2017 Kettle Moraine 100k Race Report

After running two 50 milers and five 50ks, I felt ready to step up to the 100k distance. The Kettle Moraine Endurance Runs is a highly regarded Wisconsin ultra, so I figured it would be a good choice for my first 100k.  While the timing isn’t great (the last week of school, and the end of the golf season), I was excited about the course.  It’s run mostly on the Ice Age Trail, and has great mixture of technical single track, open meadows, and rolling hills.  The race starts at the Nordic Trailhead which is the same as the T Bunk Challenge I ran in November.

I once again used the Relentless Forward Progress training plan that I’ve used successfully for most of my earlier races.  Since the bulk of my training would be during the golf season I chose the lower weekly mileage version of the training plan, but focused on getting higher quality runs including more hill repeats.  During the winter and early spring I did most of my hill training on the Heritage hills. Once Baird Creek was in good condition, I did most of my long runs there.

Overall, my training went well.  I did have a few minor issues in March with my left calf which caused me to miss some runs (and freak out that I wouldn’t be able to race), but after that I hit most of my weekly mileage goals.  Sarah and I ran the Chippewa 50k in late April which I used as a long training run to test things out.

Gear is ready to go

The forecast for the weekend was for heat, humidity, and thunderstorms. The weather was my biggest cause of pre-race stress.  I felt good with my training, but wasn’t sure how the weather would affect me on race day.  After much deliberation, and driving Sarah crazy talking about it, I decided to wear a hydration pack (Ultimate Direction TO 2.0) instead of handhelds so I could carry more hydration and nutrition. While it would be warmer and increase the likelihood of chafing, the extra room for calories and electrolytes won out.  In retrospect, it was the right decision.

I went with my well used and comfortable Brooks Infiniti II shorts, a C9 tank top, Injinni socks, and Altra Superior 3.0.  With an out and back course, we will have access to our drop bags three times (miles 15.7, 31.6 & 47.4). In addition to standard drop box items (s-caps, gels, Clif bars, body glide, and Tailwind), I packed an extra pair of socks, shorts and a shirt in each drop bag so I could change out of wet clothing.

Race Day

After a decent night of sleep, we arrived at the trail head around 5:15am.  Breakfast was a Clif bar and bad hotel coffee.  The trailhead was busy since the 100m and 100k race both start at 6:00am.  There is also an accompanying 50k, and 38m night fun run, but those start later in the day. I love the energy that’s in the air before the start of the race. We had great running conditions to start the race, low 60’s and overcast.

Owen is not excited about the early race start.

Nordic – Bluff: Miles 0-7.6

This section is mostly wide cross country ski trails, and has many roller coaster hills. The wide trail allows people to settle into a comfortable pace and not worry about the conga line that happens with single track. This section is mostly the same as I ran in the T Bunk. There’s one unmanned aid station a little less than 5 miles in, but I didn’t need anything so I didn’t stop. With the impending heat and humidity, my goal was to eat and drink early and often. I started with Tailwind in both bottles so I could drink some calories early.  In the past, I haven’t done a good job of eating early enough so I wanted to make sure I did a better job.  At Bluff, I ate a PB&J, drank some ginger ale, and refilled my bottles.

Bluff to Emma Carlin: Miles 7.6-15.7

This section was one of my favorites.  It was more technical with a lot of rocks and roots.  The temps were still comfortable, so it was tempting to run a little faster before the weather worsened. During this section the clouds were darkening and you could tell rain and thunderstorms were on the way.  There was another unmanned aid station in between Bluff and Emma Carlin, but I had enough water so I just breezed through.

Emma Carlin was the first time we had access to our drop bags. I restocked with gels and tailwind, grabbed some food at the aid station and quickly headed back out. I told Sarah to meet me at Emma Carlin, but I arrived ahead of pace so I missed her.  This was partly due to running faster than planned, but it was also not 15.7 miles from the start as stated. It was just over 14 miles.

