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North Country Trail Run - RunMarathon

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Wellston/Manistee, Michigan
United States
45F / 7C
Total Time = 4h 13m 40s
Overall Rank = 37/139
Age Group = F45-49
Age Group Rank = 2/9
Pre-race routine:

Hotel was 15-20 minutes from race site. Had not picked up my race packet the day before so had to get there early enough to get it. With less than 250 people running, I didn't think it would be a problem.
I'm an early riser anyway so I was up at 5:00. The hotel coffee was lousy the day before so called BK and they didn't open until 6:00, too late. Called McD and they opened at 5:30, better. Gathered my stuff and headed off to McDonalds for coffee. I could have sworn we passed the McDonalds yesterday on our way to find the race site, but no there wasn't one before turning off the highway. If I had even looked the other direction when pulling out of the hotel parking lot, it was only 1/2 block in the other direction. My excuse is maybe it was before 5:30 and the arches weren't lit up yet? Anyway, this town is right on Lake Michigan and it is Coho season so there were lots of fishermen out early. They all seemed to be stopping at the same gas station so I figured they must have decent coffee (they also had the sign that said 'bakery' which may have had something to do with it's popularity). Got my coffee and sat in the car to drink it and eat a banana and a cliff bar.

My mom and step father live in Michigan so they had come to Manistee to see me. Hadn't seen them in a couple of years so that was nice. They opted to sleep in and not go to the start but were at the finish line when I got done.
Event warmup:

Got to the race sit just before 6:30, race started at 7:30, and was a little surprised how many people were already there. Got my packet and debated on what to wear. Finally decided on short sleeve shirt, arm warmers, and socks on my hands. The arm warmers stayed on for the entire run and the sock/mittens lasted until mile 20.
They announced there would be a prestart meeting at 7:20, they'd play the national anthem and we'd be off. Since this was my first experience on trails the pre-race meeting calmed me down quite a bit. He showed up the orange posts that were used to mark the trail and explained exactly how they would be positioned. He even noted that there would be places where we would see 'Do Not Enter' signs but to ignore those and go where the orange posts indicated.
  • 4h 13m 40s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 09m 41s  min/mile

The RD yelled 'GO' and we took one quick lap around the parking lot and headed out on the trail. Positioning yourself correctly is critical when running single track. It IS single track and passing is very difficult. This was a trail marathon plus a 50 miler. As always there would be some speedsters up front and I assumed most of the 50 milers would position themselves further back. I chose to hop in at about the back of the first third which worked out nicely. The first several miles were (according to the garmin) right about 10:00 min pace which was great. It gave me a chance to get a feel for the trail and settle in. I was in a rather long line and really had no choice what pace I ran. The first aid station was at mile 3.9 and everyone kept going and didn't break the line at all. When we got to the second aid station at 6.8 most of the people stopped. I intentionally kept on going so that I could break out of that line. The rest of the day I was on my own. There may or may not be someone in front of me that I could even see and I may or may not be able to hear someone talking or breathing behind me. Most of the time it was me, the trail and the trees. I LOVED it.

The purpose of doing this marathon was a long training run for IMAZ. With it being a 50 miler, the aid stations were more like IM aid stations then marathon stations. Part of the experiment was to see how much solid food my stomach could take on the run. I was wearing a water belt but not carying any calories at all. Ideally I would have liked a few calories at the 6.8 mile aid station but wasn't feeling the need for them yet and really wanted to break out of the crowd. After that at each station (10.2, 13.4, 17.1, 21.0, and 24.1) I took 1/4 PB&J sandwich and three or four potatoe chips. This worked really well for me. The only problem I had was that I needed to pee starting from about mile 16 and kept putting it off. I didn't stop until after mile 20. Then at mile 21 I got my sandwich and chips but also had some defizzed coke which has always worked well for me in the past. Today it gave me a major side ache. I don't know if waiting so long to stop and pee added to the problem or not. I will have to experiment more with the coke cuz I thought I could count on it.

When we started out the girl right behind me in the original pace line was an experienced ultra runner but today was only doing the marathon. I guessed that she was probably in my age group. After I broke away from the group, I always knew that she was still right behind me. There were some switch backs where I could see her through the trees, at times I could hear her voice chatting with someone else behind me, and as I would be leaving an aid station I could see her approaching it. I kept telling myself this was a training run and I wasn't racing anyone, but that is so hard. When I finally stepped off the trail for my pee break, I seen her go by and I knew she seen me off the trail as well. It was almost a relief to have her ahead of me.

The hills starting at mile 17 were tough but I did OK with them. There was a big hill at mile 18 which was probably my lowest point of the day. At that point a man passed me with a big M-dot tatoo on the back of his calf. It reminded me of why I was doing this run and how it is so important to just stay in a good place mentally. I easily talked myself back into the game and was fine for the rest of the run.

I had been occasionally catching my toes on tree roots and everytime I would stumble and have to catch myself I always wondered if this would be the time that my hamstring would go or maybe the next time. At about mile 22 I started catching every tree root I passed. I seen the roots and would attempt to get over them but the legs were just so tired from the hills and the trails that it wasn't working. I pulled my pace back quite a bit just for safety's sake. I did not want to risk getting injured and even though my brain would tell my feet to clear that root it just wasn't happening. I thought the toes on my left foot were going to be shredded (I will probably lose two toe nails). Once it flattened out again with about a mile and a half to go and the trail became much smoother, I picked up the pace a bit again. However, I was still catching roots. With 3/4 of a mile to go I finally did it. Completely hit the dirt and fully initiated myself to trail running. Can't believe I made it that close to the finish and on some of the best footing we had run all day. No injuries just three small raspberries on my left knee.

