Race Report: Moose Mountain Marathon

I did it.
My friend Katherine took this photo. One of the perks of volunteering is there are always friends at the finish line.

Official Results:
Time: 8:23:29
Pace: 19:13
Overall: 207/258
Gender: 81/112
Division (OPEN F): 37/50

Watch Results:
Time: 8:23:28
Pace: 17:10/mi
Distance: 29.31 mi (hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha)
Heart Rate: 131 bpm (my HRM only intermittently worked)
Obviously I had some technical difficulties.

A: 8:30
B: 9:00
C: 9:59:59

What I ate the night before: Goldfish crackers, chunks of bread & Nutella, 2 cookies, Triscuits
What I ate on race morning: a Clif bar at the marathon start
What I carried with me: 3 Clif bars, 10 Gu packets, Powerade

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

Discussion: I feel amazing right now, even hours after I finished running. I’m writing this at 10 pm, just after the race officially ended. I know this because I could hear the finish line from my room, and listened to the awards ceremony and the names of the runners as they crossed the finish line. I would have joined to help out but I feel pretty drained and even going down to get my post-race chili after cleaning up felt difficult.

I arrived Friday afternoon feeling pretty out of it. I thought I was sick but I am pretty sure it was just adrenaline. I helped hand out race t-shirts to marathoners and 50 milers, and then helped pack things up for the race morning check in. I hung out in my room and hoped to relax, but my heart race was still elevated and I don’t think I fell asleep until 1 am or so. But I slept until about 5:30, so at least I slept!

I got on the bus to the race start and hoped I wouldn’t get motion sickness. I don’t get bad motion sickness but just feel a little off/slightly nauseated. I hadn’t eaten anything at that point and had only had a little bit of Powerade so I was behind on nutrition from the start. I ate my Clif bar once I got there and didn’t warm up because I didn’t feel like it. I was wearing a lightweight rain jacket because I wasn’t sure about the weather (it rained while I was getting ready and had rained overnight, poor 100 milers!) but I took it off once off the bus since it wasn’t too cold. It folds up and zips into its own pocket and weighs like 1 lb so I just stuffed it in my hydration pack. I opted not to use drop bags or send a bag of clothes back from the start, just to simplify things. My friend Matt, a Ham radio volunteer, was at the start and I was able to talk to him until the pre-race briefing started.

One of the key elements in my pacing strategy was a little pace sheet I printed out, giving me times I needed to reach each aid station in order to reach my time goals. This is the only reliable way to stay on pace, since GPS is always a little off, and in this case, 3 miles off. However, I was unaware that the start had a funky little turnaround before we went through the aid station that is listed as the marathon start.The turnaround adds 0.8 miles, which was significant enough to affect my pace plans. [Update 9/15: it doesn’t add 0.8 miles, I read the map wrong; it is included in the 26.2.]

Cramer Rd – Temperance River AS: 7.9 mi, 2:34:05, 19:30 pace (segments ended when I left the aid station)
I didn’t start in last place like I usually do, and ended up falling in between two grand masters runners with tons of experience. We reached the first turn, then saw there was a traffic jam where the singletrack began. No one was able to run very much at the beginning, so we settled in for awhile. I ran with a small group of people for the first few miles, enjoying the runnable sections along the Cross River especially. I tripped while crossing one of the creeks, didn’t lift my foot up high enough to step onto the bridge. Once I started the climb that precedes the descent into Temperance, I separated a bit and ran by myself. I had heartburn so I was glad to be alone to just feel crappy. I ate a gel at miles 3 and 6. Nothing else eventful happened, I guess, or maybe I just forgot. How do people write such detailed race reports? I think I also ate a Jolly Rancher and maybe a wintergreen LifeSaver. I rolled into the aid station, ate some potato chips, and left, forgetting that I’d wanted to throw away some garbage and also drink some pop. Oops.
(I am not sure how the 0.8 mi fits into this, so I am going off just the distances given on the aid station charts. I don’t know if the 0.8 mi addition to the start makes the total distance 26.2 or 27 mi, but since it’s billed as a marathon, I’m going off that pacing.) Update 9/15: the total distance is 26.2. It’s 7.9 miles from the start/Cramer Rd to Temperance for marathoners, and 7.1 miles from Cramer Rd to Temperance for 50 and 100 mile runners.

Temperance River AS to Sawbill AS: 5.7 mi, 1:44:32, 18:21 pace
Out of Temperance, I trotted along for awhile, reapplying sunscreen and trying to wash down the chips. I ate part of a Clif bar before the Carlton Peak ascent began (I was also passed by the 50 mile winner just before the ascent!). I suffered through that as best as I could. There was a race photographer near the top, so that was marvelous. We’ll see how the picture turned out, I was beet red, I’m fairly certain. I think I have a bit of a sunburn but we’ll see tomorrow. I kept putting one foot in front of the other and actually passed a few people on the climb. It’s pretty tough, and there are big boulders at the top (which is not actually the summit, thank goodness). I was able to run a bit after getting off Carlton, and rolled into the Sawbill aid station. I remembered to throw my trash away, filled my 1/4 full Powerade bottle with water (the sports drink there was Heed, and I’ve never tried it, so I didn’t want to risk it), slammed a cup of Coke and a cup of ginger ale, ate some more potato chips, and left.

