I decided to run the Rock Cut Hobo Run series for my peak training week for my first 50 mile race. This would involve three back-to-back races.
I knew it would be much more motivating to run an actual event rather than gutting out two back to back long runs myself.
The trails in Northern Illinois also seemed very similar to what I would experience at the North Face Endurance 50 miler in Wisconsin.
Race Recap: The Rock Cut Hobo Runs
Rock Cut State Park is located near Rockford, IL (Loves Park) and covers nearly 3,100 acres. There are two lakes within the park (Olson and Pierce). It was opened in 1957 and provides recreational opportunities like fishing, kayaking, paddleboard, bike trails, trail running, hiking, camping and horse trails. It reminded me of the park terrain near where we live. I’ve done several trail runs at General Watkins Conservation Area about 20 minutes from our house.
It was around a 6.5 hour drive to the race location from where we live. The park is in the midst of an urban area. Being directionally challenged I managed to pick the most difficult way to get to the starting line. But once I found the big parking lot by the lake then it was easy to get to packet pick up.
The races are put on by the Rockford Road Runners and they send out good information via email prior to the race. I got a fitted short sleeve shirt for the 10k night run and long sleeve tech shirt for the 25k. They had three different bibs for each race and the events were not chip timed.
Friday Night – Sept 11, 2015 Hobo Run Coyote Howl 10k
There were around 160 runners participating in this race and it had a 7:00 pm start. The trail was crowded for the first mile and as people were crashing through the brush someone said that there was tons of poisen ivy in the park. The congestion did thin out considerably after mile 2. In fact, by mile 2.5 there were only around four of us running close to each other.
By mile 3 I was mostly alone for the next two miles. It got dark around mile 4 and the trees and foliage made it seem even darker. I definitely needed my headlamp to avoid tripping on rocks, roots, puddles, sand, and downed tree limbs along the path. There were a few hills that I walked to try and conserve energy for the coming days. The course was well marked with arrows and reflective ribbon and a few volunteers were at intersections.
We went by a campground and the slight chill in the air combined with the smell of campfires really made it seem like fall. There weren’t any aid stations or port a pots along the course and I didn’t carry any water so I was really thirsty by just a couple miles in. But it’s amazing how the body can adjust when you don’t have a choice.
The 10k Finish
I finished at 1:01 and was 5th in my AG. They had bottles of water, soda, and pizza at the finish line. I was starting to get chilly so I decided to not stay around for the awards. Besides, knowing I had to come back bright and early made me want to relax and go to bed early. I talked to a lady as we were trying to find our cars in the dark and she asked me how I did and I said, “I finished around the time I was hoping for.” When I asked her how she did she said, “okay, I finished in around 47 min” (she turned out to be the first place woman). When I got back to my hotel room I took an Epsom salt bath and was in bed by 10pm.
Saturday- Sept 12, 2015 Hobo 25k Trail Race
The race started at 8:00 a.m. and it was much easier to find the starting line this time now that I had my directions clear. The start/finish area was located at the Red Oaks Picinic Area and there was lots of parking. I arrived around 7am and used the bathroom and waited in my car until near the start time.
There were around 100 people doing the 25k. The weather was in the low 50’s and it was sunny with a light breeze. I wore my hydration pack and carried a couple UCAN snack bars for fuel. The trails had a lot of variation to them with mostly single track interspersed with roots, small rocks, and sand. Some parts of the trail weren’t cleared and you had to push through some brush. However, it was mostly well marked although I did get turned around at mile 13 and had to backtrack some. The course featured some moderate hills and I walked up most of them. The trail went around the lake, by a campground area, through the woods and I could even hear sounds of traffic from nearby roads. There weren’t any race bathrooms so we had to use the state park outhouses. Aid stations were located approximately every 3 miles and had water and sports drink.
The 25k Finish
I ran mostly by myself but did visit with a runner named Dan. A group of friends passed me who called themselves the Coyote Train J There was a final climb to the finish line and I pushed to run up that hill because I could see the clock reading 2:59. My official finish time was 2:59:50 and I got 5th in my AG. Finish line food included hobo stew and various treats that people had brought along with soda, water, sports drink, and chocolate milk. My legs felt tired and my body was achy due to it being that time of the month. Once I got back to the hotel I got in an ice bath and then an Epsom bath later on. I tried to relax and stay positive about the 50k the next day.
Sunday- Sept 13, 2015 Hobo Trail 50k
Sunday started off bright and cool and was another perfect weather day for running. I got to the State Park around 7:20 and met up with MTA member Sandi in the bathroom line. She lived an hour away and decided to come over and run the 25k as her first trail race. We visited for a while and got a picture together.
They did a few announcements about the course which was two loops of the route we did the day before for the 50k. There were a total of 53 doing the 50k and 33 doing the 25k. This race was the RRCA State of Illinois Ultra Championship Race. The trail was crowded for a while but it quickly thinned out by mile 2. Early on I noticed a man running the 25k barefoot and another in harachas sandals. It was nice to be familiar with the course this time around and I used the same strategy of walking hills and running flats and downhills.
Fueling and Hydrating
For fueling I used ½ of a UCAN bar every hour along with some electrolytes and a few green olives and licorice at the halfway mark. I was feeling pretty tired by the time I was done with the first loop but did manage to finish pretty close to what I did yesterday. I refilled my hydration pack, used the bathroom and set off for another loop. The trails definitely weren’t crowded this time around but there were other hikers and campers out on the course. I was able to not get lost this time around but felt really tired from miles 18-25 and did a lot more walking than I wanted to do. My lower back, hips, and hamstrings were so sore that every step jolted through my body.
I tried to enjoy the beautiful trails which offered nice shade, the beautiful weather and the animals I saw which included kamikaze chipmunks who would dart across the trail, a snake blocking the path, vultures in the trees, and lots of geese on the lake. I managed to stay on my feet the whole time and my trail shoes worked well. I was also glad I wore gaiters as there were some sandy sections and tall grass and brush we had to go through. I was still imagining getting ticks or chiggers.
Mile 25 . . . Getting Close!
Finally around mile 25 I passed this runner who said, “it’s all downhill from here.” I was like, “yeah right”. He said, “no, really we’re at the top of the ridge so it is mostly downhill.” That really encouraged me to find another gear and do more running. I was able to pass a couple more guys and tap into some more energy. I also spent a lot of time thinking about a couple of my coaching clients who were running races and prayed for them. During the final mile I felt strong and was able to run up the hill to the finish in 6:26:31. I was hoping for a time closer to 6 hours but since this was a training run for my upcoming 50 miler I figured the extra time on my feet wouldn’t hurt.
50k Finish and Triple Crown Spike
I was so happy to be done and get my Triple Crown Spike award—basically a huge chunk of wood with three railroad spikes driven in and a 50k hoodie for finishing. I was the 5th out of 12 females for the Triple Crown (10k, 25k and 50k). I ate a little bit of food, changed clothes in the outhouse (yuck) and got in the car for my 7 hour drive home. Sandi had left a nice note on my car that said, “I am hooked on trails. I loved it! It was great to meet you in person. Have a safe trip back.” I also found out later that she got 1st in her AG.
Driving Back with a Lacrosse Ball
I was a little worried about being able to stay alert on the long drive home. I often get hip pain when I have to sit in the car so I used a lacrosse ball under my glutes and hamstrings to add some counter pressure and release the tight muscles and fascia. That really helped keep the spasms at bay and keep me alert. The surprising thing is that the next day I felt great (other than being a bit tired) and was hardly sore. It was a challenging weekend but great preparation for my 50 miler.