Monday, October 10, 2011

Glacial Trail 50K Race Report

Sunday, October 10, 2011
Greenbush, WI

Glacial Trail 50K and 50M is held in the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest near Fond du Lac, WI. I was really looking forward to this race -- it was supposed to be beautiful and difficult trail, but best of all, a lot of the Runner's World gang were going to be there! I was excited to see old friends and meet new ones.

My morning started with a 3am wake up call and an hour and a half drive on a very empty highway. I made it to the start/finish area at 5:15am; plenty of time to spare before the 50 milers took off. Our little group consisted of me (50K), Ethan (50M), Todd (50M), Heidi (50K), Amanda (50K), Ava (crew), and Steve (crew). I had met everyone but Heidi before, so it was a fun reunion. At 6am, we cheered for Ethan and Todd as they took off into the darkness for 50 miles.

50 mile start

Heidi and I with our matching gaiters
The sun was rising as we lined up outside of the firehouse in the small town of Greenbush, Wisconsin for our 7am start. This is a small race with less than 200 people for both distances. It was quite warm outside for early October and I had not anticipated getting to wear a t-shirt and shorts. I don't quite remember how we started, but I'm willing to bet that the RD yelled go and off we went. We had about a half mile on pavement through town before we hit the trail.

The sun rising in the distance; Heidi just ahead of me in the blue.

Heidi and I started out in the back of the pack. She was moving slightly faster than me and took the lead. I kept her in sight for the first maybe 3 or 4 miles, but eventually she pulled so far ahead that I lost her. I spent the next few miles with an older gentleman who seemed content to just hang out behind me. He kept telling me that I was holding a great, steady pace, but otherwise we didn't make much conversation. I don't love having people on my tail if we're not talking or I don't know them, so I was ready to shake him as we rolled into the first aid station at mile 7. I took grabbed some of my standards, oranges and potato chips, downed a coke and kept moving. My friend stuck with me though and went left around the same time. He stayed with me until around mile 10, where I had what I'll call a baby ankle roll. It was enough of a roll to make me pause, but not enough that I was in severe pain. I pulled off to the side of the trail for a second to let him pass and walked for a few minutes to get my ankle to settle down.

Now I was happily alone on the trail. I was moving well, but stopping to take pictures every now and again. The trail was just beautiful. I felt like I was running through a painting. The trees were sporting brilliant fall colors, which made things just oh-so-pretty, but unfortunately those leaves had been falling. The trail was covered in a blanket of crunchy leaves. Every step was like a small leap of faith. You just never knew what lay underneath them. Smooth ground? A rock? A root? A snake? It made for tough running. I was constantly stumbling, kicking rocks, and tripping.

Leaves!  Leaves everywhere!

I exited the woods and ran across an open meadow on the way to the mile 13 aid station. This aid station was busy -- lots of people coming in and out. I almost considered eating some of the cheese curds that were there, but decided to play it safe and went for the potatoes instead. Shortly after leaving the aid station, I ran into Amanda, who had already been to the turn around and was kicking ass. She was running strong and I knew she was going to have an awesome day.

As I made my way to turn around, I got to see almost everyone in the race since I was in the back of the pack. I waved to some trail forum folk, saw Heidi again, and finally crested a hill and saw two guys sitting in lawn chairs. This was the turn around. I crossed the white line and went in the opposite direction. It took me 3:50 for the first half of the race.

Butler Lake in the background.

It's always a good feeling to be heading in the direction of where you came from. I was doing okay at this point. My legs were tired and the lower half of my body was starting to ache, but that's pretty typical for me. I decided that I would turn on my ipod after I hit the aid station at mile 17. You descend into this aid station from a long flight of stairs. Steve was waiting for me at the bottom and I got to see the crew for the first time and hear 50 mile updates. Badger was in third place! All I could get out of Steve about Ethan was that he had gone out pretty quickly. I feared the worst. This was a longer stop for me -- I chatted with Steve, got my pack filled with ice and water and ate. Finally, I decided it was time to keep going. I cranked up the ipod and took off.

