Post-Mortem: Fall Back Blast 50K

Race Report

I got an email yesterday that the race pictures had been posted on Facebook. I’m not in any of them! This is great. I’m also in zero pictures from Wild Duluth and for that I am grateful, I don’t want to relive that. I don’t mind race pix and generally am not too critical of myself in them, but I don’t mind if I’m not in a photoset. I guess I can file that under “Good Things?” The rest are below.

Good Things
Mental game. I drove down there despite the snow freaking me out. I got up and ran despite an hour of sleep. I didn’t quit even though it would have been so easy to pack it in at 25K or 37.5K. I didn’t get frustrated with running the same sections over and over again, or getting lapped by many runners. Even when my watch died and I kinda gave up a teeny bit, I still kept pushing as best as I could.

General fitness. I didn’t have the training cycle I’d have liked, with a cold and several down weeks due to travel.  But I still managed to pull out a 50K that I’m proud of, and that I feel like I ran fairly well. Sub 8 hours looks like it is in play for me next year, with a dry trail and a bit more strength training. Oh, and if my watch doesn’t die so I can keep better track of where I’m at.

Boldness. I ran another race where I’d be close to the cutoffs (on paper, thanks to my great race at Chippewa Moraine 50K), and there were also very few entrants. Only 21 people finished, so it was my highest numerical placing at an ultra ever, despite being DFL. I was a little worried that everyone else who ran it would be fast, and I’d be the only one out there for like 3 hours. Not so.

Bad Things
Sleep. I don’t know how to fix this. It’s a problem whether I’m at home or away, whether I forgo caffeine or not, whether it’s a race I’ve done before or a new one, no matter what I eat, no matter how much I try to meditate/relax/distract my mind. I am going to just have to figure out how to power through it.

Nutrition. I could have benefited from eating a gel each lap on top of the cookies I ate. I probably also need to stop eating cookies at races, but I really like cookies and I haven’t had any stomach issues when eating them. They had Nilla Wafers at this race, and those are SO easy to eat. Not wanting to eat a gel because I don’t want to take my gloves off or get them sticky is kind of dumb. Maybe I need to look beyond gels.

I don’t really have that many Bad Things because I wasn’t planning on running this race and didn’t train specifically for it. If I were to train specifically for it, I would definitely make sure to do more long runs where I was running continuously. I didn’t realize how hard it would be on my body to run a flatter, faster ultra. Between the increased amount of running and the 2.5 hour car ride home almost immediately after the race, I was hurting badly the next day. It was worth it, though! It took a weight off my shoulders and dispersed a cloud of gloom that had been hanging over me since I DNFed at Wild Duluth. I can go into the Holiday 5K Season confident with how my endurance season ended.

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Fall Back Blast 50K Goals

I signed up for another race! Huzzah!

I wanted to do this 12 hour race in North Dakota on Oct 29 in order to try to meet my summer goal of a distance personal best, but I was worried I would still be sick, and the logistics were kind of terrible, and it snowed a lot here anyway, so I didn’t sign up. Hooray, money saved.

Still annoyed about my DNF at WD50K, I checked Northland Runner to see if I could find another marathon or ultra to do this fall. Glory hallelujah, I found the Fall Back Blast in Eau Claire. 2.5 hour drive, 4 loop course, 9 hour cutoff – works well for me.

The weather doesn’t look like it’s going to be spectacular – it looks like it’s going to rain in the morning – although earlier this week it looked like it was going to rain all day, so things are improving.

Goals:
A Standard: 8:00
B Standard: 8:15
C Standard: 8:45

Why not go for a 50K PR? It won’t be the course PR I was looking for 2 weeks ago, but I kind of have to get over that. Additional goals: avoid severe hypothermia, drive home after the race safely (I’m only staying over Friday night), and avoid soiling myself and/or vomiting everywhere. And then enjoy the extra hour of sleep on Sunday!

Wild Duluth 50K 2017 Goals

I’ve been sick since Friday evening with a crummy cold, and spent most of the two weeks prior traveling for work, so I have barely given a thought to the race unless I was worrying about it.

