Sunday, January 7, 2018

8th Harbison Trail 50k Race Report

8th Harbison 50k Race Report
The 8th running of the Harbison 50k was the coldest one yet, with start temps in the mid-to-upper teens. The snow that hit the SC coast stayed away, and the course was in good shape. I came into this event with decent training, at least until 3 weeks before when the frigid temps hit Minnesota (below zero without the wind!). The two weeks before the race I ran a total of twice (under 10mi total). My legs were certainly fresh for the race! The other issue I have been having has to do with shoes…my Hoka Challenger ATRs that I had tried out in August worked well, but was getting up there in mileage (~550). Running 15+ miles in snow with yak trax and then testing out a newer model left me with a sore big left toe. Seems the newer Hokas put a little too much pressure there. I ended up trying out some shoes I had bought last year, mistakenly buying a different model than my usual. So I tried out some Asics 1000 GTX. Even with only 4 runs in them before I traveled south, I decided that was the best option I had. Another weird pain showed up once I got to SC. I am guessing it was from walking to work in my work shoes a couple of days, but the soles of my feet were sore for the 3 days leading up to the race. I was honestly getting nervous. (Soreness ended up disappearing that Friday)
Day before the race was busy as I worked, went to Augusta, GA to visit family, then went to Columbia for packet pickup and stay the night at the race hotel. All was good for the race as I got a ride from a friend from Greenville (Michael) that I hadn’t seen in a few of years – always good to catch up with him. Met our friend Terry and eventually made it to the starting line (after almost forgetting my water bottles in my drop bag).

So Michael and I started off together at an easy pace down the gravel road and into the woods. We stayed together until the 1st aid station. I didn’t realize people’s water lines were freezing until Michael mentioned it a few miles in. It slipped my mind to tell people to have it underneath one layer of clothing. That is one thing I learned quickly after moving to MN almost 3 years ago.
2 hrs before start at the hotel.
So we hit AS1 in 58min, where I grabbed a few chips and a cookie and walked out while I ate. I’d see Michael on some switchbacks for the rest of the loop, so I knew he was always only a couple of minutes behind. I really expected to see him later on. There were still a few people nearby at this point.
The 2nd AS had been moved further from where it had been the last 2 years (due to a locked gate). I had planned to run with just one hand-held bottle, but with this change (and having already traveled south without my UD vest), I borrowed a 2nd handheld from another friend. That made me feel much more comfortable (I drink a good bit when I run).

I ran solo for much of this, only one or two times spending any significant time near people. Passed Terry thru here as she ran the 25k.
It was about an hour to where the previous AS had been, then the ~15 min loop, and another 10 min to where AS2 now was. Still feeling fine. (2:23 overall) A wonderful volunteer filled up a bottle with Gatorade as I grabbed my usual PB&J square, chips, and Oreo and kept moving. I moved ok thru here for a while. My legs were a getting a little tired (and some minor groin soreness), so I walked some of the gentle hills as I eventually caught up to another 25k runner. We had a similar pace for a while, then she unfortunately took a spill while in sight of the finish area. She was fine. Found out later that she wasn’t the only one – Terry had also fallen near there and scraped her face. So I got to the halfway in 2:57. Was slower than last year by 5 minutes. Didn’t need anything in my drop bag, so grabbed some food, had some (too hot) soup, and got back on the trail (just missing Terry and Michael, who were within 3 minutes of me).
2nd loop started with a walk as I ate, then an alternating walk/run. I was still moving decently, passed a few runners and got passed by a few early on. In my mind, I was a bit slower thru here since I ran practically all of the first section the first time thru. I ended up 17 minutes slower as my right knee started to feel it. It always seems to appear during this race – it has to be because of the winding trail and I have no trails that mimic that – my legs are on the weak side. You’d think I’d learned my lesson after so many races here. Anyway – about 20 miles in after 4:12. (Note – creek prior to the AS was completely dry this year, whereas last year I had to jump and it was still ankle deep).
This section after AS1/4 usually feels endless, but I was prepared this time and moved better on the downhills/flats. Saw fewer and fewer runners. Ran this entire section 14 minutes slower than lap 1 – which was a huge relief as last year there was a 23min slowdown!
I don’t think anyone passed me on the last section. It seemed shorter than the first time thru, which is always a pleasant surprise! I was checking the time and was hopeful to break 6:30. I only knew my 33min section for lap 1 was going to be closer to 40, but I am clueless as to knowing where I am in relation to the finish until I see it.

