Looking for a low key, relaxed and beautiful event on the Maah Daah Hey Trail near Theodore Roosevelt National Park in ND? This race is for you!
Race Report time!
My “A” race this year is fast approaching (9/9) and my running hasn’t been where I would like it at this stage in the game. I’ve been struggling with consistency in my training due to a health issue that popped up in May and has continued to linger somewhat, with only 3 runs over 20 miles since my 50 miler in Feb. FAR from ideal, right? Yup…I thought so, too. I also know that in order to toe the line in September with the confidence that I can finish strong (and not turn it into a “barely finishing within the cut-off bloodbath”) I needed to get at least one 50k under my belt. I didn’t want to run these miles from the house; I wanted a race environment to test aid station transitions, to run trails somewhat similar to the upcoming race, and to work on pacing. When I saw The Badlands 50k popup, it wasn’t long before I hit “register” and was IN! The race is only 4 hours away, which translates to practically a “local” race out here – ha!
Hubby and I drove up the day before to stay at the Wannagan Creek Cabins; these are the same cabins we stayed out last year on our trip to Medora. They are absolutely perfect; quiet, comfortable and peaceful. Unfortunately for me, they were also 90 mins AWAY from the start of the race (totally my mis calculation – oops!) which we didn’t discover until we arrived. Looks like we were in for an earlier wake-up call than we had originally anticipated.
We opted for dinner in the cabin – pasta, marinara and a hard boiled egg, nothing crazy like Antelope Canyon (HA!)– before heading to bed early for a decent night’s sleep. Wake up was 0400!
Race Day (8/13)
After a great night’s sleep, I actually woke before the alarm and took a quick shower to help freshen me up. Breakfast #1 was a Gnarly Nutrition Vegan Feast shake with almond milk. YUM! We quickly dressed and headed out to the race start, arriving just as the sun was rising around 630.
Race start was 730, but we were advised to arrive early for parking and for packet pick up. We were able to park with another local runner out to run the 16 miler, and spent the next hour chatting and staying warm. A bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios (Breakfast #2) and 2 trips to the porta-potty (luck in the porta-potty prior to a race always sets the stage for a good event. Let’s just say mentally I was ready to have a great race! 😉 ) and we were ready to go!
After a quick run down of the rules of the trail by the RD Chad Haffa, we were off. DIRECTLY up (and up) a hill onto a ridge. There were several events all on the same course (10k, ½ marathon, 16 miler, marathon, 50k, 50 miler) so there was a conga line of runners for the first half mile or so. Once we reached the top of the climb onto the ridge we were able to spread out a bit and find our pace. It can be a challenge running an event on the same course with many different distances, as the folks running the 10k will be going much faster than those going further (usually), and it is so easy to get caught up in the faster paces and blow up a race plan. So the goal here is was to stick to my own plan and not feel pressured to run faster.
I quickly fell into step with Brent, a guy from Bismarck running his first 50k. Finding someone to chat with can really help the miles to pass; we discussed his foray into ultrarunning, hunting (always an interesting topic with a vegetarian) football, the military…as usual, when out on the trails the conversation flows and barriers come down.
We stuck together through the aid station at mile ~3.5 and then the turnaround at mile ~8. Around mile 12 Brent and I split apart and from there on out (the next 20 miles) I ran alone. Mile 16 is the start/finish and the turnaround for the last out and back, and I stopped quickly to refill my nutrition in my Orange Mud VP1, slather on the sunscreen (I was already getting burnt at this point, despite application pre race) and then I was back on the trail. Out and backs are fun, as it allows you to see where you are in the race in relation to those around; the next 50k runner I saw was now about 1.7 miles behind me. I got to the final turn around at mile 24, and with 8 miles to go I couldn’t believe how good I was feeling. I felt stronger now and more relaxed than at the start. THIS is a great feeling! The weather was warm, but not too hot, but 99% of the course is exposed, and the sun beating down can take a toll.
Staying cool, calm and hydrated is key with races like this. And I have to give a shout out to the RD here; the water at this event was the best of any race I have ever run! No joke; it was ice cold throughout the entire event…fresh, cold water is heaven during an ultra, especially at the end stages when it gets warmer!
The second half of the race I was feeling great and having fun, taking time to take pictures along the beautiful course.
Before I knew it I was dropping back down the ridge into the finish line area, where I was “coined” for my completion of the event. I also found out I was 1st overall (my first overall win!) and although it was a small race, it still felt great to have executed a race plan so well. I felt great physically and mentally throughout the entire run; which to me is the biggest win, as the 50k is my least favorite distance and my training hasn’t been where I would like it to be. This race was huge win mentally for me, and I feel a lot better approaching my 100k in 3 weeks time.
I highly recommend this race; it has a wonderful grassroots feel, well stocked aid stations, a friendly and laid back RD, cool finishers coin and a GORGEOUS course. Plenty of runnable sections and some longer climbs that make this a fun race!
What I did right
Hydration/Nutrition: I have been really working diligently this past year on my nutrition and hydration, after suffering lots of tummy issues and flash crashes in the past that have really impacted my ability to run a race well. I really feel that I have nailed this aspect of my racing; I use a Carbopro and Skratch Labs combo and my goal is to consume a bottle each hour.
Pacing: I ran this race completely on joy and feel; I had no goal time goal or ambition to push the pace beyond how I was feeling. I wanted to be tuned into my body and not worry about getting caught up in someone else’s race or pace.
Resets!: I have been working towards my Original Strength certification this past year, and I’ve been incorporating the resets of the program into my pre and post training. And guess what? I am finding them extremely helpful DURING my events, too! I stopped at aid stations and after some of the climbs to do head nods, cross body crawls (standing) and focused on my diaphragmatic breathing. This is the first race I have done this, and I absolutely felt a difference in my focus, more connected with my body, and less stressed and tense. Definitely will be incorporating these resets into races into the future.
What I learned for my next race (these are somewhat weather dependent for summer races…)
Sunscreen: Even though I applied sunscreen prior to the event, I don’t think I applied enough and I should have sprayed a little more on the first turnaround. I am glad I had some in my dropbag, but I need to look into another brand that will last longer or carrying a little on me for races such as this.
Taking the time post race to change: Sounds crazy, right? I wrapped up my race and waited around for hubby to finish…and I didn’t change or even sit down. I had the clothes in the car along with my post race shake, but I chose to just dink around and get BURNED by the sun. I should have changed quickly into clean clothes that offered better sun protection.
Remember the shorts that cause waistband chaffing: Enough said. I know better. These shorts are NOT my go to long distance short…lesson learned. Again.
Distance: 31.97 miles
Shoes: Pearl Izumi M2 Trail
Socks: Smart Wool PhD
Nutrition: 1 Vespa Pre Race. Gnarly Nutrition shake pre and post race. Carbopro and Skratch Labs in my bottle; 7 bottles consumed during the event. Small Dixie cup of coke at 3 of the AS. NO flash crash, energy dips or tummy issues.
Gear: Orange Mud VP1 pack (my absolute favorite!!) Orange Mud singlet and Moving Comfort shorts, lucky CA hat
Other: Trail Toes for blister prevention (WIN!!)