Nervous, Excited, Scared: These were just a few of the emotions I was feeling as I toed the line for my first ultra, the Glacial Trail 50 Mile, and first race benefiting my daughters charity, the Madison Wied Pediatric Research Fund. I say my first because I have paced others through their own efforts and been on very long runs, which have all surpassed the marathon distance, however this race was all for me, and the charity. I felt as prepared as I could be having battled IT band issues on and off for the past two months, limiting my longest training run to 30 miles and my highest total week to about 50 miles. Now that I was here, in the dark, headlamp on, I was happy, and ready to go.
Robert, the race RD, corralled everyone, gave a short pre-race briefing, and then let us all go. The race begins with almost a mile of downhill pavement before linking to a short connector trail, which leads to the Ice Age Trail. The group stayed pretty close through the road and the connector as they were pretty wide. Spirits were pretty high and the conversation flowed freely. The group started to space out on the Ice Age Trail due to its width. As Robert had stated during his briefing the trail was buried under a 2 inch blanket of leaves. The current temp was pretty mild, this would change rather drastically as the day wore on. There was not much wind with a cloudless sky. The first section is a 7 mile shot from the Greenbush fire station down to highway 67. A good description of the terrain is hilly, with the trail filled with melon sized rocks. The trail conditions, rocks and roots covered up by leaves, caused quite a few runners to hit the dirt early on. As I watched the first few runners go down hard on those rocks, I made a conscious effort to increase my already high foot turnover rate. Pretty soon the sun was coming up and we ran across the highway into the first aid station. It was now that I noticed I had forgot to wear my watch, so my plan of taking a gel every 30 minutes soon became one of listening to my body and guessing when I need to eat. So far I was at a little over an hour and had taken 2 gels, so I was on plan. I grabbed some gels and bananas, dropped my head lamp, and I was off.
The next section from highway 67 to
is 6 miles of small hills and rock littered single track. I had taken a little longer than expected at the first aid station, but soon caught back up to the group I had been running with. With the sun coming up and the blanket of leaves thinning the 6 miles clicked off pretty quick. There were still a few dicey sections where the rocks were covered by leaves which were full of dew and slippery. Again several runners took hard falls. About 2 miles out from the aid station I was really soaking up the environment and enjoying running through the woods when I touched the dirt in what, I am sure, was a great Jackie Chan like summersault. I jumped up, collected my gear which managed to also take flight, did a quick check of my mental and physical condition, realized I was unhurt and had all my gear, and took off. I now had a mental mantra of high cadence followed by look down, any time I would get caught up with the scenery. I rolled into the rice lake aid station by running down a huge flight of stairs. Once there I changed my shoes which were soaked because of the dew, grabbed more gels, my sunglasses, refilled the camelback, downed some coconut water, and was off. Butler Lake
aid station meant scaling a huge flight of stairs to get back to the trail. Once back on the trail it is a pretty fast 7 miles to the Butler Lake aid station. I was feeling pretty good and the trail was a little less rocky, so I decided to push the pace a bit and left the group I had been running with. By this point the runners had started to space out and I ran for 20-30 min stretches alone. This was exacerbated by the fact that the hills had not abated so you could not see runners ahead of you till you were almost on top of them. The sun was fully up by this point and it was starting to really warm up. I put my shades on and rolled with the trail. Coming into Mauthe Lake aid (Mile 20) you run down a long grass stretch. Having pre-run most of the course in training, I knew that the 5 miles to the next aid station and turn-around was not that bad. Therefore I did not really stop but to grab a few gels and tie my long sleeve shirt around my waist. Mauthe Lake
aid to the New Faune aid and turnaround it is only 5 miles and they go by fast. The temps had really started to jump at this point, but I had been staying on top of my nutrition and popping S! Caps every hour, so I felt good. I saw the race leader go by me when I was about 30 minutes out of the aid station. I hit the aid station and was met by a huge hug from my two daughters. I got a cold towel and tried to limit the conversation, my wife had brought my watch, I grabbed some gels, more water, a few peanut M&M’s for the girls and was back on the trail at about 4:20 total time, right on target. Mauthe Lake
The return to
was fast and hot, I tried to keep a conservative pace but seeing my family had energized me. I passed a couple runners who were having serious GI issues related to the heat. I ran into the aid station and was assaulted by math homework from my daughter. I was now 30 miles into a race and the heat had been cooking my brain, so I am sure whatever answers she received were immediately checked by my wife. I grabbed more gels and water and was off. Mauthe Lake
Running back to
I relaxed the pace and enjoyed the run, I was really focusing on salt and nutrition at this point since I knew I was drinking way to much water. I ran this entire 7 mile section with, Matt. He and I traded off running and walking the hills. Once more we went down the stairs and into the aid station. The Butler Lake aid looked like a MASH unit. There were quite a few bruised, bloodied, and heat stressed runners missing bib numbers. With 37 miles down, too many hills to count, and the heat in full effect, my body was starting to question continuing. I sat down on the ground for 30 seconds to re-group. Luckily the fabulous volunteers saw to it that I immediately received an ice cold shower. This along with the coconut water I slammed and dates I had devoured prompted me to get up and get moving. Butler Lake
back to highway 67, I ran most of the 6 miles alone, so I decided it was time to rock out to some tunes. In went the earphones and up went my pace. I realized the heat was stressing my body more than normal as I was drinking even more water. I was refilling my camelback at every aid station instead of every other. Taking this into account I began to consume more salt and gels. I even decided to try a few peanut M&M’s I had grabbed, this was a bad idea. My GI immediately cramped and I was forced to walk for a few minutes, drinking extra water. Needles to say the rest of the M&M’s went un-eaten. During this walking break I noticed that my hip-flexors were beginning to tighten up. The continued high foot cadence I had adopted to avoid falling had begun to fatigue them. I pushed through and into the 67 aid station (Mile 43) out of water and gels. I was told immediately how great I was looking, which prompted my dual response of “I love you and you are a horrible liar.” I grabbed water, gels, and proceeded onward towards the finish. Butler Lake
The final 7 miles my hip flexors had finally had enough, a foot cadence over 200 vs. my normal 180 was just too much for them. With non-functioning hip flexors I couldn’t lift my feet more than 2-3 inches off the ground, meaning I no longer trusted my ability to run downhill. So change of plans for the final 7 miles, as there were no real flat trail sections, I walked the downs and ran the ups. This allowed me to remain upright but really slowed my pace; I now got passed by two runners. With about 2 miles left you come out of the woods and make your way back to the connector trail, it felt good to be on level ground so I increased my pace trying to make up some of what I lost. Popping out onto the road with 1 uphill mile to go, I was ready to be done. As I neared the finish line my daughter, the one whose charity I ran the race for met me on the course and we ran through the finish together holding hands.