Here is my race report for the 50 mile race that was held on Saturday October 24th, 2015:
This was my first time running this race but I’ve wanted to do it for a couple of years since it is the closest ultra to my home. I mainly signed up so that I would have a race this fall to keep me training all summer. It is always easier for me to go out and do my long runs with some sort of race goal in mind. I didn’t do anything special to prepare for this race other than read a few race reports and look at the previous race results to get an idea of what my goal time should be. I’ve never run a race with these race directors but they maintained my belief that MN has a great group of race directors for ultra races. Overall review is that this is a very nice race and not a bad place for a new ultrarunner to get a feel of a long 50K or spot on 50 miler. Detailed review below.
Since the race is just over an hour away from my house I just drove to the race from home the morning of the race. I usually get up 3 hours before any race to eat a little bit, take some caffeine so that things get going internally if you know what I mean. If you don’t, I mean taking a dump or two before race time. That wasn’t going to be an issue today as things were moving too much the night before and I was paranoid I was exposed to Salmonella at work Friday morning. Race time was 6am for the 50 mile race so I got up at 3am. Actually didn’t have much to do in the morning compared to normal since I wasn’t going to tape my feet at all for this race. It rained all day Friday and up until race time. That means I use my wet feet setup which is Vaseline and zinc oxide foot powder all over my feet with Smartwool toe socks. I’ve used this many times when in extreme wet conditions. Turns out the course dried fairly fast so it probably wasn’t necessary but still saves time over taping which can take up to an hour depending on the race distance, etc. Ate, took a few toilet breaks, went through my checklist and took off to get there early to relax and put the Vaseline/powder on. Ended up stopping for a bathroom break at a gas station so decided it was best to take a anti-diarrhea pill.
Got there at 5am and got my race bib and goody bag. Got my feet, socks, and shoes ready. It was 50 degrees so I started out with just a short sleeve tech shirt and gloves right from the beginning. Had a buff on my head as well but soon I made it into a sweat band as I got hot fairly fast. Gloves were gone soon as well. Had to use the toilet again so I took another anti-diarrhea pill. I put my toilet supply bag in my drop bag since I didn’t have any crew this race. Got my headlamp on and went to the start line.
Oh I’ll just mention for newer runners that I always carry a zip lock bag with my toilet supplies in it to every race. I also carry emergency toilet paper and wipes during the race as well but I think pretty much everyone does that. My bag contains my super soft charmin ultra toilet paper, baby wipes, and body glide. I hate crappy rough toilet paper, especially right before a race. I’ve also been to races where the porta potty runs out of toilet paper. The baby wipes are to make sure everything is gone. That’s very important for a 100 miler but even in short races it can make a difference. Then the body glide to reapply whatever was wiped off during the process. I’ll also mention that if you have a crew during the race that can bring the bag to the different aid stations then you are really golden as far as toilet issues go. Also if you are sweating a lot and need to use the toilet, make sure to use the baby wipe BEFORE you go. Those salt crystals can tear you up and cause a lot of pain down the line. You need to gently dissolve them and remove before you do ANYTHING. On a similar note, be careful scratching your crotch area if very salty. I made that mistake once. Wow was I ever glad they had free samples of Vaniply in the goody bag that race. Saved my race I think since it happened at mile 40 in a 100 mile race.
Lately I’ve been starting my long runs listening to this song. Since I didn’t have my headphones on until the second lap I just had to sing along in my head. Perfect cadence to this song and just fits so nice for starting a race in the dark or a long training run at dusk.
So the race started and I put myself around the 10th spot. The course has really wide trail for almost all of it so it didn’t really matter much where I started since there was never a place you couldn’t easily pass or be passed. I forgot to look around to see how many people showed up out of the 100 that signed up but I was thinking only about 50. Turns out some had started at 4am that needed more time for the race. Very nice of the race directors to do that. I’m sure when I’m 70 I’ll appreciate those things. I kind of wondered when I passed a man in his 70’s on my second loop just a few miles from the start how he possibly would’ve only gone 2.5 miles in 3.5 hours. Obviously he is one that started a few hours earlier and was on his second lap as well. He finished in 15 hours.
For the 50 mile race you did three laps of the loop course. 50K did two and there was a 25K race as well. So if you did the 50K it was longer than 31 miles. The website said it was about 2000 feet of elevation per loop. The course was changed this year so I wasn’t sure what it would be. I was kind of suspicious of what the elevation really was since I saw a few people’s gps tracks online and they were less than that. Well my watch was a little behind the course distance which isn’t unusual for mine. The course itself had mile markers on it which is kind of unusual but very handy to have. I plugged my first lap route into GPS Visualizer which is by far the most accurate place I’ve found for distance and elevation. After multiplying by 3 it came back with 49.8 miles and 5820 feet of elevation gain. So very close to what the website said it would be and definitely within error range. The first 5.5 miles is the most hilly portion of the course. Then it flattens out more in the prairie / road area for the next 8 miles or so. The last 3 or so miles were single track in the trees again so more hills but didn’t seem as bad as the beginning portion. The course was fairly well-marked. They had people directing us at a couple turns during our second loop and the first loop of the other races. There were 32 trail crossings along a single loop of the course. Yes the trail zig zags a lot. Most of the crossings were obvious to tell where to go. 13 of them you had to turn 90 degrees or more. A couple were almost 180 degree turns. A lot of the flags were knocked down on my second loop already. Not sure how they got knocked down really, seemed like you’d have to go out of your way to run over them for the most part. The course was open to the public during the race which included horses so I’m sure the race directors weren’t allowed to put tape or large signs on the trails to make it impossible for you to go the wrong way. That certainly would’ve been helpful for some racers including myself as you’ll see later. Again I don’t think the directors were allowed to mark the course any better than it was and I’m sure it’s hard to get people to stand at every sharp turn directing people all day long.
