Race Report: FANS 24 Hour Race 2019

Little by little, brick by brick.

Official Results:
Distance: 45.4 mi
Pace: N/A, but I tapped out at about 15:14, so 20:08
Placing:
TBD once the results are published

Watch Results:
Time: 15:14:02
Pace: 16:12
Distance: 48.1 mi (once my watch even beeped off a mile while I was sitting in a chair)
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
Big distance PR, short laps

Food:
What I ate the night before: Gyro pizza
What I ate on race morning: bagel with cream cheese
What I carried with me: gels, mints (I had some Oreo cookies at my tent), water bottle with electrolyte tabs

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, arm warmers for the first few laps, ball cap, hydration vest (without a water bottle – used for storage), buff as headband (in the afternoon)
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Discussion: It’s pretty amazing how much the events of the week preceding the race can affect the race itself. The cumulative effects of a rainy and chilly Twins game on Monday, another Twins game on Tuesday that wasn’t rainy or cold but got out late, a lot of deadlines and stress at work, a really poor night’s sleep on Wednesday, air quality issues late in the week that left me feeling sick, and temperatures over 90F on Friday ended up putting me in a significant sleep debt. To cap it off, despite being tired when I went to bed on Friday, at a very decent hour, after avoiding caffeine most of the day (just like I did at Ice Age), my bedroom was so hot and stuffy I couldn’t fall asleep. I had a built-in excuse right from the get-go! Lucky me!

Before this week, I was really excited for the race. I imagined that I was going to really enjoy myself out there, that the shorter loops and the even surface would mean I could really cruise and even walking would be a lot faster. I pictured myself taking selfies with all my friends at the start and having a great time. I even allowed myself to imagine, for a moment, taking a few short loops at the end, dead tired but triumphant. It’s disappointing now to look back at how excited I was the week prior, and how optimistic I was, and see that I let the days preceding the race wholly throw me off my game.

I spent most of Friday preparing for the race, after doing almost nothing earlier in the week. I was just so darn tired. I meant to sleep in as late as possible, but ended up waking up at 7 to feed the cats and had a hard time truly falling back asleep, so I got up around 9. Very annoying, I used to be a champ at sleeping in. I realize that 9 am is sleeping in to a lot of people, but it’s all relative! I felt sick most of the day; my eyes itched and my head felt stuffy. I hoped it was due to the air quality and not due to an illness. Allergy pills didn’t help at all. I felt so listless I didn’t want to run any errands before the race, but I managed to get everything done that I needed to. I bought a bunch of gels (yes, I waited til the day before the race to replenish my gel stash!), picked up some bagels and vanilla Coke, packed my gear bag (I got a free duffel bag at the Twins game on Tuesday, which was the perfect size for my gear), re-stocked my supply kit, and went to packet pick-up to get my number and my t-shirt.

I tried to be as minimalist and self-sufficient as possible for this race. It stresses me out to rely on others for this event. It’s a lot to ask people to get up early/stay up late and sit around bored while I run in loops, whine and grump, and then throw in the towel early. It’s also very embarrassing to me to pack a lot of stuff, set up a tent, etc., and then have to haul it all away in a walk of shame when I tap out before the event ends. So this time, I brought hardly any gear at all, no tent, and I drove myself to the race. I told my dad he could stop by (this was a big mistake for him, because I was cranky every time he got there, which I feel badly about), and my husband came in the evening to support me overnight (the two of them also ferried my car back to our house, so that I wouldn’t have to figure that out later on), but other than that, I didn’t make a big deal of the race or invite a bunch of friends to do loops with me. You would think that this would make it easier to quit, but it actually worked out in my favor. The first year, I quit early in part because I knew that my dad was leaving and that would mean I’d have to haul a bunch of stuff back to his house in the morning, so I chose to quit so that we could send the tent and chairs and stuff back to his place when he left. I find that the more inconvenient a race is for others, the less likely I am to run it, or in this case, complete it. It’s sort of funny because in other spheres of my life, I am pretty self-centered, but in running I can’t seem to muster any of that selfishness.

I showed up to the event at about 7:00, a little later than the year prior, but I didn’t have to stake out a tent location. Instead of bringing my own tent, I was lucky enough to mooch off my friends’ tent. Through my race volunteering adventures, I have made friends with some incredibly awesome people who are also much more serious runners than I am. My friends Jeff and Amy had a whole set-up going, with a canopy, tent, tables, chairs, etc., and right next to them, my friends Tyson and Stefanie had a similar camp. I was able to lug my chair, cooler, tackle box, and duffel bag over to their site in one trip. (One benefit of the last-minute change of venue due to flooding at Fort Snelling: the new location has a parking lot close to the “camping” area.) I took over a little corner at the front of Amy and Jeff’s tent and walked over to get weighed in at the start. (The timing tent was actually about a quarter of a mile from the tent area, which was a little strange. I technically ran like 45.6 miles before giving up, boo, I was robbed of mileage!)

