Race Report: Fall Back Blast

Official Results:
Time: 8:14:42
Pace: 15:55
Placing:
Overall: 21/21
Gender: 8/8

Watch Results:
My watch died at 6:12:19.

Goals: 
A: 8:00
B: 8:15
C: 8:45

Food:
What I ate the night before: hummus and vegetable sandwich, two bagels w/cream cheese
What I ate on race morning: bagel w/cream cheese (I like bagels, come at me)
What I carried with me: gels

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt + arm warmers (instead of a long-sleeved shirt), semi-waterproof jacket, lightweight running tights, trucker hat, buff (as headband under hat), gloves
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker, hydration vest

Discussion: I started and finished a race! It’s a freaking miracle.

FBB50K

I drove down to Eau Claire on Friday night, which was a harrowing experience. For about 45 minutes, I was driving in snow that was obscuring the road AND the reflective signs on the side of the road were not catching my headlight beams for some reason. Fortunately it was not slippery, but it was still terrifying. I kept thinking I was going to drive off into the ditch. I considered turning around and going home, but I white-knuckled it. Partially because I was closer to Eau Claire than to Duluth, and also because I did want to run the race.

I made it to my hotel room, listened to the men’s hockey game (they lost), and then got my stuff together for the next day. I realized that I had forgotten an entire bag of gear — and that there was nothing in there that I needed. (It was extra clothes for a potential drop bag, as well as a spare pair of shoes). Close call. I set out my clothes and packed up everything I could in a more organized fashion, as I knew I’d be schlepping everything to the car in the morning and I didn’t want to have to spend extra time packing. I went to bed and of course couldn’t sleep. And that made me anxious, not just about the race, but about driving home after the race. The idea of running a 50K on no sleep isn’t that terrible anymore, but the driving part has been worrying for me. It’s what kept me from running the Birkie.

I must have fallen asleep somewhere between 4:15 and 6:15 a.m., so I got maybe an hour and a half of sleep. It wasn’t great, but it was still better than no sleep. I need that reset. I woke up, hit snooze for about 20 minutes, then got up and got dressed, hauled my gear down to the car, and drove about 10 minutes to the race start. There was plenty of parking and it was easy to find, even in the dark. I checked in, got my shirt, bib, and timing chips, which they told me I needed to pin to my hips. Then I went back to my car and sat there until maybe 7:40, eating my bagel and farting around on my phone. I put all my gear on, went back to get more pins, and confirmed that yes, I was pinning these dangly chips to my sides. I thought maybe I had misheard, it was early and I was tired. Apparently they are normally put on shoes, but in a trail race that’s just a bad idea.

Everyone huddled around the fire at the aid station while we listened to the pre-race briefing and the national anthem (why?), and then everyone lined up. It’s a loop course with four races: 12.5K, 25K, 37.5K (new this year, but why the heck not?), and 50K. Each loop is 12.5K, so you can do the math there. I’ve never done a looped distance race, and I wasn’t sure if I’d like it. It was nice to have a mass start, though – I’d definitely recommend this race for groups of runners – drive over with your friends, and choose your distance. Everyone can run the first loop together, and then the longer distance runners just keep going.

I’m not really sure how to write a race report for a looped race. It all sort of blended together. I’ll try to describe it both chronologically and spatially, and it will probably make no sense at all.

Loop 1 (1:57:24, loop pace 15:06)
Loop 2 (1:58:54, loop pace 15:18)
Loop 3 (2:07:12, loop pace 16:22)
Loop 4 (2:11:11, loop pace 16:53)

I settled in to the back of the pack fairly quickly. It was in the mid 30s F at race start, and the air was damp, with some off and on drizzle/sleet. I was glad to have my trucker hat as it kept my glasses from getting too wet. The course started out on a gravel road leaving the fairgrounds, and then snaked its way through a grassy field. After the race, when I was looking at my data, I panicked. I realized that I had only gone through the grassy field once, instead of four times. I’d cut the course! This PR was illegitimate! I was a cheater! But I was only following other people, and the course seemed really well-marked other than that piece, so how did I let that happen? By accident, I clicked on the race map today and saw it showed that section only for the first loop. So I didn’t cheat, or cheat myself! Hooray. On the final loop, I actually ended up briefly overtaking someone who I hadn’t seen at all during the first three loops. He slowed significantly during the third loop, so I caught up with him and actually went ahead of him for a little while. I wasn’t a huge fan of this guy because I saw him throw a carton of milk on the trail after he finished it. This isn’t a road marathon, dude. Pack it out.

