" Strolling Jim 40," it's called, but it's really 41.2 miles, my first ultra.

There are 2 start times: 5am for the "trekkers," and 7am for the competitors. I called it the geezer start, and took that option, with almost half the other entrants. It's a pretty close-knit bunch, mostly regulars, who run this. There were a couple women on the sideline in the dark shortly after our start, good-naturedly hollering out well wishes for the "trekker trash." I heard there were more than 70 entered.

 I had hoped to finish in about 9 hours, but after driving the course the day before, I added 15 or 20 minutes because of the hills. They looked bad. This meant about 1:07 or 1:08 for every 5 miles.

We were running on country roads, chatting away, everybody settling into their pace. We laughed when we saw spray-painted on the road, "Bad dogs, next 40 miles."

We spread out, and I hit 5 miles in 1:06.

It was cloudy, so we never did see the sun come up, it just got brighter. As we ran through the low spots we encountered thick fog.  At one place runners no more than 75 meters in front of me disappeared into it. As I looked over the fields I could see the tops of huge trees sticking up out of the heavy fog. Very nice.

10 miles in 2:15. I continued with my walk breaks, at least 1 minute every half-mile, and I tried to walk most of the hills. We went up a long incline with "This is not a hill" written on it. The hills later made this look flat.

Half marathon in 2:56 as we continued past the horse ranches and huge fields. It was a nice course, with gallon water bottles every 2 miles. There were no official aid stations, but there were plenty of "rolling crews" out there with assistance, if necessary. Some of the unassisted water stops had more than 15 gallons of water. I filled my bottle every chance I had.

I was playing tag with a couple guys: I'd catch them, we'd chat for a bit, then they'd take off again. I ran with a girl for several miles, but she faded. I heard later she quit about 17 miles into it. She was carrying everything she needed, and it looked heavy. I told her she could throw some of it my car (my son was driving the course), but she never did.

After running 15 miles (3:22) the impact of what I was doing really hit home.  At this point, I realized that I still had a full marathon ahead of me.  I took an extra walk break and ate some salted potatoes that my son had in the car. 

I figured the "real runners" would catch me somewhere around mile 18, and I wasn't too far off. Two of them came hammering up behind me right before I hit 20 (4:30), a third no more than 10 meters behind them. None of the trekkers had passed me at this point, but an occasional runner would pass me every now & then after this.

I hit 25 miles in 5:37, marathon distance in 5:52. As I made a turn by a shady creek a couple miles later, I saw one of the runners who had passed me a while back with his shoes & socks off, his legs in the cool water. I asked if he was ok, and he said he was starting to cramp up, but he thought he'd be all right. He passed me again maybe 5 miles later, favoring his right leg, but gamely hanging on.

Thirty miles in 6:44 miles, 50k in 6:57.  Some serious hillage around here, some too steep to run even if I wanted to. The hills were merciless, and kept coming. I shuffled up them as best I could, and I was holding pace.

35 miles in 7:50.

I had eaten a bowl of ramen noodle soup before the start, I had been gu'ing up at least every 5 miles, I had Accelerade, I ate a banana, and I was eating salted, boiled potatoes every now & then, but even with all that I started hitting the wall as I was coming up on mile 37. It wasn't pretty. The next couple miles were miserable, and I walked the uphills, but I didn't quit running.

Shortly after passing mile 38, I saw another message sprayed on the road as we headed up another hill. "5k to go. Kick NOW!" I got quite a laugh out of that one. Halfway up that hill was another: "Only wimps walk here." The messages were painted on the road one word at a time, so they would be read as you ran past them. When I saw that last one, I jogged over the 30 feet of the message, so I could say that at least I didn't walk there.

Mile 40 passed in 9:04.  My Fitsense had been beeping off the miles, and at every 5-mile marker, it had read the respective distance within 25 feet. It's quite accurate. More about that later.

As I came into the last mile, I could see that nobody was closing in on me, and the guy in front had been slowly pulling away the last couple miles. This would by finish position. There was a turn about .2 from the finish, and my plan was to jog/walk to that point, then run past the turn to the finish.

As I negotiated the turn, I saw the fellow who had been soaking his legs hobbling painfully ahead of me. I approached him, and he said he was going to finish, but his right calf was cramping badly. I could see it all knotted up, ugly, it appeared to have small fingers or something moving around under the skin.  It hurt just to look at it.

I ran across the finish line in 9:20:53, 41.2 miles by the road, my Fitsense read 41.1, so I left if on a minute as I walked around, and it turned over to 41.2 before I even got to the drink stand, maybe 100 feet from the line. It had taken me 48 minutes to run that last 5k (which wasn’t that bad, I had been averaging a little over 42).

None of the trekkers had passed me after about mile 3, and I had passed 4 of them, and of the runners who passed me, I caught back up to 2 of them (although they were both injured). I heard that 3 dropped out. 

Final place, 64 out of 75, just absolutely fine with me.

The back of my left knee was extremely sore and swollen. I couldn't straighten my leg without a lot of difficulty. It had started bothering me about mile 39, but I would have crawled in from there, if need be. I iced it and massaged it, and it got better. My right buttock was just plain sore as hell, so I was limping on both sides.

That's it. I got my t-shirt and little plastic finisher's award and started to head back to the hotel.

On the way to the car, somebody called me an "ultra-runner," and it felt good.