"Take a course in good water and air; and in the eternal youth of Nature you may renew your own. Go quietly, alone; no harm will befall you." ~ John Muir
6 p.m. on Thursday, November 5, 2015 at Cyclova XC:
Adventure: Duane Lee and Tom Anderson present "A Long Way to go For a Birthday Party: Paddling the Utukok." This is a short film and slide show on their 2015 Alaska paddling adventure that covered 230 miles of the Utukok River, which rises in the Brooks Range and empties into the Chukchi Sea of the Arctic Ocean. With no sign of civilization for as far as the eye can see, four men venture out on nearly a month long trip to the far reaches of Alaska. They encounter Inuit tribes, rare flora and fauna, and a beautiful and vast wilderness that cannot be reproduced. These hearty travellers map their own route, dehydrate their food, and pack their gear to be dropped by bush plane in the true wild of North America! You won't want to miss this one! Come journey with them through the images and stories they returned with.
Tech: Duane Lee, Cyclova's very own adventure-lover, discusses trip planning. Get tips from a seasoned traveler on mapping, food preparation, packing, and more. Have a trip you'd like to plan? Just ask Duane for his advice; odds are he's been there and he'll practically plan the trip for you!
|Home, Sweet Home: Duane & Tom's adventuring party take a break in their cozy accommodations along the Utukok.|
As always these events are FREE and open for all to attend! There will be an intermission between the two presentations with snacks, beverages and plenty of time for socializing! For the full Winter-Spring 2015-16 Adventure and Tech Social Series line-up click here.
It's time! We're anxiously awaiting snow's arrival here at Cyclova XC! Our fat bikes are ready to roll and our skis are begging for fresh groomed trails! With the sun settings earlier by the day, we are preparing some fun nights at Cyclova XC with the gang. Our Winter-Spring Adventure and Tech Social Series will be kicking off on November 5th and this year's line-up is stellar! We have something for every type of adventure lover. Attendees can expect to hear colossal adventure stories, view slide shows and videos on our big screen, learn about a tech topic from an industry expert, and connect with local people that share a passion for outdoor adventure! As always, these events are FREE and are open for anyone to attend!
6 p.m. on Thursday, November 5, 2015 - Paddling Alaska and Trip Planning:
Adventure: Duane Lee and Tom Anderson present "A Long Way to go For a Birthday Party: Paddling the Utukok." This is a short film and slide show on their 2015 Alaska paddling adventure that covered 230 miles of the Utukok River, which rises in the Brooks Range and empties into the Chukchi Sea of the Arctic Ocean. These guys map their own route, dehydrate their food, and pack their gear to be dropped by bush plane in the true wild of North America! You won't want to miss this one!
Adventure: Ben Jonjak, co-owner of Cyclova XC, presents on the Cyclova XC Peruvian Expeditions, from Mancora to Machu Picchu! Come and hear the agenda for the Peru guided tour which features all the major sites the the Sacred Valley of the Incas. A slideshow will showcase the 2015 trip and adventurous souls will be recruited to join the 2016 expedition!
Tech: Frank Lundeen, co-owner of Cyclova XC, discusses the trends and technologies in the rapidly expanding fat bike industry. Learn about the history of fat biking, tech tips, and the winter gear that bites back at our harsh Midwest winters. Get the low-down on trail grooming techniques and machines, the volunteers behind our trails, and the benefits of riding on groomed snow versus back-country powder. They say "Fatter is Funner"- come find out why!
6 p.m. on Thursday, December 3, 2015 - North Of Highway 8 and Ultra-light Camping:
Adventure: Dan Woll, author and seasoned adventurer, shares tales from his cabin on North Pipe Lake and his various athletic feats. Dan will be accompanied by his beloved and furry side-kick, "Bosko" the Bernese Mountain dog. Copies of his multiple books, including North of Highway 8, will be available for purchase that night- get your autographed copies and curl up this winter for some good laughs!
