This past summer I got a chance to run with Rob Krar when he traveled through the mid-west promoting the North Face Endurance Challenge Wisconsin event, held this past weekend. While Rob and I are practically best friends now (I wish), I did get the opportunity to rub elbows with some of the folks at The North Face and Fleet Feet of Chicago. After an hour of chit-chat on the trail...they hooked me up with a free entry to the race. How could I pass that up?
While my long term goal remains committed to dominating the IMLP course in 2018...I knew I would need several intermediate goals along the way. Biking, and getting wicked strong on the bike is my priority...getting proficient in the swim is up there...and building a set of superman, cramp resistant legs also made the list.
My struggles late in the run of IMLP opened up my eyes to a new sort of pain all together. So I've set out to replicate that as many times as possible over the next few years. Last year I tackled my first ultra, a 50k...and found that dark place during the last few miles. The North Face Challenge offered up the same opportunity. My goal was to run it considerably undertrained for the distance. I knocked out a few long runs throughout September, but non of my training was really geared toward a 26 mile trail run. I approached the race as a training effort...knowing that once in the race, I would try and push the pace as much as I could. Mission accomplished.
Race morning was cold. 50 degrees and windy. Perfect conditions for a trail race. I wore my Salomon S-Lab shoes with gaiters and Salomon Skin S-Lab hydration pack with 20 oz of water in the front. I wore my North Face "Better Than Naked" shorts and shirts, hat, arm warmers and carried a hand held. All good choices.
Pre Race meal: Since it was a low importance race, I experimented a bit and went with high protein/fat to see how my body would response. Three eggs and an avocado. I threw in an Extended Nutrition bar a couple hours prior to race for a few more calories and hopefully a nice steady blood sugar level. All of that set well as I made the two hour journey up to Kettle Moraine. Along the way I sipped my "endurance elixor" (water, apple cider vinegar, Tailwind, Emergency Vitamin C, Nuun, beet juice, maca powder and chia seeds)
Got to meet some nice folks at the start line as we huddled around some fires and stayed warm. I took in a few more calories but really resisted the urge to over do calories or water. Listen to your body was my mantra.
The first ten miles: My goal for the first ten was to take the pace wicked easy. Stupid easy. Walk some of the steep climbs and take care of the body early. I ended up averaging around 8:30 for the first 10 miles. Probably a little faster than I should have gone out...but I WAS TRYING to be stupid easy. I took in a new bottle of Tailwind around mile 7.
The 2nd ten miles: My goal for these middle miles was to race. Pick up the pace and compete. I was trying to run 8:00 on the flats, run the inclines, and continue to walk the steep climbs. All went well. I took in a second bottle of Tailwind around mile 17. That's under 400 calories if you're keeping track. Which I wasn't.
The last six miles: Compete. No pain. Oh...but there was pain. And that was what I was looking for. You can't get that on a weekly run. In fact, I wouldn't have got it had I just run this race as a training run. I needed to get after it...and push through the pain mentally. Around mile 24, I went to the dark place that I had been seeking...and found a little light.
Results: All in all, not a bad race. Maybe even better than I expected. I took 11th in a time of 3:52. Almost an hour slower than my marathon PR...but on a much much tougher course. It was a good way to kick off my 50 miler training. Giddy up! For the record, I only took in 20 oz of water and about 30 oz of Tailwind...that's was under 400 calories. Was my body burning fat from breakfast? Maybe. This will require a little more experimentation...but I like where it's headed.
Oh! I almost forgot...I got to meet Tim Olson at the finish line! One of my heros!