Pace: 17:18 (the course is 31.1 miles, not 31)
AG (F 30-39): 18/19
Distance: 32.19 mi
Heart Rate: N/A (still haven’t fixed this)
What I ate the night before: bagel and cream cheese, bagel and Nutella, Ruffles, birthday cake Chips Ahoy. So, garbage.
What I ate on race morning: bagel and cream cheese, part of a vanilla Coke, Clif bar.
What I carried with me: Clif bars, 6 Gu packets, Strawberry Lemonade Gu tablets (one pre-mixed, plus the container)
What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, ball cap, buff, arm warmers (I didn’t wear the buff or the arm warmers the whole time)
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker
Discussion: Another difficult race, but I am pretty pleased with my result. I went into this knowing I would either get a personal best time, or I would be swept. I can now say with conviction that I do not like chasing cutoffs. It worked out ok this time, but only because the intermediate cutoffs weren’t hard cutoffs, and in fact were very lenient. Which of course I didn’t know until I was already freaking out.
I drove down from Duluth on Friday afternoon, stopping at the interpretive center serving as the race headquarters to pick up my packet on my way, since I was staying further south in Chippewa Falls, about 30 minutes’ drive from the start. It took like 3 seconds, which was nice, and then I went outside to look at the start/finish. The view from the interpretive center was lovely. It’s up on a hill (more on that later), so I could see quite a way (there’s a pic in my race goals post). It must be gorgeous in fall. Apparently it’s quite buggy in summer, so I was thankful we missed that part.
I slept terribly, which was unsurprising. I was tired most of the day, but of course that didn’t translate into sleepiness. Too much adrenaline. I got probably 3 hours or so, which I’ll take. I think I only slept about an hour before Wild Duluth. I set my alarm for 5:40, got up around 6, and farted around aimlessly, trying to pull things together in a disorderly manner, and left around 6:45, since I wanted to make sure to get a decently close parking spot. I did! I sat in my car for a little while, doing a few final preparatory things and trying to keep myself from getting too amped (fail). Then I milled about awkwardly in the interpretive center – I don’t know a lot of runners, and everyone there seemed to be with either a running buddy or a large group of friends. I did talk with my friend Jay, who I know from Runner’s World’s forum. He is running the Ice Age 50 in a few weeks and used this as a training run. That’s on the a different moraine, BTW. They’re really into glacial debris in Wisconsin, I guess.
Start to AS 1: 3.3 mi, 0:48:20, 14:39 section pace (on pace for 4 hr cutoff)
The start is at the top of a rather steep, grassy hill. And the race is an out and back. So put that together and remember it for later. The first (and therefore also last) 5 miles of the race have markers (for the 7 mile runners), which was nice for calibrating my GPS error. The first mile+ of the race is on grass, so it’s more like a cross-country start. I was zipping along, feeling confident, but also feeling hungry. Big mistake not to deal with that sooner, but I was so focused on staying on top of my pace. The race is all rolling hills, few of which are super challenging, but they’re still hills. So many hills. Anyway, I was dumb and was worried about nausea pre-race so I didn’t eat enough. I shouldn’t be feeling physical hunger so early in a race. I could also tell my body was too amped up – I wasn’t going out at too hard a pace, but the adrenaline and excitement made me feel like a low-level electrical current was buzzing through my body. I mean, besides the currents that normally occur. A couple miles in, we passed behind the interpretive center again, which was kind of depressing. A small part of me wanted to turn off. A very small part of me, but still. I didn’t stop at the aid station because I wanted to keep moving, and I was already snacking slowly on my Clif bar. Ugh, swallowing food during ultras is THE WORST.
AS 1 – 2: 6.5 mi, 1:41:47 (kind of, I forgot to hit the lap button til I was out of the aid station), 15:40 section pace (Off pace, but still cumulatively on track for 4 hr cutoff)
This section was ok. I am trying to remember stuff about it, but my brain is a bit fried. I had to reapply sunscreen on the go because the sun was getting a bit warm. Also a couple of women running together caught up to just behind me, which was fine except they used me to pace off of for longer than I’d like, and when they slowed a bit to let someone pass and to take a quick breather, they didn’t get far enough behind, so I could hear them chattering to each other for miles and miles. This is my own personal problem, but I run alone. I like running alone. I like running in quiet. So it annoyed me to hear them talking, even though they had every right to talk. (On another side note, this race banned external music, which I found amazing. I do not need to hear someone else’s iPhone blaring their walk/run interval mix app.) There were a lot of glacial lakes, which I enjoyed – we even crossed a few, on bridges of varying levels of stability. One such bridge, which I walked across due to its dubiousness, was cobbled together from various chunks of other bridges, planks, and other miscellany. Another bridge seemed to be on the verge of submergence. There were lots of runnable sections, and I ran most of them. There was a short section in grass again (ugh), and then I ran on the road for a bit, back into the woods, and then back onto a road down into the second aid station, which again, I bypassed. I think I started eating a gel during this section, but I can’t remember.
