Finishing an ultra always comes with an immense sense of satisfaction. Hitting a finish line after many miles and hours out in God’s good creation on beautiful trails is an emotional experience. The sense of accomplishment is real and it just feels good. That sense is even greater when you return to a race that beat you up and dealt you failure in your previous attempt. My 2021 attempt at the Marquette Trail 50 was my first DNF and I’ve wrestled with it ever since. It wasn’t that this was a crushing blow to my ego or a defeat that tasted so bitter. I’m not really that kind of runner or person. I’m in this for the enjoyment, for the growth, for the learning and that DNF left me with so many questions. And yes, it did leave me with a desire to go back and finish what I started. That’s what brought me back, unfinished business.
In the end, I’ve reached a sense of contentment in saying my 2021 DNF at Marquette was due to a combination of three factors: (1) the hot weather of the day, (2) my quads being in an unusual pain due to the training effects of a medicine I was on, and (3) factors 1 & 2 exacerbating my concern of completely wrecking my legs before a trip with my brother to Isle Royale in the days following the race. I can live with my choices from that day and I accept what happened.
It didn’t take long after 2021’s race for me to begin plans to go back in 2022. Certainly I was driven to hit the finish line. I’ve also quickly come to develop a love for this course and for the Upper Peninsula of my beloved Michigan. I also wanted to get another 50-miler under my belt before I decide what’s next in my ultra adventures. And last but not least, I just enjoy doing this, I love this sport, I love challenging myself in the outdoors.
I am pleased to share that the 2022 race was a success in the sense that I finished the 50 miles. I made it to the finish under the time cutoff and with this I was pleased. As it goes with pretty much every ultra race, not to mention most of my long runs in training too, I’m left with seeking to understand what to make of the race. On the negative side, my finishing time of 13:44 is almost 2 hours slower than my primary goal for the day. I would have loved to go under 12 hours and maybe even faster. So I’m left wondering why this came so slowly. How much of it was me underestimating the challenge of the course? How much was it me just not performing well on race day? How much was my training not being enough?
On the positive side of the race, I don’t believe I had a single major bonk moment where mentally I wanted to check out or physically I felt I could do no more and I would need to death march the remaining miles. In the 2021 race I hit this moment shortly after mile 22 and the Harlow Lake 1st Bridge aid station. I still remember that feeling. I’ve had moments in long runs in training that were similar. I have that feeling where I’m simply not enjoying it anymore and I don’t want to be out there. I didn’t have any moment like that over the 50 miles in 2022. For that I’m glad and even impressed that I did some things right in managing my race. I was also pleased in 2022 to still be able to run small sections past mile 40 which is something I really didn’t do in my 2019 50-miler at Run Rabbit Run. That was a new eye-opening experience to feel what that was like and that’s always exciting in an ultra. So with these big positives I’m also left with a sense of confidence that I’ve figured some things about and might not even be crazy to think I should do another 50-miler or even still go to the bucket list and try a 100 miler.
All in all, I left the race with a very good feel. I finished, which is always an important goal and accomplishment. I had a number of things that went right and that is a good takeaway. I felt like I was really on top of my nutrition and hydration and reaped much success in that area. There are few if any races you’ll ever have in your life where everything went perfectly, particularly in an ultra, so it is to be expected that you’ll be left with some sense of things to be fixed and a challenge to do even better next time.
Table of Contents
The Marquette Trail 50 started at 5:30 with an “elite” wave as they called it. If you were wishing to compete for the win or in your age group you should be in the first wave. The 2nd wave was to start up about 3 minutes later. I decided to start the race in the 2nd wave with the goal of trying to avoid getting caught up in too many traffic jams in the singletrack. Last year I felt like I was losing some time early in the race when caught up in lines of walking runners. This was especially true in the Lakes Overlook section of the Lower Loop. I ended up in the middle of the 2nd wave to start with several dozen ahead of me. I tried to pass a handful in the shakeout loop before we hit the singletrack. Its worth noting that the 50K runners start simultaneously with the 50 milers and there are a lot of 50K runners.
In the first mile or so of singletrack the pacing went well enough with the “ant-trail” of runners keeping a pace around 11 minute miles and this felt pretty good. It wasn’t quite as warm as last year but muggy enough that I was breaking a sweat. Much to my chagrin, when we hit the more rugged trail by the Lakes Overlook there was a solid half mile of mostly hiking as a train of people got all bunched up. At first this feels okay as a bit of rest in a long ultra is good. Then it turns into getting antsy and looking for a chance to make a big pass. Then finally it took two or three people just making moves and that began to break up the bunch.
5.86 miles, 1:13 elapsed
At the wooden bridge aid station I enacted my aid station plans for the day. At every stop I wanted to refill both bottles with one of them always being an electrolyte drink. I would also make sure to eat something at each station and possibly grab an extra Gel or two. This would ensure I would stay close to a 300 calorie an hour rate, hopefully more.
|Dam area around sunrise|
The river section went very smoothly this year to the turnaround and the joining of the North Country Trail. I also felt pretty good on the 3.5 mile stretch back to Forestville. It was in this section last year I began to know I was going to have a rough day as my quads were already hurting and I was just going slow even on the double track sections. There was one very technical stretch I had forgotten about coming back to Forestville and here again we got some people bunched up into a slow hike.
10.73 miles, 2:17 elapsed
The Lower Loop ends with a return to the Start/Finish at Forestville with a big aid station and drop bags. I hit my drop bag and made a few quick food and electrolyte grabs. I had also packed a change of clothes and shoes as well as more Squirrel’s nut butter and tape for chafing. I had completed the Lower Loop about 9 minutes faster than 2021 which was a good sign. I was hoping to hit 2:15 and I came in at 2:17 so I was close. I spent 6 minutes at the Forestville aid before heading out for the counterclockwise trip on the Big Loop.
I got to know the connector between Forestville and the Big Loop well today doing it four times, twice in each direction. It was only moments into the Big Loop this year that I felt a piercing sting in my left calf. I never saw what got me but it was some kind of sting. Later evidence suggests it was a wasp or a hornet. At the Sugarloaf aid station, and many times later in the race, I would hear other runners talk about receiving stings, some thought they saw wasps.
The section between the Junction and Sugarloaf is gnarly almost the entire way. The westernmost section is just rooted, rocky and rolling. The middle section is up and down across numerous sections of rock slabs. The final bit on the eastern end goes up and over a small hump with a steep descent on the east side to head towards the road. I was feeling good in here and it felt like I was moving well but my pace in this section was a humble 14:03.
At the Sugarloaf aid I pulled out one of my tubes of tailwind powder and filled up one of my bottles. I’ve developed a system using the travel-size bottles for air travel you can get at your local grocery. I’ll put energy drink powder like Tailwind in them ahead of time to carry it on the trail. Its easier for me to buy Tailwind in the big 50-serving bags instead of dealing with the single-serving stick packs.
I also pulled out the third bottle I had in my pack for this longer section. Its roughly 7 miles to the next aid from here. In the 2021 race it was hot in this section along the lake shore and I really began to feel the temperatures. I wanted to be sure not to run out of water at any point.
After the long descent from Sugarloaf I was able to run most of this entire section along the lake shore. Thankfully the skies were clouded nicely and we were blessed with a nice breeze off of Lake Superior to keep things cooler. Along the lake in 2021 I had begun to feel more of my oncoming demise with fatigue setting in earlier than I would have hoped. So I had some anxiety in here this year hoping I would not be facing a repeat and similar demise. Thankfully no crash or bonk in fatigue came here this year. My overall section pace was 13:24 from Sugarloaf to Harlow Lake 1st Bridge but a lot of that is due to the slow descent off Sugarloaf. It has some steep and rooted sections before everything flattens out along the beach.
22.05 miles, 5:00 elapsed
The next aid station was Harlow Lake 1st Bridge. I remember this from 2021 as the Bacon Aid Station. It was a treat to pull up and see them advertising freshly cooked bacon. What a treat. Well, almost. I partook in 2021 but it was 10 minutes later that I pretty much had my final demise of my day of running. Now I wouldn’t necessarily say the bacon directly contributed to that but I wasn’t taking any chances this year. So no bacon. The volunteers here are otherwise great and there are a lot of spectators at this aid station so it has some good energy to it.
The climb up Bareback is a challenge and it was made worse this year by the bees. On the climb up a guy in front of me took two bee stings and just as he was hollering about it I felt a sting on my leg and looked down and saw another bee on my knee and he got me too. We hustled out of that area and yelled back at the people behind us to watch out. These stings never quite hurt as much as the one I got a few hours prior. Even into the evening the original sting kept remind me it was there. That’s what has me thinking the original sting was a wasp with the latter two stings being bees. The rest of the climb up and over Bareback went as planned. Its a tough climb with many rock slabs and it has a false summit or two when you think you’ve made it only to be disappointed. I took the flats after Bareback well and was still pleased with how I felt and moved. Things were definitely unfurling better than 2021.
Once again, like last year, the helpers at the Harlow Lake Old Railroad Grade aid station were fantastic. They go out of their way to be so helpful with everything they can. It was nice to be there and enjoy it this year with a mind for what was next. It was at this aid station in 2021 I knew I was headed for a DNF. I had a worker last year giving me a wash rag with ice to help cool me down and she was offering to put my name on it for my return trip in the 2nd Big Loop. And I had to verbalize to her that I wouldn’t be returning. None of that this year. I did take a handful of ice from them here to wipe all over my head and neck to get some of the cool melt water onto my body. Its not so much that the air temp was hot but that my body was just running warm from all the hard work. It felt good to bring on some of those cooling sensations.
I didn’t remember hardly any of the climb up Top Of the world last year as I was mentally checked out. It is basically a very long wide trail that gradually climbs for over a mile. Eventually you hit a trail junction and then make a quick climb up a steep trail and rock to the summit just like the other peaks. This peak has the shortest amount of light scrambling at the top. I would say it is the easiest of the four major peaks on this course but still enough to slow you down.
The back side of TOTW is much like the front side with a long gradual descent. I did remember the climb up Hogsback from last year as my brother had found me by that point and it is just notable, hard to forget. It is the biggest climb of the day. The middle section of the climb is fairly steep and full of roots and rocks. This terrain was making my quads on the verge of seizing in cramps. I took a rare moment to sit on a large rock to see if a quick rest would help them. I don’t think I sat more than a minute but it did seem to help the cramping and I was able to move again while watching myself. The upper part of the climb has brief moments of hands-on scrambling to get through large rocks. The climb up the top part of Hogsback was every bit as grueling and difficult in scrambling as last time. Its not something you would usually expect in a 50-mile ultra but yet it is part of the memorable charm and challenge of Marquette.
After a quick shot down the other side of Hogsback I was back to the junction and making my way to Forestville. It was worth noting a slight course change for 2022. Where previously the course wrapped around the Forestville Campground and came in from the east side, in 2022 the course crossed the westward part of the outlook and then swung east on the return part of the outlook before swinging around into the start area. I liked it as it was using the wider grass trails with plenty of room and it allowed you to mentally tune down for a bit as you focused on the aid station.
31.67 miles, 7:35 elapsed
I was a bit disappointed to see my total elapsed time was around 7:35. This meant my time on lap 1 of the Big Loop was around 5:10. Part of me had really hoped to be back by 7 hours elapsed and have more of a 4:30 but that just wasn’t in the cards for the day. I spent around 8 minutes at Forestville just making sure I could prepare myself to go out for the big 2nd lap on the Big Loop. This was where I had to DNF in 2021. I was doing some quick math in my head what the 2nd Big Loop would have to look like timewise to make sure I wasn’t worried about cutoffs. I was pretty sure I had plenty of time to work with.
One more interesting thing happened at the Forestville aid station. As I was working through my drop bag getting ready to go out again this mother with two young daughters was close by. It was clear one of them, perhaps 8-years old, was very upset. She was waiting for her Dad to come in to the aid station and she was very worried about him. It was so very sweet. An aid station volunteer came over to help console her and told her the race people were taking good care of her Dad, they had checkpoints on course and he would be okay. It was a nice human moment.
|Morning light from atop Sugarloaf|
As I began to head out, I was visualizing what the lap would look like in the other direction and what to be prepared for. I still remember that moment leaving the aid station to make my way out for that 2nd Big Loop. It was one of those “here we go again” moments. The 2nd time around the Big Loop you go clockwise. In a round-a-bout way its sort of an out and back if you picture doubling back on the same loop from the start line like that. One of the plus sides of going this direction is the climb up Hogsback was much shorter and easier from this side. It has a few steep scrambling moves on slabs which were certainly easier going up than down this time. I could tell that my movement was going to be slower in lap 2 and the likelihood of getting anywhere near the first lap’s time was unlikely.
The up and over on Top of the World went well and it was in here that something began to happen that I’d never really experienced before. I’m pretty much always a solo runner. 99% of all my training is by myself. I do enjoy running with others in races but it rarely lasts for very long. I’ve even spent 20-30 minutes in the past pacing with people just for the motivation, but inevitably it breaks up when paces change. Somewhere on TOTW it became evident I was pacing closely to three other guys. Two of them seemed to be running together though. The other appeared to be by himself. On the descent to the Harlow Lake ORG we stayed within eyeshot of one another and just started pacing off each other without saying a thing.
37.70 miles, 9:23 elapsed
Coming into HLORG we were pretty close. Interestingly, it was there that a race volunteer on radio told us the race winner had seen a sow bear with two cubs near the junction at the finish of the Big Loop. They weren’t telling people to quit or forcing anything, but wanted to share the word.
I left the HLORG aid first but probably only moments before the others. I wasn’t yet thinking at all that we would continue together, it seemed at the time we would all continue to do our thing. The others quickly caught me. The other solo guy and I spent most of the miles to and over Bareback just behind the other guys who were paired up. Thankfully on Bareback this time no bees were spotted. Coming down off Bareback the other solo guy moved ahead of all four of us. He was a good downhill runner. I paced just behind the other two guys and trailed them all the way into the aid station. At the time I felt good enough I probably could have, maybe should have passed them, but I felt like I’d hold position til the aid station.
At HL1 I took my time again filling everything up and making sure I was working away any cramps. I tried salted watermelon and made sure to fill up all 3 of my drink vessels for the long section over to Sugarloaf. The other 3 left HL1 a solid minute before me and I wondered if this may be it, I’d be flying solo the rest of the way. But I was able to catch up to the pair of guys in the stretch before the course returned to the beach along Lake Superior. I wasn’t with them for long before I dropped them and found myself able to move in a decent running stride. This was getting to be around mile 40 and I was pleased to see I could still run, albeit probably slow 12-13 min miles. It was a new experience to be 40+ miles in and still running and I wanted to savor it. I wasn’t in any great pain, just a general fatigue over the body. I could see where the mental game really plays later in an ultra. I was in a position where if I had the will to run I could physically run. But every minute was a battle against the will which was more than happy to walk.
In the first few minutes along the beach I was able to see ahead of me the other solo runner moving along at a similar pace. For a good couple miles I was able to keep him in sight in front of me and it helped to have a “goal” like that to keep me running. I finally caught up to the other solo runner sometime just before the Harlow Creek foot bridge. We had been within eyeshot of one another all the way since Top of the World and had at times running close by, and now for the rest of the race we would pretty much pace one another. We never really said anything about sticking together but it just seemed logical at this point. We exchanged some conversation as we mixed running and walking and passed the time. It certainly helped the mental game to have someone else to distract the mind.
We made the climb up Sugarloaf together and I found that my climbing legs were a bit stronger and I could stay ahead of him. But when we reached the summit of Sugarloaf and I had him catch up, he said he was going to move fast on the descent and see me at the aid station. And he did, he moved very well down Sugarloaf and I didn’t see him again till the bottom. I carefully worked all the staircases and then made a brief wrong turn heading towards the new parking instead of the smaller parking where the aid is located.
48.45 miles, 12:30 elapsed
At the Sugarloaf aid station I wondered if the solo runner and I would still stay together and I saw him drop his pack off with family and take off. I had this sense that he was going to try and see if he could make a quick finish of the last 3.5 miles. He certainly had younger legs than me and I wondered if he would still find a burst of speed.
I had hoped to also move well in the remaining stretch. I knew that between Sugarloaf and the main Junction was very rough terrain and would involve a lot of walking but I had hoped to run the remainder from the Junction. For the most part I didn’t see the other solo runner ahead of me after the aid station as he did move really well. This was true up the last climb up to the Junction where I pushed my legs hard one last time and by the time we made the Junction I had him just a minute ahead of me. I hadn’t expected to catch him or see him again till the finish but there he was.
We didn’t join up again until the road climb perhaps a mile from the finish. We stayed together for a few minutes after that awaiting crossing the open power line area which would mean we were minutes from the finish. When we hit the open grassy trails near the end he took off again and moved very well. I tried to pick up a strong running pace again but I couldn’t muster better than a 12 min mile. I had a moment where I did check my watch just to see what my elapsed time had come to be. I was fairly sure the race cutoff wasn’t 14 hours, but if it was, and I was cutting it close, I didn’t want to make the mistake of missing it. Thankfully that worry was all for nothing.
It was refreshing to be able to run most of the last mile at least and I rounded the corner to a very quiet finish area. I wasn’t sure if I would find myself emotional this time and for the most part I wasn’t. The race day was drawing closer to its close, almost no spectators left, no family there, it was just calm and peaceful.
I used my final 20+ mile training run as a trial run for nutrition and hydration plans as many experts recommend. This was absolutely a great idea. I learned a couple of good things on that run and implement them on race day and I think it helped.
I want to format this section in a bullet-point style to simply give my thoughts, what I did, and what I learned. I want to share in this way to make it more of a reference to be able to refer back to down the road.
What I did
For hydration I carried two Osprey soft flasks and an Ultimate Direction soft flask. The 2 Osprey flasks were in the front of my vest with short hydration tubes coming out the top so I could drink from them on demand. The third flask was in the back of my vest to be used as extra capacity.
The plan was to keep one Osprey flask full of energy drink and the other flask full of water. I wanted to drink and empty each flask between every aid station on the course. The stations ranged from 3.5 to 7 miles apart and average around 5 miles so this would seem to work. The extra flask I would use in the section with 7 miles between aid stations. I also chose to target this frequency of emptying my flasks due to the humid and warm nature of the race. I would be sweating a lot and so I wanted to constantly be consuming liquid and electrolytes. For energy drink I used Gnarly Fuel2O Tropical and Cherry Cola flavors. I also used Tailwind Mandarin Orange flavor.
For nutrition I carried a couple Gu energy gels and at times 2 or 3 other food items in the front of my vest. I carried a few other light food items in the back of the vest as “just in case”. I also planned to rely on aid station food along the way.
The plan was to eat a Gu or possibly chews between each aid station. Then at each station seek to consume another 100-200 calories. This would be in addition to the 150-200 calories I would be drinking between each aid station.
All put together, I was hoping to consume 300+ calories an hour. I didn’t want to weary the brain by tracking this meticulously and so using the aid stations as checkpoints along the way to eat and drink seemed a natural way to keep things on target.
What I learned
Always be ready to adapt to your stomach on race day. From early on there was something in my head that said the thought of eating chews today wasn’t appetizing. I brought Honey Stinger chews and Clif shot bloks and neither appealed. So I decided to focus on energy gels and I believe this worked fine.
When I mixed my energy drinks I would use a full packet of Gnarly Fuel2O or I would use about two scoops of Tailwind. I would put these into the 500mL soft flasks. It would come out a bit strong but each fill-up was worth around 200 calories. I would counter this by always taking sips of water from my other flask after drinking the energy drink. This would quickly wash the flavor away and clear up my taste buds. I learned this trick on my final training run and use it to success during the race. It also seemed to help prevent any lingering tastes on the tongue and also helped my mouth from getting too much of a sweet tongue.
Be wary of relying on aid station energy drinks. Countering my somewhat stronger mix of energy drinks was the Heed drink the race offered. They came across as very watered down. I really wasn’t sure if I was getting much in the way of calories or electrolyte from their drinks. I adapted to this early in the race and only used the Heed in the sections with only 3.5 miles between stations. I knew the calories would be down but it saved a little effort from pulling out and using my own drink mix.
I used the 3rd “extra” bottle in two sections of the race. I used it from the Sugarloaf to Harlow Lake 1st Bridge section which is 7 miles and then also on the return lap in the same section. Not only did I fill the flask with water but I also used it and drank it. There was another section I could have used it as I ran out of water in my two front flasks. This was in the first Big Loop going from HLORG over Hogsback and to Forestville. Its just long and hard enough of a section that I needed the drink.
I brought way more food in my drop bag than I needed. But this was probably okay. It mattered not what I had in my drop bag and it was better to be prepared if something came up than to not have it.
From my pack I only ate Gu energy gel and a couple of Honey Stinger waffles. At the aid stations I was mostly hitting the potato chips and the watermelon. I wasn’t ready to dive into the various bits of candy like M&M or Twizzler bites, or skittles or the like. I had a couple of PB&J corners but at some point they just come across as too sweet and too dry at the same time.
When cramping in both quads started happening on the first climb over Hogsback I deduced it was likely due to the sweating and loss of salt. So I began hitting the salt hard at subsequent aid stations. I tried salted potatoes and salted watermelon for the first time I also had a small cup of chicken broth for the first time. I was almost desperate enough to get rid of the cramps that I would try pickles or pickle juice but I didn't quite go that far.
