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

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Afton 50k 2012

The Driftless area of MN, IA, IL & WI
The Afton State Park in Minnesota is an unusual and astoundingly beautiful place to run. This is because it lies on the border of "the driftless area" (shaded above), which glaciers missed in the Ice Age. It thus has all of the large, steep hills (bluffs) of the driftless area along with morraines, kettles, eskers and other fun formations from the edge of glaciation. Add to this majestic lookouts over the St. Croix River and you have a varied, technical and gorgeous place for a trail run.

Races like this are what convert road runners to trail runners. A gateway drug of sorts. Your body is challenged in so many ways and you are constantly in awe of the ever-changing surroundings. And, this year it attracted some of the best road racers in the region, including Olympic trials participants (Josh Moen, Nichole Porath, others??).

Also, John Storkamp knows how to organize a race flawlessly. And with so much land to mark and so many participants (600 this year in the 50k and 25k together), I can hardly imagine a tougher job!!

My main "concerns" entering the race were Eve Rukavina, who has been first female in every race she has been in since 2005 (I have blogged about her before because she is one of those thin ultra runners I find so extremely fascinating) and Rebecca George, who has been the first female in every ultra she has been in in the last year and was first overall at the Zumbro 50 miler this year. She is only 29 and an up and coming star.

Yes, you have seen this picture before: Eve accepting her 2010 Afton Prize
Rebecca George winning Chester Woods 50k 2011

Plus there would be April Cole and Valeria de la Rosa to contend with, who have both beaten me at Voyageur. And there could always be female unknowns.

So I had no shot at first or second place and this was not an "A race" for me, but it wasn't simply a training race either. It was a race I wanted to run hard and enjoy, but not risk injury. Okay, let's be honest- I wanted, coveted, NEEDED that third place.

Steve Q, at dinner the night before, was kind enough to remind both SR and I to start conservatively since it is such a challenging course, plus it would be hot (if not as hot as 105 the day before, still hot). He had predicted on his blog that SR would come in fifth for the men and I third for the women. This was a big expectation for me to live up to- but I seemed to think that if I went out slowly enough and had enough fluid in my body that I might be able to pull it off.

At the start, I spotted Eve Rukavina and I stood right behind her as she tucked her long black braid into the strap of her sportsbra. She really is amazingly thin and strong looking at the same time. A fascinating woodland creature. I was right behind her and in front of Becky George (who, as you can see above, is amazingly strong and looks even stronger now) the entire first downhill, but then they both pulled away and Emi Yasaka (a friendly gal from Minneapolis, whose accent sounded Japanese, who was the 2010 winner of Surf the Murph) ran with me for quite a while.

By the time I got to the end of the first 25k loop, Emi was about 2 minutes behind me. I had stayed very hydrated with my Camelbak and had already peed 3 times. After I had refilled it and taken off, running down the big first downhill, I realized the valve to the mouth piece had become detached!!!! PANIC. Yet, don't panic.You can't drink from a Camelbak without this valve, I quickly learned. But, YES! What were the chances that back at the turnaround I would have prepared a belt with a water bottle in it at my drop bag, just in case??? Not high, but I had. I ran back up the hill and got my back-up water bottle and belt! I lost about 5 minutes according to my watch in all this, but I felt revived, knowing I had planned ahead well. Heck, I got a slightly longer race out of it; there's nothing wrong with that! And I had ice-cold gatorade in my bottle from my cooler. The time as I left the halfway point was 2:25 something.

I had saved my "extra gear" for the second loop of 25k (by this I mean I felt I was bursting with energy). I passed Emi while doing 6:30 min/mile pace downhill and felt like I could do the second loop twice as fast. Of course, when you feel like this, you can usually just barely manage an even split. Steve Q, volunteering, was kind enough to let me know I didn't have a shot at catching Eve and mysteriously didn't  mention Rebecca.

The second loop is so much more fun, because you know exactly what to expect and it is all so beautiful and fun that you don't mind doing it all again. During the entire race, I speedwalked all the hills as usual - which is my hybrid walk run that I have learned from hours of watching the sport of speedwalking. This allows me to pass lots of runners on the uphills without tiring my legs.

I was in heaven. With eight miles to go, I was aiming to get under 5 hours, though I knew it would be tough. Yet, I began to realize I am not the runner I used to be. I can keep a good pace at the end of an ultra now. I came across the finish in 4:51 and took third for the females (it is in bold, people, just in case this is all the info you wanted). I had an almost exactly even split, which I was proud of. But the kind of stupid part is I had lots of energy left at the end. Oh, well. Shorter recovery I guess.

Our camera did not work on the trip. We just keep getting this message on it that says "change battery pack". Trust me when I say we've tried to change the battery pack (rather we had just charged it and took put in back in in various ways!

But here is one picture of me by Zach Pierce (it's at about mile three and yes, I was in pain, but it got a lot better):

At the finish, Eve and I discussed the terrors of tapering: "I'm so afraid I will get fat", she said. Sadly, this taper, she actually did get fat and had a big ghetto booty (just like  Jill Homer's  self-proclaimed ghetto booty, which of course she doesn't have either :)).  No, actually, she wasn't fat at all and she ran in an amazing 4:21 something. Rebecca George ended up in second with a time of 4:33. Emi and April ended up finishing just over 10 minutes behind me. And Valeria was a few minutes behind them.

Ok, so SR's race went well- and he did better than Steve Q had predicted. But you need to read his blog for his story and a bit about the men's race.

But one of the best parts about visiting the Twin Cities was
My mom and Pensive Mattias
My sister and Wild Gap Tooth Boy
The following is a poem written about The Afton River in Scotland, which Afton State Park is named after. (and no, "amang" below is not a typo)

Sweet Afton 

by Robert Burns, 1791

Flow gently, sweet Afton! amang thy green braes, 
Flow gently, I'll sing thee a song in thy praise; 
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream, 
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream. 

