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.

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Race Report: Superior 25K 2017

Official Results:
Time: 4:06:15 (45 minute improvement)
Pace: 15:52
Placing:
Overall: 215/301
Gender: 111/185
AG (F 30-39): 59/95

Watch Results:
Time: 4:06:20
Pace: 16:56
Distance: 14.54 mi
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 4:15
B: 4:30

Food:
What I ate the night before: chimichurri burger and fries
What I ate on race morning: bagel with cream cheese and hazelnut spread
What I carried with me: 4 gel packets (I ate 1), candy (had one Jolly Rancher), mints, water.

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

Discussion: Writing a race report feels wrong. Initially I considered not writing one, because celebrating a PR or even dissecting the successes and failures of the race seems trivial and disrespectful. A runner passed away on the trail during the race. It’s a terrible loss for his family, friends, and students, and a traumatic event for the race staff and runners, especially those who were involved in trying to save him. We take risks we don’t even realize when we run these remote races, with miles between aid stations. A couple of miles seems endless in an emergency. All we have out there on the trails is each other, and dozens rose to the occasion.

I don’t want to dwell on this story; it isn’t really my business, nor is it about me. I’ll share that I asked myself what I would have done, had I been the first person to come upon the runner. I can’t say for certain, but I know that I was in no way as prepared as the runners and hikers who were assisting, and I need to update my first aid and lifesaving skills. I am not a medical professional, but I need to do the best I can to be prepared to help on the trail.

The rest of the weekend is worth talking about, even though in perspective, it seems small.

My husband and I drove up on Friday afternoon, arriving just in time for me to start my volunteer duties. I helped sell merchandise this year, which I haven’t done before. It’s a little different than checking people in, which I really enjoy doing – I like chatting with each runner as they pick up their bib or race shirt. However, selling merchandise is a bit less stressful – packet and shirt pick-up can have a tinge of drama, and it can be rushed. Since people choose whether or not they want to look at all the swag for sale (and it’s great, the race director creates it all and he has an incredible eye for design), they’re not in a hurry and have time to chat. I made some new friends, which is basically the reason I volunteer (besides giving back to the trail running community), and reconnected with some others, including one guy I knew from high school, who I hadn’t seen in probably 20 years.

After I finished volunteering, my husband and I went to dinner at the Poplar River Pub at the Lutsen lodge. I ate an actual meal the night before a destination race – I think this might be a first. It wasn’t the world’s healthiest meal, but it was more substantial than the junk food I ate before Chippewa. We went back to our resort for the evening and watched a movie and went to bed around midnight. I tossed and turned a bit, especially since I realized while laying out my gear for the morning that I had forgotten my bib in the packet pickup room. Or at least, I hoped it was there. Overall I got a decent night’s sleep, and got up around 6:45, walked down to check in and find my packet (it was there, of course), and then back to my room to get ready.

The weather was cool and it was overcast, but the forecast had improved and it appeared the rain would hold off until the evening. I packed my ultralight rain jacket and a pair of gloves in my pack, just in case. I decided for a shorter run, I wouldn’t bring along anything other than water and a couple of gels. I think I might have put a Clif bar in there just in case I needed something substantial, but I can’t remember. I got dressed, ate, putzed around worrying, and then left for the start at about 7:40. Staying at the race start/finish takes away a lot of my race day anxiety. I didn’t even make a checklist this time, and still felt like I had everything I needed before, during, and after the race. I’m starting to get the hang of this.

I ran a little less than half a mile to warm up, just enough time to worry that my legs felt like lead weights. I met up with some friends from the Twin Ports I met at Voyageur who had driven up that morning (crazy!), and then fell into place with a new friend I’d met during my volunteer stint. She was helping to sell surplus tech tees (2 for $5!) and pint glasses ($1 off your first pint at the bar! One of the mainstay volunteers negotiated that deal) while I was next to her selling surplus race shirts from previous years (I bought one for myself). Her husband was also volunteering, but I recognized them both from my first volunteer experience, working the finish line at the Superior Fall Trail Races in 2015, when he finished the 100 miler. They’re both really cool people, and she and I discovered we had similar race goals, so we ran together at the beginning. We separated when we reached the single track – she took off and I hung back. She ended up finished about 20 minutes ahead of me, so we both outperformed our goals significantly.

