Last year when I reviewed the races and training from 2012 I emphasized how much I had learned about the importance of race course specificity training. I considered my Western States 100 experience one of the most eye opening experience in terms of truly understanding how important it is to cater your training to a specific course if you really want to nail it. This year at the Ice Age Trail 50 Mile (IA50) I strongly believe I learned even more about course specificity training, and what I need to do as a runner to maximize my potential with various types of running terrain. I would like to do a slightly different race recap for IA50 then I typically would do for a race recap. Since I have raced IA50 twice now; I think using both my experiences to outline what I learned, and how it will affect future training, would be more informative.
I basically identified two areas of weakness from my training leading up to IA50, and one area of strength with my training. The two areas of weakness were; lack of ultra style long runs, and uphill running. The area of strength was downhill segments. Throughout the race I either led or was in second place for 49.25 miles. Based on my experience from last year, aide station reports, visual contact with other runners, and a sense of pace; I felt like I really benefited from the downhill portions of the course, and gave up time on the uphill segments and the final 10k compared to last year. This ultimately resulted in a third place finish with a time of 6:08:17 seconds. My time last year was 6:05:45. The weather was slightly better this year with cooler temperatures throughout the morning.
Ultra style long runs was the first identified weakness. Last year, I did multiple 30 plus mile long runs leading up to IA50. Included; was the John Dick Memorial 50k, and the Mad City 50k, which were long and decently hard efforts. While reflecting and analyzing this year’s performance; I noticed my running log was much lighter on these longer efforts. My most notable long training run was the Indoor Marathon at the Pettit Center in Milwaukee back in January. Part of this was due to an extended taper, which was a result of switching races last minute, and some of it was avoiding races early in the season in hopes to preserve myself for the end of 2013. The reason I believe this was a factor in my performance at IA50 is because last year I felt I got stronger the last 9 miles on the return from Emma Carlin. This year, minus the first 5k of the return, I felt like the end of the race really caught up with me. At the turn around I was 4:30-5 minutes behind the leader, David Riddle. With Matt Flaherty, and Brian Condon nipping at my heels (45-60 sec. back) my thoughts were it would be unlikely I catch David, but quite likely I could get caught by either Flaherty, Condon, or both! So naturally it sparked a bit of adrenaline. I sped up quite a bit for the next 5k into the horsemans/young aide station (about 10k to go). I was told there that I was about 3 minutes back from David. I am not sure if this was accurate or not, but for a moment I thought; maybe I was closing in on him. Those hopes were exciting but quickly changed as the struggles began to mount. By the aide station at mile 47.6 i was about 11 minutes behind David. Surely some of that was due to David’s consistent effort and, in my opinion, strong finish. Regardless, I believe part of my struggles was the lack of ultra style long runs through training and racing.
Hill climbing was the second identified weakness. To put it simply; I got owned on the ups this year at IA50. Last year, I did weekly hill repeats. I did this because the Ice Age Trail is basically continuous short bouts of ups and downs. Nothing big enough to really kill you, but enough to really wear you down over time. David Riddle, this years winner, described it as “death by a thousand paper cuts,” which I thought was a spot on description. The difference between this year and last year was last year I callused myself enough with hill repeats that the paper cuts were slightly less detrimental. To put it in perspective; Last year I power hiked one hill (mainly because the staircase set up made it much more efficient in my opinion). This year I power hiked 3-4 different times in areas I had no problem grinding up last year. Most of my struggles with the climbs occurred in that last 10k stretch of the course.
Downhill running was the strength I identified this year. If it weren’t for how strong I felt on the downhill portions I have no doubt Matt Flaherty would have passed me in the waning stages of the race; just like Brian Condon ultimately did. I attribute this to the amount of speed work I did. This winter I based my training on speed in preparation for the Mad City 100k, which is a paved course that is relatively flat when compared to IA50. I felt way more comfortable bombing down the hills this year than last year. I think the quicker snap in my legs from the speed work allowed me to ramp up the cadence on the downhill segments; resulting in much less instability (more efficient foot strike = less time on the ground), and less eccentric damage from braking on the downhills to keep stability. Although my downhill training was brief I think my efficiency allowed for lesser muscle damage in these potentially quad busting segments.
Next time I race IA50, or a similar course, I plan to focus my training on maintaining an ultra style long run, weekly hill repeats, and road speed work. With this I hope to keep the strengths I had on the downhills; while also improving my uphill running, and end of the race endurance.
A huge congratulations to David Riddle for taking the win, and third fastest time ever at the Historic Ice Age 50 Mile. An inspiring performance by Brian Condor in his 50 mile debut was exciting to see to say the least. Great dialog with Joshua Brimhall for good portions of the first half of the race was a rewarding experience. Getting the chance to compete with support from members of my family, and girlfriend Krista made things much more comfortable. All of this coupled with the excellent post race festivities that seem to leave their mark at the end of every ultra marathon, whether large or small, resulted in a great way to spend a spring weekend morning.
Race Day Products:
- Fuel Belt:
- Vespa Junior (4)
- GU Roctane
- Coconut & regular water
- Coke/Mt. Dew (last six miles)
- Pictures courtesy of Krista Satori
Pictures courtesy of Krista Satori