May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

I haven't been blogging much recently, primarily because this is a trail running blog and I haven't been doing much trail running since Ice Age 2 weeks ago. I've had some minor plantar fasciitis that hasn't been bad enough to stop me from running, but I know that I need to get it resolved before it becomes a real problem. So, rather than running I've been doing more strength training and a little biking to try to keep my fitness from backsliding too far.

Got out to Afton today for my first run on trails since Ice Age! Just a short hill loop (up to Africa, down to river, Nigel's Hill, Campground Hill) to try out a new pair of trail shoes. Garmin measured it at about 6.5 miles with total elevation coming in at 2589 vertical feet. The shoes felt great - no blisters or hot spots! The shoes that I've been running in for the last 2 years served me well, but they are Gortex which gets hot in the summer, and I've started having blister problems more consistently. Perhaps they are just ready for retirement :) Anyhoo, I think this was the first time in a long while that I've run out at Afton where I saw lots of people but didn't know a single one of them.

Being Memorial Day, I rented a movie from Netflix called "Taking Chance" - a perfect film for this occasion. Here is a brief description:

Based on the true experiences of Lt. Colonel Michael Strobl, who wrote eloquently of them in a widely circulated 2004 article, Taking Chance is a profoundly emotional look at the military rituals taken to honor its war dead, as represented by a fallen Marine killed in Iraq, Lance Corporal Chance Phelps. Working as a strategic analyst at Marine Corps Base Quantico in VA, Lt. Col. Strobl (Kevin Bacon) learns that Phelps had once lived in his hometown, and volunteers to escort the body to its final resting place in Wyoming. As Strobl journeys across America, he discovers the great diligence and dignity in how the military, and all those involved with preparing and transporting the body, handle their duties.

Very moving film that transcends one's political views about the Iraq war. I highly recommend watching it.

Matt Cavanaugh is originally from Woodbury and is a West Point grad currently serving in the United States Army. After serving 2 tours in Iraq and seeing many of his comrades injured, he decided to run ultras as a means of raising funds and awareness to help severely wounded vets recover. His original race schedule has been altered, but he is still planning on running at Afton on July 4 and Twin Cities 10 Mile this October. You can read more about his story and the Wounded Warrior Project on his blog.

May 10, 2009

Ice Age 50K

I've done a race every Saturday for the last 3 weekends, and 2 of them have been ultras (both part of the Fab Five Fifties race series)! In fact, I've pretty much been getting my entire weekly mileage done just on Saturdays lately. I'm going to have to work on changing that ;)

Yesterday's race was the Ice Age 50K. I entered this race at the very last minute, basically waiting to see how I would come through Chippewa 2 weeks earlier. I also wanted to scope out the course after my inquiry about "best first 50 miler" a couple months ago. Lastly, I'm signed up for the Fab Five Fifties and need to get 3 50K races in this season - Ice Age supposedly being one of the easiest. Alrighty then!

Made the 5.5 hour drive out to La Grange, WI (waved to Mindi as I passed through Madison) on Friday. Did the packet pick up thing, settled in to my hotel in Elkhorn, and began the "what to wear" strategy with the weather forecast calling for temps in the low to mid 40-50 range with rain and winds gusting to 30 mph. Sounds lovely.

Race morning was indeed raining and windy for the 50 milers who started at 6 am. By the time the 50K start rolled around, the rain stopped, the wind calmed down, and we were treated to perfect running weather with overcast skies and cool temps. As we were gathering for the 50K start, I managed to catch a glimpse of a few of the 50 milers running by as they were finishing the 9 mile Nordic Loop. Matt was looking strong, Bill and Deb were in great spirits even though they were soaked. Lined up with Brook and her friend Bree, then off we went.

The course started with a short jaunt through the woods on the wide Nordic Trail and then a half mile on a horse trail before heading down the single track Ice Age trail for a 13 mile out and back leg of the course. Mildly technical with some minor hills, a short climb with nice views at the top, fun trail to run! I started noticing the inconsistantly consistant hot spot starting to form on my right foot shortly after the start. Crap. I'd painted the area with new skin, used Blister Shield powder inside my Drymax socks, and I'm still having problems on this particular day for still unidentified reasons. Oh well, nothing much I can do about it now.

Reached the turn around at a pace that was only slightly slower than my 10K time at Milaca last weekend. Oops! Better reel it in a little. By mile 9 I was noticing some slight cramping in my right calf. I figured I was probably getting a little dehydrated, so I started drinking more of my sports drink and took an S Cap. (I'd decided I may have overdone the fluid intake and S Caps at Chippewa which may have contributed to the swelling I was experiencing, so I was going to try to back off of both a little bit, especially with cooler temps). It was a little frustrating to have to walk some of the plentiful easy running spots, but I was cramping and I wasn't even a third of the way done! Slowing down allows you to enjoy the scenery a little bit, and I realized that we had run right through several burned areas of forest. I never noticed that on the way out.

