Lunatic Race Series by Trail Dog Running – Mad Dog Marathon – Kewaskum, Wi
This was my first official trail marathon! Yup, I did 3 50ks and a 100k before actually doing a true trail marathon. I have to say, I’m not a fan of the distance on the trail after all is said and done, although I was glad to be done by the time I hit that finish line and didn’t have the extra 8km to go…
Cue the storms! Yup, we’re back with the same kind of weather forecast I’ve been dealing with for the past, oh I don’t know, few races? The forecast was much like last last week for the DWD Devil’s Lake 50k, HUMID and threats of rain/storms during the race. This was the first time I had done two back to back marathon-length (or greater) races/training weekends, and I could feel it. Not sure if that was because I was still recovering or if the plan I had to follow for the race was different, OR if it was the course that beat me up—some combination of those things was probably my downfall. I messaged my coach, Scott, after the race asking if hurting my pride counted as an injury. Sadly, that was a flat out no. Never hurts to ask!
This race offered a few distances, the 50k, the marathon, the half, and a 13k. The race ended up selling out, as they wanted to keep it on the smaller side to keep the trails in one piece, and it was an out and back for every race distance, so a smaller race was the way to go. The race took place in the northern Kettle Moraine forest if I recall correctly, which I had never been to…rocky, rooty, hard terrain. So the night before! I took a heavy meal from a Hibachi restaurant, rice is my go to carb, and settled in for the night, taking a hot bath with a bath bomb from lush, and sealed my leg chafing with some spray on new skin. I sat in bed for a while, listening to the rain coming down outside (again), and probably got somewhere around 4 hours of sleep, better than the previous week, but actually worse. I had been getting not great sleep the past week, having weird dreams, being too hot, and of course the storms keeping me awake. I was sleep deprived over several days and not just one night. I had been having a tough time sleeping right after the last race because of the pain from the chafing I had that wasn’t just on my legs. So much anxiety laid in this race—trying to finish another long distance on consecutive weekends had my brain wired. I was also going to attempt a new nutrition plan as last weekend’s was a flop in my book.
So YES, the night before was another fun filled night of passing storms, as was the night before that. The whole waking-sleeping interruptions were what really did my total sleep in. I woke up again at a little past 3am, kind of like the past weekend. I wasn’t going to sleep, or attempt to sleep, another half hour before my alarm would go off. I was driving out to meet a fellow member of our local She Runs This Town/Mom’s Run This Town, Natasha, and we would carpool from her house. What I didn’t realize until the day before is that she lived an hour’s drive away from me, but at least that put me over half way to the race location…which was a little over two hours away total for me. I was always wondering why I had never met Natasha, and it was probably because we lived so far apart! I got ready, and had my collapsible cup by my phone on my nightstand ready to go with me. I took it downstairs and washed it while gathering my tailwind-filled bladder for my water pack. I quickly realized that I had a lot of time to get out the door, but wasn’t interested in sitting around the house in the middle of the night. I got in my car and headed out with all my stuff, drop bag and all.
As I was leaving town, it hit me that I might have forgotten my cup… crap. I read specifically that this was a cupless race and I respect that. I looked around my stuff in the passenger seat of my car, it was not there. Big frowny face. I was mainly sad because the race director had asked if we had wanted anything special at the aid stations, and my request was Dr. Pepper. Maaaaaan.
I made it to Natasha’s place about 30 minutes too early, so I sat in my car in the dark listening to music and playing on my phone. Eventually, the other girl who was coming with us pulled in behind me. Her name was Laura. I had not met her either. Yup, just a bunch of strangers gathering to go run a race out in the middle of nowhere! Perfectly normal for me, anyway. Natasha and Laura would be running the 50k that day. I was very excited for them. We all gathered ourselves into Natasha’s car and headed out at about 5:10am. The rain slowed to a drizzle. I was only now slightly worried about the state of the trails. I wasn’t expecting it to be like the Devil’s Lake trails that seemed to drain super well. I expected another mud fest. I had really no clue what the elevation of the course would be like, or the trails themselves. I was going in blind, like I do a lot.
We talked a lot about our experiences in the car ride, it was great and made the time pass by quickly. We all arrived at the race site bright and early, which was at the Sunburst Ski Area. Upon arriving, it was clear this course was not going to be anything but hilly as we faced a giant ski hill at the start/finish line.
We went to pick up our bibs and then headed to the restrooms, which not having port-o-potties was nice for a change, but never expected! The small resort area had several small unidentified buildings, two of which we used. It was chilly. I was in a tank. Yes, I’m going to call mid to upper 60s chilly, especially with the winds. Unlike the Devil’s Lake 50k, it was windy and about 10 degrees cooler. Still humid, humid, humid. I was prepared this week however.
