I’ve mentioned this in past posts, but what a difference a year makes! Last year this event was my 1st crack at an ultra. I remember back to being so very, very nervous. I sought out advice from others who had run the event, packed a ton of stuff, showed up super early, and did not sleep at all the night before. I did not know what to expect! I will forever be grateful to those that helped me prepare and jump into the ultra world.
When the event was all said and done I had covered 28 miles in 6 hours and gained valuable experience. The opportunity to sign up for the 2016 came around and I jumped at the chance to participate again. I am beyond impressed with the organization of this event. The race directors are runners themselves and truly see the event through the eyes of a participant. Every detail is well thought out and executed with perfection, yet the laid back feel of ultra events are kept intact.
Let’s start with the course…as an alumni of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay I adore getting back to my old stomping grounds. Even better the campus is now 10 minutes from my house! UWGB is a unique campus that sits on several acres of natural preserve land that has been groomed for running and hiking. There are several routes in the arboretum to travel on that will give you a different experience. The 4.75 mile loop that was selected for this race provided for a variety of views and plenty of shade (which was a lifesaver with the high heat and humidity). For ease in and out the start/finish line was the same and began at the Shorewood Golf Course clubhouse. There was a ton of parking and place to spread out your gear. Packet pick up the day before was also located at the start. Last year this was a nice way for me to scope out where I would set up the next day. I like to get my bearings before a race and having the pick up at the same location gave me piece of mind. I was able to grab my packet, chat with the volunteers, and be back come within 20 minutes. That was a win-win in my book. To help runners who were coming in from out of town there was also packet pick up the morning of the event and individuals could also stay on campus in the dorms. UWGB is not like other universities…their dorms are bananas crazy nice and big!
Let’s move on to the actual event…runners arrived early to set up their camps. As usual I was running late so I dropped my stuff just as announcements were being made and runners were asked to line up. I was a little nervous to start when I looked around and did not see Mason. We ran together last year and planned to cover a few laps again together this year. Just as we were about to go he appeared in the nick of time. All participants began at promptly 5:08am. With a simple “go” we were off. The 1st quarter mile was on a paved path that lead us down to Nicolet Drive. We were on our own to cross the road, but there were safety cones set up and being that it was early not many cars were on the road. I did have to wait later in the day as many cars did not stop for us (not cool folks). Once across the road we headed into a gravel parking lot that connects with the trail. For approximately 1 mile we were on a very well groomed trail with a ton of tree cover and beautiful scenery. The arboretum has many ponds scattered throughout this portion of the course and the wildlife flocks to it. We do connect with a paved section that took us under a bridge that then brought us to the 1st aid station. Past the aid station we again were on a groomed trail, sprinkled throughout this section we did have to deal with new wood chips. The chips were a leg killer, they were soft and spongy…you could not push off and sunk into them, kind of like mud. There were a few flat wooden bridges to cross before arriving to the “daunting” portion of the trail. I struggled in this section last year and was mentally prepared for it this year. The tree cover disappears and the heat sets in. This part felt like it lasted forever! I had to play mind games to pass the time and take my mind of the baking experience. To help keep spirits high one of the race director had placed 2 skeletons at the observation deck about 2.5 miles in. I looked forward in subsequent loops to see how the skeletons were positioned. Runners kept moving them and boy did they get creative! Aid station 2 signified the end of the suffering zone on the trail. This was the uber stocked station with everything you could possibly want including a bucket of ice water to dip a towel in to cool off. It was a welcomed sight later in the day to see this station. Rounding the corner after leaving aid station 2 was the “hill”. It was not a technical hill but the slow assent did allow for runners to run or walk at a good clip. Arriving at the top of the hill we progressed through the most challenging portion, but was a cool section with lots of shade and soft ground. Coming off the trail at approximately mile 3.5 we hit a gravel path that snaked us around the back of campus near the dorms. The tree cover was minimal but we were not on this portion for long before arriving on a paved road that took us back to the golf course. We worked our way around a few the back holes on the course and headed to the famed bridge (which is the event logo). The bridge became the beacon of hope for us as we got into the later parts of the day. Crossing the bridge we were almost back to the start line and base camp. Volunteers at the start asked for your number to keep track of your laps.
Last year I spent a ton of time at base camp refueling and resting. Not this year! I had a plan and wanted to keep moving. The night before I set up separate bags of ice and towels to grab and use on the go. I had dipped the towels in water and froze them. In addition to the towel I added a handful of ice that I could then stuff down my bra or throw in my back pocket of my shorts. The Oiselle distance shorts have a tiny pocket for “stuff” I was able to put 5-6 cubes that kept my lower back cool. To prevent chaffing I put Trail Toes cream on, which is water resistant, on my back before the race. To also cut down on time at the camp I also began the race with my Orange Mud Endurance hydration vest on. I had filled the bladder of my pack with Tailwind Tropical Buzz the night before and popped it in the freezer. In the morning I took the bladder out and ran the tube connection valve under warm water for 2 minutes and connected the drinking hose. It was amazing to have the cold bladder back against my back as the temps increased and the sun came out mid-morning. My goal was to stop put on sun block (I got burnt bad at Grandma’s Marathon the weekend before) and grab a bag of ice, tops 1-2 minutes. I had everything I needed already stocked in my hydration vest. Knowing that there were a few locations that I would be walk the hills my plan was to fuel and ice at those places. My walk breaks were used to maintain my body temperature and stay on top of my hydration/fueling needs. When you know better, you can do better. I used all of my past experiences in heat to prepare for this event and was happy with how things worked out. Having the towel I was able to squeeze it on my neck and wipe my forehead, this felt amazing. I stashed the baggie in my front pocket and carried it out of the arboretum. Even though the aid stations were well stocked I did not need to stop at them. I had all that I needed with me and practiced self-support in this event to try a few things prior to the Fall 50 which is my goal race in October.
