I came into this race feeling pretty lethargic, Boston Marathon three weeks ago had taken quite a bit out of me and I really wasn't bouncing back quickly. My last two short runs in the taper had felt leaden and a sad predictor on what was to come. By all accounts I ran a decent race compared to the field, but not what my current fitness would have allowed me to run had I been fully rested. I ended up running a 7:24:39, which was a 5 minute PR, nothing really to complain about, but I sure feel like I could have run closer to 7 hours.
Chris Rubesch and I drove down on Friday, picking up his main squeeze Andrea from Eau Claire. She was super kind and drove everything from then on so Chris and I could nap. It was a pretty easy trip and we ended up camping in Horseriders Camp ground, sharing a site with a couple of ladies that were racing their horses the next day. We got lucky they offered us a site, since this campground is only for people who have horses.
An early rising at 4:30 got us to the start shortly after 5, and gave us plenty of time to ready our kits and enjoy catching up with some friends before the national anthem. Andrea was going to drive around and cheer on Chris, then meet us at the finish. Jeff Mallach gave a quick pre-race rundown which was followed by the national anthem. Immediately where was a quick 10 second countdown while Chris and raced to get into the queue, just off the front. Then, boom, we were off.
It was a quick start around the Nordic Loop with a lot of people really cranking it out right away. I did a pretty good job of holding back, but probably still ran faster than I should have. As it was I popped my headphones, turned on the tunes, and let the engine do it's thing. Running nice an steady the entire loop, finally coming through the starting area again with throngs of people cheering, then out onto the main course.
The leg out to Rice Lake went pretty well, and I was moving nicely, though I was starting to get strong hints that this was not going to be the best day. I wasn't sore, but the legs just didn't have the pop that they should have. I cruised through most of the aid-stations, just stopping for water or to ditch garbage. In fact, this race I probably did my best A.S. transitions, spending no time other than what was absolutely necessary.
Right behind me at Rice Lake was Kaci, and I ran with her for a few miles back towards confusion corner. She was running a very steady pace, though, while I was very steadily declining. By then, over 20 miles into it, there was no question I was going to run even close to 7 hours. My initial plan to run an 8 min/mile average to 30 miles, then accept a pretty decent slowdown. I think I was already behind that plan at 20.
So I ground it out the last 30 miles I maybe spent 5 minutes in that 'I can quit and be just fine with it' zone before telling myself to suck it up. Heading back to Confusion Corner then onto Horse Riders, it started getting pretty hot (this year had one of the lowest finishing rates). I felt I managed it pretty well, just drinking more, and pouring water on myself once in a while. I don't think I passed anyone the entire way to the turnaround at Emma Carlin, though I did get dropped by the second and third place women.
I remember, just like two years ago, that once turning around at Emma Carlin, it was a huge relief. Only 9 miles to go, and none of it really hard. Plus, now, I'd get to see everyone else coming back and have some company. So I forged on, and once I hit Margaritaville, I filled up my bottle one last time, then kicked it as hard as I could for the finish. I actually didn't feel too bad once done, just tired. My stomach was in good shape, and I was able to eat right away. Chris' dad was awesome, grabbing me food and water and just generally being a good guy.
So, I'm satisfied to get a PR out of this, but it was a lot of work for 5 minutes. Basically, it just came down to the fact that I wasn't recovered from Boston. And Boston was an 'A' race for me, while Ice Age wasn't, so there you go.
Jeff Mallach puts on a good race, and there are loads of great volunteers out on the course. It's pretty much impossible to get lost, and the post race BBQ and drinks are some of the best in the ultra world.