake 30 and McNaughton Park 50...two hilly ultras and you tackled them both quite well. Good luck at Ice Age. I'll be at Howl at the Moon too...one of my favorite races--this will be my 10th Howl.

  3. Thank you guys! Chris, I look forward to seeing you at Howl. I am going for the Grand Slam so thank you for organizing that. I love your advice Eric. I'm always confident going into the race that I've learned from past mistakes. But this fuel things is a lesson I'm having a hard time learning. I understand the "perfect" formula races. I've done it a couple times. Now I have to figure out how I did it, remember it, and do it every time. Thanks for letting me know I'm not the only one.