I started this the day after the race (3 weeks ago) but didn’t get very far. And given that I now have another race report to write I will keep this short... for a change!
Like many people I was disappointed when the race was cancelled. Wynn had put together a really great event for the past two years – with the first snowy frolic sure to remain in our memories for a long time and last year’s race being just a perfect day to enjoy the trail and the 50+ lakes along the course. But then I got into the Miwok 100K lottery and decided I should find a 50 miler for early April. I’d just been down to Virginia for Hellgate and heard about the Bull Run 50M in northern VA. Since there was nothing within driving distance from home I figured returning to VA where I’ve enjoyed quite a few races would be a good option. So I signed up. I was delighted that Jeff resurrected Chippewa but, figuring I needed the distance, I was still planning on the trip to Virginia… right up until the week before. With a lot of travel in the previous weeks and more to come a few days after the race I made a last minute decision to pull out of the race and stay close to home for the weekend. I even got almost the full entry fee back which is pretty rare these days.
Training had been going pretty well and even though I hadn’t tapered much I was feeling good about the race. The previous weekend a few of us had driven up north to run the Duluth section of the SHT with Lisa as local tour guide. It was a great day out. And the day before the race I’d spent a few hours down at Zumbro 100 cheering on the hardy souls out there on a tough 5 loop course. With a fabulous early spring in Minnesota the training and racing season was shaping up well.
It was fun catching up with everyone in and around the visitor centre on race morning. It was a little chilly out but the day promised to be perfect for a long run in the woods. Shorts, arm warmers and my new TCRC "race team" shirt (Thanks Kurt!) and I was ready for off. I was wearing the Montrail Masochist which continues to treat me well though I’ve having a few aches and pains from the old bunions these days. The men’s field was definitely less stacked than last year. Many of the Hyland training gang in particular was down in KS running the Olathe marathon (major congrats to Brian Peterson for running an awesome 2:36 for the win!!).
The first few miles rolled by easy enough. A few guys up ahead and Valeria among them. I love the first section of the course in the woods. At least on the way out. On the way back it is torture as the trail winds around in a seemingly endless series of twists and turns and ups and downs. I chatted with the guys behind and we were all hoping for something around 4:40-4:45. I had run 4:41 last year and said I just wanted to beat that. Though if I’m being honest I actually thought I could run something closer to 4:35. It baffles me that this trail is as tough as it is. I guess I just keep comparing it to Afton and think it should be a faster course. I know it is earlier in the season but you figure the running conditions are much kinder. I guess the cancel each other out. As do the endless rolling hills vs the longer, steep climbs at Afton.
I remember last year how totally done in I felt towards the end. Especially when Nic came tearing by me! I had nothing left in the tank. So I thought I would try to go out a bit slower and have some strength left. It seemed like a good plan. I felt great for the first several miles. Running totally within myself. Enjoying the day. Thinking of the runners at Zumbro getting closer to their goal. Shelly was there to greet us at the first aid station and then a few miles later there was a water station. I liked that idea of a water only station in between the others – it makes sense on a 50K where you really don’t need a lot of aid but allows you to carry just one bottle. The lakes were pretty as always. It really is amazing how much water you go by on this course. Met up with Val just past the second supported aid station at around mile 10 and we ran along the road together. Then back into the woods and a lovely short technical section by another lake. Once I’d crossed the fence I figured it couldn’t be too long until the turnaround… remind me to read this race report before next year’s event – it is still a few miles to go!! I think it was along here where I met race leader Jim, or it could have been back farther. He looked very smooth. I kept seeing what seemed like the hill up to the turnaround off to the left – but it was never the actual hill. Until finally, it was. 2:20. Last year I was there in 2:18. So right on plan then? We would find out.
The return journey is always fun for the first few miles – meeting many familiar faces along the way. It was great to see everyone enjoying the lovely day. I was feeling pretty good and able to run all of the hills unlike last year. But still I wasn’t exactly making stellar progress. I was keeping an eye on my watch but trying not to get too caught up in the calculations. Though once I hit the mile markers I couldn’t help it! Jeff had put on a 10K also and so there were mile markers out for the first 5 miles. It was funny on the way out seeing the mile markers and trying to figure out how exactly the runners were going to get back to the visitor center in 1.2 miles!! Of course the trails wind around so much it’s hard to tell how far you are away from the start/finish area. We gave Jeff a hard time about it at the finish but I am sure the runners enjoyed the inaugural Chippewa Moraine 7+ mile race :)
Upon seeing the 5 mile marker I was at around 3:56 on the clock – could I do 9 minutes miles all the way home? I had come out in about that so I thought it was possible. Not thinking about TFH finish. But as I passed mile 4 and then mile 3 and was running more like 9:15-9:30 I wasn’t so sure. Soon enough I came to the section that goes close to the visitor center – about 2 miles to go. That next mile is the longest. It takes forever to get out of the woods! And then onto the prairie and the finish area visible... wouldn’t it be nice to just run straight up the road. I mean, it’s still a decent hill! But no, and not even straight across the meadow like last year… we had to go the long way around!! Yeah – it is surely 50.2K! It was cool to hear to cheers from the finish area as I rounded the edge of the field, looking at the watch every 10 seconds… and then the HILL. And there’s Jeff snapping photos and I’m cursing him under my breath. And then not so much under my breath. Finally at the top and the lovely slope down the grass to the finish line... 4:41:00! I am not sure if I had rounded up or down last year’s time until later when I check my blog and see that it was 4:41:20... but I didn’t care too much at that point. I was just very happy to be done. And of course to be awarded the prize t-shirt...
Though to be fair, this piece of original artwork by Wynn is perhaps a bit more special!
It was a glorious afternoon hanging out in the sunshine with all the runners and supporters. Great to catch up with Karen and Angela and the other WI and northern MN runners I usually only meet at the races.
I hope to be back again next year and see if I can’t figure out how to get that sub-4:40. Or maybe even sooner for some training… perhaps that’s the difference with Afton where I train on a regular basis. Ah, the strategy of it all!
Thanks to Jeff, Patrice, Randy and all the volunteers and supporters for what was another wonderful experience on the Ice Age Trail.
A few more photos from the trail - (Thanks Vicky!)