ARCTIC FROG 50K
December – The final month of my “Marathon a Month” journey. I capped off the adventure with an ultramarathon.
As I discussed with my February or July race, it’s hard to find races in the midwest when the temperatures are at their peak low or high. After some searching I happened upon the Arctic Frog 50k in Libertyville, IL, Saturday, December 3. This is just north of Chicago and a short 3:45 hour drive.
ROAD TRIP! (Ha those words are familiar around here)
The plan was to leave at a decent time on Friday, to get to my hotel and get a good nights sleep. I had a busy day though before I could leave. There was work and I agreed to be part of a holiday vendor fair in the middle of the day. I actually helped raise $500 for the county Crisis Center, by donating proceeds of my headband sales.
I was on the road around 4pm. I think the best investment we made as far as traveling is the I-Pass, makes it so easy to get in and out of Chicago. I made some stops along the way, and rolled into the motel around 8:30 pm. It wasn’t fancy, but for $55 it was all I needed. (I’ll cap off the year, but travel and costs are more difficult than running)
I brought some pasta along with me, and it even had pesto and scrambled hamburger on top. See, I don’t always eat plain noodles. The plan was for a good nights sleep, I even found Friends on TV to watch….but I never sleep well away from home before a race…Even after all the races I have done, I toss and turn all night, I think I am fearful I will miss the alarm.
Saturday – I didn’t miss my alarm… I woke up just before 6 am. The race was to start at 8 am, and I still needed to grab my bib. I also brought along a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for breakfast. I paired that with what the hotel lobby called coffee…it was more like hot water.
I pulled up google maps and discovered I was only a 3 minute drive to the start…no matter what though, it seems like time flies by when you are trying to get somewhere, and in no time it was already 7 am. I got all the things together and drove over to Independence Grove, the forest preserve where the event was taking place.
I parked and walked to the table where I could get my bib. I just told them my name and was handed a gallon size Ziploc bag of things. Included was a long sleeve, neon orange, unisex tech shirt; a sticker; a Curate bar; a random paper bracelet thing; and my bib.
There were indoor bathrooms available, but a short walk away. They were heated too, as it was cloudy and about 25 degrees.
I walked back to my car to suck up some more heat before the race started at 8 am. I had plenty of time. I sat there, and checked out the happenings on my phone, and double checked I had everything I needed.
Gear: Orange Mud Endurance Pack, Hawkeye ball cap, Merino Wool Buff(r), Buff(r) Hoodie, Aftershockz headphones, Key West Tech short sleeve shirt, Moving Comfort Jacket, Nathan Race belt, Sparkle Atheltic Skirt, 2XU Hyoptik tights, ProCompresion Socks, Brooks Ghost 9, Garmin Fenix 3, Pearl Izumi gloves
It was nearing the start of the race, so I walked to the starting arch, complete with balloons. It was a small racing field, and a laid back event. There were some announcements being made, but hard to hear as everyone was talking and no one was listening. There was some chatter about 50k finishers not having enough medals as there was a mixup, but they would send it in the mail…then something about if you chose to get it sent in the mail, they would give you 25% off next years entry… I really don’t know what was happening… I did know, if I didn’t get something for finishing, I wouldn’t be too happy.
After the announcements, the crowd moved forward and the race was on. My main goal for this race was to finish, it was the crown to the year. However in order to do that, I needed to make the first loop in 4 hours.
The course was run through the forest preserve on soft limestone trail, some dirt, and some pavement thrown in. Each loop was 25k, but it was not your traditional circular style loop. There were 3 out and back sections. This was great, you would meet other runners, and could slap some high fives and get words of encouragement.
This style of loop was also set up to hit the main aid station 6 times. I am sure I have touched on this before, but the aid stations for longer distances or trail running is why I prefer them over road races. Seriously, I think they had more food at the aid station than a casino buffet. There was clementines, bananas, pretzels, snack mix, strudel muffins, Ores, jelly beans, M & M’s, candy, water, soda, gatorade, broth, coffee, peanuts, pickles and green olives…. I am probably missing something. Best aid station ever, the volunteers were great too, very helpful and friendly.
