Almost finished!

I really had meant to post something earlier about running the Little Su 50k, so I’m sitting down right now to at least get something up before I forget all the details!

First of all, I have to say that this is a beautiful race and well coordinated. Combined with the all the congenial volunteers who were so generous with their time they put on a super race, and it wouldn’t have been nearly as fun or as safe as it was without all their efforts. My husband was equally as wonderful helping me out with race day preparations and the post race quirks (pretty much everything that required muscular dexterity – driving, navigating stairs, finding dinner, etc…).

The 50k started at 1100 Saturday morning, 2 hours after the 100mi racers had started. By that time the temps were at about 22°f and very comfortable. Quite honestly, I really didn’t know what to expect from the weather and it was a relief that it was so mild. Unfortunately, the temps had been hitting the 30s for a few days before and although the trail had a nice solid base, it had quite a few inches of sugary-loose snow on top that made running more akin to what you’d experience running on a beach as opposed to trails in Alaska. The snow condition proved to be the greatest challenge for me, and consequently taught me a few valuable lessons I hope to get to put to good use in the future.

My plan was simple – run the first half of the race at a relatively low heart rate and step up the pace according to how I was feeling for the last half. What I neglected to anticipate was just how much work running in loose snow really is. All winter I had been running on cold, dry, and mostly hard trails up here in Fairbanks. I had 31 miles and 07:23:11 to become painfully intimately familiar with the differences. From the very beginning of the race everyone except the skiers struggled to keep a regular pace as we made our way out to Flathorn Lake. Fortunately, the scenery was absolutely gorgeous and the other runners were great company along the way.

It turned out that despite the slow progress I was making in the first 15 miles, my heart rate ranged between 160-170, way too high! I attempted to compensate for the extra calories I was burning by speeding up my food to 45 minute intervals, but my stomach wouldn’t cooperate. By the time I hit the Flathorn Lake checkpoint my body felt way out of whack. I should have caught a clue when I realized I had run into Heather Gaines, who is a way faster runner than I am.

The Lake was really cool, by the way. There were quite a few ice fishers out there hoping for a catch in the sunny afternoon and I was surprised at how many people I ended up greeting in the middle of a frozen lake. I was equally amused to realize I had to remain vigilant and pay attention to the trail so I didn’t accidentally stick a foot into one of the many abandoned holes in the ice.

For two miles after the checkpoint I took it easy until my stomach started cooperating again. Things were looking up, my body was feeling together and I settled into a comfortable pace. This was about the time the battery crapped out on my Garmin (405). That meant no GPS, heart rate monitor, or timer. This bummed me out because I had to rely on my own judgment on how much work I was putting into negotiating the mashed potatoes I was running in. Its easy for me to push harder when I can see that it is just my attitude that is slowing me down, versus seeing my heart rate is actually high and that I am over exerting myself. Without the Garmin I felt like I was flying a little blind – so in the future I’ll not rely on it so heavily while I’m training.

The rest of the race was uneventful (in a good way). The sun was setting when I was about 6 miles from the finish and the light made the scenery even more stunning. By the time I hit the last 3 miles on Ashire Road, it was dusk and the light was fading fast. It was a log last three miles. Troy met me where the trail hit the road again and it was motivating for a few minutes, but as he drove back to the roadhouse to meet me at the finish line the last three miles stretched out in front of me and faded into a gray that didn’t seem to have any terminus. 3 miles felt like 30 and after passing that eternity in my mind I looked up to see I had finally made it to the last turn that not far away were a few welcoming orange lights with people smiling underneath them. The lights looked warm and the people standing in them looked warm and all around the was a cool night sky. Troy and the finish line volunteers greeted me as warmly as the lights and it was over.

As soon as I stopped I thought about the 100 racers that were all still out on the trail and would still be for many more hours. I thought about what it would be like to run 70 more miles. Not moments ago, somewhere in the midst of the last 3 miles, I would have dismissed the thought as insanity, but now that I wasn’t moving anymore part of me wanted to keep on going.

It was a great run. I met some amazing people -Heather Gaines, Scott Moon, Yvonne Leutwyler, and many more whose names I missed. There are pics from both events posted from a number of participants here.