Ended up just under 6:31 on my watch (6:31:03 by the clock). Someone did come up behind me on the last trail section and told me to bring it in…he tried a sprint past me at the end, and probably technically beat me by a half second, but they gave it to me…didn’t make any difference.
I was very happy to see my wife and daughter at the finish. They support my running and allow me to do my long runs on Sunday morning guilt-free.

So finish #8 here! Race 131 overall. 22nd ultra and 34th race of a marathon or longer. 50 (marathon or longer) before age 50 is still possible, but will need to do more than the 2 I ran in 2017.  I have plans anyway…

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

2017 Chippewa 50k Race Report

Chippewa 50k Trail Race, New Auburn, WI. April 29, 2017.
Felt somewhat confident going into the race as I had some decent training runs at Afton State Park, but I knew they hadn’t been long enough to feel really good about it. I had been unsure of my clothes all week, and still wasn’t sure as I made the 1:45 drive from St. Paul.
Arrived a bit early (just before 7), got my race packet and sat in the car for a while. Everyone milled about inside the Interpretive Center until just before the start, and I met a guy that I see running around Phalen, and lives on the other side of the lake. Funny how it took driving 1:45 to meet a neighbor!

So we started off at 7am, and although shorts were definitely the right answer – wearing a long sleeve technical shirt under my jacket was a mistake. I had both sleeves rolled up and jacket unzipped within 20 minutes. I waited until the 2nd AS to take my jacket off (I didnlt want to lose my spot in a good-moving group). Also – wearing my buff instead of a hat was also a bad idea. We were running thru the forest, but there were no leaves out and the sun was always above us. Made for a very hot, sweaty day. I was a bit concerned with getting a chill later on in the race with slowing down and who knows what 'issues'...that was my reasoning for what I did choose.
After the initial downhill and thru the parking lot, we entered the trails and I was already in a good group with a consistent pace. I walked up what hills I could and still keep up with the person in front of me. There was a little shuffling of spots, but we kept moving on.
I quickly grabbed some cookies and PB&J at AS1 3.3mi in (32min) and settled back in the group. I had to stop at one point and re-tie my right shoe as my heel was rubbing and getting uncomfortable. It helped just a little.
At the 2nd AS (6.5mi section, 9.8mi total) after 1:39, I stashed my jacket in my vest, grabbed some more snacks, and left. It was just a few miles later that my left abdomen was getting sore. Very odd – have not really ever had that, but I’d put some pressure on it and kept moving at my normal pace.
Going into the turnaround, I stayed somewhat close behind the guy I met, but did drop back sometimes. Refilled my almost empty bladder (5.75mi section in 1:08, 15.5mi total after 2:48) and grabbed more snacks. Was disappointed they did not have potato chips – only a trail mix.
One of the gentle hills
One of the many bridges

I caught up to Steve thru here, and passed him, expecting to see him again later on. After just about 2 miles, my right inner thigh, starting just above my knee) started to cramp up. It would almost seize up, but thankfully, never did. It was a semi-constant battle for the rest of the race. Whenever I’d kick a little root, my calves or other thigh would want to start up. This all made for slow going the rest of the way, but I was still able to ‘run’ and otherwise had good energy, feet that didn’t hurt for a change, No real lower back issues that often shows up, and was just loving being outdoors.
 Going slow did give an excuse to take photos...

