Todd’s Weblog

A place to collect and share my random thoughts about running and other stuff

Archive for April, 2008

Chippewa Moraine 50k (Inaugural) Race Report

Posted by toddruns on April 17, 2008

Well, another race is history – the Inaugural Chippewa Moraine 50k. This one was quite the adventure. Who would have thought that April 12th would arrive with 6 to 8 inches of fresh snow?

Photo courtesy of Zach Pierce

The trail had plenty of the white stuff the morning of the race. There was also an abundance of slush, mud, melted snow and ice water, mud, slush, corn snow, mud and slush. Oh, and more than a few board walks and bridges – covered in snow and ice, of course (only one person slipped and fell in the lake). In other words, just about perfect trail running conditions. It was 28 degrees at the start, 32 at the finish. It was windy but there weren’t many open sections where that was a problem.

Photo from Wynn Davis

I ran the 50k course in 6:10:20, good enough for 25th place overall out of 119 finishers. The course was anywhere from 30 to 31 miles depending on whose GPS was talking, it may have even been longer given the twisty nature of several sections. Some of the folks there swore that it ran more like a 50 miler. That seemed like a bit of hyperbole, but with the conditions, it was definitely a tough course. Everyone I talked to at the finish was happy to have finished and didn’t seem to care much about their time. Philip Smith ran the whole thing in snow shoes, and he won the coveted DL (dead last) award. He was almost 2 hours behind finisher 118. I mention this differential because I thought about bringing mine. OK, I did bring mine but they stayed in the trunk. I know that I cannot go very fast in them and it is twice the effort for me to run in them. I seriously doubted that I would be able to go 50k in less than 11 hours. So Kudos to Philip for going the distance.

I was thankful for the 24 brave souls who ran ahead of me, breaking and packing the trail, at least a little bit. On the way to the turnaround, I was waiting for the leaders to be heading back towards me. I heard voices and sure enough, off to my right I saw a group of runners headed towards me. The thing is, the race course actually headed to my left. I took a few steps in their direction since that was where my attention was focused, but they steered me back on course right away. Then, as we all headed in the correct direction I was passed by Helen from work who would go on to take first place female. It took a little while for the group I was in to re-sort itself out, with the second wave of speedsters trying to get past slower runners on a single track that was really little more than one set of footprints in the deeper snow. I was passed here by Matt who was looking strong and seemed to be having a good time. None of the runners who went off trail seemed the least bit upset or concerned about the error either.

After a while I found myself running behind Meghan who would end up placeing 3rd female. She was really strong and steady on the up hill climb to the turnaround, and it was nice to have someone to sort of pull me in their wake. I also noticed her slipping more than I was and I was grateful for the traction of my shoes (Inov-8 Mudrocs). Some of these hills were a real grind with the snow pretty deep and old and very granular.

About a mile or so from the turn around I saw Adam Harmer coming my way – leading the race. That was exciting to see, and then the rest of the lead pack followed him – I recognized John Storkamp but not too many others. A few minutes later I saw Helen and realized that she was the first female and shouted out that she was leading. She said thanks but she didn’t think it would be for long and then promptly fell down. I asked her of she was ok and she bounced right up. Lesson learned: don’t look back, keep your eyes on the trail.

The out and back format of the race was cool, getting to see the other runners coming back or heading into the turn around, but it did make for tricky passing when there was only a single foot print wide path. It seemed most everyone on the way in moved over for the outbound runners, probably because it was downhill for the outbound runners and they tended to be going pretty fast. The other thing I noticed was how jazzed I got seeing and greeting all of the inbound folks. I was definitely running harder through this stretch than I had the previous 15 miles (helped of course by the downhill).

After a while a woman passed me named Karla. We traded places leading a few times but she was like a machine (or the Energizer Bunny) on the uphills and flats. I only seemed to catch her on the downhills since I seemed to be going quite a bit faster on them than she was. She eventually pulled ahead of me for good somewhere before the last aid station, I think she finished about 7 minutes ahead of me.

That’s Karla below in the photo, leading the way for me on the way back (this photo was blatantly borrowed from Jim Nelson’s Piccasa photo site).

Photo courtesy of Jim Nelson

It was almost like a totally different course on the way back, especially after the 20 mile aid station, where there was once a single set of foot prints in 8 inches of snow to hop through like a football player doing high step tire drills, the trail had suddenly morphed into a 2 foot wide slush and mud path. I guess that all the people behind me helped out too, as well as the speedsters up front.

There were numerous low areas that required some effort to run around if keeping your feet dry was your goal, with the chance of success somewhat less than 50%. Or you could run right through the middle and get it over with, trusting that your feet might eventually warm up after a few minutes. I eventually adopted the later strategy, especially late in the race when I noticed that sprinting up to a puddle and leaping over it left me breathless and wishing I had just kept my steady pace going.

Zach Pierce again

I fell once about 27 miles into my journey. I don’t think I hurt anything in particular, but when I finally got up, everything that was sore from running now really hurt – both knees, my back, and my left calf. It was like the fall woke my body up to the accumulated abuse I’d been dishing out over the previous 5 hours. I got over it, but it took a while before I felt like running again. I also managed to kick myself in the ankle really hard about 4 times as my foot slipped on one of the numerous uphills on the way out. Dang, that smarted.

