Since traveling is never very conducive to training, I was going to make the most of my weekend in the midwest by (a) scouting the bike route for IMMOO and (b) doing a trail marathon with my friend, Jim. (If you missed the story, it is here.)
So, after the wedding, I headed back to Madison and drove the IM bike route with my mom. (Yikes-- lotsa hills!) But I was happy to see that it was very similar to the Elephant Rock course here, so at least that gave me a reference.
Then, I headed up to the Baraboo where I met up with Jim (and family) at the race expo. We grabbed our race numbers, chatted with a few other runners (who all said "yes, wear your gators!"), had a good dinner and settled in for the night.
The morning came quickly and this morning pre-race included something I had never had to do before:Yep, put on poison ivy block. It was highly advised via Jim's friend who had run the race before.
Poison Ivy block, check. Water belt, check. Off we go.
Before the race, I had told Jim I wanted to treat the day like a training day, and he had the same sentiments. Jim's "A" race this year is an October marathon, so he just wanted to get through this race in prep for that marathon.
We decided to started out slow and steady. Maybe a little too slow, because about 1/2 mile in, the trail goes to single track as you head up the first big climb of the race. Being on single track, and stuck behind people kinda stinks. Then, the line of people started walking. At first it didn't bother me, but then it really started to. The trail was totally runnable. So, Jim and I decided to take off, and we started passing people on the left. Everyone was good about letting us pass, so I was glad we decided to do it. Once a the top of the climb, we settled into a good pace and just went with it. At times, Jim would start to pick it up and I would settle him back down. I felt bad and told him to go ahead, but he insisted on staying with me.
At the first aid station (about 5 miles in), we stopped so I could put some moleskin on blisters I felt forming. Again, I felt bad, but we were in this for the long haul and I really needed my feet to be ok. I was running on them after all. A nice spectator asked if he could help and I enlisted him to help me. He told us that his wife was running the marathon and that he ran these trails a lot and we had been through the worst of it. Really? That was the worst? we thought. Cool.
So, feet better and refreshed from the aid station, we continued on. More than once I had to slow Jim down, but all was good. And it was pretty.
Somewhere around mile 10, we hit another... well, climb. And this one was bad. Here's the first set of stairs leading to it. Oy yoy! What was that spectator guy thinking? This climb was way worse.
But it led to great views of Devil's Lake.
We continued on our way, happy that the climbing was over-- at least for the time being.
Navigating down was a different story and this may be where the poison ivy block probably came in handy. There were sections of the trail that were.... well, they weren't trail. They were "follow the pink flags through the forest". Like here.
When we approached the next aid station, the spectator I met at the first station was there waiting for his wife. "You LIED to me. That first climb was so not the worst." I said jokingly and he laughed.
Once we rounded the lake, it was time to go up the South Bluff. Another climb.
Somewhere after this picture, my Garmin beeped 18 miles. We were at a flat spot on the climb and asked Jim if he wanted to run a little. He didn't, but he wanted me to go ahead. He told me he would be mad at me if I didn't. Knowing at this point in the run, we both needed to listen to our bodies and run our own paces, I decided to go ahead, figuring it would be the best for both of us.
Being alone, I ran up the rest of the bluff. It was hot and hard, but I wanted to get her done. It was fun going up this side of the lake. There were more hikers and a number of them cheered me on as I ran by. I passed a hiker with a Gatorade and said "you don't know how bad I want to mug you and take that". He offered it to me, and I declined saying that I *think* there is an aid station somewhere around here. There was. Ever see an aid station on the top of a bluff? It looks like this:
My spectator friend was up there again, he confessed that he wasn't aware of the second-- or third-- climb we did, but he was positive all of the real climbing was done. I jokingly told him I didn't trust him, but I hoped he was right. He was.
After that, I was somewhere around 19.5 miles in and I had energy. My original plan had been to do 14 slow and then kick it up at the end IF I felt like it. I felt like it.
I headed down the bluff. Over the basin. Hit the 2nd to last aid station. They had ice. ICE! You don't know how good ice feels/tastes on a hot day like that day.
Hit the last aid station. I ran in saying "857 in the HOUSE!" (we had to check in at each aid station). They laughed and I overheard a volunteer saying, "Runners are the nicest people". I corrected her saying, "Actually, volunteers are the nicest people."
OK, 5 miles to go. I started picking people off. One after the other (maybe a total of 12). It was nice. No one passed me, just me passing people. The last 2 miles were probably the worst, and the fastest. I just wanted to be done. I rolled my ankle real bad and wiped out twice (the only time all day). Guess I was going a little too fast and too tired on the last descent. But the end was in sight. Well, not really, but figuratively.
Crossed the finish line... and looked at my Garmin. 27.12 miles. No way. No wonder it took forever. (And, yes, I was cutting my tangents.)
I waited and Jim was not too far behind me.
Now onto the post race. They are always the best in Wisconsin.
Jim and I both placed in our age group, so we got huge mugs, that we promptly filled with beer. Here I am, halfway done with my REWARD in my AWARD.
And relax a bit......notice Jim has already drained his glass.
Oh, and who could forget hanging out with our new found spectator friend, Mike. We waited for his wife, so we could cheer her in.
It was a hot, humid and hilly day. The course was hard, but I like challenges and the views made it worth it. I ran most of the race with a great friend and an excellent running companion. Perfect training day for me. Thank you, Jim, for making it happen!