It was slow going once getting onto the single track, as there was a muddy section to start off, plus some small hills. I walked all the hills, even the little ones, because I knew I had to save energy for Moose Mountain, my bff. I like the way this race starts – the half mile or so stretch of road helps everyone separate before reaching the single track, but the single track slows everything down again – it’s so tempting to go out too fast on the road, so the trail helps check that impulse. The first section is kind of funny at the back of the pack, because of the people who appear unprepared for the terrain or elevation, trying to pick their way through the mud unscathed, or trying to recover from taking the hill too quickly. I tried to hang back, avoided passing anyone, and let others pass me without concern. I had my own race plan, and I wasn’t going to abandon it a mile in just to feed my ego.

I ended up in front of a couple of runners also from Duluth, who were running together and having a conversation. It was just like Chippewa all over again. They ended up talking to me for a little bit, then they stopped to pee, and then they caught me on Moose Mountain. We climbed up together, with one of the women keeping up her end of the conversation. I was pretty amazed she was able to keep talking as we climbed up the steep trail; I was huffing and puffing and my legs were howling at me. Once we got to the top, we ran in a line for awhile before they passed me, and I didn’t see them again until we neared the aid station. I ate a gel about 5 minutes before I started the Moose Mountain climb, which was a great idea.

I started to see the first 25K runners as we crossed the top of Moose Mountain, including the first woman (who I believe finished 5th overall!), and as I started my descent, I ran into a UMD hockey alumnus, kicking butt in a new sport (he was 8th overall!) I caught up with a self-professed “flatlander” who ran with me from the bottom of Moose Mountain through to Oberg. People seemed to be a lot more spread out this time around, so I wasn’t having as much trouble passing as I did the previous year, or at Chippewa. Or maybe I was just in a better mood. On the switchbacks heading up Oberg, I saw the 50K winner come flying down with wild abandon. He ended up setting a course record, and I’m not surprised, considering how he looked. A man on a mission. He also runs wearing glasses so I felt some solidarity.

I reached the Oberg aid station in under 2 hours, and when I hit the lap button when I left, it read 1:59:59. I was probably about 15 minutes ahead of the previous year at this point, although I’m not 100% sure since I didn’t take a lap reading last year. Right before the aid station, a guy was sitting cheering on runners and playing music, which perked me up. At the aid station, I had a couple of cups of Coke and a cup of ginger ale, which tasted so delicious. I chowed down on some potato chips, stowed a couple of Fig Newtons in a pocket in my pack, got a hug from a volunteer friend, and turned around.

The run out of the Oberg aid station is much nicer than the run in, since it’s just a short uphill section followed by some nice runnable downhill sections. I passed runners that I knew from previous races, and offered encouragement to those who were looking like they couldn’t wait for the aid station. I understood – I’d been lusting after a pop for probably an hour. I was passed by a 50K runner I recognized – last year, he was the dude who was totally fried and out of water. He looked great this year in comparison, and he remembered me, too. I knew the backside of Moose Mountain awaited me, and I wanted to get it over with. I ate one of my cookies “fruit and cake” just before the ascent began, and then slowed down to a moderate walking pace when the familiar terrain of the mountain began. It was a tough climb, and I took it as slowly as I could. I was passed by some 50K runners whose climbing skills were impressive. I was jealous – I have got to get better and faster at the steep ascents.

When I finally reached the top (well, it’s the first “top,” as it’s more of a saddle profile), I cheered out loud, because I knew I’d finished the hardest part. I tried to run as much as I could across the top, but I slowed to a walk several times if I hit even a hint of incline. I was able to scramble down the other side pretty easily, other than one big step down off a root which my legs weren’t quite ready for. I trotted across the flat section between the mountains, trying to decide if I wanted to have another gel. I’d finished the other Fig Newton while crossing Moose Mountain, so I wasn’t really hungry. I decided to eat a Jolly Rancher while I plodded up Mystery Mountain.

I slowed to a walk as I reached the start of the Mystery Mountain ascent. I knew to take it slow: it wasn’t a steep ascent, but it took a long time. I started singing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” in my head, to keep busy while I was going up. I saw a group of people on the switchbacks above me, and thought it was a group of spectators cheering runners on during this last tough climb. When I reached the group and realized what was actually going on, that I had come upon a fallen runner receiving CPR, my heart sank.

