Saturday, July 5, 2008

Afton 50k report

Revenge is sweet!

I can run in heat!

I do so like it Sam I am.

4 weeks after a dnf'ing due to heat, I was faced with heat again at the Afton trail races. In short I made my goal of 5:15-5:30 (finished at 5:27). But the good news is, the heat only killed me in the last 1 1/2 hours. Funny how good news is the paradigm in which you you look at it.

I always start these reports with funny quotes. I only remember one worth repeating.

John Storkamp - Race director - right before the start
"and if you get off course, and get totally lost, find a way back to here somehow and inform a volunteer...... it can happen, it happened to me a few years ago"

someone in the crowd responds "and they made you race director?"

Also, thanks to Zach Pierce and his wife Jen for taking a ton of pictures. I stole these from him.
So the day started with picking up a fellow lister from the dead runners society. She moved here last year from Boston and is a doctor, she was volunteering as medical help (hopefully I would not need her assistance). She said something like, "I am looking for some other hard core nutty ultra runners to run with, I don't know any around here". I responded "Well, you came to the right place and event. They will ALL be here today".

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a new sheriff in town. Her name is Elizabeth Raskin, and she will be kicking some major butt on these trails in the coming years. Mark my words.

We passed a biker on Manning ave (remember, this is before 5am), and I jokingly said, "That's probably Pierre Oster". It was. The toughest man in Minnesota lives up to his title.

The start area was like a family reunion for me. I have met so many cool people and made a lot of friends that running is only part of the event. The RD's were busy. I got my act together, and the race started.

Pictured here from left to right - Carl Gammon, Mark Hanson, John Gustafson, Steve Quick, Zach Pierce, me.

My plan was to see how my body would fare in the heat (at that point, the dew point was low and around 70 degees) at a 2:30 loop pace. That is a decent clip for me, but I knew I could comfortably do it for one loop.

Here is Jeff Allen and me catching up (we have only talked during races, funny how that works).

And we were off running.

After briefly running with much of "the gang", I ended up running with Bruce Smith. For those of who who remember the Chippewa 50k stories, he was the one who slipped of an icy bridge and fell into an icy lake. So, of course, I warned him every time we crossed over a stream not to fall. We had a great time for a few hours. The dude is 60, has a beard a la Larry Pederson, and is tough as nails. Here we are coming into aid station 3.

We were on a 2:30 (5hr for the race) and feeling good. I was taking s caps every half hour, and drinking as much liquid as I could. I WAS NOT GOING TO GET DEHYDRATED! Shortly after, Nolan (new to trail running) caught up with us and ran with us for a while.

Somehow we ran half of the dirt hill before campground, as Bruce said "I am taking it easy".

The dirt hill is a LONG steep hill, and looks like it never ends. I call it "the b#$ch". Not long after that the trail goes down "Nigel's Hill". I don't know why it is called that, but we came up with a theory. If you run up it, it keeps going, and going.... It goes to 11, just like Nigel says in "This is Spinal Tap".

Soon after you go up the hill which ends up a the campgrounds. This is probably the hardest hill on the course. I call it "the b#$ch is back". We were all still happy and hanging together. And down campground hill we went.

The only problem with the aid station at the bottom of campground hill is you have to slam on the brakes to stop. Ouch.

Here are Bruce and Nolan playing a frat party drinking game. Chug, chug, chug!

The next stretch is about a mile and a half of flat, straight trail along the St. Croix river. I find it to be tough because you can see for longer than you want. The trail never ends. This brings you to "the meat grinder". Not the toughest hill, but a tough spot along the way. Everything went fine all the way to the final aid station. Somewhere in there Nolan asked "how many miles do we have left in the loop?". My answer "I have no idea, but we are right on a 2:30 pace". This is trail running, you can't think in miles left!

The last aid station was staffed by the vets of Minnesota Trail Running. Jeffrey, Tom and Nancy, Jason. They gave me some mental gas. Next is the snowshoe loop, my favorite part. I always pick it up a little there. It is wooded, some rocks, some roots, and some fallen trees. I came through it as planned, and did not trip on my normal root. Yeah!

The final hill is tough, but being the first loop, not too bad. We came in the first loop at 2:28. Sweet! I was not dehydrated, I was not super hot, I was not too sore. I had a lot left in the tank. Could I keep that pace for the second loop? It's worth a try! Worse case scenario, the second half will be hard. But, I know the course well enough to know where I can pick it up and back it off.

Elizabeth was manning the loop aid station. She refilled my bottles, and I left the loop with Dorn Peddy. I felt fine all of the way through the first part of the Africa loop. I was still running down the hills pretty hard, as this is my strongest advantage. Down on the back 40 I saw Steve coming back with John Taylor. Looks like he decided to eat some dirt. Ouch!

I was still on pace at the next hill. Still on pace coming in the Aid station 3. Allan Holtz, Bill Gengler (sorry about Western States man!) and John Taylor were the dream team there. Thanks for the quick refill. I knew I had to run the hill coming out of there to keep pace. That was hard.