Rocky horse trails

 

Emma Carlin – Hwy 67: Miles 15.7-24.8

Right as I left Emma, it started to rain.  At first it was just a nice refreshing light rain which felt good.  I was looking forward to some rain since I knew the rain would keep the heat away, but what I didn’t know was that it would rain for the next two and a half hours.  There is also a railroad crossing in this section. As I approached it I could here a train coming.  I just kept thinking “you have to beat this train!” I didn’t’ want to get stuck in the rain waiting for a train to pass.  Luckily I just made it before the train.

After the Antique Lane unmanned aid station, we entered the meadow section. The rain started to increase and was coming down pretty hard now.  There was also more lightening than I was comfortable with.  Most of it was cloud to cloud, but once in awhile one would strike down, but it never got really close to us. Since the rain had been coming down for awhile now, and the course started to get very muddy.

I ran this entire section with a few other runners.  I tucked in behind and just let them set the pace, which was nice to turn off the brain and just follow someone.  Other than the standard “where are you from” conversation, we didn’t talk much, just ran.

Hwy 67 –  Hwy ZZ: Miles 24.8-26.6

More rain and more mud pretty much sums up this section. At the aid station I started to switched to Heed instead of water since I knew the heat was coming, and I wanted to stay on top of my electrolytes. I prefer Tailwind, but it was just easier to use what they had at the aid stations instead of bringing it with me.  I also continued to eat a gel between aid stations and then real food at the aid stations.

This wasn’t even close to the muddiest section

Hwy ZZ – Scuppernong: Miles 26.6-31.6

The rain started to diminish, but the hours of rain made this section really muddy so it was slow going up and down the hills.  We also started seeing some of the runners on their way back. I was looking forward to my drop bag at Scuppernong so I could clean my feet and change socks. I texted Sarah at the Hwy ZZ aid station to give her an update.  She and the kids were planning on meeting me at Scuppernong.  They had missed me at the other aid stations.  Heavy rain, two kids (one in a wheelchair) made it difficult for them to see me more often.

I got to the turnaround in just under 6 hours, and in 30th place.  I wasn’t overly concerned with what place I was in.  I just wanted to make it to the turnaround feeling good, but it’s still a race after all and the competitor in my wanted to do well. I was feeling great, except for my feet. I have toe issues at times, and the hours of wet muddy stocks weren’t helping.  My energy level was good, and my legs felt strong.  At the aid station, I refilled my bottles with Heed, restocked my gel supply, and changed socks.  The new dry socks felt so great!

After talking to Sarah and the kids for a bit (Elsie was more focused on a pair of dogs), it was time for the return trip back to Nordic.

Elsie made friends with a couple dogs at Scuppernong

Scuppernong – Hwy ZZ: Miles 31.6-36.5

It was now just past noon, the rain stopped, the sun was coming out, and it started to warm up. My focus here was to be vigilant about my hydration, electrolytes, and nutrition.  I started taking s-caps every hour, continue to eat gels between aid station, and real food at the aid stations.  I stuck with PB&J, potatoes dipped in salt, and pickles because I know those work for me.

The course was now extremely muddy with many areas of unavoidable standing water and mud. The kind of mud where you are afraid you’ll lose a shoe.  This section was slow going due to all of the mud and people coming towards the turnaround.

Hwy ZZ – Hwy 67: Miles 36.5-38.4

While this is a short section, it was the last one before the open meadows. Nothing too special here except more mud and it was starting to get hot!

Hwy 67 – Antique Lane: Miles 38.4-44.3

The dreaded open meadows in the middle of the day with the sun bearing down on us and high humidity.  I did well to stay on top of hydration and nutrition all morning knowing this was coming.  This section was about stubborn determination. Block out all the negativity and just run. I was happy that I was able to run this section well, and passed many runners who were struggling in the heat and humidity.  While hot and humid, it’s flat and was less muddy than other sections so it was very runnable.  At the unmanned aid stations I started to use a sponge to cool off my head and the back of my neck.  I also started to fill my hat with ice, and put ice down my back between my pack and shirt.  This was a life saver.

