Wilder Foot Race turns into
extended adventure this year
Tuesday, May 21, 2013 3:07 AM
Editor's note: Publisher David Phillips once again ran in the Wilder Foot Races this year. Following is his report, on the run.
The Perley Wilder Foot Race was an adventure this year - and not due to the rumbles of thunder and pounding of rain on the roof that I heard in the early morning darkness hours before the run in Spring Valley was scheduled to start on Sunday.
The rain let up by the time I woke up for good and the runners escaped the threatening weather. However, many of us running the Perley, a 22.5-mile race on the gravel roads northeast of Spring Valley, took a wrong turn and ended up on the James 50k route.
I should have known better since I have run the route twice - last summer during Wilderfest and a special run last winter. Besides, I was the only local person in the race.
The whole time I took the wrong turn, I had this feeling that it was wrong, but several factors misled me.
For one thing, the loop on Nature and Oriole roads was reversed this year, making me just slightly disoriented in places. Then someone in a car at the split for the two races directed us up a hill. It didn't seem right, but the one person I knew was doing the Perley went left and the two people I knew were doing the James went right, so I went left - against my better instincts.
We immediately climbed a large hill that didn't look at all familiar. My rationalization was that last year I was probably coming down the hill at a good clip on the reverse route and didn't notice the scenery.
When we got to the top and ran along a ridge adjacent to some farms I knew this was unfamiliar territory. However, in the distance ahead I saw a group with two people that had also told me they were running the Perley, so I continued on hesitantly.
When we came to an intersection with County Road 5, which was past the point we were supposed to get on County Road 8, I knew I was in trouble.
I thought about taking a right on County 5, going through Fillmore and hooking up to County 8 there, but I wasn't exactly sure how far north I was on County 5. I decided the safest choice would be to go back the way I came and head back on the course.
The only hitch was that the wrong turn added two miles onto my route, and it would be another two miles to get back to the correct route. Even before the wrong turn, I was already a bit concerned about the distance of the 30k (18.6 miles) that had grown to 22.5 miles since I am planning on running a marathon in two weeks, meaning I should be tapering in my training at this point, not adding on miles to my weekly long run.
I also was relying on my wife for support this year instead of carrying my own. We planned for her to be at the original mile 12, which would now be 16 if she would even still be there since I was about 40 minutes behind schedule.
A couple women doing the James came up behind me and, as we discussed my predicament, they volunteered use of their cell phone. I made the call, although they were from Nebraska and the phone number had a 404 area code. Would my wife think it was a telemarketer or wrong number?
She was in the valley by Dream Acres, which didn't have good reception, and I was on a ridge where the wind was interfering with the sound. After a broken first call, I left a message on her voicemail. She only got part of it, though, but did hear something about Masonic Park, which I told her I would be going to no matter which route I chose to come back.
The other runner that took the wrong turn also decided to head back. I walked with the individual, who was from Winona, for a while, but I wanted to get back to running. His knee was bothering him, so he told me to go ahead.
I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to do when I got the bottom of the hill - do an out and back to finish at about 23 miles or get back on the correct route and figure it out from there.
I decided it might be smarter to get back on the planned route, which was probably a good thing. Just before the intersection with County 8, a spectator in a car ringing her cowbell came by. I flagged her down and after some discussion about the situation, which she was aware of due to other runners she was tracking, she gave me some much-needed water. It had been nine miles and probably about 90 minutes since my wife's first stop for aid.
Although I wouldn't say it was hot out, it was extremely humid, something we haven't experienced this cool spring, in which I was wearing gloves just two weeks ago. It was a shock to work up a sweat in the first mile of the long run.
By the time I got to the Oriole road turnoff just before Dream Acres, my wife was gone. I climbed the steep, long hill very slowly, wishing I would have done something I almost never do - carry a cell phone on my run. After I got to the top and had made my way down Oriole Road for a while, a person providing support to her sister from Winona stopped for me. She gave me some Gatorade, again a welcome shot of fluid at about mile 17 into my journey.
I continued on, but slowly, with several walking breaks. The mistake affected my psyche, making it more difficult to feel confident about my run that morning. Long distance running is as much about mental toughness as physical toughness and the error shattered my confidence, causing my body to rebel.
I had decided at that point that since this was originally billed as a 30k, I was going to at least make that distance and not worry about finishing, which would have put me into marathon distance.
As I came over the hill on Oriole, I saw my wife driving down County Road 38, but I was too far away for her to see me. I turned and followed since I knew this was the way to Masonic Park and, if nothing else, the route aid station.
Eventually, she came back up the hill and we met - finally. I felt bad because she had driven miles searching for me - at $4 gallon gas - and spent hours on the road with our granddaughter, who was looking forward to providing aid to her grandfather.
I told her I would run into Masonic Park, more than enough for the 30k distance, and call it quits. I remember that hill going out of the park and that was enough reason to pick that spot for the end.
I told the volunteer to relay the information to organizer Dustin Harford. Later that afternoon, there was a fire downtown and I ran into Harford, who was concerned about the wrong turns by the runners.
I assured him it was my fault as his explanation before the race was quite clear. Sometimes your mind sort of zones out in long distance runs and a series of circumstances came together to lead me astray. If anyone should have known better, it was myself.
Despite not finishing, he gave me a finisher's medal - which was strapped around a rock.
Although the group of runners was smaller this year, likely due to the rain that was coming down prior to the start, it was a good group that mostly stayed together, even when going in the wrong direction. It was also interesting to occasionally meet bicyclists coming in from the Alexander 380. They took off on their 380-mile journey through three states Friday at 5 a.m. in a downpour, so their journey was much more of an adventure than ours as it lasted several days in all sorts of weather conditions.
My wife may not help me next year, because the worrying and searching were stressful for her, but I hope to and I would still recommend the run to anyone considering a different type of long distance race.
In this type of race, it isn't the winning that is important and it isn't a race against time; it's the adventure, the challenge and the stories you get from it.
And this year's journey created a story I won't soon forget, even if it is embarrassing to tell.