I felt really tired and out of it at the start, and basically wanted to quit right away. I have a serious running attitude problem that I need to fix if I ever want to improve. This self-defeating nonsense that gets inside my head on race day is seriously hampering my fun. Since there was no actual reason for quitting, I soldiered on. My legs felt kind of heavy, which was to be expected because I felt sleepy and because I hadn’t run since the previous Sunday (due to feeling sick/overwhelmed/tired). Overall, things just sucked for the first few miles, but I figured I’d get into a groove and go from there.

The new course is a bit different; it’s much hillier than the Fort Snelling course, and it’s all pavement. It’s also much busier; while I wouldn’t say it was crowded, there were a lot more non-racers on the course at any given time. There’s still a bit of plane traffic overhead since it’s close to the airport, and there was a lot more street traffic noise, since it’s much more urban. While I was glad not to have the painful gravel from Fort Snelling, I didn’t realize how much the asphalt would affect me.

For the first few loops, I used the hills as a natural point to switch from running to walking. I was drinking and eating gels fairly regularly; I didn’t want to get behind on my nutrition since that has been an issue for me in past races. There were Rice Krispie bars at the smaller aid station, and I probably ate three or four of those (or more) throughout the day – they were a bit sticky but they were a nice change from the usual cookies/chips, and they were surprisingly easy to eat, I thought they might be a little dry. The sun came out fairly early on, and while it was much cooler than it had been the day before, I started to heat up quickly. I decided to change my strategy to manage the heat; I told myself I’m here to stay, I’m not going to let myself get overheated, and I started walking entire laps. My friend Amy, who was entered in the 6 hour race but not really racing, joined me for a lap and perked me up. After running along in relative silence for close to 4 hours, I was glad to have her to talk to, and it changed my mental outlook. Talking to her also helped me release some of my expectations and anxieties about the race. I didn’t have to do anything, there was nothing I was supposed to do. I could do whatever I wanted.

I ended up resting a lot between laps, something I hadn’t done in the two previous races. I sat down and put my feet up a few times during the day, just to take the weight off my feet. I was having blister issues, which was unsurprising – I got them in the exact same spots I did at Ice Age, so my feet likely didn’t have a chance to recover entirely. I stopped and dealt with the first batch of blisters, drank some pop, and then got back out there. If this race has taught me anything, it’s that I need to get a much better handle on blister prevention. Time to start experimenting with the tips from Fixing Your Feet.

I thought things were going better for me after I taped up my feet, but then I got either sweat or sunscreen in my eyes. It doesn’t matter which, it just matters that it hurt like crazy and the sun and wind didn’t help. One eye was burning so badly that I had to run about half a mile with it mostly closed, tears running down my cheeks. I had to stop for probably 20 minutes to rinse out my eyes and let the stinging subside. I put a buff on my head under my hat after that and didn’t have any more problems, so maybe it was sweat (or sweat and sunscreen mixed together). Just as I was ready to head out after dealing with my eyes, my colleague (who was running the 6 hour) came by and said he’d walk the last lap of his race with me. We talked about strategy, and he told me screw it, just walk until it cools off or you feel better. He’s done the 24 hour race before, so I trusted his judgement. Once again, just spending a lap talking to someone changed my mindset for the better, and I was able to pick up the pace to match his.

After my colleague peeled off to do some short laps, I continued right into another lap. I knew I was getting close to a marathon, and I dialed in on that milestone. I told myself no more breaks til I was beyond the marathon. I hit the 26.2 mi mark at 7:13:24 (they had signs marking a marathon, 50K, 50 mi, etc.), and then focused on hitting 50K. I was feeling more motivated, so I switched to running the shady sections and walking the sunny sections, and was really motoring (for me). I could tell I was getting more blisters, and I had switched to straight water because I didn’t stop for more electrolyte tabs, but I wanted to get to 50K before I took another break. The 50K mark was between the timing tent and the camping area, but I wanted to do the entire loop to get “credit” for reaching 50K before I took a break.

