Sunday, October 16, 2016

2016 Ondessonk 50k

2016 Ondessonk 50k 
Shawnee National Forest 
1st Place Overall 4:53:55 (CR)

Plans change. All through this past summer and early fall I was focused on XC 8k's, running in open invitational collegiate meets and this would in turn set me up for a solid indoor track season where I wanted to PR in some track races. Well like I said plans change. After some sub par XC performances, I was not where I wanted or thought I should be. I PR'd in an 8k a couples weeks ago but still was lacking motivation. I was also losing the hunger to continue this hall into an further long hall of an indoor and outdoor track season. I'm just tired of the regimented workouts. I needed a change of pace, I felt a push to do another ultra. Insert the Ondessonk 50k.

I stumbled upon the Ondessonk 50k in a search for nearby ultras in the Midwest. This one landing in mid October worked out perfectly. After deciding to pull the plug on a track season I decided this race would be my last hoorah for the year, then some down time for a couple weeks. This event was in its 3rd installment with the 50k only in its 2nd year. It has a 5k, 1/2 marathon and 50k option all in the backyard of the Camp Ondessonk, Ozark, IL on the fringe of the Shawnee National Forrest. In my search I knew I wanted a 50k with some decent climbing and I thought this course would provide me with just that...and it did. With a hop skip and a jump of a 3:30 hour drive south I was all in.

Pre Race:
I left Springfield, IL in the late afternoon and arrived at Camp Ondessonk around 6:30 p.m. On the way down I ran into a bit of rain and thought this needs to stop right now. It didnt and I will tell you why it was a bad thing it didnt here in a bit. I was planning on setting up the tent somewhere and camping out for the night. Once I checked in I found out they had cabins available for $9, plus it was still raining. The cabins were not your typical cabins. A 3 wall structure with an open face to the woods. I set up for the night as it was still raining. There were a few others in the cabins next to me who ended being very nice and showing me a few shortcuts around the campsite. The night ended up being pretty peaceful. Sleeping was in and out. As I fell asleep I couldnt tell if it was still raining or if it was just the water dripping off the trees onto the roof and fallen leaves. None the less I knew this rain would come to haunt us the next morning. I woke around 5:30 a.m. ate some breakfast and laid back down for 30 minutes or so. Woke back up and carried my stuff back to the car parked back by the lot a half mile away in two different trips.
"Hellspot" Mile 11 where I pulled away

The Race:
To be honest the only thing I was worried about was course marking and not getting lost. I was reassured the course was mark nicely though. Also, I was slightly worried about the course because of all the rain. The course would be one large loop and a couple miles in we were introduced to what we would be dealing with the next few hours. Right off the bat a guy went out at a pretty good clip, come to find out that was Kelly Hutchins of Kentucky. I started off running with Matt Pfau from Missouri and I looked over at him and asked if he knew if he was legit, we had no idea but he was moving for a 50k start. A couple miles in we all joined up and ran together for the first 10 or so. All 3 of us went in the tunnel together in waist deep water, talking about how if this race were in the middle of the summer we might have to deal with snakes. Toward the end of Jackson Hole there was a short but steep section that you had to scrabble up on all fours. I even remember saying out loud "Ya here we go." After this was a stretch of tall prairie grass that led to an aid station. On these two sections I started to pull away. I was feeling pretty good but still wanted to stay under control. Around the drop bag aid station at mile 17 or so I was in much need of my drop bag. I dont think I was taking in enough fluids early on.
1/2 Mile to go!!!
My eating was sporadic because I was so focused on my footing and not falling and just getting through the non stop slop. Around 20 miles I hit a low and was scarred this was the wall. I just kept thinking the foot and water I just put down will start to kick in here soon, just keep moving forward. By the way moving forward was tough. These trails are open to horse riding and the horses have done a number on the trails mix the mix of rain on top of that my footing was everywhere and it was starting to zap my energy and mood. This course would have been much more enjoyable if it were groomed but it wasnt and I could feel it taking its toll on me. My food intake was based on hours spent out on the trail and I was finding out Id out there longer than my anticipated 4 or so. At mile 15 I was at 2:04:00 but things slowed significantly the last third of the race. Fatigue was really setting in and I dealt with a cramped left calf 5 miles to go. I had to sit down on the trail and wait for it to stretch out again. Every step in the mud, or over a log felt like it was going to cramp up again. The last 2 miles seemed to take forever and the finish line couldnt come quick enough. I started to see 1/2 marathoners on the course and kept asking them what there mileage GSP was at so I could gauge of there course compared to what my watch had. None the less it was a challenge and I was able to over come it. There is satisfactory in overcoming a challenge physically and mentally. This race was definitely a challenge and one I wont forget. Overall, it was a good weekend. Talked with new people who share the same passion for suffering I do and catching up with old friends and even teammates. Lastly, a shout out to Jason for putting in so many hours marking the course and setting up and for also catching me as I passed out in front of him.


  1. You did great out there! You're not the first one I've had to catch. Thanks for coming down. - Jason

  2. Hi Justin. I'm curious, what is your current PR in the 8k?

    Way to tackle those ultras! Those 26+ mile races are on my bucket list.

    1. The 8k has always been a tough distance for me to figure out but 26:50 is my PR. In college I was usually around 27:00-27:30

  3. Great work Justin! I always enjoy reading your blog updates. Any OCR's on your calendar for 2017? - David Williams