After the grassy section, we headed into some single track in the woods, and then came out and wound our way around a mound of sandy dirt (called Ant Hill, appropriately). It wasn’t too steep so I ran it on three of the four loops (I walked it for the second loop). One the first loop, I could hear people behind me groaning over the incline. This is where living in Duluth is an advantage – there are very few flat places to run. A gentle incline isn’t going to fell me. After we went through Ant Hill, the trail continued out in the open. This section was kind of muddy – not watery mud like I encountered on the Superior Hiking Trail, but it was slippery, and the trail was sloped to the side a bit, so I had to be careful where I stepped. The trail went into pine trees after that, for one of my favorite sections. It was flat, covered in pine needles, and very easy to run. I ran this whole section all four loops. In the first loop, a line of people had settled in behind me, and the woman right behind me kept saying “root” or “mud” or calling out whatever other slight obstacle might appear. It was driving me crazy so I kept pushing a little harder to try to distance myself from her. It’s a trail run. There are roots and rocks and mud and other things. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. On the final loop, this section is where I was overtaken by the littering guy for good.

After that section in the pines, the course went through a straight section that had several tiny (but muddy) hills, and then into the woods again. I ran the hills the first two times but walked them the third and fourth loops, because I was getting tired and the mud was wearing down my legs. This section was a bit more hilly, but still very runnable. There was a very muddy, steep incline in this section of the trail, and I ended up just planting my feet and skiing down. It worked ok.  On the third and fourth laps, it was sticky enough that I felt under control, instead of just pointing my toes down the hill and hoping. This section also had a short boardwalk which I walked across, since it was wet and potentially slippery. I headed back up a switchback (more mud), which I slipped on the second time through. There were a few more hills in this section (each with funny signs!), a two-way traffic bridge, and then a winding section that cruelly went past the first aid station, which was still slightly less than a mile away!

There were two larger (for this race) hills right before the aid station, and I was thrilled to get there. The first two times through, I was right on time for an 8 hour finish (I forgot my pace chart in the pocket of my jeans, but it was pretty easy to pace out an 8 hour finish – 1:09 to the first aid station, 0:51 to the second, repeat), but on the third loop, I really started to slow down. I was in and out of the aid station each time – everyone was so friendly and helpful, and they kept offering me hot cider and quesadillas, but all I wanted were cookies and sports drink (they had pop on the 3rd and 4th loops, thankfully). The section leaving the aid station was also nice and smooth, and I learned after the first loop that I didn’t want to waste that smooth section walking and eating, so I spaced my food out a bit more. On the final loop, I overtook another runner who had slowed significantly. He fell in behind me and I reeled him along to the finish.

After the flat section, we went through a more technical section, with a few more boardwalks, one of which I slipped and fell on, and one of which I refused to cross because it was too steep (I hopped down and crossed the small stream, then climbed up the little bank), and then had some more ups and downs and switchbacks, and then hit a sign that said “this is the last hill.” What a lovely sign (although there was what I would consider a hill after that one, it was the last biggish hill), even if it had little meaning the first three times through.

After that last hill, the trail heads back toward the fairgrounds, but while the finish line/aid station is visible through the chain link fence, there’s still almost a mile to go. It’s kind of disheartening, but it’s not a difficult section, just one larger incline. It does feel like the section gets farther and farther from the finish line, and goes on forever, but then after a last little hill, the fairgrounds come into view, and there’s just a short grassy section to the DJ and the timing mat. Toward the end of this section during the last loop, the guy who had fallen in behind me thanked me for helping him get through the end of the race, and then went on ahead of me! I’m not sure if this is a faux pas or not, but I was happy to let him pass me by and earn my DFL (after having my dreams dashed back in April).

One of the volunteers at the end remarked that I was still smiling, and that she’d seen me smiling and looking really happy on the second loop. I like to smile during races because the alternative is whining or crying, and that’s not as fun. I was also grinning during the end of my second loop because the DJ was playing Judas Priest when I came through the timing mat, and it was highly motivating.

Some overall thoughts:

