2015 Ice Age Trail 50 Mile

Four weeks ago I was at the Mad City 100k and 50k spectating some coaching clients and friends clip off the 10k loop around Lake Wingra. One week removed from my attempt at the 100 mile WR, which ended prematurely at mile 57 due to a tweaked left quad, I was beginning to think about trail running. Spending the bulk of my training for the past year and a half specifying key workouts towards the road and track had me craving a new stimulus. After talking with Ice Age Trail 50 Mile (IA50) race director Jeff Mallach, I decided to do some hill and trail training in the next couple weeks and head over to La Grange, WI, for my fourth Ice Age 50 Mile race.

This race is a great venue. The course is filled with lots of rolling hills that frequently turn and have you naviaging through roots, rocks and, at times, stairs. This is definitely not my strong suit, but it's such a fun stimulus it is always worthwhile toeing the line at one of North America's most historic 50 mile races.

My training for Ice Age was brief but refreshing. I spent the bulk of my workouts running hill repeats and doing Pheasant Branch Bluff Loops for about 3 weeks. It was fun to see improvements on up and down hill running.

All things considered, on race day the weather was decent for racing. It was noticiably more humid than in years past, and the rain we got the week leading into the race made some sections of the course a bit more slippery than I recalled from previous years. When racing in the Midwest in May, you become accustomed to not knowing for sure what the weather will be like, and you certainly don't count on the weather from previous years to automatically reappear.

The race started out much different than years past. The first 9-mile loop has traditionally gotten out very quck as people jockey for position and try to remain in contention for a podium spot. The field this year was large, but didn't have as strong a lead pack as in years past. I found myself running the first loop mostly by myself with the exeption of Ryan Aschbrenner (second place at JKF 50) sporadically moving up. It appeared as though he was pushing harder than me on the uphill sections and I was pushing harder on the downhill sections.

At about mile 22 I made a conscious decision to push a bit harder. I continued this effort for about 8 miles. A lot of the terrain in this section is marked with rolling single track with quick and sudden twists and turns, and at times through rocks, roots, and the occasional staircase. I would say this type of terrain is likely my weakest running environment, as I have yet to master a rhythm where I can really feel comfortable redlining through sections of trails like this. However, I find this type of running incredibly exhilarating, so it is always fun to try to push the pace a bit in these sections. There is something intriguing about not knowing much about what is ahead other than the few meters you can see. I hope to spend more time on this type of terrain in the future and better my skillset over it.

In years past, mile 30 through 40 were a contentious point in the race. It was a time where you knew that you had to make a move if you were behind, or it could be used as a strategic place to make an attempt at separating yourself from the field. You get a good visual of the field after the turnaround at the mile 40 aid station. I felt like I had a fairly good lead and didn't have that sense of urgency that is coupled with the knowledge of knowing you were mere minutes ahead or behind someone. I continued with the mindset of pushing when it felt natural.

I treated the final 10 miles in a much the same way as I did the previous 10. After the turnaround I got a good look at the rest of the field and discovered I had roughly 22 minutes on Ryan. This allowed me to continue my approach of pushing segments when it felt right, without stressing.

The post race was filled with a lot of what has become tradition at many ultras. A great atmosphere filled with sharing stories of each other's races, catching up with old friends, and meeting new people. Jeff Mallach, the race director, has consistently put on a great event with excellent volunteers and organization. A big thanks to Jeff and the volunteers for this, and to my crew who has now put in 200 miles' worth of Ice Age crewing for me!

Gear and Fuel

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Video and Pics

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9xzwh1DjNHY&w=630&h=420]

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