I lucked in to being ~30 yards behind a female runner for many miles going into AS 4 before she pulled ahead. 

one of the more interesting water-crossings. (Almost hesitate to call it a bridge)

I kept moving and was trying to keep an eye on my watch and see if I could keep doing 12-13 minute miles.
Made it to AS4 (Mile 21.3 in 4:00, 1:12 for the 5.75mi section. Only 4 minutes slower than the other direction!)
AS5 at mile 27.8 in 5:29 (1:28 for the 6.5 miles - my slowest section).
Got lucky again after the last aid station. After partially filling my empty bladder – I ended up behind another strong female runner (Micki) the last 5+ miles or so. We’d chat a bit as I’d inch closer, but then fall back behind by 30 yards. She ran a bit more than me as I'd walk all the uphills, but I could make up some distance on the few downhills. I had no intention (or expectation) of catching her, but she sure did pull me along!
I did get a boost about 5 miles from the wife texted. Basically to let me know our 7pm party was actually starting at 5pm. That put some energy into my running! And of course - the encouragement from her and my daughter. It helped!

I was hopeful of doing the last section in under 45 minutes. We ran and ran and I pushed myself thru here. Coming into the parking lot area and seeing the finish on top of the hill was good, but the uneven grassy section kept me focused. The frequency of my thigh cramps increased too as we got closer. 
Then the last hill.
Just the start of the last hill
My thighs both started seizing up but I breathed thru it and kept going. The first sign said "No Walk Hill". Ha - good one!
After this photo - there was the continuation of the hill and another sign that said 'Don't Quit'. Little chance of that as that is where my car was. And the finish was like, 20 seconds away.
I came in at 6:12:02. 69/174 overall. Pretty typical for me when I am not injured for that distance.
(Being the engineer/numbers guy I am - I calculated my average 50k finish after this race to be 
6:27 (17 events of that distance) and the mean is....6:12!)
Took 5 minutes to get off the ground for this photo

Got a cool personalized print of the artwork - that was a nice surprise! (Thanks again for the photo Micki!)
After I was up, got some soup (good!), finally some potato chips, more water, and some cookies. I felt just fine at that point. 
Didn't linger as it was 2:40pm and I would make it home around 4:30. Just enough time to shower and get dressed for the party.
Waiting for me at home:
My daughter rocks!

95 miles away and not quite 3 hours after my finish

My legs weren't sore at all until the next day, and it lasted about 2-3 days. I woke up feeling 'normal' on Wednesday, but didn't run until Thursday morning. It felt good to catch up on sleep that one extra day! 
now I just need to find my next race...

Saturday, January 7, 2017

2017 Harbison 50k Race Report

This was to be my 7th running of the Harbison 50k (January 7. 2017), and as I am the only one to run the previous 6 – there is some pressure to continue it (but it’s a good thing). After staying in Columbia the night before the race the last two years, I had planned to do that again. The weather made it more interesting as a rain/sleet/snow storm was heading for us. Through my friends in Greenville, I got hooked up to ride down Friday with 2 people (Shannon and Angela) I ‘knew’ by their running I’d seen online. It all worked out great and we had a good drive down and a nice dinner. Picked up a free buff at packet pickup too!
It was a little cool to start, around 34° at 7:30am, but would get colder throughout the day, down to 28°. Not the coldest it had been…I had texted with the RD a few weeks prior to race day, and he commented that we had had every type of weather – rain, sun, cold, hot, mud, everything But snow on race day. I told him I’d see what I could do as I had moved up to St. Paul, MN back in 2015 and although our winter wasn’t bad at all, we did have snow at the time.
So – race started off fine with just a light rain. I settled into my own pace. The course was a bit different from 2016, but running the Stewardship Trail so early in the race still throws me off from those first few years. After 4 miles or so – I started to feel some soreness in my top/front right hip. Not bad, but enough to make me think about it. It also wasn’t long before the rain turned to sleet and then to a light snow! Enough to cover the ground…it was kind of cool and went on for a good 90 minutes of the first loop.