  • The weather was a little bit colder than I would have liked. I had my jacket unzipped halfway during the second and third loops, but I would get chilled when I stopped. I think I was wearing the appropriate amount of clothing, but I didn’t like that I had to wear that much clothing.
  • I am not used to running that much during a race. That sounds insane, of course, but most of the long races that I run have had natural walking breaks (usually due to large hill) or have had forced walking breaks (like when I got sunscreen and salt in my eyes at Chippewa Moraine, or when the heat got to me at FANS). There were very few natural places for a walking break in this race. I liked it, but it was also much harder on my body than I expected. I was moving very slowly and painfully on Sunday.
  • Both the cold weather and the runnable nature of the course combined to give me some nutrition issues. I didn’t want to eat during runnable sections, but that meant I wasn’t eating enough. I also didn’t eat any of my gels. They seemed too messy for all the gear I had on, and I didn’t want to have to take my gloves off. That is really stupid but it’s what happened.
  • I pushed myself through the first two loops and told myself on the third loop, I could be gentle. I still tried to push myself through the course, and I’m pretty pleased with how many times I made myself run when I’d prefer to walk. Somehow the mud on the fourth loop took more out of me than I thought. I was hoping to speed back up on the fourth loop, but my legs didn’t want to. Also…
  • …when my watch died, that killed basically all of my will to speed up on that final loop. I had no idea what pace I was running, how far I had left to go, or what my overall race time was. The watch was fully charged when I started, and it’s lasted through longer races without charging, so I am guessing it’s a battery issue. It was really frustrating.
  • I wanted to quit a lot, and I didn’t. It’s very easy to quit in a looped course. I’ve done it before (FANS), so I know how simple it is. Some of the race staff seemed a little surprised I was going out for that final lap – maybe they were hoping I wouldn’t? I was a little worried that I was, like, an hour behind everyone else and was inconveniencing people, but then I got out on the course and ran into those other two runners and felt better about it. And even if I was an hour behind everyone else, it was my right to run the darned race.
  • The loop distance and aid station placement was perfect. 7.75 miles/12.5K is really not that bad. The first aid station is 4.5 miles in, which means the second part of the loop is just over a 5K. That seemed very doable. The second loop was the most frustrating for me. I wasn’t loving life at that point, and I still had such a long way to go. I kept questioning what the point of running ultras was, and thought maybe I should just give them up, and what business do I have thinking I could step up to a longer distance, etc. But after that loop was done, I was halfway done (you don’t say!), and then I hit the aid station on the 3rd loop and had hit 20 miles, and then I was in single digits, and then I was on my last loop, and then there was only 5K to go, and then I hit the “last hill” sign for real, and then I really was done.
  • The weirdest thing about ultra runners isn’t the actual running. It’s that when we’re done, we’re handed a bowl of sketchy chilly and we totally eat the whole thing and it’s delicious.
  • The course was really well marked, with orange plastic “tape” blocking off any wrong turn. There were also lots of funny signs, which served as unofficial landmarks for me (“ok, I’ve hit the ‘and another hill’ sign, that means I’m almost to the aid station”). Unfortunately, a volunteer got a little overzealous and took down a few of the sections of tape before I had run through on my last lap. I ran into a few other volunteers after I luckily went the correct direction, and asked them to please not take down any more sections of tape until I was through. Yes, it’s a looped course and I’ve been through three times already, but I’ve never had to make a decision on where to go!
  • I’m definitely running this race again. I want to run it when it’s not muddy, because it’s got the potential to be a really fast course. The mud sucks up a lot of kinetic energy from my stride, plus it’s slippery. If the trail had been dry and the boardwalks hadn’t been slick, I’m guessing I could have run about 10 minutes faster. Plus everyone was so friendly. At the finish, because I was last and by myself, I had a lot of people fussing over me, I got hugs, they offered me all kinds of food and drink (including whiskey), and I felt very welcome. I asked someone to take my picture and practically started crying because of how helpful everyone was.

After the race was finished, I knew I needed to get somewhere warm quickly, so I took my bowl of chili and hobbled back to my car so I could get the heater on blast. I had an entire change of clothes (besides undergarments) so I didn’t have to drive home in sweat-soaked gear. I changed into a t-shirt, sweatshirt, track pants, and a pair of slip-on shoes and felt a lot better. I wolfed down the chili, drank one of the ginger ales I had in the car, and left to drive home.

I still don’t think it was a great idea to drive home. I was pretty amped on adrenaline, so I didn’t ever feel like I was going to doze off, and I didn’t go straight to bed when I got home like I have after other races, but still, it would have been better to have 1. slept the night before 2. carpooled or 3. stayed overnight. Ideally I’d like to get to a place where I can count on actually sleeping a decent amount the night before a race, but I just don’t seem to be able to. I need to figure out how to discharge my adrenaline capacitor.

This is my last long race for the year, and I’m happy about it. I feel better about Wild Duluth and the Birkie now; before I felt like I had unfinished business that I’d be stewing about all winter. I also am glad to ramp down my mileage, finish a couple of 5Ks in the next month, and then take a little time off before I look at training for something big and scary in the spring.

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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!

Race Report: Wild Duluth 50K 2017

I’m leaning against a tree, probably only 400m from the Grand Portage Aid Station, feeling my heart thudding against my chest. This isn’t normal. Last year, I spent a minute at this aid station. This year, I spent probably 5 minutes there, drinking pop, trying to slow my racing pulse and calm my breathing. And here I am, minutes after leaving, the aid station still in sight through the trees, wondering if I should turn back. Take more time there. Pack in the race. I’m sweating, not an exhilarating sweat from a hard race effort, but a panicky, sick sweat. The kind of spontaneous, uneasy sweat that usually means I need to sit down, immediately. But I’m standing.

