A group of my friends decided, shortly after the race was over last year, to commit to their first 50K this year at Devil’s Lake. Some just looking for a new challenge, one celebrating his recovery from cancer, and a few of us just along for the ride.
The course started out relatively flat, but the big hills that I remembered from last year started around 5 miles in. I stopped to get out the trekking poles, and was surprised at how much easier they made the uphills.
Several portions of the course were out-and back paths, which was nice because it allowed you to check in with people ahead of and behind you, check how they are doing, share food and meds if needed, etc. The proof that you had made it was to tear a page from a book that was posted there and return it to the last aide station.
Came to the 10 mile drop bag point and checked my feet. No issues, so I changed socks and went on. We came back to the drop bags 3 miles later, and it didn’t seem to make sense to tend to my feet again, so I just stuck a change of socks in my hydration pack to change out somewhere around mile 20.
Around mile 16 I caught up with a friend who had fallen and injured her hand around mile 5. It was now swelling and discolored to the point that we couldn’t deny it needed checked out. I walked with her and chatted to the aide station around mile 18, where she dropped from the race and checked in with the course medics.
The out and back that was the next 5 miles was some seriously brutal terrain. Stopped to check my feet at the turnaround point, and was surprised to see that at 20ish miles I had no blisters. Back up the hills to the aid station, stopped to share some ibuprofen with a friend along the way. The volunteer who checked my number gave me a glass of ice, which was about the most awesome thing ever at that moment. I actually lost some time through the next few miles, not moving as fast as I could have because I didn’t want to drop my ice. Its strange what will make you happy when you are past the 20 mile mark.
About this time, a few miles ahead, something was happening that I wouldn’t understand for the next few days.The course had been revised from the year before, and no one considered that the sweeper pulling the markings after the last 50 miler was also pulling the last 6 miles of the 50K course. Five runners, myself included, were pulled because the rest of their course was no longer there. (I emailed the race director when I got home, found out that the oversight had been corrected later in the day, and runners will be alerted to this time hack for future races. The five of us who were pulled have been offered our entry fees back due to not being able to finish.)
When they gave me the news, I was able to keep from directing anger at the volunteers. I didn’t understand (yet) why I could be pulled with 6 miles to go and 5 hours of the 50M course time left. I simply asked for the time (1:58 PM) and mileage (around 25 miles), then went across the road to collect my post-race food and beer.
Then I did what any Rucktard would do in this case: I refilled my hydration bladder, condensed everything I had brought into the rucksack that I used for my drop bag, and ruck marched the four miles from the race site to the camp where we were staying for the weekend. I was dead set on an ultramarathon this weekend, and 25 miles wasn’t going to cut it. 29 miles total was not the 50K I was hoping for, but it is past marathon distance, so I’ll take it.
Takeaways from this:
Foot care protocol is improving. After 29 miles, I came off with one small blister and one beat-up toenail. Much better than previous events.
Trekking poles are awesome. Can’t wait to see how they do at the Hitchcock this year.
Along the hike back to camp, I also noticed mile markers that may indicate a longer-term challenge:
It turns out there is a patch for completing all of it by foot. Stay tuned for details on that.