At about 13 miles, my right IT band started to bother me. It seems my IT band acts up more at this race than it should…anyway. Just before the turn toward the start/finish area, I saw Sergio and Shannon and they were looking good! At the gazebo at the halfway point (15.5mi in 2:52), I rolled my legs some, but that helped for maybe half a mile. Kept trudging along, but it was mostly walking. Left IT band started to get sore, and the front/top of my left foot. Once something starts, more things just add to it!
Most of the snow was gone for the 2nd loop, but it was quite a bit muddier.  
Last AS food/mud
The 2 creek crossings were deeper than I’d ever seen (about shin-deep). My Speedgoat socks and my Montrail Mountain Masochist Outdry shoes made it seem like my feet were not wet at all – that was nice!
I didn’t really run with anyone after the first 10 miles or so – but I never mind that. A good 10+ people passed me the last section or two, but I was always confident I’d finish.
I came into the finish, running, for my 7th finish in 6:39 (3:47 for the 2nd half). The RD is always awesome (Thanks David – hope you continue to recover from your car accident)

Was good seeing some of the SC crew again!

After a full day flying back home, in which all the sore spots during the run were still sore, the day after that, I was pretty much fine. I took it easy and just used a rowing machine that week before going out the following Saturday for an easy loop around the lake (mostly clear of snow). Had no issues, and training could continue for the Chippewa 50k in April (I had registered for it in 2016, but had to cancel with injury and lack of training).

Here are my past Harbison Times:

2 ‘good’ years, 3 ‘average’ years, and 2 ‘bad’ years. Hopefully 2018 will be another ‘Good’ one!  

