Had a great time in the Southern Kettle Moraine in Wisconsin running the North Face Endurance Challenge. I finished with a time of 9:19, way slower than my 8:42 from last year. A disappointment yes, but the race was way different (read on), and quite an adventure. I need to learn to forget comparing times and setting goals in ultras; there are just too many variables. I need to train hills harder, that’s for sure. Good thing I live close to Afton. Awesome shwag at this race: for the entry fee I scored a NF tech shirt, a running water bottle, 2 stainless liter bottles, and NF running socks. I think I broke even!
Thanks to my parents living 10 minutes from the start, I was able to set my alarm for 4:00 am for a 5:00 am start (ouch) to the sounds of distant (ominous) thunder. After eating some oatmeal (need to come up with a better morning-of-race meal), Beth & I were out the door by 4:30 to the sounds of approaching thunder. Gads, I was still tired. Why do I sign up for these things?
Just out of the driveway we see a headlamp bobbing along the side of the road. My goodness, running to the start of a 50M race; Wisconsin runners are hardcore! As we got closer we saw an enthusiastic and extended thumb in the light of the lamp. Hmmm, more like a victim of a faulty starter. Eventually three desperate stragglers from Pekin, IL were in the back of my minivan, one sitting (un)comfortably on my son’s car seat. Turns out, the car seat guy was Andrew Bloom, a local speedster who ended up taking third. Way to go Andrew! I get partial credit for saving his legs.
By the time we reached the starting area we did not need our headlamps; the lightning was pretty fierce and getting closer. Pretty exciting actually. My nerves were up since I was prepared for an awesome race. A few minutes after I pinned on my race number (the timing chip was glued to the back of the number, cool) the gun went off. And the heavens opened. I mean really opened. Holy crap that was a lot of water. The temperature was around 60° so I didn’t get too cold. But I got drenched. It was actually kind of fun running in a God-awful downpour at 5:00 in the morning, with the course lit by lightening. I’m sure I was breaking some kind of rule. Sorry mom.
The torrents lasted for about an hour and a half. Due to the rain, my headlamp was only good for about 10 ft of visibility. You know how a snow storm looks with your brights on? My wicking shirt was not very effective today. Good thing the trail was well marked with ribbons, signs and glow sticks. Well done to the marking crew. The trail, at this point, was still in pretty good condition, so I thought I was able to keep a decent pace. So I thought. As I pulled into the first checkpoint at mile 7, Beth was there to pass me my goodie bag and to let tell me I was 8 minutes behind my pace goal. Crap, it was going to be one of those days. Screw the time, just try to have fun.
As the run continued, I started to experience a general theme that would keep me company throughout the day: mud. Mud blocking the entire trail. Mud trying to suck my shoes off. Mud soaking my shoes and socks. Why do I sign up for these things? It was laughable. My perceived pace was way faster than actual. The mud did nothing to dampen the spirits of the runners though. We were having a lot of fun in the muck and rain. By aid station 2, I was still with a group of runners, though shortly after I was running alone. The Kettle Moraine trails are a blast to run on. Rolling hills and quiet forests. Sunrise was most welcome, helping me to see the trail and to get into a rhythm. The mud and water did not evaporate though, just too humid.
I felt really strong throughout the middle of the race. Unlike last year, I was able to push through the hill section without going to a bad place. Unfortunately, unlike last year, I was not able to push past a 9:30 pace for the final 10 miles. My legs were trashed. Why do I sign up for these things? I thought I was better prepared this year, but the conditions seemed to take a toll I think. The rain returned at about 10:00, with some really close sky-ground strikes along the course. What fun. Sunny and 60 do not provide for good stories.
Beth was able to meet me at most aid stations. I really looked forward to seeing a smiling face at those stations. Thanks Beth.
I was glad when I saw the finishing gate. Duh. I was ready to be done. The sun did finally come out at about around 2:00 pm, just in time to warm me up. I ate two pork sandwiches, two soups, and 2 big cookies, and I was hungry for more. The highlight of the day was watching my sister finish her first marathon. Way to go Laurie! Your Lapham group did pretty well too. What a cool group of runners.
I did get my picture taken with Dean Karnazes. Cool guy. He spent a few minutes asking about my experience and gave me his complete attention. I know he gets a bad rap, but I didn't see it.
It takes a few days, but I'm ready for new challenges now. Working towards that 100-miler. Maybe a 100k next year? Why do I only remember the good stuff a week after the race?