I hit 50K in 8:44:37 and finished that loop for 31.6 miles. After that loop, I was looking forward to stopping, dealing with my feet, eating some spaghetti (yes, really) and chilling out. My dad was there when I reached the tent, and for some reason that was making me super anxious. I don’t know what it was, but it made me feel like a zoo animal, like he was just watching me and waiting for what I was going to do. Which he kind of was, but mentally at that point I just couldn’t take it. He said he was going to wait to leave until I was on my next lap, and that seemed like too much expectation. I ended up eating a couple cookies instead of the spaghetti, and basically told him to leave by saying I was going to start my next lap soon. Oh look, there was some of that selfishness coming out. After he left, I dealt with my blisters and hung out for a little longer talking to Amy before I headed out.

I ate my spaghetti on the following lap, as well as part of a piece of ciabatta. This was one of the biggest benefits of walking through the afternoon – my stomach was feeling great, as was most of the rest of my body. I was eating and drinking like normal, everything was going down fine, I wasn’t losing weight (I’d lost 2.5 lbs between the morning weigh-in and the 4:00 PM weigh in, but at the 8:00 PM weigh in, I was stable), and I didn’t have any dehydration issues (total TMI but because I wasn’t worried about time, I used the real bathroom at the pavilion a couple times, so I can confirm I was staying hydrated). I also didn’t have any issues with finger swelling like I did at Ice Age.

For a little while, things started to look up. The sun was still hot (I reapplied sunscreen at 6PM, and Amy asked “Are you sure you need that? It’s after 6.” I’m just that pasty) but I was able to run a lot more than I had been able to when it was hotter. I felt like things were going well. Then my feet started to hurt a lot. Not just the blisters, but the balls of my feet, as well as the side/top of my right foot, which hurt like my left one did last year. I was getting worried. I switched to completing a loop, then putting my feet up to rest, then heading out for another.

And it got dark! I made it past nightfall! That was huge for me. Last year I was still there at night, but I didn’t actually do a loop with a headlamp on. This year I did two. And they were hard. I ran quite a bit of them, mostly because it hurt more to run, but I was starting to get frustrated with how much my feet hurt, how much I wanted to go home and sleep in my own bed, and how futile the rest of the race felt. I passed last year’s total on lap 24, and started to feel better about how things were going, but I was also annoyed with how long each lap was taking. I was past last year’s total, but it had taken me so long to get there. I didn’t know how many more laps I had in me, and I started thinking about what it would take to even get to 50 miles. I finished what ended up being my final lap at about 11:00, and realized that it would probably take over two more hours, maybe even three, to do the three more laps I needed to get to 50 miles, and I decided it wasn’t worth it. I just didn’t feel like the effort was worth the result. I could go home and go to bed, or I could shuffle through a few more laps. I don’t think I could have even made 100K if I’d stayed there til the finish, and I didn’t care.

I don’t feel too badly about it. Of course now I realize I could have shuffled on longer with some tweaks here and there. I could have stopped at the benches along the way, for example. I could have stayed in my chair and just done a lap here or there and stayed there all night. I could have just shuffled along in increasing amounts of pain. But that’s okay. These are all things I am saying in hindsight; in the moment, I didn’t think of them, or I just didn’t want to do them. But I still did a lot.

I figured out a survival strategy when things were going wrong. I fixed my blisters (kind of) and got back out there. I ran when it hurt. I got back out there when I didn’t want to, over and over again. I didn’t chafe. I didn’t get sunburned. I ate and drank like I should have. I spent time with my friends. I got a distance PR and lasted longer than I ever have at this event. I ran night loops. I did all this on really minimal training – the only truly long run I did was another race.

I’m left with a lot of the same questions in my mind as I had last year. Am I cut out for these really long races? Is this event a waste of my time? Should I just do the 12 hour or 6 hour next year? So much helpful self-doubt and self-flagellation. Yet I do keep improving. And I do love this event. And there’s something so special about the loops after 8 PM and that solidarity that the 24 hour runners have that I don’t think I want to give up. I think I really need a big success at this event before I’ll feel comfortable trying for 100K or longer (I could probably still give 50 miles a shot, though it would need to be the right race), so it’s probably going to be on the docket for next year, even though I said last night that maybe I’ve finally scratched the itch this race has given me.

I completed 45.4 miles and was still running at the end. Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t even run the entire mile in gym class because it seemed too hard. Five years ago, I couldn’t even handle marathon training. When I feel like a failure, it helps to remember where I started.

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FANS and ESTRS

I had a dream last night that it was snowing for FANS, and I had absolutely nothing except a winter coat (I guess that was fortunate). I tried to go home and pick stuff up (specifically like 25 pairs of socks) and realized I didn’t have my car keys. I think this is a sign that I need to get my butt in gear and start doing actual planning for the race. It is in six days, so that’s good advice.