Thursday, November 12, 2015

2015 Icebox 480 Race Report

7 November, 2015 - The  Icebox 480 was held at the Whitetail Ridge Trails in River Falls, WI. Pretty much some woods behind an office park - seems to be geared toward mountain bikes, but some good single track trails for running on too.
Got there about 6:45am for the 7:30 start. Was a little chilly at 34° as I got my bib, shirt, sticker and other swag, but by the time the start rolled around, I decided shorts was still the right move to go with my long sleeve technical shirt and orange jacket, gloves, Afton buff, one handheld and my 'old' Montrails. My newer Montrails didn't feel so well when I tried them last weekend without my orthotics, so I went back to the 'old' ones.
I realized right at the start in the parking lot cul-de-sac that I still had on my glasses (that I only wear for driving), so once we started and ran by the bag drop, I put them in my bag and got in the line of runners. To have over 120 runners, it spread out pretty quickly and moved well. After the first 2 miles or so, it was pretty thin already. The trail wound this way and that, had orange flags and tape marking any intersection - you really couldn't go wrong! First mile was completely runnable until the hill up to the 'top'. 1st mile marker was 2/3's the way up. Second mile was more rolling (the whole course just kept winding back and forth). The mile markers were 'painted' in orange on the ground and I finally noticed them at Mile 3. There were plenty of roots and rocks the whole way, and I had two good trips the first loop (and one more each of the next 2 loops, all with my left foot). There were two sections that went by fields/cornfields. Hadn't ever seen corncobs on a trail before! Mile 3 and 4 had some planked bridges to what I assume was to avoid some shallow troughs for runoff. We did come across a guy with a leaf blower clearing the trail. Another first for me at a race. At around mile 4.7 there was an aid station with water (and Hammer stuff). I bypassed it the first loop. The last two miles were quite runnable and you could open up on some of the downhills, especially with two sections of banked curved boardwalks and all. The last half-mile was flat and near a brewery (keg by the trail was a dead giveaway) before getting you back to the main aid station.
So the first 7 mile loop was fine - kept a 10-11min mile the whole way, maybe a bit faster at the end. Took a quick pit stop, swapped my water for Gatorade, dropped off my gloves that I had on the first mile, had an S!cap, grabbed some snacks (PB&J, chips, M&Ms) and headed back out. Time was 1:10.
I had run behind two people once it spread out and was content to not push it. Until we hit some downhills around mile 3 and I had to move ahead some. I followed one guy for some of loop one and ended up behind him again on lap two. We stayed somewhat close to each other the whole loop, and if he did get ahead, I'd close the distance on the downhills. I had to push a bit on this loop to keep up my 10min miles, The temps were fine, but being in the sun to going in the shade felt like a 10° difference. Wasn't getting 'warm', but did get cool every so often. After Loop 2, had the same aid fare, went back to water for this lap as I was alternating, and walked out eating with a lap time of 1:09 (2:20 total).
Was decent the next few miles but I knew I had slowed down some (as expected). Walked when I needed to and still ran a good amount. My feet were already getting tender, so I changed socks here too from Smartwool to my thicker Balega. Lap 3 in 1:20 (3:40 total)
Lap 4: At the mid-aid station, they had cookies. I took two and walked out munching. Nice surprise as I had brought a Gu just in case I get hungry mid-way thru a lap. This loop was not easy. I had been running solo now for much of the last 2 laps. My right hip and hamstring were both talking to me, but I was still able to run downhills without issues, My compression shorts (under my regular running shorts) were starting to annoy me, so I finally had an opportunity by the cornfield and stripped off both pair of shorts to remove the compression ones. Managed it without another runner coming up, or falling over. Not sure how much the cookies had to do with it, but I felt really good for some miles after that - no leg issues for about 4 miles! After grabbing my usual aid, I saw grilled cheese and swiss cake roll slices. Took one of each and soon wished I had taken more of the warm grilled cheese! Yummy. Lap 4 in 1:29 (5:10 total)
Lap 5: Another solo lap. Passed a few while I felt strong early on this lap, but struggled for three miles in the middle here with right achilles soreness. Was still able to do 13:30 miles. Luckily it felt better by the time the 'downhills' came up and felt good going into the aid station. Lap 5 in 1:32 (6:42 total).

The website says:
The race will end eight hours later at 3:30 PM. Once you come through after 2/2:30 pm you will be directed to a short course of 1 mile loop where we will track your remaining distance till 3:30 pm

My laps and mileage (and my wife/daughters arrival times) were planned on the mile loop opening at 2pm. I came in at 2:06 or so and they asked if I was going back out. "Yes, of course, where's the one mile loop?". It doesn't open until 2:30. What?! So then I had to make a quick decision - go back out for the 7mile loop and push to run it faster than ~1:24 (and miss seeing my family) or only be credited with 35 miles, or wait around for ~26 minutes for the 1-mile loop to open. There were alot of people around and I realized they weren't done, but also waiting. I waited too. (If I had known that the time was going to be 2:30, I may have pushed a little more before then). Saw my wife and daughter as they pulled up, rested a bit and ate some more snacks (grilled cheese!!). A few minutes early, they said Go! and we were off again. Within a quarter-mile, it was thinned out completely. I was behind two others the whole loop and we ran the whole thing. Only as we power hiked up the hill to the turnaround (much shorter up the hill this time!) did the female runner and I distance the other guy we were with. She was the lead female and had done 42 miles before the mile loops. We did that mile in 11:10. We didn't stop and ran on to do the loop again. I had decided to stop after that loop. I hadn't thought I'd be able to run that fast, so I didn't realize that 40 miles was still in my grasp until much later. I told her she could easily do 4 or 5 of these loops but I was done. I felt good and didn't have anything in particular to prove to myself. My goal (outside of 40) was 36, so I was very happy with 37! That last mile? 10:00! Crazy...
(Realized Sunday why my feet had hurt so early. I didn't just put on my 'old' Montrails, but my 'oldest' Montrails - that had tread missing and had been relegated to mowing shoes for about a year. Oops!)
Post race: Felt fine. Normal tenderness on right hip/glute, shins felt it on my 4 mile walk Sunday too. Normal gait though. Tuesday - 100% and will run Wednesday. I seriously need to do yoga again - my hamstring issues are annoying...
Forgot my camera the last big this is it!

