It's about a twelve hour drive from Duluth to Louisville so we left late afternoon Thursday and after a nasty drive through some gross snow, time for sleep! Step 1: Freeze for about an hour under super thin blankets. Step 2: Get up and rummage through various drawers for an extra blanket that MUST be stowed somewhere. Step 3: Eye up Andrea's bed to see if she beat me to the extra blanket. Nope. Step 4: Determine the heat is off. Turn on heat in room. Step 5: An hour later, roast for the rest of the night since there is no temperature control aside from "heat on." On the bright side, I had a delicious hotel Belgian waffle for breakfast! Then on to the rest of the drive down to Louisville. Good company makes long rides go fast and I'd go for a long trip with the same group of people any day.
Louisville was warm when we arrived. Sort of. We didn't need jackets, anyway. We sent the other Minnesota van to pick up all the race packets and met them at the free pasta feed. Hardly anyone was there (okay, we were the ONLY people there for a while) so it was super low key and also delicious. After some threats from the other van to withhold our packets, it was back to the hotel to start obsessing about what to wear in the morning. The weather called for 29ish at the start, potentially warming up to 50. Come morning, I decided on my Northwoods T, running sleeves, and half tights. However, since I'm indecisive about dressing myself, I also stuffed a long sleeve and a tank top in my drop bag and brought a bag with of other clothes, just in case. This ended up to be good because after seeing the other Minnesota runners clad in shorts, I was convinced I'd be too hot in half tights and changed to . . . my running skirt! First race in my skirt!
We got to the start rather early, but that ended up being okay - allowing me to wander from van to building, trying to decide on what to wear. It also gave me the chance to exchange my shirt! I hate, hate, hate choosing a size for a race shirt ahead of time (I think I've mentioned this before). Since I actually love to wear my race shirts around and want them to fit me, it matters to me. My general rule of thumb is, if it's gender specific, then I want a medium, if it's uni-sex, then a small. The website seemed to indicate uni-sex so a small I ordered. Not so. My shirt was TINY! Crisis averted, though, I was able to change my shirt for a men's medium, which not only meant a good fit but also loose sleeves instead of tight sleeves so, happy.
So here is the Minnesota crew is at the start. All in shorts. Notice everyone else in hoodies, pants, hats, etc . . . Granted, my hands were frozen for the first couple of miles and I really should have worn my mittens for the first section. After that, though, I was quite comfortable. I kept my arm warmers on until mile.... ummmmmm...20ish? I actually have no idea. I could look it up, but I like that I didn't really know where I was mileage wise most of the time, so I'm not going to look.
The course was three different loops. First a 6ish mile loop, back to the start, then over to another loop, and then a long stem with a lollipop at the end. I knew where 2 miles to go was and I knew the tiny loop at the end of the stem was 3 miles (so they say, anyway. I don't actually believe them) before heading back along the stem and into the finish.
I'm happy with how I did here. It was a long course (33 miles) and a tough course and I finished in 5th woman and 6:57. I was in 3rd for women for the longest time but I let that 3 mile loop slow me down way too much. I felt strong at the end, though, and could hear runners coming up behind me during the last 3 or 4 miles and was determined to not let them get me. They didn't. My stomach mostly behaved for the race. It did start feeling a little oozy several times but I took an s-cap each time and it calmed back down. During that 3 mile loop section, I did start getting certifiably nauseous but started sucking on a ginger chew and it went away. I LOVE my ginger chews! I even had to eat a gel around one since it was past food time and I didn't want to quick chew what was left of the ginger but still really needed to eat. My knee was also fine during the race, though it was a bit pissed the following week from the sudden jump in long run mileage.
The course was very runnable, which was nice. Mostly single track but not technical so that you could blast downhills - lots of fun! The trail was canted quite a bit in places and, of course, mostly in the direction that does not agree with my minor leg length descrepencies but that ended up not being a problem. There was also a long section in that second loop that was ATV trail width with even footing and nothing too steep so that there was a lot of sustained running at a decent pace. I'm happy that it both felt good and didn't seem to make my wheels come off later.
I decided during this race some of what I already discovered at Wild Duluth last year. The reason my ultra times are so much slower then they ought to be (compared to my road times/who I keep up with on roads) is my muscles. I'm actually incredibly weak in a lot of places and I think the combination of distance and trails really brings that out. So my renewed big goal for the year is to focus on this. I have a routine that I do after every run and a longer one that I mostly do on days I don't run. I'll keep adding to these as I get stronger and as I find exercise that I like and that work. I am determined to go into September knowing that I did everything possible to have a super strong body. If you have a favorite move, feel free to share it with me be it core work, upper body, legs, whatever.
Here I am immediately post race:
I hardly even look tired. To me this indicates a couple of things. First off, I definitely could have gone harder and maybe should have but I'm okay with going conservative in Feburary. Second, I'm already getting stronger. Now, ignore the mud on the hand holding my finisher heart. I certainly did not take a nose dive less than a minute from the finish on the only stuck up tiny corner of rock to be found.
For a February race, I am pleased. I do have a lot more detail I could share about the race but it's been over a week and I refuse to let a race blog entry hold back other entries again!