Tuesday, September 12, 2017

2017 Fall Superior 50 Mile

Date: Saturday, September 9th 20175:15am start 
Distance: 50 miles (52.1 miles to be precise), 54 (31%) registered were females, although only 32 made it to the finish line!
Weather: Weather was looking pretty good 10 days out. Very little rain leading into the race and no rain predicted on race day. The day started cooler than expected, although I hardly noticed (in the mid to upper 30's). Warmed up to about 60 degrees - was very sunny, but low humidity. After the sun set, we lost several degrees and the race ended in the low 50's. Really was the perfect weather. I couldn't have asked for it to be any nicer!
Runners: My brother and I ran the 50m while some friends of his were running the 100m (Reid paced Rolf for his 1st and Brandon was running his 2nd while his wife and sister were running the marathon).
Crew: Marcus, Mom and Dad (driving from the cabin for the day)
Gear: Nathan hydration pack, VS bra, L/S Goldy shirt at the start, switching to Athleta tank for most of the race and back to Goldy at the end, VS running shorts (which stayed amazingly dry in the low humidity), orange vest at the start and end, Dirty Girlz gaitors (2 pairs), smartwool socks (2 pairs), Altra Lone Peak 3.5's, Suunto Ambit 3 GPS, buff at the start/end, pink hat in the middle.
Fuel: I ate so much frickin' food! Half a bag of pretzels, 3 string cheese, 3 bags of fruit snacks, an entire cheese sandwich, an entire PB sandwich, a "honey" caramel waffle, 2 bags of sport beans, 2 bananas, an entire polish sausage, potato chips, pickles, chocolate covered espresso beans, tons of coke (at least at the aid stations that still had some left). I was always hungry and always eating!

Training and Preparation: I'd thought about running a 50 mile for awhile and even nearly signed up for the Zumbro 50 in April. I ultimately decided, though, that I needed to make the SHT my first 50. I love the location, I love the point to point and even though I hate summer training, I knew I could more successfully get the miles in as winter training can often be more challenging. So I signed up. And so did my brother. And so it began.

Summer was hot, especially in June! After looking hard at the RFP training charts, there really wasn't much difference between training for a 50k and a 50m. Just a few extra miles added to each long run each week. So I amped it up a bit from my normal 50k training routine and was able to get about 94% of my miles in (averaging 4 days/week, 37m/week over 3 months or so). Other than an anniversary run with Marcus in June, I didn't get back out to Afton until late July! In between a 21+ and a 25+ run at Afton, I also added in some Hyland hill repeats late in the game. I'd never run at Hyland before and decided I had to really amp up my hillwork if I was going to succeed this fall. So I called up my brother and told him to let me know the next time he was going to be there so I could join him. Completed 16 repeats the first time out (in incredible 85-90 degree heat and humidity). Pretty much killed myself as I ended up puking on the drive home! But I didn't let it stop me. Just was better prepared the second time! Next time, I would add in many more Hyland runs, even though the hour drive there and back sucks!

Race Weekend Preparation: Marcus had taken Friday off. Thursday night, I thought I'd sleep great! It's just a Thursday night, right? I'm not racing until Saturday, I'm in my own bed, I can sleep in because Marcus can bring the girls to school...right? WRONG! Per my usual on race eve's, I didn't sleep a wink. Not at all. I was really pissed. After Marcus drove the girls to school, I took a shower, made some coffee (I allowed myself a tiny bit this morning and saved the rest for Saturday morning), finished packing, ate some breakfast and we took off for Finland around 11am, stopping at Subway to pick up a salad to eat for dinner later. Checked in at the VRBO, drove the 40 minutes up to Lutsen for packet pick-up (and a new sweatshirt) and was back at the VRBO, settling in, around 6pm. Alex had been popping in and out of 100m aid stations throughout the day and he showed up shortly after, too. Starving! Warmed up and ate a ton of spaghetti even before unloading his car! He was in great spirits while I didn't know quite what to think. I felt prepared, but I just knew I really had to get some sleep and since I've literally never slept a minute before a race, I was legit worried. 