Tech: Frank Lundeen, co-owner of Cyclova XC, will discuss ultralight camping gear. Learn about the products that truly lighten your load, keep you comfortable and protect your gear in the elements. Travel light as a feather; maximize your space and energy on your next adventure.
Saturday, December 19, 2015 starting at 10 a.m.: Cyclova XC proudly presents the Solstice Chase Fat Bike Race, part of the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series. Get your fat bike tuned up for a wickedly fun race, or gather your cowbells for some spectacular spectating at Big Rock Creek Retreat in beautiful St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin!
6 p.m. on Thursday, January 7, 2016 - Ultra Cold Endurance and Marathon Training What Not To Do:
Adventure: Jason Husveth, founder of Critical Connections Ecological Services Inc., presents on the Arrowhead 135, considered to be one of the world's toughest endurance challenges. Jason is a two-time finisher, having hiked and biked this brutally rugged and cold course, with plans to traverse it on skis this year. He'll detail his experiences; challenges of conditions, the logistics and gear, and what can go wrong- or right. See his bike, sled and harnesses and learn how he prepares his gear, hydration and nutritional fuel for the different modes of travel.
6 p.m. on Thursday, January 21, 2016 - In a New Light Photography and XC Ski Waxing Fundamentals:
Tech: Frank Lundeen, co-owner of Cyclova XC, will reveal the much anticipated 2016 Birkie race wax recommendations and demonstrate glide wax application methods that will improve your ski speed and race results. Learn how to maximize the time and money spent waxing your skis. There will be plenty of time for Q & A as well! Just in time to ski your best Birkie ever! Catch the FEVER!
Adventure: Joshua Stamper, founder of the Gravel Conspiracy, a three-day, nearly 300 mile, bike expedition which traverses the Laurential Divide through rugged and remote Northern Minnesota. He will present slides from past conspiracies and reveal some exciting new details and changes coming to the 2016 Gravel Conspiracy. Get inspired and harness your inner adventurer; you'll be compelled to join the crew for the next Conspiracy!
Tech: Frank Lundeen, co-owner of Cyclova XC and three-time Gravel Conspirator, discusses the rapidly growing gravel bike scene. He'll share gravel adventure tips, talk about frame geometry and technologies that set gravel bikes aside from the rest, and show you the simple and affordable gear that is sure to make your gravel cycling the most enjoyable experience! Catch the "Gravel Bug" and get out with the crew on our next expedition!
6 p.m. on Thursday, March 10, 2016 - Scenic Saint Croix and Bike Training with Power:
Adventure: John Schletty, local photographer and nature enthusiast, presents slides from his paddling and hiking adventures along the Saint Croix National Riverway. Come experience the wonders of the Northwoods flora, fauna, and landscapes through his photography.
Tech: Our Tech Presention will be led by Jim Kelley, a local Ironman and Birkie veteran. Jim will present "What's a Watt? - Bike Training with Power". Topics will include: a comparison of training by heart rate versus power; the basic metrics used in training with power; a review of the various powermeters found in the marketplace; applications to road, gravel and mountain biking; and a question and answer session. Jim has 40 years of endurance sports experience, is a USAT Level 1 Certified Coach, and is Owner and Head Coach of PR-Endurance.
RESCHEDULED - 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 21, 2016 - Lake Superior Adventures and Bike Maintenance Basics:
MORE SPRING EVENT DATES TO BE ANNOUNCED... Stay tuned for Mammoth Gravel Classic details...
|#75 in the books at Mankato MN|
- He started running on June 18th, 2002 and has logged every mile run since then
- His fastest marathon was December 2004 in Las Vegas NV where he ran a 3:31
- His slowest marathon was May 2014 at the Superior 50 in Grand Marais MN. The trail was covered with water and mud and it took 9:29
- Eric’s favorite marathon is Death Valley CA from 2013
- In 2004, Eric ran the New York City Marathon with over 44,000 runners
- He ran 4 marathons within 13 days, 2 of them at over 6,800 feet of elevation
- He’s never dropped out of a marathon to date
- Eric has run Grandma’s marathon 13 consecutive years
- Eric has run over 10,000 miles since 2002
- Eric finished the Boston Marathon 3 times: 2009, 2010, 2011
- He ran 40 miles on his 40th birthday but does not include that achievement in his marathon tally
- When Eric gets a new pair of running shoes, he ties them the first time he puts them on and never unties them. Instead, he slips them on and off sometimes running 8 to 10 marathons with the same pair and the same first knot.
