We decided to drive over the morning of the race leaving a little before 5 am. My wife and daughter both agreed to be my support team and they did a great job in getting going for the race as I can get a bit testy before a race when I am running late. We arrived at the Chippewa Moraine interpretive center right at 7:00 am. But first I need to regress a moment to address my first mistake of the day. I woke up around 3:45 am and had my morning coffee, figured I should eat something so around 4:15 I ate a yogurt. I thought about what else I should eat and nothing sounded good so I figured I would eat something later. The only problem was that I didn't bring anything else, we ended up stopping in Bloomer where I realized this as I realized I was hungry, what to eat? I looked around and finally grabbed some pop tarts, I had eaten them before with no major issues, so figured that they should work just fine. In retrospect, probably not the right fuel to eat before an ultra.
I picked up my packet, saw Steve L., we had met during Surf the Murph last fall where we had talked about running McNaughton for our first 50 but it didn't work out for my schedule but it did for him and he completed his first 50. Fun to hear his description, congrats to him. Then I saw Londell and Wayne. Londell was volunteering and Wayne was running. I expected Wayne to set another PR as he had run well in Kansas where I did not.
Now for the decision of the day which shoes to wear? I had brought 3 pairs, my Rucky Chucks, unlikely because of the foot pain they caused, my Montrail Continental Divides, heavy and stiff and about worn out, my Velocity VST's, new, less stiff than the CD's but still heavy and they are orange. First I put on the VST's and then I thought a bit longer about the fact that I only had two runs in them and that maybe jumping to the 50k distance might not be a good idea so I decided I should change to my CD's. So that decision was behind me, I put on my Nathan, grabbed some cherry stingers and made sure I had my S!Caps. I looked at my Clif Shots and thought I should grab those as well.
We walked over to the start line, it was so nice to not have the snow, I was thinking that everything was set up for a good day. Cool weather, nice course, well rested, a PR kind of day. Wynn described the minor course changes we would make over last year, it involved looping around the lower part of the center on a nice wide grass path. I liked this as I figured it would allow the runners to get some separation.
nd aid station where again I felt good. The 3rd station came and I thought to myself that I should eat something, nothing looked too good so I went on through it. As I went up a hill I glanced at my watch and it read 2 1/2 hours so I knew I needed to eat something or I was going to bonk later. It was around this time that the leaders were going by, they looked good, I am sure I didn't look too good to them. Shortly after the leaders went by, I saw nwgdc and he yelled out "Hey Westy, where are your orange shoes"?. I laughed and told him I had changed my mind at the last minute. I pulled out my stingers, opened up the packet and grabbed a couple and started to chew except I gagged on them. I looked at the bag, fruit smoothies, no, they were supposed to be cherry. I finally got some of them down. I looked in another packet of my Nathan for my clif shots and realized I had forgotten them. Great, nothing to eat, at least nothing that I normally eat. I continued the journey to the turnaround. I was starting to get some stomach pains. I drank more out of my Nathan realizing that I might be getting dehydrated or was I taking in too much. I hate that I am never sure which it is. I ate another S!Cap. I then twisted my left ankle and within a mile my right, not good but I was able to walk them off so no major damage just a bit of an awkward hobble for a few minutes.
As I got nearer to the aid station, I noticed that the runners coming by me were acting a little different than last year, I remember being told just 15 minutes, just 20 minutes, just xx minutes to the turnaround. This time no one said anything until I was actually within 5 minutes of the turnaround. Not sure why, maybe I looked better than last year or maybe not. I passed Wayne and he said just a couple minutes to the turn around. I made it to the turn around and saw Londell he said I was doing great. I was expecting my wife and daughter to be there but they weren't. They had planned to go on a run themselves so I figured that they took a bit longer. The aid station volunteers were concerned whether I had enough water for the return in my Nathan. I said I did and took off, at least I thought I did. I kept patting my Nathan and wasn't too worried, worse case I would run dry a mile of two out of the 3rd aid station but I would make it.
As I left the aid station, I looked at my watch and it said 3:41:xx, not great, I was hoping to make it in 3:30 so I was off my pace but just a bit, I would have to try for a negative split. I thought I remembered it being more uphill from Deerfly to the turn around so I thought to myself that I could make up some time. I took off and was still feeling good and decided to pick it up on the downhills. That may not have been a good choice as within a mile my stomach went south and was cramping pretty hard. I tried to walk it off but the nausea was a bit relentless and my head was pounding. I could really use some aspirin or ibuprofen. I usually carry some but never even thought about grabbing some. I think it was shortly before Deerfly or it may have been after as I was a bit scattered in my thoughts that I took a wrong turn. I saw the Ice Age signs saying go to the right but I saw some streamers to the left so I went to the left. The trail was a bit rougher than I had remembered but it seemed right, I looked up and saw some more streamers but then a little while later I noticed that they weren't next to me but 10 yards into the woods. I must have spaced out and wandered off the trail so I went over to where the streamers were except there was no trail, the streamers were wrapped around trees and looked like they had been there for awhile. I thought to myself that this must be what it feels like when you get lost, great, now what? I thought about how I could have gotten off the trail and then remembered the signs, I bet I should have gone right so I backtracked and took the right turn, my little miscue cost me 10 minutes or so that I didn't really need to waste.
