July 6, 2008

Afton 25K Race Report

The Afton 25K Trail Race officially marks my one year anniversary of trail running! Last year's run was my first trail race ever - in 100 degree heat - and I was hooked! With my relative inexperience trail running, I typically have no idea what to expect as far as pace or finish time because the terrain of each course is so different. This was the first race where I actually had last year's "time to beat" while running the same course.

The weather was great - probably in the low 70's when we started. Certainly more comfortable than last year! The first several miles through the Africa Loop, Back 40, more Africa Loop, and down to the third aid station felt great! I was trying to keep up with my hydration strategy, but was falling a little behind. I kept to the plan of an S cap every hour starting at the 30 minute mark and a Clif Shot at 1 and 2 hours into the run. Just couldn't chug the Heed as much as I'd originally planned, and my stomach was starting to feel a little "off".

By the time I got to the top of Nigel's hill, my foot and knees were feeling pretty sore. WTF? I expected the tendonitis in my foot to act up a little, but the knees haven't been this sore since my alpine ski racing days. Down Nigel's, then up and over the top of the Campground Hill. I actually stopped to pee at the top of the campground, so I figured I would be fine drinking less Heed than anticipated.

After the Campground Hill comes the long, flat, easy trail that runs parallel to the St. Croix River. I don't know why I dread this section - it should be viewed as a gift on a course as hilly and challenging as Afton - but it feels like a death march even though it's only 1+ miles in length.

Going up Meat Grinder, I realized that my lack of conditioning was catching up to me. My legs were starting to run out of gas, my stomach was feeling bloated, I was having side stitches, but my foot and knees were feeling better. Reaching the last aid station, I dawdled a little and ate a few orange slices. Refilled the water bottle with Heed for the last time and headed off for the final 3 miles.

The Snow Shoe loop is probably my favorite section of the course. I like single track through the woods, and this is a fun little trail. Eve came flying past me somewhere in this section and broke her own course record for the 50K. She is amazing! By now I was having some trouble with my calves cramping on the uphills and had to slow down to a walk through much of this section. I think my cramping problems this time were simply fatigue rather than dehydration or electrolyte imbalances. My hands weren't swollen at all, but my stomach was still feeling yucky. Man, I was hoping I wouldn't do the good ol' yawn in technicolor!

Finally popped out of the woods for the short little jaunt to the finish line. By now even running on flat terrain was causing my calves to cramp, so I basically limped home. I was pretty disappointed to see that my final time was about 15 minutes slower than last year :( I knew that I was deconditioned since I'd been laying low to rest my foot, but I felt like I was running faster than last year's super heated version. Oh well - I've got a vendetta for next year ;)

Special thanks to RD John and his awesome crew of volunteers! This is one of the best run races anywhere, and it takes a small army to pull off putting on such a quality event. The t-shirts and finishers medals are awesome, as were the awards. Congrats John and Afton crew!

My post race ritual involved icing my foot, eating pizza, drinking beer (needed to get a bicep workout in), and watching Running On the Sun - a documentary about the Badwater 135 mile run from Death Valley to the top of Mt. Whitney. Highly recommended viewing, not so sure about running it ;)

Today my foot is a little sore and stiff, but doing well enough that I think I can start trying to get some miles in. Only 2 months 'til Moose Mountain, so I've gotta get my muscle endurance up!


phillip said...

Many report the same ailments regarding stomach challenges and muscle cramps as you. It would have been easier to endure if I hadn't felt like I was the only one with such maladies yesterday.

A day later, with all of these reports saying many of the same things, I'm starting to feel better.

Misery does love company?

Practicing at Afton is a good way to prepare for the Mouse Mountain Marathon. Keep it up!

And, thank you for listing Ultra Superior, the book, on your blog. Since the royalties go to the SHTA, it helps the trail cause.

Maybe I could convice the UMTR Board and series directors to give volunteer credits on the trail series for buyers?? Well, it was a thought :)

Phillip Gary Smith

Matthew Patten said...


I hear you on the heat thing. I took until this morning for my body to coold off.

You toed the start and crossed the finish. Be proud.

Londell said...


I tell many people I think my two Afton 50 races were harder than my superior 50. The hills and heat together are a real test of endurance. Of course, it can get hot in September as when I did my Superor 50, it was topping out in the mid 70's.

Ice and rest the pains and keep up the hard work. BTW, enjoyed reading your test thoughts of the various products.

Mark H. said...

Hi Kel,

I'm interested in runner's hydration/nutrition plans. I had troubles in my first marathon earlier this year. I changed everything I was doing to get ready for Afton. I was fairly successful. If you are interested, please take a look at my blog posting from this morning. http://run-n-workout.blogspot.com/2008/07/afton-50k-fuelinghydration-experiment.html

Nice race and nice post-race ritual. Mine was two beers and a glass of wine.

Wayne said...

Way to finish, Kel. And congrats on a whole year of trail running! The next couple trail series races are shorter, but Moose Mountain is lurking on the horizon. :)

keith said...

Good job, Kel! Way to finish. It's always good to have a vendetta in the works for your next season!

Helen said...

Well done Kel - worth the feeling at the end knowing you pushed through some rough spots!

Hope the knees are ok. Discovered a few new pains myself - like today my calves are in bits - and they were fine yesterday!


RunWesty said...

Great job, to battle through when all isn't right is often the hardest and yet most satisfying when you look back. Glad to see you were still able to enjoy a beer and pizza afterward, always good to keep your post race rituals intact.

brent said...

Congrats on the race Kel. You have plenty of time to get ready for Moose Mountain...keep up the good work.

David Ray said...

Stomach problem might indicate need for another S-cap to help empty the fluids in the stomach. Check with Karl for more info on that.

Good run in the heat.