Dave, you did a great job of describing the course and the condition of the trails and the perfect day for the race. Since I'm the "historian" for that race-it's true that when we first started it, the weather was almost always coolish. And there was one year where we had exactly the same conditions as last week. Perhaps it only made it to 95 degrees rather than closer to 100, but it was bloody hot all week. We were scrambling to buy ice in Woodbury, etc. Anyway the day of the race, it was like a miracle. And that's what happened last weekend. It was actually cool at the start this year. I was almost wishing for a long sleeved shirt as we waited for the start.
My story is that I went in to the race thinking that I would only run 25K, but since I was registered for the 50K, I'd take the early start and get it over with. I started out with Wally and saw a few folks I know from the trail running community, although there aren't many anymore. Everyone is way younger than I am. The trails were in great shape and by the time I got to the first aid station things felt good and I decided that if I could make the cut-off for the first loop I'd stick it out for the second. I'll admit there was a woman who I kept leap frogging with, who appeared to be in my age group (50+). She is tall and really tackles the uphills. As Dave said, the volunteers at the aid stations were absolutely amazing. This younger trail running community is quite an inspiration and John Storkamp deserves a lot of credit for his leadership. It was fun to see Dave's wife, Beth at the major aid station.
So I made it with over 30 minutes to spare, where I had to make the decision to continue or drop. To be truthful, by then I had made the decision that I did not want to be listed as a DNF. Mike Reneau from Hudson, who some of you may know, told me he'd wait for me, so I figured "go for it". The "tall girl" wasted no time at the aid stations and was long gone by the time Mike reassured me.
As is always the case for me in the longer trail runs, it is usually a pretty solitary experience. But the aid stations are closer together at Afton, so that keeps a person going. And early in the second loop, Jan O'Brien, who became a fabulous trail runner and has of late worked the first aid station, introduced me as "the pioneer of trail ultras for women in MN". I'm not sure she's right, but it was a very nice compliment and really kept me going. I guess it was the weather and the trail conditions, but the second loop went really well too. The time seemed to not be an issue at this point and I even was looking at my watch to consider if I could break 8 hours, which is about my average for this course.
It wasn't until I had about 4 miles left to go that I saw tall girl again. Since we hadn't leap frogged in the second loop I was leery to pass her again, but she was running with someone else and busy in conversation so I passed, figuring she'd pass me on the last hill. After a potty stop at the nice new bathrooms, the folks at the last aid station cheered me in up the hill and gave the best encouragement of the day. Dave's favorite section (not mine) was in much drier condition by this point and the last few miles seemed to fly by. I passed Jim Baillargeion, from Sommerset, with two miles to go. He was very encouraging. The finish line was a very welcome sight and my time was 7:26. And I beat the tall girl by 2 minutes. BTW, she has a name-it's Linda Frank and she's from Hudson. She's a newbie at the 50K, in her 50s, and has lots of potential.
Next year is the 20th anniversary of ATR and if any of you are even thinking about doing a trail run, I would recommend this one. It's not easy-the hills are steep and seem unending, but there are points in between the hills that are very runnable. It's a nice introduction to trail running and the trail running community. And the design of the shirts is very unique. Thanks Dave, for an explanation of the design. I had no idea.
This weekend is the Voyageurs trail run, which has been modified and not even a full marathon, but they say harder. That's my last training run before I leave for Mongolia. Is anyone interested in meeting for a beer at Whiteys' before I leave on July 25th?