The plan was to power hike the first 5 miles and the final 5 miles and easy run the 16 in-between. Easier said than done. As always. Not knowing the course, I knew the middle 16 were going to be harder. The race started with the 50k’ers and they held a really nice national anthem before sending the ultra runners off.
I sheltered myself in an alcove of a nearby building trying to stay warm before my race start 20 minutes later. There was another girl near me that was a ball of nerves, it was her first marathon. I tried to instill calm in her, I think at least it worked somewhat. And before I knew it, we were off. I think it was a simple “Go!” but I can’t be sure, I really need to pay more attention at these starts…
I hated the idea of just walking at the start. I had a lot of resentment right then, that quickly melted away. The first three miles were probably the most difficult, but they were easily my favorite. The course immediately went uphill, for almost 460 feet in those three miles, which is a lot for Wisconsin. I managed to maintain a 15:23 pace for the first mile, and kept pace with half the pace due to the climb, which I didn’t lose much steam on going up. Here’s the thing about mile 1, I got lost with three or four others haha. We reached an open field, and I went left at one corner, and another went right, and we yelled at each other to see if there was a trail marking. Nope for both of us. Then a third person just waited, and a fourth came to yell at us that we needed to go straight! We all went back to the woods and found we just missed the one marking. This was the only time I got lost, and didn’t add too much distance to the overall that day.
IT WAS SO DARK!
Mile two proved difficult. My calves immediately got tight, like they had been in training about two weeks prior. They simple would not release. But the left calf was way worse, which hasn’t been the case in two or three years. My left foot went numb around the 30 minute mark, which is usually when my feet like to lose feeling and go numb regardless of pace, speed, terrain, shoes, socks, time of day, everything if it happens, which I still have not found a trend at all that causes it. My right foot was fine! It almost felt like there was a knot in my calf. I fought through it, having to stop a few times to release the numb feeling (in which I just remove my shoe for a few seconds and the feeling goes away), but it hurt my pace. I managed a 14:56 for the second mile, some of which was downhill that I ran lightly, and the running made my legs feel better! But I stuck to the plan like glue.
We ended up running through a field full of crops, later to find out these were soybean plants! How exciting! It was really cool.
Third mile, 15:08. I got to the (infamous?) tunnel, concrete and full of ankle deep water. I did not hesitate as I knew this was coming, but didn’t think it was so early in the race! I figured my feet would be wet the whole race anyway due to the rain recently, and I plowed into it and ran through the tunnel. A near by girl said “now this is a real trail race!”, and I said as matter-of-factly, “but this is the part that’s not on the trail!” Sometimes I don’t need to open my mouth lol.
Fourth, 14:08, and fifth 15:52 (pretty sure I stopped for an orange at the aid station). This is about when my calves started to release from their prison of pain. This started the Ice Age trail segments as well. Follow the brown posts with yellow blaze! Or was it white sometimes? It was unclear, but I never got off course again.
I had planned to eat the apple I had been carrying from the start at mile 4. My nutrition plan was to go all natural. I had packed cherries and grapes, carried an apple, had a peach fruit cup and a few gels just in case. I packed antichafe stuff and salt. I was packing a lot of weight to say the least. I had packed the same in my drop bag along with a packet of cashew butter. When I reached the open field before the aid station, the wind picked up and I got chilled. What? I thought I was warmed up, but clearly wasn’t. I couldn’t wait to start running, but still nervous about the run part. Regardless of what you tell yourself about having no expectations, you still will have some in the back of your mind. The apple went down well. But I am not sure it benefited me. I sipped on my water (aka tailwind/BCAA mix) off and on after mile 1 with no real set schedule, and I think this went better because I did not swell up in my hands this time. I began my run at mile 5. I was tired. I had put a lot of effort into power hiking all that time, trying to stay focused and pushed the best I could.
I believe I stopped at one more aid station at mile 5, right before mile 6, at a road crossing that I had to wait on traffic to cross, and had a few orange slices and a small (probably 4oz) of coke here. I was so thankful this station had mini cups, and was afraid to ask at the previous aid station. I meandered across the busy highway thanks to the volunteers. The next few miles proved to me that this trail also drains really well, and I really did not experience any mud the whole course. I passed through marshes of tall grasses that whipped at my ankles, and crossed through on wooden paths, saturated with water making them as slick as the DWD course from last weekend. I passed through the woods, most of the course was covered, constantly feeling like I was climbing despite the descents. My mile times were slow and disappointing, sitting at around 13:00 min/mi until mile 12. It was such a long stretch by myself, and without an aid stations for miles. My pains started to resolve a bit, but I was feeling sluggish. I kept sipping on my tailwind mix. I also managed a gel down without it being absolutely terrible since I was fully aware I was still in a calorie deficit. Mile 12 had a fair bit of climbing, but I realized I was around the turn around point, or should be soon, and everything I had covered I would be covering again backwards. This course was not my friend. It was just undulating hills, never getting a break, never a flat spot to just relax or recover. I was either power hiking up or pushing the downhills to regain lost time. When I started my 16 mile run, I watched my heart rate.
