Finally, I was able run the Hawkeye 50k. I ran the 25k two years ago and DNS last year due to a bum hamstring. I was pretty pumped to run this race, mostly because I run these trails almost every weekend and it would be fun to run them in a racing atmosphere.
The race is two 25k loops around Lake Macbride, 5ish miles of gravel trails, 6ish miles of fun trails, and 4ish miles of road. Me and the Rosses got there a little early and socialized with all the local runners. Tons of friendly faces and it was so good to see everyone out at one of my favorite places.
My foot has been bothering me (inflamed tendon in the left side of my left foot) so I was planning to take the first loop easy and see what happened. I was ready to DNF if it really flared up. But luckily, that didn’t happen. In fact, it felt pretty damn good.
The first loop I ran with mostly with Wendy, an amazing trail runner from Cedar Falls. I met Wendy almost three years ago at my very first trail race – a 10k out at Sugar Bottom trails. Since then, I’ve run into her at so many local trail races and it’s always a pleasure to see her. This was the first time I’ve been able to run with her and it was awesome learning more about her, her running, and her family.
We ran most of the gravel portion together and then she got ahead of me. Then came my favorite part of the course – the spillway. I only wish there were more sections like this – essentially you’re crossing a spillway from the Macbride State Park into the Macbride Nature Recreation Area. I got my feet wet which I loooove because it’s so refreshing. My shoes and socks dry quickly so I never have any problems.
One of the volunteers, Julie (thanks for being out there!), told me she thought I was 6th female. I didn’t really have my eye on placing at that point, but felt a little disappointed where I was in the line up. But I shrugged it off and just reminded myself: TRAINING RUN.
Then I entered what I deem the fun trails. Cross country trails with decent climbs and pretty sites. This is probably where most people who aren’t familiar with the course might realize they went out a bit too fast. It’s easy to do because that gravel section is so flat and it’s easy to just let go and move fast.
I had a great time on the fun trails. I walked up two of the steepest climbs (right outside of the spillway and another right steep single track section in the middle of the fun trails) but I didn’t want to walk anymore than that.
Eventually I caught up to another running acquaintance, John. Another runner I’ve seen at other races and kind of know. I had a great time learning more about John and his upcoming races. We hit the road section and Wendy caught up with us. It was so nice to have this company on the 3.5 miles of hilly road.
I was feeling pretty good and was going faster than I thought I should’ve been, but hey, when in Rome, right? We came in at the half way point and thanked all the awesome volunteers, many of whom I knew. Ate some m & m’s, refilled my water, and took off again with Wendy. John took a bit more time at the aid station so we didn’t see him again. I should mention he had a marathon coming up and he was using the 50k as a training run 🙂
We started off for the second loop and I thought, “Ok. Foot good. Legs good. Let’s keep it up.” A few miles in, Wendy backed off a bit and I was on my own. And I would be for the rest of the race. Ended up hitting decent splits on the gravel section. I was still not concerned with placing or catching up to females at this point – just wanted to run strong.
I crossed the spillway again and was excited to hit the trails again. Wee! Still felt good in this section, feeling a little tired yes, but overall, feeling pretty darn good. Around mile 23, I saw a girl. My heart jumped a little bit. As much as I was telling myself I wasn’t racing, I couldn’t help but get a little competitive. I saw she was walking on a flat section, which told me she probably wasn’t feeling great.
I caught up to her and she confirmed my suspicions. She told me she was in second, and so now I would be in second when I passed her. Cool! We exchanged pleasantries and off I went.
The next few miles went by quickly without a hitch, mostly I was just dreading finishing on the road. Tired legs and pounding pavement sounded awful. I saw Ross around this point and talked with him a bit. I’d been looking for him a bunch since he was volunteering at the race – it was nice to finally see him.
I got to the last aid station, around mile 27 and spotted a girl at the aid station, taking in fluids. A GIRL. She passed me early on in the gravel section, so I knew she was a 50k runner, not a 25k. And then my competitiveness really kicked in and all of the sudden I WANTED FIRST. I whizzed by the AS and entered the trails, with the goal of getting as much distance as I could between us.
There was a mile of decently tough trail before the roads so I tried to run that section as strong as I could. I just kept thinking, if she’s a strong road runner, she’s going to catch me on the road. And was envisioning this epic battle to the finish. That would’ve been fun and hard, but it didn’t happen.
I got to the road and just zeroed in on counting. Keep the legs turning fast (which is relative at this point), power up the hills, don’t think about how many miles you have left. Ross passed me in the truck and told me I had put a decent amount of space between us. I didn’t care – I wanted more space between us so kept pushing hard.
The road is hilly and a little curvy so you can’t see too far behind you. A few points you can, but anytime I looked back I couldn’t see far back and never saw anyone.
I finally turned onto the last little bit of road and was finally on the last little stretch of paved trail to the finish.
I crossed the finish line happy and tired. Finally, a first place finish! One of the volunteers said, “Congratulations! You’re second female!”
Apparently, a badass woman finished about 9 minutes before me. Woops. The gal I passed must’ve been wrong about what place she was in. Oh well! To make matters even more hilarious, the girl I passed at mile 27 (who I thought was first) took her time with the last 4 miles and finished quite a bit after me.
If anything, at least I know I can push it if I need to, right? This race was full of my favorite things: GREAT weather (which is huge since this race is notorious for bad weather), my fav Iowa ultra runners, trails I love, and great volunteers. ‘Twas a good day.