Today was the 10th edition of the Riddle Run, a 28.35 mile ultra-marathon fun run. Last year I showed up fairly unprepared but I still cranked out a decent run. This year I felt much more prepared than ever before. I just ran a good trail marathon in December, and I've been doing a long run almost every weekend since then.
This year's Riddle Run set another registration record with 125 people signed up, though I don't think that many showed up. The temperature was similar to last year (20˚ at start, 33˚ at finish), but last year there was just a light dusting of snow on the ground (which melted during the run). This year there was about 4" of mushy snow covering the entire trail. Running in mushy snow is quite the challenge.
But what was more concerning to me than the snow was that I badly bruised my shin while mountain biking last Saturday. I've run twice since then (Sunday and Tuesday) and both times my shin caused me pain with every step. As it turns out, my worries were misplaced. My bruised shin didn't bother me the slightest bit.
Shortly after 8 a.m. the runners gathered to listen to Jeff Riddle (the run's coordinator) give instructions. Then we were off.
The snow was tough. I started slowly, chit-chatting with others for the first mile or two. I finished my first loop in 43 minutes. By the second 4.05 mile loop (of seven) the snow was packed down a little bit, and that allowed me to run a little faster. My second loop was around 40 minutes, as was the third. I ran the fourth loop with Chris (who recently whooped me a the Siberian Express) and Matt (last year's Riddle Run winner). They both stopped at the end of the lap with 16 miles total, as they had both planned to do.
I was still feeling very good and I was running a steady pace. There were two other guys with roughly the same time as me (though we weren't running together as we chose to run the loops in opposite directions at times). I stopped at my car to grab a bite to eat at mile 8, 16, 20, & 24. I drank a lot of Gatorade throughout. It worked, as I never ran out of energy. I took an Endurolyte tablet each time I stopped in order to try to avoid the muscle cramping I experienced at Tecumseh. This also worked, as my muscles never cramped.
Each of the last two laps I walked up two of the hills. This was the only walking I did the entire time, and it probably only slowed me down by a minute or two.
At 24 miles Jeff told me I had the fastest time so far by a couple minutes. Most of the runners didn't run all seven laps, they stopped early. There was a crowd of these runners gathered around a campfire near the finish line. They all began to cheer as I began the final lap. I continued the same steady pace I had been running all morning. Then came the surprise of the day... something that's never happened in six previous marathons/ultra-marathons. I picked up the pace the last mile as I approached the finish. Not just a little, but a lot. In fact, my last mile was the fastest mile I ran all day. I still had some gas left in the tank.
I finished. I was the first one to do so. The crowed cheered as I crossed the "finish line" and pelted me with snowballs. This wasn't really a race, it was more of a fun run, but Jeff declared me the winner. The first place male in the Riddle Run gets a traveling "trophy" (which it turns out is a roll of toilet paper signed by each previous winner).
After the run I changed clothes, ate a delicious cupcake, and warmed up by the campfire.
Ken and his dog Cayenne finished about five minutes after me. Then Jason was another five minutes behind Ken.
Just behind Pat were Becky & Ellen, the first two women. They were running together. Becky crossed the line first in a photo finish.
The women's traveling trophy is a little stuffed buffalo. It's nice, but it probably couldn't be used for wiping in an emergency, like the men's trophy. Well, at least not more than once.
It was a good time. The run was hard. The times were slow. My winning time was 4:56, the second slowest winning of the 10 Riddle Runs. I'm moving around now better than ever before after a run this long. I take that as another good sign. Now that I've survived the Riddle Run I took the plunge and finally registered for the Illinois Marathon. I've been planning to do it, I just hadn't registered yet. Now I just need to avoid injury for 2.5 more months.
Interestingly, the Riddle Run winners were also awarded the chance to register for the 30 mile Clinton Lake Ultra in March, even though that race is already full. It's a nice perk, but I'm probably going to pass on it. I'd love to race Clinton, but it's two weeks before the Illinois Marathon, which is my primary objective for the first part of the year. I wonder if this award is transferable, and if so, how much I could get for it on eBay... Just kidding, Chris.