Photo from Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.

"That is happiness; to be disolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep." - Willa Cather

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Mad City 50k

Where to start? How about with this?

You can say what you like - it is all a matter or who shows up or any other truism that makes this win the actual small deal it is - but winning a plaque like this, to me, was a huge deal. I am so proud to become state champion of a sport that I love and am passionate about in the state I was born and raised in the city of UW Madison, my alma mater. What an unbelievable day.

But, the truth is, had all the best female 50k runners in Wisconsin showed up, I wouldn't have had a shot. I can't help thinking of my dad winning the national championship in lawn bowling. Sometimes you are just in the right place at the right time.

The race I am talking about was the Mad City 50k, put on by one of the more enjoyable characters in Wisconsin ultra running, Timo Yanacheck. Here's a photo from the start

There is also a 50k relay at the same time, so that may help explain why people are falling over themselves at the gun.

It is a series of 5 loops of 10k run through Vilas Park and The Arboretum around Lake Wingra in Madision. It is run on mostly streets and paved trails, though there are some opportunities to run on the dirt shoulder. There are two rather formidable hills, or at least they seemed formidable by the last lap, though I hardly noticed them the first.

For both the leading men and women, this was a close, exciting race. From near the beginning, I ran a little less than 8 min per mile pace with Rachel Arthur of Birmingham England, currently living in Memphis, TN. She was great company, and is a fellow science researcher, but when she told me her marathon PR was 3:05, I knew she wouldn't be company for long. And as I stopped to pee at 8km, she pulled ahead. Then at the 10k aid station, two other women passed me.

I am happy to say, I played it smart. I just ran the same pace all along, feeling comfortable, making a conscious effort to never work up a sweat (it was a cool day, in the lower 40's F). I was in such a good mood and actually enjoyed the company of various relay runners.

My 10k splits:

I pretty quickly repassed the two women who had just passed me. And suddenly, on the fourth lap, Rachel Arthur came back into view up ahead and I was getting closer and closer. As I told the relay runner, I was running with "who wins this race is entirely dependent on how much Rachel slows down". My new running friend happened to be from Wisconsin, so she became a huge source of encouragement for me on that lap, as I eventually pulled ahead to first place. Thank you, woman whose name I forgot!

On the last lap, my garmin said about 3:26 as I came through 26.2 miles. Just half a year ago, this would have been a PR! Shortly after this, my knee started bothering me, but Rachel was nowhere in sight now. I felt bad that Rachel seemed to be having a rough day- she is really a nice woman- or was it simply that a 50k is a really different animal than a marathon?

Until the end, I was afraid of another woman catching up since my left knee was making me run slower and slower, but when I rounded the corner, saw Vilas Park and then my wonderful husband, SR, I got tears in my eyes. "There is no one behind you, My Lady", he said and ran along side of me to snap some pictures, while all four kids and my mom waited in the car (too bad it was such a cold day!).

For those of you who haven't figured out my real first name yet...

I finished in 4:09:08. This was a 31 minute PR! (granted my previous PR was from a 6 hour race). After the finish, I told some joke that I thought was really funny. I was still laughing at my own joke here.
And here was perhaps the most awesome unexpected prize: being interviewed for Silent Sports magazine. (they have for years been one of my favorite sports publications and I could tell the reporter, Tom Held, and I shared a similar outlook on life. What day.)

The men's winner, Zach Bitter, set at course record of 3:03:10. Once again I am thankful I'm not a man.

So now my questions:

1. I keep discussing my weight, but how low will it need to go before I start getting slower instead of faster? I'm 105 lbs now, 5'6" (BMI 16.9) which in everybody's text book is considered unhealthy. But why do I feel like a flying wood nymph when I run? And if I am undernourished, how did I make it through a fast 50k? I feel a third confused, a third amazed and a third justified.

2. I just read in Runner's World that salt tabs are dangerous because they cause rapid fluid shifts. Is this common knowledge among ultra runners in the know? I am starting to think they may be partially to blame for my fainting in the shower incident at Syllamo. I only had one salt tab today and relied on mega amounts of heed (and my personal fave gatorade, which I supply myself). I think Heed tastes like weak liquid jello.

