Race Report: Superior 25K

Official Results:
Time: 4:51:40
Pace: 18:47
Placing:
Overall: 258/288
Gender: 133/157
Division (OPEN F): 75/87

Watch Results:
Time: 4:51:51
Pace: 20:27
Distance: 14.26 mi
Heart Rate: 163

Goals:
A: 3:59:59
B: 4:15:00

Food:
What I ate the night before: Goldfish crackers, a banana, chunks of bread & Nutella, 2 cookies, Rice Chex
What I ate on race morning: one chunk of bread & nutella at the condo, banana after packet pickup
What I carried with me: 2 energy bars

Gear:
What I wore: cap sleeve tech t-shirt, shorts, ball cap
Gadgets: GPS watch, heart rate monitor, fitness tracker

Discussion: Oh man, this race broke me. It chewed me up and spit me out again. At times I vowed not to run the race ever again, not to run the Moose Mountain Marathon, and that I would never be capable of running something as intense as a 100 miler. The only reason I didn’t contemplate dropping out of the race is there’s only one chance to drop: the aid station at the turnaround. A few hours later and I’m probably going to sign up for a marathon before MMM in September. Ah, recovery. And shade, and a ceiling fan, and cold water and vanilla Coke. I’ve already forgotten the pain. Mostly.

I slept kinda poorly, but still got more sleep, and definitely more restful sleep, than I did for Zumbro. I woke up before 6, thanks to the sun coming through the roman shades of my east-facing condo, and I couldn’t get back to sleep due to race-day anxiety. I got out of bed around 6:30, and almost everything was ready to go. I’d laid my clothes out the night before, stocked up my baggies of food, mints, and medicines (I ended up combining the mints and pills into one baggie so that I could also carry a baggie full of sunscreen, since I didn’t have a small enough tube.)

I stayed only a mile from the race start, and my worries about parking were for nothing, there was a huge lot with plenty of space. For some reason I remember that lot being smaller for the fall races last year, when I was working the parking area, but I guess I was either wrong, or there were a lot more people last year. I am fairly certain some people slept in various RVs in the parking lot. I checked in for a second time (required for people who checked in initially on Friday) and went back to my car, since it was close to the start. I screwed around for awhile and then realized it was getting close to race time and I needed to warm up. I ran about 0.4 miles to warm up and returned just before the short pre-race briefing. I lined up near the back and tried to stay out of the background of people’s selfies.

I started the race in near-last place and clearly didn’t budge from there. The race starts out on Ski Hill Road, winds a little less than a mile down the road (which turns to gravel), and then hits the Superior Hiking Trail. It crosses the Poplar River right away, which was a nice early view. There’s a slight gentle climb before hitting the first climb, Mystery Mountain. I think that climb went all right. I can’t remember, my brain has been fried. I was overall slower than I would have liked to be, but I figured I’d have time to catch up. Mystery Mountain has a fairly gentle descent on the other side, so I bombed down that with another guy, who I am going to guess swallowed about one bug per mile during the time we were running near each other. The bugs were rather annoying; I was getting dive-bombed by flies, they were landing on the underside of the bill of my hat, and in general irritating me. They only went away when there was a breeze or I was able to run decently fast. I caught some people on the downhill. There was a short section between Mystery Mountain and Moose Mountain, and then came the steep climb up Moose Mountain. It was really starting to warm up; it had been over 60F at race start, and as the sun rose, so did the temperature.

The climb up Moose Mountain to begin the race was steep, but I was still in control. Once I crested the mountain, I encountered the first runners of the 25K on their way back. They were really zipping by. The first two guys were only a few minutes apart, and it turned out the first 4 runners finished within 5 minutes of each other. The 5th runner overall was a woman, so it was nice to see her kicking some butt out there. She took down the course record.

I started to feel like a real jerk as I realized what these speedy runners were coming up from. Once I began the descent of Moose Mountain, I realized it was steep and awful. It wasn’t runnable (for me) on the way down, which was really annoying, as I was hoping to pick up some time on the downhill like I had on Mystery Mountain. I stepped aside and let the faster runners pass, offering encouragement as the hauled themselves up the long, steep climb. When I reached the bottom I was fairly horrified I’d be suffering through that same climb in a few hours.

I was encountering 25K runners regularly after Moose Mountain, which was difficult on single track. I tried to offer encouragement and many offered the same in return. I got a little tired of stepping off the trail or skirting to the side (sometimes right into branches), but that is how the race goes. It was throwing off my rhythm, but it turned out that didn’t matter! I crossed another creek, tromped directly through some mud other people were trying to pick their way around, and began the final ascent of “the front 7.5,” if you will.

The ascent of Oberg Mountain was less challenging, as it wasn’t as steep, but I was dodging runners and less able to offer a cheerful to them during some of the steeper parts. I came across the first 50K runner during the ascent to Oberg, and he told me “great job” (or something) before I could even congratulate him. He looked incredibly strong and finished under 4 hours, 26 minutes ahead of the next guy, someone I know by sight from running around Duluth. I saw maybe 4 50K runners before I got to the turnaround; I’d been hoping to avoid seeing any, but I realize that was pretty silly, considering even my initial time goals.

