Race Report: Moose Mountain Marathon 2018

Am I headed for the same brick wall
Is there anything I can do about anything at all?
Except go back to that corner in Manhattan
And dig deeper, dig deeper this time
Down beneath the impossible pain of our history
Beneath unknown bones
Beneath the bedrock of the mystery
Beneath the sewage systems and the path train
Beneath the cobblestones and the water mains
Beneath the traffic of friendships and street deals
Beneath the screeching of kamikaze cab wheels
Beneath everything I can think of to think about
Beneath it all, beneath all get out
Beneath the good and the kind and the stupid and the cruel
There’s a fire just waiting for fuel.

Ani Difranco

Official Results:
Time: 8:42:12 (18:43 slower than I ran this race in 2016)
Pace: 19:56
Placing:
Overall: 259/306
Gender: 113/152
AG (F 1-39): 51/56

Watch Results:
Time: 6:23:45
Pace: 20:14
Distance: 18.97 mi (clearly it died — at 6 hours? that’s BS)
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 7:00
B: 7:20
C: 7:59:59

Food:
What I ate the night before: hummus and veggie sandwich, bagel and cream cheese, some cookies and goldfish crackers at volunteering
What I ate on race morning: bagel with cream cheese, also about half of another bagel
What I carried with me: 7 gel packets, water, water with electrolye tablet, spare electrolyte tablet. I ate a bunch of crap at the aid stations.

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, ball cap, buff (I took it off pretty early on)
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker, hydration pack

Discussion: This was obviously not the race I wanted to run.

Starting on Wednesday of this last week, I started feeling stuffy, like I generally do when the weather changes. That was frustrating, but I also knew I had similar feelings the night before Chippewa Moraine this year and I managed to avoid getting full-on bronchitis or whatever garbage I was getting several times a year for awhile. I didn’t worry, and while Thursday I felt fairly crummy, I woke up Friday feeling better enough that I figured I’d feel even better on Saturday. I was sneezing a lot so I took an allergy pill, and a couple generic non-meth-strength Sudafed on Friday evening.

I didn’t make a packing checklist this year! I am really surprised. Usually I am so nervous I put everything on it. I literally write things like “fill water pack” and “take off rings” on there and check them off! I even put write blogpost on my checklists, which is kind of sad. I didn’t make one for this race, though, and I didn’t forget anything! Not one single thing, except I thought I forgot to bring a zip close bag for my cell phone and it turned out I had one in my car and two in the bag I used for toting around running stuff when I drive to a training location. (Note: using this bag to store a lot of my running supplies might be one of the reasons why I didn’t forget anything.) I packed everything on Friday when I got up, too. Usually I’m such a freak about getting everything set the night before, so it was nice to see I’m starting to calm down and get in a routine.

The drive up was really frustrating. It took a really long time, thanks to some bad traffic to start with at Spaghetti Junction, then more traffic in Duluth, then a quick stop to buy bagels in Duluth, then finally an extremely long wait north of Two Harbors thanks to a very small section of road that was down to one lane and thus using a flag crew. I was actually 45 minutes late to volunteering! Fortunately it wasn’t that busy, probably because everyone else was stuck in traffic. I was supposed to function as a greeter but I decided my services were needed at the merch tables instead. I did greet a few people but they just asked where the bathroom was and I told them there were porta-potties out back and they were dissatisfied with that answer. Then it turned out they were hotel guests anyway so idk what the problem was. I was a much better merch seller than greeter, especially since I was decked out in several items for sale, from my own personal collection. I really enjoy volunteering at check-in/packet pick-up, because I like the people who are assigned to volunteer with me, and because I like talking to the other runners. Many of them are starting to become familiar faces and remember that I have tried to upsell them on gloves and headwraps in the past, and seem to not mind. It’s fun to chat with these folks, even though most of them don’t know my name, and I don’t know theirs, or I do but pretend that I don’t while secretly sort of fangirling because they are accomplished or otherwise in the “cool runners” crowd.

