Todd’s Weblog

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

Archive for May, 2008

Ice Age 50 Race Report

Posted by toddruns on May 12, 2008

Getting \'er done - finally

After typing for an hour or so I realized my race report was spiraling into a tedious description of an essentially tedious and boring activity unless you are the one actually doing it. So, in pared down fashion, here are the highlights of my little adventure at the Ice Age Trail 50 Mile Race.

I rode and stayed with Matt Patten and Steve Quick. The trip went fast and it was sure nice to have the company for the long drive. We didn’t make it in time to get our packets ahead of time so we just ate and hung out and stole some brownies from Karen Gall. Bryan joined us sometime in the middle of a long and less than restful night for me. Nerves I think.This was my first attempt at 50 miles. I remember the comments and advice that many on the list gave me when I was asking about doing my first 50 miler back in the fall of 2007. One of the phrases that really stuck with me was what Scott Wagner wrote: “50 miles is 50 miles, so don’t underestimate it”. It is a big jump, at least it seems to me, from 50k to 50 miles. A factor of 1.609344, actually.

I was very unsure of what would happen in that mysterious zone between mile 31 and the finish. I had studied the maps of the course, I had packed 2 drop bags full of whatever I thought I might need times 2. I had trained, I had run lots of miles in the snow, including 31 fun filled miles at Wynn’s race, and I figured I was as ready as I could be, considering how it hard it is to know the unknowable.

The first 9.5 miles on the Nordic loop seemed too fast, and I kept trying to keep myself in check. But it was so hard to do that here – the footing is good, the hills are not too steep, the paths are wide, the energy was high, and bombing the downhills is always so inviting. While I did my best to throttle it back, I think I was only partially successful. Of course, how would I know? I think my split there was about 1:34 or so. Yup, a little fast.

After I passed through the second aid station I was headed out towards “Confusion Corner”. I probably would have got lost there without the outstretched hand of the volunteer saying “that way”. Once I made the turn onto the Ice Age Trail, it was like a different race. I climbed a small hill and looked ahead of me to see a single file of runners strung out ahead, the sun streaming through the tall pines and the pine needles underfoot muffling the passage of our feet. I had a rush of emotion right then, a bit of running nirvana where I was so grateful to be able to run in that place at that moment. I love single track trails, and I was happy to be in this race that I had been thinking about since last October, and I was doing something I truly love. I’m a lucky guy.

There was a blur of miles, trading places with some young gal, grooving on the technical sections, enjoying the sun and the warmth, and then later getting sick of the sun and the warmth. I can be so fickle. I hit aid station 4 and then it was off through a nice flat area and then some more technical sections. I don’t remember much about aid station 4 on the out bound trip, but it was between there and aid station 5 that I started seeing some of the leaders coming back at me. A couple of really focused looking runners, Kim Holak was the first female I saw (I was sorry to hear she had to drop), and then a few others. I looked for Matt and Steve and saw Matt first, he was looking happy and we exchanged a high five. Steve appeared after him, and I had a hard time reading him – he had the same focus as he did when he was kicking butt at Trail Mix. It was later that I figured out he wasn’t having a great day. But I was again reminded why out and backs are fun – getting to see and hear the runners ahead of and behind you.

A bunch of other miles were run, clothes changed, bottles filled, hills climbed, and fun experienced. I made it to the Rice Lake turnaround in one piece and headed back. I fell twice right before mile 26. I was getting tired but failed to acknowledge it. Fortunately, I biffed right in front of Lisa Bliss, MD in case I needed medical attention. She and Mary Gorski were running together and gave me some style points for my graceful fall. I got up and ran another minute or 2 and fell again. I figured I’d better get my head back into my running. I only fell once after that, ironically while mentally reliving the first fall. Kind of dumb, huh?

I ended up getting sick of the Succeed, and tried to get by on water and Coke and some Heed that I had brought. Food lost it’s appeal too. I was relentless in taking my S-Caps though. I also kept drinking even though I really didn’t much enjoy it.

There were some mental gymnastics needed at times to keep myself from going nuts through this stretch. It was through here that I realized that my run could be described thusly: after a while, I started to hurt and then it got worse, and then it kept getting worse until the pain was just below unbearable, and then it stayed that way for another 3 hours. In reality, there were waves of feeling crappy interspersed with waves of feeling OK or at least sort of OK. And if anyone asked me, I was having fun. I was determined not to whine. And not to take myself too seriously. And I realized that it was the hardest thing I’d done ever, and at the same time, I knew it was only a matter of time until I finished. And I would finish.

As to those tough miles between 33 and 40.5 – in a way, they were the toughest. But they were also miles in which I saw all the people ahead of me on their way back again, and the energy I got from the encouraging words from the leaders and contenders was invaluable. It was after about the first 10 or 15 runners going by that I realized yet again how lucky I was to be able to be out on the course that day. What a great sport this is. Again, I was grateful.

It was fun to see Pam and Kami – Pam was running her first 50 mile too. They were having a ball.

There were 9.5 additional tough miles after the last turn around, including some cheers from some mountain bikers, some really nice aid station folks, a couple of mud puddles to jump through or around, one really long climb that was probably not that bad but I was so tired I wanted to stop walking and sit down to catch my breath. Oh, and a fragrant patch of honeysuckle that made going slow seem like the thing to do. It was really tough to run the last few miles. Not only did everything hurt, but I was winded rather quickly anytime I tried to push the pace. With 1.5 miles to go, I had 8 minutes to break 10 hours. I knew that wasn’t going to happen as I was averaging more like 12 or maybe 14 minutes per mile at that point. So I just did my best to maintain forward motion. The last steep hill before the finish almost got me sick, and then I stopped for some reason about 10 feet in front of the finish line because I thought I was done having already run over a timing mat. Oops. Run until I pass the sign that says FINISH. So at 10:11:34 I finally quit running. And it felt good.