Ok, so the running part…getting sidetracked by food..oops!
I started slow, and was suddenly at the back of the pack, and I was ok with that. At around the 2-3 mile mark, a person came up behind and started chatting with me. I was like, are you speaking with me, lol.
We became quick friends, running is the best!! My new friend’s name is Heather, and she is from Chicago. We stuck by each other, chatting along. Even striking a pose or 2 for the photographer. At some point we crossed paths with the leader of the race, he was only wearing shorts and his sponsors were wrote on his bare chest. (He eventually won in sub 4 hour fashion)
We made it through the first loop as the finisher clock said 3:13…we didn’t get cut and we didn’t get lapped!!! Just had to make it one more loop. After some more refueling at an aid station, we had to pick up our walking as we were cooling down.
At about the same point we first met, Heather said her knee was bothering her, and said to go on ahead…I stayed with her a bit, but eventually there was a distance between us, and I went on my way. However, as I mentioned the course allowed us to see each other as we passed on the out and backs.
I switched over to my music. I don’t remember the hills being a problem on the first loop, but I was walking up them on the second loop. I was really near the back of the pack, it was evident when I arrived at the furthest away aid station… I only passed 2 people on the way back to the finish. One of them was Heather, and I told her I would see her at the finish.
With about 3 miles to go, the sun came out… I didn’t have my sunglasses with me and I wish I did, it was why I ran with a ball cap though, in case the sun came out. Anymore I run with my sunglasses so much, it’s hard to run without them.
I was feeling it at this point, and was dreading the switch back to pavement. Every time I would stop, my hip would hurt and my knee would whine at me. However when the watch hit 30 miles, I was going to run the rest of the way to the finish.
I could see the finish arch in the distance, and there was someone waving to me. I was like, who is that? Then I remembered, my other friend Heather, of Bibrave Pro fame…mentioned she might come out. I think when the sun came out, she was on property.
I also noticed the finisher’s clock, it was ticking near 7:01…and in the back of my mind I knew that was super close to my 50k PR. I hit stop on my watch after crossing the finish line, and then took a peak at my watch…30.54 miles….not a 50k…so is this a PR? UGH..the guy at the finish said they measured the course twice. Then I noticed, with the fanciness of my watch, that my moving time was 6:40…I wasted 20 minutes at aid stations and a bathroom stop. Now all the math, if I ran another half mile, would I have beat 7:09? (my PR time) Either way, I am ready to tackle 50k again…maybe in 6 months…
After some chatting with Heather, I did get a finisher’s belt buckle!!! I also snacked on more food. There wasn’t a true post race setup, but the aid station that was set up here was still open. There was also a tent set up with a propane heater.
I told Heather (that I just met on the race course) I would see her at the finish, and with the out and backs, she was to be the next person to finish. Then someone finished that wasn’t her…and we were all confused. Some friends that knew her, went to go find her, and didn’t come back with her.
Then, not on the race course, Heather appeared….she took a wrong turn near the last mile, but she was still within the finishing time, and she was able to cross the finish line. WAHOO!!!
All three of us milled around some more, new Heather even scored a sleeve of Oreos…cuz why not? LOL.
Original Heather and I were going to go warm up with some Starbucks, which was right across the way, and new Heather joined us.
We chatted like we were all old friends. This is why I love running, the people!!! I have met the coolest people along the way…. I mean running also has taught me anything is possible…but the friendships I have made are like no other.
New Heather departed first…and even though I am pretty sure Original Heather and I would still be chatting there now, I had to drive home. We said our goodbyes…and were on our way…
The drive home was easy, even stopped for some salty, McDonald’s fries. I really wasn’t too hungry for post 50k, probably because I ate like a queen on the course.
As far as this race, I would run it again. It’s very laid back, but well organized. While you could have missed a turn out there, it was easy to find your way back. The preserve is also a good place to get in all those miles.
And there it is…. a marathon (or longer) a month for one whole year. I will recap the entire experience…like how I actually ran 14 events…and why…