The weather doesn’t look great either, but I’ll just power through the rain if it comes. My goals are:

A Standard: 8:45
B Standard: 9:15
C Standard: 9:45

Last year I ran 10:23, and my last (significantly easier) 50K was 8:57. I think I can at the very least make my C Standard, even sick and in the rain. My hope is I’ll be able to sleep the night before the race, and I’ll be able to attend the Bulldog men’s hockey game after the race. I’m really excited, but I wish of course that I was healthy and that I hadn’t spent so much time traveling. There’s not much I can do about that now, except hope that my cough subsides and my sinus pressure subsides. And let the race day excitement take over and power me through to the finish.

Wild Duluth 50K 2017: Week 14

Wow! Look at that revisionist title!

Monday: 4.3 mi, treadmill
Tuesday: 5.1 mi, treadmill
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: 4 mi, treadmill
Friday: rest
Saturday: 8.4 mi, trail (Superior Hiking Trail – Fox Farm Rd to Sucker River & back)
Sunday: 11.2 mi, trail (Superior Hiking Trail – Reeves Rd to Lake County Rd 301 & back)
Total: 32.9 mi

I’m still training for Wild Duluth! So this still works as a training week.

Since up til Saturday, I was still planning on running a marathon on Saturday, I did short runs in a controlled environment while watching Game of Thrones on HBOGO. My cats watched the whole time, judged me on my form, and then swarmed onto the treadmill the moment I stopped it. They love plopping over on it, I suppose because the belt is warm.

Hm, that reminds me, I need to lube the treadmill deck.

To salvage the weekend, I decided to hit 2 more segments of the SHT. I ran 8.4 kinda sucky miles on Saturday. The segment is nice, with a few lovely views. On a cooler day I might have liked it more, but the sun was hot! It ended up in the high 60s F, maybe even 70, and I forget that those temps can feel fairly warm when running. I was really glad that the thru-hike distance was much shorter than the advertised distance, because I was ready to get that run over with. It’s a bit hillier than I thought it would be, but another day it might be a perfect section.

Sunday’s segment would have been really pleasant and runnable if not for the mud. The first half mile is along a county road, then the next half mile is on a snowmobile trail. A word to the wise: snowmobile trail = mud + standing water + long grass. Yuck. The rest of the trail alternated between pleasant single track and ankle deep mud. My shoes are in rough shape.

I had to hose myself off after getting home, and completely rinse out my shoes. I stuffed them with newspaper, which absorbed a bit of the water, and I’m out of town until Thursday, so they will have a chance to further dry out, but we’ll see. They only have to make it 3 more weeks.

When I wasn’t slopping through the mud, I was running along Silver Creek and LOVING IT. There are a lot of very easy to run portions of this section of trail, and I would love to get back there when it’s drier. It was a bit more of a drive than I’d have liked, but it is the farthest section of the Duluth to Two Harbors segment (and would have been even farther if I’d started at the Co Rd 301 trailhead) and is a bit beyond what I usually like to drive for a medium-length run.

I’m hoping for one more higher mileage week and then I’ll step down a bit, and then do something similar to the beginning of this week for that final race week – it seemed to work.

I’m considering running another race the weekend after WD50K, but I’m not sure. It would require travel, and I’m already doing a TON of traveling this month (I’m writing this post from Kansas, and next week I’ll be in Massachusetts. Right after WD, I’ll be going to Edmonton). On the other hand, it sounds like fun, and could be a chance for redemption on two accounts – one summer goal, and one fall goal. We’ll see.

Birkie Trail Run Goals

I was feeling super chill about the Birkie Trail Run until yesterday, when I started making my time chart and realized what kind of paces I needed to run. I hadn’t realized until recently that my goal of 7 hours was actually also the cutoff time for the “marathon” (the race is 25.6 miles, something I don’t quite understand, is there not a way to eke another 0.6 miles out of the course?) and I was going to have to readjust my thinking.

So I set my goal times:
A Standard: 6:00:00
B Standard: 6:30:00
C Standard: 6:59:59

And then I started working up my spreadsheet to figure out what time I’d need to be at each aid station. And then I realized all of the paces are faster than I’ve ever run a marathon before. And that for the first 14 or so miles, I’d need to be on that 6:30 pace to hit an intermediate cutoff. (There’s one cutoff before and one cutoff after that one that are 7 hour pace cutoffs so I’m confused.)