Since there were at least 10 people already assisting, and I had no specific skills or tools with which to assist, after ensuring someone had called for help, I continued. I really don’t know if this was right or wrong. It felt wrong. If there had only been one or two people, I would have stopped. It felt wrong to stop, too; since I couldn’t provide any real help, it seemed like it would have just been self-serving. But maybe there was some specific way I could have helped, if I’d stayed. Everything felt wrong. It still feels wrong. Of course it does. The only way for things to have turned out “right” was for the whole thing to never have happened.

I kept walking in a daze, up the hill. I reached the top of the hill, started down, and met a woman coming to provide medical aid. I described his approximate location to her, so she could relay it back on her phone. I kept going, trying to run, lacking the motivation. Again, running seemed wrong.

I snapped myself out of the daze and pushed a bit, passing two other first responders on their way up the hill (giving them the right of way, of course), and passed a few other people on my way down. A woman went by me the other way and told me I only had a couple miles to go. “Listen for that river, girl, then you’re almost there!” I passed a couple of women picking their way along the sides of a muddy section, and just charged through like a buffalo. There was a spectator at that point, and she was cheering us on. “There are hoses at the finish! Just keep going!” she encouraged the others as I stampeded my way through the muck. I listened for the river, and when I hit the bridge I knew I needed to run it in.

Once on the road, I got passed by a couple 50K runners who looked strong. One was singing “Amazing Grace” aloud. I picked up the pace, running the last half mile at about an 11 min/mile pace (according to my grossly inaccurate watch). I turned off the road toward the finish and kicked it into high gear. I heard myself announced as “our friend Donna Carpenter from Duluth, completing her second Superior 25K,” and accepted my medal at the finish line, and then a hug from my friend, the finish line coordinator. He asked if I was ok, and I sort of waved my hands, and asked if he was ok, but I could tell he wasn’t. I got some lemonade and watched other runners finish. Each time a runner came around, the volunteers would shout “RUNNER!” and rev up the crowd, reminding everyone “we all need it today!” And we did. We cheered so we didn’t have to cry. Or we cried anyway.

I threw my shoes in the garbage and hosed off my feet, then ran into one of the women I’d met earlier (the one who had the breath to still talk when climbing Moose Mountain). We hugged and she made sure I wasn’t alone. We all did our best to take care of each other.

I went back to my hotel to shower. Physically I felt ok; a little tired, a little cold, a few tight muscles. No chafing. I changed into comfy clothes and watched TV for awhile, then once my hair was dry, I went down to get my post-race chili, met up with my friend from the start, and cheered on some more runners. My friends from Voyageur finished and we talked for a little bit, then they left to drive back (crazy, but they are used to it!) and I returned to my hotel. We drove up to Grand Marais for a little while, just to see it, and then drove back and had dinner at Caribou Highlands.

It was a difficult day for most runners, crew, and volunteers, though that pales in comparison to how hard that day and the days ahead will be for the loved ones of the runner we lost. Run gently out there, everyone, and look out for one another.

Superior 25K Goals (2017)

My first repeat trail race! This should be interesting. It is most likely going to be cold – like 35 degrees colder than last year!

Last year I ran 4:51:40, which is a minute and a half slower pace than I recently ran a 50K. So I’m hoping I can improve upon that. I don’t know by how much. The temperature will probably be more favorable, but I think the trail is going to be pretty disgusting, considering the volume of rain we’ve gotten. (Maybe it hasn’t rained as much up the shore, I don’t know.)

I know what I’m getting into this year. I’ve faced down Moose Mountain and Mystery Mountain twice before. And yet somehow I still want to do it again? Ugh.

This year, my goals are:
A Standard: 4:15
B Standard: 4:30

I think the 4:30 is conservative, but accounts for any possible issues with trail conditions. If I am slip-sliding up the back of Moose Mountain, I am dead meat. It’s funny because last year, my B standard was 4:15… oh how little I knew.

My non-time-related goals are to finish injury-free, avoid stopping on the ascents, and of course not soil myself in any way. I’m relatively relaxed about this race, since it’s no longer a goal race, I know the course, and I just ran like 15 miles last weekend with no problems. My only real concerns are trail conditions and weather, and really I don’t care too much about the weather other than that I hope it doesn’t rain during the race. It’s looking like a high of 46F. If it rains on top of that, it could get ugly.

