Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chippewa Moraine 50K

This is a little late going to print and a little shorter than usual race reports... both due to a lack of the most valuable non-renewable resource.

4th year of the race. 4th time running it. 4th win? Ah, wouldn't that have been nice! But alas, I knew full well going into this race that for me to win would have required a bunch of women not to show up and/or some horrendous weather conditions that I had more experience dealing with. Though a snowstorm a la 2008 would not have worked since the winner is a Nordic skier...

Overall I'm petty happy with how the race went. Sure, I wished about ten times every mile that I was better trained but I knew going into it that I wasn't. And while I did have a few moments of blind hope that maybe I could overcome that and blast the last ten miles, I finished right about where I expected to, almost 20 minutes slower than the last 2 years. And probably a little better than I deserved to. I think it was on his INOV-8 bio that Joe Ziegenfuss used the words "There is no magic; you get out what you put in." Some quotes you just remember and this one was circling in my head for a good part of the race as I made plans for how I was NOT going to feel like this while running Leadville later this summer!

Things started off just fine. I wasn't completely under-trained. My longest run since Hellgate in December had been the Houston marathon* in January (which I keep forgetting about, it's a pretty forgettable course). February had brought a few weeks of pretty inconsistent training with nothing very long. No real desire to get out and run and plenty of excuses with work and travel. March was more of the same except for spells in California where it was impossible not to want to run. And April had brought a few longer hilly runs and a week of blasting up steep hills in Ireland. So while it wasn't quite the regular training plan, there'd been some fun stuff in there and I showed up at Chippewa happy to be able to toe the line at a 50K race along with about 160 other people, many of whom I've come to know well over the years. Pam was running this race for the first time as were many others including Tracy's bump. At 26 weeks, bump was still neatly tucked away inside her running jacket. The accessible location, fine organization and great trails has really made it a really popular race. And probably also the fact that after a l o n g winter, people just needed to get out.

I started out at a pretty similar pace to last year and felt decent on the early climbs. A few miles in the crowd has spread out nicely. I think one or two ladies were ahead of me and I was leading a line of about 6 or 7. I knew a few of them were the from the TCRC crew and that I wouldn't be leading them for long. At around mile 7 Paul let me know they intended to have me pull them all the way to the turnaround and then drop me. Nice! I would have actually been okay with that but as it turned out after a few miles of running alongside him and getting caught up, I had to let them all by me as I knew I couldn't maintain that pace the whole way. The group included Christie (the eventual winner) and Connie and maybe another girl. It was really quite amazing (and disappointing) how quickly they dropped me as I started to walk a few of the hills. But I was happy to be running along at my own pace and so far things were going a little better than expected. A few miles from the turnaround I started to meet the front runners - they were flying it! Brian looked to be in great shape. It has been amazing watching his progress since first meeting him at this race back in 2009. As I climbed the final hill to the turnaround Arley and Christie went by me again - they had taken a little detour! Connie and Christie and another girl had left the AS just ahead and then Leslie came in with me. 2:22 - two minutes slower than last year. But could I keep it up? I headed out feeling pretty happy. I knew I wouldn't have the required strength to push it all the way for 15 miles so I settled into a fairly steady pace and enjoyed meeting lots of familiar faces for the next few miles. It's a pretty wide trail in many places so it's easy for an out and back course. Navigating around the mud was a little more difficult! I met Chris after a few minutes. It must have kicked in some good endorphins as I upped the effort level for the next few miles and felt like I was racing again. It was good while it lasted! I had passed the young girl with red hair and then passed Connie a little before the next AS with around 8 or 9 miles to go. It was fun to run with her a bit. She is having a great year and looks set to finish Grandma's with a very big smile on her face. And of course being close to Connie in any race is always a great idea as you get the support of her super-crew at the aid stations! Karen was manning the next AS and let me know that Christie was "only 5-6 minutes ahead" - I knew which direction that gap was going...

Leslie passed me shortly after that, looking very strong. She is also planning to race Grandma's and I've no doubt will do great. I was still feeling pretty good and ran the next section to the last aid station with a guy just behind me. He'd been suffering for a few miles and we passed another guy along here who didn't look in great shape. But as it turned out they were both able pick it up in the final few miles and cruised into the finish ahead of me. I just love seeing that spirit - you feel like crap, everything hurts, you're not having the race you thought you would, the race you know you could have... but you are still able to garner the inner strength and determination to rise to the challenge of the those never ending hills. I, on the other hand, cursed my lack of training and over indulgence of bad food for far too many months, as I watched the minutes tick by with no sign of those damn mile markers that Jeff insists on putting out for the last 5 miles!! I passed by the back of the visitor center knowing there was still 2 miles to go. But getting closer. Before long the open prairie and thoughts of the final climb. Figuring I would get in under 5 hours I did not attempt to run it! 4:58 and change. Good enough for 3rd place. I will run this race again next year and hopefully for many years to come. It feels like the start of the season. A gathering of friends after a long hibernation.

Congrats to all the runners and a big thank you to Jeff & Patrice, and all of the volunteers and crew out there who made it a very enjoyable day on the trail.

Next up for me is the Black Hills 100K in South Dakota on June 25. I am excited to visit the area again. The Badlands NP is one of my favourite places. Between now and then... an improved training plan!

* I don't count Houston as an official finish in my list of races as I wasn't registered for it - swapped my half number with Karen who didn't feel up for 26.2 miles. Ran with Kami the whole way and we cruised chatted our way to a 4:20 finish.

All photos courtesy of Lisa who's help and support during the race was greatly appreciated!

At the start line, telling the guys to watch out for the Great Dane... he had a great run and took 4th place (and then went out to look for his lovely wife on the trail - while she was back at the finish line drinking beer. Well, okay, that part's a lie.)

Mile 2...
Check out Tracy's most recent adventures at her blog

Coming into the turnaround...

Chris had a surprise for me after he finished...

Check out the "Chicked" range of t-shirts designed and marketed by two artistic and fun-loving ladies in Minneapolis: http://www.chicked.com/