Race Report: Bigger Than The Trail Block Party (50K)

Virtual Insanity

Watch Results:
Time: 7:53:16
Pace: 15:12
Distance: 31.12 mi
Heart Rate: N/A

A: 7:00
B: 7:30

What I ate the night before: beef curry with rice, Oreo cookies
What I ate on race morning: cereal, nitro vanilla latte
What I carried with me: water with electrolytes, gels

What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, trucker hat
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Discussion: That was certainly a new experience. I heard about the Bigger Than The Trail Block Party from my friends Jeff and Amy, and I spent a few weeks hemming and hawwing about which distance to sign up for (they had options from 1 mile to 100 miles), before finally settling on the 50K. I considered doing a marathon and then just continuing if I felt like it, but I decided I would sign up for the ultra distance for accountability. I haven’t run an ultra since last year’s FANS, so it’s been almost a year! Hard to believe.

I didn’t do very much to prepare for this race, which ended up being to my detriment, though all it really affected was the overall time it took to complete the race, and my general attitude during the race. I planned to get going right around 8:00, the “official” start, just so I could get the race over with. I got up at 7:30 or so, and planned to prep two handheld water bottles with electrolyte tabs so I’d easily be able to swap them out. One of them smelled not great, so I filled it with soapy water and left it. I forgot to apply sunscreen before leaving. I also discovered my watch, which I thought I’d charged to 100% the night before, was only at 71% (and then showed up as 95%… and then back to 71% — thank you, Suunto, I think my next watch will be another brand), and had trouble getting a satellite lock when I did try to start. I actually went back inside, plugged it back in, and then re-started. I got going for real at 8:30. The weather was cool-ish, mid-50s F, and a bit humid. I was just hoping the rain would hold off until I was almost done.

I didn’t have a route planned or any planned stops, and while I had time goals, I didn’t do any math as far as what pace I needed to hit to make those goals. I figured I’d just wing it and do whatever it took to finish, even if that meant walking or resting or what. I took my first break after two hours and 8.5 miles, and stopped to use the bathroom (SO much better than peeing in the woods or using a Biffy), rinse off my face (to prevent sweat/sunscreen from getting in my eyes), refill my water bottle, eat half a Clif bar, take off my long-sleeved shirt, re-apply Body Glide, apply sunscreen, and head back out again. I felt pretty strong, and the miles really fell away at first. While my first mile was mostly downhill, I didn’t have an easy course – who knew you could get 2358 feet of vert in the city? I knew, because all my runs seem to be uphill both ways. I chose to walk almost any incline, and it was a nice way to break up the day and give my hips a rest.

I ate half the Clif bar while walking, and then took off again for a longer segment. It took almost 5 minutes for me to get through my rest stop at home, so I wanted to try to limit my stops to when I really needed them. The sun came out a little bit during this section, and I ran through some busier sections where I was dodging people a bit. I felt a little crappy during this section – not quite nauseated, but definitely “off,” and ended up walking a little bit on a flat section just to calm my body down. I started running low on water and started heading for home (this included a long uphill section) – this segment was 11.4 miles, and I did the same bathroom/face wash/water refill/etc. routine, maybe a little bit faster, and then I headed out again for what I thought was going to be my final segment.

I ended up having to return again after 7.5 miles to use the bathroom and get more water one more time. I didn’t have enough water to make it the final 3.7 miles, and I otherwise needed to stop. I did a lot of walking during the third segment, and my running turned into shuffling, which sucked. I probably should have eaten more – I don’t always get typical hunger cues when I’m running, and I don’t always recognize my cranky attitude as a sign of hunger. I should have pre-made a sandwich or grabbed a few cookies or something.

The final 3.7 miles were pretty brutal. My feet were hurting, there was a lot of uphill (my area of St. Paul is VERY hilly, especially near my house), and I checked my watch a few times to see my instantaneous pace and realized I was running so slowly I might as well be walking (so I walked). I got passed by a couple of chatty women out power-walking (can’t avoid gals chatting about domestic stuff even in a solo race!) and then I realized as I was heading into the final stretch that I needed to tack on a little extra in order to be sure that I was going to get 31 miles (Strava sometimes lops off distance, and I noticed that there were some GPS errors during my breaks – I took off my watch during the first two breaks because I was worried going inside my house would mess up my signal, but taking it off caused errors too, for some reason. Why isn’t there a function where you can pause distance but not time?) That was a morale killer, but I was determined to be running when my watch beeped 31 miles, and I was! And I kept running after that for the final tenth of a mile it took to get home.