I felt really fatigued at packet pick-up, and even at the time I had an idea that it was not a good sign. I was hoping it would translate into actually being tired when I got back to my hotel room (narrator: it did not), but it was concerning. Constant interaction with people helped keep my mind off how I felt kind of warm and that I had that weird spacey feeling I get when my sinuses are a bit stuffed up but my nose is clear. I was staying at the lodge next door instead of at the event location, so I had to go check in. Unfortunately since Ski Hill Road is very dark, I got confused and drove around trying to find the check in. I had to call and ask where it was — and it turned out it was really easy to find. So that was embarrassing, but the woman at the front desk was so nice about it and we laughed together. Then I couldn’t find my room, and it turned out that it was around the back of the lodge. It had a nice view.

I got back to the room, laid out all my stuff, and lazed around until I decided it was time to try to go to sleep. I was checking race results constantly, looking for updates on how Neal Collick was faring in his attempt to break the men’s course record (success), on how my personal hero Mallory Richard was doing (she managed to overtake the previous women’s leader, finish 5th overall, and break the women’s course record, also set by her), and on how my friends were doing. (They were all doing well at the time.) I turned off the lights, turned on my white noise app, turned on a TV show I could easily ignore, and tried to quiet my mind by thinking about mundane things like multiplication tables. All the usual tricks. NONE of them worked. My heart rate was high, my brain was wired, and I could not get to sleep. OF COURSE. I wonder sometimes if volunteering gets me too amped up and if I should just spend a mellow evening relaxing, but I enjoy volunteering too much.

I probably did sleep for an hour or two, but it didn’t really feel like it. I was up at 6 am, getting dressed (it was already 51F so I opted not to take my rain shell and just went with my arm warmers, which I took off at the start), trying to stuff my face with as much food as possible even though I wasn’t very hungry, and doing all the normal race prep stuff. I was out the door by about 6:40, with a short walk to the race HQ to catch the bus. I took a steeper shortcut through the parking lot of my lodge to reach the road more directly, and I started sweating. Not a good sign, especially when it’s a sweat that comes from my head and my back instantaneously, and I can feel it. It’s the kind of sweat I get when I exert myself too much when I’ve got a head cold (or similar). I shrugged it off, thinking hey, it’s early, I’m barely awake, it’ll be fine. I was still sweating on the bus though (it was warm, but not that warm) so it worried me even more, but once I got to talking to my seatmate I started to feel better and took my mind off my possibly real, possibly imagined illness.

I caught up with some friends at the race start and then finally it was underway!

Start to Cramer Rd (0.8 mi, 12:39 elapsed, 15:48 pace): The race start attempts to spread folks out by running them along Cramer Road and then jumping on the Superior Hiking Trail before the trailhead. It doesn’t work that well but it could be worse! I am fairly surprised at this pace because at one point we were at a dead stop while we tried to funnel onto the trail. I felt fine at this point, the running was easy, there were tons of people cheering, and I rolled through the aid station and onto the main trail feeling confident.

Cramer Rd to Temperance (7.1 mi section/7.9 mi overall, 2:09:47 section/2:22:26 elapsed, 18:17 section/18:02 overall pace): At first I was trotting right along, probably farther toward the front of the pack than I should have been due to the funneling, but still keeping pace with folks. At first it felt easy, although for the first mile or so I was running behind a couple who were getting their quarter mile splits from some kind of app. I could not fathom why, especially since pretty much every app is inaccurate on the SHT. Every time they got a split, the man would say “we’re losing time” and try to hurry the woman along. I was very glad to let them get ahead of me; I’m pretty obsessive about my races, but I’ve never seen anyone micromanaging a trail race like that. It stressed me out.