Thanks Shawn Severson!

Hill @mile 1 of loop

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Wild Duluth 50k Race Report

Wild Duluth 50k Race Report
So this is about 19 months late (May 2017)...can't say why I am doing it now or why I didn't write something sooner - just life and priorities.
I do have notes from the race - so that's something at least.
Race was on 17 Oct (2015) and finished in Duluth, MN at Bayfront Park. This was my first trip north of the Twin Cities and we made it a little bit of a family getaway (wandering downtown, finding a beach, etc). Arrived in time for packet pickup Friday evening and saw some friends leaving the restaurant as we got there. Another class parent (Tanya) was running the 50k - her first! Made our way to the hotel, got my things prepared, and went to sleep.
It was a cool 34° (woudl eventually get up to the upper 40's) as I walked to the finish area, where the 100k runners were starting at 6am and where we would take the bus from. Bus ride was unremarkable, and we had plenty of time in a field to wait for the official 50k start. Saw Tonya, took some photos, and lined up for the 8am start.
Tanya and me
I started out with Tanya at a very comfortable pace, and stayed right behind her until the first aid station. It's always takes me a while to feel decent, and this was no exception - I felt it was a bit too difficult, but it was a very runnable section and it was good to spend it chatting with her.
View right before powerline 'gorge'

Powerline conga line
At the first Aid Station (5.4mi, in 1:09), I grabbed a quick bite and left Tanya, heading out on the next 5.6mi section. (course descriptions are always hazy immediately after the race, and is practically non-existent that many months later!). I do know my pace was about the same and I still had some people around me. Aid station 2 (11 miles in 2:22; 1:12 for the 5.6mi section).

Good climbing, some very technical sections - at times, was very difficult to run, but some wonderful views. Did get to see my cheering section at the (almost) halfway point, AS3 at 15.3miles (3:27).
Always puts a smile on my face to see my family

Stuff face  - then keep moving!

So off again on a short 2 mile section to Spirit Mountain and I knew I wouldn't see them again until the finish. Still wouldn't say I was running well, but wasn't feeling bad either. Just kept a 15:15 min/mi pace or so.
Next section (17.3-22.5) was the slowest section for me (4.9 mi in 1:17) and put me at AS5 in 5:15.
Picked up my pace a bit after that...saw Tanya's husband Marcus as the next AS (Mile 27.9; section was 4.9 in 1:25 for a 15:00/mi pace; overall in 6:41).
I found some good running partners thru here for the last 5k and we stayed together for the most part as we came back down to town.
Made very good time and felt very good. Once we hit the concrete and pedestrian bridge, I slowed a bit, but could see the finish area.
My family was waiting, more smiles all around, and a very happy finisher!

I finished in 7:20:46 (very similar time-wise to my first 50k, Chattooga, in 2010). 49/151 overall, so around my typical 32% ranking.
Saw Tanya finish too:

Post race family photo:

Walked a good bit afterwards and the next day before taking a scenic drive home to St. Paul. 2 days later, my legs were still a little sore to the touch, but were much better the day after that and started running again after 3 days off.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

