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!
1 day ago