Last year (2010) The North Country Run was my first 50 mile race. That year I used a run/walk strategy and finished feeling fairly happy with my time (9:09). Returning a year later, I was a little more experienced ultrarunner with several more 50's under my belt as well as the Kettle Moraine 100 mile. Thinking back, I had a super solid block of training in the end of June all the way to mid/late August where I backed off a little in preparation for North Country. July was my highest total monthly mileage (465) as well as hitting my highest weekly mileage (126) in early August.
|Prerace goof troop|
One of the most exciting things about North Country was the company. We had a great group of runners from Ft. Wayne, many of whom were attempting their first 50 (everyone finished!), as well as having the support of Hillary. Hill and I headed up North early in the afternoon friday, stopped to get some beer at a gas station and met up with the running crew late friday evening. After a few beers (mmm miller highlife) we crashed out in the Toeriffica.
Toe be honest, I felt a little bit of pressure from the other runners we were as well as from myself as I wanted to beat my previous time. Being my first race back since KM I was also anxious to get in a serious long run. In order to quell my anxiety I wrote a lenient goal time of 8:33 on a little wooden block and threw it into the fire (a North Country tradition). Once the race began I hung back with Jason for a while, we probably started too far back in the pack and wasted some energy passing people on the single track early on. Live and learn I guess. I had forgotten how many people were running and how congested the single track could be early on. I indicated to Jason that I would be running with an even HR for the duration of the race, and in typical style, he took off during one of his runs of his Run/walk cycle. Thinking I would never see him again I settled into a rythm and chatted with other runners.
|J$ likes them xcountry flats|
Slightly worried something had happened to Hill/my car I had some good adrenaline that I let push me along the trail but started feeling the effects of running for 5 hours. Finally at about mile 37 I saw her as I came into an Aid. That certainly got the good vibes going again, I grabbed some noodles, dumped some water on my head and started down the trail. Coming into a drop bag stop, I threw off my hydration pack (now empty) and grabbed the two bottles I had left in my first loop. I started running along the trail and remembered I had wanted to take off my shirt, it was getting hot out. Definitely not going to run backwards during a 50 mile race, I took off my shirt and stashed it in my shorts.
|Sweet midwest pine forest single track|
I had been consistently reeling in folks all day, and as the race progressed I started seeing fewer and fewer people ahead of me. Feeling really strong after taking off my shirt and grabbing bottle I really started to push. Ran most of the hills until my HR got above 170 then backed off a bit. Cruising and alone I wished I had my ipod for some tunes, but instead I just zoned out and concentrated on eating consistently. I had a couple Gu Roctaines, something new to me, which seemed to work well, except I hate the flavor of Cherry Lime. Nearly the finish there are a lot of hills which were taking their toll on the outside of my right quad. I didnt care and continued to hammer them. Coming into the mile 48 aid I knew it was a long steady downhill and really just let it all hang out and ran sub 7 min/mile for the last two. As I neared the finish, Hillary was waiting and I told her to come with me and we sprinted it in to the finish. Looking up at the clock I realized I had just run an 8:13, much better than I expected and a top 10 finish. Cool thing was that I negative split the race and ran the second loop in under 4 hours. Looking back at old Garmin data I averaged the same HR as last year (159 bpm) but was a good hour faster. Very interesting. Training must be paying dividends.
We hung around the finish for a little bit as I tried to get my brain going again and watched more people come in. they had some microbrew keg beer so I whet my whistle while waiting. Our entire running group finished, which was by far the coolest part of the weekend. Big congrats to everyone who set a PR on what is a fairly hilly course by midwest standards. Not too technical (although I saw a lot of people crash?), but surely has some beautiful climbs. In retrospect, I felt as if I lost 5-10 minutes getting stuck in the mid-pack single track, but maybe that helped me achieve a negative split. I cant complain. Great trails, although I am starting to feel the race is wayyyyy to over-produced which is a big turn off.
|My prize - a bottle of Mi Wine|
|Way to go guys - stupid large medals well deserved|