I’m driving up today and volunteering at packet pickup before the race, which I enjoy doing. I like talking with all the runners and there are so many cool people who volunteer at event after event. If I’m not totally destroyed by the race, I’ll probably jump in and volunteer at the finish as well. I am staying at the start/finish this year, so it’ll be really easy to pop upstairs, shower and change, have my vanilla Coke, and go back down to have chili and help out.

I’m going to try to stay relaxed and sleep better the night of the race, and to eat better in the morning as well. Easier said than done, but again, I’m not as keyed up for this race as I was for Chippewa Moraine, so maybe adrenaline won’t get the best of me. I have the day off today, so I’m at least getting some extra rest that way.

Oh, and I’m wearing my old shoes. Then throwing them away at the hotel, lest I be tempted to run in them again.

Spring Running Goals: 2017

As I alluded to last week, I set my goals for “spring” (let’s call that March-May).

  1. Race a distance I have not raced before.
    This will probably be a 10K or a 10 miler, in March.
  2. Run a race where I’m not sure I can make the cutoff.
    I have a fear of getting swept, so I’ve always signed up for races with extremely generous cutoffs (either walk/runs, or trail races where there are longer distances). I’m going to want to run those longer distances one day, so I’m going to need to face my fear eventually. Chippewa Moraine 50K, with a 4 hour cutoff at the halfway point, and a 9 hour overall cutoff, will be my first chance to face my fear.
  3. PR at the 50K distance.
    My PR is 10:25, so it’s PR or bust at CM50K.
  4. Help my team for Be The Match 5K raise $2000.
    Last year we raised $1286.66, so $2000 would be a huge PR!
  5. Improve my time at Superior 25K.
    Last year was rough, because it was so hot. I am hoping for cooler weather, or if not cooler weather, then better coping skills.

The most ambitious of the goals might be the fundraising goal. Maybe this year someone other than my mom and me will solicit donations. The rest are pretty conservative, but since spring running up here is so unpredictable, sometimes even conservative goals are hard to achieve (see: Superior 25K).

Post-Mortem: Superior 25K

Sic transit destitutione. Disappointment fades.

Refreshers
Race Report
All Superior 25K posts

Good things
I warmed up! A little bit. It didn’t matter, but I did it. And of course imagined everyone was staring at me thinking “what a slowpoke.”

A speedy post-race recovery. I’m not sure if I can attribute this to a slow race, more training, or active recovery post-race, but I don’t feel achy at all, and my run the day after felt fine. I’m sure this won’t be the norm, but it feels nice to be functional right away. I must be adapting.

Minimal sunburn. I could have been a lobster out there, if not for semi-diligent sunscreen application. I was grateful the aid station had some on hand, and then I reapplied from my baggie on the back 7. I do need to find a small tube to carry with me.

Readjusting my expectationI knew sub-4 was out of reach before the turnaround, but when I started realizing there was no way I’d make my B goal, and then all the other goals I made up on the fly (except sub-5, thanks to the GPS error), I didn’t panic, or get mad, or try to do something stupid to try to make up time. I wasn’t happy about it, but I kept going as best I could. And that’s life, that’s trail running. Not every race is perfect. I was able to accept it quickly and didn’t wallow in my petulant “I hate running” bitterness for too long. After other accounts of the race are starting to trickle my way, I’m realizing I wasn’t the only person who didn’t have the race they wanted. I can be grateful I wasn’t vomiting my way up Moose Mountain.

Bad things
Nutrition. Ok, no more pre-race bananas. I’ve probably said that before, but I mean it. The banana wasn’t the only problem, but it was a factor at the beginning of the race. I also didn’t eat enough, though I don’t feel like I actually bonked during the race. I do need to try out some gels or some other easy form of (ugh) calories. (I hate putting it like that, it sounds so smug.) I also needed some better food the night before and the afternoon following the race. I shouldn’t have left right away, I could have had some chili after a bit.

Strength training. I was better about it, but I still need to make it a habit. Etc.

