Dances with Dirt
July 14, 2018
Devil’s Lake State Park, Baraboo, WI
Pre-race stuff: On Friday night I picked up my bib and t-shirt and the plan was to camp about 20 miles north of the start line, so Adam and I started heading up that way. We stopped at a Starbucks and the thunderstorms started. So… we totally bailed on camping, grabbed a super-cheap (like only $60), last-minute tiny cabin and went to a really good burger joint for my pre-race meal. I ate 3 big chicken wingies, a cheeseburger without the bun and a side salad. It was just right. I got to bed too late, but slept solid for about five hours.
The day started perfect! The only way I can describe it is to just go there. Fellow racers, you are going to know exactly what I’m saying here… I got to the race start, headed over to the line of port-o-johns, and had the most perfect BM you could imagine. I know I poop-talk too much, but this is a really big deal on race day – especially since it’s the first time this has ever happened for me. Every single race I’ve ever done in my past started with GI issues (my diet has changed a lot since then, so I chalk it up to that). I bounded out of that toilet over to Adam and he just shook his head and giggled at me. It was going to be a good day.
All I consumed in the morning was an instant decaf coffee with heavy cream in it. This is what seems to work best for me, as I’m used to (and prefer) to run fasted. But with a distance like a 50k, I knew I’d start to get hungry within the first couple of hours, so I tucked an FBomb (which is super-delicious macadamia nut butter) in one of my shorts pockets, along with a Pickle Power (a pickle-juice flavored electrolyte shot – so good!) and carried one small handheld water bottle with plain water in it. And off I went!
The terrain: The terrain throughout the course was mixed. There was some wide and smooth trail, some typical forested single-track, some fun-technical trail (like rock and root-hopping – my favorite), a very small section of large rocks that you need to carefully make large steps up and down from (I think I even used my hands a little), a little bit of pavement through the campground, and rarely was it flat. It seemed as though we were always running at some sort of ascent or descent, but for the most part, they weren’t too steep. I’m used to training in the Kettle Moraine North Unit on the Ice Age Trail which has super-steep, short ups and downs – these at the Dances with Dirt seemed more gradual and more gently sloped in comparison. That certainly doesn’t mean they were easy, though! Just different! I definitely walked almost all the uphills, but almost all of the downhills were runnable, so I ran when I could. The hills there sometimes felt like they were never going to end. On one descent in particular I had another girl running behind me for quite a while, and eventually she hollered out, “What the heck!? Are we running to the bottom of the ocean!?” Yeah, it kind of felt like it! The long downhill running gave me noodly legs, but the nice part was it actually felt GOOD to power hike UPhill afterward. I remember actually looking forward to the climbing! It was just an overall great mix of terrain and elevation gains and losses – a very fun course, in my opinion!
The scenery was great, too. One of my favorite things about Wisconsin is the forests. We do really have some beautiful, lush forest. And there was a lot of that on this course. There was a climb we got to do twice on the course that brought us to an incredible overlook from the top of a bluff, and there was patches of fog prettying it up even more. The wildflowers were out, too. I haven’t spent a lot time in this area, so it was nice to explore it in this way.
The weather: The weather surprised me. I thought it was going to storm and rain on and off all day, but it never rained at all. It was hot, but not as hot as I thought it was going to be (but still. Very hot). I believe the temperatures were in the mid 70’s for most of the race. What made it difficult was the humidity. I was pretty much soaked through completely from head to toe within the first hour. I mean, my feet were even wet just from sweat dripping down my legs. The skies were pretty much cloudy all day, so the sun stayed hidden – I imagine if the sun had been out, mixed with the humidity, it would’ve been way more difficult. There were a few meadowy stretches that felt really warm, but when we were in the forest it felt a little cooler, and even in a few spots when we got up a little higher towards the tops of the bluffs we’d get a little breeze – and that, my friends, was glorious, even if short-lived. All-in-all, I cannot complain about the weather. It was a mid-July race, and it could’ve been hellish, but it wasn’t too bad. Just really sweaty and humid. July is still my favorite month, though! Heat, humidity and all!
Aid stations! The aid stations were great! It was nice to just carry a small handheld water bottle and have someone offering to refill it for me about every four miles. I didn’t carry any sort of hydration pack or anything, and I only ran out of water one time – and that time I rounded a corner as I squirt the last drop out of my bottle and BAM! Aid station! Perfect! There were a few minimally-stocked aid stations (due to difficulty to get stuff to them), but almost all of them were fully stocked with soda, Gatorade, salty snacks, boiled potatoes, grapes, bananas, salt, water, and probably some other things I’m overlooking. The best part was always the people volunteering to help and cheer us all on!
And for me, one of my favorite parts of this race was Adam meeting me at miles 10, 13 and 25 (the only places he can get decent access to). When I first signed up for this race, he was still going to be out west, so I wasn’t planning on having anyone there. Before the race, he offered to get a bag of ice ready to put on my neck and I just said, “No, no, no… I’ll be fine. You don’t need to do that much.” I just asked that he replenish my consumables. When I came into mile 10, he did it anyway – he put a Ziploc bag of ice on my neck and I was transported to heaven for a few minutes. Then again at mile 13, and again at mile 25. Yup. Bag of ice for the win – nice call, Crew-master Adam! (He also talked me into stretching my legs out a couple of times and helped me with that, too!)