- Eric does not listen to music while he runs (it’s too hard to talk over)
- Eric is also the Race Director of the Gandy Dancer Trail Marathon
|Eric Finishing up an Ironman Triathlon|
Time to start thinking about Fat Biking! Our flagship bike race, The Solstice Chase, is open for registration. The price is $35 until tomorrow and then it jumps to $45 so get in now!
This is the first event in the Great Lakes Fat Bike Series and whether you want to ride or spectate, 12/19/15 is a date to circle on the calendar! See you in St. Croix Falls!
As much as I had an A race this fall, this was it. If you know me, my real A race is the Birkie, so this is just a step along the way. But, I figured I should make this a big step.
Last year I had planned on running the half here until my less than desired Birkie full marathon result resulting in a switch to run the full here two weeks later. I ended up setting my marathon PR by over 27 minutes so it was a big success.
That success didn't come without a price though. I spent the next week afterwards with plenty of issues I won't go into details on here. The end result though was that I did not have any real desire to come back and try to repeat this year. Thus the plan to actually race the half.
If you've been following along with my last few running race reports I've been working on pacing strategies based on heart rate. I've been fine tuning things over the course of the Sasquatch Dash Finale (13.5 miles), O'Brien 10 miler, and the Birkie Trail Half Marathon. I've upped the effort at each race and found I still had something in the tank at each one.
The big catch with all of my prep races was that they were trail races. Lots of hills both up and down making the effort variable. The Gandy is comparatively flat and was going to require a very steady output of effort.
The updated plan for the Gandy was:
First 6.55 miles:
- HR 171-172
- Run my own race
- Begin increasing effort steadily
- Run by feel
- Start racing those around me
|Marathon Start. Photo Credit: Ben Jonjak|
Jim decided things had gone out too slow and accelerated at about the first mile marker. And the field went with him. As I said, I was right around my HR target so I throttled my effort and watched as the first three guys moved ahead, then Joe moved on, then a few people passed me, then Dan Undem passed me, then a few more people passed me.
I was committed to racing my race though. My HRs were right on target so I continued to keep things in check despite being discouraged that the field was moving away. What was more discouraging was the splits also started slowing down almost immediately. By mile 5 I had a 7:48 mile which was almost a minute per mile slower than a 1:30 finish.
Adam Lushanko wanted to be sure he was mentioned in the report, so here is your paragraph Adam. Adam is prepping for Mankato Marathon this weekend. He says that is his A race, so he was going to come do this for fun. Right off the line he shot in front of me to say he was winning. He shortly then said the fun was over and he was going to drift back and just have a fun run. By mile one he was back again. A little later he said he was going to drop off, and then less than a mile later he was back again. This happened repeatedly all the way to Frederick. I hope he did eventually save some energy because he still has to race this weekend. All the while I was working on focusing on my own race. I had a plan I was executing and I was doing my best to not let myself be distracted.
Approaching the turnaround I gauged my gap to the runners in front of me as they were heading back for Luck. There were 11 of them. I didn't estimate the leaders, but I think Dan Undem had roughly 3 minutes on me and Joe Jensen and a small group were around 2.
|Some of the guys up the trail ahead of ahead of me. Yes, the guy pushing the double stroller was ahead of me. He finished fourth. Photo Credit: Charlie Strantz|
There were two guys just up the trail and it wasn't long before I caught the first one. As I passed him I saw the next person pull up to walk so I encouraged the guy I was passing to go with and get the next guy. After those first two passes, other than the stream of runners coming the other way, there was a lot of open trail ahead of me. I cheered and high fived friends coming the other way. For a little while I thought maybe 10th was where I was going to finish because the gap was too great to anyone else.
