The longer i stay in Delaware the more i appreciate the Trail Dawgs. They've got an outstanding location to train on, and run in, and around. The trail system just north of Newark, DE is extensive, and accessible. RD Hunt Bartine and the omniscient John MacKenzie are real long distance running miracle workers. Just three weeks ago they had about a billion metric tons of mudd dropped on the park for the marathon, and today for the 50K it was gone. Conditions were outstanding as the weather fully cooperated as the runners had ample opportunity to enjoy a true trail run.
The race application stated no fee, no frills, no wimps, and no whining; in Fat Ass tradition. This was not completely accurate. The Trail Dawgs went out of their way to provide the 35-40 runners an ultra in the tradition of the early days. Most ultraruns were like this one 15 years ago, before "cool-max, polypropolene, and protein bars." Those are the days I miss, and long for, and we had one here today. The Mudmeister and I showed up at the start line ready. This would be his first "ultra" after completing his first marathon just 6 months ago. We were fortunate to bump into Delaware's #1 ultrarunner, Mr. David Bursler. He is even more kind and gentle in person than his fantastic essays would indicate. Of course, we would only see him once today; and he would quickly disappear into the brush. The Muddman and I would be in the back --- in Slug tradition. The Crazy Horse Award (Last Place) would today be mine! I didn't care if it took 10 hours.
The early part of the run was relatively easy. The turnsheet/map provided was straightforward and simple to follow. I went out with my ultrapack and was prepared to bivouac if necessary. I figured an old boy scout (myself) and an old Marine (the mudd-man) could survive just about anything. The trail became progressively a bit more challenging and at times outright runnable and funnnnn. I did fall, or did the mudd-man shove me??? (just once) and drew blood.
The bleeding made me smile. I don't know why. I can't divide the course into miles, because the time the trail took to cover didn't match up with how fast i thought we were moving. Regardless, we actually ran into "aid stations" being manned/womened by Mr. Rick Palmer and Ms. Margie Hughes. What nice folks, and true trail dawgs. They filled our water bottles, handed us some pretzels, and pointed us in the right direction. They weren't sure what mile it was; and they were correct. On this day it didn't matter. Just follow the blue ribbons as best you can, and enjoy the surroundings. We continued on, with the majority of the runners way out and in front of us. Remember, today we were on a mission. The Mudmeister would be finishing his first ultra, and i would be receiving the Crazy Horse Award for the first time in 11 years. That was our goal.
We took our time. We wandered through the forest, cornfields, and old jeep roads. We may have been lost, and we really enjoyed it. It was daylight, our water bottles were full, and we were warm. The creeks, and rock-filled water crossings were full from yesterdays rain and we took advantage of it. I got in up to my nipples and screamed with delight. It felt so good. The mudd-man, just a novice (pup in Trail Dawg lingo) tried to stay dry. I let him enjoy it. True joy is always found in getting muddy and bloody and wet, BUT, he was happy and hanging on. We continued to move along slippery ledges, and up steep hills, doing a bit of mini-bushwhacking.
All along, the above-stated goal was first and foremost in our plans. Get in before dark. My Rookie Slug, being a virgin u.r., deserved an ultrarunning adventure. And he got one. By the time we returned to the start line the other runners were gone. In fact all was packed up, except for the RD, who was kind enough to wait to see that we were still alive. The Mudmeister slugged in the final mile or so on the road and into the parking lot. I was very proud of him. The time of 9 hours and 14 minutes made me believe that we covered a bit more than 50 kilometers, but, hey, what's a few miles between friends. In fact, the Trail Dawgs advertised it as 50k +. No doubt there is some (+) thrown in there.
The Mud-mann graciously accepted his award. A river rock with the Trail Dawg logo attached. It was PERFECT! I didn't know whether to burst out laughing or crying. This is what ultrarunning is all about. We ran over 9 hours through difficult and unforgiving terrain, leaving sweat and blood on the course, and the RD hands us a rock. Today the Mudmeister earned a new Slug-name. In fact, it's the first time we've ever changed one; and he deserves it. From this day forward Justin Jones of Team Slug fame shall be known as "The Animal." Today he really was one. Rest assured Slugs, if the Trail Dawgs put on an event, and I am alive and kicking, you will find me at the start line. I'll be the old chubby guy in the back with the black t-shirt, and a big smile on my face.
Happy Trails and Keep Breathin'