I stand there for probably 10 minutes. I don’t really know how long I stand there because later I realize I hit pause instead of lap when I left the aid station. I’m only passed by 3 people, since I was already in the back of the pack (though I didn’t think that far back), which means I don’t have to keep explaining myself. Keep saying I’m fine, I’m fine, even though I’m not sure I’m fine. I ran 6 power line hills in July at Curnow in heat with a half marathon in the books already and I cruised. I did two of them, slowly, only five miles into the race, and I’m destroyed. They were slick and muddy from the rain that’s fallen since the race start, and I slipped and fell 4 or 5 times while trying to scramble up and over, but that shouldn’t take this much out of me. What am I doing?

I can’t quit now. I had 5 great miles, slow but steady. I felt good. I walked the uphills, ran the flats and downhills. It’s the easiest part of the course. This next section isn’t bad, but it’s got a few short-but-steep uphills. You can do this. You can take it slow. Put one foot in front of the other. So you’ve stopped, so you’ve just lost all progress you made toward beating last year. You can still rally. Let’s go, start walking. So I do. I feel terrible and am blowing my nose into my hand every 30 seconds, it seems. I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m quitting. I’m done. I should turn around and go back to Grand Portage. I see that my watch is paused. It makes me want to quit even more. I’m not even getting a correct pace anymore. I have no idea how slow I’m actually going, and I have no idea how far I’ve gone with the watch paused. Maybe a mile?

Eventually my heart calms down, and it doesn’t feel like my heart is playing a Slayer drum track on my thoracic wall. I even run a little on a nice downhill and some flat sections. I’m not running very fast, but I’m running. I figure I can keep this up, maybe rally a bit more at the next aid station. I can finish this race. It won’t be fast, but it’ll be badass. I remember I don’t have a headlamp, that complicates things if I slow down a lot.

I hit another hill and I can’t handle it. It’s not really that hard of a hill – a steepish grade, but it’s short. It’s one I can power through on a normal day even though it feels crappy. Just keep those legs moving. But I can’t. My heart’s racing again, I’m breathing heavily. I’m stopped. I’m leaning against a tree. I’m crouching on the trail, hoping there’s no one else who’s going to come up behind me. Hoping I won’t run into a 100K runner when I look this pathetic. I’m in last place (second to last, I later learn, as a man hiking with trekking poles overtakes me with a mile or so left to the aid station) and I’m breathing this hard only 7 or 8 miles in? It’s not who I am as a runner. It’s not what I trained to do.

I think about what’s realistic. I think about the logistics of dropping. What do I do? Am I supposed to call someone? I don’t have a crew. My husband is asleep. My dad is probably 30 minutes away. My friends are all busy. Do I have to beg someone for a ride? I need to keep going. I need to get closer to town before I drop. So I keep walking, make it up the hill, let my heart calm down. Ok, maybe I can make it to Magney. That would be good. It’s the halfway point, it’s more than a half marathon.

I start running into 100Kers going the other way. They are so kind, so sincere in their encouragement. It only makes me feel more frustrated, though I paste a smile on my face and wish them well. The trail is slippery due to the intermittent rain. I slip on a switchback and come closer than I’d like to falling down a steep hill. I try to keep sure footing, but my feet still have moments where they could slide out from underneath me at any moment. I grab onto trees and try to stay upright. The trail is going to be a disaster once all these folks come through. Twice.

I go up another hill and realize it’s all over. I am not going to finish this race. I’m not going to go any further than Munger. There’s no point. The climb up and over Ely’s Peak is going to do me in. I’ve completely underestimated the effect that this cold/crud has had on me. I walk it in, slowly, every hill taking me forever and a day. I feel dejected and embarrassed walking into the aid station. They probably thought all the 50K runners were through. The aid station folks try to convince me to keep going. They kind of stop once they hear the baritone cough that erupts from my lungs. I take off my bib and they figure out what to do with me. I have some pop and cookies, and it takes three people to get my Houdini jacket pouch open, because there’s crud in the zipper. I put it on and stand under the canopy as the rain intensifies. I wait while they tend to a 100K runner with a deep gash in his hand. They clean it out, wrap it up, and he goes out. I feel like an idiot. A real trail runner wouldn’t have quit. I feel like a fraud.

Two lovely volunteers take me back to the start, but we have to stop and pick up supplies first. Just as we pick up supplies and head to the aid station, we get a call that they need other stuff. Bread and oranges. So we head back to the store. Go to the aid station. I sit in the car in my wet clothes, semi-wrapped in a blanket, feeling chilled. Feeling like a nuisance. We have a fun conversation in the car, talking about the weather (the worst weather in the young history of this race, by far), other races, all kinds of stuff. I still feel like an inconvenience. We finally go back to the start, I thank them, I get in my car, drive home, shower, and then eventually take a nap when I realize there’s no other way I’m going to get warm.

