50 Mile Run: Milwaukee to Lake Mills

Two weeks ago, I dropped out of a 50 mile race around mile 35 because of iliotibial tendonitis in my left knee. It was a little disappointing, and I expected the knee pain to hang around for at least a few weeks.

I ended up recovering a lot faster than expected, however, and decided to attempt one final long run before winter set in.

Packing my gear

Packing my gear

After only 3 hours of sleep on Friday night, I woke up to eat some Ramen noodles and finish packing. Allison drove me a couple miles down the road to Greenfield Park, where I started my run on the New Berlin Trail at 3:30 am.

3:30am

3:30 am

I followed the New Berlin Trail for the first 7+ miles as it cut through the suburbs of Milwuakee before dumping me out into downtown Waukesha. My legs felt great, and I made decent time. I started off using my headlamp, but flipped it off after a few miles since there was plenty of moonlight to see by. I’m a huge fan of night running because of the cool damp air (mid-30’s today) and complete silence and solitude. I was a little startled to see a guy sleeping on a bench next to his mountain bike at mile 3…but aside from that, this section was uneventful.

My route

My route (click to enlarge)

I reached Waukesha at 4:57 am. It was a little eerie running through the deserted streets (but in a “wow, this is really cool” kind of way).

Running through Waukesha at 5:00 am

Running through Waukesha at 5:00 am

It was around this time that I glanced over my shoulder, and in the process managed to land awkwardly on my left leg. I felt a sharp pain around the patellofemoral region of my knee (the same knee that had given me trouble 2 weeks ago, but a different area of the knee). I didn’t think it was very serious, but it flared up whenever I tried to jog. Walking was mostly painless.

I wasn’t doing this for speed, though, so I decided to press on. I spent most of the rest of the day grinding out a stiff-legged 15 min/mile pace, with only the occasional spurt of running.

I took my time navigating the streets of Waukesha, and joined up with the Glacial Drumlin State Trail a few miles later at 5:43 am.

Glacial Drumlin State Trail a few miles west of Waukesha (shortly after sunrise)

Glacial Drumlin Trail a few miles west of Waukesha (shortly after sunrise)

The next ~7 miles to Wales, WI was also uneventful. I encountered a couple guys training with street skis, but the trail was nearly deserted. I sent Allison a text, and arranged to meet her in Wales.

Changing my shoes in Wales

Changing my shoes in Wales

I reached Wales at 7:34 am, changed my shoes, threw on a jacket, grabbed a Snickers, and started off again at 7:41 am.

Leaving Wales

Leaving Wales

I took a few short breaks during the ~5.5 mile stretch between Wales and Dousman. Allison had driven ahead to scout things out, and surprised me by jogging back to meet up with me. We arrived in downtown Dousman at 9:18 am and decided to stop for a meal. I had an outstanding NY Strip with eggs and hash browns for only $8 at “Deb’s Main Street Diner”. After the meal, I walked back to the car to grab my ipod and warm up for a few minutes…so it was already 10:22 am when I started off again.

About 3 miles west of Dousman

About 3 miles west of Dousman

After leaving Dousman, the asphalt trail transitioned to crushed limestone for the remainder of the day. Much easier on my knees. I reached the next town – Sullivan, WI – at 11:55 am. Along the way, I passed a few other runners. I also saw a group of hunters in neon orange successfully shoot down a goose (or duck, or something) about a quarter of a mile away from the trail.

Resting in Sullivan, WI (mile 30)

Resting in Sullivan, WI (mile 30)

Allison had made a quick trip to Home Depot, so I actually beat her to Sullivan by a few minutes. I took advantage of the extra time by resting on a picnic table. The temperature was around 50 degrees by now, but a storm was beginning to roll in. So I donned a waterproof jacket and set off at 12:14 pm.

I met up with Allison again when the trail crossed Co. Rd. D about 5 miles later (1:37 pm). At this point I was feeling pretty tired from my lack of sleep the night before, so I took an hour long nap in the car.

Checking the map

Checking the map

I know that I started moving again at 2:43 pm, but my memory of the last 15 miles is pretty fuzzy. I remember seeing some wildlife (a cat, a racoon, a deer, a hornet’s nest, a dead mouse) and I remember my brain doing funny things. My hamstrings were murderously tight and sore at this point, and I remember being oddly happy when my feet started getting blisters (because I thought it would distract me from the sore hamstrings, or something). I definitely experienced all the extreme-highs and extreme-lows, physically and psychologically speaking.

I reached the Jefferson bypass at 4:10 pm and the Jefferson trailhead at 4:56 pm. It started getting dark again at this point, so I threw on a headlamp and made the final trek to Lake Mills in a raging windstorm and steady rain. I met up with Allison in Lake Mills at 6:32 pm, and we called it a day.

Arriving at Lake Mills

Arriving in Lake Mills

The trip ended up being approximately 50 miles. I didn’t make it all the way to Madison (70 miles)…but that might end up being one of my goals for next year.

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Published in: on November 17, 2013 at 6:00 pm  Comments (1)  

tBunk Endurance Challenge “Fifty” Miler

Why the scare-quotes? Because, for me, the race only lasted 35-36 miles.

10 minutes before the 7am start

10 minutes before the 7am start

I actually got off to a great start. The headlamp was only necessary for about 15 minutes, and I spent the first 3.66 mile loop chatting with a guy from Chicago. At the aid station I said a quick hello to Allison, shed my inner thermal shirt, and started off on my first of “five” 9.19 mile loops.

Allison, Don, and Andrea were my support crew for the day. Thanks guys!

Allison (not pictured), Don, and Andrea were my support crew for the day. Thanks guys!

The weather was absolutely perfect for long-distance running: mid-40’s with lots of fog and intermittent rain showers. We even got some hail at one point. So it probably wasn’t perfect weather for all the non-runners huddled around the campfire.

One of many scenic overlooks along the trail

One of many scenic overlooks along the trail

The first 9.19 mile loop also went well. I ate my hammer gels about 30 minutes apart, which seemed to work pretty well. I was feeling relatively fresh when I came into the aid station, said a quick “hello” to everyone, and took off with some fresh bananas and a full bottle of Heed.

Mile 22

Mile 22

I really don’t remember much about the second loop, except that it seemed to go quickly. I was starting to get some nagging pain in my left knee, but didn’t really think much of it. My energy level was fine, and I was on pace to shatter my goal of an 11 hour finish.

Mile 26

Mile 26

Somewhere between miles 25 and 30, the knee pain started to become significant. I tried listening to music to distract myself, without much luck. I kept thinking of the Frozen Otter race from two winters ago, when I gritted out 20+ miles of knee pain and ended up with a limp for the next three months.

By the time I finished the third 9.19 mile loop, my pace had slowed to a 4 mph speed-stagger.

DSCN4692

Mile 31

The frustrating part was that I still felt fantastic overall. Were it not for that 2 square inch area of iliotibial tendonitis, I think I could have made it through 100 miles, much less 50. I tried fixing things up with new shoes and some duct tape, but only made it about 4 miles into the next loop. I lost my footing on a slippery hillside, felt a lightening bolt of pain in my knee, and decided to call it quits. So I ended up with my first ever “DNF” in a race (did not finish; did nothing foolish).

Sooo…I’ll give my knee a few weeks to heal, then start training for another 50 mile attempt next spring. My splits:

tbunk splits

Published in: on November 3, 2013 at 4:36 pm  Comments (5)