So I headed to bed early (brought my own sheets), probably between 8-9pm. I read for awhile and when I went to check what time it was (I felt like I'd been nodding off and on for awhile), it was 12:30. I thought for sure it was nearly 4am and my alarm was about to go off. For some reason, this gave me hope and the next thing I remember is my alarm actually waking me up! Yeah, for the first time ever, I probably got at least 4-5 hours of sleep which was amazing! A good sign I thought.

I'd laid out my clothes the night before so I quickly got dressed and lubed up everywhere. Found my thermos which was still warm with lovely coffee. Was actually able to get down a few bites of cheese sandwich and some pretzels, too (another first). 

It was pretty cold out so we delayed getting to the START until 5am or so. Staying warm inside the Community Center meant I didn't need to be so bundled - didn't even need my mittens! 

Alex's Crew Bag
Tanya's Crew Bag
Getting ready at the VRBO.
Waiting inside the Finland Community Center.
Caffeine and snacks!
Race Start!
Countdown! "5, 4, 3...2 1/2, 2...1 1/2, 1...go!"
Finland to Sonju Lake (Miles 0 to 7.5 - 7.5m)I had toyed with the idea of having a mid-summer training run between Finland and Cramer, but was very glad I didn't take the time/money! The first few miles this year were on a gravel/snowmobile road and spur trail. This really helped spread the crowd out very quickly which was great - no conga line on the single track! It would have been very easy to run this section entirely, especially on fresh legs, but when the inclines became longer, Alex said "walk" so I walked. I was a very good listener. I remember a runner running by telling us we were being smart. I was thrilled to be running with my more experienced brother. My plan was to stick by his heels and let him set the pace. If at any point I needed him to slow down, I'd let him know. Which I never had to do.  

I'd never run a race in the dark before and had only "practiced" one evening at Afton for an hour or two. It was surprisingly easy at the start since the course was pretty low-key and the sun was up in about an hour.

I'd had some coffee this morning so I wasn't surprised when I had to pee a couple of times. But that's pretty unusual for me. Sometimes I can go an entire race only peeing a couple of times. 

We didn't have any crew at Sonju (not allowed) so we were in and out pretty quickly. Alex had some friends here. He ate 3 oatmeal cookies while I grabbed some food (don't remember what). I also noticed a container of chocolate covered espresso beans. I wisely grabbed a handful and stuffed them in the bottom of my pack, knowing they might come in handy later (I was right).

Gotta thank our crew for lugging these suckers to every aid station!
Sonju Lake to Crosby-Manitou (Miles 7.5 to 11.7 - 4.2m) I knew we'd see crew at the next aid station. I had started getting a muscle knot in my right calf. Pretty normal for me, but I was sure to stretch it out when we got there as I didn't want it to get worse and end up cramping on me. 

Stretching right calf...a precursor to what was to come.
Stripped off a layer as it warmed up.
Crosby-Manitou to Sugarloaf (Miles 11.7 to 21.1 - 9.4m)This was the section I had wanted to train prior to the race. I'd heard it was really, really difficult. This was from both my brother and my husband who had paced my brother 2 years ago during this section in the middle of the night as he completed his first 100m. They both had described it as being very difficult, very steep and never-ending. Alex's plan was to walk until we got down to the gorge and back up the other side again. Okay by me! Following his lead, we were off. After a bit of some steep and rocky climbing, we both mentioned that that couldn't possibly be it, could it? There had to be more! Um, nope! With Crosby-Manitou behind us, we were feeling pretty good and started running quite a bit. 

Got into the aid station, stripped off another layer, switched into a tank top. Swapped my buff for a hat, ate a few bites of polish sausage, went back for some more and off we went. 

Ate a polish sausage at this aid station - it was amazing!
Sugarloaf to Cramer Rd (Miles 21.1 to 26.7 - 5.6m)There was a line at the porta potty at the previous aid station so I ended up in the woods a short while into this section. This section was muddy! Wet and icky. At one point, I sunk down passed my knees! I thought for sure I wasn't getting my right leg out. Thank goodness I'd lace locked my shoes! Unfortunately, I didn't realize until later, the insole in my right shoe came loose and ended up folding/creasing weird. Pretty sure that's what led to my blister, even though I fixed it at Cramer. 