Wednesday, I volunteered for the first installment of the Endless Summer Trail Run Series. It was a bit on the chilly side, so the “summer” part seemed more like “beginningless” than endless, but I was covered for many contingencies – I had long pants, a sweatshirt, and even a poncho. The poncho is so great that I almost want it to rain during an event so that I can bust it out. I spent the evening checking in runners, wrangling (and eating) pizza, and cheering people on. It is SUCH a great event: the prize this year is a race-specific sticker (collect all 5!), the people who volunteer and/or run are top-notch, and the locations are awesome, too. If not for this race, I wouldn’t have known about Lebanon Hills! I signed up to volunteer at all 5 events this year, just so I wouldn’t miss out on the party.

Before I headed to the ESTRS shindig, I went to the new FANS course over lunch for some course recon. I went with my much faster colleague (who is competing in the 6 hour event) and ended up busting my butt to try not to bog him down, but I feel like I got the lay of the land anyway. The FANS race committee had to scramble to find a new place since Fort Snelling is still experiencing flooding. What a nice surprise for the new race directors! This year it will be at Normandale Lake, which has some positives: no gravel, no fee to get in (great for spectators), and the course is much closer to the lake, so I think that will help keep things cool. It has some challenges, too: it’s all asphalt, which could be tough when it gets hot, and it has some hillier hills. They aren’t that bad, but I’m sure by the 10th time around, they’ll be annoying. They are strategically placed to facilitate walking breaks, so that will be good!

I still have a lot to do this week to get ready, including a trial run at setting up my tent on my own, purchasing gels (I went to REI during their sale and the selection was not great!), restocking my tackle box of supplies, and figuring out how to deal with my feet. I did finally rid myself of this annoying callus I’ve had forever that was causing some serious issues, but my right foot is still sort of healing from the blister I got at Ice Age. I think it should be ok, but I’m still missing a layer of skin from where the blister was, and there’s a ridge where the old skin meets the new that I’m a bit wary of. What an appetizing though, I know.

I’m hoping my newfound talent for getting a decent night’s sleep before wasn’t a fluke, but I’m taking the day before the race off of work, and I plan to avoid sugar and caffeine in the afternoon and evening. I’m hoping to avoid a lot of my past FANS mistakes this year (eat more, walk more, deal with ANY problem, no matter how small, ASAP, apply more sunscreen) while also avoiding new mistakes, I want to get a BIG distance PR, and I really, really, really want to get at least one short lap in (meaning, I’m still in this thing in the final hour). Other than that, no expectations. No A, B, or C standard distances planned. Just see what I’m capable of, and try not to permanently damage myself.

Spring 2019 Running Goals Revisited

“Spring” as defined by me for the purposes of this site (March, April, May) has effectively ended. As is tradition, I’m reviewing my goals for the season and the year to see my progress.

I will note this winter/spring has been pretty terrible for me as far as running is concerned. I found joyful runs to be few and far between, and spent far, far too many miles on the treadmill. I also found it hard to get my runs in while heading up to Duluth for hockey. That’s something I’ll have to work on for next winter.

My spring running goals were:

  1. Distance personal best. Zumbro 50 was canceled, but I wouldn’t have finished anyway considering my training and the men’s hockey national championship game.
  2. 50K personal best. I thought I came close at Ice Age Trail 50K, but then it turned out I misremembered my PR. I got my second best overall time, though!
  3. Set up a corporate team for Twin Cities Marathon. I’m working on it, but haven’t gotten very far. We can have an unofficial team, if that doesn’t work out.
  4. Run in three new counties. I ran in Carver County, Le Sueur County, Wright County, Rice County, and Goodhue County. Overachieving!
  5. Throw away all socks that have holes in them. This is ongoing since I am making new holes all the time, but I ditched a LOT of pairs of socks.

Let’s call that 2.5/5. Not great, but I did have a great time exploring new areas of Minnesota.

