I met Mike in Dayton early Saturday morning and we made the 4 1/2 hour drive to East Peoria, IL. Farmdale consists of 3, 11 mile loops repeated 3 times. The course is made up of mostly single track trail with a few roots and rocks, some open Meadows and a few short dirt road sections. The loop is pretty flat, with two moderate climbs on dirt roads (I walked them, but they could be run) other than those to climbs there are a few very small hills sprinkled throughout, a very runnable course. If I were to compare it to another race, I would say it is a little bit hillier than the HUFF.
The weather turned out to be perfect. As we waited for the race to start it began to sprinkle. That worried me, but the rain never materialized and the temps were in the 50's. My "A" goal for the race was to run a 10 min. pace throughout (which would be a 5:30 finishing time) I didn't bother coming up with a "B" or "C" goal. Looking at the winning time from last year (5:22) I didn't think I could hold that pace the whole way but I was willing to give it a shot. I wasn't wearing my Garmin so all of my pacing was based on perceived effort. I started out at what I thought was a 10 min. pace and felt pretty good the first few miles, but as I was passing handfuls of people at a time, I was already wondering if I could keep it up. I didn't know any specifics about the course, just that it wasn't supposed to be very hilly, so I paid careful attention during the first loop so that I could evaluate my chances of staying on pace. I could feel my stomach sloshing and I began to cramp towards the end of loop 1, but it never got any worst, and went away midway through the second loop. the first loop went pretty smooth, only walking one hill, I came to the start/finish line in 1:45, 5 minutes ahead of my goal.
As I set out on the second loop I could feel my quads starting to grow weak, and I was pretty sure it would only be a few miles before I could no longer stay on pace. I thought I could go ahead and slow down now, trying to save a sub 6 hour finish. Or I could continue to push and see how far I could get before blowing up. I told myself that if I wanted to get faster, the best thing to do is to run as fast as I can for as long as I can, so I kept up the pace. Because I ran the first loop 5 minutes below my goal, I decided to walk more of the short hills, in hopes it would save my quads for the straight aways. About 5 miles into the second loop I started feeling better again. I came through the second loop at 3:40. I had run the second loop 10 minutes slower than the first, losing my 5 minute cushion and putting me right on 10 minute pace overall. That had me worried. I hadn't notice that I slowed down that much. I now need to run the last loop in 1:50 (5 minutes faster than the second loop)
After a very quick stop at the aid station I took off on the final loop. I didn't have the luxury of walking the up hills, being so close on time. I was pushing pretty hard and still had 11 miles to go. I noticed on my second loop that I hit the second aid station in 1:16. That would be my first checkpoint to see if I had a chance at 5:30. I reached the check point in 1:14. They told me I had about 4 miles left. I didn't think I was going to make it but I kept pushing. when I got to the final aid station they said I had 2 miles left, I had 18 minutes left. At the end of each loop is a dam that we run across. I was pretty sure I needed 8 minutes from the dam to the finish line. When I reached the dam for the final time, I had about 71/2 minutes. I still didn't think I would make 5:30 but I was to close to stop pushing now. At this point I was redlining, just trying to get to the finish. I reached the final turn in the trail, right before popping out in to the opening where the finish line was. I looked down at my watch which read 5:28, I was going to make it! I ended up finish right around 5:28:30.
Last year 5:28 would have been good enough for 2nd place, 6 minutes behind the winning time. This year It was only good enough for 14th, just my luck, lol. I really enjoyed this course. There were a lot of flat single track section to stretch out the legs and a few small hills to break things up. The course markings were great along with the aid stations and volunteers.
Mike came through I short time later and we headed back to Ohio.
Special congrats to Marla for destroying the female course record of 5:37 (which she set last year) by 40+ minutes to finish in 4:54!!
(I got majorly chicked!)
and to James for reaching his sub 5 hour goal (4:59) after getting lost for 15+ minutes!
Two awesome runners, and really nice folks, for sure!
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