Race Report from Brad Birkholz... This year’s Afton 50K was completely different. Apparently Minnesota’s governing bodies couldn’t come up with a budget plan and decided to shut down all the state parks, 2 days before the race. Well this was a bit of an issue considering Afton takes place in a state park. Luckily RD John Storkamp was able to arrange the event next door to the park at the Afton Alps ski hill. John and his great group of volunteers were able to get the course marked and the race set up for the Saturday event.
Because of the change, this year’s course was a 7 3/4 mile loop up, down and around a ski hill, done 4 times. Standing there looking up at the hill seeing the ribbons going straight up, I knew it was going to be a rough day.
After John’s description of the course and how we weren’t going to like him afterwards, we were off. So up we go. This was a short climb to one of the hill’s roads. Maybe ¾ of a mile stretch. This was to be the only flat part of the course. Then up we go into some single track, coming out of the single track on to parts of the ski hill. Back into single track, climbing, descending, going into sections called, The Plummet, Man Handler and Larry’s Revenge. (These trails are used as mtn bike trails). Finally coming back out to the main ski hill. Again gong back up to the top and back down to the start finish. But surprise, that’s not the finish. We turn right and go back up the top of the hill, practically straight up. Then all the way down with a few more rocky switch backs to the start finish.
The first lap went well, just tried to take it easy because I knew there would be a lot of climbing. There was one section that turned into some smooth, gradual downhill single track, so I decided to pick it up a bit. A little ways into it I hit a root and went down. Of course, the smoothest part of the loop and I go down. One bloody knee and off I went. Got started again and I check my hands. Blood dripping off my left and what appears to be a stone stuck in my palm. Turned out to be a layer of skin, pulled it off and carried on.
Lap 2 was still just trying to keep steady. No causalities on this one. Don’t know what the deal was with lap 3. Came in after lap 2, got some stuff and just took off. Something kicked in and was able to pick up the pace, which was probably a good thing because of the issues to come in lap 4.
Now, Afton isn’t really known for being a tough course, but what it is known for is the heat and humidity. This is probably the fifth year I’ve been out there and every year it’s been hot. So all day I’m wondering when the cramping will start, lap 4 was that time. I had been taking 2 S-caps every hour from the start, probably 2 in less than an hour. Shortly into the last loop the cramping started. It sucked because the legs wanted to go but the cramping kept coming. This went on for the rest of the loop, good thing I had plenty of S-Caps. Probably took 3 in the last 3 miles. Managed to work through it though and finish strong on the last downhill with a time of 6:15:53, good for 27th place out of 97 finishers. Not sure how many started, but I think it was somewhere around 168.
Congratulations to all who finished on such a tough day. Special congrats to John and his crew for pulling off a great race under the circumstances.