Coming into the aid station at mile 17

The music helped me for a while. I was singing along and having a good time. It was also at this point that my shorts started to chafe my back. This happens to me on occasion. I should have been smart and applied duct tape or band aids before the race, but I completely forgot. Thankfully I had the brilliant idea to tuck my shirt in on my back. It didn't look very pretty, but it worked.

I don't know quite when things started to go downhill. It started out slowly. Oh, the top of my left foot is starting to hurt. That's okay, that's normal, I've been having issues with that foot lately after all. Hmmm, the bottoms of my feet are getting sore. These rocks are starting to take a toll on me. Maybe I should have worn the other shoes. What's that? Yes, legs, I know, I know, these hills are making you tired. Pipe down back there, sacrum. I heard you 5 miles ago.

Rolling into the final aid station at mile 24, there two members of the trail forum already there. Tom was grabbing some food and Susan was sitting in a chair with stomach issues. They both took off shortly after I came in though. Steve and Ava were here to cheer me on as well. They brought news that Todd had moved into second place and Ethan was in 4th. This motivated me to get going, since they would be catching me on the trail soon. I don't think I ate enough here. I remember potato chips, trying a pretzel, but spitting it out, and that was about it.

I left the AS and took off after the trail forum peeps. Susan was walking and battling nausea. We exchanged a few words as I passed her. Tom was in the distance ahead and would stay there for a while. Finally, the leader 50 miler passed me. Now I was on the look out for Todd and Ethan. Then I heard Todd coming up from behind me. We were coming up on a big hill. He was looking tired, but still moving well. I practically shoved him up the hill and told him to keep going and that I would trip Ethan for him. He disappeared off into the distance. Maybe 5-10 minutes later, Ethan appeared, now in third place. He was stumbling up a hill and I basically shoved him off into the distance too. Go, go, go! Don't hang out with me...RUN! Only 10K left to go!

Ethan coming up from behind me

I was by myself again, anxiously looking back and hoping that the 4th place 50 miler was far behind. Not much later I saw Tom emerging from a camp bathroom. I tried to wait for him, but he urged me on ahead. It wasn't too long after this when things started to go bad quickly. I had maybe 4-5 miles left to the finish. I started getting queasy. My head felt light. My stomach was not happy. "Don't puke, don't puke, don't puke," was running through my mind. I stopped every few minutes to stand and bend over. I thought about how downed trees looked like nice places to nap. My feet were aching like crazy. They felt like they had been through a meat grinder. I contemplated my shoe choice. Yes, these shoes had successfully gotten me through my first 50K, but that course wasn't nearly as technical and the damn shoes didn't have a rock plate. Now every step was painful. I stumbled like a drunk down the trail, walking slowly. I thought about just how far I had to go and how it was a heck of a long walk. More 50 milers were coming now, but Ethan and Todd had a strong lead and I wasn't worried about them losing it. (And indeed, they finished well. Ehtan in 2nd overall; Todd in 3rd.)

Hey, I was here!

Those final miles were not pretty. I tried to run, but my pace was dreadfully slow and my feet were throwing a temper tantrum. The nausea had finally passed, but the hamburger feet weren't going anywhere. Tom caught up to me and we stayed together for a while. It was nice to have the company, although I'm fairly certain I was whining and complaining most of the time. We picked our way down a hill and he said something about flatland from here on out. Okay, I guess I'll try to run now. I zoom zoomed (his words, not mine) off at a blazing 14 minute mile. I almost kissed the sign that said only one mile left to go. Soon I was hearing traffic in the distance. I had never been so happy to see pavement before. I tried to pick up my pace for that last 1/2 mile, but I don't think I really did. I crossed the finish line in 8:31:XX. A significant slow down in the second half.

This was a rough race for me. In retrospect, it was probably stupid of me to run (2) 50Ks and a trail marathon in just 5 weeks. I don't think that I ever got a chance to recover. But I love to be out there on the trails and I had fun despite the pain. Getting to hang out with a bunch of the gang from Runner's World made it even better. 2011 has been good to me. Ethan helped show me that I could indeed run an ultra. So I did. Then I ran 2 more with a lot of help from the BF and trail forum along the way. You're all a bunch of damn enablers! I'm a bit concerned about what you people are going to convince me to do in 2012.

Thumbs up for Bob!

5,500 feet of elevation gain.  Ouch.

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