This past weekend I traveled to Madison, WI to run a 50k. The Madison road race only goes by one name and it’s the Mad City 100k. Yes, I said road race and judging by the field up there I was not the only trail runner who decided to pound the pavement for a while. Mad City has 3 options. 100k, 50k, or 50k relay. The 100k is the USATF National Championships so I was lucky enough to be on the course with some very talented runners. The reason I chose to run this race was simple. My friend Ryan Dexter (who I along with others will be pacing/crewing for him at the McNaughton Vermont 200) asked me to come up and hang out for a bit before our journey to the east coast next month. I was a little unsure of running this road race then turning around and running Double Chubb 50k this weekend but I figured "why not? this will be good training and miles for Leadville in August.” I arrived at the packet pickup to find Ryan had run there. Not a surprise given he had already ran over 100 miles during the week and not not even run the 100k yet. We listened to the pre-race meeting then headed to his place to meet the family and have some dinner. When we arrived it seemed the entire neighborhood was outside playing. His three boys, Chase, Dash, and Cruise all came up to meet me. I also met some of his other neighbors, all of who had played one part or another in pacing or crewing for Ryan one time or another. A really great group of folks. His wife Christina (a marathoner and Ironman triathlete) had made some dinner for us that we scarffed down then headed off to watch Zombieland (which was pretty good in a weird way). Afterward, Ryan and I talked about running and training and I felt like I was talking to someone that just “got it.” It was unbelievable talking to him and listening to his philosophy on training and how it fits into his life. Even with having over 15 ultras under my belt I still don’t fully know what works best and how to fit it all in. Ryan had some great insights that I will be putting in to practice right away. This right here made the trip completely worth while.
The 100k kicked off at 6:30 am. Toeing the line were some serious names in the ultrarunning world. Krissy Moehl, Greg Crowther, Annette Bednosky, Meghan Arbogast, Chikara Omine and Melanie Fryar, to name a few. Top performances were expected with a chance to get on the USAFT National team and compete at the world 100k Championships held in Gibraltar this November. FAST running was all around. Mix these top speedsters with us 50k runners and the 50k relay at 8 am and you ended up with a great crowd of folks all at different levels all giving what they had for their respective distance.
Loop 1 -10k
I start races pretty conservative (my friend Jason calls me a sandbagger). No difference here. Nice and easy for the first loop. Check out the scenery, learn about this 10k loop that I am going to repeat 4 more times and make sure to get fluids in. The course was mostly asphalt winding though a park, with a small stretch of sidewalk, then back into the park asphalt. The back part of the course wound though a neighborhood then onto a road where to my relief there was a dirt and gravel shoulder to run on to give me a break from the hard street. I came in 57:01.5 averaging a 9:10 pace.
Loop 2 - 20k
This loop was highly uneventful. I usually need about 50 minutes to an hour to feel “right” and once I do, I can just put on the cruise control for a while. That is what happened, I locked in at a sustainable pace and just kept moving ahead, enjoying the company of other runners and the great weather. I checked off my 2nd loop in 53:42.8 for an 8:38.7 pace per mile.
Let’s keep this short for this loop and just say I maintained my pace. 53:31.5, pace 8:36.8
Loop 4 – 40k
Starting this loop I started realizing that I was doing ok. I was holding down a respectable pace by this trail runner’s standards and I would actually go sub 4 hours on the marathon and barring anything crazy, should be able to hit my 5:00 goal with even some time to spare. I was not hurting bad by any means, but needed to focus in on doing the right things over the next 12.4 miles to keep it together. I had been drinking NUUN and consuming mostly GU Chomps with an E-Cap thrown in from time to time, but stopped at the aid station a little over 1/2 way though the loop at the 3.8 miles to get a little more salt in. The sun was beating down and the temps were around 70 so my sweat rate increased. I ate some pieces of boiled potatoes with salt on them and a cup of water and took off again. I finished this loop in 53:29.0 with an average pace of 8:36.5
Loop 5 – 50k
Here I was 3:37:45 into the race and 24.8 miles down and still kicking. It dawned on me that I could almost walk this loop and hit my 5 hour goal. I instead decided to pick it up a little and get this thing over with. I still was not running my hardest, just elevated my effort by about 5% over the last few loops. I threw down a Jet Blackberry GU to help with the last push. I caught up with Ryan (sort of, it’s a loop course so “catching” is not actually passing). He had gone out fast. He hit the marathon mark around 3:15 and was sub 4 hours on the 50k. He was walking when we got together and told me he was feeling good early on, so he just kept running fast and now he was paying for it. He said he’d try to run with me a bit and we chatted. I was pulling away and asked if he needed anything when he came around on the loop. He said he was good and I took off to wrap this thing up. I looked at my watch and realized that 5 hours was good and that 4:30 was doable. I grabbed a quick cup of water at the aid station then charged ahead. One of the relay runners came by me and we chatted for a minute then she decided to take off since this was her only lap. I decided she would be my rabbit and I would not let her out of sight. I stayed close all the way to the finish and crossed the line with a lap time of 50:53.1 averaging 8:11.3 for the loop. My total time was 4:28:38 averaging an overall pace of 8:38.8.
I had a great time at this race. The weather was perfect. I was able to share a course with some elite runners which was a treat in itself. On top of that I received some great advice from someone who even in the ultrarunning world runs long. Lastly, I surprised myself. I went up here to run even splits which I pretty much did. I just figured that those splits would have been closer to 9:30 than 8:40. I also was not destroyed. This was an elevated effort for me but not a full race effort. I still had gas left in the tank and I know that if I would have been up there to race it could have knocked a fair amount of time off. That’s a great feeling to have. It lets you know that your training is progressing and that your base is getting better and better year over year. Another race for the books and another great experience. Now.. back to the trails!!!