Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What I'll Do for a Sticker - Yankee Springs Double Marathon


Yankee Springs Double Marathon was held on 1 June 2013, in Middleville, MI.  This race came five weeks after my 100 mile finish at Indiana Trail.  For the two weeks immediately following that race, I didn't run at all.  It took me a bit to feel ready to go back at it.  
At the beginning of this year, I had discussed doing this race with a couple of friends.  My sole interest in it was to be able to put the 52.4 mile sticker on my car.  I'm a sticker whore, I freely admit.
So I went into this race not having put in more than 36 miles in one week in the five previous weeks.
All was well though.  I would be running it with my constant ultra companion, Kurt, with whom I ran 97 miles of IT with, and Tim, who was my pacer at IT.  Tim would be running the Yankee Springs Challenge, which consists of the 10k on Friday night, the double on Saturday, and the half marathon on Sunday.  After finishing the double, his first question was, "What's the cutoff for the half tomorrow."  After being told it was 5 hours, he decided to walk most of it.
Max King would be there for the race, so that was pretty neat for us.  I'm a bit of a sucker for famous ultra runners

The Day

The three of us had been checking the weather the day before the race.  It was forecast to thunderstorm on and off throughout the day.  That was not the case.  The weather was perfect.  Absolutely perfect.  Temps in the mid 80's, low humidity, the occasional breeze.  Couldn't ask for much better.

The Course

This was run entirely on trails, of which I am not a fan.  It was not a technical trail at all, which was nice.  The soil was pretty sandy, which allowed the water from the previous days rain to drain nicely.  The trail itself was nice and soft. No mud to speak of.
It was a 13.1 mile loop, ran four times for the double.  Here is the Garmin data from the race.

Elevation profile

The Race

It turned out our friend that had run a large portion of Top of Michigan 100k, John Sands, would be running with us as well.  So the four of us started out at 6 a.m.  We were all feeling pretty good, and averaged just under 11:30 min/mile for the first loop.  It was a beautiful day and a beautiful course.  I regretted not having any pockets in my skirt for my phone in order to take some pictures.
Courtesy of Runnerpics
At the start of the second loop, Max King blew past us.  We figured that he had lapped us.  When discussing this amongst ourselves during this loop, we didn't see how that was possible.  That would have meant that he completed a marathon distance in 2:20.  We found out later that he was just running the marathon, not the double, which started an hour later.  He actually went on to set a course record for the 26.2 distance, in 3:03.  I just don't understand that kind of speed on a course which, for him, had almost 1,500 ft. of gain.  He also took first in the 10k and the half marathon.
The second loop we slowed down, stopping to graze at the aid stations occasionally.  We averaged just over 12:30 for that loop.
A brief note about the volunteers.  They were fantastic, as has always been my experience at ultras.  There were fresh grilled cheese sandwiches at the aid stations, which was nice.  Always an offer to fill a water bottle.  Real class act.
Back to the rest of the story.
Kurt and I really started to feel the weeks of relative inactivity at the start of the third loop.  John and Tim went on ahead, while the two of us slogged through our mini doldrum.  This lap we averaged 15 minutes per mile.
There was a 14 hour cutoff to this race.  Our collective goal was to run it sub 12.  We all thought that it would be no problem.  But after the third loop, Kurt and I realized that we probably wouldn't make sub 12.  We still wanted to get as close to possible to our original goal.  We had an epiphany.  Just run when we can.  This meant a few things to us.  First, it meant run every stretch of ground that we could; just walk the uphills.  Second, it meant just run when we felt we could, and when we didn't feel that we could, reference definition number one.  So we set off strong.  By the time we got to the first aid station however, some of the wind had been taken out of our sails.  Kurt laid down on the grass for a minute, while I yelled at him "What do you think you're doing?!  Let's go!" (Many people don't understand our friendship or how we kid around).
The tendon on the top of my right foot started to bother me, and was really clamoring for my attention during this loop.  It was quite sore and tender if I landed on my foot the wrong way.  The other issue that I faced was more base.  I had a "I might have to go to the restroom" feeling since the end of the second loop.  During this last loop, it was intensifying with every step.  About one mile from the finish, I realized that I would not make it that last mile without going.  I found a nice log, told Kurt to go ahead, and left with a lighter step.
We averaged just under 16 minutes for the last loop

The Finish

All in all, it was an awesome race.  We all had a great time, and the course was super beautiful.  I finished only a few minutes after Kurt, but over an hour after John, and 40 minutes after Tim.  Because there were a significant number of DNF, all three of us got second place Age Group awards, a $10 gift certificate to a local sports store.  The funny thing about that is that we're all in the same age group.
My biggest take away from this race:  Running an ultra on little preparation and can be done if one has a super strong base, which Kurt and I had from our IT training.  It can be done, but it sure isn't pretty.
One other thing I took away from this race:  Oreos still taste awesome late in a race
Finishing time 12:25:01

l to r, Kurt, Tim, me post race

Finisher's pint glass