So now I’m really anxious about the race, and about getting enough sleep, and about driving an hour and a half each way to get there, and about my slight weight gain, and about the cold-like symptoms I’m experiencing today (the downside of a short taper must be getting that “taper flu” during race week, argh), and about how I have a work trip on Monday morning… worry came rushing in to fill the space left by nonchalance.

I know that I consistently limit myself, with my fears and my doubts. I hold back when I should push. I worry about what might happen a mile down the trail, 10 miles down the trail, instead of focusing on the mile that I’m in. I know that I am a risk-averse runner.

I know that this trail won’t be full of rocks and roots, won’t have long climbs like Moose Mountain (although it has a billion short climbs), and won’t be hot and sticky. I know that I’ve put in a lot of miles (although the average mileage is only a few miles higher than my previous races, due to some low or no mileage weeks) and I’ve run this distance (or farther) five times in the 12ish months.

My non-time-related goal for this race is to be bold. This doesn’t mean charging up the first hill of the race and wearing myself out. It does mean running uncomfortably at times. It does mean forcing myself through the low points in the race rather than babying myself until I get out of them. It does mean this race is gonna hurt. But if I don’t start running more bravely, I’m never going to progress. I’m never going to be anything other than a back of the pack runner who is limited from entering some races due to cutoffs.

Tonight and tomorrow, I’m going to do my best to relax, have fun with my family, eat some chocolate birthday cake (not my bday, my Gramps’), and get my prep work done early so I can wake up and drive to Cable on Saturday morning feeling confident and relaxed.

Birkie Trail Run Training: Week 13

What’s a taper?

Monday: 5.9 mi, trail (Hartley)
Tuesday: 8.6 mi, road
Wednesday: 5.2 mi, trail (Minnesota Point)
Thursday: rest
Friday: 10 mi, pavement (Lakewalk)
Saturday: 5.3 mi, road + trail (Ran to Bagley, did one short loop, ran home)
Sunday: 11.2 mi, trail (Superior Hiking Trail – Rossini Rd to Lake County Demonstration Forest & back)
Total: 46.3 mi

I know the marathon is this weekend, but since I had 2 weeks “off” and my goal race is Wild Duluth, I figured there’s no harm in running a regular week of mileage. I spent a lot of time on the trails, too, I guess in some kind of attempt to make up for all the road running I’ve done this summer. And also because summer was giving its last dying gasp this past week.

Monday I ran at Hartley, and started a bit late, to the point where I was running in… hemidemisemidarkness, I guess. It is hard to get in a lot of mileage at Hartley since the trails have changed a bit, but I still enjoy running there.

Then I went home and made A Food.

Oh my god @theseasalt this is so good. #foodforrunners #idontknowhowtophotographfood #conservationofmomentum

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It’s been awhile since I made something really good for dinner (I was on a good kick for awhile), but I made this Golden Rice Bowl with Spicy Cauliflower and Black Beans bowl. I had dinner and 3 lunches out of this recipe, and the flavors are delicious – turmeric! Red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper! Also I am mentioned* in the recipe!

*I choose to believe “some of my favorite people in the world” includes me.

Tuesday I ran an unremarkable road run. Eating a lot of cauliflower kind of messed with my GI system so I cut it a little short, I was planning on 10 miles.

Wednesday, I needed a reset, and decided to go for scenery over miles or speed. I haven’t been out on Minnesota Point in a long time – I run the roads out there, but not the trails. Part of this is because it involves running in sand, which I dislike. The trails are also pretty short – I had to run all over the place and get creative to get to 5 miles. Some of the trails end abruptly, or they are overgrown. I just prayed there wasn’t any poison ivy (I didn’t contact any, whew). I finished running at sunset.