I made it to Deerfly road and my wife and daughter were there, I switched bladders in my Nathan so running out of fluids was no longer a worry and my wife had some ibuprofen so maybe that would work on my headache. I told her I wasn't doing great but continued on. I struggled my way forward thinking that I might need to drop at Plummer Road. I was bummed, I still had 12 miles to go and I felt terrible. This was starting to turn into a disaster, why was I doing this to myself? I heard some runners behind me, great, if I didn't drop I would just finish in last place. I tried to eat some more of the stingers, I drank some fluids, I walked and hobbled, my way forward. It took another 15 minutes or so but I started feeling better, my headache seemed to be getting less intense and I was able to run again. It was about then that I saw the two runners behind me and I thought to myself to try keep ahead of them. I then saw a runner in front of me. Could I catch him? I kept moving and was starting to get back into the concept of a race. I was starting to close down the gap to the runner in front of me when I heard one of the runners behind me fall. She got up and looked to be ok. I continued to chase down the runner ahead of me and sure enough I caught up to him as we walked up a hill. When we took back off running I went around him and thought that maybe I would make it after all. I knew I was getting near Plummer Road or at least I hoped I was when all of sudden I was flying forward. Out went my hand to catch me and sure enough I was down and my wrist/hand hurt. This was the third time this year I had fallen on that hand/wrist, I hoped I didn't re-injure it again. I got up and took back off, the pain was quite familiar so I just kind of tucked my hand into my Nathan hoping that the pain would dissipate. I looked up and saw the Plummer Road aid station, my wife looked at me and asked what was wrong and I said I had fallen and my wrist/hand was hurting. She looked at it and said it was swollen, it probably wasn't but both of my hands sure were. I hate that, was I dehydrated, had I taken too many S!Caps, what causes the swelling?
I moved on, just 10 miles to go. I made it back to the 2nd aid station and I thought I was going to make it, it wasn't going to be pretty but I was going to get there. Made it through the 1st aid station and kept going. I decided to listen to some music to distract me for the last 5 miles, I normally listen to podcasts so I thought it would be a nice distraction. I hit the shuffle button on my Ipod and what comes on but Creedence's - Up Around the Bend. Good song for trail running, up next was Shania - Don't be Stupid, maybe not so good and then came Kelly Willis - What I deserve, mmh.
Went past highway M and I continued to enjoy some music, I listened to a few more songs with the last song being the Marshall Tucker Band's - Running Like the Wind, I wasn't but I did enjoy the song. I shut off the Ipod and just kind of soaked in the scenery, I was going to make it after all. Then I thought about the hill at the finish. Maybe we wouldn't finish that way, maybe Wynn would have us finish like we did the year before. Boy, I hoped so as that hill at the finish was going to hurt. I continued on and it seemed that the hills just kept on coming. I finally made it out of the woods and looked at the flags, oh no, we were headed towards the hill. I thought to myself, buck up, finish strong, run that hill. I started up the hill, I looked up and saw my wife but I was shot, I was breathing heavy and just couldn't do it. I thought to myself what a wimp, I bet most everyone else was able to run it. I continued to struggle up. I saw my daughter, how long is this hill? I wanted to be done. I finally made it, turned right and there was the finish.
In retrospect, here is a partial list of mistakes that I made:
- Came in under trained especially for hills.
- Came in with inconsistent training and not enough long runs
- Came in carrying too much weight
- Came in without a plan
- Didn't eat enough before the race
- Didn't (or couldn't) eat enough during the race
- Got dehydrated which caused nausea
- Developed one heck of a headache and had no aspirin
- Took my eyes off the trail a few two many times which led to turning both ankles and a nice fall on my wrist/hand again
- Took a wrong turn and wasted 10 minutes or so being off course which I didn't really need
I got to experience a great race for another year, the great volunteers, great organization and what a great course. I again need to say that the folks at the interpretive center deserve a big thank you for allowing us to disrupt their normal routine. I also need to thank Wynn, Adam and Matt along with all of the volunteers for putting on such a well organized first class event on a wonderful trail and my final thanks to my wife and daughter for putting up with me on a day that I really didn't have it and for keeping me going when I didn't think I wanted to.