Once we finished the Ice Age Trail leg, we were off for 2 loops of the 9 mile long Nordic Trail. Fairly non-technical (only a few rocky spots), some long flats as well as a few roller coaster sections, this is a wide cross country ski trail rather than single track. Lots of tall pines that smelled wonderful and soft running on pine needles. I actually didn't see many people on my first loop - got passed by some of the 50K relay folks, but didn't run with anyone. The cramping was getting a little better, but my stomach was feeling a little off. The Clif Shot gels that I've run with for the last 8 years without any problems were just not sitting well in my stomach.

Refilled my Nathan with my own sports drink at the 18 mile mark, and also slammed Coke at the aid station. Continued with S Caps every hour and Coke at 2 remaining aid stations instead of the Clif Shots. This seemed to be working and I decided that I had a shot at breaking 7 hours if I could finish the second loop of the Nordic Trail in under 2 hours.

Started out the Nordic loop feeling pretty good! Was able to run fairly well until I hit some of the bigger hills on the roller coaster section, then both calves started getting crampy on the uphills. Had to slow down again just to keep moving forward - the 7 hour goal was going to be very close. Never saw another soul on this loop. After passing through the final aid station without stopping, I caught and passed a couple of people (also got passed by two 50 milers who were still looking strong). There was a long, flat, pine needle section before a couple of minor hills - a little over a mile to go with 9 minutes left to beat my goal. As hard as I tried, the cramping wasn't going to allow running up the last couple of hills - finish time was 7:01:19. I missed my goal time by less than a minute and a half :(

Got to hang out with Matt and Bryan at the post race barbeque for awhile and watch other runners finish. Since I was planning on driving all the way back to the Cities after the race, I left at about 4:30 and didn't get to see my other buddies come in. I'm looking forward to hearing their race reports!

A huge thanks to RD Glenn and his crew for putting on a well organized and awesome event!

Things I learned:

*I still have a lot to learn about managing fluid/electrolyte balance, which is constantly changing with weather conditions, heat acclimation, hormones, diet, etc.
*I still have a lot to learn about blisters.
*I really like running with the Nathan. It allows me to control what sports drink I'm using and is a real time saver blowing through aid stations.
* I didn't bonk, so I must be managing the energy intake fairly well so far. We'll see what happens when it starts getting hot.
*This ultra thing is pretty darn fun.

Even though I didn't have my best running day and missed my goal time, I still beat my Chippewa 50K time by almost 50 minutes. My Ice Age 50K time was about a half hour faster than my Moose Marathon time, even though I was better prepared and in better shape for the Superior Hiking Trail. I'd have to say that even though Ice Age isn't easy, it's definately easier than the other trails that I've encountered so far in the North Woods.

See you on the trails!

May 2, 2009

Runnin' in the Ruff 10K

Today is the first Saturday in May, meaning it was time for the 16'th annual Runnin' in the Ruff 10K trail race in Milaca. This would be the second of 12 races in the 2009 MN Trail Run Series and also the 2009 championship race, so I was expecting a big turnout! I thought I heard the RD say that they had a record number of people registered for the 2 mile and 10K races, though I really didn't see many people that I recognized. I thought I spotted Keith warming up prior to the race and John P. heading towards the start, but I never got a chance to visit with them. Kate and I lined up together, but didn't really run together much at all.

The beginning couple of miles were pretty crowded - they moved the finish line a little bit, and therefore also moved the start further up the gravel road so that we entered the single track almost immediately. Full on love train at times. The twisty, turny single track is a joy to run, though it gets tough to pass people if you're feeling the need for more speed than those in front of you. Mildly technical, fairly flat, just enough small roots and rocks to make you pay attention to the trail.

Last year's race was the muddiest trail run I've ever experienced (if there had been any more standing water on top of the shoe stealing mud, we may have needed scuba certifications to run certain sections of the course). This year still had some very muddy spots, but also lots of soft dry trail. I remember trying to jump over a water filled ditch last year - this year it was completely dry. Similar to last year, the highlight of the race (for me anyway) was running past the bald eagle nest near the half way point. Just one parent home this year, but it's cool to look up and see an eagle perched in a tree watching people run through the forest.

The trail through this section of woods gets very twisty and muddy. You can see other runners on a different section of the course at various places and you're not sure if they are in front or behind you! Steve was manning "Confusion Corner" to make sure everyone stayed on course (and getting a well earned rest from racing this weekend). Eventually the trail runs parallel to the Rum River and through some pines before popping out onto a grassy hill below the cemetary. Just follow the course markers to the bridge crossing the river and in to the finish.

I didn't stick around for the post race festivities this year, though I did get a chance to meet Jesse and Dan who are planning to "shoot the moon" for both the Fab Five and MN Trail Run Series. Good luck guys!

I also learned that Drymax socks are not the end all solution to my inconsistently consistant blister problems :( Consistant because the blister occurs in the same place every time it happens, inconsistant because it usually doesn't happen at all. Apparently, my socks have nothing to do with it. Dayam!

All in all, it was another perfect day to be running in the North Woods. Congrats and thanks to RD John O, Cindy, and all of the volunteers for putting on a great event!

Hope to see many of you at Ice Age next weekend! I'll be doing the kiddie race (50K).