Monday, April 22, 2013

Zumbro Midnight 50-mile 2013

artwork John Storcamp

Trying to write the blog quickly after the race because I want to be able to write down many of the details!

The Zumbro 50 was my second 50-miler and it’s crazy to think it’s already over. The last relatively long race I did was back in December at the Honolulu Marathon which I was still burned up from Twin-Cities Marathon in October. Having January-mid April to recover/train for this race seemed like heaps of time, but the weeks came and went and suddenly the Zumbro weekend was here.

For the last 50 I did, my training consisted mainly of doing other marathons/trail races that year which was convenient but wasn’t really as specific of training as would have been helpful for a trail 50.  This time around for Zumbro, I tried to put in relatively higher mile weeks (70ish) and was just generally running more often. Made it out to the roads at Afton for 1 long run on the roads with some good climbing.
courtesy Edward Sandor
  It’s been fun running to and from Caribou in the mornings for work, getting 8 miles in by 10am and still being able to get an afternoon run in. Now that I am working at the Running Room in St. Paul, that will be another 8 miles of commuting to get on the feet.

Even though I was able to hit higher mile weeks than before, I wasn’t completely confident in my training because my longest run was just a marathon distance that I had done in Chicago, and I didn’t really do any long back-to-back days or much hill-work.

J1 and I drove down to Zumbro Friday during the day and arrived at the Zumbro Riverbottoms around 3pm. We got to hang out at the last aid station (start/finish) and watch the 100-milers come in and out.  Saw Edward pass through when we got there.
Trying to save a caffeine boost for later in the evening before the race, I had not had any coffee throughout the day, however ended up have a caffeine withdrawal headache around 5:00pm so had a half-caff cup to take the edge off before trying to nap (admitted addict). Hung out by the fire place and got pretty cold from not bringing warm enough clothes to sit outside for 9+hours before the midnight start of the race. After warming up 3 sweet potatoes by the fire and eating them, went and napped in Edward’s suburban with his golden retriever Tucker. It was tough getting to sleep because my hands/feet were so cold from spending all the time outside. Woke up from Jake opening up the trunk and letting me know there was a hour until the start of the race. Switched into race gear, heated up another sweet potato and drank a cup of coffee rushing over to the start where everyone was. Since the aid-stations are spaced so close together (longest one being 4.3 miles apart) I wouldn't be needing to carry any water/fuel on me which I was excited for.

The Zumbro 50 mile run started at midnight and ran 3 16.7 mile “loops” around the Zumbro Riverbed area in Theilman MN.  There was 9200ft of climbing at Zumbro compared to 12,500 at Sawtooth.
It had snowed the previous day and the trails were pretty sloppy from the 100-milers running 16 hours on the trails prior to us starting.

John Storcamp gave us the GO and I hollered for Jake because I didn’t see him in the mass of people running through the dark with headlamps. Little did I know, Jake and I would run the next 45 miles together.  We started off chit chatting and were enjoying the trails and hiking the uphill climbs. I was using a Coleman headlamp and a small handheld flashlight for when I needed to illuminate the ground when the cheap headlamp didn’t do the trick.  It was super cool after the first steep climb, looking down and seeing a line of people’s headlamps making their way up. I get giddy just thinking about it again! Despite how bone-chilled I was prior to the start, after running for just a few minutes, I quickly heated up and realized I would need to shed some clothes at the first aid station. Once arriving to aid station 1 (TCRC), I gave my long-sleeve compression shirt and a cotton-tshirt I was wearing to Kurt, along with a headband and a set of gloves (definitely was overdressed but was freezing at the beginning).
Think I didn’t even grab anything at the first couple aid-stations because of not being very hungry or thirsty and not wanted to start to get things sloshy in the stomach yet.  Realizing it would be pretty stupid to see how long I could continue to not eat/drink much, started to try and have real food such as grapes/bananas and hydrate with water at the aid-stations.  Knowing this “natural” fueling strategy wouldn’t last long either, started to eat PB&Js, quesadillas and other foods at the aid stations. Thankfully, my stomach can tolerate just about anything at relatively low intensities.

For the first loop, I stayed behind Jake the entire time and would sometimes feel myself wanting to push faster. It helped staying behind him because instead of running by feel and burning up the legs too quickly, I was able to conserve energy much better than the Superior 50 in 2011. The footing throughout the first loop wasn’t too bad because being it was Midnight, the temperatures dipped below freezing, hardening up the footsteps of the 100-milers. Lots of portions of the trail were completely covered in snow and other parts patches were combos of ice/water. It was difficult trying to keep the feet dry and several occasions on the first loop my feet sunk into spots that wet the feet up pretty good. Just before getting to the TCRC aid-station 4, there is about a 1.5 mile stretch of gravel road which is surprisingly super tiring. After all the climbing and descending in the trails before getting to the road, the legs are pretty beat up and it is hard to get the legs into a road running groove.

We finished up the first loop and it was semi-exciting knowing we only had two more loops to go, however also seemed too daunting at the time to think about doing two more loops. Ripped through a pair of SmartWool socks so changed to a Fitsok and headed out for the second loop.

Just into the second loop at around mile 18, 19, and 20 my legs were feeling pretty dead and my left hip flexor was being tricky and sensitive. Decided to try and start eating more at the aid-stations to see if that would help out. At one aid-station,  I remember having a fried egg, PB&J, a Hammer Gel, hot potato soup and washed it down with coffee. Thankfully I broke out of the fatigue slump I was in and felt quite a bit better. It was crazy to be thinking at like mile 30, I was feeling better than when I was at mile 18.  You sure do have high-highs and low-lows in these races and can only imagine what they feel like during a 100-miler.

