AG (F 30-39): 26/29
Time: 8:39:09 (I forgot to stop my watch!)
Distance: 33.81 mi (Massive GPS discrepancy for most of the race)
Heart Rate: N/A
What I ate the night before: soup and sandwich from Erbert and Gerbert’s
What I ate on race morning: bagel and cream cheese
What I carried with me: 5 Gu packets
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: I’m just glad I got to the starting line! Earlier this week, I had some mild cold symptoms, and while they were improving on Thursday, on Friday they started to get a bit worse. I had until midnight on Thursday to cancel my hotel room, and since I felt pretty good on Thursday, I went ahead with my plans.
Friday, I left work a bit early, and went home to finish packing. I’m trying to work on my obsessive tendencies to overpack, and I think I did… okay. I guess. I didn’t bring any food besides bagels, cream cheese, and vanilla Coke. I really like bagels and cream cheese. I probably should have also brought some peanut butter or something with a little bit of nutritional variation. I’m pretty limited in what I like to eat in the early morning. I like a lot of breakfast foods (bacon, pancakes, waffles, sausage patties, etc), but I can’t always tolerate them on very little sleep. Also I need something easy to assemble so that I don’t have to get up too early.
I brought a set of clothes for the drive home along with my race stuff. I didn’t look at the forecast closely enough, otherwise I’d have possibly brought some slightly warmer gear just in case. It still felt like a lot of stuff, although the only things I brought that I didn’t use were my pants (I drove home in my race shorts), a towel, and a book on the history of grunge.
I didn’t buy much for this race, just the bagels, vanilla Coke (I only drink that when racing or after long runs, otherwise it’s vanilla Coke Zero or mineral water for carbonated beverages), sunscreen (large size and mini size, new for the season), and various lubricants (Trail Toes and Body Glide). A lot of previous races, I’ve bought a ton of junk food or new gear or other stuff that I worried I might need.
I also didn’t pack much in my hydration pack, relative to what I used to do. I filled the bladder with water and I was going to bring a small bottle of water to mix with electrolyte tabs, but I opened my electrolyte tab tube and discovered moisture had gotten in there and the tabs looked funky. I brought the bottle anyway and ended up getting it filled with Coke at the aid stations. I also brought 5 gels (I think 5? I should count what I have left), some leftover wintergreen Life Savers and Jolly Ranchers that have been in my pack since Fall Back Blast (there were also some COOKIES in my pack that I forgot to take out, so I am disgusting), my cell phone (in a plastic bag), a mini spray sunscreen, lip balm, a mini tube of Vaniply, and my pace chart for my various goals. That seems like a lot, but in the past I have brought all kinds of other stuff with me and had my pack stuffed to the gills. I’m learning what is essential and what’s just there to keep me from worrying.
I drove 2 hours to packet pickup, which is in the Obey Interpretive Center, so there’s taxidermied animals and other weird stuff around. I like it! I picked up my bib and timing chip, a reusable one attached to a strap that secures around the ankle. It was like a monitoring bracelet for someone under house arrest. I talked to a few friends I know from previous volunteering assignments. Let me reiterate that volunteering is the best possible way to meet people and make friends in the running community! After taking a panoramic photo of the view from the race start, I drove the half hour to my hotel.
I was tired and feeling kind of crappy, with a bit of a cough and a stuffy head. I was getting worried I was going to wake up feeling even worse. I picked up dinner and then lounged in my hotel room for awhile before going to bed EARLY. Well, early for me, I went to bed at about 10 PM. I was tired, but the second I turned the light off and curled up for sleep, my brain went into PANIC MODE. I spent several hours trying to relax, but I think I only got maybe 2 hours of real sleep. Sometimes I wonder if I am actually sleeping off and on while freaking out, but it doesn’t really matter. I got enough sleep – as long as my brain shuts off for a couple hours, that’s what I need to re-set.
I got up, got dressed, packed up all my stuff, and drove to the race start. I meant to arrive at 7, but ended up setting my alarm for later and I arrived at 7:30. That was plenty of time. I sat in my car for a little bit, finishing my breakfast, applying sunscreen, putting the last few things in my pack, etc. It was about 32F so I didn’t want to stand out there too long, although it wasn’t windy so I felt pretty comfortable for the 10 or 15 minutes I had to wait outside. I met up with some friends at the start, and then we lined up and the race started.