Getting into Cramer, I stopped at a porta potty. Meanwhile, I hear my brother screaming out "ROLF!!!!!" We had heard Rolf (working on his first 100m) was perhaps running into some trouble. He was taking a chair break at Cramer while Reid, his pacer, was getting him ready to head out again. Alex was so excited to see him. I know we had somewhat rushed through the last section as Alex knew we'd likely catch him sooner rather than later. He looked happy and headed out shortly after we got there. 

Swapping out dry socks/gaiters after a very muddy Sugarloaf.
Ice sponge felt good as it was getting warm!

My right calf was feeling better after having taken some ibuprofen. But now my left shin felt like someone had slammed it with a baseball bat. I'm pretty sure that didn't happen! I'm also pretty sure I didn't run into a tree. But now that both my knees were starting to hurt, too, it was just one more hurt that I wasn't paying much attention to.
Off to Temperance
Cramer Rd to Temperance (Miles 26.7 to 33.8 - 7.1m):  I was very glad I swapped out new socks/gaiters at Cramer. I was a bit worried that this section might be muddy with all of the marathoners having gone through, too, but it was quite dry and I managed to keep my newly dry feet dry! I was now finally on trail that I had run before - the last time while pacing Alex during his 100m. Not that I remembered much, but based on the time, I knew we had this. I knew we had to be relentless in moving and getting in and out of aid stations quickly, but I never doubted that I wasn't going to finish this thing!

I can't even remember how many times we peed during this section, but at least we tried to time it to go at the same time to save precious minutes. We were seriously doing a good job at staying hydrated! And well fed! At every aid station, I ate a good sized snack. I never had stomach trouble which I was somewhat worried about early on as I hadn't "cleaned the pipes" in about 2 days! 

Temperance to Sawbill (Miles 33.8 to 39.5 - 5.7m):  On the elevation chart, the climb up Temperance seems severely steep, but I remember it not being so bad and that was true again. But Alex still had a plan - he wanted to hike down and up to Carlton Peak. At that point, we could see how we were doing and decide if we wanted to run or not. Fine by me! My knees and left shin were pretty achy, but didn't bother me at all on the inclines, only on the declines. So at the top of Carlton (the sun was starting to dim so the heat didn't get us), since it was pretty rocky going down, I had to take it more slowly due to my aches and pains. But we did get some runable distance in as we headed into Sawbill. 

Me to the toilet, Alex to our crew.
Alex checking his watch for the umpteenth time!
So grateful as clearly I wasn't paying any attention to time at all!
At this aid station in the spring, at far fewer miles, I was exhausted! Physically very tired, even though it was cool out. I hadn't been hydrating well (didn't realize at the time the valve on my bladder was torn, making it difficult to get a good flow of water). This time, I was flying high! Laughing, smiling, drinking coke, eating bananas and sandwiches. I was so fortunate to have my brother paying attention to the time as I certainly was not. I only knew the 7pm cut-off at Oberg (which we later learned was actually 7:10). Having not really discussed a race strategy prior to the race, I just put complete trust in my brother to get us to the finish, ahead of the deadline. 

Off to Oberg
Sawbill to Oberg (Miles 39.5 to 45 - 5.5m):  As my brother would say, "Oberg, sweet glorious Oberg!" Having not hit any sort of emotional wall, having not had any sort of physical ailment (other than aches and pains), I now had zero doubt that we were not going to finish this thing. Baring a severe setback, it was gonna happen and I was pretty excited about that. Pretty much everything hurt from my knees to my ankles, but I was grateful my feet, quads and back were all feeling okay. At this point, I felt like I was just along for the ride. A really super awesome ride! Yes, I was putting in some work, but it didn't feel like work. Alex was doing most of the work - calculating distance between aid stations and timing how much we had to hike/run in order to stay within cut-off times.