My Garmin GPS watch had unfortunately died at mile 25 while we were in the second loop. However, by this point, it had began to get light out and we were able to turn our headlamps off which was super nice. Stashed the headlamp and handheld flashlight with Jake’s drop bag and didn’t have the headlamp band constriction on the head and both my hands were free. The course now seemed totally different, being able to see the scenery around us instead of being restricted to the small space lit up by headlamps.

(Took a week away from trying finish writing this race report because felt like I wasn't able to express as much as I wanted with writing..grr)

Can’t remember much of the middle miles except taking in some awesome views along the course, and rolling into the Start/Finish area with one last loop to go. Jake and I would randomly sing songs ranging from “Palmdale” by Afroman to the trail only knows..
Finished the second loop and switched from Scott Eride Grip to Brooks Cascadias. It was nice finishing up with tough climbs and difficult sections of the trail on the last loop.knowing that would be our last time passing through. We passed several other 50-milers and towards the end of the last loop we were going back and forth with another guy who Jake and I called “Blue Shirt Guy”. With about 5 or so miles left we hit the flat dirt road section that was 1.5 miles long and Blue Shirt Guy was coming up behind us again. I told Jake I was going to try and stick with him and not let him pass. Blue Shirt Guy started passing from behind and I starting speeding up to maintain his pace. We exchanged brief greetings and kept along the dirt road as our legs slowly adjusted to the change of footing. It was still a super tough section to run because of all the puddles/mud that I tried to avoid and how fried the legs were from the earlier miles/terrain. We stayed side-by-side for 5 or so minutes and there was a silent competitive aura between us as we both continued to pick up the pace. Decided I had enough of that and wanted to see what kind of pace I could maintain for the rest of the race. Started gaining a lead on him as we had about .5 miles left to the aid-station. Gained some solid ground and wanted to look back to see where Jake was in all of this but stubbornly didn’t want the Blue Shirt Guy to see me look back. After finishing the long stretch of road and crossing a little bridge, got to the last aid-station.  Made it a goal to try and be in and out as fast as possible in attempt to have the guy not even see me when he reached the aid-station.  After slamming some water and grabbing a couple orange slices for the way, I ran out of the aid-station and began power-hiking up the pretty steep climb. After ascending for a bit, looked down towards the aid-station and saw Blue Shirt Guy in the distance walking towards the aid-station. Think I remember saying out loud, “Yeah baby!” and was excited for Jake to pass him shortly.
The last 3 miles of the race were the quickest miles throughout the whole race, as we had been doing a lot of conserving and maintaining throughout the previous miles.  The first place 17-miler girl started cruising by and I attempted to stick with her but that lasted less than a mile. Tried to use whatever energy was conserved earlier on the last 14:00 hours out on the trails and I’m very curious what my pace was for the last section of the race. It felt like running less than 8:00min/miles but then again who could have been 10:00min/miles. Got to the last straight flat section before the open field and looked back to see Jake was not too far behind.  Was excited to see he was able to pick up the pace too and was surprised how much energy he had in his legs at this point for his first 50-miler. Ran through the open field and was greeted at the finish line by John Storcamp followed by Misty and Jeanine. Crossed at 11:45:52.  It felt awesome to be done and I was surprised and how different this race was than my first 50. Jake finished like a minute around me and we were relieved to finish. Felt like we hunted down Blue Shirt Guy together for the kill and now we were rewarded with the finish line. 
courtesy Jordan Hanlon
courtesy Jordan Hanlon

With it being a week after the race, I’ve looked back and had mixed feelings of how I ran it.  For me, a 50-mile race is super tough to pace and I credit Jake for leading such a rocksteady pace for 45 miles. A part of me wonders what it would have been like if I attempted to run it solo. I know I would have started out quicker and crashed later on but sometimes it’s nice to learn lessons the hard way (in many cases, I’d much rather learn a lesson through experience than through other people warning or telling me) so I’m a little disappointed in myself for choosing not to struggle pacing myself in the race and using Jake’s pace as a crutch.  Also it is a bit embarrassing how vivid the last few miles with the Blue Shirt Guy were because I don’t think I should base how good I feel about something that is determined by beating another person but competition has always been an easy way for me to take things to a level I might not have been able to without it.

After the race I sat down for a bit eating warm food generously crafted by Misty and Vickie while quickly becoming stiff/sore/cold just sitting around. If I hadn’t really pushed it the last 5 or so miles, I probably wouldn’t have been half as sore as I was. Went to change into some dry/warm clothes in J1’s car and after 10min of struggling to switch out of my clothes, made my way back to the fire and hung out with a bunch of the others as we watched other 17, 50, 100milers come across the finish. It was so fun and comforting sitting next to the fire after the race with such a cool group of people. I keep thinking how much I will miss this group of people as I’m about to be in Japan for a year :(

Took a full week off of running after the race and am slowly getting back onto the road/trails. After my 50 in 2011, ended up running too much too soon and feel like that definitely prolonged the recovery. Was pretty cranky towards the end of this week without running but thankfully for me (and my friends/roommates/co-workers/people I interact with..) am back and running again :)

Signed up for Kettle Morraine 100-mile race June 1st and am 40 days out from it. Plan on doing a week of Core Power Yoga and some strengthening exercises to keep the legs/body balanced. Feel like my stomach and bum are pretty weak now and need some work.