Run the Keweenaw Weekend Part I: Mt. Baldy Hill Climb

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July 13, 2013 by Amy B

(This post is long and kind of rambly, but I’m trying to stay awake before Part Deux begins and this is allowing me to lie down and kind of elevate my super sore and whiny legs.)

I know what you’re thinking: there are no mountains in Michigan. I wish I could convince my legs of this as I lie here in bed until my next race at 5:00pm.

But let’s back up. Yesterday I had my pre-race freakout and went to Walmart and bought every kind of seemingly suitable bandaid to take with me, just in case I developed a bad blister (even though I haven’t blistered all summer) or bit the dust on the trail and had to patch up a bloody leg on the fly (now this is totally possible).

Am I a freak if I take the new skin with me in my hydration belt?

Am I a freak if I take the new skin with me in my hydration belt?

I scribbled down a few fueling plans at my desk in the afternoon, but that was the extent of planning for this race. My daughter always asks for spaghetti for dinner, so I made some turkey marinara and rigatoni.

Yeah, I know it's white pasta but I was just going for something safe. You know, since I had 27 miles on the schedule for the next two days.

Yeah, I know it’s white pasta but I was just going for something safe. You know, since I had 27 miles on the schedule for the next two days.

There was also some last minute strawberry shortcake, since my friend G (who was also running Mt. Baldy) posted a photo on Instagram, which was pretty cruel, really.

Cook's Illustrated version of shortcake, if you're interested. Perfection.

Everyone was being super crabby last night so we went to bed at a reasonable hour. It’s amazing how a household of crabasses can make you actually WISH you were experiencing death by trail running.

It was 5:30am his morning when I woke up 30 minutes before the alarm and figured I’d better just get up so I could shower (I never shower pre-race) and obsess over which socks to wear.

I've been saving the purple for a special race. Twin Cities 2013, perhaps?

I’ve been saving the purple for a special race. Twin Cities 2013, perhaps?

I ended up with pink, which have always fit a little funny (they’re slightly longer than the other pro compression socks I have). I also am the least attached to these, and because thunderstorms were forecast (perfect for running up a mountain, right?), I figured I’d be less bummed if they got wrecked. Plus, they match my shoes the best. 🙂

Brooks Cascadia 8. Love these shoes.

Brooks Cascadia 8. Love these shoes.

I wasn’t sure what to do about breakfast. I was worried I’d eat too early/late (the race wasn’t until 9am). Then again, I didn’t want to hurl up my breakfast going up the trail, so I decided to go for my usual waffle/bagel/bread with almond butter and honey. I picked up some raw honey for the first time the other day and love it.

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Packet pickup was on the schedule for 7-8 (with the race starting at 9? WTF.), so I left on time (for once) and had plenty of time to stop along the way and snap a few pictures and get lost trying to find the community center.

Jacob's Falls

Jacob’s Falls

Welcome to Eagle Harbor, MI

Welcome to Eagle Harbor, MI

While I love the small-town laid-back feel of stuff that goes on in the Copper Country, my Type A side find it mildly annoying when shit doesn’t go down when it’s supposed to, especially when you’ve woken up super early and now have to sit around and wait.

So wait, I did. And pumped, since yeah, I’ve still got that lovely situation going with my son.

18 months and the dairy barn is shutting down

18 months and the dairy barn is shutting down

After getting my race packet (highlights: the shirt (hope it fits) and a Salomon sticker) I sat in my car and applied last minute anti-chafing agents and fretted over if I was taking water or not. I was wearing the Long Rogas, which have an awesome pocket that fits in iPhone, but did I want to run with a phone in my pocket? Would it bounce around? Would I hate it? (Verdict: I did not hate it; it was awesome, and these shorts are worth it just for that feature alone.) There was also some searching for a toilet (ahem, pre-race jitters and mandatory bladder emptying), which I did find (no port-a-johns), and it wasn’t the worst one I’ve ever used before a race. Not that I’d want to make it my vacation home or anything.

Not pictured: some of the biggest flies I've ever seen in my life. GAH.

I parked my car about 400 yds from the start. I decided to forgo the hydration belt (it seemed silly for a 6K) and almost carried a bottle in my hand but decided at the last minute not to. When we finally got around to getting this race going (two hours after I’d arrived), I realized this was a huge mistake.

Race Director Mike giving us final instructions

See, they tell you it’s a 6K race, but it’s really twice as long, because there’s no transportation back down to the start. The trail is closed to motorized traffic (let alone a bus). Also, there’s no aid at the top; no one wants to haul jugs of water up to the top of the mountain.

