Monday, July 05, 2010

Afton Trail 50K

Wow was it hot!! A little data from the weather service:

6:30 am - Temperature: 70 F, Humidity: 68%
9:00 am - Temperature: 78 F, Humidity: 57%
1:00 pm - Temperature: 86 F, Humidity: 55%

While not a treat for anyone, this essentially was the first really warm day I have experienced all summer. No better way to test out some ideas for making it through my first 50 mile in 3 weeks (Voyageur has a well-deserved reputation for being a hot and humid race).

I had no real time goal in mind though figured it should be somewhere in the 6 hour+ range based on my previous 50K times. There was much debate on the drive down to the Cities between Marcus and Shelly and I on how this course compared with others we had run as none of us had been to Afton before. In addition, Shelly and I joked around about winning money as this was also the USATF -MN Trail Championships and who knew how many of the runners would also be USATF members?

Woke at 3:30 am race day to prepare and make the almost one hour drive to the park. Walked outside to be greeted by temperatures already in the upper 60's, but the wind was blowing giving us some hope of tolerable temperatures. I had excellent directions to the park provided by Zach Pierce and we easily navigated the almost empty freeways.

After picking up our race packets and extra number (USATF members only) it was off to the car to prepare for the race. I was distracted enough to forget to lube up my feet - a mistake that would haunt me on those sandy soils.
Above photo courtesy of Jen Pierce. Not only did I get to be her first picture of the day but she took very good care of me after the race. Thanks Jen!!

I figured the first loop would be my chance to "learn" the course and I tried to remind myself to take it easy. Felt pretty good throughout, though noted my hands starting to swell early on (they do that on hot days anyway, running only makes it worse) and took my watch off and hooked it to my Nathan as the swelling extends up my arms a bit and is a bit uncomfortable.

The aid station volunteers (all of the volunteers) were awesome!! They really know how to take care of the runners and are right there with whatever you need almost before you have a chance to think of what it is. With the heat, watermelon dipped in salt really hit the spot. I also took advantage of the buckets of ice water to soak my hands, in a failed attempt to reduce the swelling. By the second loop I was also scooping out ice to drop down my running bra (multi-purpose garment).

This was the first race in which I used S-Caps. They have been recommended by many runners and I figured it was worth a try. Ultras are an "experiment of one" - what works for some folks doesn't for others. In the past my stomach has not taken to solid foods too well. I have tried out a number of different gels, blocks, and "real" foods and think I have figured out some items that work. Right now it is E-gel supplemented with craisins, home made protein bars and grazing off the aid station tables on things that look appealing at the time.

The first loop went well and I had a general feel for the course. There were some killer uphills and the open prairie sections offered some beautiful views. I could feel some hot spots developing and realized at that point I had not used any Body Glide on my feet. Oops. Figured I would tough it out to aid station 6 where I had my 'drop bag' and take care of it then. I had also intended to switch out my empty gel flask for a full one and grab more S-Caps, just in case.
Coming in to AS 6/25K point and still smiling! Photo courtesy of Jen Pierce

Arrived at the 25k point in 2:51 and sat down to take care of my feet. No actual blisters in sight - yeah! Applied the Body Glide liberally, emptied the shoes and snugged the laces up a bit more. Downed a handful of craisins from my drop box, emptied the protein bars out of my pack as they sounded less than appealing in the heat, and headed to the biffies to take care of another pressing need. Took me 7 minutes to clear that station. It wasn't until I headed down the hill that I remembered the other things I had wanted to do while there. Decided I would need to manage on one gel flask and with the S-caps in hand. This threw me enough to have me shaking my head and still berating myself as I passed Steve Q who was directing runners on the course. My bad mood should have been a clue that all was not well. I am usually fairly optimistic unless my blood sugar is dropping - then my attitude also takes a dive. If I am paying attention that is my clue to eat - NOW! I wasn't being too attentive.

By the time I reached aid station 1 on the second loop I was not feeling well. My hands were swollen and the heat was really getting to me. Maria and crew were great - trying to figure out how to help me when I didn't even know what I wanted or needed. I stuck around eating watermelon and soaking my hands in the ice water and generally wobbling about for a bit wondering what in the heck I was doing out there. The neat thing about this loop course is that you hit the same aid stations a couple of times. #1 is also #2, # 3 is also #4 and #6 is also the finish. For the most part they are quite close together - the longest stretch is just shy of 4 miles. When not feeling well that is comforting knowledge!

Between #1 and #2 I was struggling and having serious thoughts about the wisdom of continuing and my overall judgement in signing up for not only this race but any ultra and especially a 50 mile race. I made it back to Maria who, with her family and crew, once again did an awesome job of taking care of me and providing encouragement. At this point I had debated dropping, figured I would have to walk out anyway and decided I would just walk to the next aid station and decide from there.

I headed out and somewhere in the next mile or so my attitude took a turn for the better and I started running again. I ended up mixing in a lot of walking on the second loop, often running until I felt too hot (or there was a hill) then walking again. Thankfully the winds kept up which made the open prairie sections bearable.

Coming into aid station 3 on the second loop. Photo courtesy of Londell Pease.

They had popsicles at aid station 3. Amazing what some frozen sugar water and food coloring can do for ones spirits! Photo courtesy of Londell Pease.

Coming into aid station 4 - second loop - had to dodge some campers this time around. Photo courtesy of Londell Pease.

