Ice Age 50 Mile Race Report

I wanted to compete for the win on Saturday, but I'm simply not there yet.  But that's OK, because where I am is a good place to be: on the way up!  I ran smart, I didn't fall apart (relatively speaking), and I ran a pretty competitive time.  There's not much more you can ask for—the pieces are all starting to fit together.  I couldn't keep up with David Riddle on Saturday, but I know that with only six months of consistent running and buildup after nearly a year of injury layoff, I'm still pretty far from reaching my potential.  Give me another six months; my ultra season this fall is when I'll be ready to truly compete.

I knew going into the Ice Age Trail 50 Mile that I was in much better form than when I raced American River five weeks prior.  I could feel my fitness and my core stability starting to come around (I find the latter especially important in staying efficient late in an ultra).  And Saturday's race confirmed all of this—I ran a time that would win the race many years, though it was only good for fourth in this year's deep field.  David, my Salomon teammate, ran an absolutely stellar 5:56:46 to blow the rest of us away over the last third of the race.  He was only the fifth runner in the 32 year race history to break the six hour barrier.  His time was the third best ever, behind only the remarkable ultrarunner Andy Jones (5:53:41 in 1988) and 2:13 marathoner Dan Held (5:54:41 in 2000).  David's race report (linked above) is a good one—this race was an important one for him (as AR50 was for me last month), and I'm glad he got the win and got what he needed out of it.  David's a great guy, and he has some big things yet to accomplish in this sport.

Meanwhile, in the final miles of the race, Brian Condon, Zach Bitter, and myself sorted out the 2nd through 4th place spots.  I ended up at the back end of that group, but I'm good with that.  Brian ran one heck of a 50 mile debut, while Zach accomplished the difficult task of holding us off (well, me anyway), running solo with just a minute or two lead over us pretty much all race.  For my part, I feel I got everything I could have gotten out of myself on that day.  It was a big step forward from American River, and I know I'll be fitter yet in four weeks at Cayuga Trails.  I better be, as it's gonna be a hot one!

My dad, sister, and brother-in-law made the trip up to Wisconsin to cheer me on and be my crew.  This was actually the first time any of them had seen me run an ultra, so that was a treat.  It was great to have them there for support, as well as making for pretty seamless aid station transitions.  My dad is also good about yelling out useful information, like how many minutes down I am from each competitor ahead of me.  Not as big of a deal when you have some out-and-backs to gauge this, but still nice.

My splits in the race were roughly as follows:
  • 10.5 miles - 1:10 (AS3)
  • 17.3 miles - 2:00 (AS5)
  • 21.2 miles - 2:32 (AS7, turnaround point of Section 2)
  • 26.0 miles - 3:05 (AS5 (again))
  • 40.2 miles - 4:52 (AS10, turnaround point of Section 3)
  • 50 miles - 6:10
I know these are sometimes handy for people in the future looking for benchmarks for certain times.  For reference, Riddle was probably a minute back at 10.5, even with me at 17.3, two minutes ahead at 21.2, eight minutes ahead at 40.2, and 14 minutes up at the finish.

I've also got to give a nod to my Salomon teammate Cassie Scallon, who simply destroyed the 19-year-old course record of 7:04, running a 6:46:38.  Cassie dealt with her own injury trials last year, and after Lake Sonoma and Ice Age, she seems to be back in great form.

There was the usual microbrew-fueled revelry post-race, which was a blast and a great reward, as ever. I got to spend a few days in Wisconsin after the race as well, which was particularly restorative.  The country air and open fields were a wonderful and welcome change from my Chicago day to day.  A final thanks to my sponsors; and to Jeff Malach, the Badgerland Striders, and race volunteers for putting on a great event.  I'll be back to race again—hopefully a lot faster—of that I'm sure.