Not enough climbing during training. I know I said I was a good climber, but I’m not good enough. I mean, Moose Mountain sucks, there’s no way around that. It’s just unpleasant. But it could have gone better. I am going to be torturing myself with those awful stairs at Spirit Mountain to try to prepare for the fall, when I have a date with Moose Mountain after 20+ miles. Terrifying.

Superior 25K Training: Week 6

Race week!

Monday: 6.1 mi, road/trail (ran to/from Bagley, did one loop), 144 bpm
Tuesday: 5.2 mi, paved trail (north Lakewalk), 132 bpm
Wednesday: 4.3 mi, trail (Bagley x 2.5), 140 bpm
Thursday: rest
Friday: rest
Saturday: Superior 25K
Sunday: 4.2 mi, road/trail (to/from Dan Proctor trail), 140 bpm
Total: 35.5 mi

Well. The race happened, it was ok. I was actually planning on running on Thursday but I felt fairly crappy. I was fairly aggressive earlier in the week compared to other racing cycles, running trails and/or hilly road routes Monday and Wednesday. I felt good, the weather was amazing, and I was enjoying the time outside.

I didn’t run Friday, as I still had race prep to do, and then I drove up to Lutsen to volunteer at packet pick-up. I did a very short, easy hike around the resort on Friday evening, but that doesn’t really count as a workout.

Saturday, the race happened, blah, it went not-so-great, and I lazed around the hotel room for a few hours before taking another short hike. Semi-active recovery at its finest. I wanted to have a tasty dinner from the resort restaurant, but they didn’t have room service (fine) and then when I tried to get take-out, the front desk transferred me to the “pub” and no one answered the phone. So I ate rice Chex, cookies, and bread and Nutella for dinner. It was extremely disappointing.

I felt decent on Sunday morning. I woke up feeling maybe a bit “hungover,” probably a little lingering dehydration, although I didn’t really end up dehydrated after the race, despite the heat. I suppose I eventually absorbed all the liquid that was sitting in my belly making me feel full the whole race. Whee. My back was stiff from the bed but other than that I felt good. I drove back to Duluth and got a huge latte before I even made it back to my house.

Since I felt pretty awesome (a sign that my mental game is weak and I had plenty more to give in the race) I went for a short run in the afternoon. It was a little bit warm, and I realized with a little over a mile to go that I was pretty hungry, but I felt good. I guess now I can just call the race a “long run” and parlay this week into marathon training. (I’ll get to that later.) Then I went and got a burrito bowl and ate it in about a minute and a half.

This would have been a fabulous training week, but unfortunately it was a goal race week. Womp womp.

Race Report: Superior 25K

Official Results:
Time: 4:51:40
Pace: 18:47
Placing:
Overall: 258/288
Gender: 133/157
Division (OPEN F): 75/87

Watch Results:
Time: 4:51:51
Pace: 20:27
Distance: 14.26 mi
Heart Rate: 163

Goals:
A: 3:59:59
B: 4:15:00

Food:
What I ate the night before: Goldfish crackers, a banana, chunks of bread & Nutella, 2 cookies, Rice Chex
What I ate on race morning: one chunk of bread & nutella at the condo, banana after packet pickup
What I carried with me: 2 energy bars

Gear:
What I wore: cap sleeve tech t-shirt, shorts, ball cap
Gadgets: GPS watch, heart rate monitor, fitness tracker

Discussion: Oh man, this race broke me. It chewed me up and spit me out again. At times I vowed not to run the race ever again, not to run the Moose Mountain Marathon, and that I would never be capable of running something as intense as a 100 miler. The only reason I didn’t contemplate dropping out of the race is there’s only one chance to drop: the aid station at the turnaround. A few hours later and I’m probably going to sign up for a marathon before MMM in September. Ah, recovery. And shade, and a ceiling fan, and cold water and vanilla Coke. I’ve already forgotten the pain. Mostly.

I slept kinda poorly, but still got more sleep, and definitely more restful sleep, than I did for Zumbro. I woke up before 6, thanks to the sun coming through the roman shades of my east-facing condo, and I couldn’t get back to sleep due to race-day anxiety. I got out of bed around 6:30, and almost everything was ready to go. I’d laid my clothes out the night before, stocked up my baggies of food, mints, and medicines (I ended up combining the mints and pills into one baggie so that I could also carry a baggie full of sunscreen, since I didn’t have a small enough tube.)

