April 27, 2009

Chippewa Moraine 50K

Well, my goals for Chippewa were to finish my first 50K, have fun doing it, and go fast enough to avoid attracting buzzards. Mission accomplished!

Rolled in to Chippewa Falls on Friday afternoon to temps in the mid-80's. That's not a typo - it was hot! It's always fun at packet pick up to visit with other runners, especially the first race of the year when you haven't seen many of these folks for a few months. Larry, RD Wynn, Londell, and a few other volunteers were gathered outside getting things ready for the race. Had a chance to meet Lisa who would be crewing at one of the aid stations, got re-aquainted with JoAnne and Deb, discussed the weather forecast (40's and rain) and what to wear with other runners. Hard to believe that the temps would be dropping more than 40 degrees in just a few hours! Also ran in to Carl who was pacing his friend Janine on her first 50K - they were staying at the same motel that I was.

Woke up Saturday morning to thunder and light rain with temp about 41. It had rained pretty much all night - even some hail in nearby places. As we all lined up at the start to hear Wynn's last minute comments about the course, the sprinkles stopped and I never felt another drop of rain the rest of the day - turned out to be perfect running weather! Then the cowbell rang and we were off down a noteworthy hill and across a field before hitting the single track. This hill (and every other) was particularly noteworthy because it's an out and back course, so what goes down must later go up ;)

All photos courtesy of Londell.

I settled in to a slow pace towards the back of the pack - I really didn't want to get sucked in to the vortex and start running somebody else's race, which is so easy to do at the start when everything feels fresh. Got to run with Brook for a little while and talk about the other races that each of us would be doing this year.

The course turned out to be in excellent condition, even after the all night rain - just a few small muddy spots that were easy to get around. The single track is rolling hills with another lake around each bend. Beautiful scenery even for this time of year - it must be stunning in the fall! Not terribly technical terrain, but enough roots and rocks that you need to pay attention to the trail.

As we were rolling along towards AS1, I heard someone behind me talking about Barkley. Soon they passed and I realized that it was Allan Holtz. Being a slow runner who is used to being passed, I sometimes recognize people easier by seeing the backs of their heads ;) Karen was crewing at the first aid station about 5 miles in to the course - it's always nice to see familiar faces cheering you on! Since I was running with my Nathan, I just ran through the first AS passing Brook and Wayne.

The second AS was about 3 miles further and I ended up running most of this section by myself. Grabbed some awesome banana bread at this AS and ate it on the trail as I just kept plugging forward. Before long the front runners started passing on their return to the finish: John Storkamp had his game face on and was in the lead with Andy Holak not far behind. I didn't recognize the next few runners, then Adam came through about 5'th or 6'th. I'm pretty sure I saw Steve in this section too - his 3'rd ultra in 3 weeks, including a 100 miler at Zumbro!

AS 3 was only about a mile further down the trail from AS 2 after a last minute decision to move it (I understand that the original AS location was over-run with ticks). I ran right through this one too with lots of cheering from Lisa who was volunteering here. Helen was making her way back and was first woman by a large margin. Passed Carl and Janine at AS3, but they quickly caught up to me. I remember the beginning of this section as relatively flat with several muddy spots. Encountered some very slippery boardwalks, then Wayne caught up to me so we got to share the trail once again for a little bit.

The next AS would be the turn around and was about 6 miles away (glad I had my Nathan)! We passed through an area that had seen some recent logging, which made the trail a little messy with downed branches. Lots of two way traffic as we neared the turn around. Parts of the trail were quite narrow, so I had to stop and pull over to let those on the return path go through. Saw lots of familar faces here: Bryan, Molly, Maria, Deb, JoAnne, Kathy, Brook - I'm sure I'm missing a few. Had to climb over a barbed wire fence (I thought they were joking when they told me about it last week) before continuing on the single track. Almost took a wrong turn shortly before the turn around, but finally got there with Julie cheering as she was checking numbers.

