Apple Creek 50k
The Apple Creek 50k (AC50k) is a new event located in Appleton, WI. The Race Director, Brian Gruender, designed the event as a way to raise funds for the Snow Drop Foundation, which helps children diagnosed with cancer. When asked if I wanted to run, it was easy to say yes! AC50k is a four loop course that has two brief stretches of road (a bit over 2 miles total), and the rest is on trails speckled with small hills, the occasional twist and turn, and some rock and rooted sections. Under normal circumstances, meaning a dry course, I think it would be a relatively fast course even with the rolling hills.
I went into AC50k with a few objectives. I wanted to get a solid long run in, and I have found when doing long runs of 30+ miles it is easier to just sign up for a race. I wasn't planning on red-lining it, but I did want to push the pace a bit and test out how my legs felt on a combination of trail and road. I also wanted to try out some different fueling strategies along the way, as I am always trying to fine-tune my strategic carb use in training and racing. Races like this offer up a great opportunity to get a look at how well certain strategies will work.
Race day morning was the first time I realized that it was going to be a soggy adventure. I hadn't paid too much attention to the weather forecast going in, so it was a bit of a surprise when I stepped outside the hotel room and realized it was pouring rain. Despite the rain, my goals remained the same. I fully expected the pace to be much slower, which was fine.
The first loop of the course was exciting, as it was all new at this point. As the laps go by, I enjoy learning the different sections and creating a plan based on the previous lap(s). The biggest surprise came as I entered the first section of trails. Within 100 meters there was a long section of trail that was flooded out to the point of ankle-deep puddles. It felt like running through a shallow creek bed. Once my feet were wet and I knew what I was getting into, it became fun to blast through the water.
After completing the first loop I thought I had a pretty good idea of how the course would play out. I was a bit skeptical of how much wear and tear would occur on the trails. The flooded out sections would likely stay the same, but there were also large stretches of buffed out single track that were already really slick. With well over 100 people filing through them four times, I wondered how slippery they would get by the end; as there were already spots that I had to walk up sideways in order to make it up without sliding back down to the bottom.
By the end of the second lap, I started to really embrace and have fun with the conditions. The uphills were a bit frustrating as I would prefer to be able to run up them, but the downhill sections became a mix of fast cadence and strategic skiing on the mud. It became necessary to use tress and limbs as ways to stop, turn, and keep balance as I navigated through the slippery sections.
By the third and fourth lap, my initial thoughts became reality. A couple spots near the creek posed really deep water/mud holes. On two occasions I stepped in knee-deep water and mud. Thankful that my shoes stayed on my feet. I kept pushing through, accepting that these laps would be slower than the first two, even if I increased effort.
My fueling goals for this race were to improve a bit on the source of refined carbohydrate I consumed. Traditionally, since following Optimized Fat Metabolism (OFM), I will take in between 100 and 200 calories per hour. In some instances, the majority of these calories have come from Mountain Dew. My goal today was to find a fuel source that was more natural. My plan was to try to keep things simple, as I was crewing for myself. I had four bottles prepared. Each bottle had 8 ounces of 100% pure organic orange juice (110 calories), one Vespa Junior (33 calories), 6-8 ounces of water, and 2-3 pinches of sea salt. My plan was to use as needed, grabbing a new bottle every lap if I needed to. I ended up only going through 1 ¼ bottles, which would have surprised me at the start. I think the cool temps and wet environment made it so that I didn't need as much fluids and electrolytes. I only took on 178 calories total. I was on the course for just shy of four hours, including a few sections where I pushed the effort up quite a bit. I didn't feel any significant fluctuations in energy or the need to fuel too much, which tells me I am pretty well fat-adapted.
A big thanks to all the volunteers and Brian for putting on a great event! I hope to come back and run it again in the future.
Gear and Fuel
- Altra Footwear - One2.5
- Orange Mud HydraQuiver (single barrel)
- Orange Mud Handheld
- Drymax Running Lite-Mesh
- Julbo Venturi