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)

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