"It never gets easier, you just go faster." - Greg Lemond

Friday, September 23, 2011

North Country Run - Race Recap

Race report sounds too offical - from now on they are race recaps.  :)

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
Coming into the first drop back stop, I saw Jason digging around in his bag and gave his ass a slap (probably too hard, sorry buddy), and looked around for Hillary - she was nowhere to be seen.  I quickly dropped my current bottles and grabbed a Nathan pack already full and took off.  Jason followed and we ran together for the next 12-13 miles.  Coming into the start/finished/25 mile point at abt 4:15, I again dropped my empty hydration pack and grabbed a fresh full pack, took off my WT101s that had been killing my pinky Toe's and put on my favorite Salomon Fellcross.  Knowing I was on goal pace, but worried I would slow down in the 2nd loop I hurried through the aid station, Jason was also switching shoes, but in a hurry to maintain my splits I pushed on quickly.  Looking around again for Hillary I did not find her. Turns out I missed her by abt 30 seconds.  She even took a picture of Jason. 

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


  1. Congrats on another great run! Negative splits...awesome!

  2. Thanks for the post. I just signed up for the 2012 race. It will be my first 50 miler although I have a 50k and close to 30 marathons under my belt. I won't be running nearly as fast as you but some of what you wrote helps me prepare mentally for August.

  3. Thanks for the post!! I signed up for my first 50 miler in 2013! I'm pretty nervous but it was good to read someones experience on the course!!