Earning those Trail Chops: This was my first ever trail 50k and my second trail ultra marathon. The other being Lookout Mountain 50 miler in 2013. The plan going in was to use this race as a tune up for the JFK 50 miler in November. Coming off of years of focusing on road racing, and in particular road marathons, there is going to be a bit of a learning curve for a while until I get used to trail running. That being said, I’m super pumped and can’t wait to do more races.
Pre Race: The North Face Endurance Challenge Wisconsin is a two day event featuring several races over different distances. The day that I raced, September 16th, there was a 50 miler that started two hours before my race, a 50K which I ran, and a marathon which started two hours after my race. If you have never done one of these races I can tell you that it is a well oiled machine. Parking was ample and super easy. Plenty of bathroom access. They had a really nice vendor village setup with pop up tents around the start and finish line where you could easily pick up your packet. Also if you believe in small things making a big difference, I thought it was really cool that they had a huge water tank for people to fill up their bottles and a table with sunblock. Especially the sunblock, because I forgot to pack mine and there were large portions of open prairie where the sun was beating down on me. This race gets a big kudos from me on organization.
Race Breakdown: The first couple miles of the race is spent mostly on grass getting you to a roughly 5 mile horse trail loop. You do cross a highway early on but traffic was light so that was no big deal. The horse trail segment was plenty wide. It was rolling throughout with segments that were rocky and sandy. Once the gun went off I knew immediately that I had competition. The pace was quicker than I had anticipated going into the race. The previous year a 7:15 pace overall had won. At the end of the horse trail loop myself and Tyler Sigl were on a 6:13 pace. I was comfortable, but I also knew the temperatures were going to be hot and I may pay for it later on.
The next section of the course, roughly miles 6.9-11.5, were my favorite. The wider horse trails gave way to more narrow single track with some really fun up and downhill segments with a few switchbacks. This part of the course is the famed Ice Age Trail where the Ice Age trail 50 miler takes place. Tyler and I both talked about varies things. He is very friendly and I enjoyed running with him. Apparently he did the 50k a last year too, and twisted his ankle on a rock 8 miles in and still finished. That’s pretty hard core! We were running between 6:00 to 6:20 mile pace through this segment.
Coming off of the Ice Age Trail, you go into the Prairie section of the course. The prairies are flat and the footing is good. If it were a cool day, I would imagine you could really fly. This was not a cool day, but we continued to fly anyway. Big mistake, for me at least. I knew going in that the prairie segment existed, but I had no idea how long we would be in the open hot air! It was a good part of 16 miles with short reprieves here and there. From miles 12-19 we were still clipping off 6:20ish pace. At 19 though, I informed Tyler that I was going to need to slow down, and that he could take off if he wanted. The heat and pace had really started to get to me. Tyler, being the great guy that he is, said he would slow down with me. The next 4 miles we run walked through some really sandy hilly segments of the course. The pace slowed down a lot. There were big swings from 7-8 min miles. I was starting to crap from the heat and it was time for Tyler to take off. It was really cool of him to stay with me for that long.
Once Tyler left me the goal became to complete the race, hold onto second place, and to do as little damage as possible so I can get back to training for JFK quicker . I walked ran the whole last 6 miles fighting back crapping. My neck at one point cramped and locked in a weird position which was a rather uncomfortable feeling. I remember coming up to the 27.7 mile aid station just praying to get out of the damn prairies! It wasn’t too much after that that I rejoined with the horse trails from earlier in the race. This segment was again rolling, sandy, and rocky but at least it was in the shade. My average pace for this segment was maybe just under 9 mins per mile. A drastic change from the earlier 6 flat pace we were hitting early on.
Post Race: As you can see above, after the race I looked a little worse for the wear. It was suggested that I might want to go to the med tent. I kindly agreed, and walked the 15 feet over. At the med tent I was offered an IV. Having had an IV after my first two marathons years ago, I know that they make you feel a lot better, so I did not protest. It took roughly 40-50 minuets to get all the magical fluids into my arm, so unfortunately I missed my long time friend Matt Moody, finish in 6th place overall! I checked his splits later and from the marathon point to the finish he made up some series ground on me. He obviously ran a smarter race. We were travel buddies on this trip, and it was really great getting to spend a couple days with Moody. A couple other quick notes before I rap this up. After I left the med tent I went to use my food ticket, and I have to give this race some props on the post race food! I had an awesome pulled pork sandwich with some potato salad and chips. The spread was excellent! The start/finish line was also by a little beach section on a lake. I got in the water before we took off and it felt amazing on my legs. Overall I thought this was a really well organized race, and a good first step into trail running. “Pun intended.”
Team PBT Left to Right: Jesse Davis (2nd) Matt Moody (6th) Scott Saucedo (11th)
Footwear: 361-Ortega 2 (Hybrid road to trail shoe.)
Nutrition: Huma Gel+ (Berries & Pomegranate, Strawberry Lemonade)
Hydration: Camelbak Cicuit Vest (1.5 Liters)