I signed up for this race almost one year ago; it was ostensibly, to spend more time with friends from the Columbus area that I didn't know all that well.
With all the issues I have been having in the ugly month of August, I wasn't in the mood for socializing. In fact, if my husband had not made plans for us to spend Thursday night with friends in Michigan, who also went with us to the race, I would have bailed on the whole event and went to West Virginia to volunteer for Cheat Mountain Moonshine Madness at the last minute.
I had bullied my way into an 8am doctor apppointment, who managed to make me feel a bit better. Apparently one cyst is fine. And actually second cyst is 'fine' too, (well, 99% fine..) but if I want to have it drained (and then they will send it to pathology) she will set up an appointment with a surgeon.
Oh hell yes I want that done. While the cyst is not painful or bothers me at all, that means I get a 100% reading on the darmn thing. So I left town feeling "cautiously optimistic" and in a far better mood oh, than the last 14 days..
Manistee Michigan is a LONG ways up the state of Michigan, once I actually located it.
So much for hoping for 80 degree weather. Forecast was for 89 degrees. When we stopped in at the Race Start/Finish to pick up bib and chip, it was very humid. And buggy. I made a note to remember the bug spray for the morning.
It was about 75 degrees at race start. Due to a tree down on an access road, where aid station workers had to use to set up their aid station, the race was delayed. Instead of the 50 mile race starting at 740 am, we started at 0750 am.
Despite the marathon runners starting only ten minutes or so prior to us, and hitting single track after one road mile (to help spread us out) the trails were really not that crowded. There was only a few spots in the first 3 or 4 miles where we got into a little bit of a conga line.
Despite no conga line, it was very much a novelty for me to be at a race where I could see a line of runners in view, for most of the first loop.
The North Country Trail Race is a 25 loop. 1/2 marathon split off in the first loop (they started after the ultra) and we run with the marathoners.
It is a very runnable trail, very sandy, some roots, not technical at all. And runnable! No reason to walk at all, for about the first 18 miles or so. In the second half of the loop, there are some rolling hills, where it felt good to change out and stretch some different muscle groups. I thought my hip flexors would be more sore after all this running, but I think the very soft trail of sand helped with that.
Pretty uneventful first loop, I ran a bit of it with Tim and Kathy. Tim was running his first 50 miler, and Kathy was also running, but also sort of pacing/supporting Tim. Tim was having some issues with the sand getting in his shoes (and maybe the pace was a bit fast) so after showing trail with them on the first loop, I did not see them again.
Dave started the second loop with me. He was the second Dave I had met that day, running their first 50 mile race. He asked me if I had run a 50 mile race before..
It's always a bit awkward to answer questions like that. I don't want to sound like some big braggart,. So I said yes, I've run some. He asked how many, and I said "not that many, maybe 5 or 6. I tend to run 50K or 100 milers instead."
So we chatted a bit about 100 milers; I told him you need to expect to be able to suffer a bit for a 100 miles. Then Dave had to stop for a bio break, and I never saw him again.
I picked up my music for the second loop. Now this was more like a typical ultra for me, all alone in the woods. I turned on the music, and experienced, for the first time in a few weeks, a moment of total happiness on the trails. That was worth the drive to Michigan for.
Despite the music, I was getting pretty bored. Yes, me! I was alone, on some pretty easy single track, running as quickly as I could in the 80+ degrees.
I got to mile 38, where my drop bag was. I discovered I had gone through all my bags of malt dextrin, which was my main fuel for this race, and it was back to working well for me. So I was able to ditch the hand held bottle. I had picked up my hydration pack, despite not wanting to wear it, but due to the high temps and humidity.
This race had aid stations 3 and 4 miles apart, again a novelty for me. But with the 50 oz bladder in the vest I was able to drain it and refill at every other aid station, so with the MD fuel, I wasn't spending any time in aid stations.
I was having my typical race; I was starting to run very steadily and climb the little hills very well and run the downhills in the last ten miles of the race.
I got a good giggle as I left t he mile 42 AS. Last time I was mile 42 in a race, I had been on my feet for about 20 hours, and was contemplating a 4000 foot climb. 8 more miles in the heat and humidity wasn't that bad. And there was oxygen!
No one passed me from mile 42 to the finish. I passed..at least 15 runners. I would spot a runner up ahead, and that would give me a little bit of energy. Nothing like decisively running by someone walking.
At least 4 people commented on my uphill walking. Practice it, people.
But no one commented on my calves this race..
I did fail ultra lesson #5-that I just failed two weeks ago. Put lubricant on your under arms, so they are not chafing due to rubbing on your shirt and boobs all day long! I had some blisters going on also, probably due to the sand, but nothing worth stopping to deal with.
The last two miles are pretty much a downhill, which was good, I was just glad to be done with, I was ready to get off my feet and have a shower. I was not quite sure of the time we had started out at, but it appeared I was going to finish my 50 miles in 12 hours and change. By my watch, it was 12 hours, 22 minutes. so I was pretty pleased with that. Edit: Just saw the official results, says 12 hours, 16 minutes! There was no real taper for this, just limited running for about the five days prior to this.
So the race that I could not generate any enthusiasm went very well. It was very organized, nice aid stations and workers. Nice easy runnable trail, not technical at all. If you are located somewhere in the Michigan area, this would be a nice introduction for a trail race for the 1/2 marathon, marathon, or even the 50 mile race event.