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.
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.
*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.
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!