I thought I heard the aid station coming up, but it turned out it was a small pack of people with cowbells out to cheer us up over the top of Oberg Mountain. It was great to see them and get a nice pick-me-up, they were really lively. I did tease them that I thought they were the aid station and was a little bummed out. I also didn’t realize that the aid station isn’t on the top of the mountain. I don’t know why it would be, because that is stupid, you can’t drive to the top of these places. It meant another descent (fine) followed by another ascent (not fine).

The Oberg Aid Station people were totally amazing. There were people directing traffic, another guy greeted me with a pitcher of water to refill my bottle (I dumped the remaining contents of my water bottle on myself, soaking my hat and hair, before refilling), another guy put ice in my sports drink bottle himself and then handed me some cubes that I stuffed into my sports bra. I don’t remember where I read to do that, but whatever race report or blog I saw it on, I’m grateful, it came in handy. They had sunscreen at the aid station and I slathered up again, ate a couple of pretzels, and left.

The pretzels didn’t sit too well, so I had to back off the ascent out of the aid station. The banana I’d had for breakfast hadn’t been sitting well in my stomach for the whole race. It wasn’t disastrous, but I was burping banana and overall feeling a little yucky. The cold water and cold sports drink felt so good, I drank a little too much and started feeling full and nauseated. This was a very bad sign. I slowed down, even on the descent down Oberg, to let my stomach settle.

Then I hit the Moose Mountain climb, and that’s where the race fell apart. I felt so awful and sick climbing it. The only saving grace was it was in the shade; if it had been in the sun I’d have needed to crawl up. It took forever, and I finally took to stopping to let my heart rate go down and my nausea abate. I just felt so terrible. This happened the rest of the race: my stomach felt full, and then every time it settled, I would take another drink of water/Powerade and feel gross again. Most people would probably just puke and rally, but I am too much of a wimp for that. Another woman climbing behind me was shouting encouragement (how? she was climbing too!), which was so nice to hear. I cheered when I reached the top. I was surprised that I was able to do a little bit of running after a bit, but I was still mostly walking/hiking.

On the descent of Moose Mountain, I encountered a 50K runner, which wouldn’t have been unusual except that he’d already passed me. He’d run out of water and his body had just quit on him. Another 50K runner came across him at the same time I did and gave this guy his spare water bottle. Trail people are the best. I made it down Moose Mountain but I was in fairly rough shape at that point and had no interest in running. I knew there was one more ascent coming, but I thought it would be a bit easier.

Mystery Mountain was another disaster. It’s not as steep as Moose Mountain, but it goes on forever, and it’s in partial sun. (Maybe later on in the year, like, say, September, it is more shaded, once the trees have leaves, but the bare branches were offering no respite.) I encountered that poor guy with no water once again, and he had to get some more water from the woman behind me (same one cheering me up the Moose Mountain) to continue. I ran into two other 50K runners who needed water and I was able to share some. None of us accounted for the heat, but most runners were still prepared with hydration packs or handhelds. Some people either had nothing or had a single water bottle and had lost that gamble. I don’t get it. Maybe if I was fast I would, but running out of water on a hot day would have been terrible. The final aid station for the 50K (Oberg) is almost 8 miles from the finish. Be safe, people!

I felt crummy descending Mystery Mountain, and even tripped and fell once, although it was pretty slo-mo and I didn’t get hurt. All my goals were slipping away… sub-4, 4:15… then I adjusted to 4:30 and that came and went, and then I realized I was unlikely to beat my Zumbro time and unlikely to break 5 hours. It seems at some point my GPS got confused and I was shorted a mile. I know I didn’t go off course at any time because the shape of my GPS data is the same as the shape of the race map, and because the trail was extremely well-marked. So I’m not sure what happened there or when it happened, but I didn’t know that I was short according to my GPS data until I was almost done. I realized I was crossing the Poplar River again, and there was a volunteer there to cheer people on. She said “less than a mile to go!” and I hadn’t even hit 14 miles on the GPS yet. People at trail races aren’t jerks who lie about stuff like that, so I realized I could still break 5 hours and perked up a bit. The road is also mostly downhill so that was enticing, too. I was able to get a steady pace on the pavement, my stomach stayed under control, and I was able to run in to the finish.

I got my medal, drank a cup of cold water, and then got a cup of lemonade and sipped on that. There was chili for a post-race meal, but I just couldn’t imagine eating chili. I wanted to go back to the condo and die in piece. I found the poor dehydrated 50K guy, who was still upright and functional. He gave me a nice sweaty hug and said I saved his life, although I wasn’t the one who gave him water. I told him it just wasn’t our day, and he agreed and said it didn’t matter, being out there was what mattered, to which I agreed.

I am not too badly sunburned. Arms look ok, legs are ok, face has seen worse. I think my plan for the rest of the night is take-out from the resort restaurant, a bath in the whirlpool tub, maybe lance a few blisters, and then some Star Trek: Voyager and crossword puzzles, because I am cool. Oh, and a short evening hike down to the shore, for some active recovery. It should be blissful.

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