So, there’s my first DNF. 11 miles into a 31 mile race. It took me 4 hours to cover those 11 miles (20 minutes slower than last year, and that is after running the first 5.4 miles at the same pace [technically faster, but I spent longer at the aid station this year]), and I had given up well before then. Part of me is like, I am so soft. A real runner would have gutted it out. I wasn’t missing cutoffs. There were 13 and 14 hour finishers. Those people are amazing. I am less than amazing. I was angry about a lot of things, mostly around getting sick, staying sick, not doing enough to get healthy sooner, not doing enough to avoid getting sick, traveling too much which led to me being both run down and exposed to germy people in close quarters. Angry that I had already skipped the Birkie because I hadn’t slept the night before, and had consoled myself by saying this was the real goal race.

Another part of me is like, look, you were sick. Maybe another runner would have gutted it out, yeah. But you felt like garbage all day Saturday, and felt pretty crappy on Sunday, too. And you had to get a plane on Tuesday (I’m writing this from Edmonton). What shape would you have been in if you had finished the race, if this is what you’re like after 11 miles? How do people with heroic tales of destroying themselves during ultras get up and to go work a day or two later? In reality, I shouldn’t have started the race. But I didn’t know that. I didn’t know how running would feel so different than just going through my day to day life. I thought I’d given myself enough time to heal, but I hadn’t.

I’m still not completely over it, but that’s mostly because I haven’t raced in a long time, and I’m missing that great feeling of running miles and miles in nature, as fast as I can handle. I’m missing the triumphant payoff of months of training. I have another race in mind (Fall Back Blast 50K in Eau Claire) that I’ll run, provided I’m able to get some miles in this week and next, and the cough goes away. Maybe then the sting of frustration from this race will fade, but for now, I’m still pretty annoyed about it. Now I feel like I have something to prove to myself. I have to show myself I’m not a quitter, that I made the right choice and that under different circumstances, I’d have dug in and finished.

On the bright side, I actually got a couple hours of sleep before the race! I thought at the time that would be a good sign. Silly me!

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.

Post-Mortem: Chippewa Moraine 50K

Refreshers
Race Report
All CM50K posts

Good Things
Training flexibility. I had to train around work trips, hockey, and weather reports, and I didn’t have a treadmill to fall back on when it was colder than the Arctic outside. I also wasn’t following a specific plan, but I still managed to get in long runs, 50 mile weeks, and a bit of quality tempo work. I got out there and ran when I could. I didn’t take too many unscheduled rest days. I dragged my butt outside in layers of clothing and still froze, but got my workouts in. I talked myself back into runs I’d talked myself out of running. I ran the same boring routes when sidewalk and trail conditions limited my options. I got sh*t done.

Preparedness. I made several checklists, and the only thing I didn’t do was purchase a travel-sized spray sunscreen. I brought along a full sized one instead. There wasn’t a single thing I forgot to do, or wished I’d done once I got out on the course. I put everything on these stupid checklists, by the way. I wrote down stuff like “take off rings,” “fill hydration pack,” and “leave race bib in the car.” It takes my mind off the little things to just write them all down.

Bad Things
Nutrition. Being hungry at the start of a race is a bad idea. I made mistakes in how much I ate. But ultimately, it goes further than that. I haven’t done much to address the diet side of my training, and that’s going to have to improve right away. I need to eat better during training as well as eat better pre-race. I think I do an ok job of eating during the race – not fantastic, especially if there are no potato chips, but ok.

Training volume. I did what I had to do. However, I still only averaged about 38 miles/week, and I didn’t do a whole lot of that on trails. More time out on the trails, on tough, hilly routes, and more miles in general (maybe an average of 42 mpw, nothing insane), would have given me a bit more stamina. I can look at all kinds of “reasons” for why my training wasn’t so great (travel, weather, etc.), but the “reasons” don’t magically turn it into a good training cycle, they just show I made the best of what I could get.

Sleep. I got probably 3 hours of sleep before the race, which is an improvement over my pre-race sleep at Wild Duluth. I am not sure how to fix it, but I’m going to keep trying. Maybe I’ll take a hot shower in the evening or something.

Chippewa Moraine 50K Training: Week 12

Race week! Basically a pointless training report.

Monday: 3.7 mi, trail (Lester Park)
Tuesday: rest
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: rest
Friday: rest
Saturday: 31.1 mi, trail (race!)
Sunday: rest
Total: 34.8 mi

I felt sick most of the week. Even my training run at Lester Park went poorly – I had some lower GI cramping that slowed me to a walk a few times — on a super short run! Some sections of the trails at Lester Park were closed, and they were a bit muddy in other places, but I cannot wait to get back there.