As I went through the day and watched some of the other runners who were obviously much more experienced trail runners, I realized that I was using way more energy than they were by moving all over the trail looking for the best possible foot plant with every stride. Their ankles and hips were obviously much more stable than mine. They could just stay on the path and move forward because the have the balance and stability that will come with more trail running.
What would you do differently?:

Up until this month I have never run single track before. Within the last month I've done two single track runs of about 5 miles each. Running single track is very different than running roads or groomed trails. As much as I enjoyed this race, I would not recommend to anyone that they attempt a trail marathon without being a bit more experienced with trail running.
Post race
Warm down:

No actual warm down. Chatted with the girl who beat me. We were 1-2 in both Masters and our F45-49 AG. She ended up beating me by about 5 minutes. Also talked to the guy with the IM tatoo. He did IM Wisconsin last weekend. Now that is crazy, an IM one weekend and a trail marathon the next. He has done 15 IMs in 11 years.

I marveled at the folks who were coming through the finish area that were completing their first lap and going back out to do the second lap of the 50 miler. It was a perfect day for the 50 miler and a beautiful course for it but I sure didn't envy them that stretch btwn 17-20 on their second lap. However, there was a voice in the back of my head saying, if you executed it differently you could have done another lap. Oh, don't even go there.......

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Experience with trail running. I very much enjoyed this and there is definately more trail running in my future.

Event comments:

This was a great race. Unfortunately I heard from several different people that this will be the last year that they put it on.

Last updated: 2009-08-24 12:00 AM
04:13:40 | 26.2 miles | 09m 41s  min/mile
Age Group: 2/9
Overall: 0/139
Performance: Good
Wore my Garmin but the data is pretty useless. With the whole race being in the woods, the signal was not steady. The aid stations were not at even intervals, they were where ever they could logistically put them being this was entirely in the forest. The only one that I could remember where it was supposed to be at was the last one which was at mile 24.1. After the station prior to this I started watching the distance on my watch as I was getting anxious to get through the hilly part of this course and back onto some flat ground. All of a sudden I was at the aid station and figured I must have been wrong about it being at 24.1. I asked the volunteer and he confirmed that it was in fact 24.1. I looked at my garmin which said exactly 23.1. Talk about getting a mental lift late in the race. I was fully prepared to run another three miles but only had to run two. I just gained a bonus mile!!!!! I never really paid a lot of attention to the time or distance during this run until those last few miles and had begun to think it was going to be close to a 4:30 day for me which I was OK with. They have used this same course for years and I am totally confident that it is not a whole mile short. Thank you to the Garmin for measuring short rather than long. If the watch said 25 when I was at 24, that wouldn't have been as much fun.
Course: From the website: This is a marathon and 50 mile race which is run entirely on a single-track trail in the Manistee National Forest. The course is challenging with a fair amount of hills. The 25 mile loop course offers excellent footing, no rocks or stream crossings. There are 7 aid stations per loop with the greatest distance being 3.9 miles. This is a premier event in the Midwest. You'll find this to be one of the best organized events you've ever participated in. My take on it: 26.2 miles of single track trails. One big loop until about mile 17 where we entered a x-country ski area. There is one big hill in the first mile, the longest hill of the day at mile 10 and then it is pretty good until you hit the ski area. Miles 17-21 are entirely up and down, some of them very steep. Down hills were too steep to actually run, especially in a trail environment. The last 1.5 was flat again.
Keeping cool Drinking
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 5
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race?
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 5

2009-09-20 7:52 PM

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Extreme Veteran
Ft. Myers, Florida
Subject: North Country Trail Run

2009-09-20 8:22 PM
in reply to: #2416650

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Subject: RE: North Country Trail Run
Great job!

Amazed that you did this as training for AZ...has to be a huge confidence builder as a trail mary to boot!

Hope you recover well~
2009-09-21 6:34 AM
in reply to: #2416650

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Canton, Michigan
Subject: RE: North Country Trail Run

Holy smokes a 4:13?  That's great!  Glad you had good weather again this year.  My Garmin was off by something like .5 or .6 last year.  I thought they had the best PB&J's

I hope they don't pull the plug on this race, I was looking forward to going back in another couple of years.


2009-09-21 9:22 AM
in reply to: #2416650

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San Diego, CA
Subject: RE: North Country Trail Run
Great race! The buffet aid stations are a great way to try different nutrition options. Well done!
2009-09-21 10:38 AM
in reply to: #2417320

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Subject: RE: North Country Trail Run
you rock! great rr
2009-09-21 12:42 PM
in reply to: #2416650

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Goodyear, AZ
Subject: RE: North Country Trail Run

Awesome race report! I think you got everything you wanted from this race! How great that you got the nutrition practice and leg time as part of IM training! Should give you tons of confidence. Well done

2009-09-21 2:30 PM
in reply to: #2416650

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Fishers, Indiana
Subject: RE: North Country Trail Run
Wow! That's one heck of a training run, and you did awesome!! That's a super time for a trail run marathon! I would've probably had the same luck as you and avoid falling until the flat...that, or I'd have fallen every time I caught a tree root!!

Super, super "training" run!
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