Food, drink, salt: I’m still trying to figure out my stomach on long runs, because I’ve dealt with nausea, loss of appetite and diarrhea during long runs in the past, and it’s not fun. But lately I’ve found the less I can get away with eating, the better I do in that regard, so I didn’t really consume much. But I’ve been able to get away with that comfortably since I adopted a mostly-keto-lifestyle (I consume carbs during and around long runs, but am otherwise usually in ketosis). This allows me to go longer without eating a bunch because my body is trained to use my body fat. This is liberating. I felt like this run, especially, that everything was going almost perfect. I felt my body asking for something about 8 miles in, so I ate my FBomb Macadamia nut butter, and at mile 13 I had a piece of banana and a few sips of Coke from the aid station. After mile 13 I think I grabbed a chunk of banana and a sip of Coke from every aid station that had them available, and once I had a few potato chips. It doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but I don’t think I needed much more! I really felt dialed in, somehow. It must’ve been a combination of planet-alignment, luck, and miracle. But really, I think the low-carb/keto thing has made miles of difference for me, and I hope it continues! I could almost feel my body ask for that carb trickle, which is what the bananas and Tailwind seemed to provide. The Tailwind is a powdered electrolyte mix. I had some premixed in a bottle that Adam dumped into my handheld at the 13-mile and 25-mile stops. I had the tropical buzz flavor, and I was nervous my stomach wasn’t going to tolerate a flavored drink, but the flavor is really light and it turned out to be one of my favorite things from race day! Also, in between everything I had the Pickle Power shots, which I alternated with S-caps (salt capsules), and at one aid station I actually licked a shot of straight table salt from my hand, which was totally disgusting, then realized they had a bottle of S-caps there! So I took one of those, too. I think the consistent salt/electrolyte intake helped replace what I was losing in sweat. I just mostly consumed what I felt like consuming and it worked out pretty well! Oh! And I can’t forget my secret weapon! Caffeine! I don’t normally drink caffeine, so when I do during a race, it’s like I get a kick in the rear and the turbo jets come on! And it’s so fun! I think this is why the Tailwind worked so great, too. I had a shot of coffee at mile 13, then trickled that Tailwind buzz drink and did the same at mile 25 – and that brought me into the finish – fast and strong!
Post-race notes: I had three goals going into this race, and being my first 50k ultra, I really wasn’t sure what to expect, so I set my first just to finish. Second, to come in under 10 hours. Third, to come in under 8 hours. So I crushed it coming in at 7:20! In hindsight, I maybe underestimated myself… But I’m still learning. I don’t want ultrarunning to turn into an “I’ve gotta be faster” kind of thing. I just want to get out there, run on trails, talk to people, have fun, and hopefully finish! I accomplished all of these things, and came in pretty much right in the middle of the pack in all categories (age, sex, overall). I seriously don’t know if I would change ANYTHING about the day. It was completely satisfying!
Recovery: Today is Sunday, and my muscles and feet are a little sore, but I think I might go for a short run in the morning – meaning, I’m already recovering well in that respect. The worse that came out of it all was some chafing on my feet, which I’ll try to quickly explain. I run in sandals, which I could write a whole other blog about, but I really prefer them to shoes right now. I love the way my feet/toes can spread out, the air on my toes, and they’re super-minimal, so I can feet the terrain beneath my feet. Simply said, I find them more comfortable than dealing with socks and shoes. So instead of blisters and black toenails, I now get some chafing from the sandal straps (a trade-off I’m totally cool with). It’s usually a non-issue in dry conditions, but if it rains, or apparently, if it’s so humid that I’m soaked for over 7 hours straight, little particles of sand, dirt or whatever get lodged (I think) in between the strap and my skin and cause rubbing. Usually by the time I realize where it’s rubbing the chafe is already set in, so until I figure out a solution for that, I just run through it. On race day, that feels like part of the whole package (some pain), so no problem. But today, those little spots are pretty tender and annoying, so I’ll be babying them for the week to heal them up. I also had two teeny chafe spots on my back from my sport bra, but I didn’t even notice them until I was able to look at my back in a mirror last night. I use an anti-chafe product called 2Toms in my armpits and lady area and it worked pretty great.
Faves from the day: So in the end, my favorite things that assisted me in this race were first, Adam. He’s really got a natural talent for being a crew-guy! Neither of us really know what we’re doing with this stuff right now, but what we’re doing is working so far! It should be fun to come up with a strategy together for the 50-miler (August 18!!). Second, third, fourth and fifth in no particular order are my Bedrock sandals, my InkNBurn clothing (seriously SO comfortable!), the Pickle Power, and the surprise one was the Tailwind! Those things are all on the top of my list for my next race for sure!
Stats: Just a few if you like that sorta’ thing. I find them interesting, but I’m not in this to compete with anyone else (and besides, I’ll never be fast enough! Haha!). I enjoy competing with myself and the races are great because you can totally feed off the energy of all the other racers – which is so much fun and helps motivate me to keep going and get better!
Finish Time: 7:20:08
Age group (35-39): 8/14
Distance: 31.2 miles
Average pace: 14:07 minutes/mile
Elevation gain: 3,733 feet
Calories burned: 3,148
Personal records: 50k (well, it was my first official 50k, so that was easy)
Tonight I love birthdays. Yup, after all my “Oh, I’m so totally keto and stuff,” I’m gonna shove a whole bunch of delicious sugar in my face – because know what? It’s my birthday tomorrow. And that’s what I want! A carrot cake muffin and a weird-looking cookie. Yay birthdays!