I took the rest of the week off because I was terrified of getting sick. The weather was crummy, anyway. I did yoga every day leading up to the race, so that was good. It helped quell some of the fatigue/malaise I was battling the whole week. That “taper flu” is no joke.

This training cycle is going to feed my training cycle for my 24 hour race in June, so I won’t really be taking time off (I will start running on Wednesday, after getting a massage on Tuesday, which I really need!), just making adjustments. There’s lots to dissect, but that’s best left to its own post.

Race Report: Chippewa Moraine 50K

Official Results:
Time: 8:57:29
Pace: 17:18 (the course is 31.1 miles, not 31)
Placing:
Overall: 172/174
Gender: 61/63
AG (F 30-39): 18/19

Watch Results:
Time: 8:57:31
Pace: 16:42/mi
Distance: 32.19 mi
Heart Rate: N/A (still haven’t fixed this)

Goals:
A: 8:00
B: 8:30
C: 8:59:59

Food:
What I ate the night before: bagel and cream cheese, bagel and Nutella, Ruffles, birthday cake Chips Ahoy. So, garbage.
What I ate on race morning: bagel and cream cheese, part of a vanilla Coke, Clif bar.
What I carried with me: Clif bars, 6 Gu packets, Strawberry Lemonade Gu tablets (one pre-mixed, plus the container)

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, ball cap, buff, arm warmers (I didn’t wear the buff or the arm warmers the whole time)
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Discussion: Another difficult race, but I am pretty pleased with my result. I went into this knowing I would either get a personal best time, or I would be swept. I can now say with conviction that I do not like chasing cutoffs. It worked out ok this time, but only because the intermediate cutoffs weren’t hard cutoffs, and in fact were very lenient. Which of course I didn’t know until I was already freaking out.

I drove down from Duluth on Friday afternoon, stopping at the interpretive center serving as the race headquarters to pick up my packet on my way, since I was staying further south in Chippewa Falls, about 30 minutes’ drive from the start. It took like 3 seconds, which was nice, and then I went outside to look at the start/finish. The view from the interpretive center was lovely. It’s up on a hill (more on that later), so I could see quite a way (there’s a pic in my race goals post). It must be gorgeous in fall. Apparently it’s quite buggy in summer, so I was thankful we missed that part.

I slept terribly, which was unsurprising. I was tired most of the day, but of course that didn’t translate into sleepiness. Too much adrenaline. I got probably 3 hours or so, which I’ll take. I think I only slept about an hour before Wild Duluth. I set my alarm for 5:40, got up around 6, and farted around aimlessly, trying to pull things together in a disorderly manner, and left around 6:45, since I wanted to make sure to get a decently close parking spot. I did! I sat in my car for a little while, doing a few final preparatory things and trying to keep myself from getting too amped (fail). Then I milled about awkwardly in the interpretive center – I don’t know a lot of runners, and everyone there seemed to be with either a running buddy or a large group of friends. I did talk with my friend Jay, who I know from Runner’s World’s forum. He is running the Ice Age 50 in a few weeks and used this as a training run. That’s on the a different moraine, BTW. They’re really into glacial debris in Wisconsin, I guess.

Start to AS 1: 3.3 mi, 0:48:20, 14:39 section pace (on pace for 4 hr cutoff)
The start is at the top of a rather steep, grassy hill. And the race is an out and back. So put that together and remember it for later. The first (and therefore also last) 5 miles of the race have markers (for the 7 mile runners), which was nice for calibrating my GPS error. The first mile+ of the race is on grass, so it’s more like a cross-country start. I was zipping along, feeling confident, but also feeling hungry. Big mistake not to deal with that sooner, but I was so focused on staying on top of my pace. The race is all rolling hills, few of which are super challenging, but they’re still hills. So many hills. Anyway, I was dumb and was worried about nausea pre-race so I didn’t eat enough. I shouldn’t be feeling physical hunger so early in a race. I could also tell my body was too amped up – I wasn’t going out at too hard a pace, but the adrenaline and excitement made me feel like a low-level electrical current was buzzing through my body. I mean, besides the currents that normally occur. A couple miles in, we passed behind the interpretive center again, which was kind of depressing. A small part of me wanted to turn off. A very small part of me, but still. I didn’t stop at the aid station because I wanted to keep moving, and I was already snacking slowly on my Clif bar. Ugh, swallowing food during ultras is THE WORST.