3. Can we all just agree that CCU is fully acceptable when running a fast, long race? I lost over a minute stopping to urinate on the first loop. I then did all my urination in the controlled, continuous fashion that avoids full or even crescent mooning.


Julie said...

Congratulations!! You are smokin' fast. :)

Marathon Mom said...

Congratulations on a great race and PR! The course sounds great, I might have to check this one out for next year :)

Olga said...

Congrats on the PR and a great run, but to your questions:
1. whatever rocks your boat, because nobody can do anything anyway, so you'll have to find that final edge yourself.
2. there were number of ultras I ran with no to minimal salt (in tablet form), and as many I do with, I can't tell you which one is better for body, but I know which works best for my stomach and digestion, and that part is important in 50-100M races.
3. I respectfully disagree. Unless you're shooting for an Olympic or world record, there is dignity that is more important than a win, or a 2 minutes PR. By the way, if you took salt, you might have not needed to eliminate as much. I never "go" in 50k, and may be twice in 50M (unless it's freezing cold).

cherelli said...

Wow, freakin' awesome result, niccely done. Perhaps you are in "peak shape" at the moment so all the stars are aligned in terms of weight, training, speed for now. Perhaps at sopme point your nymph-like feeling will change a bit and not be as good? When/if it does take that time to recuperate, gain a few for recovery then resume as you've shown you can lose weight pretty easily when you put your mind to it. TBH in those pics you look actually pretty good, like your typical ultra-slim runner like Paula Radcliffe or something so...that should be ok right????

SteveQ said...

I keep expecting an "April Fools!"

SteveQ said...

Hey, you beat Ryan Dexter and Roy Pirrung... and, if you don't know those names, you'll get booted out of Wisconsin ultramarathoning!

Anonymous said...

Congrats...every cheesehead lady runner needs a Wisconsin shaped plaque to complete her collection.

Isn't it just the best when it all comes together.

I love Heed and don't use any salt tabs if it's not hot. That and Gu roctaine, I am good to go.

Rest well....really!

Karen S

PiccolaPineCone said...

1. that is a gorgeous plaque
2. that is a gorgeous woman holding the gorgeous plaque
3. that is a blazing time
4. i AM surprised you can run that fast and be so skinny. i agree that feeling strong and running well are good indications but i also think that at that weight, things can change quickly i.e. 105 may be okay but 102 may not...
5. i don't think you were in the right place at the right time, you beat a 3:05 marathoner! anything can happen in the marathon and beyond. being a pedigree is no guarantee of a win. you win. fair and square. no need to put quotes around it.
6. i hope you (and steveq) were not offended by my e-mail. it was meant to be a joke but my writing skills lack refinement these days (and all days perhaps) anyway if you were offended.. i am sorry!

Jill Homer said...

Wow, congratulations! Supa fast.

I can't weigh in on fast-people stuff but I almost never use electrolyte drinks or salt tabs, even in day-long events. I won't tout this as a good strategy but sometimes I wonder if our pre-race nutrition gives us more balance than we give it credit for.

Danni said...

Congrats lady!

1. It has less to do with your weight and more to do with your obsession with it and whether you are getting adequate nutrition or putting yourself at long term health risks and/or making yourself crazy. I doubt it feels good to be a prisoner to thinking about weight all the time and making it one of your life priorities (unwittingly).

2. I struggle with electrolyte balance.

3. I have never had to go and been so in need of that 20 seconds that I can't stop.

PiccolaPineCone said...

p.s. still not sure about CCU - not from an etiquette perspective but it seems like it is a sure fire recipe for bad chaffing!

Tracizzle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
sea legs girl said...

Ha wow, yeah it is not every week that I not only beat Roy Pirrung (had no idea who he was- but now I do, thanks, Steve) AND get a comment from the famous, Jill Homer. And Jill I agree with 100% on the pre-race nutrition and hydration and I did that right this race.

Piccola Pinecone, I thought your email was hilarious, you silly girl. Forgive me for not responding!!

Cherelli, I appreciate being compared to Paula R and like it when you call me TBH ;). It does have a nice ring to it.