The higher effort was starting to feel like it was higher effort to. When you start doing the mental math of how much longer you have to run and start wondering if you can keep the effort up that long you know you are starting to push it.
Somewhere around mile 8.5 I caught another long enough straightaway that I could see the next set of guys up the trail from me. A split check against them told me I was gaining ground. They were something around a minute ahead of me. That was a good sign since just two miles before I had estimated them to be about 2 minutes up on me.
I kept at it trying to keep the effort high, but not pushing harder than necessary to catch them and blow up. I kept checking splits against the patches of sun light and the gap was steadily decreasing. Somewhere between mile 9 and 10 I started over taking runners. One at a time I would catch one and we would grunt our good jobs and then I would continue on looking up the trail to the next runner.
I could see that one of the guys was making good ground himself and was making passes. He pretty much seemed out of touch. Somewhere past mile 10, with under 5k to go, we found the section of trail lined right up with the wind. I caught one guy and ran right behind him for probably 100 meters before making the pass just to take a little break from the wind.
It was right around mile 11 that the doubt about my effort level was really kicking up. The urge to slow down was increasing rapidly. Any confidence in catching anyone else was fading rapidly. I thought maybe I had pushed too hard too soon and I was going to blow-up spectacularly.
|Not looking too bad considering how much I wanted to be done here around mile 12. Photo Credit: Ben Jonjak|
Shortly after turning onto Main Street I pulled up next to the guy and after an exceptionally short and incoherent grunt of good job I continued on down Main Street in hopes that the guy wouldn't kick and pass me back.
Looking at the map after the race, the run down Main Street appears to be just over a third of a mile. On race day I'm pretty sure it was well over a mile. My "kick" was pretty anemic compared to the last few running races. Not non-existant. Looks like I managed close to a 6:30 pace for the last quarter of a mile. I was verging on puking down the straight away though.
|There is a more appropriately pained expression pushing for the finish line. Photo Credit: Gopher State Events|
I finished with a time of 1:36:18, sixth overall, third in the M30-39 age group.
I was honestly hoping to have a little faster finish time. I had been doing a series of 3k time trials this summer that were suggesting I was pushing closer to 1:30. But that is the problem with estimating times from other efforts, they are just equivalent performances assuming adequate training. I have not been exclusively run focused nor have I been doing many long runs. So this was really what I said, a HOPE that I could run faster.
Ignoring the time, I am really happy with the race. I had a plan that I executed nearly to perfection. From mile 1 to mile 6 my average HR was 172.7 so just a touch above my target. From there I picked up the effort and when I got to the finish line I was just hanging on. There wasn't anything left in the tank for a sprint and I hadn't yet quite got to the point of blowing up and fading.
As you can see I managed to negative split the run by about a minute. I still have to say that passing people at the end of a race is way more fun that staggering in as people go streaming by.
So I'm definitely happy with my performance. A pretty dialed race execution and as always, room to fine tune engine.
One last quick note that this is a PR for 10 mile and half marathon since I resumed being reasonably fit back in 2009. And as a matter of fact, every distance between 10 mile and 26.2 miles have been PRd at the Gandy now.
In its second year, the Gandy was even better than the first. I'm not sure how much it grew, but it definitely felt bigger this year. Everything I saw ran super smoothly. Aid stations were well staffed. All the volunteers were friendly. I had a great time cheering on my friends running and visiting with runners after the race and spectating the marathon finish. This is definitely a race worth putting on the calendar.
I think I am currently only signed up for two races. The Icebox 480 and the Birkie. I will likely do a road 5k on Thanksgiving since it starts less than a mile from my house and I'm curious where my 5k fitness is at.
I signed up for the Icebox on a whim really. I have been thinking the "see how far you can run in a set amount of time" format sounded interesting. I saw a flier for the Icebox a month ago, but when Jim Thanig signed up that was enough of a kick in the pants to sign up myself. This is going to be a low key race. Goal one is to not get hurt. Two is probably to set an all time distance PR (50k). Beyond that I'm just hoping to have fun.