Then running started to become labored. I felt like my chest was congested (and maybe it is, but only mildly), my nose was running nonstop, and my head felt fuzzy again. Plus, I was still sweating, and it still was “I don’t feel well” sweat, not running sweat. The first little climb was so hard. Even walking up it was hard. I started to let people pass by me by the bunches so that I could go my own pace, and after awhile I let myself slow to a walk. Even on the runnable sections, like along the Cross River. I was extremely frustrated. I was also concerned about my health. At Wild Duluth 50K, I dropped at the second aid station when I was experiencing more extreme versions of the same symptoms (the difference then, I was getting over a longer illness and still had a deep cough). I didn’t have momentary blackouts, but these climbs were relatively minor and I knew that I had big climbs to come in the next segment, and again at Moose/Mystery.

Here I was only a couple miles in and looking for reasons to quit. I thought oh, I can just stop at Temperance and volunteer. Or just sit in a chair for awhile until someone I know comes along crewing and I can hitch a ride. Or something. Then I started questioning what I was doing running. Who did I think I was, trying to run an ultra? Or a marathon? Or anything at all? I was a big wimp who wanted to quit when things went slightly wrong. I was someone who couldn’t even get through a fairly low-mileage training block without getting sick/worn out/whatever – how could I ever run something longer than a 50K?

Then I thought about my friend Jeff, who had been running the 100 mile race. He was kicking butt (based on Facebook updates and runner tracking) when I went to bed, but when I woke up I found out he’d dropped due to terrible stomach issues. I thought about how I was running 1/4 of the distance he was running, and that if he felt like I did, he’d still be running. I could pretty much guarantee that any 100 mile runner still on the course felt worse than I did, and they were continuing. It was time for me to figure out how to face adversity without giving up. So I decided to keep going. If I had to hike it in, I had to hike it in. There was plenty of time. (I guess I didn’t have a headlamp so I couldn’t have taken like 12 hours to finish.)

So I hiked. I let everyone pass me who needed to pass me. I gave up on my A and B goals, although I did manage to get into Temperance with my 8 hour pace intact.

Temperance to Sawbill (5.7 mi section/13.6 mi overall, 1:58:09 section/4:20:35 elapsed, 20:44 section/19:10 overall pace): I left Temperance with hands full of food. I thought since I’d been feeling hungry during the past section, I had better eat something substantial, so I grabbed a couple cookies, a handful of potato chips, and a pancake. I should have grabbed two pancakes, because within minutes of eating it, I felt way better. Like, I realized I felt like running again. Except I had slammed two cups of Coke and one cup of ginger ale and stuffed my face because I thought I was going to be hiking. So then I couldn’t run because I felt like a whale. I also forgot that right outside Temperance is a prime spot for photographers, so I ended up getting photographed stuffing my face while carrying my bite guard (it keeps me from clenching so hard when I’m running). So classy. I did end up actually running after I burped about 100 times. I ran over the bridge spanning the Temperance River and then continued running until I reached the start of the uphill section. For some reason I thought the big climbs started sooner, so I was hesitant to run past the first set of stairs set into the hillside. I kept waiting and waiting for Carlton Peak to come, and it didn’t. I did get passed by the 50 mile winner somewhere in here, and I was definitely passed by WAY more 50 mile runners than last time, but whatever. I didn’t count.

And then came Carlton Peak. It was fairly warm at this point, and the sun was out, and that section was exposed. So I started to cook. I didn’t know until I got back to the lodge, but I was sunburned, and it likely started there. Once I started the really steep section, I knew it was going to be bad. I let a lot of people go by me and tried to go at my own pace, but my own pace included stopping. A lot. Which isn’t like me, I usually want to push through and get up and over as quickly as I can. I don’t usually find stopping particularly helpful. But this time, I found stopping necessary. I felt really stupid, partially because I usually feel so smug about my ability to get up these tough, steep sections. It was definitely humbling. I did manage to fake it for a photographer (I didn’t forget about this prime hiding spot) but just past that spot, I didn’t just stop. I sat down. I FREAKING SAT DOWN ON THE TRAIL. I have never sat down during a race. I realize this is overly dramatic but I felt very dramatic in the moment. But I was so fatigued, and on top of that, I felt totally nauseated. And I knew there was more to come. So I sat, until someone else came along, and sat, seemed like she was also nauseated. I didn’t want to stick around and see if she was going to barf, so I kept going. And stopped a bunch more, and then when I finally reached the top, I walked it down. Slowly.  So slowly, even though it was runnable. I kept alternating between being at peace with my decision and becoming frustrated anew. I wasted a lot of energy being mad at myself.

