When I decided to not use my Boston bib this year, I needed something to do! A group of other LPTR runners was heading to Chippewa and kept raving about how beautiful the course was….so why not….it will keep my mind off the crazy decision to not run Boston this year! I made the 4 hour drive with my good friend Dave to what seemed like a part of WI no one inhabited. There is nothing in upper WI except some challenging trails and runners from MN….about 500 of them for this race too!
The race started at 8am which seemed like middle of the day to me….I’m so accustomed to waking up at 4am and running by 5am, it was weird. I was up at 6am eating a massive bowl of oatmeal with protein powder and a clifbar… hydrating and just going through my easy-going race morning routine. All normal. Except….mabye I won’t use my water pack today…went with the handheld. That decision ended up a good one, too!
Lined up on the grassy start at 755am….took off in the front on a huge downhill, around the entire trail head, to the Ice Age trail with some minor up and downs. Starting at 40 degrees was perfect, but that just meant it would get warmer as the day went on which is not to my benefit. It was an out and back course, which is good and bad depending on the type of trail and where you are positioned. Many runners kept telling me the course was hilly, but in my opinion, it really wasn’t that bad. Some technical portions of rocks and roots, with some uphill stretches of leaves – so extra slippery! It was harder than Northface WI and a little easier than Glacial (also in WI). There were some mushy parts, but that’s expected and many bridges to cross over the chain of lakes – very cool! Wobbly….and with any balance issues, you’d be swimming, but fun nonetheless!
I will admit I did start a bit on the fast side, holding an 8 min/mi for some time. Up in the front with 4 other female runners, who started a bit slower but caught up to me by mile 3. We all settled in with each other, shifting back and forth between the leader position. I needed to find MY race though – it was too early on to let others control my race….I decided to hold my position and let them make the errors in front of me. It all unfolded in the second half of the race.
I ended up skipping the first aid station which probably wasn’t the best decision, but I was a bit on fire and wanted to stay in the front. I wonder if I would have done better in the end. Probably. I made it to the second aid station at 10 miles, refilled my water, grabbed some fuel, and kept going. On my way to the turn around at mile 15 or so, the guys in front started to come through….they looked awesome! At the turn around, I kept my time short and just kept going – able to see my position now with those ahead and behind me. This is one of the benefits of an out and back course.
By mile 17…..BOOM!….I clearly was not paying attention to my feet and took a big digger. It aggravated past injuries like no other! I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to cry or get angry. I got angry … I put my “now its time to finish this” face on, and just went. At this point, I was in 5th….that’s unacceptable. Even though my goal was not to win, it was to improve from my last 50k and get a quality time for Northface CA. I just can’t accept anything less than the best at a regional race. It may have been for training or racing at any point in the run – I tend to change my mind – but I knew at that moment, I needed to kick it into high gear. Screw pain.
Mile 20 rolled around quick and I started to pick people off … the longest stretch left without water (7 miles) wasn’t too bad – not when you are on a mission. I hit the final aid station, with three miles to go, and a potential sub 5. I knew I had to get back up the hill I flew down at the start. OH NO! I just kept telling myself, get through this part first and tackle the hill when it hits. My goal was to run the hill…it was probably a 1/4 to 1/2 mile hill at 15-25% grade….maybe more, it was hard to tell. Being short though, my forehead was basically hitting touching the ground 🙂 I run up half, walked a steeper portion, and then ran the rest, around the bend to the finish. Clocking 5:02 and change. 3rd place female. It was a solid training run for Ice Age 50 with a few take aways…
Take away #1 – That morning I put on my racing singlet….I haven’t worn one since my road days when I was clocking half marathons in the 1:20s and marathons near the 3 hour mark. Nothing spectacular, but it takes a different mindset to run that way. When I was road running and ran a couple of trail runs in there, I clocked my first 50k at 4:40. So that’s my standard…and coming back from injury this last fall to clock a 5:05 at Northface and 5:15 at Glacial behind Ashley Erba was a tough one to swallow. It’s a humbling sport, that’s for sure! Basically, I went out there thinking this was a sprint (which to me it kinda is – just on the trails!) instead of thinking it was an ultra. The distance is mentally too close to a marathon and I got sucked into the road runner brain. Maybe this is a sign that the 50k distance is too short for me – something to consider.
Take away #2 – You are not the runner you were 4 years ago after injury. You are coming back and the purpose of this year was to train. I basically was knocked so far down with injury, that I’m being built up again. My times in the past need to stay in the past. Thinking about them now is not helpful. I have to stay present with my goals and training.
Take away #3 – Run your own race! I got sucked into the single track chain of runners and let them dictate my pace. That threw off not only my pace, but also my breathing and form. I will be mentally coaching myself of running my race for Ice Age 50 which is a single track for the first part.
Although I wanted to do better (which I think I would say even if I did better!), it was a solid day. That heavy stress now means time for heavy rest with a 50 miler in two weeks. It’s a very intimidating race with lots of talent. My greatest opponent that day with be my head. And I know it….I have to take this time now to not improve my fitness (that’s in the barn!) but to mentally prepare.
Chippewa Falls 50k is on a part of Ice Age in WI that is simply gorgeous and worth the trip.
Diggers: 1 / Almost Diggers: 8 / Fueling and Hydration: Spot on!
Shoes: Olympus 1.5 … given the course for Ice Age, I may go back to the older Olympus shoe. I will be getting Torins this weekend to try as well. Looking forward to that!