Yep, I've been dragging my feet on writing my report for the Ice Age 50-Miler, not because I'm dreading rehashing my experience, but because I've been a bit tired and lazy during my recovery the past couple of days. In addition, I've been extremely busy at work and have "worked" through lunch this week, which has prevented me from updating during that time as well. However, tonight I promise to write about my wonderful experience at Ice Age and also get on top of this game of "tag". Until then, huevos rancheros!!
Okay, here's my report as promised!
The wife, son, and I drove down to visit my in-laws on Thursday night and then went to my brother's on Friday evening. That night my brother, Kevin, and I discussed our drop strategies and packed our bags. I decided to only go with bags for drops #2 and #3. My wife bought my "bags" at Walmart which were vinyl lunchbags, one featuring Go, Diego, Go and the other the movie "Cars". I packed a few peanut butter and raisin sandwiches, Cliff Blocks, Cokes, Band-Aids, wipes, udder balm, socks, and a shirt. My brother and I ate a healthy bowl of steel-cut oats with dried cherries before bed to give our stomachs something to work on and hopefully "purge" the system in the morning. Neither of us is big on eating before a race either, so the oatmeal would be our surrogate breakfast.
We got up at 4 am, grabbed our gear and hit the road for the race. It was rather chilly and unusually foggy, but otherwise shaping up to be a perfect day for a 50-miler. At the park, we made a few trips to the bathroom to "unload" unnecessary baggage and hung out with several of my bro's running buddies. We also chatted a bit with Steve Quick who seemed to be ready to go, despite his suspect ankle. My brother and I agreed not to run together for fear of altering the other's race strategy/pace. I started near the back at the start since I really wanted to force myself to go out slowly, since I did the complete opposite and Trail Mix and paid for it. There was a nice introduction to the race, including 15 seconds of silence in honor of a recently departed runner. Shortly thereafter, the start horn sounded off and we were on our way!
The first 9-mile loop was over hilly but wide trails with several beautiful vistas overlooking treetopped valleys. My goal was to come through around 1:30, which I accomplished. All through that first loop I just relaxed and truly enjoyed the scenery and company of other runners. I truly felt blessed to be out running on such a beautiful course on such a perfect day.
Next came the first out-and-back. Now the trails became much more technical, hilly, and rocky. Despite still feeling extremely fresh and energetic, I continued to hold back, reminding myself that it was a long day ahead and not to be foolish. Conservation of effort is the key and I wanted to make sure I finished this bad boy and did it without suffering. On the approach to the first turnaround I started to see the first runners on their way back. To my surprise, here came my brother and it looked like he was in the top 20!! Holy crap!! We yelled encouragement to each other while approaching and high-fived on passing. I was so happy for him, but at the same time worried that he had gone out too fast. But, in the back of my mind I knew he had been training on these trails and has a great running background, with talent to boot. I continued on to the turnaround point, enjoyed some snacks, refueled, and continued on my journey.
I was anxious to get to the meadow area of the first out-and-back. The rocky and constant hilly sections were beating up my feet. I must have stubbed my toes about 20 times it seemed and my feet were in a bit of pain. In addition, I was looking forward to stretching the legs out with a good long stretch of steady running. I followed a small group of veteran runners through the grassy areas and easily made it to the start of the 2nd out-and-back, clocking in at 5:00 at the 26.2-mile "marathon" checkpoint on the way. So far so good, and I had yet to struggle. Woot!!
The second out-and-back was just as tough as the first. Lots of rocky climbs and dangerous descents. The section from aid station #8 to #9 was particularly brutal and I could tell it was going to put the hurt on a lot of people on the return. It was during this section that I saw my brother again. Not only had he not fallen apart, he had moved up!! I asked how he was doing and he said he was feeling a bit cramped, but otherwise good. I was relieved to hear the news and knew at that point he would finish well. I continued to chug along and just focus on getting to station #9 which I believe was the "Margaritaville" one, with bright-colored decorations lining the approaches and Jimmy Buffet blaring from the aid tent. There I enjoyed a few treats, sucked down half of a Coke, and grabbed some Cliff Blocks. I was still feeling good and focused. I had completed 37 miles at this point, running further than I ever had before, yet I still was doing great!!
Leaving Station #9 I caught up and tagged along with 3 older runners until the turnaround at Station #10. We arrived at the 40.2 mile mark at 8:30 and refueled quickly before heading back. Comments were made about how we had 3:30 to cover the last 10 miles in order to make it under the 12-hour belt buckle cutoff. It was at this point I knew I was going to finish my first attempt at a 50-miler. I tagged along with them for a mile or so and noticed they were starting to struggle a bit. I was feeling refreshed from the stop and the margarita-flavored Cliff Blocks I had at the aid station gave a little pep in my step. So, I took off on them and made some good time through the flatter parts of that section on my way back to Margaritaville.
I arrived at Margaritaville for the second time still feeling alert and comfortable. I downed a few snacks, refilled my water bottle and headed off on the toughest part of the entire race for myself and most other runners - the dreaded rocky and hilly sections of miles 43.3 through 47.6. I plugged away at the hills and focused on not falling and hurting myself. Many of the downhill sections were rocky and steep and I was not about to fail having come this far. Patiently I made my way through the section and reached the final aid station, still in good shape. Only 2.5 miles to go!!
At the final aid station I downed a couple of pickles and half a Coke, thanking the volunteers on my way out on my final leg. I was ready to bring this baby on home now. I was pumped about being so close to the finish and energized by the soft, pine needle-covered, gently rolling sections. I pushed my pace on my way to the finish, passing several runners on the way, even running the hills. I could hear the people at the finish line and a big smile spread across my face. Cruising into the finish chute, I enjoyed the moment of the people cheering me on and looking at the official clock showing 10:38:45. Success!!!
My brother greeted me at the finish and congratulated me on my effort. When I asked how he did, he told me he took 3rd in his age division and 10th overall (which we found out later was actually 11th - oh well). Hot damn!! My brother is a rockstar!! He finished in 8:06+ in his first 50-miler and took home some hardware in the process. Not too shabby. I couldn't have been prouder and happier for him. Afterwards we visited with some of his friends and bumped into Mr. Quick, who was looking a little worse for the wear. Despite not having a typical result, Steve was still a stud for toughing out that course with an injured ankle. Way to show some guts bud!!
Overall, I had a phenomenal experience at the Ice Age 50. It was my first 50-miler and I ran within myself, allowing me to finish without struggling and smiling the whole way. The people who volunteered were awesome, shouting encouragement and being extremely helpful at the aid stations. In addition, the fellow runners on the trails were the best. Everyone from the frontrunners to the back-of-the-packers were sharing words of support with each other along the course. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a race as much as I did this one. Not only that, I was extremely pleased at how well I had planned my race and raced my plan. Not once did I feel I was in trouble, which I attribute to how well I fueled and hydrated. I can't wait for my next ultra run now, which will probably be Afton Trail 50K. I was originally planning on doing the FANS 12-hour, but really feel I need to spend some time training. So, I'll be spending the time until then focusing more on hillwork, increasing my miles, and adding in some intervals. I might even throw in some upper body strength training. Happy trails y'all!!!
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