Scott was right – 50 miles is 50 miles. It was a long way to run. It was a long day in the woods. I’m glad I got to be there and experience it. I don’t know about anyone else, but there is a certain intensity to the experience of these events that makes the tedium of putting one foot in front of the other for hours on end seem so much more than that.

I bet you wondered how long the long version was, huh?

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Pre Ice Age Ramblings

Posted by toddruns on May 8, 2008

Taper time can be such a creative and inspiring time of the year. It can bring out some of my best stream of consciousness thoughts and ramblings. Or it can be a weird in a relativistic way – like time is slowed down. Work and life dragging on, as if waiting for the dang Easter Bunny. It becomes an excruciating waiting period fraught with worry and distraction and wondering the million what ifs: Did I run enough? Did I run too much? Is this ankle sore or am I just imagining it? Do I wear the Mudroc or Roclite shoes? Grey gloves or black ones? What should I put in my drop bags? Does Hillary have any chance of catching Barack? Will there be any TV worth watching when Scrubs is gone? And of course, my mind wanders. Did you notice?

This time around, the taper just feels different. Maybe because, unlike past Grandma’s tapers, there is no Chesney’s visit to look forward to, no frantic trip to the greater Knife River Metro area for good times and lobsta boat restoration updates, no frantic dashes to find more Toyota water bottles outside the DECC. That used to be my Mecca – Grandmas, and perhaps the whole party atmosphere is what’s missing.

Oh well. At least up until now, I’ve managed to keep my obsession in check. Maybe at least a little bit. I have mostly been looking and checking the weather forecasts (40 at the start, 63 for the high with low dewpoints). And I do so knowing that the only thing I can do about the weather is adapt my clothing to meet the needs of the day. So I also make lists of things to stuff in my drop bags in the hopes that I’ll need none of it. And I speculate about what time of day it will be when I am running the through the uncharted waters from mile 33 to mile 43.5 (I know that I’d better hit mile 43.5 before 4:26 pm or my race is over). And I wonder what magic elixir is available that will give me instant zip when my butt starts really dragging. In case you were wondering, all of my research leads me to believe that my best option is Placebo. So I have stocked up on lots of that.
So there it is, staring me in the face, Fifty Miles. 80.5 kilometers. It breaks down like this: 9.5 miles of wide cushy (dare I say pillowy?) ski trails followed by 40.5 miles of rolling single track trail with rocks and roots and grass and dirt and I think maybe a bog or swamp, you know – all that good stuff we evolved to run across and through as we chased the antelope for supper. Only all I get is a burger and a belt buckle if I make it to the finish line before they pull the plug on the timer. And I pay them for the pleasure(?). It is a relative bargain though, at 1.30 per mile. Much cheaper per footstep than the 1 mile race that happens tonight for Kicks.

In a way that I’ve never experienced before in my all too brief running career – I am staring at something that seems so far beyond what I’ve ever attempted before either in training or in a race. In my first marathon I was woefully undertrained, and yet I had at least covered 70% of the distance in training. Here, I feel pretty clueless about what is going to happen after 31 miles. In fact, I have wondered a few times what the heck inspired me to want to tackle this endeavor. And then I remember – it was after my 50k race down in Kansas, and I was wondering if 50 miles would be 1.609344 times the fun of a 50k. And of course, there was only one way to find out. There was also the weird and maybe sick thought of wondering I had it in me to cover that kind of distance in a single shot.

So, I asked around, “what is a good race to try for running one’s first 50 miler?” Ice Age was definitely near the top of many people’s lists. There was even one suggestion that I can’t seem to forget – do Ice Age, then the Voyageur 50 miler in July, then the Superior Trail 50 mile in September, after which I would be primed and ready to do the ultimate 50 miler – the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim. (I’m definitely thinking about the last one).

So I watched and bided my time and waited for the registration for Ice Age to open up. It finally did on January 25th. This I noticed one morning as I did my daily ritual that included logging on to check the weather, seeing what the shirt du jour was over at shirtwoot.com and checking on registration. Funny thing that, I seem to need to be signed up for a race in order to make training for it seem more real. It seems that my persistence paid off in a small way, as I was listed as the first person to sign up. Hey – I got to be first at something! I am secretly hoping I’ll get bib number 1. Not that I have any chance of living up to that billing. But it would be cool to be thought of as a top seed, at least until the gun goes off and I am left standing in the line to the port-a-potties while everyone else takes off.

This week I started reading Maurice Herzog’s “Annapurna”. I like these adventure stories because they inspire me. I am also reminded of what the late sir Edmund Hillary said once: “I

believe that if you set out on an adventure and you’re absolutely convinced you are going to be successful, why bother starting?” Indeed – that is the edgy appeal that an ultra has for me. It’s not so much I want to do it because I can, rather I want to do it because I’m not certain about the outcome. There is a great mysterious territory out there beyond 50 kilometers which I’ve never seen. To be fair, I also haven’t explored that mysterious territory of 26.2 miles run really well either. So I do have some unfinished business there, I suspect. But first things first. For this adventure, I know that most if not all of the battle will be fought within myself, within my head, against my own demons.

Now all that’s left to do is through a few more things in the bag and hit the road. And try and decide for the last and final time which shoes I want to wear (to start). I’ve already picked out my socks, shorts and hat.

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