It started on Saturday morning with the Saint Louis Ultrarunners Group's annual Double Chubb 50k. This race was named one of Runner's World's "Don't Miss" trail races for the St. Louis metro area, and it didn't disappoint. After a huge rainstorm on Friday, we expected muddy trails, and while it could have been muddier, it didn't disappoint.
It was a cloudy, windy, chilly morning when I arrived at the starting line in West Tyson Park. Approximately 150 other runners milled around with me, waiting for the start of the two different races. The course was an out-and-back along the Chubb Trail, and the 25k runners did one loop, while the 50k crew did two. With little fanfare (a signature of a lot of ultras), we were off, heading up a steep paved road to the trail head.
The first 3-4 miles of the trail are fairly technical, with single track trail filled with roots and rocks. There is also a fair amount of elevation gain and loss. Before race day, I'd run this trail one time about a year earlier, and I remember thinking then that it was among the hardest runs I had ever had.
I fell in with a bunch of runners for a while, but made a pass and fell into position as the fourth place runner for both races combined by the time we emerged from the steep, rocky decline into the muddy flats of the Meramec River. The two lead runners, one from each race, were long out of sight, so I ran with a 25k competitor around a 7:00/mile pace along this flat portion of the course. After a while, we started another climb to the turnaround point, where I was pleased to see two of my running buddies, Tony and John, volunteering in the wind tunnel that was this aid station.
Ultimately, there isn't much else to report from the race. I continued at a fairly consistent pace, running each quarter of the race in approximately an hour, give or take 2-3 minutes.
The only time I fell out of my position as the 2nd place 50k runner was early in the first mile of the second out-and-back, when I inserted my signature wrong turn and headed down the wrong trail after a hiker I assumed (wrongly, obviously) was a fellow competitor. I lost two or three minutes trying to figure out where the course was, as it was a switchback hiding behind a rock. The 3rd place runner came by, and I headed back out in the right direction with him.
A bit later, I made sure to include my other signature trail running move, a good fall, into the mix about a half mile from the turnaround point. I'm not sure how it happened, but I can report that I still have a band-aid on my right shoulder. In fact, I managed to bloody my knee, thigh, elbow, shoulder, and pinky finger. Go figure--the pinky bled the worst on the trail, and I greeted the aid station with a shout for some first-aid as I approached. The winds had grown so cold that my buddy John struggled to get a band-aid open due to his fingers being frozen. I was back on the trail, mended and that much tougher looking, within 1-2 minutes. The run in the other direction told me that I was securely in 2nd place, but I kept at my paces anyway. When I reached the final climb just a few hundred meters from the finish line, I knew I didn't have any juice left in my legs to run up it. That meant I'd have to forget about a sub-4 hour finish.
I was pleased, though, with my 2nd place finish in 4 hours 44 seconds.
This was about 4 1/2 minutes behind fellow Western States entrant Ben Creehan. Ben is probably the best ultrarunner in Missouri, and anyone who thinks for a moment that I stood a chance to win this race if I hadn't gotten lost or fallen just needs to look at his course record from 2010 to realize that he didn't run this one as fast as possible. It was great chatting with Ben at the finish line, and I look forward to seeing him on the trails for May's Berryman Trail 50 miler as we both start fine-tuning for WS100. Before I left for home, I hung out with Travis and Tommy, two runners who have done a lot to explain the intracacies of the 100 mile distance to me. Travis finished in 4th place for the 50k, while Tommy manned an aid station less than one week after winning the Potawatomi 100 mile race in Illinois. I thank both of them for their willingness to help me out as I learn more and more about ultrarunning.
My afternoon was spent celebrating my first ultra belt buckle with Nora, who made sure to don her Western States In Training outfit so she'd have a common bond with her daddy.
A good day? I'd say so.
Giving credit where it is due: Thanks to SLUG Shannon Drohan for the action shots from the race!