Bonnie refilled my Nathan, I had some PB&J and pretzels, then it was back towards the start/finish area. Londell was taking pictures and helping out too. After climbing over the barbed wire again, I almost missed a turn in the logging area when I noticed orange markers going off to the left and another runner heading that way. The markers looked similar to the course markers except they were tied to tree branches instead of the flag wires that marked the course. Whew! Figured that one out quickly!

Not too many people were passing by going towards the turn around, so I figured that I was near the tail end of the train. Ran mostly by myself for the 6 miles back to Lisa's AS where they had a porta potty. My hands were getting swollen and even my eyes were starting to feel puffy. Too many S!Caps? Not enough? Too much sports drink? I was feeling good - no cramping or headache, still had energy, so I just kept going. Missed a turn going from the AS road into the woods, but another runner caught me so I didn't lose too much time or do too many bonus miles. We ran together for quite awhile, coming in to the next AS just a mile later. I grabbed more banana bread and just kept chugging forward, eating on the trail again. The two of us were plodding along, still walking the uphills and running the flats and downs.

Finally made it to the first/last AS, grabbed a handful of pretzels and crackers and kept going. The runner I was with stopped at the AS and I never saw him or another runner for the rest of the race. By now my knees and feet were pretty sore. My Garmin was showing distance at 25+ miles, but I figured it was closer to 26+. A little while later, the Garmin was still showing 25+ miles (am I really just running in place)? Finally I heard a beep and the Garmin lost it's satellite connection. Oh well.

After what seemed like an eternity, I popped out onto Hwy M which is supposed to be about 2 miles from the finish. I think this may be Horton miles ;) I just keep plugging away, eventually passing by the visitor center. By now I was ready to be done. Really ready. I was expecting to pop out of the woods and into the grassy field at any minute, but coming around every turn just led to more wooded single track. Finally, finally, I hit the grass! Somehow this gave me a little burst of energy and I was able to run the rest of the way toward the finish. Until I got to "The Hill." No way I could charge up that thing, so it was just a methodical left, right, left, right, left, right march. Then a short downhill jaunt to the finish chute where Matt, Wynn, Larry, Steve, Eve, Londell, and several others were cheering.

Finally done with my first 50K!

Wynn gave me my one of a kind finishers print, a beautiful picture of the Ice Age Trail. Had a post race Leinie's and some home made chocolate chip cookies while visiting with other runners.

What worked:

*I learned my pre-race meal several years ago when training for my first marathon. The motel where I stayed had a microwave and refrigerator, so I was able to bring and prepare a meal that I knew worked well for me.
*Wearing the Nathan vest allowed me to carry my regular sports drink for half the race. It also allowed me to blow through the aid stations without wasting time.
*Drymax socks with blister shield powder = no blisters or hot spots.
*One S!Cap per hour = no cramping.
*One Clif Shot almost every hour + some AS banana bread or PB&J = no bonking.

What didn't:

Although I got away with it, I don't recommend coming in to an ultra after a winter long taper. Putting in more base miles over the winter may have prevented the minor plantar fascia pain that I was experiencing. Not much I can do about the arthritis in my right foot or knees, so I do have to balance things out a bit, but I could have done more than I did leading up to this race. My longest run this spring was only 20 miles (once), with only 3 long runs on trails.

Congratulations to co-RD's Wynn, Matt, and Adam for putting on a spectacular race! Many, many thanks to the mulititude of awesome volunteers for helping to make this one of the best races in the Upper Midwest! Can't wait to do it again!

April 24, 2009

Last Thoughts Before Chippewa

Sounds like tomorrow's weather is shaping up to be cold and wet (as in 40's with steady rain, wind, and T-storms all morning). Things may start to dry out around 3 ish in the afternoon, at which point I will probably still be plugging away. Dare I say that I almost wish this were a loop course so that I could shed or add clothing as weather dictates, especially since we can't have drop bags and I'm not bringing a crew.