2015 St Paul Trail Marathon Race Report

Had 7 weeks after Afton to train for the 3rd St Paul Trail Marathon, held on August 22, 2015. My buddy Todd had told me a couple months beforehand that he would be up for work in August and we should find a race that Saturday. I told him I had already signed up for this, so he did too. We picked up our packets in Minneapolis on Friday and ate some pasta. Saturday morning, we woke up early and after parking, got on a the bus to the start. We easily could have slept in longer. We started at Battle Creek and the whole course was unfamiliar to me except the section between Swede Hollow and the Eastside Heritage Park. We were a little intimidated by the hill seen from the starting line, but it turned out to be nothing in comparison to the hills overall in the first sections. We started off easily together as we wound thru the grassy trails before going thru some woods. Lots of turns! I took a pit stop and caught back up. Met and ran with a few people on and off (Sami, Chris) - both with Todd and without as he moved ahead of me. I caught up to him on an out and back and we had some more miles together. With all the turns, there were only a couple areas where you could miss a turn if you were not paying attention. We eventually got intermixed with the half-marathoners and even the 10kers. They were really good about allowing up to pass.
I had expected the race to be on paved trails just about the whole way, and wasn't too excited about the course going into it - moreso just about seeing and running with Todd. A few days before the event - I realized that the course was 55% on 'real' trails. So much for not training in my trail shoes and doing all those miles on the paved path around Lake Phalen.
Anyway - the trail did become technical the 2nd half and had some good ups/downs. Todd took one spill (behind me, so I missed it), and I had one good rock/root I kicked, but was barely able to keep myself on the trail. (That big toe hurt on and off for a couple of weeks).
One section on a rock wall was interesting, as was going by an empty homeless campsite - but those 83 (or 86, I forget now, but I counted them during the race) stairs were quite difficult at mile 19? or so.
After a steep rocky climb to an aid station at Mile 17.2, as I crossed the walkway over highway 61 - my legs started cramping up. First the left inner thigh, then the right leg, just above the knee. Then the left just above the knee. Then the inner thigh on the right. It alternated between all those places for the next hour and last 8 miles of the race. It was bad enough to stop me in my tracks on two occasions - once as I passed near the finish line after a long downhill (mile ~21.5) prior to going out to Swede Hollow, and another time at mile 24.5 near Heritage Park, before heading back toward the finish. I was hoping to see Todd near that turnaround before getting split off on the opposite Swede Hollow trail. When I did see him just after another cramping episode, he told me as he passed that this was my fault. I completely understood and felt it myself. Just wanted to get thru it and keep moving to fend off more cramps. (The decision to leave my S!Caps at home - it was in the 60's to low 70's, why would I need them? and the fact that there was No Gatorade on course. ok - just water is fine. Duh, no wonder I got cramps the worst I have ever gotten them!).
The last few miles were slightly downhill and I continued to move. Wasn't so worried about time and had very little expectations with not knowing the course AT ALL. As my watch ran though, I had a goal of beating 4:10...and I came in at 4:07:36.
Ended up as my 3rd fastest marathon ever (out of 11 now) and best since my fourth marathon I finished with a 3:53 PR in Dec 2009.
Todd wasn't too far behind me. As a non-trail runner (one other trail event in his history), he did rather well!
We enjoyed a post-race beverage and food before finally ambling to my car and making the short drive to the house. (My family was on their way back from Milwaukee, so missed this one).
We took a little walk to the lake later on to help things get back to normal. After three days of my legs being sore to the touch, they were perfectly fine.
Early miles