#Duluth #parkpoint #conservationofmomentum

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Friday my legs felt terrible when I set out on the Lakewalk. (Well, actually I started in Kitchigammi Park.) I wasn’t interested in slogging it out so I kept forcing my legs forward and ended up running a sub-13 minute pace without overexerting myself (once my legs loosened up, that is). I narrowly missed getting hung up by the scenic railroad where it crosses the trail near Blackwoods, but it passed before I got there. The acoustics were right and I could hear the announcers and the crowd at the East-Denfeld football game even after I was a couple miles away. It was a great way to spend a Friday night. I thought about all the football games I went to in high school, usually sneaking in with the pep band and dancing along to “Green Onions” and the other jazzy tunes they would play.

Saturday was hot. I was headed to a hockey game that afternoon so I needed to get my run in before. That meant running in the heat of the day, and I’m pretty sure it was 85F, with full sun, when I headed out. It was pretty miserable and I walked whenever I felt like it. I was so glad to be out of the sun during my quick loop at Hartley (I did the big hill loop, so at least I didn’t cop out that way), and I was wishing for a water bottle on the way home. On a 5 mile run! Ugh.

Sunday was hot too! I hit another Duluth-to-Two-Harbors section of the SHT. It was only 70F in Duluth, so I thought it wouldn’t be so bad up the shore. Nope, it was almost 80F. My run was painfully slow, due in part to the heat and also due to the more technical terrain, as compared to the segment I ran the weekend before. I had to climb over fallen trees and pick my way through scree, so I naturally slowed down over the mostly runnable section headed the opposite way.

I’m taking it fairly easy this upcoming week (with my usual strategy of denying the race is coming up soon) before spending basically the entire month of October traveling (3 out of 4 weeks, I have a business trip, and the only week I don’t is the week leading up to Wild Duluth, so I’m not thrilled), so who knows what kind of mileage I’ll get after that. I’m excited about the Birkie, even after finding out the race time limit is 7 hours (which was my goal time, oops) and realizing I’ll have to leave the house at 5:30 a.m.

Birkie Trail Run Training Weeks 11 and 12

The woman who kicked the hornet’s nest.

Monday: 10.4 mi, treadmill
Tuesday: rest (trip logistics)
Wednesday: rest (driving)
Thursday: rest (driving – some walking at Niagara Falls)
Friday: 2.5 mi, treadmill
Saturday: rest (some walking at Thorne Head Nature Preserve, also lots of aggressively bad dancing)
Sunday: rest (water-skiing for “cross-training”)
Total: 12.9 mi

Monday: rest (walking around Kennebunkport, water-skiing)
Tuesday: rest (driving)
Wednesday: 3.75 mi, treadmill (plus walking around the ballpark in Cleveland)
Thursday: rest (driving – some walking at ballpark in Detroit)
Friday: 6.6 mi, road
Saturday: 9.1 mi, trail (Superior Hiking Trail – Twin Ponds to Haines Rd & back)
Sunday: 12.6 mi, trail (Superior Hiking Trail – Rossini Rd to Fox River Rd & back)
Total: 32.1 mi

A week and a half of only treadmill running really sucked! Good thing it only consisted of two runs. My Monday (week 11) run got split into 2 runs so that I could get some stuff done. I ran on the treadmill, then did some trip prep, then ran on the treadmill some more. I’m trying to remember why I did this – I assume it must have been raining or cold. Or I just wanted to be around to get more stuff done.

I had also intended to run Tuesday (week 11), and in fact got dressed in my running gear and, after visiting my grandparents, started driving to the Highland/Getchell trailhead, and about halfway there, looked at the sky and realized the one time I don’t obsessively check the weather before going out running, a giant thunderhead is looming over the hill. During the downpour, I drove to buy pet food and litter, which was a good use of time and was sort of on the way. I considered going home and running on the treadmill, but realized I had a lot of trip prep left to do, plus some additional housecleaning. (I actually cleaned my house somewhat during the time I had off before we started driving. It still looks messy compared to most people’s houses, but a heck of a lot better than it had, and it was nice to come home to clean sheets and no dirty dishes.) I can’t do laundry and run the treadmill at the same time since they are on the same breaker, so I decided not to run. I could have managed my time better and gotten in one more run before I left, but that would require a lobotomy.

My treadmill run on Friday (week 11) was uneventful, as was my treadmill run Wednesday (week 12).

