I woke up the morning of the race and drove the 90 minutes to Dubuque, picked up my packet and hung out for about 45 minutes until the pre run briefing. I talked to a few people I knew like Jenn from Daily Mile. There was a moment of panic when I couldn't find my face mask but all was well as somehow it had snuck into the backseat of my car. This was a legitimate concern as the temperature was about 7-15 degrees and wind chills were forecasted to be brutal. After the pre race briefing to which I only half paid attention (this would be important later) we boarded the shuttle bus to the Ultra/Marathon start line in Dyersville. During the ride I talked to Tim Smith the Race Director for the Hawkeye 50K which I will be running again this year. I was well hydrated and I was starting to be a hurting unit towards the end of the ride if you know what I mean. I wasn't the only one as when the bus deposited us at the start I would say over 50% of the runners raced for the rear of some farm implements to relieve themselves.
A lady met us at the start and gave us a little speech about the wonders of Dyersville. I felt sorry for her because it was obviously a rehearsed sort of speech and no one was paying attention due to the race anticipation and bone chilling temperatures. After about 10 minutes the clock hit 10:00 and she let us go. We were supposed to have a shot gun start but apparently the Sheriff didn't get the memo.
So I took off down the trail which for the first mile or so was paved and then it turned into a cinder/gravel mix which we would follow for the next 22 miles. This was the third time I had run this trail. The first two times were at the Triple D Half Marathon and the Run4 Troops Marathon respectively. I was feeling good and found myself setting a pretty good pace for the first two miles. I figured I better back off however as I hadn't run anything longer than 17 miles in the last 2 months and wanted to make sure I finished. When I slowed slightly Tim Smith caught up to me and we ran together for the next 18-20 miles. We were setting a decent pace comfortable yet we were passing runners occasionally. It is always better to run with someone else. It takes your mind off the task at hand. Tim and I talked about a lot of subjects and the miles clicked on by. I discovered after about an hour my hydration pack had frozen and I had to take it off and put it under my jacket. I managed to do this without stopping and after another 30 minutes or so it thawed out and I was fine the rest of the race.
The terrain varied on the trail from the cinder/gravel to ruts to ice covered. The ice was treacherous in spots and I really had to alter my stride in an attempt not to fall in a few places. We were passed by the occasional bike racer but it was mostly runners during this section.
When I checked in I had hit the 26.2 mile mark in about 4:18. Pretty good marathon time for me especially in those footing conditions. I asked the ladies doing the check in if there was any water. They pointed to a few pitchers sitting on a table. The pitchers had ice and water in them but I didn't think much of it as I slammed three glasses in rapid succession. Wrong move!!!!I got the biggest ice cream headache ever, so bad I was gasping for air. Once that whole ordeal was over I headed out for the last 5 miles of the race. On my way across the first cornfield I past Tim as he made his way to the check in. I continued back along my previous path until I hit the Heritage trail again. I was still moving good but I had slowed down after the cornfield debacle. As I got towards the end of the race I started crossing some highways and paved roads. The course was not as clearly marked as I would have liked but I managed to get within about .5 miles of where my Garmin said the race should end. That is when I made a mistake that has bedeviled ultra runners forever. I took a wrong turn. There was a small white sign to my left that said Pitstop ( here is the pay attention part). If I had been paying attention during the briefing I would have recalled that this was the name of the bar we were to finish at,however my eyes were focused on the big orange arrows pointing to the right that seemed to follow the same trail I had been running on for the last 5 hours. So I turned right and kept on running. About the time I crossed a major highway and started running up a godawful hill in the middle of nowhere I realized that no one would put a bar here and expect to get any business. I stopped and probably stood full of indecision for 2-3 minutes. Should I go ahead or turn back? Well I decided to turn back and when I got back to where I had originally turned right I saw Tim Smith climbing the hill ahead of me. He had turned left towards Pitstop as I should have done. So I followed Tim up the hill and down the road until we came to the bar and the finish. As I entered the parking lot a lady asked me if I was finishing. I said yes and she gave me a mini clap, that was nice. Also when I entered the bar all the other runners that were already there gave me high fives and claps. I checked in with the clipboard lady and she asked me what my time was. So I gave her the time off my Garmin plus about 6 minutes. I figured had run about an extra mile before I got to the finish. I still finished in around 5 hours and 30 minutes give or take a few minutes. The bar gave us free food and drinks so I had a cheeseburger and a diet coke which was spot on. They had brought our drop bags to the bar so I changed into some drier clothes and about that time the shuttle arrived to take us back to the hotel we had checked in at so I could pick up my vehicle. I headed back, hopped into the car and drove home without further incident.
All in all this was a fun day and I will probably race it again next year.