Paleozoic 50k Race Report - "2nd place", 3:50:18

When I first looked at the official results on Sunday, I was listed as 10th in 3:50:18.   I'm currently listed as 8th (as of Monday morning, 3/18), but it sounds like that may change or the results might be modified again.  So I just say second place in quotes, because while not official (as of now), I was in fact second place in the race I ran (a race of two?), which was between me and winner Brian Condon.  I'm not sure how many people who finished behind me actually ran the correct course, but I am sure that no one in front of me did, except for Brian.  This is because we were in the lead the entire race and no one ever passed us.

EDIT (3/18): An email from the RD stated: "Please consider our currently posted 'Results' and 'Webcast' splits as 'incomplete and inaccurate.'  They will be adjusted."  So we'll see how things shake out in the end.  

This all happened primarily because the course was not marked in time for the race.  In the future, the course needs to be marked ideally the day before, or at the very least, a couple hours in advance of the race start.  It is still a great course on some of the best trails in the Chicago area—the Palos trail system—and everything else about the race went well: aid stations were well stocked, volunteers were helpful and friendly, etc.

The course consisted of a 15.65 mile route that was supposed to be run twice for the 50k race.  This route was subdivided into a 10+ mile loop on mostly double track gravel trails and a 5+ mile loop on dirt singletrack.  Between the big amount of snow we had last week, some warmer weather since, and now cold again, the trails were just a total muddy, icy mess.  A guy on a bike was sent out to mark the first loop shortly before the race started, but with the awful trail conditions, he didn't make it very far before I passed him.  There was also an accidental mixup where a red disc—signaling a left turn—was placed where a yellow disc—right turn—should have been.  I had to turn around and backtrack a few times and started running with Brian, as we worked on figuring out the course based on my memory, guesswork, and rough knowledge of the trails.  This led to just standing around multiple times, talking to cops trying to figure it out, turning around and retracing our steps, etc.  Overall, it only added about 0.4 miles to our first loop, but a fair bit more time due to the standing.  

A number of competitors cut short small sections of the first loop by accident, but nothing major.  The major issue came in the second, shorter loop, which was a bit more confusing.  It was being marked while we were running it, and Brian and I passed the marker (the RD, I believe), and he yelled some instructions to us as we passed.  Again, my knowledge of the trails and the couple minutes I spent with the map the night before came in handy, and we managed to run the right route, but it seems other people didn't.  I think that most people accidentally made this into a ~3 mile loop instead of the 5+ it was supposed to be.  I also think that this mistake was made on both occasions that we hit that section of the course, meaning a lot of people ran ~27 miles total.  Some may have been more like 28 or 29 if they only got mixed up on this loop once, or if they also added on extra mileage like Brian and I did.  This would explain all of the people in the results between me and Brian anyway.  I'm not sure what sort of mileage the folks behind us may have run.  I was glad I was wearing my Suunto Ambit, just so I knew how far we had run.  In the end, it was 31.7 miles for both Brian and me.

EDIT (3/18): Per the aforementioned email, the race organization was specifically instructed by the FPDCC not to mark the course (with the colored disks anyway) until race morning.  On most occasions, this would not be a problem.  But as I noted, the trail conditions hampered the progress of the bikers marking the course.  Apart from sending those guys out a touch earlier, I'm not sure what else the organizers could have done; just unlucky circumstances.  

Brian and I ran together for most of the race, before he slowly pulled away around 23 miles.  I (and I assume he) knew that was coming.  I was a bit labored all day.  I think between having the flu (or similar stomach virus) last week, and going a bit too hard in training on Thursday, I was just still sort of run down.  From the start it felt like a difficult training day and nothing like a race.  Throw in the mud and ice, which really sapped leg strength, and I had a pretty tough day.  All that said, it was just what I needed.  I've got the American River 50 Mile in less than three weeks and needed to get in two long training efforts before that race.  So 50k on the trails on Saturday was the first of those (I'm going to shoot for back to back hilly long runs next week).  It was great to share the trails with Brian for a while, and much easier to get in the long effort in the context of a race.  I also found out Brian, who lives in Madison, is racing Ice Age in May, so I'll see him again up there.

Overall, despite things being a bit hectic, I really enjoyed the run.  My friends Dan and Rich both came out for the 25k race, and Dan, Brian (and his friends and family), and I grabbed some Irish food and beer at The Irish Legend in Willow Springs afterward.  Always love a few pints post-race, especially the black stuff on St. Paddy's day weekend.