Sunday, July 19, 2015

D-Dub-D #4

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.