I finished feeling pretty good! Especially considering there was no finish line energy whatsoever. My heels and toes have blisters, my shoes are toast after my big toes poked through mesh tops (Mizuno — go back to your old fabric), and I have some chafing around the band of my sports bra, but that’s minor. Of course my legs and hips are stiff, but that’ll sort itself out in due time.

I joined a couple of the Zoom events that were part of the BTTT Block Party. They were really fun, there were a lot of really cool people involved in the event. I even got to see someone finishing their 50 mile event live! It seems like a really great organization, and this virtual race raised over $15k! Not bad for a race that only had a $20 entry fee.

I said right after the event that I probably wouldn’t do another virtual race, but that’s not true. I’d do another one if it was inexpensive or if it was a charitable event. This hit both criteria, but I’d do FANS if it ends up being virtual. I just don’t think I’d do a virtual event that cost like $70 (unless I’d already been signed up for the real event).

What didn’t I like about it? Well, it was lonely out there. It was really weird to do an event without any support or any other runners. I missed the energy at the aid stations and the finish lines. I didn’t like not knowing if I really did 50K (thanks to a few bonus tenths from my watch while I was taking breaks), and I hated waiting for traffic and dealing with pedestrians, dogs, skateboarders, cyclists, other runners, etc. I missed aid station food – there’s much more of a variety and it’s so much easier to get in and out. It sucked not to be able to just duck off the trail to pee and get right back on – since I was in a residential area it wasn’t really an option.

What did I like about it? I liked some aspects of choosing my own route – like if I didn’t want to go up a hill right then, I just turned left or right. If I wanted to go back home and refill stuff, I did it when I wanted to, instead of having to wait for the next aid station or having to stop more frequently than I really wanted to. I liked starting from my house, instead of figuring out the logistics of getting to the race start, possibly traveling overnight, or having to drive home after 8 hours of running. I could have done this on a remote trail somewhere, but that would have involved carrying a lot more stuff – it was nice to just have one handheld and not need drop bags or anything.

Overall, I’m glad I did it – who knew when I set my spring race goals two months ago that we’d be in this place, with races canceled left and right, and no expectation for when they might start up again. It was nice to get in a really long run – I can use this formula in the future when I’m doing long training runs – loops around the neighborhood with stops at home, instead of driving somewhere and hauling a pack full of water. It was a reminder that I need to stop fooling around with 10 mile “long runs” and 40 mile weeks if I want to have a successful FANS in August (if it happens, sigh) — I’m not ready.

I’m going to take a week off now. I haven’t taken much time off other than when I was sick in late February. Normally I let races determine my time off, but with nothing on the calendar, there was no “reason” to rest, even though it’s healthy to take time off running even when there are no races on the horizon. I’m really going to enjoy the break!

Fall 2019 Running Goals

We’re already a couple weeks into the fall season! I can’t believe how time is flying by. I’m not quite ready for it to be cold yet, I’ve got a lot to do.

  1. Marathon PR
    This is the big one, the one I’ve been working for all year. I would like to get under 5 hours at the Twin Cities Marathon, but I don’t know if that’s going to be possible or not. I don’t want to count myself out just yet, but I also know that even a 5:15 or 5:10 would be a huge gain for me.
  2. Half marathon PR (official or unofficial)
    It would probably be bad for me to PR in the half marathon during the full marathon, but of course that’s a possibility. I also plan on running the Moustache Run again and could go for it there. Just typing this out makes me waffle on whether or not I want to focus on this but why the heck not put it out there?
  3. 50K PR
    I know, I know, slow down there with the PRs lady! But I added the Icebox 480 to my race calendar in early November, and I want to get to 50K in the 8 hours of allotted time. It seems possible. I hope. I guess I don’t know the trail so I don’t know how hard it might be.
  4. Visit a state park with my friend Laura.
    One of my long time friends also has a goal of working her way through the entire list of Minnesota State Parks. She has a much better record-keeping system: she has a parks passport from her childhood that has evidence of where she’s visited. We’ve been planning to visit one together for a few months now, and I’m going to make it happen!
  5. Catch up to last year’s mileage.
    I’m still behind where I was year to date last year, but I’m slowly catching up, and my mileage was WAY down in Q4 of last year, so I think I can get caught up by Nov 30th, provided I stay healthy and motivated.