I know coach said it’s best to just go by feel, but I felt terrible, and so going to my heart rate would make things better right? Nope. My heart rate was running high for whatever reason, in the 160s, even when I was power hiking, it was in the 150s, too high. Did I stress myself too much in the 5 miles of power hiking? I just searched for a way to feel better physically, and never really found it. I finally gave up, frustrated, and said, screw you watch, and I picked it up. I quickly would fall off the running train, and my heart rate would spike into the 170s and I would feel bad again. I tried dropping pace, I tried walking slower. Nothing worked. I stuck with the heart rate screen mainly because I didn’t want to mentally bother myself seeing the distance go by so slowly.
And I got to my favorite kind of trail! Prairie and slanty/angled trail….no, I hate that. With a passion. It opened up at the top to give a wonderful view though. I took it in and took a picture, but the bugs told me it was time to press on, as they were the main motivating factor of me not dilly-dallying.
I went through my actual favorite kind of trail, open woods filled with pines and the trail covered with pine needles. I love the smell, and the soft footing and navigating the roots, it really is the best. Most of the latter half of the trail was extremely rocky and hard under the feet, but not slippery. I’m thankful I wore the Altra Olympus today.
I reached the marathon turn around point, which I didn’t realized until someone mentioned it. Once I had passed 13 miles, and then 14 miles, I figured the course cut off the first 3 miles somewhere on the way back so that extra distance at the end of the large out and back was needing to be longer. Mile 15 was the turn around. I spent quite a bit of time here. I’d say I went through one liter of water, sigh. I refilled my pack with Hammer stuff, had a billion Dr. Peppers, again thank you for having the mini cups at least, even if I had to drink 100 of them, and it was COLD. It felt so good. I looked in my drop bag, probably a waste of time, and took nothing. I grabbed my fruit bag in the back and decided I needed to finish this whole bag by the time I got back to the next aid station (several miles away). I think I had some sort of fruit at this aid station, but I can’t really remember what. I had a look at the restroom facilities there, and did a self check. Nah. I didn’t need to. So I took off back down the hill in the woods again.
It was slightly mentally comforting that I only had about 10 miles left now, but it was still 10 miles and I had to power hike the last 5, which I knew there were more runnable sections in that part, boo. About half a mile away from that aid station at the turn around, I realized I should have went to the restroom and now I had to live with my decision for the next 3 hours or so. Well that was unfortunate. I found the way back to be easier although my pace failed me. Come to find out, the first half of the course WAS net uphill! I had a good last mile at mile 17. After that, I could not get my times under 14:00 min/mi despite my best efforts to move my butt forward and not make excuses. I was fighting what I thought was physical pain with every ounce of my mental fortitude. Mile 18, I was in pain. I could feel my IT bands, they felt tight and burned, I could feel my calves and quads, and my back was tired and felt the chafing I was still carrying over from last weekend. It was a sore pain, and it burned. I knew I was going to be sore from this, and this made me mad because I was not going fast. My heart rate was a little lower coming back. There was more wind. But the encouraging bugs were not to be found!
Up and down, up and down, I was so tired of just going up and down constantly. Mile 22, I stopped at another aid station and stocked myself up on Dr. P…I have no idea how many cups I took, but the girl at the aid station was more than helpful trying to pour more than one cup at once to help out. I think I had to spend about 2 minutes completely stopped here before reaching the aid station from crossing the highway. No one slowed down. The volunteer helped me again, and I crossed. This crossing was a long one that involved crossing over a more narrow bridge. Let’s say there wasn’t much room. I did my best to hug the very edge of the bridge as I made my way across, but the oncoming car didn’t care, even though there was NO car oncoming to them from the opposite direction. Yes, let’s hit the tired girl trying to cross the bridge that YOU CAN CLEARLY SEE, like I was wearing the MOST bright clothing! I was more than a little miffed at this and threw my hands up in the air. I am not blaming the race, this part of the course could not be helped and they did their best. So yeah, a 19 min/mi.
I took off into the rising and falling fields and meadows, wind beating me from the side, and a slight drizzle threatening me. I was so upset at the fact that I could be power hiking faster than I was running some miles, and I was mentally distraught. Time to power hike again anyway. It turned out some of my power hiking miles were faster than my miles I had just been trying to run, some by over a minute faster! I only ran downhill during the times I was power hiking. My power hiking miles at the end were closer to 14:00-15:00 min/mi. I stopped at the 2nd to final aid station and had some more soda. Coke and oranges taste good together. I took some pictures. The farming areas always feel more special.
