Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Matter of Perception

Last weekend I was back in my hometown of Halstad Minnesota for an all school reunion. When my sister Jodi agreed to be the race director of the 5k they were having the Saturday of the reunion, she asked me if I would assist her and tasked me with coming up with a course to run. "No problem" I said. I started mapping out a course that would snake it's way through our little hometown. Past our house, the school, the nursing home and the two churches. You know, the highlights of town. Once that was done, I had to figure where we would run the other two miles. I never realized how small the town was.

As a kid, it seemed like a lot of work to ride my bike up town to get a something from the store for Mom. Last weekend, I measured it. Round trip, .34 miles. And in the winter, the sledding hill was nearly out of reach being on the other side of town. It was so far we had to take a snowmobile. We walked to Creamery Hill last weekend. It was 1.1 miles round trip. Do the hills get smaller as we get older?

A few years ago, when I started running, I dreamed about the day when I would be able to run over to my brother John's house and then back home again. It seemed like a long way to go. Round trip would be just a little over 5k.(3.1 miles) Now, some days I leave home running the opposite direction of his house and still end up running by. Did the distance get shorter?

Saturday morning after we put on a successful 5k, Jodi and I went out for a run. We ended up running the 5k course I'd set up and then to the next town and back. A distance that we didn't even like driving when I was young. Didn't seem too far to run. Or did it get closer?

Whether you are facing your first 5k or the last 3 miles of a 100 mile event, it's all a matter of perception. 3 miles is 3 miles and what seems impossible today will seem easier and shorter once you've accomplished it so go for it. It's all doable. At least that is my perception.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Busy 4th

For the past 4 years, the 4th of July has been kind of a blur for me as my first ever Ultra event was the Afton Trail Run which is always held the first Saturday in July which means 2 things. It is very close to a national holiday and it is hot. This year was no exception with the 4th on Sunday and the Afton Trail Run on Saturday the 3rd. And, oh yea, 93 degrees.

Friday at 5, Tim, Jarod, Jon and I headed out of town in the RV headed south. Stopping along the way to grab a bite to eat and then to a Walmart parking lot for some sleep. 4 a.m. came quick and off we were to the event site where we got parked, picked up our packets and begin our race prep. I don't think we heard a weather forecast though we all knew it was going to be hot. Tim and Jarod were going to use their hydration backpacks. After a second thought, it seemed like a good idea. Problem was, I left mine at home. Oh well. I wasn't intending on a PR or anything so I would just cruise the course with my hand held bottle and maybe use a second bottle.

6:30 and we were off. The temp at that time was comfortable. Jon even said while waiting for the start of the 25k, at 7:30, it was a bit cool standing around. As we headed off, I was wondering what Jarod and Tim were thinking of the coarse that I had encouraged them to try. Tim did a 50k last fall on the Superior Hiking Trail which was very difficult but for some reason, Afton seems equally tough. Maybe it's the heat or some of the long uphills. And Jarod, who had done the Trail Mix 50k in April as his first ultra, was getting a taste of some serious climbs and some fairly technical course. I was hoping they were enjoying it although I knew at some point they would come to hate it which is usually par for this course.

The temps were rising quickly and at the halfway point it was starting to get to me. Miles 13-15 are on single track in a really low spot where the air does not move. Tim was right behind me as we motored our way through the technical terrain. We kept a nice, steady, difficult pace. When we got out of the trees and had a half mile to go to the half way point, I really felt the effects of the trail, the heat and the pace. Our drop bags were waiting for us at the 15.5 mile mark where I grabbed more fuel and my "Cool Off" bandanna that I can fill with ice. Tim was smart and had worn his from the start. I grabbed some supplies for the second loop and then, needing some quick calories grabbed a couple PB&J sandwiches off the aid station table. We took off and I could tell that the food was not going to settle if I was running so I had to walk for a while. I slowly watched Tim disappear. He looked strong so I was glad he didn't slow to my pace. When I got back to running I still felt a little funky. I had chugged a bunch of ice cold water at the aid station and with your body only able to absorb so many ounces per hour, I now had to pee. I found out then what my problem was. I was dehydrated. I knew that with my recovery being slow from the Kettle Moraine event and my lack of training, along with the heat, today was going to be a day of survival that I would easily do as I was just going to cruise around the coarse. The fact is I took it way to casual. I was hydrating, but not enough and I got behind. It took me and hour and a half to get back on track as far as hydration goes to where I felt normal again. Another lesson learned I guess.

There were quiet a few drop outs during the event mostly because of the heat though there were a couple serious injuries. Along the route I talked to a few people that had attempted Kettle Moraine and found out that hypothermia was the cause for many of the runners to end their event which saw only 51 out of 155 finish the 100 mile course.

All in all, it was a wonderful event and I hope the guys that came down with me enjoyed themselves as well. It was fun to spend time with them, not running, and just talking about life. Though I learned so important running lessons on the course, the more important things were learned on the way down and the way back.