Open meadows in the heat and humidity

Antique Lane – Emma Carlin: Miles 44.3-47.4

We finally got back to some shade in this short section.  I was counting down the miles to Emma Carlin since it’s our last chance to access our drop bag.  The plan was to meet Sarah and the kids here, and I was looking forward to seeing them again.  I cleaned my feet and changed my socks while Sarah restocked my supplies.  I eat some food, iced up, and headed back out.  Mark and Tommy were at the aid station and helped me with some much needed ice. Thanks!! I tried not to take too long at the aid stations.  I don’t like to stop if I’m feeling good because I’m afraid if I stop my body may not want to start up again.

Assessing the sad state of my feet while changing socks.

Emma Carlin – Bluff: Miles 47.4 – 55.6

This was my worst section of the day.  The heat and humidity started to sap my energy supplies.  My legs still felt strong, but I just couldn’t push myself to run fast, and my pace started to slow.  This section is also one of the more technical and rough parts of the course. I ran this section alone. I was hoping to have some other runners around to push me, but I only saw a few runners who were struggling and mostly walking.  At the unmanned aid station, I continued to sponge down and load up with ice.

Bluff – Nordic/Finish: Miles 55.6-63.1

At Bluff I met Tommy again, and he gave me more ice to fill my hat.  I followed the same aid station routine, ate some food, drank coke, and filled my bottles with Heed. Bluff was a mental check point where I told myself to suck it up and push to the finish.  After a rough patch entering Bluff, I needed to flip the switch and reset.  After I left Buff, I was lucky to run a little while with two 100m runners who were running well, and I tried to feed off of their energy.

Waiting at the finish line.

Finally back to the Nordic Loop.  I hiked all of the hills, but I was able to run the rest of this section strong.  After Bluff I started to do the mental math to figure out if I had a chance to finish under my goal of 13 hours.  That was my pre-race goal if everything went well.  I figured it would be tough to make it with the rain, mud, heat and humidity.  I tried not to think about my time/pace all day, but now that I was close it was too tempting.  Once I realized that as long as I could run most of this section I was going to beat my goal, it gave me another energy boost which helped me finish strong.

62+ miles in, and almost to the finish line. Photo by Focal Flame Photography

Finished! 12:45:05 – 15th place

My legs felt great all day, and my hydration and nutrition were spot on.   The only issues were my toes, and some fatigue between Emma and Bluff.  As with most races, I worried if I was trained enough, did I do enough hill repeats, and did I put in enough mileage.  Then we had to deal with rain (wet=chaffing), mud (wet+mud=blisters), heat and humidity.

I’m so happy with how the race played out.  I really enjoyed the course, and the extra challenges that the weather provided.  I can’t thank Sarah and the kids enough for the sacrifices they make to allow me to train and race.

Kettle Moraine is a well organized race with great race directors. There are many well stocked aid stations with amazing volunteers. I highly recommend running this race.  They had very detailed maps with aid station locations.  They even provided driving directions to each aid station, and GPS coordinates to make it easier for family and crew.

Post-Race Recover

It’s been a few days after the race, and my recovery is going well.  My toes were really beat up and sore for a few days.  There’s a good chance I’ll lose both big toenails, but that’s the price to pay.  I did a lot of walking right the week after the race because I had a player qualify for the state golf meet.  Sunday was rough, but my legs and feet felt better each day.  I was able to go for a short run on Thursday, but won’t get back to training for another week or so.  Planning to do some cycling and a few short runs while I let my body recover.

Strava Data

Lapham Peak Trail Marathon

This is a race report for the 2012 Lapham Peak Trail Marathon that I wrote in 2012 on a different blog. Re-posted August 2014.