AS 2 – turnaround: 5.75 mi, 1:40:56 (actually longer, see above), 17:33 section pace (no longer on track for 4 hr cutoff)
Ugh. I looked at the elevation profile for this section and confirmed it is mostly uphill. I thought maybe it just seemed that way but I was correct. I really struggled through this section, probably because I was behind on my nutrition from the get-go, and because I was getting a little warm. (I wet my hat and my buff at one point, which didn’t help much. Should have dunked them in the lake.) Just past the aid station, I saw the leader (who set a course record) cruising in. So, I kind of hate out and backs for this reason. Not because I have to see the leaders, but because I have to see everyone. Sometimes in groups. Usually looking better than me. And we all have to greet each other and say nice job! Which, I like to hear, and I like to say, but I don’t necessarily like to say it 171 times. Especially when I’m chasing a cutoff and the returning runners get the right of way, so I’m constantly running to the side of the trail. Once I got close to the aid station (maybe a mile), I was in full on panic mode. I knew I couldn’t make the cutoff. The runners I was passing were encouraging as I wildly tossed out my worries about getting cut, reassuring me I wouldn’t, but I was freaking out. I was questioning signing up for FANS, questioning my goals to eventually move up to longer distances, and questioning my decision to run ultras at all. For a few strides, I’d be resigned to being cut. Then I’d shake myself out of that, and fight for it. I really hustled when I could, though I tried to make sure there was something left in the tank if I did get allowed to continue. And I did! Even though I made it there about 8 minutes after the 4 hour mark. I felt kind of dumb, but at the same time, how was I to know? I’ve seen people get cut, first hand, when I volunteered. I also saw a guy get spared the axe, but he wasn’t allowed to stop at the aid station, he had to continue through. So I was prepared for that, too, even though I desperately wanted pop. They did let me stay, so I chugged some Coke and ginger ale, mixed up another bottle of with a Gu tablet with the help of a volunteer (ok they did most of the work, and someone even offered to open the tablet bottle for me, because they were so amazing and I was so clumsy), grabbed some cookies to go (I didn’t feel like I could eat right at the moment, since I was feeling a bit queasy from hoofing it in), sprayed myself down with sunscreen, and left.
Turnaround – AS 2: 5.75 mi, 1:47:50, 18:45 section pace
I walked for quite awhile once I left the aid station to settle my stomach and recover a bit for the trail to come. Once I ate a few cookies, I picked up the pace again. I wanted to make the secondary cutoff at the 6 hour mark (which was only announced in an email sent this week! yikes!) to get back on track. I knew if I was over, I wouldn’t be over by much, and would mostly likely be allowed to continue, but I wanted to make it on principle. I ran when I could, power hiked when I could, and took it slow on the really steep climbs. I got into more of a rhythm, since I wasn’t passing runners in the opposite direction (I didn’t see another runner for the entire second half of the race), and since it was more downhill than up on this section. It did seem to take an extremely long time. I was having some trouble with my eyes – the sunscreen (I did a 3rd application during this section) or the salt from my sweat was getting into my eyes, and when I got wind to my face, my eyes started stinging. I had to do a makeshift eyewash with some of the water from my pack, cupped in my hand. That worked ok, but I guess it washed off some of the sunscreen (duh) because I have a bit of a sunburn on my face, despite 4 applications (one pre-race, 3 in-race) and a hat. My nose was in tough shape, too. Since it’s always running when I am (ha!), it was getting chapped, and the salt/sunscreen combo was irritating it further. I ate another gel during this section, although it took awhile because I was averse to swallowing. My stomach wasn’t super upset, but I felt like I was going to gag on anything I tried to swallow. (I didn’t, but it felt that way.) At the aid station I drank some pop, grabbed some cookies to go, and headed off at a trot.