Thou stockdove whose echo resounds thro' the glen, 
Ye wild whistling blackbirds in yon thorny den, 
Thou green-crested lapwing thy screaming forbear, 
I charge you, disturb not my slumbering Fair. 

How lofty, sweet Afton, thy neighbouring hills, 
Far mark'd with the courses of clear, winding rills; 
There daily I wander as noon rises high, 
My flocks and my Mary's sweet cot in my eye. 

How pleasant thy banks and green valleys below, 
Where, wild in the woodlands, the primroses blow; 
There oft, as mild Ev'ning weeps over the lea, 
The sweet-scented birk shades my Mary and me. 

Thy crystal stream, Afton, how lovely it glides, 
And winds by the cot where my Mary resides; 
How wanton thy waters her snowy feet lave, 
As, gathering sweet flowerets, she stems thy clear wave. 

Flow gently, sweet Afton, amang thy green braes, 
Flow gently, sweet river, the theme of my lays; 
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream, 
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.


Mapp said...

Well done girl! Trail running is magic, isn't it?
Mattias is such a cute baby (and he's got a beautiful Granny, if I may!).

cherelli said...

Wow SLG, you are now in the ranks of ultra-amazing ultra-running women!! Awesome. Oh, and if you needed someone for your study you mentioned a few posts back...I can help :) Don't bother checking my blog for any announcements yet though....

Jacqueline said...

Nice job! You're a beast out there, and I love it!

SteveQ said...

Thank goodness Becky George was there to show you don't have to be skinny to do well! The most interesting thing about the race to me was that Eve really pounded the first loop, completely opposite of what I expected. The first guys hit the half in 1:50, so it was smart of SR not to hang with them. It was great meeting your family - I'd forgotten how rambunctious 4 year-olds were.

Anonymous said...

such a positive post and all i come away with is...had a big ghetto booty (just like Jill Homer ;) big ghetto booty? seriously Tracy?

Alicia said...

Nice leg muscles! And I loved clicking back and forth between the first photo of Becky and the one of you for comedy value on facial expressions:)

Danni said...

Excellent work!

PiccolaPineCone said...

Yippee! Congratulations! You certainly aren't the runner you used to be, your body is fitter and your brain is stronger. And, I think, you care more about running fast than you used to. It all fits together. Enjoy! Well deserved.

p.s. can't believe I am going to write something this mundane as a comment on this post but I just got "change battery pack" also for the first time. I charged the battery and it did the trick...

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

Wait just a minute, Cherelli!!!??? What??? Most of the studies I mention have to do with pregnancy??? Does this mean what I think it means?

sea legs girl said...

Yeah, PPC, we had JUST charged the camera battery, but that must be it. It must have been left on. aaaahhh the mysteries of cameras.

sea legs girl said...

Anon- that was Jill Homer's joke as a comment on this blog and it really made me laugh. We all know Jill Homer has a nice booty, right?

I think from now on when I make a joke, I should write (*JOKE*) afterwards!!

Jill Homer said...

I laughed at the joke. :-)

Congratulations on a great race.

Alicia said...

Hey SLG, any interest in doing a post on the new Tim Noakes book and his ideas on hydration and electrolyte intake? Check out irunfar's summary of the book--I made a couple of comments there, but basically I think I might agree with Noakes' conclusions, although "might" is the key word. I think there are two potential flaws as far as his hydration conclusions: (a) his main conclusion is to drink to thirst, but does the prevalence of nausea (which can make a runner not feel thirsty) in long ultras mean that thirst isn't a reliable indicator? and (b) he concludes there is no relationship between hydration status and kidney function/urine output. I haven't gotten to this section of his book yet so I don't know all the details, but just straight away, personal experience makes me doubt that one. (see my comment on irunfar)

As far as his conclusions about electrolytes, I haven't found any potential flaws yet and it's a very interesting analysis!

I have a copy of the book if you want to borrow it...

stillwaterrunner said...

Great blog. You rocked the course! Getting even CLOSE to a negative split on that course is impressive. Well done.

sea legs girl said...

Jill- phew! Thanks for stopping by. Glad you weren't offended. Now I just need Eve and anonymous to fogive me. Oh, and my husband, who said I shouldn't make fun of what booties in the ghetto look like. Next people will think I'm a racist (that is why I married the whitest guy on earth, after all).

sea legs girl said...

Alicia, I always click on your name hoping you've started a blog, but alas. I would LOVE to borrow his new book and now I've also just checked out his "running lore" or whatever it is called from the library so I can do a whole Noakes mini course. I will just briefly say that I have now had two races after which I went black in the shower and had to lie down until I had drunk enough again to get my senses back. My problem (at least personally) does not seem to relate to too much fluid. I do always wonder how much urine colour post-race is influenced by muscle breakdown. I think I need to read his exact words to comment. But there is no doubt there is a relation between fluid status and urine output (did I just seriously have to write that??)- granted other agents can irritate the bladder and make you pee more often.

SteveQ said...

I haven't read Noakes' new book, but I've been reading all his scientific publications since "Lore of Running." He keeps publishing seeming recantations of his previous work, which might get his publication number up, but makes me doubt anything he says.

Alicia said...

Why would I write a blog when I can just read your excellent one?:)

I've run into another apparent inconsistency in Waterlogged, this time about whether dehydration is a cause of kidney failure in races--I left another (long!) comment on irunfar...

As far as you going black AFTER the race--he has a pretty convincing analysis of why this is exercise-associated postural hypotension and nothing to do with dehydration. Having the athlete lie down and ideally elevating the legs will apparently generally cure this without any rehydration.