Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ice Age 50K

I did it, I completed my first ultra-marathon! is how the weekend went.

I had been planning this event for quite some time with my partner in crime Tom. He is a great friend from Sioux Falls and a fellow DailyMiler. Tom is a strong runner with an awesome attitude and we had decided that we were going to try and run this (our first ultra-marathon) together. Coincidentally we actually ended up at packet pick up at the same time on Friday evening. This worked out great because we were staying at the same hotel. Tom brought his cheerleading /support crew, his awesome wife Sara, and I brought part of my crew, my mother!

After checking into the hotel we all went for a nice relaxed dinner and retired for the evening. I did my usual pre-race ritual of getting everything ready to go for race morning. The biggest difference for me this time was that I was mentally treating this race as more of a training run than a race. I really did my best to keep things simple. My main fuel sources were Gatorade in the Camelbak, Apple Cinnamon Hammer Gels, and Salt Stick Caps.

Race morning was a breeze. I wasn't nervous about the race, I was ready to take it easy and have a fun long run. I woke up a little early and was able to eat a little breakfast and relax before we left. It was a beautiful morning, nice and cool, with a slight drizzle when we left the hotel. We ran into a little bit of rain on the way to the start but it quit before we got there. Being in the high 50's, it was just about perfect!
The race is in the beautiful Kettle Moraine South State Park. I am not exactly sure how many miles of trails are in the part of the park, but I do know that it is well over 100! There are some great photos of the event located at Running in the USA Photos.

The race started at 8:15am. Tom and I started at about the middle of the pack. The first 13 miles was a 6.5 mile out and back on mostly single track trail with lots of rocks and roots. It wasn't crazy difficult but you had to pay attention, I came close to falling a couple of times and there was rarely an area where you were not going either up or downhill. I was grateful that this was the first portion of the race, it would have been a lot more difficult on tired legs. My plan was to stay well hydrated with my Gatorade and take a gel and a salt tab every 45 minutes. I was having so much fun that I had lost track of time, luckily Tom reminded me to take my first one. I knew that could cause a serious problem so I paid more attention after that. At the 6.5 mile aid station I downed a glass of Coke and had a bite of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I knew I wasn't going to be able to survive on just gels and Gatorade. We stopped a different aid station on the way back and I tried a cup of Mountain Dew. Let me tell you, it was very tasty at that time! Our pacing for this section of the run ranged from 10 - 14 minute miles. We stopped at the two aid stations probably a little longer than we should have but then again, we were not racing. Tom and I seemed to pace each other well on this trail, he really kept me in check and we had a lot of fun joking about the hills and chatting with other runners along the way.

At mile 13 we were back at the start/finish line aid station and I was feeling great. This area works out really well for friends and family members keeping tabs on their runners. It was awesome to get everyone's encouragement on the way through! I got to see my family and asked them to have a 5-hour energy ready for me when I came around the next time. I also let the AS workers refill my Camelbak with Heed. I have used Heed before but I had not recently trained with it so I was a little hesitant. But, I had gone through all of my Gatorade and probably close to 30 oz of water so I thought I would give it a shot. I knew I needed the electrolytes. Luckily it did not cause any problems with my stomach.

The next section of the course was 2 - 9 mile loops on the Nordic Trail. This is a cross country ski trail and I assumed that it would be fairly flat and a smooth sailing couple of loops. I was wrong. It was actually a mostly open trail but there were lots of small but challenging hills sprinkled throughout. This is the part of the trail that really reminded me of running in Missouri. Tom and I stuck with our plan and power walked up all of the hills and ran what we could. I knew Tom had been struggling a little on the first part of the run and I kept asking him how he was doing and he always replied back with a smile and said "fabulous!". Tom is the type of person that could fall and break his leg and would tell you that everything was great while he crawled his way to the finish line. He is THAT tough and has THAT kind of an attitude!

At around mile 15 I was ready to go, I felt bad leaving Tom but he insisted that he was ok with it, so I carried on at a comfortable pace. I mostly ran alone for the rest of the race. I had a few of the hardcore 50 milers pass me and I was able to slowly start picking off some runners ahead of me. Unlike road races, my goal really was not to pass anyone but to just keep making forward progress. I kept a conservative pace for the remainder of the first 9 mile loop. 

I cruised back into AS 2 and my family was there cheering me on and handed me the 5-hour energy that I had asked for. I refilled my Camelbak with a little more Heed and hit the trail again. My goal on this loop was to start pushing the pace a little more. I still power walked up the hills but I ran a lot more freely down the hills and ran strong on the flats. This allowed me to pass a few more runners too.

I was relieved to finally reach AS 1 which was 1.5 miles from the finish. It's funny how that last couple of miles can seem so long. I cruised into the finish at 6:14:25 for an average pace of 12:04. I had really hoped to finish in under 6 hours, but I am not disappointed in my performance at all.
I finished 73rd out of 155 finishers, 14/26 in my age group, and 53/109 for men.

Here is me smiling at the finish line. I had such a great time all throughout this race and I had awesome support too! The people directly behind me in this picture are most of my support crew. Thank you to my mother, father, sister, brother-in-law, nephews, and Tom's wife Sara. It would not have been nearly as much fun without your great support!

Finishing with a smile after 6 hours, 14 minutes,  and 25 seconds!

This was a well organized race with great aid stations. The volunteers were super friendly and helpful. The course was beautiful and challenging. I would strongly consider the 50 miler next time. Entry fee included a nice long sleeve tech shirt and 50K finishers received an Ice Age 50 key chain. 

My awesome sister and nephew!

The sweet looking blister I earned!

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