Where to start? I guess bottom line up front this years attempt at the Dances with Dirt 50 mile UltraMarathon was not the disappointment that last year's attempt was, I chronicled that here http://www.mikemac356.blogspot.com/2011/07/dances-with-dirt-50-mile-ultra-some.html. This year was not a total success though and lessons were learned that will be used on upcoming Ultramarathons. I can see that Dances with Dirt and I are going to have a sordid history, I will call this year's attempt a draw. I finished but as my brother said DWD is going to be wearing a few more of my toenails around his neck on a string.
This years choice of hotel was much better and closer than last years, something to remember for next year. Myself, Starr and Jay drove up on Friday, checked into the hotel, drove the 15 minutes to packet pickup and then chilled the rest for the evening. I tried to go to bed early after laying out all my gear but didn't actually fall asleep until about 2300 for a 0315 first call, nervous anticipation I guess.
little under 2 hours. I was still feeling really good, I got to see my sister Deborah and her husband John who had driven up that morning from Madison to help out. I waved, grabbed some more water and a PBHoney flat bread and headed out on the next section.
This next section was where the race really started. It was a loop that went up a very steep bluff then down the other side. Then it went out into a swampy flat area for about 2 miles and you turned around and went back up the bluff and back to the Steinke Basin aid station. That loop was almost 15 miles of extreme elevation changes, temperature extremes and uneven footing. Did I mention by this time it was approaching 95 degrees and when I was not in the shade it felt like I was in an oven. We had also ran up this bluff last year but from another direction so this was also a new section of trail for me. Once I got to the top though the view was awesome, then it was a quick stop at the aid station on top ( South Bluff) and down the other side over the creeks and through the woods. My crew would shuttle between the aid station in the swamp ( Bug Pit) to the one at the Steinke Basin and I would see them every 10 miles or so. They did an extremely competent job at refueling me and encouragement. They did such a good job I barely even used the provided aid stations preferring to let them take care of me when I stopped. I completed this first 25 mile loop in about 5 hours, a decent time especially on this terrain and well under the cut off. I was smelling a PR but the trail gods had something else in mind.
So I headed out on the second loop, this one was a lot lonelier. All the other racers had headed back t the finish and it was only the 50 mile racers left. I ran most of this 15 mile section alone in the woods, stopping only to piss and take some pictures. During this point of an ultra at least the ones I have done, there isn't much position changing. That happens at the beginning and sometimes at the end. In the middle people are just trying to survive and not a lot of extra effort is being put out to pass. The guy that won the race this year took the lead in mile one and held on until the end. I was starting to hurt a little after over 30 miles of this punishing terrain. The published map said the course had over 7900 feet of elevation gain and I believe it. The bottom of my feet were starting to get tender and my feet were also starting to swell. Something I have discovered after doing a few of theses races is that my right foot seems to be smaller than my left, so consequently when I lace my right shoe after about 30 miles it is either too tight causing pain from my foot swelling or it is too loose allowing my toes to slam into the front of my shoe during descents causing blisters and trauma to the toenail . This happened again during this section, I have to get a handle on fixing this issue, maybe a smaller size shoe on the right foot? I got to Bug Pit for the second time and my crew was there shouting encouragement. My wife had made a large sign and was waving it up and down like a maniac. i couldn't have loved here more than at that point right there. I had finished about 36 miles and with only 14 to go I felt pretty solid but had slowed down somewhat. I knew I wouldn't beat my PR from the Ice Age Trail 50 but thought I could be under 12 hours. So I headed back up the bluff to Steinke Basin.