Start to AS 1: 3.3 mi, 0:47:37, 14:26 section pace
The start of the race went fine for me. I lined up near my friend Lynette, and when the race started, I went at my own pace and let people go ahead of me as they chose. We all tramped down the giant hill of death, then across a grassy section with some snow/frosted ground. The course crosses over the driveway to the interpretive center, so I got to pass my car and think about how I could just jump back in it and go home. I didn’t. At this point I was still trying to evaluate how I felt. I thought I felt fine, but I also thought I felt fine to start Wild Duluth last fall, and then nearly blacked out on the course. There were a couple early hills and I felt fine on them, so I decided that I was probably not overdoing it, and was instead looking for excuses.
During the second mile, the course goes behind the interpretive center, so there’s always a small group of folks cheering. It’s also another chance to turn back, haha. I had a pretty crappy attitude for a lot of the first half of the race. I spent a lot of the time wondering about why I was doing it, and hating every step of the way. For no reason! The race was going fine. I guess it just felt like it was going to take forever, and I was wondering what the point of it was. I went right through the first aid station as I didn’t really need anything.
AS 1 – 2: 6.15 mi, 1:36:42, 15:43 section pace
This section is probably the best section of the race, although for some reason both out and back, I ran it much more slowly than I thought I did. The elevation is not that bad. One day I will be able to run the hills, I hope, because a lot of them are gradual enough to be runable for stronger runners. I need to work on my leg strength and conditioning, I guess, because for now it’s more efficient for me to hike them than to run them. There are a lot of glacial lakes in this section, and many of them were still frozen or partially frozen. The cool air wafting off the lakes kept my hands a little colder than I’d have liked, but I knew it would feel great coming back in the afternoon. It already felt like I’d been running all day and it was like 9:30 am. From time to time I was running with other people, but it was mostly quiet. I had a gel around the 5 mile mark, and remembered to drink some water. Since I wasn’t warm, I wasn’t doing a fantastic job of hydrating early on.
I stopped at this aid station to get some Coke and cookies, and then headed out. I checked my pace chart and realized I’d lost a little time – I was ahead of the pace I wanted to be on (3:55 to the turnaround) at the first aid station, and now I had lost a minute or so. It was hard to tell because the race started at 8:02 and my pace chart had planned for an 8:00 start. I need to adjust my planning – I just now updated the display on my watch to show elapsed time instead of just time of day.
It also turned out that the confusing/vague “cutoff” at this section was just a suggestion: if people knew they weren’t on pace to make the cutoff, they could turn around here. No one was enforcing it. I should have known, but of course I worry about these things. Maybe I should just get faster.
AS 2 – turnaround: 6.1 mi, 1:36:16, 15:47 section pace
This section really sucks a lot. I walked to start off with, so I could finish shoving the cookies in my mouth. I ate two of them and then put the other two in my pack. I have a problem with clenching my teeth, so I wear a mouthguard at night and another more discreet one during the day. I can’t eat with it in, so I had to take it out and hold it while I ate my cookies. That was kind of annoying, but since I don’t have terrible jaw aches anymore, the mouthguard stays and I work around it.
Right after the aid station, there’s a big section of mud. I walked through most of it, because there’s absolutely no point in trashing my legs to run through energy-sapping mud. I made a mental note that the mud was right after the aid station, so I’d know I was close when I hit the mud on the way back. Around this time, I started seeing the frontrunners, and knew for the next 5 or so miles, I’d be seeing folks fly by in the opposite direction. Lucky people!
There are a lot of hills in this section. Something happened with the GPS signal on my watch and a lot of the altitude data is lost during this section, but it’s got almost all the bigger climbs. The middle section is all rollers, this one is much more steep. I took my time and told myself that I’d make it, I still had time, my goal allowed for a 5 minute buffer, they wouldn’t cut me off if I was one minute over or something. I thought I was closer to the aid station than I actually was, so I picked up the pace probably a mile or 3/4 mile away, only to realize I still had a whole section to go before I even got to the lake we had to go halfway around.
I ended up getting to the aid station before the cutoff, spent a few minutes there getting cookies and pop, reapplied sunscreen and Vaniply, and then left right at the 4 hour mark.
Turnaround – AS 2: 6.1 mi, 1:37:36, 16:00 section pace
I was ecstatic during this section. I walked for a bit while eating my cookies, and then ran when I could. I got passed a little bit out of the aid station by one guy, and that was the last person who passed me the whole race. Hooray! I guess. I was so happy to have made the cutoff, and I felt great, so I thought hey, maybe I can be on pace for a PR! I don’t remember much from this section, other than I passed a couple of dudes. I made it to the aid station and left somehow still on pace for an 8:10 finish. I had a couple of cookies and some pop there before heading out.
