Cry Me a River 50k report

It’s going to be tough writing a good race report about the Cry Me A River 50k. I tend to overuse superlatives anyway, and this was a race that encourages one to indulge in a wide variety of superlatives. So let’s get em all out there right now: hardest, steepest, most unrelenting, most barf inducing, bizarrely located in Illinois of all places, longest 50k ever. I have run a decent array of 50k races over the years and I cannot remember another which inspired actual tears from participants. I saw two people weeping on this race, both doing the 50k flavor. Cry me a river, indeed!

Allison and I did a bit of reconnaissance two weeks before the race. We ran the first five miles of what would be the substantive part of the 50k race. The full race involved one 2 mi loop, then one out and back for ~20mi, then a partial out and back on the same trail for a total 34.5 miles — a 50k, wink wink. So in that five we ran a few weekends ago, we saw basically 20 miles of the course as we’d end up running it 4 times. Those five miles scared the hell out of me. Other than one 1/3 mi stretch, the trail was either straight up or straight down. I figured than maybe the other 11 miles (this was before I knew it was more like 14 more miles), had some less aggressive parts. I was dead wrong.

We arrived at race Friday night in Gus the Ultra Bus and secured a REALLY nice campsite. Camp Wokanda is a boy scout compound, and is exactly like the camp you went to in 5th grade etc. Super neat place, and outside of the raccoon that ate a hole in my Osprey hydration pack the following night, the camping almost made up for the pain of the hills. The next morning we lined up at 7am and were off at 7:05. Less than 200 yards into the first 2mi loop, we started up one of the biggest hills of the race. So much for the gentleness of the miles we hadn’t seen.

One more bit about the hills, and then I am going to let them be. These are not those long climbs that make for nice fast descents. No, my elevation data from my watch, which looks fittingly like a saw blade, says there were 14 hills in the 10 miles out to Detweiller park. As we did those 14 hills again on the way back we gave them names, none of which are repeatable in polite company. Y’all are not polite, I know, so I’ll tell you that more than half were called “fuck you hill, too” which is much funnier spoken than in print. Most of the descents were so steep that it was just as tough to run down them as it was to run up them (not that we were trying to run up them much). This resulted in something I’ve never had before. The one flat stretch comes again near the end of the race (32 mi in or so) and when we began trotting it, I found that it actually felt much nicer to run than walk!

Allison had a good run, often pulling me along, particularly on the downhills. I’m a wuss on downhills. When we came in to the start finish after 22 miles and started the out and back for another 14 was the only time I think either of us were wavering on going on. It would have been so easy to stop there, but we both kept our mouths shut and continued on. Okay Allison did say, “Look at Gus. It would be so easy to stop.” But I reminder her that our trip out to Green Valley meant another run to the bacon and PB&Js. I am not sure that convinced either of us, but we did continue on.

We ran a good bit with Galinda Miller, and it was fun hearing her stories about recent races. Ultrarunning has changed a good bit since my last go-around, and I felt like chatting with G did a pretty good job of getting me up to speed. She decided to take a breather before the second out-and-back onto the sawblade, and we just saw her briefly as we were on our way back in to finish. G, if you’re reading this: we made a valiant effort to stay awake to clap you in, but sleep won out.

Back in 2004 I ran the Superior 50 and late into the race, barely making cutoffs, Jeffrey Swainheart and I came up with the idea of a PDR: personal duration record. Basically, the opposite of a PR. Allison and I managed to make it across the finish line before it started getting dark, but just so. And we definitely set a solid PDR: 12:25 or so. My watch said total elevation was 7k feet of gain. That is one heck of a lot of 50k for a meager entry fee! The finisher’s award was a mason jar mug, so Allison and I celebrated finishing by filling them with beer (a few times) and having a second beautiful night of camping. Super “fun” race — we’ll be back next year.