On Saturday, I ran my first marathon in the Lapham Peak Trail Marathon. In addition to the marathon, there was a half marathon and 10k. I was looking for a late summer/early fall race and I knew that I wanted to do a trail race. After searching around, I decided to run this one at the beginning of July. Since then, I started training by doing long runs in Baird’s Creek to prepare myself. Training was going really well as I gradually increased my long runs up to 21 miles two weeks before the marathon.

I debated over which shoes to wear, and as Sarah can attest I’m sort of obsessed with shoes. I had an old pair of Merrell Trail Gloves that I used when on the trails. Early in the summer, I also bought a pair of Altra Samsons, which are nice on roads and on easy trails, but didn’t offer much traction on technical trails. Then about a month before the race I got a great deal on a pair of Vivobarefoot Bretho Trails. I used the shoes on my last two long runs in Baird’s Creek and loved the feel and traction they offered.

The race was the weekend after the first week of school and in retrospect that may have not been the best choice. I was a little stressed from the start of school and didn’t get a good night’s sleep during the week leading up to it.

The race was four loops of the 6.5 mile black loop with a one time climb up the tower overlooking the park to get to 26.2 miles. The website description of the course was, “The black loop has some rolling hills along with a few very steep short hills and three longer hill climbs; there are flat spots as well.”

I would say that the description greatly understated the difficulty of the trail. My training runs didn’t fully prepare me for the challenge that the course would present. Many people described it as one of the toughest marathons in southern Wisconsin and one of the toughest races they’ve run.

Heading back down another hill after seeing the family.

Heading back down another hill after seeing the family.

My goal was to run the flats at a pace around 8:45-9:00, walk the hill climbs, and run as fast as I safely could on the downhills. I was lucky to run most of the first two loops with a guy that had the same goal time. We had nice conversations about training, family and other miscellaneous topics. He was running 12 marathons this year, including another one the following week. As a first time marathoner, it was good to get some info from a veteran. I’m not used to running with someone and the distraction of talking was a nice change of pace.

The first two loops felt great. I stuck to my plan and felt strong. I finished the first half in 2:08 and was right on pace for my goal of 4:30. During the third loop I started to develop a pain on the inside of my right knee. I think I was too aggressive on the downhills and paid the price. I was able to run most of the flats and downhills, but my overall pace was much slower.

The pain continued and I was forced to walk/slowly “run” the entire fourth loop. In addition to the knee pain, I started to cramp because I wasn’t able to eat or drink as much as I needed to due to some stomach issues that I had to deal with. During my training runs, my strategy was to drink water with HEED for the first 6-8 miles, then switch to plain water and eat a couple GU packets every half hour and then finish with GU Chomps every mile for the last 6-8 miles. That plan was great during my training runs, but my body didn’t cooperate on race day. My stomach was off as a soon as I woke up and I had no desire to eat anything all day.

DSC_0198My training had gone so well so I was disappointed that the race didn’t go as planned, but I enjoyed the challenges that came with the race. When I found out that only two runners finished under 4 hours and that I ended up finishing 25 out of 40, I felt a little better about my performance. I finished second in my age group and since the overall winner was in my age group, I ended up getting the first place medal in the 30-34 age group!

It was a very well organized race, especially for being the first year. There were four aid stations on the 6.5 mile loop which were well stocked with drinks and food. The course was well marked and the volunteers were very helpful and supportive. I would highly recommend it for someone looking for a challenging trail race. Overall the race was a great experience. I had fun and learned some things that I hope will help in future races.

Marquette Trail 50

Marquette Trail 50 Race Report

“I hate running. It’s boring and hurts my knees.”

That sums up my thoughts on running up until four years ago.  I couldn’t understand why people liked to run, and I had no interest in it.  My wife had been running for years, and I was starting to get more out of shape than I was happy with, so I decided that I need to do something.

In 2010, I decided that I would train for a sprint triathlon.  That way I would only have to run a couple days a week and could spend my other training time swimming and cycling.  I chose the Oshkosh Tri because it was in August, and that would give me most of the summer to train. 

