I haven't run the Afton 50K races since 2011 and that year the State Parks were closed so John had the races at the Afton Alps Ski Area. It was brutal, I was 6 months post hysterectomy and I was in the midst of herniated disc pain. I was so damn happy to be running, although it took me 8:30 to compete!
Fast forward to 2014 Afton 50K races at Afton State Park. A beautiful breezy warm July morning, tons of friends, my best friends and new friends. Just a perfect place to be.
I left home at 445 AM so I would arrive with time to pick up my number and head out. I don't like hanging about waiting for the race to begin. I arrived at 610 for 630 start time. Because the parking lots were full I was directed to park right on the road, a few feet from the start line. Sweet!
Making sure that I had my watch, my iPod, 12 gels and a cooler with a RedBull, Ultragen and Protein Powder I headed out to the start, dropped my cooler and mosied over to pick up my number. Lucky 13. I was ready.
I hung with Arika and Maria while we listened to John give us the details. He asked how many were running their first ultra-many hands went up. It was so awesome to see so many beginning their ultra adventure. He asked how many were running their 5th Afton, many more hands went up..mine included.
He sent us on our way and off we went. I figured I could finish in 7 hours. The course is a double loop. I wanted to run the first loop hard, in 3 hours or less, then let up a bit on the second loop. That was the plan.
The morning was spectacular. Bright sunshine, real nice stiff breeze, not many bugs. I felt great! No ankle pain, no nervousness, just happy to be out there to do what I love.
Aid Station 1 came up quickly. I refilled with water and ate a gel. I have really been having great luck with my race nutrition since I have begun to use only gels, water and ecaps. I'm still shocked at the simplicity and how well this works. No more decision making at the tables, easy to carry and HammerNutrition sponsors most races so their gels are on most tables. The only downside is the stickiness of the product. My hands become sticky and my clothing is eventually sticky as well. Oh well. No stomach upset and continuous energy..well worth the stickiness.
I made sure to have a gel every 30 minutes. This would be the first test at running a faster pace, in the heat, with only gels. They were doing the job.
I ran into many friends along the course, at aid stations and running the race. So much fun!
As I came into the 25K mark I looked at the time clock: 2:53. I was right on. Wow! I ran hard, kept hydrated, energized and in good shape. As I went over to my cooler I saw Don holding it, handing to me. How nice! We chatted, I saw Jim Wilson and chatted with him as I guzzled down a RedBull. Thanks to Ryan for showing me the RedBull way at Savage 100! I grew my wings and headed out to loop 2.
I began to feel the heat, the fatigue in my legs from the hills. Afton has many climbs and many areas of open prairie, although much of the course is shaded, thankfully. I made a mental note that I did not want to DNF a training run so made sure to hold back on the next 25K. I reminded myself that 7 was my plan and it looked like 630 was going to happen regardless. I was happy with this.
As I ran along the river I saw Steve Quick walking toward me. I haven't seen him in a long time. A quick hug and hello and off I went with a smile.
At the final aid station I saw Jeff, Al, Nancy, Kris, Tom and John all working the aid station. Hugs all around, big smiles and it's time to finish this party up. I come around the corner and who do I see? RD John. Awesome! Another hug, a laugh, a 'look at us' and I'm off with smiles galore. Good friends, this is what it is all about.
I ran into the finish at 618. Very happy with that time, not to mention how great I felt. I sure have the heat training in now. Voyaguer 50 is a few weeks away and it is usually really warm. Hopefully not really wet this year.
If you haven't run a RockSteady Race you really need to give it a try. John and Cheri really have the RDing down to a science. They do a fabulous job. Great organization and great fun. Thank you!
After hanging out at the finish, cheering in others and visiting with friends it was time to move on to more fun. I was meeting Bonnie and Marie after the race. We had such a blast! We made sushi, spring rolls, soaked in the hot tub, went for a pontoon ride-what an amazing day!
On Friday I'm going up to Lutsen to run the Superior Sawtooth 100 course. Time to get some technical running in. Superior scares me. Although I've finished it 2x I've also DNFd 2x, my first and my last. I finally entered Friday. I am in. This whole year is all about finishing Superior.
In other news: We had Troy's graduation party last Sunday. We had so much fun. Many friends and family shared the day with us. I can't believe the time has come. He was awarded a Merit Scholarship as well as other scholarships to help with his tuition at the U of M. I'm so proud of him. We'll be empty nesters by the end of August.
With all of the changes at home taking place I chose to make another. After 11 years at the Big Lake High School I am now moving to the Big Lake Middle School. I'm taking a position that contains two classification increases as well as a pay raise, more hours. I will still have July off but no longer 8 weeks. I'm so excited for this new challenge!
Next up: Voyageur 50 Mile. Woohoo! It's been 5 years since I've run the Voyageur. Looking forward to it.