Obviously I'll be doing more ski racing before the Birkie, but I haven't signed up yet. I'm sure I'll do some of the early season shorter stuff, maybe an Elm Creek Wednesday night or two. I will also be in for a few of the marathons before. Maybe SISU, maybe Seeley, maybe City of Lakes, maybe Vasaloppet.
I'm running a bit of a back log here. The Gravel Conspiracy recap took a bit more effort than I had intended and it held up reporting an subsequent reports. I continue to get the occasional comment from folks saying they enjoy reading my reports so I intend to keep them coming until the number of negative comments exceed the positive ones.
William O'Brien 10 Miler
I've been meaning to run this race on my "home course" for the last few years. Last year I was signed up to do the event when it was in June, but then it got moved to the week before the Birkie Trail Marathon due to the extremely wet spring we. I had to bow out because it was too close to my A race. I had originally deferred my entry to this year, but ultimately used my entry on the Chippewa 50k (kudos to Randy at Front Runner on the great policy). In any case I hadn't planned to run this year, but got an email on the Friday before the race about it. By Saturday night I decided to sign up and race on Sunday morning. So not a great deal of time to mentally prepare for the race.
The plan I developed on the way to the race in the morning was to build on what I had learned at the Sasquatch dash. That was two fold. One, be more diligent about keeping the effort level up on downhills. At the Sasquatch Dash I hit my predefined limit and then I wasn't as quick to pick up the pace again after recovering. Two, set the governor a little higher. At the dash I set a max of 165, here I decided that the race was shorter and the weather cooler so I decided on 168-170. Otherwise it was again a race my own race, don't get too caught up in anyone else's race.
The course starts at the visitor center, heads down to the lower park area, past the lake, up the river and then back up to the visitor center before making a full circuit of the upper trails. Let's break it down mile by mile.
|WOB 10 Mile Race Course|
This mile has the major downhill to the lower area of the park. It started out reasonably hot and I tried to coast the downhill as best as possible. Other than the initial rev up, I was already bumping up against the 170 limit as we started past Lake Alice. I was somewhere around 10th place through the first mile with everyone pretty well pulling away from me.
This mile was very uneventful as we looped around the lower park along the river. I was doing a good job of hitting my target with HRs between 168 and 172. I was a little disappointed that the group ahead was continuing to pull away until they were out of sight but I had a plan and I needed to execute it.
We climbed back up to the visitor center and started around the upper loop in this mile. The 125+ foot climb was "fun". I peaked out at 177 during the climb so I had to relax a little bit to bring things back under control at the top of the hill. I had one person pass me at the top and another who almost passed and then apparently had to stop and tie a shoe.
Shoe tieing guy passed me in the next mile. We had a quick chat about the course getting serious in another mile. This one is the false flat through the swamp under the railroad tracks and almost to the Turkey Loop (Hardwood Hills Trial officially I guess). I was holding a pretty steady 170-171 through this mile. I was still feeling pretty good, but only 4 miles into a 10 mile race there is still plenty of time to have over done it so I stayed the course.
This mile is mostly just the Turkey Loop. The big climb and then rollers. I again went over the limit on the hill hitting 176 on the first climb and then 175 on the first climb just after the loop. I did my best to open things up on the downhills and let my momentum carry me as fast as possible. I was keeping the shoe tieing guy in sight, but he had a healthy gap. Towards the end he was closing on another guy.
This connected the end of the Turkey Loop with the "New Trail". Turns out it is officially Woodland Edge Trail and Rolling Hills Savanna Trail. Not much to say about this mile again other than creeping over my limits on the bigger hills but keeping the recovery from falling too low. Leaving the woods I could see STG (shoe tieing guy), the guy he was gaining on, and the first place woman heading over the hill ahead. This gave me some more confidence that if I kept feeling good I stood a good chance of pulling those folks in over the last third of the race.