I stayed only a mile from the race start, and my worries about parking were for nothing, there was a huge lot with plenty of space. For some reason I remember that lot being smaller for the fall races last year, when I was working the parking area, but I guess I was either wrong, or there were a lot more people last year. I am fairly certain some people slept in various RVs in the parking lot. I checked in for a second time (required for people who checked in initially on Friday) and went back to my car, since it was close to the start. I screwed around for awhile and then realized it was getting close to race time and I needed to warm up. I ran about 0.4 miles to warm up and returned just before the short pre-race briefing. I lined up near the back and tried to stay out of the background of people’s selfies.

I started the race in near-last place and clearly didn’t budge from there. The race starts out on Ski Hill Road, winds a little less than a mile down the road (which turns to gravel), and then hits the Superior Hiking Trail. It crosses the Poplar River right away, which was a nice early view. There’s a slight gentle climb before hitting the first climb, Mystery Mountain. I think that climb went all right. I can’t remember, my brain has been fried. I was overall slower than I would have liked to be, but I figured I’d have time to catch up. Mystery Mountain has a fairly gentle descent on the other side, so I bombed down that with another guy, who I am going to guess swallowed about one bug per mile during the time we were running near each other. The bugs were rather annoying; I was getting dive-bombed by flies, they were landing on the underside of the bill of my hat, and in general irritating me. They only went away when there was a breeze or I was able to run decently fast. I caught some people on the downhill. There was a short section between Mystery Mountain and Moose Mountain, and then came the steep climb up Moose Mountain. It was really starting to warm up; it had been over 60F at race start, and as the sun rose, so did the temperature.

The climb up Moose Mountain to begin the race was steep, but I was still in control. Once I crested the mountain, I encountered the first runners of the 25K on their way back. They were really zipping by. The first two guys were only a few minutes apart, and it turned out the first 4 runners finished within 5 minutes of each other. The 5th runner overall was a woman, so it was nice to see her kicking some butt out there. She took down the course record.

I started to feel like a real jerk as I realized what these speedy runners were coming up from. Once I began the descent of Moose Mountain, I realized it was steep and awful. It wasn’t runnable (for me) on the way down, which was really annoying, as I was hoping to pick up some time on the downhill like I had on Mystery Mountain. I stepped aside and let the faster runners pass, offering encouragement as the hauled themselves up the long, steep climb. When I reached the bottom I was fairly horrified I’d be suffering through that same climb in a few hours.

I was encountering 25K runners regularly after Moose Mountain, which was difficult on single track. I tried to offer encouragement and many offered the same in return. I got a little tired of stepping off the trail or skirting to the side (sometimes right into branches), but that is how the race goes. It was throwing off my rhythm, but it turned out that didn’t matter! I crossed another creek, tromped directly through some mud other people were trying to pick their way around, and began the final ascent of “the front 7.5,” if you will.

The ascent of Oberg Mountain was less challenging, as it wasn’t as steep, but I was dodging runners and less able to offer a cheerful to them during some of the steeper parts. I came across the first 50K runner during the ascent to Oberg, and he told me “great job” (or something) before I could even congratulate him. He looked incredibly strong and finished under 4 hours, 26 minutes ahead of the next guy, someone I know by sight from running around Duluth. I saw maybe 4 50K runners before I got to the turnaround; I’d been hoping to avoid seeing any, but I realize that was pretty silly, considering even my initial time goals.

I thought I heard the aid station coming up, but it turned out it was a small pack of people with cowbells out to cheer us up over the top of Oberg Mountain. It was great to see them and get a nice pick-me-up, they were really lively. I did tease them that I thought they were the aid station and was a little bummed out. I also didn’t realize that the aid station isn’t on the top of the mountain. I don’t know why it would be, because that is stupid, you can’t drive to the top of these places. It meant another descent (fine) followed by another ascent (not fine).

The Oberg Aid Station people were totally amazing. There were people directing traffic, another guy greeted me with a pitcher of water to refill my bottle (I dumped the remaining contents of my water bottle on myself, soaking my hat and hair, before refilling), another guy put ice in my sports drink bottle himself and then handed me some cubes that I stuffed into my sports bra. I don’t remember where I read to do that, but whatever race report or blog I saw it on, I’m grateful, it came in handy. They had sunscreen at the aid station and I slathered up again, ate a couple of pretzels, and left.

