Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Northwoods Winter Trail Marathon


I was so excited to hear that Andy Holak was bringing back the Northwoods Snowshoe Marathon in Duluth. As the Northwoods Winter Trail Marathon.  I always loved that snowshoe marathon!

The new race would take place on different trails, with option of snowshoe or trail shoe. There would be a half marathon and full marathon option. I was all in. I was going to run in trail shoes.

I stayed at Fitgers on Friday night and attended the trail film festival/packet pick up at Iron Works. It was so much fun! 

The race didn’t begin until 930 so I had lots of time in the morning. In fact, I felt like I needed a second breakfast before start time!  I began with 2 bananas and an orange. At the start while waiting I ate a sweet potato.  I was all set!

The weather was uncharacteristically warm. The high the day before was 42 degrees and at the start it was already 32 degrees with a forecast of 40. Unbelievable. It made for very warm, wet conditions. The snow was deep and melting, it was so soft and hard to maneuver through. 

I was surprised that we were able to run on these trails as most are public use and fat bikers use them. I saw people skiing, biking, snowshoeing and running. We were making deep footprints on the trail. We were really messing it up.

The conditions were real tough. We were post-holing through the snow, up mid calf through some of the trail. The snow was too soft to run on top of, we just sunk. Within 2 miles I had to remove my windbreaker. I was glad I had a pack so I could just stuff extra clothing away. It was very warm.

There was an aid station at mile 7. It took me over 2 hours to get there!  I  didn’t need anything, I just trudged on through. I had plenty of Tailwind in my bladder and a good supply of gels.

The trails were just gorgeous. We ran along Hawks Ridge fat bike trail which is perched high above the Lakeside neighborhood with incredible views of Lake Superior and the City. It truly was amazing…yet incredibly difficult to run through.

As I was running back to the start I began to think about how long it was taking me.  It would be 3:30 hours before I finally got to the start/finish again. I began to worry about daylight. I began to worry that it would take me to dark to finish. I hadn’t brought a head lamp. I never dreamed it would take me so long. I began to listen to others complain about the conditions. Their feet were cold and wet. They weren’t going to continue. I began to take a self check. I felt good, strong. I wasn’t sore, I wasn’t cold. I was working hard but sure didn’t want to stop. My only concern was daylight.

I decided I wouldn’t worry about the light. I wasn’t going to stop because of something that may not even happen.

I ran into the start  and asked if anyone had a head lamp I could borrow..no one responded so I refilled my bladder with water and threw away my empty gels. I asked a group of women if they were ready to head back out with me but they were all dropping. I was so shocked.  I said so long and headed out.

I was hoping the trail would have been in a little better condition for the second loop but it really wasn’t. I was still sinking into the warmed snow and doing a lot of sliding.  I decided to make an effort to run faster so that I would finish in daylight.

I didn’t see ANY other runners for the whole second half. Not a one!  I began to wonder if anyone else was running the marathon.  I was running a good two minutes faster per mile, I figured if it was getting dark at the aid station, mile 20, I could stop there. I trudged on and made it to the aid station at 2:45PM. I had a good two hours to do 6 miles in the light…I figured I could go for it.

I continued on, picking up my pace as I neared the finish. I felt so good, so strong, so happy. I loved the trails, the beautiful views of the lake, the overlooks of the city, it really was incredible.

After 6:30 hours I came into the finish. It was a great effort. I was thrilled with my :30 negative split. It was daylight. I made it! 

After I finished a volunteer walked up to me with an age group award. I couldn’t believe it. 1st Place 50-59 and 3rd woman overall.

I had a spectacular time. A great day!