Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ultras! Le Grizz report

October has been a great running month for me: two ultras in two weeks.  On 10 October I ran the Le Grizz 50 Mile Ultramarathon (Polebridge, MT), and on 24 October the Bad Apple 12 Hour Ultra (Greenville, MI) getting in 48 miles.  In general, I felt good in both races.  And in both races, I was slower than I had hoped.  Here's a quick report on Le Grizz.  My Bad Apple report will follow in a day or two.

This was my fifteenth finish (and start) at Le Grizz.  Starting this year the race is under new management, with Cheetah Herder and race founder Pat Caffrey now serving as RD emeritus.  Julie and I had flown into Kalispell on Thursday before race day and picked up my packet on Friday.  My faithful support crewman and cyclist, Jeff Ross, also showed up that evening, sans Laura this year, as she is recovering from knee surgery and was babysitting with the dogs.  Saturday morning I took the early start, heading out in the dark with other early starters.  Given my training, which included a 20 miler at a sub-10 minute mile pace, and feeling good, I ran through the first twenty miles at a pace that would extrapolate to a 10 hour 40 minute finish.  I was doubtful that I would maintain this pace; what I wondered was how much I would fade.

Jeff cycled with me quite a lot, which made for great conversation opportunities, and he and Julie leapfrogged ahead with the car to keep me fortified with water, Hammer Gel, elk sausage, and other necessities.  Julie ran with me a bit, but couldn't stay with me as I charged up a long hill.  She managed to stay in sight and ended up doing a nice 5K.

I was pushing it.  How much would I fade?  By mile 32 I was starting to find out, having dropped to a predicted finish of 11:30.  But at 32 something happened -- almost like a switch flipping, my legs became stiff and lifeless.  I stretched a bit, which helped, but I really felt myself slowing drastically, slipping into a lot of walking.  At the 35 mile turnaround, my friend and longtime ultrarunner Rich DeSimone caught up with me.  Rich is an experienced 100-miler and paces himself extremely carefully, using a heart rate monitor.  I stuck with Rich for the remainder of the run.

We slow ran and fast hiked for the next 15 miles, talking along the way about everything from comparative culture and cultural change, to running, to economic growth, to running, to poverty, to running, to our experiences with higher education, to running, to game management (Rich is a retired mountain lion expert), to... Anna from Bozeman, running her first ultra, whom we caught a couple of miles before the last aid station at mile 45.  Anna was complaining, in a kind of entertaining fashion, about how much she hurt.  I offered her a couple of vitamin I's (ibuprofen) but she declined.

Rich and I continued on and came into the last station, Anna close behind us.  From somewhere -- from her trusty support crewman, from her pack, from thin air, i'm not sure -- she produced a bottle of whisky.  I certainly am not averse to taking someone else's painkillers, so I drained my cup of water, held it out, and she poured me a good stiff shot.  I gulped it and she had one too.  Instantly my legs felt better -- I don't think that could have been the alcohol, it could not have gone into my system so quickly.  I think I could have run pretty well for the next two miles or so, but stayed with Rich.  Frankly, at that point, running ahead for two miles is a formula for a slower finish.

Anna passed us, and Rich and I continued on for a finish in roughly 12 hours and 21 minutes.  Pat Caffrey was at the finish to greet us, and we received our finishers' medals.  Julie threw extra clothes on me and a down coat, and I grabbed some of the traditional post-race fried chicken, potatoes, and beer...and a huckleberry bear claw.  After thanking everyone, Jeff, Julie, and I headed back to our motel (the traditional and wonderful Mini Golden Inns in Hungry Horse, now an even quicker drive to the start than when the race ran along Hungry Horse Reservoir, ironically) for a shower and into Columbia Falls for more food and beer.  A great day having fun with good friends in wild and beautiful country!

I believe this was my slowest Le Grizz ever, but the Polebridge course (previously known as "government shutdown course") is certainly harder than the two Hungry Horse Reservoir courses.  I grabbed some of the traditional post-race fried chicken, potatoes, and beer, and headedA finish is a finish, and I am very happy that I now have 750 lifetime miles at Le Grizz.  I can hardly wait for the next 250.

Photo: Mary McD., yerz troolie, and Kathie L. at the starting line.  A photo essay will follow.

Great race report.
Impressive start, wish you could have been able to keep it all the way, maybe more whiskey next time!

Can't wait to read your report on the Bad Apple Ultra.

/Mats (the second Swedish Mats)
Thanks Mats! It was great running with you at Bad Apple. I will have a report up as soon as I get a chance. I have some good photos, too.

(now, if I could just get this darned grading finished so I can start blogging...)
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