Race Report: 2013 Chippewa 50K

I am now officially an ultra-marathoner, having completed my first race this year at the Chippewa 50K in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin in 6:58:38! Spring 2013 has had some chaotic weather, dumping significant snow volume on the Midwest in weekly bursts followed by warm weather melts. In the sheltered, wooded space of the Chippewa Moraine State Park, the snow presented an interesting challenge for the runners. The North and East-facing slopes held on tenaciously to their drifts and ice slicks, hiding streams of ice-cold melt, while the South and West-facing slopes were alternatively dry or muddy. The conditions would make for an interesting day!
My alarm woke me at 3:45 in the morning after a restless sleep; I was too worried about waking up on-time. My pre-race meal was an oddly delicious mixture of grapefruit, plain vanilla yogurt and fruity pebbles! I threw in the cereal on a whim, but discovered it to be quite tasty! I didn't make coffee like I usually do, but I didn't really miss it. I pulled in front of Steve Quick's house at 04:50, who was raring to go and great company on the road as we made our way East to the race site. We arrived early and found a parking spot right up front. The temperature was a cool 40 with a light breeze with a promise to warm up into the low 70s!
An hour later, after picking up our race packets and fussing about what equipment to run with, we gathered with around 275 runners (unofficial guess) at the starting line for the 6th annual race briefing by co-race director Jeff Allen. Aid stations were positioned at mile 3, 10, and 15 (the turn-around), a nice and even spread. I opted to carry only one water bottle and no belt, though I would have liked to have something to carry gels and S-Caps (something to remember for the next race). Two of the northerly slopes were labeled "WALK" due to the grade of the ice covered descents, and we were informed that miles 12 through 15 were the "worst" on the course. It didn't sound promising.
No one really wanted to stand up near the front, so I lined up near the front third of the pack, contrary to what I originally planned. Given how the race played out, it might have been wiser for me to start further back. Fired up and ready to rock, the race started and we headed out onto the challenging course. Within the first mile, I slipped and drew blood on the ice and sticks; not a great start.
It was soon evident to me that my Brooks Pure Grit shoes were not cut out for ice on the hilly slopes. A lot of energy was expended to stay on my feet, but I was able to continue to push forward. The downhill snow-covered slopes were most easily traversed by "skiing" down them, but it made for wet cold feet. You couldn't be sure what your feet would find underneath the snow: ice, mud, or trail. Miles 10 to 11, however were predictably unpleasant: slushy, snow covered ice melts. There was absolutely no way to avoid it or the frozen toes. Eventually, it tapered off and dried out again.
Somewhere around mile 12 or 13, I ran into Steve, who wasn't feeling well at all. We ran together for a short period, but unfortunately, his stomach problems distracted him from running. We separated, and I didn't see him again until the turn-around. Around mile 13 or so, we entered a pine stand with more sheltered snow drifts. These hills weren't nearly as icy, but there was knee-high snow in some points. Again, the "skiing" technique worked effectively on the downhills, and the duck-walking uphills allowed me to move forward. The trail cleared out again before the turn-around for some fairly runnable stretches.
I arrived at turn-around in 2:59, where I changed into dry shoes, my New Balance MT101s, and socks. It wouldn't take long for them to be soaking wet again, but starting out with dry feet was a plus. John left at 03:10, and I left at 03:12. In a couple of minutes, I managed to catch up with John Taylor and Marty Kanter-Cronin from Wisconsin (who runs with the Lapham Peak Trail Runners). We ran together and talked for a good hour, before I got a second wind and pulled ahead.
The dreaded mile 19 arrived, with the return trip through the icy slush. Whereas there were a few spots you could step without getting entirely soaked on the way out, you couldn't avoid it on the way back. The warm temperatures had melted a sufficient amount of snow to make the trail a veritable icy stream frosted in slush and snow. I couldn't help but giggle uncontrollable at the absurdity of it all. Here we were, grown men and women playing around in the mud and slush. It took no time at all to freeze my toes, and the woman in front of me couldn't stop laughing at my own mirth.
The second-wind didn't last long after that, and I had to switch to a run/walk strategy to keep moving forward. A few miles later, at mile 23, a well intentioned but mis-informed spectator was out encouraging us. "You have only 5 miles left, 3 miles to the next aid station!" It was possible that my GPS was off, but not necessarily off by two miles. I have to say that his intentions were well placed, but the misinformation was more discouraged than helpful.
John was running strong, and he passed me early in this stretch. The next aid station turned out to be four miles later, not three. I counted the miles in estimated time left on-foot. Averaging about 15 miles per hour, it was a slog. When I made it to the last aid station, the volunteers there were awesome. They were very encouraging and brought a smile to my face. I could do this. Only 3 miles left, and I could be done.
With two miles to go, we traversed up one of the two hills labeled "WALK" on the way out. When reaching the top, a mere 25' further was the site of the start and finish, but by the course, it was another 2 miles away! ARG! From an emotional perspective, it seemed that a few of us were in a funk, a low. At least two runners I spoke with were ready to have the race over with, myself included. Interestingly enough, this spurred me to run rather than walk. I wanted simply to be done and be able to sit and relax.
The final mile, a nice, dry, groomed trail, was such a relief. You could view the finish-line, up on the hill at the visitors center, a hill with teeth. Rather than charging up it, I simply walked most of the last mile. Marty and two others caught and passed me on that last hill, but I didn't mind. I was done! Official finish time 6:58:38.
The next couple of hours was spent trying to recuperate from the run. There was plenty of food for the runners and beer! Jeff signed the Finisher's Picture for the race, which I think was a very cool alternative to a medal. He mentioned that ultra-runners form a different type of community dynamic than your typical marathoners closer to a family than simply acquaintances. I certainly got this feeling as we all sat around, chatted, and cheered in the remaining runners!
I am an ultra-marathoner, and I can't get enough of it! (Even though it hurts to walk today!)