These are some pretty ambitious goals for me, especially that 50K PR. The most important one is the marathon, since I’ve been training for it for months and have put off other fun racing opportunities to stay fresh for the marathon. I’m pretty excited, but also nervous since the marathon’s only a few weeks away!

TBD Spring Ultra Training: Weeks 3-6

I’m still out there running, I just haven’t found it very inspiring.

Week 3
Monday (1/1):
 5.1 mi, treadmill, skating
Tuesday: 5.6 mi, treadmill hill workout
Wednesday: 6.6 mi, treadmill
Thursday: 6 mi, treadmill
Friday: rest
Saturday: 6.2 mi, road (Minnesota Point)
Sunday: 13.1 mi, paved trail (Lakewalk)
Total: 42.6 mi

It was really cold for most of the week, so I slogged away on the treadmill. I was so happy I practically cried when I was able to run outside. I think I did a bit of strength training that week but can’t remember. I haven’t been doing a great job of strength training lately – typical me.

Monday (1/8): 5.4 mi, paved trail (Lakewalk)
Tuesday: 7.1 mi, road & paved trail (Lakewalk and Minnesota Point)
Wednesday: rest (travel)
Thursday: 2.5 mi, treadmill hill workout
Friday: 6.3 mi, treadmill
Saturday: 8.6 mi, treadmill (split into 5.1 mi & 3.5 mi)
Sunday: 13.1 mi, trail (8, Hartley) and treadmill (5.1)
Total: 43 mi

This week was a bit odd. Thursday’s treadmill workout was going along smoothly (I was doing hills starting at I think 5% grade), and then the treadmill completely shut off. I thought I’d broken it. It turned out the power cord just got pinched under the treadmill deck. That was a relief. I thought I’d killed it by trying to run it at a 7% grade, which would have been very annoying since it’s designed to operate there.

Saturday I intended to run outside for the second half of my workout, but when I went downstairs to get on the treadmill, I found the breaker had been tripped. After fixing that, we realized that the breaker had been tripped by the furnace, which was not operating properly. Running outside in frigid temps, then returning to a house without a functioning furnace, seemed like a stupid idea.

Trying to get 8 miles at Hartley in winter is a giant pain in the butt, FYI. I do not recommend it.

Monday (1/15): 6 mi, treadmill
Tuesday: rest (travel)
Wednesday: 6 mi, treadmill
Thursday: 8.1 mi, road (Minnesota Point)
Friday: 4.2 mi, paved trail (Lakewalk), fartlek workout
Saturday: 8.7 mi, trail (Bagley & Hartley)
Sunday: 15.2 mi, road/trail (Minnesota Point & Lakewalk)
Total: 48.1 mi

I realized that if I am planning on running 50 miles in a day this spring (I’m still mentally committed to Zumbro, just not financially committed yet!), I had better start running 50 miles in a week. That’s hard to do with so many treadmill miles due to weather, but I’m getting closer.

My fartlek workout confirmed that I have no speed in my legs right now. Yikes. I did get done with plenty of time to get dinner before the men’s hockey game though. Friday and Saturday were both really nice days, temperature-wise. I think Saturday it might have even gotten up to 40F!

The 15 mile run went well, overall. I ran 9 miles (up and down Minnesota Point), stopped at my car for a few minutes and ate & drank (I kept my watch running), and then continued for the next 6 on the Lakewalk. When it’s cold, that works better than carrying a water bottle and gels with me, since both tend to solidify. After I got going again, I was cold for a little while due to my damp gloves and hoodie, but I did manage to warm up again once I was out of the worst of the wind and settled into a rhythm.

Monday: 6.3 mi, treadmill
Tuesday: 4.6 mi, treadmill hill workout
Wednesday: 7 mi, paved trail (Lakewalk)
Thursday: rest (travel)
Friday: 10.2 mi, paved trail (Lakewalk)
Saturday: 6.2 mi, trail (Western Waterfront)
Sunday: 15.1 mi, trail & road (Munger Trail and Hwy 210)
Total: 49.5

I meant to do 51 miles this past week but I failed. I’m getting a little mentally worn down lately due to the weather and the lack of sunlight in the evenings (it’s getting better, but I am tired of running in the dark). I’ve been slacking on strength workouts as I’m either too cold to do them when I’m done running outside, or I’m starting my treadmill workouts so late that it’s dinnertime when I’m done running.