I also forgot that after the descent from Carlton Peak, it’s uphill to the aid station. And the road crossing is not anywhere near the actual aid station. I mean, it is, but it feels interminably long, because once reaching the road crossing, I anticipated the aid station would be imminent. I took one year off from this race and apparently forgot everything about it. I drank some pop, ate some chips, took some cookies, and walked out.

Sawbill to Oberg (5.5 mi section/19.1 mi overall, 1:54:43 section/6:15:18 elapsed, 20:51 section/19:39 overall pace): This section is probably the “easiest” section in that it doesn’t have any brutal uphills like Carlton Peak or Moose Mountain, although Temperance might actually be easier due to the long descent. I knew there were a couple of climbs in this section (thanks to re-reading my race report the night before), and couldn’t tell where they were, so I conserved energy and hiked quite a bit of this section. I’m surprised, doing the math now (I’m not relying on GPS data, but on my lap button on my watch, to get the time between sections), that this section was actually slower than the previous section, considering the time I spent sitting on Carlton Peak. I am a very slow hiker.

I like this section and I was looking forward to running it. Even though there are serious uphills, they are pretty short and there aren’t as many roots and rocks in this section. It’s mostly shaded, and it’s just… nice. Plus it’s the shortest segment of the race! Now I feel like I have to run this race next year just to prove that this section is fun to run, even though I’ve been thinking of sticking to volunteering for the 2019 race.

Nothing notable happened during this section. I was just looking ahead to Oberg, knowing that if I could get past the last aid station, I’d have to finish. I was doing lots of dangerous Race Math and trying to figure out if I could finish under 9 hours and was worrying I could not get it done. I felt my E goal slipping through my fingers but I knew it was still possible. The big unknown would be the Moose.

I ran a bit once I was past the switchback climb. I forget that the sign that says “Oberg Parking Lot” is not anywhere near the parking lot, and there’s still like a mile or so to go. I ran into a group of people with a 100 mile runner – it turned out one was a pacer and the other 3 were volunteers sent to fetch him, as he had been feeling dizzy and lightheaded, but was fine and joking about it. We were met at some point by EMTs coming to check on him as well, but all was well, and he finished – I checked! I trotted in chatting with one of the volunteers, who has been coming up to the race for 12 years! Just before the Oberg aid station, we were greeted by Kurt of TCRC fame, and then the excitement of reaching the final aid station swept me up.

I forgot that I stopped at Oberg a little longer than I did at any of the other aid stations. I was chatting with Mike Borst a little, as he paced the winner for 20 or 30 miles through the night before coming back to help at the aid station. So maybe that contributed to my slightly slower pace during this section. Maybe not, I don’t know. Does it really matter? No.

Oberg to finish (7.1 mi section/26.2 mi overall, 2:26:54 section/8:42:12 elapsed, 20:41 section/19:56 overall pace): The Race Math continued. I had 2 hours and 45 minutes to finish the race in under 9 hours. I also had 2 hours and 8 minutes to finish the race under my previous time. So the dream of a course PR wasn’t dead yet, although I was realistic about its improbability. My watch died only 8 minutes after I left the aid station, so I had to rely on the time of day as my only gauge of progress.

After a short uphill, there’s a nice downhill all the way to Rollins Creek, and I ran it as best as I could. I actually felt pretty decent at this point, but knew I needed to save a lot for Moose and Mystery. I told myself once I was at the top of Mystery, I could run.