I started out by running two miles. It wasn’t fun, and my knees didn’t like it.  That summer I ran a few days a week with my longest run being 5 miles. Running became easier and slightly more enjoyable.  The triathlon went well, and the run was my best part.

I decided that I would run a couple 5Ks that fall, and then in 2011 I ran two 10Ks with the second one being a trail race.  Training for and running the trail race was when I fell in love with running.  From there I was hooked.  I started reading books, articles and race reviews and was fascinated by the world of trail running.  I continued increasing my weekly mileage and the length of my long runs.

In 2012, I ran a road half-marathon in the spring (Cellcom Green Bay) and then a trail marathon in the fall (Lapham Peak) . Both races didn’t go as well as planned, and my training was inconsistent and undisciplined.  Those poor performances were motivation to be more focused in my training.   In 2013, I decided that I wanted to run an ultra.  I started training for the Surf the Murph 50k.  During my training I also completed my second marathon, the Minocqua No Frills Marathon.

Both races were good experiences and I wanted to continue to go further.  In addition to the peace and serenity that trail running provides, I became fascinated with exploring what I was capable of when I was willing to push myself beyond my comfort zone. T.S. Eliot summed it up perfectly when he said,

“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

Another strong motivation for me to continue pushing my running was our daughter who has an undiagnosed disorder and is unable to walk unassisted.  Seeing how hard she has to work to try and walk made me realize how much I took for granted my own health and provides more than enough motivation to keep going.

All of this lead my to sign up for the Marquette Trail 50.  I had read some reviews and race recaps and it looked like a great course and fun event.  I started training in late February for the August race.  Whereas my training in the past had been inconsistent and without a clear plan, this time I followed a detailed training plan that I found in the book Relentless Forward Progress by Bryon Powell.  I found the book to be very useful, and I agreed with his overall running philosophy. The training schedule also seemed like a good fit for my life schedule.

We had an exceptionally long and cold winter this year in Northeast Wisconsin, which made training difficult at times since we don’t have a treadmill and all my running is outdoors.  My training went amazingly well.  I think in the 25 weeks of training, I only missed a handful of runs and hit most of the weekly mileage.

Weekly Mileage

Weekly Training Mileage

 

I luckily didn’t have any major injuries or setbacks during the training. I continued to feel stronger and stronger as the weeks went along.  My longest training run was 31 miles with a couple 25 mile runs as well.  I also ran the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon in May and set a PR, which gave me confidence that my training was working.

It’s Finally Race Weekend!

We drove up the Marquette the day before the race for packet pickup and to check out the city.  My wife and I had never been to Marquette, and we were impressed with what a beautiful city it is. It snows way too much to live there, but it’s nice to visit in the summer. 

The night before was filled with the normal nervous energy mixed in with stress that comes along with the uncertainty of what was going to happen the next day. I’ve spent the last 25 weeks training and focusing on this race; what happens if it doesn’t go well??

Getting my gear ready

Getting my gear ready

I tried to get as much sleep as possible, but with the 5:30am (Eastern time zone) start time I knew it wasn’t going to be much.

The alarm went off at 4:00, but I was already awake.  A quick shower to fully wake up, a cup of coffee and a Clif Bar and we were ready to drive to the trailhead.  I can’t thank Sarah enough for all of the support she has provided me during my training and during the last 12 years of marriage.  Training for an ultra can be disruptive to family life and she’s be great in encouraging me and supporting my running habit.

We arrived about 45 minutes before the start of the race.  The moments before a race is a fun time to people watch.  In addition to the 50 mile run, there is also a 50k run with the same start time.  Talking to people from different backgrounds all with different experience levels is a great learning experience.  There were many first-timers as well as old vets that have been around the world of ultra running for a long time.

