I CROSSED THE FINISH LINE AT RUN WOODSTOCK around 4:30 p.m. Saturday (thrilling photo on order). After ten and a half hours on the trails I was tired, sore, and thoroughly sick of looking at trees and dirt. But when I emerged from the woods the campers lining the road cheered me on, and a burst of energy carried me across at a full sprint. My first 50-miler was in the books!
Woodstock happens every September at Hell Creek Ranch in Pinckney, where runners take over the campground on Friday and run, hang out, and get their hippie on until Sunday. It’s a fascinating mix of hardcore effort, laid back attitude, live music, camping, and tie-dyed spectators clapping and yelling encouragement for every runner that passes.
At the center of it all, however, is the running – lots of running. While there are fun runs and short events throughout the weekend, the main events are the ultramarathons Friday and Saturday, ranging from 50K to 100 miles on the set of singletrack trails and gravel roads around Hell (MI) and Hell Creek Ranch. Although 50 miles would be 16 miles longer than I’d ever run before (the 50K in 2012), I was ready. More than ready. Nervous? Hell, no. Sound that horn!
The horn sounded Saturday morning at 6:00 a.m., after the traditional Hendrix-style national anthem from local rocker Lemon James. As it was still pitch dark, I donned my headlamp. My backpack held a jacket, energy bars, camera, and the mandatory cell phone (on the trails you can “fall and not get up” a long way from help).
At first there was some serious congestion, as several hundred runners squeezed into single file on the narrow trail. But after just a few miles we’d spread out enough that I was able to run my chosen pace the rest of the way. And by the final few miles, with the shorter races done, it got downright lonely out there.
I followed a 16-mile loop on the trails, marked with flags and signs, that all the ultra races used. The 50K runners did two loops, 50-milers three, 100K four, and the 100-milers six. Aid stations were set up every four miles, fully stocked with sugary and salty snacks, sandwiches, drinks, soup, and coffee.
Rather than go into a lot of narrative on the race itself, here are a few photos with highlights – some good, some less so.
Next up: Lessons learned, some tricks I used to stay mentally focused, and what’s next on the agenda.