My annual goals are:

  1. 2019 mileage > 2018 mileage
    I’m not doing very well on that right now, but I’m not too far off and have plenty of time to make it up.
  2. Do 100 pushups/day
    The first few months of the year, this didn’t go well. Then my colleagues started doing a group push-up challenge at work, and I got back into doing them. I’m not anywhere near 100/day, but I’m working toward making up for lost time.
  3. Run more new races/courses than old ones.
    So far, I haven’t run any old courses! I ran the Polar Dash Half in January, which was a new race to me, and then I ran Ice Age Trail last weekend, which was entirely new terrain. Even FANS is going to be a new course, thanks to epic flooding on the Mississippi River.
  4. My highest category of training mileage will not be treadmill mileage. I’m still at probably around 50% treadmill workouts and maybe 45% treadmill mileage, but again, I can make a lot of that up as the year progresses.
  5. Start taking a multivitamin. Done. I didn’t notice a difference.
  6. Volunteer at a race that isn’t put on by Rocksteady Running.
    I volunteered at The Willow 10 & 20 Miler in Hudson, WI. I didn’t know anyone there, but I had a great time and truly enjoyed everyone I met. I got to hand out the awards to the top runners, answered questions, and helped call off bib numbers. I narrowly avoided being showered in blue Gatorade puke by a hard-charging tween boy.
  7. Go for a run in every county in MN. See above.

I think for the year, I am doing pretty well, except in the push-up area, which I’m already working on. I’m not sure what my summer running goals will be, I should firm them up in the next week or so.

Race Report: Ice Age 50K

The first rule of trying to beat your PR is to know what your PR actually is.

Official Results:
Time: 8:23:33
Pace: 16:13
Placing:
Overall: 224/242
Gender: 108/121
AG (F30-39): 36/39

Watch Results:
Time: 8:22:49 (Since there was a timing mat at the beginning, I didn’t start the watch til I crossed the mat, but it appears they used gun time for the official time)
Pace: 16:12
Distance: 31.02 mi (this is crazy because during the race it seemed very off)
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 7:45
B: 8:00
C: 8:20

Food:
What I ate the night before: half of a peanut chicken noodle dish from Noodles that wasn’t very good
What I ate on race morning: bagel with cream cheese
What I carried with me: 8 gel packets, water, water with electrolytes in a disposable water bottle, mints

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, arm warmers, ball cap, hydration pack
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Discussion:
I am so happy with how the race went, even though I didn’t make any of my goals and didn’t PR. I didn’t even make my fake PR, which I thought was 8:23. I don’t know what I was thinking, since my PR is 8:14, but I didn’t think of that until like 20 miles into the race. I even linked to the race report from the Fall Back Blast, where I set that PR, but I didn’t even verify it. I was mixing it up with my trail marathon PR, which is 7:22, I guess. This ended up being a good thing because it gave me something to fight for when I realized all of my goals were out of reach.

I drove down to packet pickup the night before, then made a quick drive-by of the race start to check it out, then drove to my hotel about a half an hour away. I ate a depressing dinner; I guess I should have stuck with the spaghetti or something but I was worried about getting heartburn from the red sauce. I sort of put myself in the hole, nutrition-wise, but oh well. I went to bed fairly early (for me) and I actually slept! I think I got about 5 hours. I woke up before my 6:45 alarm, but overall I was very happy with the amount of sleep I got, considering I’d have an almost 5 hour drive ahead of me after the race.

I got to the race start with about 20 minutes to spare, which is a lot less time than I’d like, but I had enough time to do everything I needed to. Parking was very easy, and it was a very short walk to the start/finish area. The 50 milers had been off for hours, and the half marathoners would start after us 50Kers. The start was a bit of a surprise for most people, but that’s because so many people were talking while the race director was giving his speech.

Section 1: Start to AS 3 (1.5 mi section, 1.5 mi overall, 13:32 section pace, 13:32 overall pace): I guess I really cruised through this section! It’s fairly easy, a few little rolling hills and then a nice section through some pines. The trail is really wide here, so there wasn’t the normal bunching that you see at the start of a race with single track early on. I breezed through the aid station as I didn’t need anything. This section is actually run 4 times during the course, but this was the only time I did it in that “clockwise” direction. I can’t tell if it’s much easier that way, or if it was easier because it was the first segment in the race. Possibly both?

Section 2: AS 3 to AS 8 (0.9 mi section, 2.4 mi overall, 14:47 section pace, 14:00 overall pace): I’m not 100% certain why there are two aid stations so close together, but with three vastly different courses for the three distances, there is probably some logic to it I don’t understand. I didn’t need anything at this aid station since it was also so close to the start, so I cruised through. Honestly, I don’t remember much about this section, other than the “Confusion Corner” point, where there are so many different directions to go. The 50 milers have to go through that section quite a few times and go different ways, so they have volunteers out there helping to get people through. I slowed down a bit here so there must have been some climbing involved, but since it was less than a mile, it’s easy to forget.