As sort of a “gear junkie” this was also a great time to check out what gear people were using.  I’m mostly interested in the different shoe choices but found it interesting all the different types of hydration systems people had.  I decided to go with one handheld water bottle and a smaller waistpack to hold my phone and some gels.  I could also store a few gels in my shorts, and since the aid stations were spaced closely together, I didn’t feel I need to carry much with me.  The longest segment was 7.1 miles and most were in the 4-6  miles range. Other people seemed to have enough to last them the entire day without needing aid stations.

The shoe choices are always fascinating to me and they ranged from a guy in sandals to several people wearing Hokas.  I think the most common shoe brand that I spotted was Salomon followed by Brooks.  I’m a zero drop guy and run mostly in Merrell shoes.  For this race I decided to start out with the Merrell Ascend Glove and had a pair of Merrell Bare Access Ultra’s in my drop bag for some additional cushioning in the final stages of the race.

For GPS tracking purposes I started with my Garmin 220, but it only has a ten hour battery, and I’m not that fast so I borrowed my wife’s Garmin 305 and put it in my drop bag that I could access at mile 40 and use for the final couple of hours.

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Photo courtesy of Staci K Photography – used with permission

Andrew the race director gave his pre-race briefing, and we all lined up ready to start our adventure.  The race is small with a 200 runner limit between the two races.  The 50k race ended up having 86 runners and the 50 mile had 75.  The race started and we were off into the darkness of the early morning.

Forestville Pole Barn – Dead River Steel Grate Bridge
Miles 0-5

The first part of the race is wide open on some of the roads around the trailhead and was mostly downhill which was a great way to ease into the race.  We then moved onto the trail system, which was mostly single track and would be for the majority of the remainder of the race. I luckily got behind some people who were going slower than I wanted to go and there wasn’t room to pass.  This was perfect because this forced me to go slower than I usually do.

Photo courtesy of Staci K Photography - used with permission

Photo courtesy of Staci K Photography – used with permission

The first five miles went by quickly, and we came to the first aid station just as the sun was starting to rise for the day.  While it was cool, mid-50s, it was humid and I needed a refill. I topped of my water bottle, grabbed a few fig bars and was off.  My nutrition plan for the day was to drink a combination of water and water mixed with Clif hydration mix, eat Clif Shots between aid stations and then eat real food at the aid stations. This has worked well in training and my stomach hasn’t been an issue during training.  I would sometimes run soon after eating to force my stomach into adapting how to process food while running. Of course I’ve never run for more than 7 hours so time would tell if this strategy would work all day.

Dead River Steel Grate Bridge – Forestville Pole Barn
Miles 5-10.6

The next segment was 5.6 miles and would take us back to the start/finish area.  There were a few technical areas during this part which were made easier by the fact that the sun was now out and we could turn off our headlamps.  I had some good conversations with the other runners around me, many of whom I would see off and on for the rest of the day.

We made our way back to the Forestville Pole Barn where Sarah was waiting.  It was great to see her at the aid stations.  It’s always nice to get an extra shot of motivation.  I got rid of my headlamp, restocked my gel supplies, filled up my water bottle, gave Sarah a kiss and headed out for the big loop.

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10 miles down – only 40 more to go!

Forestville Pole Barn – Sugarloaf Mountain Parking Lot
Miles 10.6-14.6

Bees! That sums up this section of the course.  Many of us were stung during this section.  I ended up being stung twice, which apparently was getting off easy.  I heard of people being stung 5-6 times.  It was definitely an adrenaline boost and extra motivation to run a little quicker.  Other than the bees, nothing too eventful here.  Some minor hip pain, but nothing too serious.  It happens occasionally and usually goes away during the run.  My nutrition and hydration plan continued to be working well. I was eating gels every 30 minutes or so and then eating fig bars, PB&J sandwiches and some potatoes at the aid stations.

Sugarloaf Mountain Parking Lot – Harlow Lake 1st Bridge
Miles 14.6-21.7

Shortly after the aid station, we climbed up Sugarloaf Mountain.  The climb was a mixture of stairs and technical trails.