I continued to exceed my predefined limit on the hills again hitting 175/176. The average HR crept up to 172 on this mile. After a surge the guy who had been between STG and the lead woman completely blew up. Ouch. Been there. I didn't seem to be gaining any time on the other two though. I also got passed in this mile. I'm not sure what the guy was doing the first part of the race, but I felt like I was standing still when he went by and he disappeared in a hurry so he wasn't faking it.
South America (Prairie Overlook Trail). I continued to feel pretty good despite exceeding my plans slightly. The climb up to the top was pretty tough and I was getting a touch of feeling tired. But I knew from the top I had the punchy double hill out of South America and Gum Hill (Wedge Hill Savanna Trail) to go in the last 2.5 miles. I took splits to the two in front of me and had 1 minute and 45 second gaps. I thought that was a fair bit, but not impossible. I let it rip down the hills and gave the hill out of South America a good steady effort. Another uptick in average HR here to 173.
At this point I was committed to abandoning the plan and going for it. I was still feeling good (well as good as you feel after running fairly hard for 50+ minutes. I figured I was sitting in 11th place and wanted a shot at the top 10. Over the railroad tracks and through the swamp I felt like I was moving really well, but I couldn't catch sight of the two I was chasing. At the base of Gum Hill they finally came into view. It looked like I had maybe eaten up half of the gap over the last mile plus.
Knowing this was the last hill which would be followed by a mostly flat crossing the top of Wedge Hill, the S-Hill, and the final field, it was really time to give it. I ran Gum Hill hard. As I crested the hill and turned left into the field I hit mile 9 and my HR was 183. I had averaged 176 for the last mile. Plan out the window. Time to just hold on.
Mile 10 + 0.1
STG was now only maybe 50m ahead of me. I gave myself maybe 30 seconds to recover, though my HR disputes any recovery before I went after him. I wanted to be sure that when I passed him I made it fairly definitive. I had just taken 45 seconds out of him in the last 1.5 miles so I was moving pretty good relative, but maybe he was conserving. As came up on his shoulder I said it was all downhill from here. Maybe it was what I wanted to see, but I'm pretty sure I got a look of "where the hell did you come from and how are you trying to hold a conversation". That is so much more fun than the 1,000 yard stare after blowing up I'm used to giving to other people.
Having demoralized STG I took off after the lead woman. I was still moving really well (managed to run a 6:45 pace across the top of the hill) and caught her just before heading down the S-Hill. I bombed the S-Hill and poured everything I had left into the quarter mile finish. I'm really pretty amazed with my finishing kick. Sub 6 for the last quarter mile. Not too shabby after 10 miles. Avg hr of 182 with a max of 185 in the last 1.1 miles.
|Mile splits and associated avg hr. Look at those last two miles + 0.1 mile. Probably a little too much left in the tank.|
Final time of 1:16:47 (7:36/mile) good for 9th overall. I'm pretty happy with the result. I'm also really happy with the overall execution as I learned a little more about racing this type of distance. Namely that I can go harder. I really pushed hard those last two miles and didn't blow up. I'm not sure how to translate that into spreading that effort out over the rest of the race and determining how much faster I could have been. Something to try at the next race.
And just like that, we are at the next race, the Birkie Trail run. While I love the Birkie Trail and the event is super well run, after last year's full marathon where I blew up pretty spectacularly my motivation to try again was fairly low. Starr was pretty adamant that she wanted to do it again, so since I was going to be there anyway I decided I better do something.
I signed up for the half marathon just prior to one of the last price hikes. It isn't the cheapest race around, but I'm willing to pay a little extra for the Birkie name since they back it up with a quality event. Not too long after that Ben Popp, Birkie Foundation Executive Director, put out a call to run the marathon relay with him. I put my name in the hat, but ultimately wanted to run a little more than the relay leg options. In the end he said he had a replacement for me if I wanted out. I took him up on that, but more on the replacement in a little bit.
