This race was a reward for me. (First let's just assume that normal people reward themselves with running 32 trail miles.) Although I love road racing and training for road events, I had to give up trail running for a bit in order to completely focus on training for my BQ. I told myself that I would get back to the trails once I qualified for Boston and Dances with Dirt just happened to be 6 weeks after Rockford Marathon so I signed up (despite the fact that I hadn't set foot on a trail of any kind since September of last year.)
I've reached this point with running where I don't really worry too much about not being able to do stuff anymore. Not because I think I'm super amazing, but because I know that somehow I'll be able to get through it. It may not be pretty but i'll get it done. That was my feeling with DWD this year. I figured it wouldn't be pretty, it may take me all day, but I would get that shit done and have a good time doing it. I admit my 20 miler with Sara at Lapham Peak two weeks before the race left me pretty wrecked for a few days, but I also knew this was my one chance to do an ultramarathon this year before I have to focus on road racing again in the fall. I wanted to do it.
Running can surprise you. I have had races where I thought I was totally prepared and ended up flopping. I've also had races where I've surprised myself with an unexpected PR. Luckily this time the DWD 50K surprised me in a good way. I approached this whole run like one big meditation. Again, I'm aware one can just meditate sitting on their duff and not running 32 miles but I was doing this race solo without any running buddies so I approached it as such. Trail running can get very peaceful and introspective anyway so running by myself I just got really wrapped up in the scenery and the air moving in an out of my lungs and the (massive) effort it took me to scale all those hills.
|Top o the bluffs at Devil's Lake. Never gets old.|
Dances with Dirt is an insanely hard course. It's by far the most difficult race I do and that's part of the reason I don't like to set myself a time goal. However once I got to the top of the bluffs about 13 miles in I realized I was going along at a much faster clip than I had in previous years so I decided to see if maybe I could finish in under 7 hours. (Two years ago we finished in 7:30.)
The course was a little different this year in that they removed the section with a gigantic ski hill right at the beginning. I hesitate to say it was "easier" because this course in general eats you up no matter what. I'm sure the lack of ski hill is mostly why I was able to cover ground so much faster this year although I would like to submit this picture:
|Little Trail Runners on the Prairie|
They substituted the ski hill section with 6 miles of prairie. Sun drenched, humid, god forsaken prairie. This was the only real low point of the day for me. I really struggle with prairie sections of trial courses and it was physically and mentally deflating for that stretch. I would argue that the ski hill would have been preferable but who knows. When we finally got back into the woods it felt like a reward to be able to power hike up a 2 mile hill. That's how bad it was.
*I would put my finisher photo here but apparently I only do races with no race photographers these days.
Prairie aside, I'm so glad I put this race on my schedule. Although I love doing trail races with friends, I really enjoyed being out there by myself this year. Also, I haven't run an ultra since the Door County 50 in the fall of 2013 so it feels good to know I can still kick some ultramarathon butt- and on such a hard course! Oh yeah, I finished in 6:54- and the course had almost a whole extra mile this year! Not bad for a road racer, eh? I placed 5th in my age group and got a nifty duffle bag. I'd be lying if I didn't say I've been eyeing more trail run 50Ks and 50 milers again. (Ice Age 50 I'm looking at you for 2016.)
But first, back to the road. I've got a little revenge in mind for Lakefront Marathon in October.