Trail leading up Sugarloaf

Trail leading up Sugarloaf

Once we got to the top we were rewarded with beautiful views of Lake Superior, Marquette and the surrounding areas. Most of the runners took time to soak up the views and the fresh lake breeze.  One of the great things about trail running is that you have time to stop and enjoy the scenery.

View from atop Sugarloaf with Marquette off in the distance

The trail heading down the back side of Sugarloaf

The trail heading down the back side of Sugarloaf

After descending the back side of Sugarloaf, we ran a long section along Lake Superior.  This section was the most runnable part of the course with great views of the lake.  The trail was wide, smooth and was a good chance to run for a good stretch.

Photo courtesy of Staci K Photography - used with permission

Photo courtesy of Staci K Photography – used with permission

This was also the longest section between aid stations at 7.1 miles.  I ran out of water with a little over a mile left, but luckily it’s wasn’t a hot day so it wasn’t a big deal.

The Harlow Lake aid station was the first time we got to our drop bags.  I switched socks, changed to the Merrell Bare Access Ultra shoes, reapplied some Body Glide, restocked my gel supply, and ate a PB&J sandwich and potatoes.

I was a little over five hours into the race and was feeling good.  The only issue was that I had stubbed my right big toe on some roots and rocks.  Nothing too bad, just minor discomfort at this point.

Harlow Lake 1st Bridge – Harlow Lake Railroad Grade
Miles 21.7-25.2

The most memorable part of this section was the climb up Bareback, which was rocky but not very steep.  I had a good conversation with another runner from Green Bay.  It’s always nice to meet another trail runner for Northeast Wisconsin.

This was also the shortest section between aid stations at only 3.5 miles.

Climbing up Bareback

Climbing up Bareback

 

Harlow Lake Railroad Grade – Forestville Pole Barn
Miles 25.2-30.7

Hogback!!  The defining and most memorable part of the entire run were the climbs up and down Hogback.  Before we got to Hogback we had to run over Top-of-the-World.  The combination of these two climbs made this the slowest and most difficult section of entire race, but also the most enjoyable.

This is also the first time I saw the front of the pack 50 milers running the big loop in reverse. I was amazed how easy they were running and the fact that they were more than two hours ahead of me at this point.

The climb up Hogback was rockier and steeper than I imagined and I had to use both hands, which was difficult at times since I was using a handheld water bottle.  Once we came to the top the difficult climb was more than worth it.  We were treated to an amazing view that overlooked much of the course.

Panoramic view atop Hogback

Panoramic view atop Hogback

Catching my breath

Catching my breath

Forestville Pole Barn – Harlow Lake Railroad Grade
Miles 30.7-36.2

“31 miles down, only 20 miles left.”  This was my thought when I reached the start/finish area.  Once we reached the Forestville Pole Barn, the 50k runners were done and the remaining 50 milers had to go back and do the big loop in reverse.  Mentally this was a major checkpoint.  If I could make it to the 50k mark feeling good, then I was confident I could finish. My stomach was good, knees were good, and most importantly I was mentally doing well.  The only issue I had was that my right big toe was still hurting, but with the adrenaline it wasn’t anything that prevented me from running.  I knew that I had plenty of time, and I could almost walk the remaining 20 miles and still beat the cutoff.

I tried not to take too long at the aid stations because I knew if I stopped running it would be harder to start up again.  I refilled my bottle, drank some Coke, got some gels from my drop bag, ate some fig bars and potatoes and had a brief chat with Sarah.

Refueling - 50k mark

Refueling – 50k mark

What?  We have to turn around and go right back up Hogback?  This time we would be climbing up Hogback first and then Top-of-the-World.  Since we were going in reverse I saw many runners on their way to the 50k turnaround.  This was a nice change of pace since for most of the race I ran alone.  With fewer than 150 runners on the course there were long sections where I didn’t see anyone.  It’s amazing all the things your mind goes through when you are out in the woods running for hours and hours.  I brought along an mp3 player but never used it.  I tried to stay in the moment and soak in all the sights, sounds, feelings, thoughts etc. that I was experiencing.