After my fall I started to get both tired and ready to get it done. As a consequence, every little noise I heard sounded like the next aid station, but of course, it took a while to appear. I knew it wasn’t far from the last aid station to the finish so I was straining to see and or hear it. When I finally got there I was sort of shocked at how different it looked. All the snow was melted and the parking area was all mud. I took my time drinking a few cups of coke and munching down some M&Ms. I hadn’t been drinking a whole lot of sport drink any more because it was losing it’s appeal, but the Coke tasted mighty fine. I joked around a bit with the aid station folks and a man who was standing by the trail entrance came over and asked me my name and where I was from. I though he was checking me in or out of the aid station (he had legal pad and a pen and was writing stuff down). He started to ask me a few more questions and I must have looked at him funny and he told me he was from the local paper. I told him my name again and said that if he wanted to keep talking he was going to have to run with me because I needed to get going. He said he’d catch me at the finish line.

The finish line was one of the crueler things about the course. With about 2 miles or a little less to go, the course goes right by the start / finish line at the Ice Age Interpretive Center ( you can see the backs of the porta-potties in the parking lot, they were almost close enough to touch), and then you drop down into a deep basin from which you get to climb back out on the way to the finish. It was about here that I was trying to remember what Matt had told me about running a 50 miler. Something to the effect of not feeling the same at mile 30 of a 50 miler as you do at mile 30 of a 50k. The thing is, at that moment, all I knew was that running 20 more miles was definitely out of the question. I’m hoping I have more energy at the 30 mile mark at Ice Age when I try my first effort at 50 miles. I guess I’ll find out May 10.

There are lots of other pictures posted at the race website if you are curious.

I must also add that Wynn Davis did an amazing job at his debut as a race director. The aid stations were awesome, the volunteers were super, and the course was great. The post race food was yummy, all homemade and it was hard to leave the celebration behind and head home. You also have to love it that he had next year’s race entry in this year’s goodie bag.


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Why do you do it?

Posted by toddruns on April 1, 2008

From the Ultralist:
“Why would you want to do something like that???” I’ve been asked that about many of my adventures, both running and otherwise. I dunno. Sometimes people really do want to know WHY we do what we do. I’d challenge you to see if you can put it into words.
Marcia Rasmussen

So, why do I run, and why do I run long distances?

Oh, to put it all into words. Not easy, because the feelings are ephemeral. The reason I had thought of this evening may not apply tomorrow morning.

But I sure know that it has gotten into my blood, it is so much a part of who I am.

There is the intensity of the experience of running. How the memories of a single day get etched so vividly into my mind that I am recalling small details days and weeks later, in technicolor and smellivision and with surround sound. It is during the challenge of a race especially, and sometimes even a long training run that I experience life at a deeper and richer level, a level I don’t encounter in the mundaneness of everyday life. It’s like having my Marshall amps turned up to 11 when I am running.

Nothing can compare to the experience of challenging one’s limits and finding that they aren’t what I thought they were. I find out that I can do this stuff and not only survive, but come out the other side with a better understanding of who I am.

And I connect with something else, something deep inside of me – my inner animal, that beast that thrives on the chase. The hunt. The long journey. My ancestors before me call to me on a genetic level, because I was not only born to run, but as a species – we humans evolved to run. In the same way that a golden retreiver knows to chase the ball, I know to run. That memory of running was already installed when I was born. By running, I bring myself joy and pleasure and I honor the beast within, and I connect with my forefathers and those before me. I know that I can pace myself and wear out the antelope should I need to. I run because it is in my genes.

As an athletic pursuit – it is without a doubt the essence of simplicity and elegance. Get from here to there as fast as you can, or maybe just as fast as you care to for that matter. No implements required. None. You might argue that shoes and clothes are necessary, but you could be proved wrong.

And, as an added bonus – I get this amazing time to reorganize my thoughts, to resolve conflicts, to solve problems, to generate new ideas, to relieve stress.

I get to see eagles and finches and cardinals and deer. I get to smell fresh air and new flowers and listen to the loons and the turkeys and hear the squirrels scampering away underfoot. I get to connect with the earth, I end up wearing some home anyway, and I touch it and am humbled and reminded just how lucky I am to be here.

All this – this is what I get out of running for and by myself. It can be a solo journey, a vision quest, a test of who I am, and a chance to spend some quality time with me. Selfish, I know. But I am a better person to be around when I can run.

But get this – I can do this with friends too. Go figure. Running as social interaction – bonding me in the moment or forever to others who are on the same hunt. We strive together to get better, to get to the finish line or the coffee shop and we are richer for the experience. We download and upload and support and whine and bitch and laugh and we learn to share and learn to shut up and listen. No phones, no interruptions (usually), and the background noise is turned way down. Quality time with others. Old friends or new – it doesn’t matter. The bond of being a fellow adventurer is there almost from the beginning.

In so many ways, I am a better and happier and more balanced person because I can run. And it makes me healthier too. I have had exactly zero colds this past winter while scores around me have been sick and sniffly and coughing and hacking. Anecdotal evidence to be sure, but I believe in the power of exercise and fresh air. Maybe running is my placebo, and if so, I’d sure hate to skip a dose.

Now when I list this all out, the alternative (not running) seems bleeker than ever.

So there you have it. I run because the benefits so far outweigh the costs, that I simply cannot afford not to.

Please note – tomorrow’s response to this question might be similar, yet it may also be different. I might think of something else. My reasons evolve and change all the time. But the end result is I will run sometime in the near future (in case tomorrow is a rest day), and the funny thing is – I won’t even give it a moments pause. I’ll just do it. Because I run.

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