Friday’s workout was a welcome change. I’d worked a long day on Thursday (including travel), so I was able to start my workout early, and I switched up my 10 mile day (originally that was going to be Saturday). It was around 45F when I started and it felt so incredibly easy. I finished under a 12 minute pace, which was surprising since it felt so effortless. I did push a little at the end because I was happy to be running a double digit run at a sub-12 minute pace; usually that’s something I can only do in the spring and fall. I can’t run fast in the winter, due to the cumbersome layers and the wind and the terrain. The Lakewalk was mostly clear and I had light layers on so I felt weightless. I did have to stop after only a mile of running in order to go pee at the Super One, and I stopped my watch when I was inside the store, but I am still claiming that overall pace! It was only one mile in, it’s not like I took a break halfway.

Saturday’s workout was ok. It wasn’t as much fun, and I was reduced to a walk a couple times due to ice on the trail, but I got through it. I realized that I needed to reduce my planned mileage (7 mi) because I was going to be over my weekly goal of 51 miles, once I added in the planned 17 miles for Sunday. Well, spoiler alert, Sunday’s run was the opposite of Friday’s: cold, with soft-ish snow on the trail, and labored. I ran 11 miles on the Munger Trail before I stopped for a few minutes to eat and drink (I did not stop my watch for this!), switched out my gloves, and intended to run another 6 miles on the road. I realized 2 miles down the road that it wasn’t going to happen. I was too beat up from the snowy running, the sun was going down and I had a headlamp but no safety vest, I was bleeding (just a small spot under my nose that got irritated from the cold temps and the snot), I had menstrual cramps, and I was overall just miserable and grumpy. I’m not super thrilled about missing those extra 2 miles, since this upcoming week is likely to be a cutback week due to cold temps (I do NOT know how I can get in a 17 miler this weekend with temps in the single digits – it just seems to be too much of a toll on me mentally), but I also know it’s not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things.

I’ve still got my eyes on the prize with Zumbro, but it is sometimes hard to fathom it. January is almost over, which helps, and we’ve had some nice days, which also helps, but I’m getting to the point where I’m tired of being cold all the time. I had to walk about half a mile to a meeting this morning and it was 0F, maybe, and I haven’t recovered yet! And now I get to go home, turn on the treadmill, and try to grind out some miles. It’s tough to see the big picture when I’m dragging after 15 miles, or when 7 miles feels like an eternity, but I also know a race is different. It’s unlikely to be as cold (although the year I did Zumbro it was in the teens overnight), and I’ll have aid stations with warm food, and the sun will be out longer, but it’s still a staggering prospect when I’m struggling at significantly shorter distances. The silver lining is that my legs are feeling great, I don’t have much soreness the following day after a long run, and I’m still able to function in the evenings after completing the longer runs. Physically, I’m doing well. Mentally — well, let’s just try to finish out January and February.

Birkie Trail Ultra Training: Week 2

A lot of heat training!

Monday: 6 mi, road
Tuesday: 5.1 mi, road
Wednesday: 7.7 mi, road
Thursday: rest
Friday: 6.2 mi, trail (Western Waterfront Trail)
Saturday: 10.1 mi, road
Sunday: 10.1 mi, paved trail (Munger and Alex Laveau trails)
Total: 45.2 mi

We had a bit of a heat wave last week, and I ended up doing Wednesday’s and Saturday’s runs in the mid to high 80s F. It really stunk, but at the same time, it will probably end up helpful. This weekend’s forecast is also looking hot (although now it is looking like it might storm during the race), so it was good practice to be toughing it out in the heat.

I’ve been struggling with my confidence a lot, as I’m running a lot of slower than normal times. I need to calm down about that, because of course when it is hot and I am increasing mileage, I’m going to see some fatigue. Nothing hurts, I’m just lacking energy, which is compounded by a lot of low quality sleep, thanks to the early sunrises. Blackout curtains might be tempting if I wasn’t worried they would further restrict the already pitiful airflow in the house.