I passed through the open prairies, and my feet were soaked…with what? Sweat. My feet felt bad and I felt blisters coming on, but I didn’t want to stop. I had already stopped early on in the race to re-tie my shoes. I did not stop. Squish Squish Squish. I approached the tunnel again, and my feet got soaked again, felt good. I knew I was getting close. I wondered if the course would be short or long. There’s never a way to know on trails. I saw the finish, and was so relieved. I ran in the last 0.15 miles cause I can’t just walk across a finish. I finished in 6 hours and 23 minutes, slower than my marathon split in the 50k I think by about 20 minutes? I got a distance of 26.12 miles, so I call it a win. I got 2,520 feet of gain, most miles just being about 100-180 feet of gain. I felt defeated. I put myself aside, and waited for my new trail friends to finish their 50k. I wondered what was going through their heads, and what they had expected of the course. To me, it was harder than I expected, but as technical as I expected. This was one of the hardest races mentally to conquer, but I knew nothing was stopping me from moving forward, so I did so to the best of my ability.
Post race was amazing. I was handed a mug and pint glass, apparently for a 1st place age group finish, but I did not deserve this in my opinion. It was also a small field. I greatly appreciate the finish area and swag. They had it all decked out. I got a packet with all the finisher goodies (and a shirt) bag with my NAME on it! They had a picnic area with cold drinks and beer, even though I don’t drink it, it was a nice touch. I finally got to run to the restroom, which I literally ran to after I finished. Everyone was so nice at the finish. I got to talk to finishers that stuck around and the race director, fantastic man. The event was not chip timed, but the distance between racers was pretty far apart and was a non-issue. Everything ran smoothly. My friends finished and we all changed into warmer clothing (haha in the middle of summer, changing into jackets and long sleeve shirts!) and headed to the food shelter. Wow what food. I really enjoyed the BBQ which tasted home made and was super good, and the pasta side and chips and soda selection. It was tasty!! We sat with more fellow finishers. It was a homey and good time. We made our way back home after that as it started raining.
I did meet the one nervous girl on the out and back, and she was in good spirits. I found out through the results she finished and had five miles left when we left. The race director made a post saying that no trace was left behind, thank you fellow runners. The day after, oh boy! What a day after!
I woke up, slight new chafing that was all my fault, but is currently not an issue, my shoulders and upper back pretty sore, but no soreness in my legs at all. I just felt fatigued. I was thoroughly surprised considering how bad I was feeling in the last few miles I ran during the marathon. I did not get any blisters, just sore feet. My nagging mild pain in my right foot still nags slightly, but seems to be under control and I don’t notice while running and more so when I’m not moving. It’s weird. I went out on Sunday and decided to run 3 miles. The sun had come out and that in itself was motivating.
Temperatures were pretty perfect in the upper 70s, but the wind persisted. I headed out up that darn hill at the base of my house, and felt bad. I felt little aches. But by the top of the hill and heading down, the aches resolved, sorting themselves out somehow, and I felt motivated. I pushed the pace a little, as the course I’m describing goes downhill for 1.7 miles and then it’s ALL uphill on the way back. My first mile went past slowly. The 2nd mile, faster… can I maintain this pace? I pushed it back up hill not looking down at my watch, just enjoying the day as the wind tried to push me backwards. I hit mile three out of breath, but I had the engine in my legs pumping with no issues, and broke another negative split mile. A little girl on a trike nearby on the sidewalk watched me mouth agape as I passed, and I mustered a smile, but I’m not sure she understood why I sounded like I was dying. After I hit 3 miles, the top of the hill, I “slowed” down for the last 0.1 miles, and found out I actually didn’t slow as much as I had thought. I could have kept going, but I had people waiting on me for dinner, and coach would probably have been mad lol. I felt strong finishing it, even if it was just a 5k. I never thought I’d see times like that again, I was so mad the previous day for having my fastest mile be in the 12 min/mi range. I hit a 9:19 average and had a final mile split of 8:57 all uphill. I know that’s not “fast” for me, but it was fast for me after a marathon and a 50k stacked on that from the previous week.
Now I look forward. This next weekend has yet to be decided on, but I know it will be another ultra distance, and I look forward to seeing my friend Andrea again, its been too long. It will be a great opportunity to do a test run for Habanero because the course is a hilly 5k loop, where you can set up your own aid station at the start/finish, and is a low key event where it doesn’t exactly matter when you start or finish. I can’t wait for the camaraderie of that one. It will be my final installment of this crazy training plan, with the exception of the last 3 weeks leading up to the race. Make sure to follow me on the Becoming Ultra Podcast and on the main facebook page. This journey is crazy and I wouldn’t have It any other way.