Crap. Double Crap. The sun also came out, which made me regret leaving my shades in the car next to my water/powerade combo. Let it go, Amy. Let it go…

Soldiers marching off to war. Also: I need a new hat. This hat looks ridiculous on me and doesn't breathe at all.

Soldiers marching off to war. Also: I need a new hat. This hat looks ridiculous on me and doesn’t breathe at all.

At this point we spotted a girl with a giant flower in her hair. I decided I really wanted to beat her.

We ended up starting promptly at 9, about 70 runners total. (I believe last year’s count was 55, so this is a good improvement.) It begins down the road to the highway where you veer off into the woods and onto the trail.

Here comes the hard part

Here comes the hard part

I was feeling fairly optimistic at this point. I wasn’t pushing it hard and my pace was somewhere around 10 min/mile, which was totally cool by me. I’d set a semi-arbitrary goal pace of 12:00 min/mile. I had no idea if I’d be able to sustain this and also had no idea what the climb would be like. When we turned onto the trail, I expected to hit a vertical wall. We didn’t, but about a minute later we hit some sand. And when I say sand, I’m talking soft, squishy, Pam Anderson Baywatch sand. Definitely not the kind of surface one chooses to run in by choice.

When they say it’s a climb, they aren’t kidding. It was. There were occasional flat sections and dips, but it was mostly up. I haven’t checked out the elevation info but G said it was around 700 ft. I don’t know if that’s a lot where you live, but damn. For this Michigander, I could have been climbing Everest. It was pretty brutal.

I managed to not walk until I hit the 2.5ish mile mark. I then found it is extremely difficult to get going when you’ve been walking, and doing it going up a hill is impossible. When I got to a flat spot I resumed my trotting and finished the race with two other dudes who were at around the same pace.

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With about 400 yards to go, finishers started making their way back down, which is always a little disheartening, but I knew we should be close to the finish. When someone told me we had a few hundred yards to go, I was relieved; I really didn’t think I had another big climb left in me.

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The finish line! No timing chips today.

I hadn’t looked much at my Garmin throughout the race, as I was mostly concerned about where my feet were falling, not wanting to bust an ankle or go headfirst into a tree. I was pleased with my result. I knew it wasn’t going to be a speedy race for me, but when I looked at finishing times from last year, I knew I wanted to be under 15:00 min/miles for sure.

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And the view? Spectacular.

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I was happy to see G a few minutes later, giving me the chance to snap his photo (he’s the photog for the rest of the races this weekend, so I wanted to get at least one of him running).

20130713-144541.jpgAnd one of us, me looking delirious.

20130713-144553.jpgIt was one of the toughest races I’ve ever done. If you’d have asked me a few years ago if I’d be doing this, I would have laughed. In fact, I think I did laugh the first time I heard there were three races this weekend and that some crazy people actually did all three. Years later, I’m one of the crazies.

20130713-144808.jpgWe walked/jogged back down and while it felt pretty good, I didn’t want to push it. I stayed for the awards and while I was not one of the top 3 in my age group, I wasn’t the last (yay). I won a Salomon tech shirt during the “free gear toss,” and there was some yummy brown cow yogurt and granola at the finish line.

As I’m wrapping up this report, I’m noticing that it’s time to get back in the car and head up north for Round II, a 12K trail run on new trails (to me). I am telling you right now that I’m kind of regretting it as I lie here with the baby snuggled up to me. And while I’m bummed that flower in her hair girl beat me (kind of kicked my ass, really), I have to remember that this isn’t about anyone else. It’s hard not to make comparisons to other runners, but the truth is, they’re in different places and stages of life/fitness; we’re all on separate journeys.

I’ll just keep dangling that Picky Bar in front of me and know I’ve got a nice treat waiting for me at the finish line.

20130713-144740.jpgUntil our next report: the Copper Harbor Trails Challenge 12K! Wish my legs luck! They’re going to need it!

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One thought on “Run the Keweenaw Weekend Part I: Mt. Baldy Hill Climb

  1. […] know I’ve already recapped my last races (here, here and here), but today was a day for reflection, after the euphoric wave of satisfaction had […]

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Runner, Eater, Mother, Tweeter

Amy, July 2013

I'm a thirty-something suburbanite turned ruralite living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Wife, mom of two, eater of all things delicious, and a runner. This is where I blather on about running and health. Baby Number Three will be here in November (so yes, I'm a little crazy), and I'm running through my pregnancy for as long as my body's willing and able. There's also more of me at amyupnorth.com. Read more here.

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