Newton Hills 50K 2017
This race was on my bucket list for quite some time. The strange thing with Ultra-races in the Dakotas is that there is only 7 that I know of, and 3 are within 8 days of each other! I decided to run my owned coined „Double“ this year. Meaning, after the prior weekend’s 12 hour race (64.17 miles), i decided to also compete in the 50K (31 miles) the following weekend. I can tell you upfront, I may switch up the distances in the future, as there is a 6 Hour option and an either 20K or 30K option. I tend to reach for the limits whenever I find a unique chance like this one.
|obligatory pre race equipment pic|
|Start/Finish area incl. aid station|
The temps were chilling. The few people already at the Start/Finish area setting up their drop bags, were huddled around a small campfire, which in one way is nice of the race directors, Karen and Nancy, but also quite punishing later on as we had to run best that warm heavenly shelter and keep going back into the cold dark woods. Ultra’s are sadistic beasts. Only us maniacs consider them fun.
|prime drop bag spot|
The frosted grass tips cracked ever so slightly under our shoes as we approached the starting line. Nervous jokes were made and everyone got ready to start their watches. Looking around, I saw concentrated faces and steam rising from their heads and their breath was visible in the collective glow of everyone’s headlights. It was 6:01am. 17 degrees Fahrenheit (-9 Celsius). The signal was given and off we went. Cold air filling our lungs on the first big strides that loosened our legs as we commenced our journey for the day.
We had a couple hundred yards on an open grass field before the route went into single track heaven. That was enough to allow the fast guys upfront to gap the field and get going and us other runners to get in a forced slow rhythm behind, which allowed us to conserve some energy. This first loop turned out to be my least favorite, despite feeling physically the best this early on. We were so tight together, that I couldn’t see anything but the feet from the runner right in front of me. Picture this: a foot of dirt single track, ever changing in direction and random roots and rocks thrown in for fun.
Despite my awesome 2000 lumens from Gears Spheres, I couldn’t shine my
light through the guy in front of me and so I stumbled quite often as I
had to react to things tripping me the distance of a Subway footlong away! Add
into this that after the front pack (3-5 guys) my chaser group took a wrong
turn (the directors clearly said „always turn right!“, so for some reason I
told the guy in front of me: „Go right here!“.
Served me well.
I made up for my gaff by once again convincing everyone else to follow my direction, because I recognized the little wooden bridge crossing. „We just did this 10 minutes ago! We need to turn around!“ We picked up a handful of other runners who were following our headlamps and we were back on course shortly after.
That incident helped taking the self-imposed pressure out of the race. Now, I also had another excuse for not doing well today! This was now a 51K!
The rest of the first loop was uneventful. I recognized most of the trail even in the dark, as I had purposefully come down here a couple of times to run this park without pressure and study the course. I knew the big climbs coming up (Big considering the local natural features (300 feet/ 100 meters) and was looking forward to getting into a rhythm to be repeated five times total today.
I noticed the final half to quarter mile was all on an extreme downhill, which I loved! I happen to be crazy (or inexperienced enough with falls) that I go balls out! It’s no longer running, but control falling. I tend to extend my arms into an „airplane“ position in that situation to keep my balance, but I will run those section at least 3-4 times faster than most other runners. Take what the trail gives you!
|Team Frost Beard!|
My aid station strategy paid off big time. Each lap I threw my empty bottle from a few feet away and picked up a new one without barely breaking my stride. Chance and other runners took a few moments to gather their items and thus I was able to start breaking away. He is such a strong runner though that even my aid station advantage only lasted for a few minutes and he cruised right up to me again.
After two loops we ditched our headlamps as we could now make out the trail in the immersing sunrise and welcomed the warming sunshine to hopefully begin to melt our already fully established frost beards!
|all of us do. all of us.|
|end of final downhill section|
At the end, I came in 7th overall at 4:52h. The winner ran an insane 4:03h for a new course record. These young college kids!