Home Remodeling - Please Be Done Soon

There is a fine layer of dust on everything in the house, a constant reminder of the remodeling taking place to gussy up this old bird for sale. They're not big jobs, but they all take time and manage to push our usable living space from room to room. So far, we have the upstairs bathroom 95% complete, the dining room 95%, the kitchen 95%, the downstairs bathroom 95% (for three years now). The living room is at 75%, with lots of painting left to do. The upstairs bedrooms are 90% complete, with lots of trim painting and some touch-ups to do.
Why are we moving? Two reasons: space and schools. At ten months old, Nora is still a frequent napper. Quiet time is a challenge for the boys, who are six and eight and full of energy. We need to either send them outside in the back yard or get them out of the house, which is not always feasible. Having a finished basement family or entertainment room would alleviate much of the stress that permeates the house now. It would also be nice to give the boys their own rooms, since they share a smallish room now.

The second priority is education. Currently, the boys go to Highland Park Elementary, a Primary Youth Program and International Baccalaureate school. It's a relatively good school, when you compare it to other Saint Paul public schools, but it pales in comparison to offerings outside the Twin Cities districts. There's one exception to this, Capitol Hill Magnet School for gifted and talented students. Connor and Ryan both qualify, but due to a strict lottery system for enrolling students, only Connor will be admitted next year. The following year, Ryan's 2nd grade year, would give him precedence over lottery students, but we're not comfortable waiting that long for his education.

Taxes are done, so now we can apply for a loan pre-approval and find out how much house we can afford. The market is full of possibilities, and we've been looking at houses and communities for four months or so now. There are some favorites on the list, and a long list of must-haves. Hopefully, we'll remain reasoned and logical in our selection rather than be swayed by something on our nice-to-haves list.

I hate cleaning. I hate house work. I would really like this to be done now. If anyone wants to help paint, you're more than welcome to come on over! With Spring right around the corner, we're planning on doctoring up the outside as well for some curb appeal! Gardeners welcome!