AS 1 – 2: 6.5 mi, 1:41:47 (kind of, I forgot to hit the lap button til I was out of the aid station), 15:40 section pace (Off pace, but still cumulatively on track for 4 hr cutoff)
This section was ok. I am trying to remember stuff about it, but my brain is a bit fried. I had to reapply sunscreen on the go because the sun was getting a bit warm. Also a couple of women running together caught up to just behind me, which was fine except they used me to pace off of for longer than I’d like, and when they slowed a bit to let someone pass and to take a quick breather, they didn’t get far enough behind, so I could hear them chattering to each other for miles and miles. This is my own personal problem, but I run alone. I like running alone. I like running in quiet. So it annoyed me to hear them talking, even though they had every right to talk. (On another side note, this race banned external music, which I found amazing. I do not need to hear someone else’s iPhone blaring their walk/run interval mix app.) There were a lot of glacial lakes, which I enjoyed – we even crossed a few, on bridges of varying levels of stability. One such bridge, which I walked across due to its dubiousness, was cobbled together from various chunks of other bridges, planks, and other miscellany. Another bridge seemed to be on the verge of submergence. There were lots of runnable sections, and I ran most of them. There was a short section in grass again (ugh), and then I ran on the road for a bit, back into the woods, and then back onto a road down into the second aid station, which again, I bypassed. I think I started eating a gel during this section, but I can’t remember.

AS 2 – turnaround: 5.75 mi, 1:40:56 (actually longer, see above), 17:33 section pace (no longer on track for 4 hr cutoff)
Ugh. I looked at the elevation profile for this section and confirmed it is mostly uphill. I thought maybe it just seemed that way but I was correct. I really struggled through this section, probably because I was behind on my nutrition from the get-go, and because I was getting a little warm. (I wet my hat and my buff at one point, which didn’t help much. Should have dunked them in the lake.) Just past the aid station, I saw the leader (who set a course record) cruising in. So, I kind of hate out and backs for this reason. Not because I have to see the leaders, but because I have to see everyone. Sometimes in groups. Usually looking better than me. And we all have to greet each other and say nice job! Which, I like to hear, and I like to say, but I don’t necessarily like to say it 171 times. Especially when I’m chasing a cutoff and the returning runners get the right of way, so I’m constantly running to the side of the trail. Once I got close to the aid station (maybe a mile), I was in full on panic mode. I knew I couldn’t make the cutoff. The runners I was passing were encouraging as I wildly tossed out my worries about getting cut, reassuring me I wouldn’t, but I was freaking out. I was questioning signing up for FANS, questioning my goals to eventually move up to longer distances, and questioning my decision to run ultras at all. For a few strides, I’d be resigned to being cut. Then I’d shake myself out of that, and fight for it. I really hustled when I could, though I tried to make sure there was something left in the tank if I did get allowed to continue. And I did! Even though I made it there about 8 minutes after the 4 hour mark. I felt kind of dumb, but at the same time, how was I to know? I’ve seen people get cut, first hand, when I volunteered. I also saw a guy get spared the axe, but he wasn’t allowed to stop at the aid station, he had to continue through. So I was prepared for that, too, even though I desperately wanted pop. They did let me stay, so I chugged some Coke and ginger ale, mixed up another bottle of with a Gu tablet with the help of a volunteer (ok they did most of the work, and someone even offered to open the tablet bottle for me, because they were so amazing and I was so clumsy), grabbed some cookies to go (I didn’t feel like I could eat right at the moment, since I was feeling a bit queasy from hoofing it in), sprayed myself down with sunscreen, and left.

Turnaround – AS 2: 5.75 mi, 1:47:50, 18:45 section pace
I walked for quite awhile once I left the aid station to settle my stomach and recover a bit for the trail to come. Once I ate a few cookies, I picked up the pace again. I wanted to make the secondary cutoff at the 6 hour mark (which was only announced in an email sent this week! yikes!) to get back on track. I knew if I was over, I wouldn’t be over by much, and would mostly likely be allowed to continue, but I wanted to make it on principle. I ran when I could, power hiked when I could, and took it slow on the really steep climbs. I got into more of a rhythm, since I wasn’t passing runners in the opposite direction (I didn’t see another runner for the entire second half of the race), and since it was more downhill than up on this section. It did seem to take an extremely long time. I was having some trouble with my eyes – the sunscreen (I did a 3rd application during this section) or the salt from my sweat was getting into my eyes, and when I got wind to my face, my eyes started stinging. I had to do a makeshift eyewash with some of the water from my pack, cupped in my hand. That worked ok, but I guess it washed off some of the sunscreen (duh) because I have a bit of a sunburn on my face, despite 4 applications (one pre-race, 3 in-race) and a hat. My nose was in tough shape, too. Since it’s always running when I am (ha!), it was getting chapped, and the salt/sunscreen combo was irritating it further. I ate another gel during this section, although it took awhile because I was averse to swallowing. My stomach wasn’t super upset, but I felt like I was going to gag on anything I tried to swallow. (I didn’t, but it felt that way.) At the aid station I drank some pop, grabbed some cookies to go, and headed off at a trot.

