Race Report from LPTRunner Joseph Fitzgibbon...
As Sarah and I were driving up to Sunday’s race, we experienced a little bit of déjà vu. Sarah started reminding me about the time I ran the Green Bay ½ marathon in 2009. The similarities were more than I had realized.
· Then: Driving to a race on a clear, comfortably cool spring pre-dawn morning.
o Now: Driving to a race on a clear, comfortably cool fall pre-dawn morning.
· Then: Headed north on hwy 151 going to Green Bay.
o Now: Headed north on hwy 151 going to Greenbush.
· Then: Ready to run 13 miles, the longest race of my life.
o Now: Ready to run 31 miles, the longest race of my life!
Three years ago a good friend challenged me to run the Green Bay marathon with him. At the time, I was running on a treadmill a few times a week. I remember commenting that, “running 26 miles would be insane”. So after much persistence and given the provision that I could run half the marathon, I accepted.
Flash forward, and here I am on my way to run almost 2 ½ times that distance….with hills….and rocks, and roots and more rocks. Wow!
So here’s the race report:
We got to the Greenbush fire station just in time to hear the last of the pre-race instructions for the 50 mile race, and to see the 50-milers set off into the wilderness of the northern Kettles. That left me an hour to pin on my race number, eat a banana, drink the last of my coffee and think about the day to come. The hour passed quickly, and before I know it I am standing at the start line next to Joel and Cobbie. Not wanting to think about how hard this might be, I comment to Cobbie, “31 miles until my next beer.” Cobbie’s reply, “Next beer, so your first beer was….” And with that, we are off.
The first 7 miles to the Hwy 67 aid station are a breeze. The temps are cool, the pace is manageable, the forest is full of fall colors, and the trail is full of rocks. I fell once, about 25 minutes into the race (tripped on a downed branch). Fortunately, the fall came on an uphill at low speed with a soft landing. I am back on my feet in seconds. No blood, nothing hurts. Great! Got that out of the way!
With 102 runners on a narrow trail, I figure I would have a better chance of running my own pace if I get through the first aid station quickly. Sarah is already at the hwy 67 aid station when I arrive. A few words of encouragement, a refill of my bottles, and I am back out on the trail.
From the Hwy 67 aid station to Butler Lake is 6.3 miles. This part of the race passes pretty uneventfully. I got into a pretty good rhythm and really just enjoyed the beauty of the trail. One nice thing about this race course; there is some variety in the terrain and running surface. Sure, it is mostly single-track through hardwoods where there are a lot if hills and rocks. There are also some nice pine sections with a soft carpet of needles, and the occasional open section where you can feel the warmth of the sun. As I am taking it all in, I feel grateful the challenges that have been thrown my way….never would have had this experience on the treadmill.
I arrive at Butler Lake ahead of Sarah. Still feeling fine, I fill my water bottles and decide to see how quickly I can do the 4.4 miles out and back to Butler Lake. Less than a minute after I leave the aid station, I start to see the front runners coming back down the trail. I think, “Should be seeing Joel any minute now.” And just then he passes by, looking strong and somewhere around 8th position.
When I get back to Butler Lake, Sarah is there waiting for me. She fills my bottles, and helps me rifle through my drop bag. I get a dry pair of socks and a dry shirt, some more salt tabs, a kiss for good luck, and I am on my way back to Hwy 67.
This is the point in the race where I started to feel fatigued. It kind of crept up on me. Around mile 22, I caught myself checking my watch more often. I was still running up hill and down but it started to feel harder. I figure, this is normal. Most of my long runs have been about 20 miles, so I am moving into the uncharted territory.
Arriving at the last aid station was the highlight of the race. Jeff Mallach calls out “Welcome Back!” My wife tells me I am looking fresh and roughly on pace for a 6-hour finish. Angela hands me a popsicle – WOW that was good! I think to myself, this is about as good as I could expect to feel at this point in the race. Linger a while taking in the moment, and then I am off for the final push.
The last 7 miles were fantastic. My quads were starting to get tired, so I took more caution on the downhills. Still running most of the terrain, I get right back into a rhythm. That’s when I did it, my fantastic rookie mistake! I pass the bathrooms at the Greenbush Loop Trails, and all of a sudden the trail gets much wider, flatter, softer and full of very leisurely hikers. I turn around looking for a yellow blaze….and it is PINK! (To the RD’s credit, the trail was very well marked. When I got back to the missed turn, the marking was right there.) No big deal, I get back on the Ice Age trail very intent on not missing the blue connector trail to Greenbush.
A short while later I arrive at the finish line. Sarah is there to give me a high five, a hug, and a “way to go!” So I finished in 6:16, which was 51st of 102 starters – right dead in the middle of the pack.
A few minutes later I take full advantage of the post race amenities, including a through hosing off in front of the fire station, a bowl of chili and one of the best tasting beers I have ever had. I would have liked to stay for a while longer to see the 50-milers come in, but we promised the girls we would go pick pumpkins in the afternoon.
On the ride home, I declare that 50K is my new favorite race distance. Sarah’s reply….sounds like déjà vu.
Thanks to my friends at LPTR for the encouragement, advice, and the weekly runs that make training so much fun. Thanks to Angela for the popcycle, Jeff for the warm welcome, and thanks to Steve for getting me off the treadmill. Thanks Mona and Greg, and especially to Sarah for all the support and giving me time to train. Can’t wait for the Ice Age 50K!