I was SO glad to get back out running on Friday (week 12). I almost didn’t get out there because I thought it was going to storm – then I watched the radar animation and saw the path of the rain. However, it was misty and visibility was low, plus my allergies were acting up badly and I’d taken a pill that was making my head a bit fuzzy, so I shortened my 8 mile run to 6.6. That doesn’t seem like much but 1.4 miles takes me awhile, so I was able to provide my brain enough excuses to turn back for home early.

Saturday (week 12) I wanted to make sure I ran before the predicted thunderstorm hit (spoiler: it didn’t) and get home in time to have a shake from Coney Island Deluxe courtesy of my dad. I decided I’ve been avoiding tough trails long enough, and decided to run the Superior Hiking Trail from Twin Ponds back toward Enger/24th Ave W/Highland-Getchell, turning around when I reached around 5 miles. This didn’t work out. First off, it was 1. sunny and 2. warm, two things I was not anticipating. I didn’t put on sunscreen, because I am stupid, and I only brought one handheld, which I thought would be sufficient for a cooler day. Maybe it would have been enough, we’ll never know.

I really hate that section of the SHT. After passing through the 24th Ave W trailhead, there’s a quick flat section followed by this really long, steep, annoying climb. It’s less than 400 ft in total elevation change, but it has a fairly steep grade and I am also not a mountain runner so I don’t know what I’m talking about. Then there’s a bunch of little climbs I don’t like, some of which are exposed. So I was hot, rationing water a bit (nothing dire), grumpy, hungry somehow (oops), and overall not having a good time. I reached Haines Road and decided to turn around there, even though it was short of 5 miles (I think 4.6?), because I didn’t want to go up that climb (it’s short but steep and also slippery due to lots of exposed boulders) and I also wanted to be done before 5. I tried to make up some time on the way back after having a gel (not enough), and was starting to enjoy myself once I started the descent of the aforementioned annoying climb. Somewhere before Miller Creek, while I was cooking along, I got stung by a bee. I haven’t been stung in a long time (which is surprising, since there are bees all over the place on the SHT), and while it was initially less painful than I remembered, it still sucked, and it hurt the rest of the run (I was stung on my right calf muscle) and the rest of the night it both hurt and itched. I decided to cheat a little to get done sooner, and ran along Skyline Drive past Enger Park Golf Course instead of dipping back onto the SHT after crossing Piedmont. I was able to get done a bit more quickly by running on the road (although I got back on for the last 2 segments at Enger Park), and by that point I was SO DONE with running and didn’t care if I ran 10 miles.

I decided I will not be running the Wild Duluth course sections of the Superior Hiking Trail from now until the race. I don’t need to be annoyed by/sick of the race course come race day. It’s just very irritating that the SHT section nearest my home is the one I hate the most. Yes, I could go the other way from Twin Ponds, but it’s all downhill from there until the Lakewalk, and then it’s a lot of city running back up the hill to Hartley. I barely consider that the SHT.

Sunday I tried out a new segment of the SHT, as per my fall running goals. I drove up Highway 61 to check out the Rossini Road to Fox River Road section. I actually intended to go the other way, but when I pulled up to the Rossini Road trailhead and was getting my gear on, a woman I know came out of the woods. We started chatting and she offered to run the Rossini Road to Lake County Demonstration Forest section with me at another time, since it would be new to her. So I headed back toward town instead of up the shore. I think I’m going to make a separate trail review post, so I won’t get too far into the details of the trail. I started about as late as I could start while still getting done before dark. This was great until I took a wrong turn on the way back and ended up going north until I was past Larsmont, so I got home after dark anyway. Oh man, I cannot even think about what it’s going to be like when daylight saving time ends. The run itself felt good and I was moving along pretty well. I didn’t get hungry til the last few miles, at which time I reminded myself during a race, I’d be eating stuff at aid stations instead of eating a single gel over 12.8 miles. Oh, I ate a tiny granola bar right before I started running. So a tiny granola bar and a gel over 12.8 miles (and 3.5 hours). Not the best. I did have plenty of water as I decided to wear my hydration pack (which I’d initially vowed not to wear until the race – but I didn’t want 2 handhelds and it’s basically the same as a weighted vest, right?) and didn’t close the valve on the mouthpiece so it leaked all over my passenger seat and my gear. Sigh.