Marcus and Dad waiting at Oberg where shade was taking over.
I never did ask what the Zebra was all about!
Pre-planned a very quick in and out at Oberg.
And...again...this aid station still had pickles!
Yep...still eating.
This time wishing I'd taken a whole bag of potato chips and not just a handful!
Off to the Freakin' Finish!
Oberg to FINISH (Miles 45 to 52.1 - 7.1m):  Remember those chocolate covered espresso beans I picked up at the first aid station? Well, I remembered them and started chowing down! What did I have to lose at this point? I'd eaten well throughout the entire race. I'd hydrated even better (peeing every couple of miles throughout the entire race proved it). I had earned some caffeine! They tasted dang good and I ate them throughout this section, in between bites of a PB sandwich as I couldn't believe my stomach was actually growling! I'd eaten so much! 

This section I'd run more than any other section. I was familiar with it and it felt good, even though it was getting dark. We had hiked the last section and, based on time and our pain levels, decided we would do the same here. We didn't need to push it, we were going to make it. But when I say "hike", you have to understand what my brother means - what he does as a "hike" is as fast as most "runners" at this point, yet we were exerting far less energy. On the Sawbill section, we got passed by a runner who was running/walking/running/walking while we were "just" hiking. We ended up passing her and never saw her again. Alex is relentless in his hiking - it's legit and fast and it works. 

The sun was setting when we started the climb up Moose Mountain. It was gorgeous and we took a moment to enjoy the rays of bold orange sunshine peeking through the woods, highlighting our climb to the top. At which point I yelled out a "whoo" and my brother was waiting with a big hug! Moose Mountain was done. All that was left was Mystery.

Headlamps were needed by the time we got to the bottom of Mystery. It was strange climbing up those switchbacks, not being able to see how many there were or how much we had left. But having run this section 5 times, I had a pretty good idea and it actually felt shorter than I thought it would.

I had asked my brother how long after running this race 3 years ago did he decide to attempt the 100m the following year. He said at the base of Mystery. At that point, I was like nope, I'm out! But to be honest....well, we'll just leave it at that right now. [wink]

We heard the finish line about 3 miles out, just as they were starting the awards, at about 8pm. It was amazing how far sound traveled in the dark! On the other hand the sound of the Poplar River seemed to take forever as we made our way down Mystery (which wasn't nearly as steep or as difficult as I remembered, even in the dark). Heading over the Poplar River bridge and up onto the pavement, we started running and did not stop until we crossed the finish line. 

Running in, feeling great!
My brother and I ran together, ate together, drank together, peed together (on separate sides of the trail, haha). It was pretty awesome. A day I will never forget.
Waiting for Rolf to finish, getting in about 20 minutes before the cut-off!
I thought my brother was loud heading into aid stations, but nothing compared to his joyful exuberance when Rolf crossed the finish line! After crossing it ourselves, Alex had expected to hear he had DNF'd and was seriously confused to hear that he was actually on the top of Mystery! Shortly after, he was on the pavement and was heading in to the finish. I hope he writes up his story, I can't wait to read it!

Thank you to my brother Alex, my parents and my supportive husband Marcus!
We truly couldn't do it without you, it means so much!!
Final Time: 15:39:21 (18:48 pace), 21/32 women, 8/11 age group 40-49, 88/105 overall. 

Recovery: Well, there's the blister. But that really didn't give me any problems at all. Popped it Saturday night and again Sunday morning and all was well. It healed quickly. 

Barely felt this one at all! Haha!
On the other hand, that weird left shin problem I was having throughout most of the race? Turns out that is probably a stress fracture. A small lump appeared immediately after the race, growing into quite the swelling/bruising by Sunday night! Marcus had to run to my parents to pick up Jonah's computer so he grabbed an old pair of crutches Alex used when he was a teenager. I used them to get around Sunday and Monday, trying to keep weight off of it.

I spent several hours at Tria on Monday while they tried, unsuccessfully, to get the fracture to show up on x-ray. The incredible amount of swelling was concerning to the doc so she wanted to rule out a DVT (just to be safe). I posed that perhaps the swelling was due to the fact that I ran on it for 12+ hours!  She ended up giving me a boot for immobilization and said to come back in 2 weeks for another x-ray as tibial stress fractures often take 2-3 weeks to show up. 
Left shin, Sunday morning...

and...Sunday evening!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome race report! Thanks for sharing your journey :)