It was fun to see Londell and Westy at this aid station. Londell was taking pictures, working the aid station and even going out after runners in trouble. Westy had dropped out after one loop but headed back out on the course to cheer on others. His comment that I was still "chipper" combined with a gentle nudge to stop hanging out at the aid station, a challenge to finish in an hour and the knowledge that I was 5 miles from the finish got me moving again.

There are some long flat sections along the river and they can be a bit of a challenge. No real reason not to run them other than not wanting to. It was a good opportunity to work on a nice easy pace though I was thrilled to hit the hills again - what can I say, I live in a hilly town - that is my norm.

I was using my Nathan Intensity pack which has a 70 oz bladder. I had refilled it at least twice, but the last time it was with ice (love ice cold water). I had figured in that heat the ice would melt and replenish the water supply adequately. During the last 3 mile section (snowshoe loop) I discovered I was wrong! I ran out of water. I hadn't refilled at aid station 5 as the pack felt full enough. It was only when I had trouble getting water out of the tube that I did a more thorough check and discovered all I had was ice. Figured I could manage as I didn't have far to go but soon realized I needed a drink. Was offered a squirt out of another runners' water bottle as he passed by and then a bit further along opted to take the pack off and dig out the ice (this was made easier by the way the hydration bladder is sealed - like a dry bag - easy to get your hands into!). This turned out to be just the right amount of fluid to get me through to the finish.
Coming into the finish. Photo courtesy Jen Pierce.

By then I was dreaming of an icy cold Coke. Shortly after finishing Jen asked what I needed, "icy coke" was my request and she was able to deliver! At this point I was ready to have her adopt me ;->
Stretching out and downing a Coke. Photo courtesy of Londell Pease.

After downing a couple of cups of coke and ice it was time to get up and visit with other runners and deliver some strawberries.

Bonus: I ended up 3rd Masters Woman in the USATF -MN 50K Trail Championship! I am thrilled to join Eve Rukavina and Sonya Decker in this honor. Who would have thought it was possible?!?


Mike said...

Great race and report, you are ready for anything Voyageur can throw your way.

Megan said...

yaaay! and yikes about those temps. :-/

Kel said...

Great job on a tough day, Lisa! I thought you looked very strong coming into the finish. You're gonna do fine at Voyageur :)

shannon said...

Congrats on the 3rd Masters Women at ATR! Quite an achievement on such a difficult course.

SteveQ said...

Coming in third to Eve and Sonya - sure makes ya think, doesn't it? Sorry I wasn't out there for your 4th time going past me, but I hadn't had food or water in 5 hours and I figured everyone could follow the signs anyway.

Believe it or not, Sunday's weather was worse. I dropped out of a 10K!

wildknits said...

Thanks Kel - I was feeling somewhat better by the finish (mostly due to the promise that I could stop!). Originally had planned bonus mileage for the day, but once I saw the weather reports that idea went out the window. couldn't have paid me to run anymore that day.

Shannon - It was quite the surprise to me when Helen and Sam informed me of that award. The course is tough, in many ways as much due to weather as anything else.

Steve - missed you but totally understand why you would leave - it would be miserable standing for that long out there. I would at least have needed a chair, food & drink, my knitting and a book or who knows what kind of havoc I would have caused.

Coming in third to those two... I am not really worthy. Or maybe I should stop thinking of myself as slow and actually do some speedwork and stuff?! Looking for someone to coach? ;->

Jean said...

Amazing, Lisa! Way to go. I can't imagine how hard that was running on that day. It got so hot and humid. Congratulations to you!

wildknits said...

Thanks Jean! I guess it was an opportunity to learn a lot about how I deal with adversity. Extreme temperatures have never been my friend.

Funny thing - had a song that kept running through my head with the refrain "fragile, fragile, fragile..." It was very comforting. Go figure!

Helen said...

Nice job Lisa! And THANKS for the yummy strawberries! I need to update my report and mention those... they were so tasty.

Well done handling the heat. And congrats on the 3rd place USATF/cash prize :)

wildknits said...

Thanks Helen!!

Speaking of strawberries need to go pick some more ;-> It was the least I could do to share them - running with you (as well as some other speedy friends) has brought my running a long way.

As to the heat - well, I guess I did better than I thought. Still waiting for the check to arrive ;-> Interesting race within a race (USATF vs overall Afton results).

SteveQ said...

Forgot to mention: my favorite moment of the race was when you were asked if you wanted a popsicle at the aid station. That "Don't you tease me!" was priceless.

wildknits said...

Steve - thanks for sharing!! Funny how the simple things can mean so much.

Mark Thompson said...

You say ".. hands starting to swell.." and I am wondering if this is common for you? Is it from to many S!caps or to much water (or from not enough)? Any ideas?

Hammer Nutrition says it is from to much salt consumption causing the body to retain water. What do you think?

wildknits said...

Mark - my hands swell slightly from the heat (and cold) anyway (why I wear my wedding band on a chain around my neck).

Yesterday I ran a trail marathon in similar weather (slightly cooler) with no hand swelling. Problem is I changed two variables - wasn't racing (sweeping) and no s-caps. So - to what do I attribute the lack of swelling?

I was taking an s-cap approximately once an hour BTW, plus have gels with electrolytes in them, eating watermelon dipped in salt and an occasional heed beverage.

I guess I could try an experiment at my next race (50 mile) and use s-caps for half of it (will be racing so that variable will be accounted for...).

Bill S said...

Good job, Lisa. Glad you had such a great race!