Moving on to the actual race…
Lap #1 – Nice and easy pace. I started at the back of the pack and worked my way around runners in the 1st loop. I spent around 1 minute at base camp reapplying sunblock and grabbing ice. 80 degrees
Lap #2 – Temperatures began to rise and the humidity spiked. Another great loop that felt easy and comfortable. I was 2 minutes slower on this lap, to compensate I spent 30 seconds at base camp, skipped sunblock, and did not walk until aid station 2. 82 degrees
Lap #3 – Slower lap, but still felt comfortable and consistent. At this point my right hip was a little tight, but not painful. I stopped at base camp to stretch, but was in and out in 2 minutes. 83 degrees
Lap #4 – At this point I knew that something was a little off with my hip. It got tighter on this lap, but did not slow me down. I stretched it out and focused on staying positive. My legs felt great, I was staying as cool as possible, and felt ready for lap 5. 85 degrees
Lap #5 – The gloves came off on this loop. My hip was super painful about 1 mile in and I struggled to keep moving. I had connected with a fellow runner, Stacy, who was beyond helpful. She was a breath of fresh air and kept me moving forward even with the pain that I was in. As we slugged through the last mile I stumbled on a root. I worked to get my feet underneath me and stay up right. Most times a stumble this late in the game would throw me mentally for a loop, but a miracle occurred…the trip jarred my hip and the pain was gone! Thank goodness. I finished up the loop with Stacy and we stopped super quick at base camp. 86 degrees & crazy high humidity (you could see the moisture in the air on the trail as it rolled and built off the ponds)
Lap #6(ish) – Stacy was running the 8 hour event and wanted to get in 2 more loops, I had a little time left and wanted to get to aid station 1 which would have put me at 29.5 miles. I adore Stacy and cannot thank her enough for encouraging me and pushing me to that station. I made it to the aid station with 6 minutes to spare. It was not enough time to get to the 2nd station which was my goal at the start of the race. Stacy continued on and I turned to walk back to the start. The volunteers offered me a ride, but I wanted to keep moving and stay loose.
Once back at the start line I reconnected with my former student and running buddy Mason. We went collected our finishers mug and picked up our food ticket. After a few pictures we walked up to the clubhouse to refuel at the buffet. It was comical to watch us get up the stairs. With food in our belly and swag packed in our bags (awesome mug, 1/4 zip long sleeve jacket, and buff) we headed home.
I love this event and will be back again next year! It was a perfect introduction into the ultra community and gave me a chance to challenge myself once again this year. Even though I did not accomplish my original goal of 31 miles I was happy with my efforts (when the final results were posted I was the 2nd place female overall). I learned a lot and the lesson will serve me well when I attempt the Hot Hilly Hairy 50k at the end of July and continue to get my feet underneath me for the Fall 50.
#BeHappy #BeKind #BeActive
Date – June 24, 2016
Gear Used –
- Orange Mud Endurance Pack – This is the 1st time I wore this pack in a race. It’s breathable and durable mesh was light and kept me cool throughout the day. The front harness and back straps allowed me to get the perfect fit that was snug, but did not cause chaffing. I was able to freeze the bladder with Tailwind the night before which helped to maintain a cool core even with the sweltering heat. I like to carry my own hydration/fuel mix and also prep for self-supported races. The vest had enough pockets and places to store all me gear for the day.
- FitSok F4 Tech Socks – My feet stayed dry, cool, and blister free even though I was sweating like a beast!
- Tailwind Nutrition – I mixed up 2 liters of water with 6 scoops of Tropical Buzz (caffeine). This gave me 600 calories of carbs for the race. I drank all of this in 4 laps. I switched to my Orange Mud HydraQuiver VP1 for lap 5 and grabbed more Tailwind that I had premixed in 24 oz bottles to finish up the race.
- SaltStick – With hot temps SaltStick is my go to for cramp prevention. I started with 2 caps after the 1st lap & continued to take 2 caps each lap. I was cramp free all day.
- Oiselle – Distance shorts, Wazelle short sleeve shirt, and team singlet.
- Saucony – Kinvara shoes with a 4mm drop. In retrospect I should have worn trail shoes. The soft bottoms of these shoes did not handle the wood chips on the course well.
- Sunglasses – Best $7 Amazon purchase I have ever made, I cannot live without.
- Run Gum – I start races with Run Gum and save it as a reward later in a race for a little caffeine boost. Since I was running with Tailwind that had caffeine in it I skipped my last gum fuel up. Mint is my current favorite flavor, but I am interested in trying Fruit flavor and have updated my month club back to include it. I will let you know how it tastes:)
- Trail Toes Cream – My go-to blister fighter. I slather this stuff on before I put my socks on to prevent hot spots. It stays put even when my feet sweat or get wet. It is not just for toes though! I applied it to my lower back prior to the race to prevent chaffing from my hydration vest and also my shorts when they got wet from ice. Works great…I walked away from this event with zero blisters or skin irritation.
- MeStrength – To jump start my recovery I mixed myself up 20 oz of water with a packet of fruit punch MeStrength. The addition of creatine to the electrolytes helps with muscles to build and replenish their supply of ATP, aka increased muscle energy.