15 May 2011

Ice Age Trail 50k Race Report

Going in to this race, I had a couple numbers in my head. I thought I could finish in the top 5. I would be disappointed if I wasn't in the top 10. I wanted to put myself in a position to break 4 hours, as well. After yesterday's run, it looks as though I was spot on.
A couple days ago I posted a race preview that never made it online after Steve broke Blogger. In the preview, I mentioned that the RD thought there were at least 10 guys in the 50k that could break 4 hours. My first thought was "does he think I'm one of them?" and the second thought was "this is a competitive field!"
As it turns out, only 4 guys broke 4 hours, and I finished 5th, in 4:05:03. The winner's time of 3:18 is simply remarkable!
The course can be broken down in to two parts--and out and back on the Ice Age Trail, and then two loops of a 9 mile and VERY HILLY ski trail. I was hoping to split the first out and back in 1:40, and then run 70 minute loops and finish right at 4 hours. My splits via Garmin Data:
Start to Horseriders (turnaround): 50:56
Horseriders to Start/Finish: 51:28
Loop 1: 1:08:40
Loop 2: 1:13:56

The Ice Age Trail out/back portion of the course is tough. It's not nearly as technical as the Glacial Trail portion of the IAT that I train on, but it's constantly going up and down. There are several bigger climbs as well that will zap your legs and not allow you to run the downhill with any speed. On the way out to Horseriders, I ran with Bruce after he said he was hoping for 4 hours as well. We settled in to a nice tempo and took turns leading eachother, in about 7th or 8th place. We knew several of the runners ahead of us were long gone, but there may be a few who we could reel in. Still, we both agreed not to worry about anything but ourselves until the second loop of the ski trail. I made it out to Horseriders and got a new bottle from Tony, a good friend who had agreed to help me out today. My first bottle had 300 calories of CarboPro in it. That, along with one SCap was done in the first 50 minutes.
Nutrition-wise, I had planned to get calories in early and often, knowing that as the race went on I might not feel like getting them in as much. I decided I'd rather feel full and a bit sluggish at the beginning than feel dead flat at the end.
Running with Bruce back to the Start/Finish area was a bit more work. I could feel my stomach working to empty and was happy to let Bruce pull me along through this section. My second water bottle only had 100 calories of CarboPro in it, but I took in two gels during the 51 minutes to get back to the Start/Finish. We were maybe a minute or two off of my anticipated splits, but I didn't mind much because I felt like my nutrition had been solid and I was still moving fine.
Next was the first of two loops of the ski trail. 2 weeks ago I ran 19 miles of trails on Saturday, then ran this very same loop twice the following day to see what it felt like. I'm glad I did that, as the course familiarity showed me that I could power hike the relentless uphills and then run the downs and the flats and turn 70 minute loops. So, that was the goal, 70 minutes each loop.
For the entire first loop, Bruce and I were together, hiking the uphills (and joking that "the next time around, we'll run this one") and running the flats and downhills. With about 2 miles to go in the first loop, I had finished my bottle (and 300 calories of CarboPro) but wasn't feeling great. Thinking that perhaps I was low on salt, I popped an SCap and started to feel better. After completing the loop in 68, it was on to the FINAL lap...
At the start finish line I took a sip of Coke and some water, got a new bottle (straight water) from Tony, got an update on where the competition was (we were in 7th) and started out of the aid station. Bruce had taken off like mad and was out of sight quickly. Less than 100 yards from the aid station, I dry heaved. Then I puked. Three times. What had to be 30 ounces of fluid, including a whole lot of calories and electrolytes, was no longer in my body. Uh Oh.
I immediately felt great and a lot lighter and faster. So, I started running. Knowing that I now was looking at dehydration, low electrolytes, AND low sugar, I decided I had to take action now and not wait for the wheels to fall off later. Just the previous day I had read this post from Tim and remembered it at this point in the race. I needed to address those issues---not ignore them. Weary of my stomach, I began to very slowly sip on a gel and sip on some water. I was running very well but wanted to make sure I took care of the future issues.
About 3 miles in to the loop, I had caught Bruce, who was really feeling his hamstrings. We ran together for about a mile before I started to move on. For the remaining 6 miles I was looking around every corner for the next runner up in the standings, but never saw him. With about 2.5 miles to go a sideache really took hold of my diaphragm. Luckily, I had one single SCap left, and that did the trick, allowing me to finish relatively strong. I really ran hard in the last half mile, hoping to get in under 4:05...but missed by 4 seconds. Still, I was very happy with the run and continue to learn about nutrition. Last year at Glacial I didn't think I took in enough water and calories...and that may be true, but it was 25 degrees warmer at that race than today. At Ice Age, I obviously took in too much. My body, err, "corrected" that problem via day glow liquid expulsion, and I ran better after that.
The entire event is a great time. The volunteers are great, the spectators are great, the course is definitely a challenge. If I could change one thing, it would be to have more single track and avoid the double loop of the ski trail. Oh yeah, and get rid of the 'vegetable lasagna' at the post-race festivities!
I'll definitely be back to this event. In all honesty, I could see myself running Ice Age Trail and Glacial Trail every year for years to come and not regretting one step on those courses. I only wish I could have stuck around longer at the finish to talk to other runners and rehydrate with some beer. Unfortunately, Tony had plans to attend the Brewers game that afternoon, so we were out of there a bit sooner than expected. I still didn't get home until about 4:30, so I'd call it a long day nonetheless considering I was out of bed at 4:21 AM to get breakfast in and hit the road for the race. To get home and see Ellie and Edwin was a real treat. Eddy especially liked my New Keychain. That's right, no medal for the 50k runners. Just a measely keychain. I don't have a problem with that--it's a good way to motivate those of us running the JV event to move up to the 50 miler and get a belt buckle!
Congrats to all who ran, especially the Brewmaster, Tim, Chris P., Bruce, and Joel. The trail running community is simply fantastic!
Now, it's time to take a couple weeks off before turning my attention to the fall, and more specifically the Glacial Trail 50k and the Fall 50.