Up on the Africa loop again. Urgghhh. It is now officially humid. It is hot. I am starting to feel it. I hammered on.

When I got down to the next aid station, I was 5 minutes off the 5 hr pace. There was NO WAY I would pick up that time, so I backed off a bit. That's cool (not literally). I was all alone at this point. The gravel hill was longer this time. ARrgg. The hill up to campground was longer.. ARgggghh..., it was hotter. My legs were starting not to work. This is what happens to me when the heat hits me. Get down campground hill!

I took time to refuel, sponge, and cool off. Nolan had caught me at the top of Campground. He knew I liked running down so he said something like "son of a b#4ch with the quads". It was funny. At the aid station he said "this sucks". No whinning nolan! Trail running rule #3.

I got out of there quickly, knowing Nolan would catch up. He did, as a few other runners did. The meat grinder killed me. Not the hill, but the heat. I was getting stomach cramps from the heat. I wanted to puke. This is where I would start to worry, but I knew I could get to the end without danger. I had to get to the shade of the snowshoe loop.

At the last aid station I asked Jeffrey to talk some sense into me. He understood. I was having serious stomach cramps now, but almost there.

The snowshoe loop was tough. I could not manage my rising core temp. I just tried to "get there". People were passing me more and more. I was in danger of missing my 5:30 max goal. I watched the roots like a hawk to make sure I would not fall. I saw my root towards the end. Missed it! In my celebration, I took my eye off the trail and caught the next one. I almost hit the deck, but was not running fast enough.

I finally made it to the last hill. Just get up it. Almost puked at the top. Hobbled to the next mini hill to get home. At the top a guy came up behind me and said "come on you f#@$%, lets take this home". That is just what I needed. We paced it in and finished together. This guy was a character, Hendry I think, and quite a foul mouth, but I did not care.

We came in at 5:27, and I was happy. The heat almost destroyed me. I felt vindicated. I still managed a 50K pr. That is 3 pr's this year! I mustered up a smile instead of puking. Thanks Greg for getting my tag.

Congrats to Joe Z for the win, and Helen Lavin for a kick ass 2nd place for women (4:36).

Eve Rembleski won again for the women, and set a course record again! Here she is coming off Campground Hill

A great day, a fun time. A must do if you are runner in Minnesota (at least the 25k).

Now the Superior training starts. Am I cut out for that? We will see.


keith said...

Yowza! Nice job, Matt! I am glad I had to come back to pick up the MN TRS stuff. I got to see you after you finished. You ran a great time! Congrats on the PR.

RunWesty said...

Congrats on the PR and managing the heat. Great race report you captured the essence of Afton.

Kel said...

Congrats on another PR!! I thought you still looked pretty strong as you were motoring in toward the finish.

Wayne said...

Nice job, Matt. Way to run hard, and then gut it out when you needed to. Are you cut out for Superior? Oh yeah!

phillip said...

The mental challenges of finishing this annual race that makes 'hotties' out of all is great preparation for tackling the Sawtooth 100.

The eight key climbs per loop are great metro training for the ups and downs found in Superior.

Prayer will come in handy, too, for finishing Sawtooth, the country's most rugged 100 miler.
Something like, "Dear God, just let me finish this thing, and I promise never to be this crazy again . . . ."

Your great attitude will add signifcantly to your attempt.

Happy Trails,
Phillip Gary Smith

Mark H. said...

Great job Matt and excellent race report! Hey, that's me, Mark Hanson in the red shirt and John Gustafson next to me. I spend a lot of time with John during the first loop. He kicked my butt in the second. --Mark

brent said...

Way to go Matt! Happy to see you have a good "comeback" race...this should give you great confidence for SS100 and the training leading up to it. Wish I could have been running with you.

Ultrathoner said...

Congrats and great race report!

Runnin-from-the-Law said...

Way to go Matt! Glad you were able to conquer the heat and come out with a PR. Congrats!

Helen said...

Congrats Matt! great report. well done on the PR. great fun seeing everyone out there yesterday. at least Sawtooth will be cooler... though not much else positive to say in terms of comparison!! but we will survive...

Carilyn said...

Hey Matt! Great to hear from you! I felt bad that I was so delirious that I didn't get your last name while we were on the course. Sounds like from reading your report you were in the same boat - yuck. Not a fun day at all. But, it was great to meet you and run with you for awhile.

Congrats on Afton!

SteveQ said...

See, heat's not the enemy! Great race, Matt, and great report - though I'm starting to lay claim to Pierre's "toughest man alive" title.

Call me Steve "Crash" Quick

WynnMan said...

Well done Matt! Along with Helen you are having a stellar year. Good work. PLus you have a great attitude and having fun which is the most important part. Thanks for the kind words man. I am already licking my chops for Voyageur.

Now you have raced a 50km in sultry heat and in 18'' of snow. Go figure! Only in the uPPer Midwest baby!

Anonymous said...

yes you are. JH