Yesterday SR and I had the chance to run 50k in on the Chippewa Moraine recreation area, which includes part of the Ice Age Trail in Northern Wisconsin. (I say chance because it was pretty likely that I, now being 26 weeks pregnant, wouldn't be able to run the whole distance. But stay tuned.). This trail system, for those of you unfamiliar with Wisconsin, is just north of Chippewa Falls and in an area where there is a transition zone between the prairies of the Midwest and the coniferous forests of Canada.
Despite me clearly being out of the running for first, I still like eyeing up the men and women and trying to figure out who will win. We had already chatted with Helen Lavin Helen Lavin at our hotel that morning and she seemed like the clear candidate to win the womens' race. She has the female course record and has won the last three years. And then we saw Brian Peterson ,who looked both fit and had the race times to suggest he would win the men's race. But I was secretly hoping SR would surprise everyone and win the artistic rendition of a dissected fish, which was the men's first prize, created by Wynn Davis.
Having gotten up at 4 am, I had found time for a large breakfast and this made the beginning tough. It was also raining a little and cold, which made dressing appropriately a challenge. I had very fortunately received a bunch of awesome Reebok running clothing from Piccola Pinecone, which included the running jacket and pants I wore. Cool stuff. The funny thing was, though, that with the cute pink jacket on, no one could tell I was pregnant.
Which is strange, since it sure seems obvious in this picture from a few hours before the race.
Actually, Ross saw me quickly switch my shirt underneath by the start, revealing my belly, and said "Hey, Sea Legs Girl! I read your blog. I recognize your bump!" He he. I then forgot to even say what my real name was. So he must still think my first name is Sea.
Here is a picture from the rainy, chilly start. You can see Brian Peterson, Helen Lavin and the girl in black all the way to the right was running her first ultra and in Vibrams. Edit: I learned from her comment that she made it to mile 19.5 before her foot was injured. She will certainly be back racing and doing great since she clearly has the right chearful attitude.
After the first mile, I was all the way at the back of the pack, out of breath and feleling crappy. Needless to say, I didn't start out too fast like the rest of the field probably did. Once we got onto nice single track trails in the forest, though, I was in my element. I took it easy, but for nearly the entire first half, I was on track to tie my time from 2008. The was, however a year where the trails were covered with 6 inches of snow. So it made sense my time would be similar. I passed more and more people, which was such a confidence booster.
I should add that this is perhaps the most technical trail race in the Midwest (oops - Helen reminded me of The Superior Hiking Trail races, which I've heard are technical to the extreme). It is not that there is anything completely unrunnable, but you are almost never running on flat land. And the hills are not tiny. Besides this, the trails are very thin and covered with rocks and roots or mud the entire way.
The race is out and back, so that meant I got to see the men's and women's leaders on the way back. And it was very tight in both groups. An unknown woman, who turned out to be Christie Nowak, was in the lead and Helen was actually in 4th, but pretty close behind. The men's race was being led by Brian Peterson, by a narrow margin, and SR was in 6th, but right behind 2nd to 5th. It was a amazing how fast both fields were. I forgot to mention that there were 160 runners, which is a lot for a race on a single track.
Right before the half way point, at around 15 miles, I began thinking my race was over. I started having palpitations. Not just once in a while, but we're talking every other heartbeat and I had a lot of trouble breathing and was afraid I would faint. When I arrived at the aid station, I saw Karen S., who had amazingly been at three aid stations so far. She was a beacon of happiness. I told the workers that I was having palpitations and wondered if they had any electrolyte caps. They rummaged through John Storkamp's drop bag and gave me six (thanks, John!), of which I took two. They reprimanded me for not having taken any so far. I ate and drank a bit and then I was off again. Incredibly, the palpitations were gone and I was back to passing people. I will have to remember to take one or two of those caps when I get palpitations outside of a race.
Then it was just a question of what it was going to be that stopped me from running and, when I did stop, how I would get back to the finish. I know it's a pessimistic attitude, but 31 miles seemed too long in many ways. I was just amazed both my foot and hip weren't giving me problems. Oh and I forgot to mention I had put on the support belt on at the half way point, which was a complete waste and totally irritating. All it did was rub my upper back. It didn't support a thing. And trust me, I readjusted it like 10 times, it wasn't that. I gave it to a spectator, who was heading back to the start.
I put on my music and was still feeling pretty good and had the goal of making it to a marathon. But then, at 18 miles, the contractions started. First mild, but then so painful that I had to take running breaks. By the time they got really strong, at 20 miles, there were two miles form the next aid station. I could run in spurts in the beginning, but then had to just walk. I started getting very cold and my left leg and foot started cramping up. There was absolutely no way to run and walking was very uncomfortable. I talked to people passing me and enjoyed the scenery and my music.
Finally the 22 mile aid station arrived after 5 hours and 15 minutes of being out on the course. The previous director (Rollie?) of the Voyageur trail race was there and took me back to the start. And that was just how the whole day was, aid stations workers and fellow runners willing to help anyone at the drop of a hat.
SR had apparently completed the course exactly an hour before I dropped, in just under 4:15. This was good enough to come in fourth for the men, right in front of fifth and sixth and just behind second and third. The race was won and possibly a course record set (it's down to the second) by Brian Peterson in 3:59.
The women's race was won by Christie Nowak, a cross country skiier from UMD, running her first ultra, in the amazing time of 4:45. Helen came in third in around 5 hours. She was pleased and always has such a good attitude. She said she hasn't trained much at all in six months. Plus she hasn't had time for her Bikram Yoga, and some of you may recall, that is the real secret to her success. Maybe.
There really isn't too much to say about my race. If I had been running ultras since the beginning of the pregnancy, maybe I would have made it further before Braxton Hicks contractions set in, but I'm not sure. I also think part of it was I was having trouble eating or drinking during the race because it just seemed there was no room in my stomach. Dehydration probably brought the contractions on sooner than later. But running for such a long time on such a technical course at 26 weeks is nothing to be ashamed of and, importantly it was really fun until the last couple of miles. PLUS, I'm still not injured! I'm still a pregnant runner and the baby is doing fine. So there was a happy, albeit unimpressive, ending to the attempt at the pregnant ultra.
SR was really pleased with his race and even hinted that he had wished it had been a fifty miler so he could have done better. Hmmm. Gotta admit I'm dreaming of fifty milers, too. Right now, it may not even be in my cards to run a marathon, but I know I'll be back out there in a matter of months competing seriously in 50 milers. For a little while yet, it's a matter of obeying my ever growing, ever changing body, and enjoying that, too.
Here are SR and I on a little hike by Mirror Lake in Wisconsin Dells on the way back to my parents' Easter Morning.
And The Lorax organizing his treasures from our Easter Egg Hunt.