AS 2 – AS 1: 6.5 mi, 2:00:01, 18:28 section pace
This section started out ok – I felt pretty strong, rolled through the grassy areas, and then things started to go really badly with my eyes. They were stinging and burning so badly I had to stop and clean them out again, and then I had to get my buff out of my pack pocket and wet it down so I could wipe them as needed. It was a big pain to get my glasses off and on for some reason (they kept getting caught in my hair), and they were filthy (probably from sweat and salt), and cleaning them only helped marginally. Instead of being spotty, they were smeary. Ew. I lost a lot of time and energy dealing with my eyes. Every tenth of a mile seemed like it took forever, even when I was moving at a decent clip. I was itching to hit the 5 mile marker, to begin the real countdown and to figure out where I really was in regard to time left. My GPS was off by about a mile at this point, so I kept having to do Race Math to figure out approximately what distance I had left. I’m an engineer and I’m really good at math, but Race Math is still a problem for my poor, scrambled brain 20+ miles into a race. Just when I thought they had taken down the countdown markers, I finally hit the 5 mile marker. And then eventually the 4 mile marker, and then I knew the aid station would be somewhere along there. I got to re-cross the bridges, re-circumnavigate the glacial lakes, and cruise along on the runnable sections on this stretch. If not for the issue with my eyes, I would have had a much better time on this section. I got more cookies and pop at the aid station, and then marched off, knowing there was nothing else between me and the finish line.
AS 1 – finish: 3.3 mi, 0:58:34, 17:45 pace
I didn’t remember much about this section from all the way back at the beginning of the section, other than that there were a couple climbs. Well, there were 3… but they came in stages, so it felt like more than three. I tried to hustle up because I knew it was going to be close. I really wanted to finish under the 9:00 mark, to meet my goal and to meet the official time on the site (note: they will recognize a finish over the limit but before the sweeps – I thought I was last, but there were 2 women who came in, I think with the sweep, and they received official times even though they were over the “limit.” I’m so glad that’s treated as just a guideline.), and I knew I was going to get slowed down by the steep sections, so I hustled as much as I could. I started to get a side stitch, and kept having to slow down to manage that. It didn’t fully develop, so I was glad of that, but it slowed me down enough. I came around behind the interpretive center, wishing as I had 2 miles in that I could peel off, but kept shuffling along. I finally reached the grassy section, then the road crossing, and then I was winding my way along the hillside below the finish. Even that seemed to take longer than it should have; there were way more twists and turns in that last half mile than I remembered. And then I was mounting the hill. And it felt as steep as a cliff. There was a sign out that said “No Walk Hill,” but there was no way I was going to run it. Another sign followed that said “Don’t Quit,” and that one kept me moving, even when I wanted to stop to catch my breath. A third sign said “Empty the Tank,” which I found amusing because I felt a bit like I was going to empty my tank all over the grass. I didn’t, whew, but that climb really made me feel nauseated. Finally, I reached the flags leading up to the finish, and was able to run the last 100m or so. There was hardly anyone around, and I got a few half-hearted cheers (which was really awkward, why sit around at the finish line if you’re not going to cheer! And I heard people cheering loudly for other people once I was within earshot of the finish, so I felt kinda crappy that I didn’t get at least a bit of that reception.), which I returned with a smile of “appreciation” that was equally lukewarm.
I sat down in the grass and took my pack off, which felt amazing. It had been killing my back and shoulders all day. Too much stuff, not enough core strength. I lay down for a few minutes with my hat over my face, and then sat back up again, thinking about what to do. I saw the Superior/Zumbro race director and he asked me how it went. I talked for him a little bit about how I was pretty happy with the result, but pushing for that cutoff was hard. The other fellow he was talking to told me it was pretty great for me to run it in like that, just before the time limit, and that he tied for last in his first 50 mi. I said he should be jealous, because I didn’t have to share the honor. I was kind of enjoying my first DFL finish, only to find out later that 2 people finished about 10 minutes after me!
This race was tough for me, but it was also a great result. I set a personal record by over an hour! And my average pace was almost 3 minutes faster than my first 50K! And I didn’t give up! I would definitely run it again, and not just because the bib has a woolly mammoth on it.
I didn’t like chasing the cutoffs. I didn’t mind coming in near last place, but I minded that my chances of an official finish eroded as the race went on. I also wonder if I had not had that intermediate cutoff, if I’d have been able to pace myself better. Or would I have slacked and done even worse? I don’t know. Maybe it was a good thing and I just don’t know. I did feel triumphant that I beat the clock, just barely. There was something very satisfying about coming in at the last minute, that maybe I wouldn’t have felt if I had finished in 8:40 or 7:50. Of course I would have felt some other kind of triumph, but I don’t know. There was something enjoyable about facing down those time constraints and beating them.