2016 Yankee Springs Winter Challenge 50K
32/64 runners => 6:08:24
Why not start 2016 with a bang? While most were still hung over from New Year’s (when I went to bed at 11:57pm – just because I couldn’t care less about the ball drop), I ran 30 miles. Me and almost 340 other runners met in the early morning cold, at Yankee Springs Recreation Area, on the second to run between 10k – 50miles.
I ran the Yankee Springs Winter Challenge 50k.
I’ve hiked the YSRA many times (I even saw the elusive eastern massasauga rattlesnake there once – Michigan’s only venomous snake), but I’ve never run there. When I hiked there, it’s always been the same 4 mile loop so I didn’t really know what to expect for this two-lap race.
After my typical pre-race meal of PB&J, I headed North and arrived at Yankee Springs, under the cover of darkness, about 7am – an hour or so before the race. A short walk took me over the lodge where I picked up my number, race gloves and a pretty sweet long sleeve tshirt.
After a quick pit-stop at the port o Jonathans, it was back to the car to hang out and stay warm until time to race. I double checked my UD SJ vest, pinned my number to my pants, and strapped on my Yaktrax. Thank goodness I had them along. The ground was covered under a layer of ice from a recent ice storm. They proved very beneficial.
About 5 minutes prior to the race, I walked across the parking lot, dropped my drop bag, took a quick pre-race picture and took my place at the start line. I find the start of ultras to be very chill and I love that. No Metallica. No pyrotechnics. No jumping around. Just a ‘hello’ from the RD, a quick countdown from 10, and we’re off.
I started out the first lap at a pace that felt very slow. As I’d been running at a low HR for a couple of months, I decided to try to keep it down through the first of two loops. I wasn’t shooting for zone 3 like my training runs, but definitely trying to keep things in zone 4 – as opposed to my first 50k where I jacked myself into zone 5 4 miles into the race and subsequently blew up.
A couple miles in I caught a gal and just kinda hung behind her for a bit. She was running pretty much the exact pace I wanted to run. I didn’t want to pass and force myself to run any faster trying to keep from slowing her down, but I think she didn’t really love having me hanging so close behind either – she felt like she was holding me up. We chatted a bit about running and family and then about 6 miles in I stopped to remove my jacket and let her roll on. My jacket – the UD Ultra Jacket, is sweet. After a few more runs in that, I’ll have a review on here.
At this point I was all alone, where I stayed for the majority of the first lap.
I came up a hill about 8 miles into the race and saw a guy standing with cooler and a radio in the tree behind him …
Hey, you wanna beer?
Yeah – I have a cooler of PBR here.
Me: Are you shittin’ me?
Nope. I have some fried chicken too.
Me: Well, since you twisted my arm…
(You can read about how I really feel about beer / running here)
But … I figured, what the hell? It was only about 3 or 4 ounces, what could it hurt? The first lap – nothing, all was good. I did pass on the chicken though.
Shortly after that, I rolled into my first aid station (third on the course). I had a really odd experience. I could smell the campfire on the way up the hill and shouted something about it smelling wonderful. I walked up and thanked the folks for being there and they all totally ignored me. No one said a word. I don’t know if it’s cause I had my GoPro on, and it freaked them out, or what. One dude was cutting pickles. Another was telling him not to slice his thumb off. And 3 or 4 people were sitting around the campfire ignoring me.
Oh well. I thanked them nonetheless and rolled on – right into the toughest part of the course. Terrain-wise, it was cool – hilly and challenging, but it really slowed me down. I walked most of the up hills and tried to roll through the icy downhills as best as I could. It was in this section that I started to see the gal I ran with earlier in the race.
I pushed on through this section, still trying to keep my HR under control and came out of this to the last aid station. The gal I was chasing chose to skip it, but I stopped to refill my bottle.
They were stoked about my camera.
Hey, are we on camera!?
Me: Do you mind?
Me: Cool, I don’t think the last group appreciated it.
I thought I turned it on, but apparently all I got was this picture. Notice the dude on the right – I thought he was wearing a baby out in the cold. No – it was a dog.
This stop rejuvenated me and I begin running pretty well after this. It was also about this time that I decided to shit-can the heart rate running. I was going to push it into, and through, the second lap.
I caught the gal I’d run with earlier and wished her well. This was her first ultra and she was going to stop for some traction between laps and I rolled into lap 2 feeling very good.
I stopped to take a picture of lap 2, a couple miles in, and that killed my phone. It froze up. Oh well, onwards!
I felt really good the first half of lap 2 and passed quite a few people. Whatever quite a few people is in an ultra, in the winter. Probably more than 5, but less than 10. Not bad in a race of 64 runners though.
At one point I remember seeing an Oreo on the ground.
Damn that looks good! I thought.
Fortunately for me, a couple miles further and I happened on an aid station – and they had Oreos! I choked one down (it seemed hard to eat) and it tasted delicious.
I was still feeling good as I ran into the PBR guy again. I had no intention of stopping – I was running well. But he asked again. And … that’s all it took for me to stop. Now he had a group with him. I chatted a couple minutes and one of the guys I’d passed snuck by.
Then … I ran out of gas. I don’t think it was the PBR, but I think it was just stopping again so soon when I felt like I was running well. I never really got back into the groove.
I skipped the oddball aid station from lap 1 and powered forward.
With about 5 miles to go I passed a guy sitting down. I chatted a minute, he wasn’t feeling well, but he started moving so I moved along.
I continued to slow down and finally Alex (the guy who was sitting earlier) caught me. He wasn’t feeling well and I was gassed so we kept each other company for the last 4 miles in. Alex – if you’re reading this, nice to meet you!
Post race there was chili and beer – how can you go wrong!? Well, you can go wrong by leaving your ID in the car and being too lazy to go get it. So for me, it was just chili.
Over the course of the race I drank about 5 16oz bottles of Tailwind. This followed my typical hydration strategy pretty closely and seemed to work out well.
In the end, even though I believe it is hard to compare ultras because of the varied terrain, it was a 50k PR for me by a long shot. So I guess I’ll take that.
This wasn’t an A race for me, but rather something to keep me training through the fall / early winter. I enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it to folks!
Aside from my new UD jacket, I received a Patagonia Air Hoody for Christmas. I know you’re not supposed to wear something new in a race, but I did. And it was awesome. I love how the hood keeps the neck warm and when up can be pulled up over the face. I’d highly recommend it.
As I mentioned earlier, I was wearing my GoPro. That was a first for me and here’s a short video compilation from the race …
If you want to see my Strava data, you can find it here. Otherwise, here are the just the splits: