Sunday, April 17, 2011

2011 Trail Mix 50k

Last year Rick told me that he was doing this event with his sister Jodi.  He described it as the perfect first ultra. The course is 4 loops through fairly friendly terrain.  Based on that I figured I'd give it a try this year.  I've gone past marathon distance once before for my birthday, but Trail Mix is my first ultra marathon event. Running the 50k with me will be Maggie.  This event also has a 25k option which is two loops of the course which Erin will run. Cory was planning on the 25k, but some injury issues have convinced him to sit this one out. Cory, Maggie, Erin and I planned to meet up at 2:00 am the morning of the event and car pool down. We would run the event and then head back the same day.  Rick and Kristy were going to join us at Trail Mix, but it conflicted with their daughter going to prom the same day.

 The day before the event I met up with Rick who gave me as much advice as I could absorb as well as a tub to use as my drop bag.  Many ultra marathons provide an area for you to leave your own support food and gear that you can pick up as you run the event.  Rick put all his experience to good use when he picked out this gift. The lid of the tub clips on and it's deep enough that it can sit in muck without getting the contents soggy.  The laminated card with my name on it also has instructions for people who crew me if I'm having common troubles with fueling and hydration issues.  The food inside are all things that have worked well for him in the past.  I loved it and all the thought he put in when assembling it.
Rick's tub of goodies

Maggie, Erin and all the crap we packed
It seems the wonderful spring weather we've had the past couple of weeks didn't continue into the weekend.  Thursday before the event 4-8 inches of snow was predicted for our area. It snowed on and off all day Friday and the snow followed us all the way to the cities. Knowing we were in for some slippery roads we left a half an hour earlier then we were originally planning. We loaded up more stuff then I thought possible and headed out.  Leaving early worked out well for us as the first couple hours of the trip were very slow going.  A little more then an hour into our trip Cory spotted someone who had gone into the ditch and was climbing out and Maggie phoned it into 911.  After we passed Alexandria the road conditions improved somewhat and there was a passing lane again.  We made it to the park about an hour before the event started. We were exactly on schedule again.

More of our junk

We picked up our race numbers and killed a little time by eating breakfast before getting our drop bags and heading over the the starting line. Erin had packed a bagel that couldn't be found, but at least we had some donuts she could eat. We finally found the bagel the next day in the driveway.  It had fallen out when we packed the car that morning.  When we headed toward the start line  Erin and I had our tub of food, a bag with different clothing option for each of us and a tarp to put our stuff on.  Maggie was more confident in her planning and didn't leave anything in the drop area.
Erin and I with all of our stuff in the drop area
Lining up at the start, blissfully unaware of what was to come

As Maggie and I lined up to start the race I was confident that I had prepared well and I was expecting a fun event.  The weather wasn't very pleasant, low 30s and windy with some fresh snow on the ground. The snow didn't really concern me much as I've been running in the snow for the past 5 months.  I thought the cold temperature would be a bit of an advantage since I deal with cold better then heat at this point.  The wind was a real wild card and I didn't know how much the trees would protect us.

Trail Mix 2011
I really tried hard the first loop to keep my heart rate down.  The plan was to get though it without really working much and try to get a feel for the course so I be in good shape to run later loops well.  I was at the very back of the pack walking up hills and slogging through the muck.  The trails were very soft and just sucked the energy out of you as you tried to run.  I remembered from time to time to look up and enjoy the beautiful scenery.  The fresh snow in the trees early in the morning looked amazing and the park had some really neat views. As I was entering the loop on the southern end of the course I saw Maggie on her way out of the loop.  She seemed to be doing really well, I was impressed by how much of a lead she had on me already, but these are also conditions she's more used to then I am.  After leaving the aid station at mile 5, I turned the corner and found the biggest hill of the course.  After a long steady climb I was able to look out over most of the park.  The downhills in this section of the course were steep and I focused on keeping my gate as smooth as possible so I wouldn't be too beat up as the miles wore on.  Around mile 6, I was starting to look forward to the second loop.  I was planning to stop and pick up something to eat more tasty then shot bloks at the drop area and contemplated switching from my red Sugoi jacket to my gray fleece hoody.  Running north next to the lake was enough to change my mind about the jacket.  It got cold in a hurry and I was thankful for the extra warmth and wind resistance of the Sugoi.

Heading in to the second loop I switched an empty hand held water bottle for a full one, grabbed a nutty bar and planned on grabbing more Endurolytes, but forgot to.  Fortunately I still had enough for the second loop, but I wanted to take on more just in case. During the first loop I had seen a few other runners enough to recognize them and as the second loop started my pace matched up with a lady I've been going back and forth with.  We talked as we went along. It was her 5th time running the 50k at trail mix and she said she's never seen the course in such poor shape.  We joked that every time our feet would start to dry out there would be water across the trail and they'd get wet again.  It was nice having someone to talk with and someone to help pace myself.  We walked most uphills and keep running on all the flats and downhills and soon enough the second loop was over.  After this loop I refilled my Endurolytes, took a 5 hour energy and grabbed some combos to snack on as I ran.

I met up with the lady I had been running with after the drop area and we continued on together. On 1 of the hills I joked that we'd only have to go up it one more time. After doing the loop on the northern end of the course we witnessed someone cutting the course.  We talked about how wrong that seemed and how they were cheating themselves.  Near the first rest stop on the course she stopped to use a port a potty and I continued on.  I was hoping she would catch up again, but that was the last I saw of her.  I seemed to do a good job keeping a running pace on the third loop.  I upped my intake of Endurolytes and it really seemed to help.  I remembered Rick talking about how it would take about half an hour for things I ate to help me and and how important it was to stay on top of things and forced shot bloks down.  Even with the increased intake of calories I was wearing down. The soft conditions forced me to work stabilizing muscles in my legs that rarely get worked running in town on pavement.

I felt good that I had moved ahead of at least 4 runners by the end of the third loop, but was disappointed to think of how empty the course would be for my last loop.  The previous loops had people from the 50k, 25k and relay out at the same time as me, but by now most of them had finished or were far enough into the course that I wouldn't see them again. Near the start of the loop there were 3 women running.  They asked how much I had left and told them 1 loop.  I figured they were part of the 50k event and I had just caught up with them. I knew they were just out for a run in the park when they asked how long a loop was.  I briefly told them about the event before they sped off on their run.  I kept looking back for the three runners I knew weren't too far behind me, but didn't see any of them again.  I figured they dropped out after the third loop.  As I ran I came across one of the runners that I knew was well behind me.  Last time I saw her she was about 3 miles behind me, and I know she did not pass me.  I was disappointed to see this from the second person today. I figured I'd come in last, but I knew I would run the entire course.  This event was too important to me to not do it correctly, I wasn't going to claim to be an ultra marathoner without getting it all in, no matter how much I hurt.  I quickly passed this person and figured it would be the last I saw of her, there was no one at the intersection heading into the southern loop and I figured she'd just head toward the finish line.  Around this time the 3 women I had seen at the start of the loop came by again and voiced some encouragement.  It was a nice pick me up.  I was glad to be done with the southern loop of the course for the last time and was heading for the finish line when I was surprised to see anther runner heading my direction.  This was the first time I'd seen her all day.  She was around 3 miles behind where I was but was still pushing forward.  I gave her some words of encouragement and pushed on towards the finish line myself.  Near the end I saw a volunteer along the course and someone taking pictures.  I forced a smile and tried to speed up to a slow jog. That lasted long enough for the picture.  As I approached the camera man he began to walk along side of me and it finally occurred to me that this was Cory.  I asked him to carry my water bottle to the finish and headed up the last little bit of hill. Turning the final corner I saw Maggie and Erin taking some pictures and after a few more painful steps I was done with this event.
The smile I was able to fake for Cory. 
Is that a smile on my face after 31 miles?
Nope, couldn't have been
Rick had told me to keep eating and drinking up to the end of the event, but the last couple of miles I was fighting to just keep down what I had already taken in.  This caught up to me after the race.  I felt a bit light headed and my face was tingling.  I received my finishers medal and shirt and we headed over to the truck so I could sit down.  Maggie was kind enough to help me change my shoes before we headed off in search of the local YMCA so we could shower.  

When we got to the Y the guy at the front desk gave us instructions on how to get to the locker room.  I laughed when it included the line "go down the stairs".  The shower felt wonderful and with the change of clothes I felt a little closer to normal then I would have thought possible.  I headed back out to the truck and Cory and I waited for the girls to finish getting cleaned up.  While we were waiting my stomach started to settle and I thought it might be possible to eat.  We were only a few blocks from the cheesecake factory and decided it would be a good place to grab some food.  Erin and I had the fried mac and cheese appetizer and I still was able to put down a burger, but barely touched my fries.
Erin and I after the race
On the ride home I was feeling a little motion sick.  I think a combination of everything from lack of sleep to the extreme exertion and bit of a sunburn I had gotten was just a bit too much for me.  The ride back went much quicker then the ride out to the cities.  The snow had melted from the road so we were able to travel faster and everyone was more awake and talkative.  We shared the stories of our various adventures throughout the day and had a great time joking around with each other. I was very thankful for Cory for doing all the driving and making this whole 19 hour adventure possible. 
Finally an ultra marathoner
Maggie and I after the race


  1. Way to go!!!! What a great accomplishment in some pretty trying conditions! I like the starting line photo and caption.

  2. Great blog, Jon. You make it almost sound enjoyable!