I spent the night before the race going over every last detail I could think of. Due to the accessibility of the aid stations, Crystal decided to crew me for this race. I wrote up a nutrition schedule so she could refill me with what I needed at aid stations. This seemed like a much better plan than trying to fumble through my drop bag trying to remember what I needed to grab at mile 35. Thinking isn't my specialty that far into the race. There were two aid stations that she would have access to. They were called Steinke Basin, mile 10, 25, and 40, and Bug Pit, mile 20 and 35.
I was planning to use Cliff Shot Bloks as my main source of fuel during the race. I set my watch to remind me every 20 mins to eat. At that time, I'd eat 100 calories of Bloks or half of a package. I also planned to take 1 S-Cap every other time I ate to replenish my sodium and potassium levels. I have recently been introduced to a meat based protein bar called Epic Bars, and I was going to try eating them later in the race to see if they were something I would enjoy. I had purchased the Lamb and Bison bars for the run. Crystal was going to be at every aid station giving me nutrition refills while also offering me a new/dry bandana, shirt, socks, shoes, or anything else I might need. All I would have to worry about is running. I was prepared and excited. With the sun still up, it was curtains drawn and lights out by 8:30.
The course is a 5 mile ski slope loop, followed by 2 x 20 mile loops, and completed with repeating the first 5 mile loop. The beginning of the race led along a road, through the ski resort and along the golf course there. Overall, people seemed to be running a fairly quick pace and I quickly decided to slow down and not pay any attention to how fast others were going. I was wearing my heart rate monitor and had planned to keep my heart rate in the high 130's. This was a perfect rate for the pace I wanted to run on the flats and the downhills, while it also required me not to overdo it on the uphills.
After a mile or so, we turned left onto a dirt road that started to climb. I immediately started power hiking. I wasn't going to even attempt to push the uphills until much later in the race. A strategy that payed off later on. I got passed by a few people on that first climb. I remember hearing a lot of huffing and puffing and wondering why there were using all of their energy 2-3 miles into the race. My timer went off and the eating began. Halfway up the slopes, we ran along a golf cart path through a golf course that winded up the mountain. Beautiful place to play. After reaching the top, we ran down the mountain on a few different ski runs. Some were more steep than others. This is the first time I had ran that far downhill for that long. I felt weightless. I remember mentioning to a guy I'd met named Matt, that "I could do this forever". He replied, "just wait until the second loop". He had ran the race every year, since the first in 2008. He knew what he was talking about. We reached the bottom of the slopes and went through the Start/Finish line. The first 5 were done with and I was feeling great.
|Entering Bug Pit aid station at mile 20 with Geoff |
followed closely by Aaron Schneider. He waited
a few more miles to make his move.
The trail continues through the Bug Pit aid station for .6 miles and then turns around. It is nice because you see how many people are in front of you. I saw Crystal at the aid station, grabbed my Epic bar, and told her I'd stop on my return trip a mile later. Up until this point, I had seen roughly 10-15 people running the opposite direction and knew I was pretty far back. It was almost a calming relief that I wasn't anywhere close to the lead. I ate the bar and took comfort in the pace I was keeping and continued to plug away. Within seconds it happened. My sugar coated mouth that was on the verge of a canker sore population quickly became coated in a thick layer of fat. This was a bad idea. I quickly realized that I wouldn't be eating any more of those for the race and spent the next mile trying to wash out my mouth while running.
When I came back through Bug Pit aid station, grabbed a coke to wash my mouth out and drink. Filled a water bottle with gatorade and one with water. Crystal refilled my Cliff Shot Bloks and gave me a dry bandana replace my soaked one. Later on Crystal said that this was the worst I looked in the race. It must've been the fat coated mouth. Either way I was back on the trail and getting prepared for the bluff climb up ahead. It was only 5 miles to the next aid station back at Steinke Basin. It would also mark the halfway point in the race. I ran most of this section alone. The climb back up the bluff wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be and the trail quickly led to a road that took us straight north to the aid station. While on the road I passed a guy walking that was super pale and didn't look good. I stopped to offer assistance. I handed him some Cliff Shots and a few salt tabs and told him to eat them and walk it out to the aid station. It felt good to help someone and that kept me smiling into the aid station.
At Steinke Basin, mile 25, the trails split. All the 50k runners turn back to the finish line while the 50 miler runners turn the other way for another loop. I quickly refilled and was back on the trail. The next 5 miles area bit of a blur but I remember coming into the Devil's Lake Campground for a second time. I wasn't looking forward to the bluff climb for a second time. There were a lot more visitors on the trail this time but it was okay because I wasn't moving as quickly as the first time up. It gave me a good chuckle when people would ask how far we are running. By the look on most faces, they couldn't comprehend 50 miles.
|Lonely trail into Bug Pit at mile 35|
|Geoff and I running into Steinke Basin at mile 40.|
We had a 5 mile run to the finish line followed by the same 5 mile loop that we had ran to start the day. We both agreed that there was no reason to push the pace from here on out. Together we were making decent time and having the added encouragement was a huge bonus. Different parts of my body were starting to hurt but seeing someone going through the same thing with you helps to move on. The trail seemed to really drag on but we finally reached the Start/Finish. Geoff's girlfriend and mom were there, along with my wife to give us extra support. With 5 miles left, we were getting excited. Both of our legs were done. I was being driven purely by adrenaline and anticipation for the pain to stop. We would welcome the uphills and curse the downhills. Once we got up to the golf cart path near the top at mile 47, I remember discussing that if for some reason someone was to come up from behind and pass us. We'd pat them on the back and cheer for them because it would be an amazing effort. Not more than 5 minutes later, we look back and there is a bright orange shirt running after us. Not only was he running uphill, but he was running fast. We were on the edge of turning downhill and I moved to the side while continuing. As he passed us, I looked over and noticed Aaron. I first met him down at Green Swamp in Florida and he is running the series of 4 as well. As he ran by we cheered him on. I couldn't believe the determination in his eyes. "Good for him!", Geoff said. Inspiration everywhere.
The next mile was a decent down a grassy ski slope. My toes and quads were on fire and this was possibly the most miserable part of the course. I had it coming to me after gloating to Matt on the first loop how I could run down that forever. He was right. At some point during the decent, I slowed down to walk for a second. With Geoff running ahead he yelled, "Don't worry, I won't cross the finish line without you!". At some point our race had turned into a joint effort. I don't know if it was at mile 14 when we were smelling the campfire in the campgrounds or when we had our thumbs out to bum a ride from the beverage cart on the cart path at mile 47. I quickly continued running because I wouldn't let him wait for me. We'd finish strong together. The next half mile was full of fist bumps, laughter, and talk of our first beer. As we crossed the finish line, the time said 9 hours 45 minutes. We came in 11th/12th. I'll take it. It was over and I was relieved. What an amazing day. The location was gorgeous and we couldn't have asked for better weather. I am so blessed to have found this sport. After a long day of fun and lifetime friendship building, it was time to eat and pass out. Which was exactly what we did.