Harlow Lake Railroad Grade – Harlow Lake 1st Bridge
Miles 36.2-39.7

A short easy section going over Bareback and back to the Harlow Lake aid station.  I passed a few runners that looked like they were hurting.  I was still feeling physically and mentally strong.  My goal for the reverse big loop was to pass more runners than passed me.  So far so good.  I was only passed once and I passed at least three runners. The Harlow Lake aid station would be the last time I would have access to my drop bag. I switched watches since I was already over 9 hours and the Garmin 220 has a ten hour battery.  I switched over to Sarah’s Garmin 305 for the final 11 miles.  I also emptied out my shoes, restocked my gel supply, had some Coke and ate a PB&J.

Knowing that the next section was the easy runnable part along Lake Superior was good for my confidence.  My legs were feeling ok, some quad soreness, but I knew I could run most of the next section at a decent pace.  I knew that I had to make the next 7.1 miles with my one water bottle so I had a few extra cups of water before I left.

Heading into Harlow Lake

Heading into Harlow Lake

Harlow Lake 1st Bridge – Sugarloaf Mountain Parking Lot
Miles 39.7-46.8

During the first part along the lake I ran with a guy from Grand Rapids, MI and it was nice to have a conversation with someone. While I like being alone with my thoughts, it is nice to have the distraction of talking to another runner to make the time go by a little quicker.  We ran together for a few miles before he took off and went ahead. 

Near the end of this segment we needed to climb back up and down Sugarloaf.  The climb up had a few stairs, but was mostly technical single track.  When I reached the top I took a very brief break to check out the view before I headed back down knowing that I was almost to the finish.

I reached the Sugarloaf Mountain Parking lot and knew that I only had a little more than four miles left. I saw Sarah one more time, refilled my bottle, had some Coke and fig bars and was off.

Sugarloaf Mountain Parking Lot – Forestville Pole Barn
Miles 46.8-51.1

It’s hard to describe the feelings that I experienced during the last four plus miles of the race.  The energy that I had during the final miles was incredible. I ran faster than I had since the beginning of the race many hours before and had the highest runners high I’ve ever experienced.  All of the negative thoughts that I had of not finishing, or getting injured or having a miserable experience went away.  I had worked hard for six months and the finish line was finally here.

Finished!

Finished!

Overall the race was a great experience.  The course was beautiful and had a wonderful mix of smooth runnable sections, technical singletrack, challenging climbs and rocky descents. The course was marked extremely well  with ribbons and flags making it very easy to stay on course. The aid stations were well stocked and placed close enough together that I didn’t need to carry much with me.  All of the volunteers were very helpful and encouraging.  I would highly recommend running the Marquette Trail 50 if you are an ultrarunner in the upper Midwest, and I cannot wait to run it again in the coming years.

Thank you so much to my beautiful wife Sarah for her wonderful support and motivation during my months of training and during the race.  It was great to see her at the aid stations and helped me get to the next one knowing she would be there.

Happy to be done, and ready to relax

Happy to be done, and ready to relax

Running Splits

I set my watch to have laps of 2.5 miles because this worked out to be a good reminder of when I needed to eat again. Below are the splits for the laps from Strava. 

Lap Data

Lap Data

Elevation Profile

Elevation Profile

 

Gear Used

Shoes

Merrell Ascend Gloves (first 21 miles)

Merrell Bare Access Ultra (final 30 miles)

Socks

Smartwool Micro Toe Socks  (first 21 miles)

Icebreaker Multisport Ultra Lite Micro (final 30 miles)

Shorts

Brooks Infiniti II Notch Shorts – best shorts ever!

Shirt

Tek Gear Sleeveless Performance Tee – cheap and comfortable

Hydration

Nathan QuickDraw Plus

Waistpack

Ultimate Direction Jurek Essential

Watch

Garmin Forerunner 220 (first 40 miles)

Garmin Forerunner 305 (final 11 miles)