Section 3: AS 8 to AS 9 (4.2 mi section, 6.6 mi overall, 15:29 section pace, 14:57 overall pace): This section is really hard! It has probably the most challenging climbs of the day, including a huge one right after the aid station. It does have some sections to run, so it’s probably my favorite type of trail running. I don’t mind a few decent climbs, as long as they aren’t as steep as Moose Mountain. I think the course description undersold how much of this section can be run, but maybe for a faster runner it wouldn’t seem that way. For the amount of climbing/uphills in this section, I think that’s a pretty freaking great section pace! The aid station/turnaround was near a horse camp, and I could hear some horses whinnying when I passed. I don’t really like horses, but that was kind of fun! I drank some pop at the aid station and grabbed a couple cookies. At some point during this section, I ate a gel. Since it was an out and back, I got to encounter all the runners ahead of me on the way back, which is okay but also gets old.

Section 4: AS 9 to AS 8 (4.2 mi section, 10.9 mi overall, 16:20 section pace, 15:29 overall pace): Dang, I slowed down a lot here! I am surprised. I did have some minor stomach trouble here, as I drank too much pop at the aid station and it made me feel kind of gross. I ate one of the cookies but had to force it down, and then ate a mint (Lifesavers wintergreen). I need to break those mints in half because I was sick of the darn thing but didn’t have anywhere to put it and was not about to litter. I didn’t have a gel during this section because of the stupid mint! That was probably dumb. I started running into 50 milers during this section, which was neat! They were spaced out farther than the 50Kers on the previous section, so it didn’t interrupt my rhythm as much.

Section 5: AS 8 to AS 3 (0.9 mi section, 11.8 mi overall, 17:12 section pace, 15:37 overall pace): I have no clue why I slowed so much during this section. I didn’t stop at the aid station, so I guess I was just dawdling.

Section 6: AS 3 to AS 2 (start/finish) (1.5 mi section, 13.3 mi overall, 15:30 section pace, 15:36 overall pace): Here, I started to encounter half marathoners finishing up as well as 50Kers finishing their first loop. Both were a little demoralizing, especially since the half marathoners were finishing the same distance as me, but had started 45 minutes later. Of course, they had a bit easier terrain to run and they didn’t have to conserve energy for another 18 miles, but still!

Section 7: AS 2 to AS 1 (5 mi section, 18.3 mi overall, 15:48 section pace, 15:40 overall pace): This section starts out with about 2 miles to just cruise. I vowed to myself that I would run all the runnable sections, because I think at this point I had realized that my A and B goals were out the window but that my C goal was within reach, if I kept on it. I also thought that meant a PR, so I was really holding on to that. Once the two miles of mostly flat terrain ends, it’s 3 miles of rolling hills, some of them rather large. I think this section’s hilliness is undersold, which is the opposite of the description of the first portion of the course. I thought the aid station was 4.5 miles away, not 5, so I was getting extremely frustrated until I checked my pace chart and realized it was farther away than I thought. At the aid station, I reapplied sunscreen and some Vaniply to a few spots that were chafing.

Section 8: AS 1 to AS 2 (3.9 mi section, 22.2 mi overall, 17:29 section pace, 15:59 overall pace): Woof! This section was hard! The funny thing is, I don’t remember it being hard physically. I do remember it being hard mentally, because I was running with a lot of 50kers who were finishing while I had one more lap to go. It had a few hills, but still.

Section 9: AS 2 to AS 1 (5 mi section, 27.2 mi overall, 15:32 section pace, 15:54 overall pace): I left the finish line determined to give it my all on this last loop. I knew that AS 1 was closing at 3, so I planned to run right through it. I was starting to hurt a bit at this point, and I know my gait was starting to get wobbly, but I continued to run even if I wanted to walk and/or lie down in the grass and quit. And sure enough, I ran this section 4 minutes faster than the first time, although most of that was because I didn’t stop at the aid station. At this point, I still had hope of finishing in 8:20, and I was jazzed leaving the aid station.

Section 10: AS 1 to the finish line (3.9 mi section, 31 mi overall, 18:03 section pace, 16:12 overall pace): Well, any hope of finishing in under 8:20 died in this section. I am still a bit confused about what was so hard about this particular section, because it isn’t that bad, but I was also sort of crushed by it. I had the physical energy to continue but my joints were starting to hurt, especially my hips. The bottoms of my feet weren’t feeling great either, and I had blisters on both heels. At one point, the blister on my right heel burst and it started to feel like absolute fire every time I took a step, without the nice cushion of fluid to prevent my sock from rubbing on raw skin. I was demoralized and knew that I didn’t have the 8:20 finish in me, but I kept going. I ran when I didn’t want to run, even some uphills. I was getting passed by 50 milers who looked like they were in much better shape than me for the most part. I thought even the 8:23 was beyond hope, but I kept on pushing. I didn’t want to give up, and I started to look at the race as mental test for what I’ll be facing at FANS. I saw the red Saucony signs which marked the approach of the finish line, and realized I could still squeak under 8:23 if I pushed. So I pushed, and even though the stupid finish is UPHILL for some terrible reason, I ran through the finish with a smile on my face and finished under 8:23 per my watch. (If only I’d known to start my watch at the gun instead of when I crossed the timing mat…)

