About 20 minutes before the race started, I was telling a couple people that I had not slept well last night after thinking about all the stuff that was going to go wrong in this race. I hadn't trained as much as I wanted. I was trying something new for fueling. My previous 5 races had been sub-par.
Then, I went out and ran what I think was my best race yet. Maybe my sub-3 marathon was a better race, but this one is very, very close, if not better. I finished in 4:06. No small task on this course.
Some people have described Glacial as a LOT harder than Ice Age. Others have said it isn't harder and may be easier. My opinion, after having run Glacial 3 times and Ice Age twice, is that Glacial's course (the 50k course) is about 5-10 minutes tougher. Several reasons bring me to this:
- Glacial is just a more low-key event. It's just not that big, like Ice Age is, now that Ice Age is a Montrail Ultra Cup race. There's just more "hype" to it. I love both races and will always attend both races. Their differences make them good. But when it comes to running fast, I think that 'hype' helps at Ice Age.
- When you're a runner and can come in to an aid station and get that boost from the people there, it's a big boost. Glacial's aid stations are about 7 mile apart. Ice Age has aid stations every 5ish miles (I believe). This boost helps your mental side to stay more active in the task at hand.
- For Ice Age, the last 18 miles are not technical. At all. There is still ups and downs, but when compared to Glacial's footing, Glacial is a beast. There are 'easy' parts of Glacial, but not all that many...especially in miles 24-29.
So, going in to this event I wasn't all that keen on my running. Last year's Glacial was terrible. I finished in 4:23 after running in rain the whole day after showing up LATE for the start. It sucked. I cannot imagine runnign the 50 miler that year...those guys are beasts! This year's Ice Age 50k had me finishing in 4:15 and in more pain than I've ever been after a 50k. Then I ran a marathon in June and blew up pretty good.
My fall build-up for Glacial involved running two trail marathons on back-to-back weekends. The first, which I managed to win, just didn't feel great. I was 20 minutes slower than the previous year and really had my lack of endurance exposed. The following weekend I ran decent at North Face but still had some doubts going in to Glacial.
Between North Face and Glacial I managed a decent training block. A work seminar took me to the Dells, and I managed to get a solid 3 days of trail running in...but all of it was at a pace that was slower than I wanted to run at Glacial...and I was pushing a lot harder on those runs than I wanted to.
Wow...that's a long intro to the race report...but here we go!
Despite the dreams of all that would go wrong, I actually slept great. My amazing wife was out of town the weekend of the run, so I had full-on child duties all weekend. That probably helped. I woke up before my alarm on Sunday morning and showered (a pre-race ritual to wake me up), and then downed my new secret weapon: Slim Fast. 400 calories, easy.
I actually got to the race early. My dad picked me up at 5:30, with my mom staying at my house to watch the kids. I wanted to see the 50 milers off. Dan and Matt (yup...juxtaposed those links, but deal with it :) ) had GREAT runs, and I highly recommed you read their adventures. Truly remarkable guys.
So off they went, and then it was just my dad and I to get ready. I talked to him about my race strategy, and then just tried to relax. It was a great morning though--weather was amazing, and to see other trail friends made it even better. Just a great day thus far. Yet...I still had hesitations.
Finally, it was time to run.
With the traditional "3, 2, 1.. GO!" from RD Robert, we were off. Normally, the first mile of a race for me is very fast, but I managed to keep myself in control and ran right around 7 minutes for the first mile, which is road for the most part and flat trail for the last section.
I settled in to about 10th place along the connector trail of the course. I chatted a bit with a runner who was coming off the North Face 50k. Then, I pretty much settled in to my own race. I noticed that the eventual winner in red, Rasmus, took off past me along this section of the course.
Next up, we hit the Ice Age Trail. My favorite place to run, anywhere. I settled in to a good rhythm through here and noted that, despite the fact I was running based solely on effort, I was not hiking any hills. Was this good or bad? Who knows, but let's go with it.
I stay about 20-30 seconds behind the guy in front of me the entire time. Some runners talk about 'falling off the back' of another runner or group, or 'maintaining contact' with another runner or group. In my opinion...just run your own race. Don't worry about where you are among the other runners.
I make it to the fist aid station at Hwy 67 and am still feeling very good, and very much in control. This is actually a bit unexpected, as I reached Hwy 67 in just over 52 minutes...a fast first 7 miles for me.
Still, despite the fact I'm starting to feel really good about my run, I realize I'm still in 8th place, and perhaps what I need to focus on is my time, rather than my place. That's the thing about trail running--it's getting faster and faster with every race!
For the first time all day, I hike up the big hill to get to the top of the Parnell section. I'm still literally 30 seconds behind the guy in front of me, but still feeling solid. I haven't taken in a calorie yet. Am I on to something?
About a mile from the Butler Lake aid station, the course opens up in to a prarie and the runners can see pretty far in front of them. Despite this vast open view, the only runner I can see is the guy 30 seconds in front of me. I start thinking that MAN, TO 5 isn't happening.
Finally, I hit the steps in to Butler Lake. I still feel great, at have taken in about 300 calories via CarboPro and nuun in the last 45 minutes. I am feeling great and in total control...is this gonna last?
I've got to run another 2 miles to the turnaround point. In this next section, I'll see the runners ahead of me. I can see how far ahead they are...and I can also see how close the guys behind me are...
From Butler Lake at Mile 13.3 to the turnaround (15.5), I just want to keep this steady and sustainable pace...the rest of the race will figure it out on its own.
(Link to Part 2 is Right Here)