I wanted to keep my mileage up this week, but I didn’t want to do a true long run, with the Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon coming up on the 15th. I did back to back medium-long runs instead, which I liked! I don’t plan on doing any super duper long runs (other than this weekend’s marathon) during this training cycle, due to time constraints, and instead plan to run a lot of back to backs. Is that a good strategy? I guess I’ll find out in 12 weeks. (Now I’m screaming internally in my cubicle because 12 weeks is not enough time.)

I gave West Skyline Drive another try on Saturday, since I’d run it as part of last week’s 16 miler. It was still pretty slow, thanks to the heat. Oh, and I had to ration water again, which was stupid. I wore a full backpack of water on Sunday (I guess I should do this on any medium-long run anyway, just for the extra practice, and because it’s kind of like running with a weighted vest) just to be absolutely certain I didn’t run out of water. It was cooler Sunday, as it rained in the morning and early afternoon (I didn’t start running til like 4:00 PM), but it was still humid. I started at Jay Cooke and took the Munger Trail into Carlton, then zagged over to the Alex Laveau trail instead of crossing the road to continue on the Munger Trail. It was a good choice: the Laveau trail is a lot more scenic than the section of Munger I’d have covered.

Tomorrow I’m running the Park Point 5 Miler. It seems stupid to run 2 races in one week, but eh. It’s not like I’m vying for the win in either and sabotaging my chances at greatness. I sort of regret signing up for the PP5M because I have no leg speed right now, but I think a rest day and a longer pre-race warm-up will take care of that. Or not. Since the PP5M is for fun rather than a goal race, I’m just going to throw my goals out here, rather than make a separate post.

A Standard: 49:59
B Standard: 55:00

I ran a 10 mile race faster than that B standard time, but I’m also accounting for these sluggish legs of mine. It’ll be fun and over with quickly, that’s all that matters.

Race Report: Chippewa Moraine 50K

Official Results:
Time: 8:57:29
Pace: 17:18 (the course is 31.1 miles, not 31)
Overall: 172/174
Gender: 61/63
AG (F 30-39): 18/19

Watch Results:
Time: 8:57:31
Pace: 16:42/mi
Distance: 32.19 mi
Heart Rate: N/A (still haven’t fixed this)

A: 8:00
B: 8:30
C: 8:59:59

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.

Chippewa Moraine 50K Goals

First trail race in over 6 months! I’m both excited and terrified.

CM50K start

I took a picture of the start when I went to pick up my race packet this afternoon. This course looks lovely. I’m just sad the trees don’t have leaves yet.

A Standard: 8:00:00
B Standard: 8:30:00
C Standard: 8:59:59 (cutoff is 9 hours)

Hah, wouldn’t that be something, to have my 50K PR be better than my marathon PR? I need to hit the turnaround in 4 hours, so I’ve got to front-load my effort, which is contrary to my typical race plan.

I’m worried because I’m not feeling very well, and actually haven’t been feeling well since about Tuesday. Maybe Wednesday. All the days are running together. The good thing is, I haven’t actually gotten sicker, so maybe it’s just a combination of a cold front and race anxiety. I haven’t run since Monday, though I have done yoga. I had a vitamin C drink and a zinc tablet every day. I’ve avoided caffeine today (other than a latte this morning), and I’m trying to stay hydrated and relaxed.

I’m staying about 40 minutes away from the race start, which means an early morning for me. I’m hoping I’ll get more sleep than I did before Wild Duluth — anything more than an hour should guarantee that. Gotta stem the onrush of adrenaline through my system somehow, though.

Of course I want to finish this race without injury and without spewing bodily fluids from any of my orifices. I also want to rise to the challenge. All of my trail races to date have been companions to longer races, and I’ve had no worries about missing cutoffs. This is going to be a big challenge for me. This trail is also “easier,” in that it doesn’t have the big climbs that Superior and Wild Duluth both boast, so I will be able to see what I can do with a runnable trail. I was so tired when I was running Wild Duluth that there was no chance to push myself. I don’t want that to be true this time around. I want to run fast. Maybe not the whole time, but I want to run the flats and downhills with some speed! I would like to be less cautious. I’m such a conservative racer, always waiting for the blowup that never comes (or comes anyway, like in Superior Spring 25K last year when the heat got to me), and then I wonder if I could have found a little bit more inside my legs, or my gut, or my head.

