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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Shawn Maynard, left, and Kenny Young run the 50-mile race on April 29 during the Indiana Trail 100 at Chain O' Lakes State Park.

  • The Journal Gazette’s Aubree Reichel was the second female in the 50-miler and finished 13th out of 111 runners.

  • Reichel

Sunday, May 07, 2017 1:00 am

Aubree's Adventures

Ultra-happy with finish

Months of sacrifice produces shattered goal in 50-mile run

AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette

I started getting choked up with five miles left in my 50-mile trail run at the Indiana Trail 100 on April 29 at Chain O' Lakes State Park. 

I took a deep breath and continued running, putting one foot in front of the other, in pure elation that I was still able to run at mile 45 and well above my goal pace. 

I'd set out to finish the 50-mile distance in under 10 hours. That's a 12-minute per mile pace. Pretty simple when put in those words, but 50 miles is a long way and a lot can happen. 

I started training in November, about a week after running Veteran's Half Marathon in Columbia City. My speed was there, my endurance wasn't too shabby, either, but there were some bumps along the way.

This was probably the longest training cycle for a single race that I've ever done and it took its toll, physically and mentally.

I started training with Mike Else with Peak Performance Runner and Three Rivers Running Company and he had me doing speed workouts in addition to some easy days, cross training and long runs.

I got back into double-digit long runs in mid-February while March proved to be successful with 20-milers again. Because I had to cover the high school basketball postseason, I was unable to run with the IT training group, so most of my Sunday long runs were by myself. A few times, I did have someone with me for all or part of it and a lot of the 100-milers were doing the back half of their weekend back-to-back runs so I was never truly alone.

My 30-mile training run on April 1 left me doubtful about how much my body could handle. About 26 miles in, my knee started to restrict my running. I was able to power-walk but it was still mentally defeating. I finished 30 miles in about 51/2 hours which really isn't too bad. But I knew I could be better.

My taper started there. I did 15 miles the next week, which went great, 12 the week after, which also went great but my last 12 was hot, I was dehydrated from the start and was unable to keep up with my intake. This was disheartening, but a lesson learned. 

I took in about 90 ounces of water each day in the week leading up to the race even though the forecast was not favorable (50s and rain). 

Finding my pace

The race started at 6 a.m. and I quickly found a comfortable pace with a friend who was running the 100-mile distance. He was opting for a 16-minute run, 4-minute walk ratio so we talked for his first interval before his walk break. I didn't have a headlamp but sunrise was at 6:40 a.m. so it wasn't dark for too long. Enough people around me had headlamps and I wasn't going to be running late into the night so it wasn't necessary for me.

My nutrition was a big concern during training, so I had Huma-brand gels to take every 45 minutes and salt capsules for every hour. I carried this with me in addition to a bottle of water and a bottle of Tailwind in a hydration vest that had additional pockets for whatever I needed. 

In the first 10-mile loop, there were aid stations at miles 3, 7.5 and the start/finish area. I stopped at the first one just to top off my electrolyte drink (Tailwind) and grab some solid food since I knew I needed to eat early and often, even if it was something small. At the first aid station, I grabbed a few cookies and just munched on those for the next half mile or so. 

I know being familiar with the course was a huge advantage because I knew where the hills were, I knew where I could just turn on cruise control and run for an extended amount of time. This also helped me plan my nutrition as I knew which hills I would walk up and when I would get to them. 

With the forecast calling for a substantial amount of rain, Mike and I decided going out a little faster than goal pace would give me some cushion for when the trails got muddy. This ended up working out well since I got to the Schoolhouse aid station (mile 7.5) right on projected pace (1:17-1:20). I finished up the 10-mile loop around 1:47.

Nutrition plan worked

The second and third loops were 20 miles each, and I feel like my nutrition plan really helped break it up in manageable chunks. That's one rationale behind the 16/4 or similar run/walk ratios, to control pace, allow time for active recovery and ensure proper hydration and nutrition. 

My nutrition plan meant that I would never go more than 45 minutes without having to do something, whether it was a gel, salt capsule or an aid station. Mike told me the second loop was to focus on nutrition, anyway, to ensure I wasn't depriving myself for the final loop. I got to the Hilltop aid station (next to the Schoolhouse) at mile 17.5, again, right on pace at around the 3-hour mark. I grabbed some pretzels and was on my way with about 41/2 miles to the next aid station (Rally). 

The section between the two aid stations, referred to as the Northern Boundary, is one of the sloppiest areas when it gets wet. Luckily for me, my first time through was pretty dry as the rain continued to hold off. Even though it's only 41/2 miles, the section just feels long. It's deceptive. There were times where I thought I was almost out of it because a lot of it looks very similar but I just kept plodding along and soon enough, I was at Rally. 

Between Rally and Schoolhouse was about 5 miles, the longest stretch between aid stations. This section has some single-track trails but, most importantly, there's the High-Five Tree. I don't know when the tradition started, but the rule is that tree gets a high-five every time. It's a relatively low-hanging branch so it's painted orange to ensure heads don't smash into it, but everyone can reach it for a high-five. It's become kind of a landmark within the group. 

I got some soup at Schoolhouse and made my way back to the start-finish area. I was still well ahead of goal pace, coming through mile 30 around 5:24. This left me over 41/2 hours for the final 20-mile loop to still hit my 10-hour goal.

Mental challenge

The third loop was uneventful. It started raining around the 6-hour mark. I started increasing my salt intake to a capsule every half hour. Mike mentioned to me the beginning part of the third loop could be a mental challenge because of how much I'd run and how much I still had to go. I had a couple friends write motivational messages on my arm before the race so it was nice seeing, “Suck it up, Buttercup!” and “Always Forward. Love, Steve,” when I looked down. 

I feel like I had a certain amount of tunnel vision during the final loop in that I knew I was still feeling really good and found confidence in my continued ability to run at a consistent pace. My watch had the GPS capabilities turned on so I knew my overall pace, but I was not focusing on my per mile splits. It was only the day after that I looked through those and saw how consistent I remained throughout.

At mile 45, though, as I came down to Trail 5 on the northern banks of Sand Lake, it was more and more apparent that I was going to finish strong and completely smash my goal time. I started thinking that 9:30 would be possible and then, no, 9:15 and later 9:10. I was passing my friends doing the 100-kilometer and 100-mile races and we exchanged encouragement (another advantage of racing the home course: built-in support system). 

I got one last cup of soup at the Schoolhouse aid station and made my way the roughly 21/2 miles to the finish line. 

The elation when I crossed was worth every challenge I faced in the five months prior. There's a certain euphoria that comes with that kind of success. I was incredulous at how quickly the 9 hours and 6 minutes had passed. I was relieved that I survived and everything went according to plan. So rarely do plans work to a T in an ultra race. 

Sam Bird (6:33:08) and Suzi Swinehart (7:32:09), both of Fort Wayne, won the 50-mile distances but I came in second female to Suzi and 13th overall out of 111 runners.

Bruce Udell of Columbus, Wisconsin, won the 100K in 9:19:38 and Danrey Toth of Rolling Meadows, Illinois, won the female race in 12:00:59. Adam Walton of York, Pennsylvania, won the 100-mile in 18:35:47 and Bibo Gao of Buffalo Grove, Illinois, won the women's race in 19:58:03.

Aubree Reichel covers high schools, IPFW and recreation for The Journal Gazette. You can follow her training on the Foot Traffic blog at www.journalgazette.net/blog. She can be reached at 461-8339 or at areichel@jg.net.