|Gathering items for the race. Asked other UMTR runners what they would wear|
based on predicted weather and the answer was overwhelmingly shorts.
Driving to the race
Being a fairly local race for me at only 1 hour and 45 minutes away I always head out to the race early morning before the sun rises. Watching the sunrise while driving to the race has become a highlight of this race. I was not disappointed. Actually when I left the house at 5:15 am it was still dark and the full moon was in the western horizon. I was carpooling to the race with another runner that lives in River Falls, Alena, and we decided to meet at the park and ride on the east end of town. Met her at about 5:50 and we were off to the race. I try to get to the race no later than 7:15 and we were cutting it close so I had to somewhat put the pedal to the metal to be sure we made it in time. We not only made it but was able to stop and use the bathroom at the gas station so that we did not have to wait in the porta potty line. That is a big win in my book. :)
Start to Aid Station 1
After visiting with several friends at the start line we were given some directions and course conditions from the race director and the race began. This race has a very steep downhill at the start of the race. All fine and dandy way to start the race but hey guess what? This is an out and back course. Yes, that means that the wonderful downhill start becomes a very steep uphill finish! Oh well no time to worry about that just yet. There are 30 some miles before that will need to be tackled. A lot can happen in 30 miles running in the woods. Those first 3ish miles to the aid station are sections of the trail that have the most roots and rocks. Being an early spring race there are also tons of falls leaves littering the trail covering all the roots and rocks that are just waiting to send you flying. I managed to stay upright in this section this year. I was not always so lucky in past years. I have taken more than a few stumbles in this race in the last several years.
The first two miles take you in a circle around the Chippewa Morraine Visitor center which is where the start line is. You run right past the back of the visitor center and of course when spectators cheer you on in this section you are climbing a hill. This year when I hit this spot I found myself alone on the trail. Several people called out my name. I was concentrating on not tripping and falling on my face that I actually don't know who those folks were other than the race director. Although I believe I heard Wendy in the group as well.
|No pressure here as I chug up the hill while everyone watches!|
Aid Station 1 to Aid Station 2
After grabbing some PB&J sandwiches and a swig of coke I quickly head out for the next section. The aid stations are about 5 to 6 miles apart in these next few sections and those miles can feel really long. The most runnable section, though, are these next 5 miles. The hills are gently rolling and you pass by lots of small lakes which really makes this races scenery enjoyable. There was quite a bit of muddy sections this year and even some snow still left on the trail. The snow on some parts was actually nice because you could avoid the mud and just run on the thin layer of crunchy snow. The temps started out around 35 degrees so the ground was mostly firm in these early hours. So although there was mud in this section it was not hard to run. I was on my own during most of these miles but at some point Sam caught up with me and we ran together almost all the way to the turnaround.
|The views are stunning of the many lakes.|
|Being a cold spring there was still a lot of ice on the lakes|
|That just looks cold!|
|Beautiful snow free and dry single track trail!|
Aid Station 2 to the Turnaround
We ran into the aid station and I grabbed more sandwiches and a few cookies. At about 10 miles into the race I realized I was really going to have to keep moving as fast as I could in order to make the cutoff. We have to make the half way point at 15.5 miles in 4 hours. In the past I have made that aid station with about 15 to 20 minutes to spare. I was not so sure this would be the case. I felt tired and sluggish and really felt like I was working at about 75% of my lung capacity due to my cold. I also know that the next section is the harder section to run and it often takes me longer to complete than my pace on the first 10 miles. This is also the section where we start to meet the runners coming back. This section becomes less about gently rolling hills and more about steep hills mixed in with gentle rolling hills. And to start out, the first mile or so is always muddy. This year was no exception. It seems to be a low section and until you start ascending you have to get through the very large mud puddles. I managed to keep my feet from getting completely wet but I also managed to scratch my legs up in the process.
Erica caught up to Sam and I somewhere in this section. And then she proceeded to pass us up. I was beyond caring at this point who passed me as I was only concentrating on getting to that finish line before the cutoff. This year I cut it way too close with only a few minutes to spare. But I made it and that was the important thing. I knew there was no way I would finish this race with a PR and making it the turnaround meant that I could ease off on the way back with an extra hour to complete those next 15.5 miles.
Turnaround to Aid Station 2/4
I spent much of this section running alone and at some point I had turned on a podcast on my mp3 player to keep me company. Sam and Erica got out ahead of me and I figured there was no way I would catch back up. This section seems easier running back. Is that because I know that each step forward is bringing me to the finish line instead of away from it? Or is it overall a negative elevation versus a positive elevation when running out to the turnaround? Either way it feels much easier despite the same steep inclines I just ran in the opposite direction. Well easier is relative I guess. At this point I am experiencing an overall muscle soreness and starting to cough more. But I am still happy to be spending the day out in the woods. I pull into Aid station 4 with 21 miles behind me knowing I only have 10 miles left. I ask about Erica and Sam who were ahead of me and they say they have not seen Erica. Say what? How can that be. As we are discussing this Erica and Sam pop out of the trail behind me. I guess they took a little detour and somehow I managed to get in front of them without even realizing it. I was definitely ready to be done for the day. Knowing it was almost 6 miles to the next aid station did not help with that. I fueled up on more pb&j's (about this time I get sick of them but know I have to have fuel to finish). I should have refilled my bladder at this aid station but I did not. I ended up regretting this oversight greatly.
Aid Station 4 to Aid Station 5
So if you remember this was the very runnable and mostly enjoyable section of trail. Not always so at this stage of the race. Oh yes the trail is exactly the same time the first time going through but with more miles on the legs I am starting to get tired. I am very comfortable running these races by myself now and often will do better when I just run my own pace. I listened to another podcast for a bit and when that was done unplugged and just ran when I could and hiked when it was necessary. This section seemed to take forever as I watched my Garmin tick away the miles very slowly. Finally I made it to the final aid station. I ran out of water about 3 miles prior and was really thirsty. Normally I would mostly blow through this last aid station as quickly as possible but needed to fill my water bladder as 3 more miles without water was too much.
|Some of the snow and ice left on the trail|
To the Finish Line
After filling up I headed out at a slow run with the plan to slowly run and hike my way to the finish. I had over an hour to finish these final miles so I knew at this point I would finish before the cutoff. This section has the abundance of roots and rocks and at this late in the race I have to stay on my toes or I will end up on my face! For part of this section and the previous one I came across Ken and Scott (running his first 50K) power hiking the last half of the race. They were good company on the trail and we leapfrogged sections of this. I would run ahead on the flats and they would of course catch up on the uphills. We tried not to think about that last final hill and just pushed through. One thing to note about this race finish is that 2 miles from the finish at the Visitor Center you are on the backside. So close and yet so far away! After another mile or so in the woods with some of those forgotten long slow climbs we finally pop out of the woods for the last time. Once out of the woods we can see the Finish line in the distance. Just a prairie run and one final very steep climb to the finish. I have walked this long steep climb to the finish in 5 previous finishes and in each one it is always much longer than I remember. The surprising thing about this climb is the number of times you turn the corner and realize you have more hill to climb. Finally when you crest the hill it is just a short run to the finish! Ha that is if you can run at this point. It normally takes a few paces to be able to muster up the strength to run it in. Every year I seem to muster that strength and run (dare I say sprint?) through the finish. Finishing time was about 8:41ish. So goal met with finishing before the cutoff but this was also my worst finish for the 50k. Surprisingly I was not disappointed in the least. It just is what it is.
|Surprised they do not look muddier with the mud puddles I ran through at the end.|
|Cool bibs this year!|
Until next time, Happy Trails!