Even though I’ve run this section a quadrillion times, I forgot how long it takes for Moose Mountain to actually start. There’s a lot of preamble, relatively easy uphill that belies the undefined slope (aka vertical line) to come. I was ready to just get it over with so of course it took forever to come. Then it also took forever to go up. And again, I stopped. A lot. Last time I ran this race, I kept telling myself to keep moving whenever I felt like stopping. This year, stopping was a survival technique. Maybe I should try trekking poles next time. I hauled my way up, bent over at the knees to catch my breath, sometimes leaning on trees, possibly even sitting once more (my memory is sort of fuzzy but yeah, I think I sat). I thought my legs would be jelly at the top, but they were okay. I was so happy to get to the top and walked my way across. It feels like the top gets longer every time I run this stinking mountain. I knew the saddle was coming at some point and that seemed to have more short ascents than I thought. Of course I was probably moving 5 or 6 minutes/mile faster when I last ran this section… I finally reached the descent (and the sign that told me it was only 3.5 miles to Ski Hill Road!!!) and was temporarily relieved… until I realized how shot my knees were. I’d been stubbing toes, rolling ankles, and otherwise destroying my joints, even with mostly walking. So this steep downhill was pretty painful, as was the climb over a downed tree. For a person of average height, it might have been okay, but I could barely get one leg over it, and it was a feat of strength to get my second leg over. I had NO flexibility at that point. I practically rolled over the darn thing.

Once it flattened out a bit, I was able to run, until I reached what I thought was the start of Mystery Mountain. I even started my “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” mantra – only to realize I wasn’t there yet! I crossed the footbridge and started the song anew once I started the real ascent. My brain was so addled that I kept losing track of where I was in the song. It was strange – I didn’t find Mystery Mountain that hard. It felt mostly the same, maybe a bit slower, but I never felt like I needed to stop or barf or black out for a second or two. Miraculous!

For some reason, I remembered the rest of the trail very differently. Like… there were more uphills than I remembered. I thought it was all downhill. Why? It’s clearly not. But I always forget. And am always rudely reminded. I ran as much as I could, even though this section is full of rocks and my ankles were killing me. I can feel every one of those ankle rolls now. Ouch. My feet hurt a bit too – I had a couple minor blisters on each heel and on my big toes. So I felt that, too. But as I crashed down the hill, I just kept thinking about hearing the river. The Poplar River – the sweetest sound in the world to a Superior runner. Of course I thought I heard it like 5 or 6 times and it turned out to be the wind. Sigh.

I hit Ski Hill Road and couldn’t believe it. I was almost there. I was going to finish in under 9 hours. I was going to run right by my nice cozy lodge room. And I was going to run the last 1000m or so with my eyes stinging with sweat. Ugh. I had to dig my sweaty buff out of the back pocket of my shorts (ew ew ew ew ew) and wipe my eyes in order to keep them open. One final insult.

Ahead of me as I turned the corner to leave the road, I saw a familiar figure making her way to the finish line, with the unmistakable triumphant shuffle of a 100 mile finisher: my friend Stephanie. I met Stephanie for the first time at the finish line of the 2015 Superior race, when I handed her a buckle and finisher’s medal and gave her a hug because… I don’t know why. Because she seemed cool and happy and inspiring. So I started calling her my role model, and then we became friends. Like Facebook official and everything. I could hear the emcee calling her name and the loud cheers for her, and then heard my own name as I came “flying” through the chute. Ha. And we hugged, and I practically started crying. This awful race had a happy ending. The race director handed me the buckle to present to her, and handed her a race medal to present to me, and we hugged about 10 more times.

I made the rounds at the finish line, checking in with friends and with others who I recognized from the trail, ate my chili, and then decided to pack it in and walk back to the hotel. I didn’t feel great, but beyond an overwhelming sense of fatigue and likely dehydration and low blood sugar, I wasn’t in that bad of shape. Which makes sense since I hiked like 80% of the race, I guess. I peeled off my sweaty clothes, took a shower, drank some vanilla Coke, and bummed around the room. I considered going back to the finish line but… it seemed so hard and so far.

