Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Afton Trail Race 50k: Race Report

Part 1: Making it to the start

The night before the Afton 50k, my buddy Jared Gilman and I drove to Afton State Park to chill on the beach, take in the sights of the St. Croix Valley, camp, and hang out with the Gilman family.

Wayne Gilman on the course
The backpacking sights at Afton are about 3/4 of a mile from the parking lot, and most of the hike is uphill. I knew this, but hiking to the site seemed a little tougher than I remembered. Perhaps this was because I hadn't worn a pack loaded with gear for over a year.

At the campsite, Jared and I ate Chicken Marsala with vegetable rottini pasta, drank some beer, and talked about life. Jared's family, Wayne, Jen, Madeline, and Madeline's boyfriend Adam, showed up a little later. They graciously allowed us to share their campsite and their company.

Sleep didn't come easy the night before the race. Every patriot and their uncle celebrated our nation's secession from the British Empire in the most American way possible: by blowing up illegal fireworks the day before the official National Holiday.

The sound of fireworks detonating above the St. Croix River Valley dissipated around two a.m., and I enjoyed a nice rest of an hour or so before a new sound disrupted my slumber.

This particular whippoorwill thought it would be a good idea to begin its song around 3:45 a.m., ten feet from our campsite.

Part 2 - The race

As per usual, I made it down to the start with just enough time to get my number, misplace my water bottle (found after the race), and drop my gear. The 50k allowed a drop off at the 25k point, so I left some fresh socks, gels, and a change of shoes.

I started the race walking. At 2011's Afton Trail Race, I ran early and had to walk a lot late. This time, I was determined to walk early and run more late. Since my Med City drop out I haven't run much anyway (relatively speaking), so I had no big expectations for this race.

I got to walk with Wayne for a while, saw a new running buddy from the Running Room, Kelcey, who took photos and gave me some encouragement. I also did a lot of thinking and enjoying the sights as I ran through Afton State Park.

There were some particularly nice vistas from the "savanna" portion of the trail. The Canadian wildfires had brought down some haze, and the St. Croix Valley had an interesting blueish tinge.

I could write for pages about the conversations, the excellent volunteers and aid stations, my hip popping out and then popping back in between miles 16 and 18, and all the food I ate.

Instead of describing all that, here's some pictures from the race:

Mark and "Crazy Compression" Katie

Jared Gilman in the 25k

A couple seasoned ultra runners and I

Enjoying myself, photo courtesy of: Northwoods Photos

When I finished the race, I thought I had run a negative split. It turned out that I spent too much time goofing around at the 25k aid station/gear check with Leah, future wife of the great Adam Warden.

Trying to look contemplative

Part 3 - The finish

I managed to reach my "A" goal of finishing with no blisters. I also managed to set a 50k PR.

In blogging tradition, allow me to thank the following people for making this PR possible:

The Afton Trail Race, its organizers and volunteers for a well-run, well-marked course with great food and course support.

The Gilman family, especially Jared, for company, a campsite, and the shared experience of poor sleeping conditions.

All the runners I met, new and experienced, who shared part of their running journey with me.

Laura, whose organization of our camping stuff, photos, and loving support makes running not only possible but a shared joy in our lives.

This past weekend I ran the Shoreline Half Marathon in and around Hamlin Beach State Park near Hamlin, New York. That race report will be coming soon.

Happy Running!

No comments: