After three years of heading up solo to the Trail Mix I finally convinced a fellow Riis Park Strider to accompany me to this ultra rite of spring. Lew had an open week from his CARA road racing circuit, so just after Friday noon we packed up the car and pointed her northwest, Minnesota bound.
The Trail Mix is a collection of races run on a scenic, challenging course within the Hyland Lake Park Reserve of Bloomington, MN. Choose your distance… the 50K loops the course four times, the 25K goes around twice, and the Four Person 50K Relay sprints once around (but you have to bring three willing friends!). To celebrate his birthday Lew opted for the 25K. For me, as always it was 50K.
Race director O.C. Williams, armed with megaphone, air horn and his laid back style of tongue-in-cheek humor shared a joke with us 50Ker's before sending us off just after 7:00am. Lew and the 25K field started ˝ hour later. The Relay starts at 9:30am, which makes for a lively course in which you're rarely lonely. Fortunately everyone wears color-coded race numbers. This prevents potential bouts of despair as you're constantly being overtaken by packs of fresh runners.
Lew made the proper choice of wearing his spikes. This didn't prevent him from wiping out (twice) while loping down the ski / snowboard hill on his first loop. Observing his awkward racing style a friendly competitor suggested zigzagging the steep grade next time around. Lew made another proper choice… following the advice on his second loop.
Lew finished his first Trail Mix 25K race in a great time of 2:06:01 for 83rd place overall. He had such fun that he grabbed his camera and ran back out on the trail to find and run along a couple of miles with me on my fourth lap. The shots he took really capture the feel of this springtime, picturesque course.
For the first time ever I started my fourth loop without having been lapped by Charles Hubbard. He runs fast… he's won the 50K more than half the times it's been run and has the course record of 3:11. I don't know how he manages a pace close to six minutes per mile on these hills. Maybe the hills don't seem as big to him as to this flat-lander Chicagoan. This is my first taste of hills for the ultra season, and they have a way of wearing but conditioning for upcoming races.
Through 28 miles I had run a good race. At the aid station there I made a tactical error by not taking on much needed calories. By 29 miles I was getting that bonky, dizzy, tunnel vision feeling and was forced to slow way down even though my legs still wanted to go. Q) Why can't I remember ultra-fueling lessons learned from past mistakes? A) Because the winter is a long, distracting season. When I staggered into 30 miles the friendly aid station volunteers gave me 4 cups of coke that I quickly gulped down, but the time was already lost and four more runners had gotten in front of me. As my energy level started percolating I finished in 4:42:40 for 23rd place. Both stats are typical for me based upon past Trail Mixes.
At the finish Lew was waiting with camera ready. Lew now has a new favorite racecourse.
Want to see more? There were some outstanding individual and team performances and you can view results from all of the races at the official Trail Mix website: www.trailmixracemn.org.