Saturday morning 8:02 am Charles Smith (Chuck) and I departed the beginning of the Wabash Trace Nature Trail in Council Bluffs, IA. Weather was clear and sunny right at 47 degrees, 85% humidity, N wind at 5 mph. It was beautiful. I wore my Hydration Vest stocked with calories and carried a 20 ounce handheld. Chuck carried a handheld and stashed calories in it. We were being crewed by Miguel Ordorica in a car at various points. The main goal for us was to set out on an adventure that we both have wanted to do. This was on my "to-do" list ever since moving to Omaha back in 2008 when I first ran on it. And Chuck literally grew up on the trail. He has been using it for over 30 years and even completed his first 20-miler back in 1997! And a little fun fact is that Chuck is a huge train enthusiast and knows all the history of the Wabash Railroad and the other historic railroad tracks surrounding it. I learned so much from him as he told me the history of the land, towns, and trains!
This would be Chuck's longest run. He has completed two 50-milers prior, so this was going to be even more special to accomplish the feat. We settled into a good relaxed pace and kept it steady (like a train!!). We marveled at all the bridges we crossed, the beauty of the wildflowers beginning to bloom, and the trees with their new buds emerging. The entire trail was surrounded and lined by trees, which hadn't been there when the railroad was present. These trees have since been established when they converted the railroad track into a trail. The gradual ascending and descending could be felt. It was at such a low percentage grade that you wouldn't be able to tell unless you looked around at the landscape to see the hills rise and fall.
The miles seemed to fly by as we ran down the trail. Both of us made sure to stay on top of our hydration and calories. We'd see Miguel approximately every 3-9 miles to get fluids and calories. And another friend Jason Michalak surprised us by being out there at various places on the trail to cheer us on! We saw a total of three snakes (harmless), six cottontail rabbits, numerous squirrels and snails, various songbirds, a few runners/walkers and bikers, and the occasional people out hunting for mushrooms. Running through the various towns was delightful. They all had a unique midwestern feel to them. Several had neat architecture along the trail that could be admired. The trail was never boring!
As we approached the 40 mile mark Chuck started feeling nauseated. The sun had came up over us and it felt very warm. I believe it got up to the upper 60s, but without a breeze it felt warmer than that. He thought he was going to have to stop in Shenandoah because of his stomach. I had an idea that has helped me in the past and gave him two TUMS. By the time we reached Shenandoah (45 miles) his stomach was coming around and he started to feel better. As we were getting closer to Shenandoah there was a bridge that had been burned down partially a few weeks prior. We read a sign saying to take the HWY to detour around it as it was closed off. We decided to continue down the trail to investigate. Well as we got closer there were about four vehicles parked around it and people were out working on it. It was the Wabash Trace Trail workers. They were restoring the bridge! We told them how grateful we were to see them working on the bridge and asked if there was any way that we could cross. They had the floor of the bridge completed at this time. They said "Absolutely go on through. You'll be the first ones to cross the new bridge!" We were so thrilled! I can't tell you how happy it made us and how thankful we were. I think we said thank you a thousand times!
Moving forward to Shenandoah I noticed the clouds starting to look darker. I went to take a picture of us with my phone using the selfie mode and suddenly saw the storm cloud behind us! Uh-oh! Well we have made it this far so unless there was severe lightning or something that would cause us harm we were going to keep going. Through the town of Shenandoah there is still a few places that you can see the old Wabash Train tracks emerging under the asphalt road. As we passed through Shenandoah the clouds took over the sun and the temperature started to cool. We heard thunder and looked at each other thinking we were about to get stormed on. Sure enough the wind started blowing and rain started falling. It was started whipping rain sideways through the trees at us. I thankfully packed a rain jacket so I threw it on. Chuck did not and was completely drenched! Well thankfully the storm was not severe and it was only wind and rain. It continued for several miles.
We finally reached the point of single digits left to run as the rain stopped. Here we were getting closer to the finish. Chuck kept doing math figuring out how slow he could go to make it under ten hours. It made me laugh because there was no way I would be able to do math and run at the same time. We got to the final crew spot with 5.5 miles to go. The sun came back out and it turned into the most beautiful way to finish. Miguel and Jason were at the end to see us finish and that gave us that little extra special finish! We came to the final railroad marker and stopped our watches for the first time. We ended our adventure at 9:38:13. Setting a PR for Chuck running his longest run and setting the new supported FKT for male and female. To say this was a journey we both needed is an understatement. My heart and soul felt so fulfilled after this run. Even if you don't want to set out for an FKT record, doing this course for your own journey is highly recommended. It will be a day I will never forget.