Danni, your comment number 1 was right on.

kathleen said...

first, congratulations on your ultra win!

second, i just have so many questions about your MD. i think because a lot of my friends have just matched that i am curious about this since i don't know exactly how it works but it looks as though you were doing a surgical residency but then didn't finish. then worked in the ER at night before leaving for denmark.

now you are getting a phD in opthamology. are you also doing a residency in opthamology? basically, when you come back to the states, will you be able to practice medicine or do you still need more years in residency? or will you just do research in a lab type setting and not see patients...

sea legs girl said...

Hi Kathleen

Great question. I actually originally wrote that I matched into a "surgical" residency and not which kind because I thought people could easily figure out who I was. It is not often that people match into Ophthalmology, like I did, and drop out. Eye Surgery, as we all liked to call it, is a very small specialty. But, yes, that is the residency I started. Because I had done Transitional Residency at Gundersen Lutheran in La Crosse, I was able to get a job there as a "general practitioner" but this was an exceptional circumstance because I knew the director of the Urgent Care where I worked very well. Normally you can't get clinical work with just a year of internship. Basically if I want to practice as a physician, I need to complete a residency either here or in Denmark. The problem is degrees in Denmark are often not recognized in the US, but basically all degrees from the US are recognized in Denmark.

I am not doing a residency in ophthalmology now but just a PhD that is actually in Neuroscience. I will probably end up doing a resideny in the US or end up as a researcher, writer, teacher, professional runner :) or something if I don't.

Running with MTP said...

Congrats on the win - I saw you finish and you looked like you were still enjoying yourself. I thought you looked like a runner - Skinny - But not unhealthy.

I agree this was one of the nicer races I have done from the organization to the course to the race bag swag - All 1st class.

For the men there were 2 races - The 1st 4 studs and then the rest of us mortals. My one goal was to start my 5th lap before the winner finished - I made it by 1-2 minutes.

Great race - I hope you are recovering fast!

Michael Henze

Running with MTP said...


On the salt - Nutrition front - I think it depends on the person and their sweat rate. On a summer morning I can run 2 hours - drink 70 ounces from a camelback and still lose 14 pounds. I would not expect what is right for me to be right for you.

I drank 2 glasses of liquid at every 1/2 way and lap aide station, I took 4 s-caps and 8 gels. I was in shorts and short sleeve tech shirt and still managed to sweat at a fairly high rate.

I am 6'2 and normally race (I am a bit heavy right now) and have set all PRs at 200 pounds. This big horse needs hydration, salt and lots of fuel.

My only point is there are many factors to what nutrition (including salt) is right.

Kirstin said...

Hi there. Just found your blog. I blog at (looking at parenting-related research) and at (looking at ultra/fitness research). I'm curious about the salt tabs myself, and have been planning to look at the research on that.

Ana-Maria RunTriLive said...

Awesome race. And in these pics, you look good!

Weight - I think research has shown that on low weight one can run pretty well for about 1 year, and then the body starts falling apart. So, be careful here. 16 BMI is very low:)

Electrolytes. Tim Noakes (major name in running research) just published a study showing that we don't really need electrolytes. Kinda makes sense...the body is smart and can regulate sodium/sweat.
Check it out:

sea legs girl said...

Ana-maria, thank you so much for the link to the Noakes article, but I disagree with his conclusion since there was a statistically significant difference in body weight post exercise in those who drank moderate sodium to those eho had no sodium in their drinks. Certainly electrolyte drinks are whatcI crave most when sweating and i'll stick with them - much safer than water in my opinion, plus much needed calories.

Meghan said...

Congrats on an awesome race!! I found your blog recently, and I really enjoy reading about your races and adventures. I am also a runner...I have completed 12 marathons (3:16 PR a few weeks ago, while still breastfeeding), 4 Ironmans (10:30:07 PR, while still breastfeeding), and I will be running my first ultra (a 50k) in 10 days! I love finding other athletes who are moms, who are fast, who breastfeed and still run crazy distances!! Thanks for the entertainment! And, concerning the CCU, I'm totally for it. Much easier to pee while running than while biking, in my opinion. :)