AS 2 – AS 1: 6.5 mi, 2:00:01, 18:28 section pace
This section started out ok – I felt pretty strong, rolled through the grassy areas, and then things started to go really badly with my eyes. They were stinging and burning so badly I had to stop and clean them out again, and then I had to get my buff out of my pack pocket and wet it down so I could wipe them as needed. It was a big pain to get my glasses off and on for some reason (they kept getting caught in my hair), and they were filthy (probably from sweat and salt), and cleaning them only helped marginally. Instead of being spotty, they were smeary. Ew. I lost a lot of time and energy dealing with my eyes. Every tenth of a mile seemed like it took forever, even when I was moving at a decent clip. I was itching to hit the 5 mile marker, to begin the real countdown and to figure out where I really was in regard to time left. My GPS was off by about a mile at this point, so I kept having to do Race Math to figure out approximately what distance I had left. I’m an engineer and I’m really good at math, but Race Math is still a problem for my poor, scrambled brain 20+ miles into a race. Just when I thought they had taken down the countdown markers, I finally hit the 5 mile marker. And then eventually the 4 mile marker, and then I knew the aid station would be somewhere along there. I got to re-cross the bridges, re-circumnavigate the glacial lakes, and cruise along on the runnable sections on this stretch. If not for the issue with my eyes, I would have had a much better time on this section. I got more cookies and pop at the aid station, and then marched off, knowing there was nothing else between me and the finish line.

AS 1 – finish: 3.3 mi, 0:58:34, 17:45 pace
I didn’t remember much about this section from all the way back at the beginning of the section, other than that there were a couple climbs. Well, there were 3… but they came in stages, so it felt like more than three. I tried to hustle up because I knew it was going to be close. I really wanted to finish under the 9:00 mark, to meet my goal and to meet the official time on the site (note: they will recognize a finish over the limit but before the sweeps – I thought I was last, but there were 2 women who came in, I think with the sweep, and they received official times even though they were over the “limit.” I’m so glad that’s treated as just a guideline.), and I knew I was going to get slowed down by the steep sections, so I hustled as much as I could. I started to get a side stitch, and kept having to slow down to manage that. It didn’t fully develop, so I was glad of that, but it slowed me down enough. I came around behind the interpretive center, wishing as I had 2 miles in that I could peel off, but kept shuffling along. I finally reached the grassy section, then the road crossing, and then I was winding my way along the hillside below the finish. Even that seemed to take longer than it should have; there were way more twists and turns in that last half mile than I remembered. And then I was mounting the hill. And it felt as steep as a cliff. There was a sign out that said “No Walk Hill,” but there was no way I was going to run it. Another sign followed that said “Don’t Quit,” and that one kept me moving, even when I wanted to stop to catch my breath. A third sign said “Empty the Tank,” which I found amusing because I felt a bit like I was going to empty my tank all over the grass. I didn’t, whew, but that climb really made me feel nauseated. Finally, I reached the flags leading up to the finish, and was able to run the last 100m or so. There was hardly anyone around, and I got a few half-hearted cheers (which was really awkward, why sit around at the finish line if you’re not going to cheer! And I heard people cheering loudly for other people once I was within earshot of the finish, so I felt kinda crappy that I didn’t get at least a bit of that reception.), which I returned with a smile of “appreciation” that was equally lukewarm.

I sat down in the grass and took my pack off, which felt amazing. It had been killing my back and shoulders all day. Too much stuff, not enough core strength. I lay down for a few minutes with my hat over my face, and then sat back up again, thinking about what to do. I saw the Superior/Zumbro race director and he asked me how it went. I talked for him a little bit about how I was pretty happy with the result, but pushing for that cutoff was hard. The other fellow he was talking to told me it was pretty great for me to run it in like that, just before the time limit, and that he tied for last in his first 50 mi. I said he should be jealous, because I didn’t have to share the honor. I was kind of enjoying my first DFL finish, only to find out later that 2 people finished about 10 minutes after me!

This race was tough for me, but it was also a great result. I set a personal record by over an hour! And my average pace was almost 3 minutes faster than my first 50K! And I didn’t give up! I would definitely run it again, and not just because the bib has a woolly mammoth on it.

I didn’t like chasing the cutoffs. I didn’t mind coming in near last place, but I minded that my chances of an official finish eroded as the race went on. I also wonder if I had not had that intermediate cutoff, if I’d have been able to pace myself better. Or would I have slacked and done even worse? I don’t know. Maybe it was a good thing and I just don’t know. I did feel triumphant that I beat the clock, just barely. There was something very satisfying about coming in at the last minute, that maybe I wouldn’t have felt if I had finished in 8:40 or 7:50. Of course I would have felt some other kind of triumph, but I don’t know. There was something enjoyable about facing down those time constraints and beating them.