After the finish, I got my finisher’s token and walked around elated. I know why this race is so popular, and it’s not because the course is challenging but fun, or because the scenery is beautiful. It’s because everyone involved is so nice. Like, I want to cry when I think about how nice everyone was. The finish was crowded with people who were shouting encouragement at me, and I couldn’t stop grinning and thanking them. I sat down and had a ginger ale and talked with a volunteer, then headed off to find a bathroom. I decided I wasn’t quite ready to go inside anywhere, so I sat down and had a nice conversation with a 50 miler name Pat, and then another guy who I know by face but not name (and was too spaced out to ask for his name) who recognized my Rocksteady Running gear. I talked with Pat’s cute daughter who was telling me all about her dolphin she had gotten at an arcade or something (I wasn’t quite following), and then I had to get up and go because some woman in the medical tent was throwing up her entire soul and I couldn’t deal with seeing that or even trying to ignore it but knowing it was happening.

I walked over to the lot where I thought my car was, realized it was in a different grassy lot, and hobbled over to that lot to change my clothes (I changed everything except my sports bra and underwear, I didn’t even care that I took my pants off in the middle of a field) and then drove home.

I had a lot of thoughts and feelings during this race, mostly about my future as an ultrarunner. I don’t know what was going on in my head, but I was thinking “Why am I doing this?” quite a bit. That tends to happen a lot when I’m doing a race that’s far from home and requires a lot of money and effort to attend; I feel like I would rather just go back home and go to bed. Unfortunately this race gives a couple primo opportunities to just quit, since you come through the finish area at 13 and 22 miles. And I thought about quitting a couple times, and I’m not sure why. I really do enjoy the sport and by the end I was reminded why I do it: because of the strong connection with other runners and volunteers, because of the beauty of the outdoors, because I do love the challenge and the struggle, and because a runner’s high is an unbeatable feeling.

I was surprised by how much self-doubt I felt during the race despite overall performing pretty well. I suppose that’s partially because I have not been training that hard, which was evident from the pain in my legs and feet. I know I made a lot of nutrition mistakes during the race (and leading up to it), but I never really felt like my energy was lagging, I just felt like it hurt so much I didn’t want to run. But I still did. I ran almost all of the runnable sections of the race, with a few exceptions: one downhill that was pretty steep and a little bit of time after my blister exploded (but it actually hurt more to walk than to run). I feel like I pushed harder than I have in the past, and I’m pretty proud of that. This is still faster than both of my other runs on the Ice Age Trail (as part of Chippewa Moraine – obviously a different section of the trail), so I’ll call it an Ice Age Trail PR.

Ice Age 50K Goals

I’m racing in 12 hours! Surprise surprise. I am of course going from excitement to anxiety and back from minute to minute. The farther away from home I go for a race, the more that seems to happen.

I really want to get a 50K PR, so my goals are as follows:

A Standard: 7:45
B Standard: 8:00
C Standard: 8:20

Ambitious? Maybe. Probably. Yes.

The single most important thing I can do right now is get enough sleep. I mean, 4 hours would be great. I don’t have to get up super early (maybe 6:45?) so maybe that is going to work in my favor, but maybe not. I was on a work trip last week and I had a terrible time sleeping, so I am not anticipating a nice long snooze. Of course worrying about it now doesn’t help, does it?

I don’t know much about this course. It sounds like the first 13 miles are hilly and the two 9 mile loops after are more runnable. I don’t know what to expect beyond that. The area looks gorgeous, and I hope I am able to enjoy it.

That sounds very fatalistic, I guess. I realized I haven’t run an ultra in almost a year. That is crazy! I didn’t realize it had been that long, but I DNS both Zumbro (canceled) and Surf the Murph (ugh), and my other two big fall races were marathons. So it’s hard to know what to expect, plus my mileage has been a lot lower lately since I’ve been not super enthusiastic about running. I think I’m in good shape and I’m going to have a much better race than I did at, say, Moose Mountain Marathon, but I also don’t know what kind of mental shape I’m in. We shall see.