Sawbill AS to Oberg AS: 5.5 mi, 1:49:01, 18:49 pace
I slowed a bit during this section for some unknown reason. I guess just generally losing energy. This is also where my GPS went crazy, telling me I was running 9 or 10 minute paces at time. I realized it was completely useless and tried to just focus on running well. I fell in with a 100 mile runner and his pacer; they let me lead up a hill, then passed me, then I passed them when the runner stopped to pee, then I led up a hill, they passed me, I passed them during another pee break, and then that was it. The runner finished a bit behind me and I congratulated him at the finish line after his crew/family did, and we hugged. This section felt really long, especially for only being 5.5 miles. Nothing was really that hard, except for a few switchback sections. I tripped and fell in some mud and scraped up my leg a bit, but was otherwise ok. I tripped another time about a mile later. I was starting to feel like Grandpa Simpson with his frequent trips to the ground. I stopped to pee at some point along the trail, then caught up to some others and ran with one woman til we reached the aid station. It was quite a bit further from the Onion River than I remembered, and I found that sort of annoying. The Oberg aid station was AMAZING, though. Concierge service. I had my water bottle refilled, was led to the food, and even had someone take the trash right out of my hydration vest pocket. I mean… wow. That’s how I will acquit myself on every aid station volunteering stint from here on out. I had more chips and more Coke and ginger ale, and then left.

Oberg AS to Finish: 7.1 mi, 2:15:56, 19:08 pace
I thought as I left Oberg that I still had a chance to run under 8 hours. Hahahaha. Moose Mountain and Mystery Mountain said no. I was running slower even before then. I chowed down on a gel before climbing Moose Mountain, and then just put one foot in front of the other and hauled myself up.

And was met at the top by one of the race’s social media contributors!

I look like a Sith lord, which is good. He actually took a video but I swore on it (He asked how I felt and I said “I feel great, I’m done with this sh*t!”) and our conversation wasn’t that funny (he reminded me Mystery Mountain was still to come, I said I knew but I just was happy to be done with Moose Mountain, it was confusing).

I recovered and was able to run some on the top of Moose Mountain, and then slowed for the steep descent. I had another gel right before Mystery Mountain, popped in a LifeSaver, and then dug in for the switchbacks. I had hardly seen any other runners, just one 100er/pacer, and enjoyed being able to handle both tough ascents alone. Once I got to the top of Mystery Mountain, I was… giddy. Like, grinning and laughing to myself like a goon. I was ecstatic to be done with the climbs, and I could smell the barn!

It was at this point I realized that I needed to move my butt or I wasn’t going to make it ahead of my goal. I didn’t know how far I had left to go and I knew I was going to have to hustle. I was passed by a volunteer running by, who told me that I had 2 miles to go; I was thinking I had less, so that was a kick in the crotch. I passed a marathoner who was ambling along, not sure if he was bonking or just didn’t feel like running. A 50 mile runner passed me and we had a little chat as he flew by (he was the 5th and last to pass me; no marathoners passed me after I took my bathroom break), and I tried to keep my pace up. I ate the little bit of the gel remaining from Mystery Mountain and that was it, even though I was actually hungry. I knew I could eat at the finish.

I can’t say I really hammered it once I reached the road, but I did kick it up a notch. I didn’t like losing the shade of the trail, since the sun was still fairly strong, but I didn’t care too much since I was almost done. Once I turned off the road to come around the back side of the resort, I was grinning, and I ran through the chute smiling. There were a lot of nice people cheering and some women gave me high fives as I crossed the finish line, got my finisher’s medal, hugged the finish line coordinator, and accepted some glorious lemonade from the race director.

I went back to my room, cleaned all the mud off, changed my clothes, and then goofed around in my hotel room for a little while before I mustered the strength to go down to get the post-race chili (and some kind of quinoa salad), then brought it back to my room to eat, since I was feeling kinda… dazed, I guess. I drank some pop, ate some goldfish crackers, watched some Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, read, and listened to the sounds of the race.

I loved the race, loved the atmosphere, the other runners, the volunteers, the race staff, everything. The Minnesota/Wisconsin trail running community is so inclusive; fast or slow, everyone genuinely encourages each other and looks out for one another. We are here to have fun, to enjoy the beautiful trails, and to test our own limits.

And speaking of testing limits, I signed up for the Wild Duluth 50K.

9 thoughts on “Race Report: Moose Mountain Marathon

  1. Congratulations on a grueling race! I’m also impressed that you were able to write your race report so soon. I understand that post marathon haze feeling. The trails looked breathtaking and crazy hard.


    1. Some of the best views are in the 50 miler or 100 mile race, but it is heaven to run on that trail no matter what segment. I had a lot of down time after the race since I was staying another night at the lodge, and I was there by myself.


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