Back to the race. My goal time was 9 hours 41 minutes. Yes a very specific time but that’s what the spreadsheet came out to with my aid station break times added in. There was a fair amount of mud and lots of wet leaves on top of mud which is worse. I’ve raced on much worse conditions but I was definitely happy with my gaiters keeping stuff out of my shoes. Get gaiters people! I only got one foot totally soaked in water on my first loop, the rest of the time it was just wet grass and mud that shed off the shoes just fine. My first loop I talked to a couple different people for almost the entire time. I got passed by 5 or so people but that was fine as I was hoping to be passing them later in the race. Towards the end of the first loop there were a group of 5 guys 60 yards behind me for a while. I yelled back that I felt like a gazelle being hunted. They commented they were waiting for me to drop. I laughed pretty good at that one. If you don’t know, he was referring to persistence hunting. After a while it was only 2 of them that caught up to me the last couple miles. I gave one of them crap about having a stone in his shoe under his heel to get in his head a little. They ended up stopping for a while at the start/finish aid station so I’m not sure if they ended up placing in front or behind me since I ended up stopping at an aid station on the second loop for 4 minutes in the porta potty. Again took a anti-diarrhea pill, this one finally took thank God. I hate wasting time like that. I finish the first loop 14 minutes ahead of schedule with a time of 2:47.
Second loop things got spread out more and after my bathroom break, I put my head phones on. I listened to the rest of a podcast I had started and then put on music. The 50K people on their second loop finally started to pass me about half way through which is where I expected they would. They started an hour later than us. The course looked different for the first half as it was light out now. Very pretty in spots. If it wasn’t for the buckthorn everywhere it would be a very beautiful spot. You could only tell where other runners were when you were in the prairie portion as the buckthorn prevented you from seeing anything in the trees. I felt good the second loop and started eating only real food at that point. Sugar water and gels just weren’t doing it for me that day. Chips and ham and cheese sandwiches were the bomb! One other guy I ran with towards the end of the second loop thought the same. I hit the first wall around mile 28 which was during the prairie portion so it wasn’t bad at all. Finally there were some cow bells when I came into the start/finish area the second time. I love cow bells. Time for the second loop was 10 more minutes ahead of schedule with a total time of 5:51. I adjusted my goal time to around 9:15.
I love this video. Great song to finish a race with.
Third loop it was more spread out. I was passing lots of 50K runners and a couple 50 mile runners. Sometimes I’d get passed by 50K runners which I didn’t understand. You should’ve been done if your fast enough to pass me this late in your race. I think I gained a few places the beginning of this loop. Things were going pretty well. Quads were hurting some and I had some knee pain at the beginning hills. As usual, it went away and was replaced by something else. You just learn to deal with the pains as they come, knowing full well they’ll go away and be replaced by something else. “Accept it and move on” mantra will help any runner. By now I know my body enough to know what muscle I had to get the knot out of in order for the pain to go away and I’d do it and sure enough after a few miles it would be gone. I really wish I could bestow upon all new ultrarunners the ability to know what to do for different pains but everyone is different. That and I don’t know how to get rid of every pain, just the ones I’ve had so far. There will certainly be new ones to show up at some point. Plus if everyone knew how to fix things from the get go I guess I wouldn’t have an advantage with experience would I?
I passed mile marker 14 so was almost finished with the race. I was at least 4 minutes ahead of the guy I had been playing tag with the last loop. There is a spot in the prairie portion you can see back about half a mile and I never saw him. I found out later he stopped at the Natchez aid station for 4 minutes or so. I was cruising along for a while and then saw mile marker 16. Whoops! I missed one of those close to 180 degree turns. I went to the finish area and found a race director. Based on my GPS watch I figured I cut the course about 1.6 miles. We looked at the map and she agreed and told me to run to the mile marker 1 and back before I crossed the finish line which is what I did. So with the extra time talking to her and running another .4 miles I lost my position to the guy I was playing tag with. That’s totally fine since it was my fault for missing the turn. Really they could’ve disqualified me but I was glad they let me just add-on distance. I saw in other race reports where people got lost and they had to run extra as well. I’m not surprised people get lost on this course. I saw 2 other people who were freaking out doing the 50K since they were pretty sure they cut the course. I told them just to tell the people at the aid station unless they knew where they went wrong and could go back. I’m sure there are people who cut the course and never tell the race director. So even though I ran further, I still feel weird about not running the exact course for 1.6 miles. The terrain was very similar on the shortcut and extra distance I did but it still bugs me I messed up. I think that’s why I’m glad the guy I think I would’ve beat ended up finishing before me. I don’t think I could’ve convinced myself I really beat him if I finished before him this way.
In the end I finished in 9:19:29. I was 12th out of 59 finishers. Better than my goal time but at least 5 minutes longer than it would’ve been had I made the turn. Of course by the end of the race everything was feeling great with my legs. I ran that last 2 miles pretty fast. I had no hot spots or blisters the entire race. I was a little surprised since I had to tighten my shoes twice during the race to keep my feet from moving around too much. It’s nice that I only get blisters on races further than 50 miles now. Someday I’ll get those figured out as well. There’s always the next race to get things perfect (or worse)!
They had contests for costumes as well at this race. I didn’t wear anything special. I think the vast majority of people who dressed up were only doing the 25K race. It’s too tough being dressed up in something for 9 hours or worse carrying something like a shield like I saw one guy do in the pictures.
Here’s the races official video. You can see me at the start line and crossing a log bridge at 4:49.