Saturday, September 19, 2015

2015 North Country Trail Run 50 Ultra (50 Miler) Race Report

Flavor Flav approved: World's largest finisher medal!
It's all about the bling...

This was my third year running the North Country Trail Run 50 Miler in Wellston, Michigan. I first ran it back in 2012 where I managed to finish 3rd overall despite pushing myself so hard that my whole body cramped up in the last few miles and I ended up peeing blood afterwards. Here's my 2012 race report. I did slightly better the next year in 2013 where I managed to finish 2nd overall and 1st masters (and more importantly, avoided peeing blood or being hospitalized with rhabdo this time). Here's my 2013 race report.

I really love this race. I can't say what it is exactly that draws me back every year. Maybe it's the course features miles and miles of forested single track on the famous Big M mountain bike trails. Maybe it's the post race feast or the beer. Mmm, beer. Or maybe it's the camaraderie and the chance to spend the afternoon hanging out with all my ultra-runner buddies from Michigan who I don't get to see as often as I like. Though, if I'm honest, it's probably for the finisher medal.

In case you haven't seen it, North Country has the biggest ultra-marathon finisher medals in the world! And I don't mean that figuratively. I mean literally. The finisher medal this year measured 7 inches wide and weighed nearly half a pound. I couldn't initially figure out why my neck was so sore the morning after the race. And then I realized it was probably from walking around for hours after the race with that giant hunk of metal hanging from neck. Which really makes me wonder, how does Flavor Flav do it?

When in doubt... attack like a mad man!
A series of questionable decisions...

Conventional wisdom holds that you should cut back your mileage in the weeks leading up to a big race. I kinda did the opposite though. Instead of taking it easy and relaxing the weekend before North Country I ran 78 miles through the Canadian Rockies as hard as I could. Am I an idiot you ask? Well, yes, probably... but that's beside the point. Let me explain.

My big A race of 2015 was going to be FatDog 120, a grueling 200 kilometer race through the Canadian Rockies just North of Vancouver, British Columbia. I wasn't actually planning on running North Country this year as it fell just 7 days after Fat Dog. But shit happens. Unfortunately I found myself dropping out of FatDog at mile 78 after leading the race for much of the first 100 kilometers. So when a last minute opportunity to run North Country presented itself, I said, "what the hell, why not."

I had hoped to arrive in Manistee the night before the race in order to meet up with some friends from Midland who were camping including my buddy Bill Pritchett who had paced me at North Country in both 2012 and 2013. This year Bill was pacing another buddy of ours, Matt Frazier, who had finished 2nd last year at North Country. But due to some unforeseen circumstances (namely me getting drunk off my ass at Rare Bird Brewery in Traverse City), I wasn't able to arrive at the start line until race morning.

Unbeknown to me, the race organizers had apparently moved the race start up an hour. This was fine except that now the race started before dawn (while the trails were still dark) and I hadn't brought a headlamp with me. Luckily for me, I was able to tuck in behind our buddy Matt for the first few miles who hadn't brought a headlamp either (but who had managed to borrow one from our buddy Bill).

My plan was to be patient and not to do anything stupid for at least the first 25 miles. Then, if I was feeling good and the opportunity presented itself, I might try to attack on the downhills of the second 25 mile loop. But you know what they say about the best laid plans. Suddenly, only four miles into the race, I found myself sprinting past Matt (who lead the first four miles) and bombing down the first descent like a complete nut job.

Some of the Midland gang: Maggie, Chris, Bill
Could have been worse...

I'm not sure what exactly I was thinking when attacked so early in the race. Maybe I was hoping that no one would be ballsy enough to go with me and I could open up a decent lead and then stay out of sight for the rest of the race. Maybe I was hoping to shake things up and test the field to see was capable of responding. Or, most likely, maybe I wasn't thinking at all and just doing what I do best: crazy incomprehensible shit.

Things pretty much played out as you might expect. I did manage to open up a bit of a lead for the first 18 miles or so. But I eventually got caught. And then I eventually got dropped. And then I eventually got caught, and dropped, again. But thankfully I did manage to hang on for 3rd place overall. And more importantly, I held off all the other "old" dudes and manage to win the Master's division championship, taking home a nice little piece of hardware.

My official finish time of 7:17:26 was only about 7 minutes slower than my PR on this course of 7:10:46 which I ran in 2013 when my buddy Bill paced me. Considering that I ran solo this year without a pacer, and that I'd raced 78 hard miles the weekend before, I was pretty pleased with my performance. Maybe next time I'll run smarter and skip the silly antics. Maybe.

Congrats to Jordan Lafreniere, who ended up winning the 50 miler, as well as to 2nd place runner Kyle Kiel who was finished just 3 minutes later. And a big shout out to our fellow Midland runner Maggie Mae Retelle who won the women's master's division finishing 2nd woman overall behind women's winner Angela Carron. Here's a link to the official results. And here's my Strava data

And while I normally would not bother to mention the results of the children's fun run or any other sub-ultra distance, in this case I must make an exception and offer congratulations to another Midland buddy Michael Barrows who not only won the marathon race, but destroyed the course record with a ridiculously fast 2:47:13. #WhatTheWhat #AreYouKiddingMe #ThatsReallyDamnFast

1 comment:

Gowtham S said...

I plan to do this in 2017. 2016 is already sold out I think :(