With this being my first 50K, my goal is to finish and enjoy the ride. So here is my strategy:

1. Figure out what to wear. This will probably consume much time and energy right up to the last minute.

2. Toe the line.

3. Bend over.

4. Grab ankles.

4a. To make sure that shoes are tied, of course. What did you think I meant?

5. Begin with a slow pace. Very slow. Perhaps even lots of power hiking rather than running. This may even allow for a negative split if I walk a little faster after the turn around!

6. Try not to go so slow that I miss a cut off or start to attract buzzards.

7. Finish my first 50K.

8. Enjoy a post race Leine's with all of my old and new friends.

I'll let you know how my strategy turns out :)

April 19, 2009

Taper Week

I'm not really sure why I feel the need to taper this week in preparation for my first 50K at Chippewa... I've been tapering all winter :(

Got in an easy 7 miler at Afton yesterday by doing the Africa Loop and Back 40. I was planning to include Nigel's Hill and the Campground Hill, but was having a hot spot beginning at around 3 miles. WTF? Been running with this same shoe/sock combo for 2+ years, though I did experience a similar problem at In Yan Teopa a couple years back. Since I have several pairs of the same brand sock, they all look alike. Perhaps one of the socks has something a little funky with the toe seam that isn't a problem unless I've got that one particular sock on my right foot in trail shoes?

Anyhoo, I've been experimenting with Drymax Socks the last couple of months and I REALLY like them so far! Ordered more today from Zombie Runner (today is the last day for the 15% off coupon code EXTRAVAGANZA, and you can also get free shipping if you type "I want free shipping" in the customer comments box). Over the last couple of months I've gotten a few runs in from 14-20 miles with no problems what-so-ever in the Drymax trail socks, and they supposedly keep your feet much drier than other brands. I'll keep you posted!

Hope to share the trail with many of you at Chippewa next weekend!

April 12, 2009

Zumbro 100

Well, The Master was at it again. This weekend marked the inaugural running of the Zumbro 100 trail races down at the Zumbro River Bottoms, which is part of the Richard J. Dorer State Forest southwest of Wabasha. For those who may not know, RD Larry is known for putting on awesome trail races, and is perhaps the only RD who does 2 100 mile races per year (along with another 10 miler -In Yan Teopa - just a couple of weeks after his other little race).

The main event was the 100 mile race consisting of 5 laps of the same 20 mile loop; the fun run was 100K starting at midnight for 3 laps over the same terrain. Since I am no where near qualified to be doing even the kiddie race at this event, I opted to do a single lap sweeping the course with Wayne and Alicia and score a free sweatshirt :)

The weather was absolutely perfect - overnight lows in the 20's and daytime highs in the mid-50's. No ticks, mosquitoes, or other biting insects. No timber rattlers hiding under the deep leaf litter. No horse pies on the trail. Abundant sunshine. A full moon overnight. A dry week prior to the race so that the course was in perfect condition.

I had never visited this area before, so I was excited to get out on the trail to see what it was like. I was envisioning something similar to Afton: lots of hilly climbs up and down the bluffs with loose gravel making the downhills in particular somewhat slippery. I have to say I was a little surprized at the difficulty of the terrain! This course is probably the second most challenging of those that I have run in the midwest, second to the Superior Hiking Trail. There was deep sand, lots of baseball sized rocks, fairly steep climbs (almost 55% grade according to my Garmin), and deep trenches full of leaf litter hiding many of the roots and rocks. These trenches made me feel like I was on a bobsled course at times. Can't imagine trying to navigate some of that stuff in the dark! Justin took some nice pictures of the course last week on a beta run.

It was lots of fun seeing many of my trail buddies for the first time after a long winter, although I missed meeting up with several of them since I was still out sweeping when they finished their races and left. Larry tried to catch us up with who finished and who didn't when we finally returned from the forest just before the cutoff time, so I'm looking forward to hearing their race reports over the next few days.