I dug deep for this race. I swallowed my pride, fought my instinct to quit, re-set my goals repeatedly, and vacillated between embracing the suffering and questioning whether I even belong in this race or deserve to call myself a trail runner. But maybe I was really showing a glimmer of what it’s going to take for me to finish a hundred miler someday soon. Maybe not this one… yet. I didn’t get the race I wanted, not by a longshot. I wanted to run a big PR, make a decision about running Surf the Murph, and finish triumphantly with plenty of energy to hang out at the finish line after and help out. Instead I might have gotten the race I needed. I had to forget about what I “could have” or “should have” been able to accomplish — it doesn’t matter how fast I ran the 25K in the spring, or how much I’ve improved since the last time I ran this race, or what I conjured up in my head that I could achieve. The only thing that mattered was what I could do that day. So I put one foot in front of the other as best I could, showed as much gratitude as I could muster for a beautiful day in the woods with friends and congenial strangers, and I’ll treasure the finisher’s medal probably even more than I would have if I’d made my A goal.

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Fall Running Goals 2018

Getting this in before I start achieving/failing to achieve some of these goals.

  1. Distance personal best. I hope this happens at Surf the Murph, but I haven’t registered yet. I need to see how Superior goes before I sign up. There’s also the option of a timed race in ND.
  2. Marathon personal best. I’ve got two chances at this: Superior and Twin Cities. I would like to beat my current PB (7:22:17) at Superior (it would be a great predictor of success at Surf the Murph!), but if that doesn’t happen, I’ll get it at TCM or… I guess quit running.
  3. Moose Mountain Marathon course personal best. Considering I have run a 50K faster than I ran MMM last time, I think this is very achievable.
  4. Spend some time exploring St. Paul. This may or may not be achieved via running – maybe biking, or even walking? I need to check out more spots in my new city.

I think that’s probably enough.

I’ve written enough race goals posts that there’s not much new to discuss regarding Moose Mountain Marathon – it’s my second time on the course, it’ll be my third (?) marathon, and I still just want to have a good time, not barf, and live through the ordeal ready to compete (against myself) at TCM. So I’ll append my goals here rather than write a separate post.

A Standard: 7:00:00
B Standard: 7:20:00
C Standard: 7:59:59

I think 7 hours is a stretch, but I ran the spring 25K at a faster pace than that. I understand a 25K is not a marathon but I also know that I only have to go up Moose and Mystery Mountains one way. (I do have to go up Carlton Peak, but I actually don’t mind that too much.) I put it on the pace chart, so I’ll be aiming for it as long as it’s physically possible. I feel like total crap today so that’s pretty much right on cue for race week!

Racing Update

I still haven’t committed to a spring ultra yet, mostly due to cowardice (but also partially due to frugality), but I have signed up for a couple less daunting races.

In March, I am running the Hot Dash 10 Mile again. I don’t know if I’ll do it again after this year because it’s fairly expensive, but I do really like the race. It’s hard. The hills are really tough. I am hoping it’ll be a little bit warmer this year (last year it was like 33F); if not, I will dress a little more warmly than I did last year. Although I did feel fine while running the race, so maybe I just need to have a drop bag? I’m hoping I’ll be able to run faster than last year but not really sure what that will look like right now.

In May, I’ll be back in Lutsen for my 3rd straight Superior Spring 25K (here are my 2016 and 2017 RRs). I’ve already signed up to volunteer, and reserved my hotel room. I’m looking forward to running under 4 hours there this time around – I got so close last year. I feel compelled to return to this race after last year’s tragedy, to support the race staff and any runners who provided medical aid, and to honor the runner who passed away.