AS 2 – finish: 9.45 mi, 2:54:11, 18:26 section pace
I forgot to hit my watch after leaving the final aid station, which is unfortunate because I can’t tell at what point the race fell apart. I mean, it never really “fell apart,” but somewhere in the 4.45 miles between the aid station and the 5 mile marker, I slowed considerably, even though I thought I was moving well. This section has lots of flats or gentle slopes to cruise along, but I guess I was either running way more slowly than I thought, or slowing down significantly on the hills. I ate a gel at some point during this section, probably with about 6 miles to go, not quite sure. That 5 mile marker took forever to appear. I remember this happening last year as well. I’d think it must be getting close, and it wasn’t. I would think more time had passed and more miles had passed than what was actually going on. And once I did get to the 5 mile mark, I realized that even a PR was slipping away from my grasp, as was my C goal of 8:25. I did keep pushing, and decided I was going to skip the aid station entirely, forget about reapplying sunscreen or Vaniply, and just push on to the end. I zipped through the aid station, passing a couple people who were stopped there.
Two women fell in behind me, and they were listening to music. It was not great. I’d been running for the whole day and enjoying the quiet for the most part, and they were listening to external music, which is explicitly against the rules. They were talking to each other about how someone had said they were “having a party in the woods,” which was nice since someone else hadn’t been so nice about it. I replied (even though I was not in the conversation) that it was against the rules, and that was why someone had said something. They both seemed surprised. This is something that really bugs me – not reading the rules of the race. It was on the event page as well as in the email sent out by the race director. I tried to just ignore the Paul Simon and push on, but one of the women started whistling and singing and I stepped to the side and told them I’d prefer if they passed. I think I said something like “I run trails because it’s quiet!” Which I do. I wasn’t super nice about it but I certainly could have been meaner. They offered to turn it off and I said “no, just use that as motivation to push to the finish, then we all win!” but they didn’t seem to appreciate that. Whatever. I am a Rule Follower and I’m unable to suppress those tendencies after 28 miles of running. They seemed surprised that none of the volunteers had said anything, but volunteers are not race officials, they don’t have a lot of authority.
The last section of the race really sucked for me. I just kept slowing and slowing. Probably because I was bonking. I finally sucked it up and had a gel with a little under two miles to go, because I realized that it was still going to take me half an hour to finish at the rate I was going, and I was hungry. I needed some gas in the tank for that final hill. It was a lot muddier than it had been earlier in the day, and the big hill that goes behind the interpretive center was very muddy. The climb was exhausting, but I just kept plodding away. I tried to run whenever I could and just focused on getting to the finish. I knew I would finish, I just needed to keep putting one foot in front of the other. It just sucked so much. Once I finally got onto the grassy section, I started to perk up, and then when I crossed the driveway, I started to think about how I was going to attack the huge hill. The section around the base of the hill was way longer than I remembered (everything was at this point), and it was muddier than it had been earlier, but I just pressed on as best as I could. I reached the base of the hill and dug in.
I could see the music women ahead of me as well as the guy who had passed me out of the aid station. Since I hadn’t had sight of him in hours, I was surprised to see him on the hill. It wasn’t going well for him, and he got passed by the other two. I thought I might also pass him and felt like a huge jerk about it. The hill… wasn’t as bad as it was the first time around. It is extremely difficult to climb a steep hill, even a short one, that late in the race, but hey – if we wanted easy, we’d run road races, right? I powered up as best I could, without stopping, and then somehow had the legs to run through the finishers’ chute just after the 8:32 mark (apparently 22 seconds after – I thought the clock had just turned over right before I went through the chute, oh well).
Post race, I talked to a few friends for a little bit, then went down to my car (that’s where I realized my watch was still running), moved it up to a closer parking spot, and changed out of my t-shirt, socks, and shoes into a tank top, sweatshirt, and flip-flops. I went back to talk with my friends and watch a few more finishers before they decided to go back to Chippewa Falls and I decided to drive home. I made a bagel and cream cheese for the drive, since none of the food at the end seemed more appetizing than that (there was soup but I didn’t feel like soup). I thought I’d be cold but I wasn’t, so I just left my shorts on instead of changing into pants.
Overall, even though I didn’t have the time I wanted, I still had a great race. I didn’t have any super low points, I had a huge improvement over last year, I had no nausea or other physical issues, and I had a good time! That’s really all that matters. I’ll chase that PR another day!