Zach, Steve G and Steve Q all earned their first 100 mile buckle! Kim Holak beat everybody in the 100K - I'm not sure who the first place male was. Matt finished the 100K, Maria didn't, and I'm not sure about the others in that race. Winner of the 100 mile was Dallas Sigurdur followed by Scott Meyers, Dale Humphrey, and Garret Mulrooney. Susan and Rob finished the 100 mile in fine form after completing another 100 miler at Umstead just last weekend. Wow!

Congrats to Larry for another great race and to all who toed the line!

And just so you know, Larry is already planning a new route for next year to "take out that flat part."

April 8, 2009

Midweek Diversion

This has nothing to do with running unless you're a border collie, but it's a lot of fun to watch!

April 5, 2009


I finally made it out to Afton for the first time this season! Got about 20 miles in doing 2 laps of the Africa Loop, Back 40, Nigel's Hill and Campground Hill. Actual mileage was somewhere between 19.2 - 20.4 depending on which software you use, so I went with 19.65 miles after doing the "gravity elevation correction" thing on Motion Based.

Trail was in very good condition for early April, though the Back 40 was pretty slippery in spots later in the day as the mud began to thaw. Saw Alicia, Tom, and Nancy as well as lots of people backpacking and walking their dogs. The park seemed amazingly quiet without any boat motors humming on the St. Croix.

Here is the elevation profile for my run:

...works out to 7185 total vertical feet for the 2 loops. The plantar fascia on my right foot was talking to me a little bit after 15-16 miles and is a little tender today, so I'll have to watch that. Boy was my pace pokey, but I was basically walking the uphills and navigating a little mud - probably what I'll encounter at Chippewa in a few weeks.

Next week, I'm planning on being down at the inaugural Zumbro 100 helping out - not sure what my assignment will be yet but it should be an awesome race!

Edit: Looks like I'll be sweeping the course at Zumbro, which will allow me to get another 20 miler in before Chippewa . See ya there!

April 3, 2009


...or lack there of.

Not being much of a winter runner or a fan of the treadmill, I was really hoping that registering early for an April 50K would motivate me to do more regular running over the last few months. Didn't work. Now that spring is on the doorstep, I'm finally getting excited to get out and hit the trails again. Probably too little too late for Chippewa, which will most likely be a power walk rather than a run, but I'm going to toe the line anyway.

Anyhoo, I decided to visit Stan Jensen's ultra site for some motivation, and found a bunch of fun quotes that might describe my upcoming experience:

"Those of us who finish near the back make the rest of you look good."
- Submitted by Tom Kaisersatt

"You'll be wistful for the "wall" of the marathon,
when you hit the "death grip" of the ultra."
- Bob Glover

"If you under-train, you may not finish, but if you over-train, you may not start."
- Tom DuBos credits Stan Jensen with this one

"Any idiot can run a marathon. It takes a special kind of idiot to run an ultramarathon."
- Alan Cabelly

"Last is just the slowest winner."
- C. Hunter Boyd

"Anybody running beats anybody walking, and anybody walking beats anybody sitting."
- Tom Bunk

"Your body will argue that there is no justifiable reason to continue.
Your only recourse is to call on your spirit, which fortunately functions independently of logic."
- Tim Noakes

"... slowed my pace to the point that I could have been rear-ended by a sleepy snail."
- Dave Olney

"I want to thank the rest of you for making me look normal."
- Gordon Ainsleigh

"Don't worry - you're supposed to walk the uphills."
- Shelley Black

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep."
- Robert Frost

"If you can't fly, then run.
If you can't run, then walk.
If you can't walk, then crawl.
But whatever you do, keep moving."
- Martin Luther King, Jr.

"You hear about how runnin' ultras is all mental; well, I sure wish it'd hurry up and get mental, 'cause it's feelin' awfully physical right now."
- Ken Loveless

"It's very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit."
- George Sheehan

"Start slow, then taper off".
- Walt Stack
(fellow 2008 shoot the moon runner Jim uses this one too, so it must work).

Hoping to get a good run in on the trails tomorrow - probably at Afton.