Just like the Gravel Conspiracy we drove up the night before and car camped at the start line. That was a new option this year and it worked out great. I wish we could have been there earlier to take advantage of the socialization. Even though we couldn't socialize we did save the crazy-o-clock alarm if we were going to drive up the morning of.
|That is us three doors down from Eric's bus.|
I got a quick warm-up in and rolled up to the start line by Kevin Rogers and waited for the "Ready, Go" command. Seriously, I don't think a ready command, followed by an unceremonious go command 30 seconds later is the best way to start. But that is just me.
Following up on the lessons from the week before at the O'Brien 10-miler I had didn't want to change my plan dramatically but I had a few thoughts. First this was going to be a little longer with a stated distance of 12.5. Secondly the hills are bigger and steeper here.
- Target a HR of roughly 170-172. Go slightly harder, but not too much because this course is harder and longer.
- Walking hills was expected as they are steeper and longer here. Keep an eye on overshooting on the hills but be sure pick it up again before too much recovery.
- As always, run my own race.
For the first half a mile or so I ran on Kevin's shoulder. He then moved to the front of the group we were running behind and then he was gone never to be seen again. The climb from the trail head up to the Birkie Trail proper is just that, a climb. It is about 1.7 miles to the Birkie Trail and it has a net gain of over 250'. Needless to say, I didn't have much trouble getting to my target HR. This early though I was able to only take one very short power hike break to keep things under control.
Out onto the main trail there is an initial descent and then the climbs really start. It wasn't very long before I was power hiking the hills to keep my effort levels in check. Even then I was getting my HR above target, but nothing more than a couple of bpm. During this stretch I had a few people pass me as they kept on plugging up the hills. I was optimistic they were going to over do it and I was racing smart and I would see them again before the finish.
I made it to the Boedecker aid station where I took a quick cup of water and continued on. The turn around for the half marathon was not nearly as far down the trail as I thought it was. I thought we followed the marathon course for the whole southern loop, but where as they turned almost to OO, we turned around and hopped onto the Birkie Classic Trail just over half a mile out of Boedecker. Which meant we were back at Boedecker not quite 2 miles later at just over 5.5 miles in.
I was still feeling good at this point. There were a few of the people who had passed me not too far up the trail ahead of me. One of them was putting time into me gaining on the person ahead. I'll call them Red and Blue. Red had been trailing me for a while until between the Boedeckers until he passed me and was gaining on Blue who had took off long before Boedecker.
As we reached the sweet CAMBA single track and hopped on the Seeley Pass trail, I was probably about a minute down to Red and Blue who were not separated by much. The single track is tight though so they immediately disappeared as I got a big grin on my face as I settled in to try and flow the trails by foot instead of by bike. Unfortunately that is easier said than done. It is still some super sweet trail though and it was a great day to be running through the woods.
The first mile of the single track descends fairly consistently before hitting a little open field where you do a big loop and head back into the woods to start the climb towards the high point. This was the first time since hitting the single track that I caught sight of Red and Blue again. They were running together and I took a quick split and they had about 45 seconds on me.
This was just after mile 7 and things were still feeling good. I was doing some mental math and figured I had roughly an hour or less of running to do. I wasn't really ready to deviate from the plan yet, but the constant climbing that never reached the pitch where I felt like I had to walk resulted in me pushing a bit higher than plan. That next mile, while happening to be the slowest split thus far by over 2 minutes was also at an average HR of 174.
Another small part of what raised the HR was I was starting to get sucked into someone elses race. On one of the switchbacks I noticed that I was gaining on Red and Blue. While I wasn't necessarily pushing to catch them, I certainly wasn't backing off to let them disappear again. Right around the end of this mile I finally closed the gap and figured I would sit in behind them and recover. My thought process at the time was if I could run for several minutes at 170 or less I would go ahead and make the pass and push on. If not, I would sit in until someone else made a move and decide then.