In September, I’ll be running the Moose Mountain Marathon again. I had to miss the race last year since I was in Maine, so I’m excited to get back. My hope is to volunteer at an aid station on the drive up Friday, and then work packet pickup, but I’m not sure how things will work out travel-wise. I’m signed up for at least the packet pickup shift. I’m really looking forward to this event – volunteering at this race sparked my love of trail running. Obviously I’m hoping to complete the event faster than I did in 2016, but I’ll leave any more specific goal setting for the fall.

I’m interested in an ultra at the end of February, but I’m not sure. It’s in Iron Mountain, MI, which is quite a drive, and there aren’t very many participants, so I feel like it would be very weird for me to run it. I don’t know if I’m comfortable with forcing volunteers to stay out there for 8 hours or so to support only me. Also who knows what the weather will be like? I don’t want to run in -10F conditions. On the other hand, it would be a good chance to get in a nice long long run before Zumbro (and would be a good bellwether for my performance at Zumbro), without having to deal with all the logistics myself. Update: Zumbro 50 is full! So the decision has been made for me.

Post-Mortem: Moose Mountain Marathon

Refreshers
Race Report
All MMM Posts

Good Things
Hills. I did a lot of hill work. All those torturous trips up Chester Bowl were worth it. I didn’t collapse and die on Mystery Mountain. My legs felt extremely strong, and I recovered really well, which was important since I have WD50K in less than 5 weeks.

Simplifying my race plan. My mantra was keep moving. I kept moving. I was tempted, for just a moment, on Moose Mountain. I wanted to stop for just a minute. I almost did, and then I muttered “Keep moving” and took another step. Before I knew it, I was at the top. Getting my picture taken.
I also planned out what time I needed to be at each aid station to reach my time goals. I typed up a little table, “laminated” it with clear tape, and tucked it into a pocket of my hydration vest. This kept me from getting frustrated when I realized my watch had gone haywire. The only problem I had was forgetting to note the actual time on my watch when the race started, so I wasn’t positive the times matched up exactly. It didn’t matter because I was ahead of my goal, but I could have ended up thinking I met my goal based on my watch time, only to find out my watch was slow and I was a little bit over. I mean, who cares, it’s a trail race and goals are only estimations, but that would have been annoying nonetheless.

Reconnaissance. I ran every section of the course. It sucked, driving up the North Shore every weekend (ok yes it was lovely, but I didn’t get to stop and enjoy the lake) and devoting an entire day to running. But it was worth it. I was prepared. I knew what the climbs felt like. I knew that I could conquer Moose Mountain and Mystery Mountain, despite my disastrous encounter with those two in May. I will not be able to do that with every race, but for my first crack at a marathon, I needed that extra confidence boost. I knew what I’d encounter, even if I didn’t know how my body would react.

Bad Things
Nutrition. It wasn’t terrible, but I am still sure I didn’t eat enough. I have to start planning better for remote races; I need to bring a cooler so I can eat something fresh for dinner the night before the race, instead of eating goldfish crackers and cookies. I didn’t eat much in the morning, either, just one Clif bar and a bit of Powerade. I had some minor stomach (well, really, esophageal) issues early on in the race so I felt kind of crummy. I should have eaten more at aid stations, carried something with me if I needed to. Potato chips tasted so good; I could have taken a cup to go and ditched the garbage at the next aid station. My stomach improved as the race went on, though. Chugging a Coke and a ginger ale helped prevent pressure from building in my stomach, and it also helped me get in some sugar when I ran out of Powerade. I knew they were only going to have Heed at the aid stations, but I should have tried some in training to make sure I could stomach it. I didn’t want to try out something new mid-race, so I just went with water and then pop at the aid stations. I felt hungry a few times during the race, especially at the end, so that was a bad sign.
My nutrition during training also sucked. I am going to wait until the off-season to start planning improvements to my day to day meals, but I’m ignoring a huge component of performance and overall health.

Strength Training. I’ve got to stop putting this on my “bad things” list. I don’t know what else to say about it.