Out of the Black and Into the Blue

I have been completely unenthusiastic about running lately. And that’s putting it mildly.

I’m starting to come out on the other side of things, mostly because Zumbro is behind me. The race, unfortunately, was canceled due to weather. I am not going to lie, this was a huge relief to me. Zumbro weighed so heavily on me. My training went fairly poorly, and I failed to get even 50 miles most weeks. I think that probably would have been okay if my average mileage had been in the 40s, but my average mileage for training ended up being like 37 miles or so. Not much more than I’d get during a 50k.

I was prepared not to run the race, or to run a modified version of it. Once the Bulldogs advanced to the Frozen Four, I canceled my hotel room. I knew I’d still have an opportunity to run the whole race, if they didn’t make the national championship game, but I could also run 2 loops (~34 miles) and make it home in time to watch the game. (If I ran the whole thing, I’d be done before game time, but also likely too tired to watch.) When it looked like it was going to be nice, I was still thinking I’d do what I could.

When it looked like it was going to be frigid and rainy the whole time, I was out. I was not prepared to run at night, in rain and potentially ice, even for a shorter distance. I was chicken, and I was coming face to face with the consequences of the denial I’d been living in. I’d done very little to prep for the race. I didn’t do any really long runs. I didn’t run at night. I didn’t run in poor conditions. I barely ran outside at all, and hardly ever on trails. I didn’t do anything hard, but expected to show up and do something incredibly hard.

My chest felt so heavy it felt like a rock had replaced my heart. I knew I’d have to live with the decision not to run, and feel like I’d wasted money, embarrassed myself, and overall let myself down. When I saw the weather started to turn, I started to think that maybe I could avoid all that misery. If the race was canceled, I wouldn’t have to be a quitter! Then I thought about all the people who worked hard to put on the event, and who worked hard to line up at the start, especially those who missed out on last year’s race, and I felt like garbage for even entertaining the hope that it would be canceled, just so I could look myself in the mirror.

The race was canceled, and I’m still a quitter. I quit in my head and my heart before I knew it was canceled (although I do think I would have made it down if the weather had been favorable, and at least started the race), so no one else knew I was a quitter. I’m here to correct the record.

It’s been warm enough to run outside in just shorts and a t-shirt lately (though the warm weather comes and goes), and that has helped me love running again. I don’t have to think about unshoveled sidewalks, phantom patches of ice, and frostbite. It’s still light out when I finish my runs in the evening. I’m not chilled to the bone when I come in from a run. Trails are starting to dry out.

I’ve got Ice Age 50K in a few weeks (although I have a weird soreness in the upper part of my left leg that I can’t seem to pinpoint, so I’m taking a few days off to rest and spending that time worrying about what could be wrong), and I’m really looking forward to that. I have missed racing and I’ve missed being in the woods.

The bright shiny silver lining to this story is that UMD won another national championship, so Zumbro weekend ended on a very, very, very high note!

Spring 2019 Running Goals

It IS actually spring, according to the rules here at CoM (spring = Mar-May, summer = Jun-Aug, fall = Sep-Nov, for goal setting purposes), so I need to step it up and get my spring running goals together, even if running is making me miserable right now.

I don’t have a whole lot planned for the spring, so I had a hard time coming up with too many short-term goals. I managed to come up with four distinct goals:

  1. Distance personal best. It’s mine as long as I finish Zumbro.
  2. 50K personal best. I was gunning for that last spring at Chippewa Moraine and didn’t make it, so I’ll give it another shot at Ice Age in May.
  3. Set up a corporate team for Twin Cities Marathon. Several of my colleagues have expressed interest in running TCM this year, and I thought it would be fun to get some of the perks that come with being a corporate team. I’m in the beginning stages of setting up the team (and setting myself up as team captain!)
  4. Run in three new counties. I set a multi-year goal to run at least a mile in every county in MN, and I am ready to start exploring! With upcoming races and the current poor trail conditions, it’s going to be hard to get too many new counties in, so I am setting the bar kind of low.
  5. Throw away all socks that have holes in them. (I added this 3/11/19). I realize this makes me seem like a pathetic hoarder, but I wear clothing into the ground. A hem coming out? A hole in a seam? Faded/dingy whites? Small stain? I’m still wearing it. But holey socks are just going to lead to foot discomfort. Time to jettison those socks and replace them (hopefully with more durable pairs).

I know once the weather improves, I am going to get excited about running again, so it’s just a matter of buckling down for these last few weeks of winter weather (I’m being optimistic here, of course there could be 6 more weeks, but I can’t think about that now.)