SteveQ said...

The 50 Mile course is much more varied and more difficult than the 50K there (you should try it). Someone gave the rollercoaster hills the name PUD (Pointless Up and Down), which is apt - in the Kettle Moraine 100 Mile, I had to do that section 4 times and it doesn't get better.

Congrats on the fast time and top 5, but the competition doesn't look so great on paper (Gingerich finishing 3rd in the 50 Mile, though, says that was competitive).

You might've broken 4, had you not had stomach issues. I've never had them, but I've never downed so many calories, so much fluid or so much salt in a 50K - at Trail Mix 2008, for example, I had a single paper cup of Gatorade at each aid station (two cups once or twice).

SteveQ said...

I didn't mean to say that a former Olympic trials qualifier and mountain race champion wasn't competitive!

Grellan said...

Well done on your 5th placing Nic and having the presence of mind to plan your nutrition well, even after puking. Sounds like a very challenging course.

Do you think salt caps help on the energy side - I just thought they were for preventing cramping?

Ellora said...

Steve-to see Scott Gall run down (and, for that matter, UP) the trail at a low 6 minute pace was remarkable. It looked like an all-out sprint, yet totally under control. And, then you consider he's a nice guy to talk to (once he stops running, that is--we chatted a bit in the food line), and it's an even more amazing runner. I wonder if there are longer trail runs in his future. And yes...the 50 mile is on my radar, but I feel like I'm still chasing a better time at 50k.
Grellan- Thanks! I've rarely had cramping issues outside of this run, when I had one in my side. I have found the SCaps to be really helpful in avoiding a bonk, though. I highly recommend trying them out even if you don't have cramping issues. I seem to react much quicker to salt than I do to another gel. I think Steve's on to something when he talks about less fluids and calories...

Oh yeah, and then there's the study I just read on the Sweat Science blog that talks about how ONLY drinking when thirsty improves performance. Hmmm...never stop learning I guess!

nwgdc said...

Whoops...once again signed in as my wife.

Matthew Patten said...

I was thinking about you out there.

I am very impressed with that performance. I think the Nordic loop does not get the props for difficulty. There are enough hills in there to ruin your day. Add to that the out and back to horsies.

Reading this makes me want to get my $#%* back together and start doing the training I used to do.

Keep up the progress. Time to graduate to the big boy race.

Footfeathers said...

Hey Nic,
Nice job out there. Wish we could have met up after the run. Make sure you let me know your travel plans when you're near Boulder.

To answer Grellan's question regarding salt helping energy: salt alone isn't energy but it's required to help the stomach process the calories you do take in. On cooler days, like Saturday's race, per hour I take in about-
300mg salt
15 oz water
200-300 cals

Of course, there are tons of variables like:

It takes a while to play around with and get it right. I barely think about it before races now and just go on feel mostly. Of course, I don't have it perfect in every race but most of the time I'm good.

nwgdc said...

Well, Tim, that would explain the puking. I was taking in something close to 30 oz per hour rather than 15.
Man, the nutrition stuff is so hit and miss for me...too many variables!

I'm looking forward to a trip to CO in early July, so we'll be in touch.

Brad Poppele said...

Congrats on top 5 finish!