Whatever happens, I made it to the start healthy, happy, and in a good position to PR (of course, with a PR of 10:25, I’ll either PR or tap out of this race), and I’m happy about that. Now I’m ready to go out and tear up this course!

Chippewa Moraine 50K Training: Week 3

Back to winter weather. Although I shouldn’t complain, it’s not sub-zero.

Monday: rest
Tuesday: 3.3 mi, road
Wednesday: 7.1 mi, road
Thursday: 5.2 mi, road/paved trail (Lakewalk + Minnesota Point)
Friday: 5.1 mi, paved trail (Lakewalk)
Saturday: 7.9 mi, road
Sunday: 14 mi, road + trail (Minnesota Point + Lakewalk)
Total: 42.6 mi

It rained on Monday so I took an unexpected off day. That meant it would be more challenging for me to meet my mileage goal for the week (43 miles), due to other commitments during the week. I decided to run a very short workout before my class on Tuesday, in order to take advantage of the last warm-ish day in the forecast. I’m glad I did!

Wednesday I was able to get in a longer run, in a light rain/snow mix, but Thursday and Friday I really had to push. Due to high school hockey games, the Bulldogs men’s games were Thurs-Fri instead of Fri-Sat, so I had to hustle and get my runs in between work and the games. Of course, I was late to both games anyway, Thursday because I had to do an emergency load of laundry as my cat barfed on my duvet cover, duvet, and sheets. I made it to the game after throwing everything in the dryer. Friday I was late just because I lollygagged. I managed a couple of 5 mile runs that I wouldn’t call tempo runs, but they weren’t exactly relaxed. It’s amazing to me that I’m now running 5 mile workouts at what was my race pace in my first 5K since getting back into running. An unconventional way of measuring progress, sure, but it made me smile.

Because I didn’t have enough hockey between streaming UMD’s women’s games and attending the men’s games, I went to the Duluth East – Cloquet-Esko-Carlton game on Saturday with my dad. This meant once again completing a run before a certain time (I was late to the game anyway). I ran 7.9 miles on a loop through Hunter’s Park, avoiding large patches of ice and walking up the big hill on Glenwood because I just didn’t feel like running it. It was sunny, but colder than I expected.

Sunday I put off my run because it was still snowing when I got up. I had planned to run to Hartley, do 2 loops there, and then run home, but since it had snowed a couple inches and plowing/shoveling was iffy along the route, I decided to change my plans. This was confirmed as a good idea when I saw a woman biff it on the sidewalk, slipping on some ice concealed by the fresh, fluffy snow. I knew there were icy spots along my planned route, and I didn’t want to run on such uncertain ground. I parked in Canal Park, ran over the bridge and down to the airport at Park Point & back, stopped at my car to grab a water bottle and a bite of food, and then ran to the end of the “main” Lakewalk and back.

Sunday’s run wasn’t really pleasant. There were lots of spots where I had to break through the snow, and though it was soft snow, it slowed me down and wore down my legs. I also had to run on the shoulder or even in the road at times. There were other spots that looked like they were wet, but could have been black ice, and I wasn’t interested in finding out by slipping and twisting my knee, so I was forced to slow down or dodge around them. I was cold, too. My gloves were wet from sweat and snot, so my hands were cold, and only got colder when I started carrying my water bottle. I was cranky and tired and sick of my running clothes, and I didn’t want to keep running. But I did, and that’s what counts.

My mini-goal for the week was to do strength workouts. I did 4: 1 yoga video, 2 body weight sessions (that weren’t very long), and 1 bout of shoveling (this probably doesn’t really count). I’m still doing all right on sleep, which was the previous week’s mini-goal.

This week’s mini-goal is to quit procrastinating and start my runs earlier. I get home, fart around, and then it’s after 6 pm by the time I start my run. That’s fine in the summer, when it’s light out til like 10 PM, and it’s cooler in the evening anyway, but it isn’t so great in the winter, when I lose all motivation after the sun goes down. I’d like to get some stuff done around the house, and fit in more strength sessions, so I need to start earlier. Unlike my other mini-goals, this won’t be something I can necessarily repeat every week, since sometimes I’ve just got to decompress after work, but I just have to make it through a few more weeks of wintry weather (I hope) before the days are longer and milder. And I did laundry last night, so I have fresh clean running clothes and gloves to motivate me!