I used Hammer Endurolytes capsules and Gu BCAA capsules as needed. The former were to help supplement electrolytes, the latter were supposedly able to help with mental and muscle fatigue. I would take two Endurolytes at a time and one BCAA capsule at a time. I didn’t have a schedule for taking them and kept it mostly by feel.
Late in the race, I'm thinking around mile 43, I was taking one of the capsules and I could tell that my throat was just not wanting to swallow that big capsule. Not sure what was contributing to that but I could tell I was going to struggle to swallow it. With a big gulp of water I finally got it down but it immediately triggered my gag reflex. I was so close to vomiting it all back up. I barely held it together. Needless to say, I did not attempt any more capsules for the rest of the race. Never had this happen before.
This year it was 64 degrees and around 95% humidity at race start. It was about 5 degrees cooler than the 2021 start.
For the most part the weather did stay true to forecast this day. According to my Garmin tempe sensor it stayed in the mid to upper 60s the whole day. It might touched 70 for an hour or so.
We had some concerns how the day would play out as the day before (Friday) was forecast to be mid 70s and it ended up hitting mid 80s much like race day in 2021.
The course was in great shape with only one section with a bit of mud on the trail. This was just before hitting the Harlow Lake Old Railroad Grade aid station while along the lake.
Garmin Fenix 7
This was my first race with my relatively new Garmin Fenix 7. I used it in training from May onward to race day. I loved it. I was especially pleased with how the “Up Ahead” feature worked on race day. I spent a fair amount of time in the week prior making a “Course” on Garmin Connect for the entire race course including a number of waypoints and the aid stations. I would have a waypoint about every 3 miles. During race it worked perfectly. It was helpful to always have an idea of how far the next location was and how far it would be to aid stations.
It is also nice to have the HR monitor from the watch which I followed the first half of the race. I was unsure if it was tracking well in the latter half as my HR seemed consistently too low. I’ve seen this effect on a long training run. Not sure what it means yet.
Hill & Heat Training
The Fenix 7 does have a feature for tracking heat acclimation. Who knows if it actually means anything. It does account for activities you do over 72 degrees and the intensity with which you do them.
It was intention during training to get in a number of activities in warmer weather. Even some long runs ended up warm and muggy much to my chagrin. Whether this all amount to anything beneficial on race day is hard to say. Rather than actual physical adaptations I found it better to just have a race plan to stay hydration and balanced with electrolytes.
For hill training I started doing a lot of floor climbing activities at my work and at a hotel once along the way. Would run up and down flights of stairs. I never did any activities on the treadmill for this race. I also focused on the “Mountain Running Strength” training routine to work my climbing leg strength. Looking back at how things went, it seemed like the legs were always able to handle the climbs just a little slower than I perhaps would have liked. I think it would help next time to devote more time to this element, perhaps working in some dreaded treadmill activities on hills or finding another way to do this outside.
I saw perhaps a half dozen other runners using trekking poles on this course. They’re certainly not necessary. The big question is, with all the little hill climbs would they be helpful? My initial reaction is that I would consider them for the 2nd Big Loop if I were to do this course again. On tired legs they might add some stability and possibly help retain some energy and speed.
In my last big training run I developed a mantra that I worked with on that run and hoped might help me in the big race. I can’t say I used it the whole way through, but I would think about it from time to time to reorganize my thoughts and keep on track. I used the acronym BREE to remember my mantra. Lord of the Rings fans will recognize that name from the Fellowship of the Ring and the town within which the hobbits first met Strider. The mantra BREE stood for Breathe, Relax, Engage, Enjoy. I used Breathe as a remember to keep working in deep breaths to fill my lungs and keep the oxygen flowing. I used relax as I didn’t want problems along the way, be they fatigue or heat or the like, to get me out of focus and worried about the wrong things. I’ve had long runs where I think of the miles still to go and its like I almost have a mini panic attack when fatigue kicks in. I used Engage as I wanted to stay in the moment the whole race and in particular keep my glutes engage with my running to power through. Finally Enjoy is an obvious. I wanted to remind myself I was out there because I chose to and because I love the sport. Many studies have shown that smiling while running absolutely has a positive benefit.
