Mile 6 (photo by Brian Gaines)
Rock Cut HOBO 50k slow finish (photo by Brian Gaines)
Ten years ago was my last ultra run. I've only done one marathon in that time, back in May of this year. I've ran Rock Cut HOBO 25k twice but never the Full HOBO. Now it was time to return to Ultraland, a land I have made many GREAT friends in.
I left home early and drove to Rockford in the dark arriving in time to see day light breaking. I was one of the first to arrive but packet pick up was still being set up so I sat in the car, eyes closed just relaxing. Around 7am I wandered over to the pavilion and there was my friend from the Coyotes Christina. She helped get my goodie bag with HOBO socks ready. The T shirt for this race is given at the finish line - you have to "earn" it. As I wandered back to the car more folks were pulling in including all my CHUG and MUDD buddies, too many to name. Yes the CHUGS and MUDD Runners had come to Coyote land to have some fun on their trails.
A ten minute down pour had runners and crew diving into cars and fearing the worse but thankfully it let up and no more rain occurred all race, whew.
Just before 8am we ambled down the road to the start. Not sure if Larry the RD said any words as I was near the back. First half mile or so was on the road that would lead to the first trail head. This road also included the first hill but then again Larry is a mountain biker and all MTB races seem to start up hill. I started off with my friend Kelly expecting to stay with her for a mile or two. Well we ran six miles together before we hit the first section of awesome singletrack and Kelly was off just bouncing down the trail leaving me in the dust. Soon I hit the second aid station and was greeted by Brian, Paige and Geof. Kelly was already a minute up on me and I knew then I'd not see her again until the turn around. Brian kindly took my jacket from me that I had started in and they chased me out of the AS.
The HOBO course takes us around the whole of Rock Cut State Park using most of the trails including the mountain bike, horse and hiking sections. Some of the best singletrack was actually found in the horse section but bikes are not allowed. Much of the course was wider dirt trails with some nice hills in odd spots but there was the normal mix of trail with roots, rocks and erosion plus a small creek and a wider river to get the feet wet in. Those water crossings I just plowed right through.
The course is also a two looper with the second loop being ran in reverse, sort of an out n back loop course. I hit the turn around and 25k point in a HOBO 25k PR, still slow but I was happy. Sadly it meant my return leg would be a lot slower but I didn't mind as long as I felt good and strong and more so was enjoying myself out on the trails. This turnaround aid station you kind of hit 3 times due to course configuration. First time through Brian, Paige and Geof greeted me and Heidi's husband was relaxing in his car, second time Brian and Hugh was there, and the third time Kat Yarger who was doing the course sweep was there. It was during my second time at the aid station and the official turnaround that I took my first cup of coke. This really kicked in and become my craving drink down the trail.
I left the turn around aid station the third time at mile 19 or thereabouts and decided that although I'd love to run with Kat I hoped not to see her. Around mile 21 Norm Yarger (Kat's father), a guy named Paul and Varsha caught up to me, we chatted for a little while then after the next aid station they all left me in more dust. Still the miles and the aid stations just seemed to fly by. I took a few breaks to rest on a couple park benches but also used these times to refuel on S! Caps and gels. The fourth aid station from the end included a climb down and up a big wooden staircase (we had used this on the out section). Told the AS captain the first time I had done the 25k these stairs did not exist and we had to somehow get down this big steep hill. He told me he used to sled down the hill but his kids never believed him. This aid station had coke, two cups later I was on my way back to the big wide river crossing. Wet and so cooling to my feet. Again the miles just went by. I was slow but felt strong. More coke and more miles.
Around 1.5 miles to the end I actually was doing much more running than walking. The trail ran near the tollway but I was not seeing any course markings or flags. I was worried I was off course but kept thinking there was no turns or intersection since the last one; had a turn marker been moved. After what seemed like eons I final saw the orange arrow pie plate and made the turn bringing me to a short section of road before turning left to view some tunnels under the tollway in front of me. After a small trail I climbed down the drop off into the water that was flowing from one lake to another and started the trek through the metal tunnel you see in the photo above. It was impossible to run through here and looking down meet darkness so I just kept my sights on the "light at the end of the tunnel". It wasn't to bad. That quickly changed on exiting and being confronted by a marshy muddy trail with some ditches and shoe sucking mud. This was gory. Trying to be smart I decided to jump one of the ditches but after 30.75 miles it was not smart as I missed my jump and down I went. Mud splashed up even hitting my face and cap, gross. Picked myself up and headed up a steep climb to lakeside then onto the grass hill that lead the last 400 meters to the finish. I saw people at the finish line, they spotted me and started cheering and shouting. It was CHUGs Kelly, Brian, Paige, Geof and Deanna plus Norm Yarger and RD Larry. WOW they had waitied for slow poke me, what a welcome. I crossed the finish line, think it was still Sunday. Larry produced the finishers Rock Cut HOBO shirt for me. Nice.
What a blast. I was slow, very slow but felt great and strong most the way. Maybe one day the speed off old well return but all I wanted was my finish and I got it and my friends were there to cheer me on and in. A big thanks to Larry the RD, RRR, Coyotes, MUDD and most off all every CHUG - those at Rock Cut and even those not there. Without the CHUGs I am not sure I'd be back in Ultra land. You guys rock. Thank you thank you :-)