As it turns out I was still running around 172 and maybe 3 or 4 minutes later Red decided it was time to pass Blue. I was quick to decide I was going with him. Things definitely heated up at that point. It was probably about 1/3 of a mile and we hit the Birkie Trail and the high point. Over that stretch we proceeded to drop Blue who clearly was redlined and we caught another guy struggling who said he was going to hop on the train. I encouraged him to climb aboard, but he was unhitched almost immediately. Not terribly surprising as he was clearly struggling and Red and I had just upped the effort. I personally averaged 176 over that stretch.
Red and I complimented each other on the push to the high point and then agreed to push and pull each other along for a while. I took the lead at that point and proceeded to surprise the heck out of myself. Still feeling pretty good despite being 9 miles into the race and having been pushing harder than originally planned for the last two miles, I made the decision that the original plan again appeared too conservative and it was time to run by perceived effort instead of HR.
HRs continued to climb, paces continued to drop, as did the elevation. Miles 9 and 10 which got me almost back to the top of the Birkie Ridge trail were with HRs of 175 and 178 respectively. I was definitely feeling it, but not in the I'm almost blown-up kind of way. Red was still right with me but I was feeling confident that I was still in control. I figured that was a really good sign considering the HR was well above what I had originally figured was the effort level required for this duration.
As we hit the Birkie Ridge trail my plan was to open it up on the downhills and use momentum as best I could, but to then take one of the few uphills and try to break Red. I decided to take the first one, but underestimated the size of it. This particular one climbed about 30 feet and then turned a 90 corner and climbed another 15. I pushed hard and could feel the gap open behind me, but I could feel that I had almost buried myself when I got to the top. Looks like I hit 186 at the top of the hill and considering the highest I've ever seen is 192, I was definitely burning most of the remaining matches.
Based on the encouragement from the nordic trekers I was scaring when I would blow past them I could tell that I hadn't definitively dropped Red. I was disappointed it hadn't worked, but I wasn't giving up just yet. I would say I recovered the rest of the way down, but that isn't really true. I took the foot off the gas some and knew that Red had caught back up, but I wasn't trying to drop him anymore.
For a distance guy, I've always had decent top end speed. Fast twitch muscles are some of the first things to go and I'm not the youngest guy out there any more. But my guess was that I had 20 years on Red and I was betting on my kick to take the finish.
As we were approaching sight of the finish line Red and I exchanged a few brief words. He said he hoped he was pushing me. I assured him he definitely was. Then we both encouraged each other to finish it out strong.
From the exit of the woods to the finish line was probably a touch over 200m. There was little dip and a very gentle rise to the finish chute. We both opened it up down through the dip. As we entered the fenced area with probably 100m to go I really kicked. And Red was still right on my shoulder. Damn. With probably 30m to go I found another gear and was all out sprinting for the finish.
It was close, but I took the sprint finish for 22nd place by a stride or so. Remember I said my max HR was 192. I hit 190 at the finish line.
Red and I shook hands and congratulated each other on a fantastic race. I can say without a doubt, he pushed me to run those last 4 miles much harder than I would have on my own. I'm guessing it was maybe two or more minutes he pushed me to shave off.
So the third race in row where I had a plan, executed it for a large portion of the race before determining it was on the conservative side. This is probably the more fun way to find the limit than crossing it and blowing up at each race while backing it down to find the limit.
Overall I'm very pleased with the race. I continue to learn more about racing smart and this was a good result.
Back to my relay replacement. Ben got Birkie Ambassador, Minnesota native and MSHSL nordic champ, future Olympian, Annie Hart to replace me. Probably an upgrade.
|Me and my relay replacement Annie Hart.|
Mullin's What's Next
Gandy Dancer half marathon tomorrow!
I blame Jim Thanig, but we signed up for the Ice Box 480 on November 7th. What could go wrong with running 8 hours at White Tail Ridge?
It won't be long and we will be on snow. Ski season!
- The 1st Leg runners will head south on the Gandy Dancer Trail from the start line (5.9 miles)
- The 2nd Leg runner will exchange at the 200th Ave Aid Station, continue South to the turn-around point and then head back to Luck (7.2 miles)