Friday, July 10, 2015

2015 Afton 50k Race Report

My entire running life, up until this point, had been based in South Carolina. After living there for almost 28yrs, I picked up and moved with my family to St. Paul, MN in April. I had scouted races enough to know I wanted to do this race, so I registered for it before I even moved. My training for the first 4 months of 2015 was decent, even with my back and forth up north for work. Even got some cold-weather running in with a -12° temp! On my first trip up in Aug 2014, I met a group for much of the 25k loop, and I ventured out solo one other time (stopping at every map!) just prior to the move and went ahead and bought a State Park pass.
So - leading up to the race, I was at Afton doing some, all, or more of, the 25k loop as best I could figure out 10 weekends in a row, from 7-21 miles. I thought I had figured out the course after a few tries (I actually did, except for the one short section by the yurts).
Race day came (Thanks to Pa Der for the ride!) with 65° temps to start, some haze (mostly missed the incoming smoke from western/Canadian fires), with no wind and pretty dry. Trails (snowshoes section) had been cleared too and we started at 6:30am.
Down the first hill and already running solo
Started off at my own pace down the hill and after a flat section, headed up the first climb. No point running uphill this early! I was able to do the first section about the same compared to my usual times (even with a quick, early pit-stop!) and bypassed the first aid station completely. I was pretty much alone, but there were people around. If I did stay near someone, it wasn't for too long; Aid stations were never too far apart and that always provides some separation. Nothing to special the first half - just felt fine.
Aid Station 3 (at the river and same as AS4) was lively! That was nice. Standard AS fare and I, as usual, subsisted on potatoes, chips, and M&M's. Did have 1 Gu, 1 Gatorade and some (5) S!Caps.
After AS4, I ran the whole way along the St Croix. I did pass a snake (not sure what kind) on the first section, and later, saw some really huge birds! (buzzards). Move well up meat grinder and ran much of the snowshoes section directly behind another guy.
My goal for the first half was to not get passed by the 25k winner (who started an hour after us!) last year's winning time was about 1:36.  I made it (with a few other runners nearby) in 2:32. That was just about my best lap there in training. I ended up making one mistake in all my training runs when I thought I was running the true course. I kept missing the right turn after the meat grinder that heads by the yurts. Oops!
Anyway - I had to take off a shoe as I had a tiny rock in it (that only began bothering me about a mile earlier). Picked up my Gatorade (in my handheld) from my drop bag and put it in my vest pocket. That ended up not working well. Should've just held it.
Lap two started off with the same downhill...glad to be running that direction. It would have been less fun finishing having to go UP that hill! I knew I'd slow down the second loop, but I was hoping to minimize it. Lost 2 minutes on the first section in lap 2, and only a minute on the next section (the back 40). It's a very runnable section.
At mile 19.7 (AS 8) at the end of the back 40 - I was at 3:13.
After the next part of the Africa loop, ending with the technical downhill and the gentle road to the said station at the river - I was at 22.1mi and 3:41.
The next section was the longest between aid (at 3.8mi), and it felt like it. Legs were getting tired. I still moved all right thru here, but still lost time walking up the hill on the gravel road as well as some of the flat river trail. The trail back up to the campground was tough. I then had the fun downhill back to the river from the campground. I loved that and felt like I was flying! Got some snacks at the AS (Mile 25.9, 4:29).
The next flat river trail was hard to motivate to run, but I broke it up by trees, or benches, or whatever else I could to keep moving at some kind of decent pace. Meat Grinder wasn't too bad and got to the next Aid at 4:56 (mile 28.1). 3 more miles!
Found a little motivation here following people and trying not to get passed, but at some point, it just doesn't matter - it's all about finishing. My right achilles got a little tender for a bit, and behind my right knee turned weak with the last 1/4 mile - but I knew my wife/daughter would be there at the finish and that always keeps me going. As I came thru the grassy trails by the road, I saw them. My daughter came onto the trail and finished the race with me - there's nothing like it!!
I ended up with a time of 5:34:46, which I was thrilled with. Over 9,000 ft of elevation change - more than Harbison but a faster time by 13 minutes.
No issues afterwards either other than some typical soreness in my quads/hamstrings. Went to a get-together that afternoon, took in a baseball game the following day, and on Monday ended up in El Paso after my flight there via Phoenix got canceled and I drove the 6+ hours. Right back to training that Wednesday!

Courtesy of Kevin Langston (Lap 1)

Lap 1
courtesy of Jason Husveth! (Lap 1)

Courtesy of Kelcey Scott! (2nd lap)

2nd lap (campgrounds)

2nd lap (campgrounds)