Training Structure. I really winged it for this race. I didn’t follow a training plan, just had a general idea of the mileage I wanted to hit. My average miles/week was around 37 miles, and that average includes the two weeks I took off almost completely. (Taking out those two weeks, my average miles/week goes up to 40.) I appreciated the flexibility of going without a training plan, but I could have drawn up something fairly basic in advance so I’d have an idea of goal mileage and make sure to get in a couple of specific types of workouts (hills, other speedwork, etc.).

Moose Mountain Marathon Training: Week 6

A robust week.

Monday: 6 mi, trail (SHT at Becks Rd), 144 bpm
Tuesday: rest (yoga)
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: rest
Friday: rest (travel)
Saturday: 26.2 mi, SHT (Moose Mountain Marathon!), ??? bpm
Sunday: rest (travel)
Total: 32.2 mi

Ok. Not much to talk about. I tweaked something in my left hamstring while doing yoga and decided shut it down til the race. It was mostly preventive, but I felt like one wrong step could do some damage. Even now, if I move in a certain way (like crouching down to lift up one of my cats), I feel a little twinge. I’m getting a massage this evening that will, I hope, fix this issue. I plan to start running again tomorrow.

Other than the weird hamstring problem, I feel completely normal today. Yesterday, I felt mostly normal. Sunday, I felt like if I absolutely needed to, I could run a few miles. I guess that’s a good thing. Does it mean maybe I could have pushed harder? Probably. But I am running a 50K in 5 weeks, so it’s for the best that I’m not completely trashed and useless for days.

I can’t believe after all the anticipation, hard work, setbacks, frustration, and nerves, that I’ve completed one of my big scary races for the year, and am only 5 weeks away from the other one. It felt, even the day before the race, like it was off in the nebulous not-too-distant future, but wouldn’t ever happen. I worried things would go wrong pre-race, like they did with Curnow, or during the race, like with the Superior 25K. I wondered what business I had thinking I could or should run a marathon. I wondered what the point was. I secretly hoped I’d magically be faster on race day. I wondered if I would be last.

I’m glad to have a break from the long trips up north to run on the course. I feel now like I know it well enough that I won’t have to do that anymore, at least until I move up to a longer distance… Someday.

Race Report: Moose Mountain Marathon

I did it.
marathon.jpg
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
Placing:
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.

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

Food:
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

Gear:
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.

Moose Mountain Marathon Goals

I am tired. Less than 12 hours from now, I’ll be at the starting line for the Moose Mountain Marathon. I hope. I guess after what happened with Curnow I am convinced that even at this late hour something can go wrong. Especially since I felt crappy all afternoon. I had too much caffeine and not enough food, or something, and my heart rate’s been high. I spent a few hours volunteering at race check-in, handing out race t-shirts and answering questions and basically pretending this race isn’t going to happen, that it’s still at some far-off time in the future.

Denial ends tomorrow, I guess. Let’s just hope I can sleep.

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

Same goals as Curnow. Based on my training runs, 10 hours is probably too conservative; I am not sure what would have to happen in order to be out there that long, but anything can happen. My left hamstring is tight and I’ve been off my feet since Monday trying to rest it. Maybe it’ll snap or something. Knock wood.

The usual non-pace-related goals apply: I don’t want to puke, become incontinent, pass out, or otherwise have a medical emergency. I want to avoid poison ivy and hypothermia. I don’t want to get swept. I want to pull myself out of tough mental or physical stretches of the race. I want to keep moving. That’s the mantra. Keep. Moving.

I’ve still got to lay out my race clothes and pack up my hydration pack. There’s an opportunity for drop bags, but I decided to simplify things and skip them. I’m going to carry most of what I need, and scavenge the aid stations for the rest. Then I’m going to crawl into bed and try to fall asleep early. Hahahaha.

Oh man, I just want to get through this race happy and healthy. I don’t think that’s a lot to ask.