The pretzels didn’t sit too well, so I had to back off the ascent out of the aid station. The banana I’d had for breakfast hadn’t been sitting well in my stomach for the whole race. It wasn’t disastrous, but I was burping banana and overall feeling a little yucky. The cold water and cold sports drink felt so good, I drank a little too much and started feeling full and nauseated. This was a very bad sign. I slowed down, even on the descent down Oberg, to let my stomach settle.

Then I hit the Moose Mountain climb, and that’s where the race fell apart. I felt so awful and sick climbing it. The only saving grace was it was in the shade; if it had been in the sun I’d have needed to crawl up. It took forever, and I finally took to stopping to let my heart rate go down and my nausea abate. I just felt so terrible. This happened the rest of the race: my stomach felt full, and then every time it settled, I would take another drink of water/Powerade and feel gross again. Most people would probably just puke and rally, but I am too much of a wimp for that. Another woman climbing behind me was shouting encouragement (how? she was climbing too!), which was so nice to hear. I cheered when I reached the top. I was surprised that I was able to do a little bit of running after a bit, but I was still mostly walking/hiking.

On the descent of Moose Mountain, I encountered a 50K runner, which wouldn’t have been unusual except that he’d already passed me. He’d run out of water and his body had just quit on him. Another 50K runner came across him at the same time I did and gave this guy his spare water bottle. Trail people are the best. I made it down Moose Mountain but I was in fairly rough shape at that point and had no interest in running. I knew there was one more ascent coming, but I thought it would be a bit easier.

Mystery Mountain was another disaster. It’s not as steep as Moose Mountain, but it goes on forever, and it’s in partial sun. (Maybe later on in the year, like, say, September, it is more shaded, once the trees have leaves, but the bare branches were offering no respite.) I encountered that poor guy with no water once again, and he had to get some more water from the woman behind me (same one cheering me up the Moose Mountain) to continue. I ran into two other 50K runners who needed water and I was able to share some. None of us accounted for the heat, but most runners were still prepared with hydration packs or handhelds. Some people either had nothing or had a single water bottle and had lost that gamble. I don’t get it. Maybe if I was fast I would, but running out of water on a hot day would have been terrible. The final aid station for the 50K (Oberg) is almost 8 miles from the finish. Be safe, people!

I felt crummy descending Mystery Mountain, and even tripped and fell once, although it was pretty slo-mo and I didn’t get hurt. All my goals were slipping away… sub-4, 4:15… then I adjusted to 4:30 and that came and went, and then I realized I was unlikely to beat my Zumbro time and unlikely to break 5 hours. It seems at some point my GPS got confused and I was shorted a mile. I know I didn’t go off course at any time because the shape of my GPS data is the same as the shape of the race map, and because the trail was extremely well-marked. So I’m not sure what happened there or when it happened, but I didn’t know that I was short according to my GPS data until I was almost done. I realized I was crossing the Poplar River again, and there was a volunteer there to cheer people on. She said “less than a mile to go!” and I hadn’t even hit 14 miles on the GPS yet. People at trail races aren’t jerks who lie about stuff like that, so I realized I could still break 5 hours and perked up a bit. The road is also mostly downhill so that was enticing, too. I was able to get a steady pace on the pavement, my stomach stayed under control, and I was able to run in to the finish.

I got my medal, drank a cup of cold water, and then got a cup of lemonade and sipped on that. There was chili for a post-race meal, but I just couldn’t imagine eating chili. I wanted to go back to the condo and die in piece. I found the poor dehydrated 50K guy, who was still upright and functional. He gave me a nice sweaty hug and said I saved his life, although I wasn’t the one who gave him water. I told him it just wasn’t our day, and he agreed and said it didn’t matter, being out there was what mattered, to which I agreed.

I am not too badly sunburned. Arms look ok, legs are ok, face has seen worse. I think my plan for the rest of the night is take-out from the resort restaurant, a bath in the whirlpool tub, maybe lance a few blisters, and then some Star Trek: Voyager and crossword puzzles, because I am cool. Oh, and a short evening hike down to the shore, for some active recovery. It should be blissful.