I’m a firm believer of doing something that’s a little bit scary every year. In 2018, the “scary thing” came in the form of signing up for my first Ultra Marathon. I knew I didn’t want to travel too far, and if I could find one late spring that would be perfect since I was already training for Boston in April. Insert: Ice Age 50.
This race opens up in early December and typically sells out in less than 24 hours. So I had my laptop geared up, credit card in hand, ready to register the MINUTE the race opened! The Ice Age 50 has three options: Half Marathon, 50k and 50 mile. I opted for 50k, thinking it would be a good stretch to add 5 more miles after Boston.
On race day I rode down to La Grange with some friends who were running the half. Thayne and Parker would arrive later on, closer to the finish time. It was due to be chilly and wet and we didn’t want Parker outside the entire time. And my friends knew others running the 50m and 50k events too so were good sports about showing up early.
I had no real goals for this race other than to have fun and just finish it! It was a trail race, so I knew it would be slower than running on trails. I also knew the first 13 miles were the most technical and were an out and back, with the following 18 miles being two 9 mile loops on Nordic ski trails. I seemed to have found my “group” of people to run with for the first half marathon distance and we enjoyed chatting with each other about our running histories.
The first part was pretty much all single track trails on the out and back. It had rained fairly had the day before, but the trails were nice and hard packed with only one spot that was a bit hairy with the mud. Around 4 miles in a spectator told me I was the third female. I kind of scoffed and said “Oh, good to know I guess…” thinking there’s no way it’s going to stay that way. I don’t run trail races… or super long races, and I had no idea what I’d be able to bring today.
At the turn around point for the first 13 miles was an aid station, but I was good to go with my pack, chomps and water bottle. So instead I turned right around and kept going! I tried to kind of count and see how far back 4th place was from me (because 1st and 2nd were already about 8-10 minutes ahead at this point). She wasn’t too far behind and there were more ladies right behind her. Strong women!
I came through the first half marathon right around 2:05 (9:30ish pace). I was thrilled that I hadn’t had to walk yet… some of those trails were steep! I was happy with this pace so far and hoped I could keep it going on the loops.
Thayne had texted me at this point and said he had left our home and would be to the race in about 45 minutes. I knew I wouldn’t see him until I was about 22 miles in then, starting my second (and last) loop of the race.
The Nordic ski loops were much wider trails, a lot of it grass covered with narrow foot paths from other runners (or skiiers). I had lost my running buddies at this point but it was kind of nice to just follow the orange flags and be alone for a little bit. Most of this loop I was completely alone, doing my own thing. So I thought the elevation was fairly steep at times during the first 13 miles… but THIS elevation!! Wow! It’s not that the hills were long, but they were steep. Straight up. Right back down. Right back up! You almost had to sprint the down to get enough momentum to get as far up the other side as you could before needing to hike up (Go Go Gadget Glute Activation!)
I finished the first loop (22 total miles) and saw Thayne and Parker and my friends! I quickly gave them hugs and kisses and took off. I had been texting Thayne a little bit throughout the race telling him my average pace and that I was still (what?!) in third place! He texted me about 5 minutes after I left saying the 4th woman just came through mile 22. I had kind of been running in fear, if that makes sense. More so running with a sense of urgency. Not wanting to fall about and really push the pace, but wanting to make a big effort to run hard enough to stay in third.
On this loop I at least knew what to expect in terms of the elevation changes and kept my sprint down, run as far up, hike the rest method going. It seemed to be working so far, so why not! I hadn’t had to stop at any aid stations yet and I was so thankful that I packed as many snacks as I did. I started to pass quite a few more people on this last loop and some were 50k runners but quite a few of them were half marathoners. It was so great to cheer them on and have them do the same for me! I kept counting down the miles and realized at the 27 mile aid station that my watch was off by a mile… one less to go right away?! Heck yes! This also meant my average pace was faster than I originally thought!
I finished the race in 5:03 and change, meaning I ran 9:45 ish pace. I was THRILLED with keeping that pace through 31 miles! I only walked on a few of the up hills in the loops, I stopped once for a sweaty (for Thayne and Parker) kiss. Other than that I RAN 31 miles! And I finished as the third overall female! WHAAAAT?! Maybe this trail running thing is for me?
Right now, I have no more plans for any ultra marathons or even any more trail races. But this was a pretty good first mother’s day weekend for me. I got to do what I love to do, had a great result and then got to relax with my boys. Up next for me is a half in Idaho!
To go back to the race report archives, click here.