My formal training plan for Marquette officially began Monday March 7. This was a 24-week training plan. But a little bit of story telling is needed before that. In October 2021 I rolled my right ankle bad and ran on it for another 20 miles on the Manistee River Trail in Michigan. It swelled bad and was a mess. I had discomfort in that ankle area for months even as I began to run on it again. It felt tender and I had little confidence on it on the trails for many months. My doc finally had me do physical therapy in January 2022 and I believe this helped. I realized in that process how much strength I had lost in my ankle and likely everywhere else in the leg. These problems might actually stem to another incident I had going back to December 2019 when I had a really bad case of gastroenterities. I lost something like 20 pounds over two weeks and I can only imagine how much muscle mass was lost in the mix.
With hopes of really healing the ankle I took the entire month of December 2021 off from running. I’m not sure it helped. I then made matters worse coming back in January as I dove into a long run or two (like 8-10 miles) before my legs were ready and I began to have discomfort in my kneecap area. This I was diagnosing as runner’s knee. I tried to take more time off in January to help this. Finally come February I began to do the math for Marquette and realized I needed to start building miles or I would be behind and possibly never make it. So I started a light ramp up of miles in February. I worked up to 25 a week when I came to March and the beginning of the training plan. I found some knee braces that were supposed to help support the knee cap area and that seemed to help. So my base before starting Marquette training was certainly not what it could have been.
Knowing my strength had been down, and nursing the joint injuries I was, I really prioritized strength training early in my training. I had learned a lot from physical therapy and gained a great appreciation for it. As the first 2 months of training played out I firmly believe this all helped. I was noticing quick gains in my performance especially on trails. My ankles felt firm and I had confidence on them on uneven terrain. I appreciated all of this learning experience and what the injuries had ultimate brought me.
Another change I worked into my training from learning and reading about endurance training was to make my easy runs even easier. I had previously been running my easy runs in the 130s for heart rate which for me is the low end of the aerobic zone. For this training cycle I actually tried to keep my easy runs in the easy range which was roughly the 120s in heart rate. I also believe this helped through my training cycle. In fact I’m contemplating whether going even 5-10 beats even lighter may be of benefit in the future.
Another change I worked with in my 2022 training was to push the pace faster a bit more on my long runs. This was especially true in the first half of the training. I did this partly to work on my confidence at running faster while also running longer. I had success with it for awhile. I think the past several years I started to go too slow and even lolly-gag on long runs possibly not making the all the gains I should from them. I do believe later in training when my mileage began to near its peak I was unable to keep up the intensity that I had brought in this year. This is probably no surprise. There is a rule of thumb about intensity and volume remaining opposites. That is, when volume goes up intensity goes down. Its difficult, possibly dangerous to increase both. My goal for future years is to keep healthy in the off-season and build my intensity and aerobic base better before endurance training. The hope here is to have built a better engine of intensity so that I don’t have to worry about it when I increase volume.
For 2022 I used the training plan from Krissy Moehl’s book again. I’ve been pleased with it both years as it is interesting and creative but also challenging. I love how most weeks end with a range for mileage allowing you to see where your body is at and whether you make them all or not. I also like the basic training block plan of 3 weeks of building and then a rest week. This rhythm works well for me as I’m sure it does for most.
The major low point came starting July 16. I set out to do a 50K training run and it fell apart. I only got half the miles. I didn’t feel right. As it turns out I was probably on the first day of having COVID. Couple this with heading away for a family vacation and I would go the next 9 days running almost no miles. On the downside I knew I wouldn’t really be making any gains through all this time. I just hoped the silver lining would be a lot of rest.
Starting the week of July 25 I wanted to get everything back on track and go big. Working on the premise it takes 2+ weeks for training benefits to be fully absorbed by the body I knew this week was possibly the last week for big volume so I hit 61 miles. It all went well including the long run. This was good for confidence and hopefully the body as well.
From there it was two full weeks of taper and then race week. The 2nd taper week had some odd muscle soreness going on which really annoyed me and I so hoped it would go away. Come race week, just like that, everything was feeling really good. By that point I stopped all extra workouts to let all systems rest up and be ready. The running workouts that week felt good and the Garmin metrics were all trending good too. The race predictor numbers on Garmin improved steadily to near best levels. All signs pointed to a good race for August 20.
Total Miles: 52.68 miles
Total Elevation Gain: 6,487 ft.
Total Calories Burned: 6,838 cals
Total Time: 13:44:25
The embedded map has my track from race day as well as waypoints for the aid stations, the four major peaks, and a few other notable points along the way.