Yesterday, I ran the Dances with Dirt – Devil’s Lake 10k at the beautiful Devil’s Lake State Park in WI. My husband ran the half marathon.
There are two quick back stories to put this race in context.
The first wrinkle relates to my plan going into this race. I spent January – May building a base and training for the Green Bay Cellcom Marathon with the hopes of a PR and a sub 3:10 marathon (my current PR is 3:11.42 at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth). During my taper, I managed to strain my achilles and didn’t properly rest it at the first signs of a problem. This forced me to dnf at Cellcom. I attempted 4 miles and realized that I would only hurt myself more if I continued. Considering that I had an injury that took me out for 4 weeks in the fall, this was hugely disappointing. After my meager attempt at Cellcom, I took off 4-5 weeks to let my achilles heal (no pun intended). I kept cross training – primarily cycling, walking my dogs, lifting, barre, and yoga. I slowly began to integrate short, easy runs into my routine about 3 weeks ago. In this “training” I ran one 6+ miler.
Needless to say, I wasn’t preparing to race DWD 10k. My goal was to have fun and use the event as a training run. Along with that, I was there to support my husband in his half marathon. I love the terrain at Devil’s Lake and it’s always fun to get out on trails.
The second wrinkle relates to race changes. I honestly don’t know as much of the back story here. I’ve run the DWD half marathon 3 times in the past – 2012, 2013, and 2014. I love this event and it’s one of the only events I will plan around each summer because of the atmosphere, trails, and great after party. Last year, I was at a wedding on race weekend, but my brother ran the 10k. And it was somewhat of a disaster from what I understand. My brother took a wrong turn on the course at one point, along with several others. Due to some last minute hurdles in event planning, the courses had to be changed, the post race party was moved to location other than the race site, and a number of other hiccups caused the event to not live up to expectations.
Because of this, I was curious to see how the event would recover. Granted I signed up only 4 days before the race, I was a little worried going into the race because some of the information provided on the website was a little vague. Since I was just going to enjoy the day, it didn’t cause me much distress, and I was ready to roll with it and see what happened.
On race weekend, my husband and I stayed with my mom in the middle of no where WI – about 35 minutes from Devil’s Lake (another reason this race is a regular for me). We got up around 4:30 (ok, he got up and I stayed in bed for 30 more minutes), ate, fed the dogs, got dressed, and slathered on lots of sunscreen. We left around 5:40 and arrived at Steinke’s Basin (the approximate location of the start) at about 6:15. Parking was in a large field right by the start/finish. We were quickly parked and able to go about our morning run rituals. My husband went to warm up, etc. I went to registration because I hadn’t picked up my bib or handed in my waiver yet.
At this point, the weather was fairly cool and cloudy (maybe 58 degrees). As the half marathoners were prepping to start at 7 a.m., I situated myself near the start to take some pictures of Jake. He positioned himself close to the front because he was hoping to PR and compete in his age group (which he successfully did – finishing 2nd in his age group). The sun started to peak out from behind the clouds at this point and it started to warm up right before the half’s start. Here he is with the rest of the half marathoners (the one in the BRIGHT orange):
As the half was off, I found myself with an hour and fifteen minutes to just hang out and relax before my start. The half was the most populated event and all of the other distances (26.2mi, 50k, 50mi) had been running for 1+ hours by then so the start/finish area felt empty. I wandered around a little bit, but ended up hunkering down in my car for about 30 minutes to stay dry and warm (the grass was dewey and it was still pretty cool to just sit outside not moving). Eventually I meandered out and did a little warming up and hung around the other runners until the start.
The 10k-ers were notably less stressed than the half marathoners were at the start. There was a diversity in runners – from the highly competitive to the run-for-fun to the first timers. That’s one thing I enjoy about DWD and running – seeing the variety of runners and also knowing that no matter your level or experience you can have a great day or a terrible day running.
8:15 and the start eventually rolled around. By now, the sun was out in full strength and it was warming up quite a bit. I positioned myself somewhere in the middle of the pack, just far enough forward that I started in the first wave. I kept repeating to myself that this is a training run and I should run relaxed and keep it easy.
We started and crossed the road right away finding ourselves on a 2-3 person wide path. It was challenging but not impossible to maneuver around in this space and everyone was still kind of feeling out where they should be at this point. At one point, someone sprinted by with a go-pro on his head. I kept trying to tell myself to go easy and for the beginning I let myself stay put in the crowd. Eventually the course spread out a bit and at this point I found my own comfortable pace.
I’m terrible at remembering all the details of a course. Often my husband and I will go for a run and he’ll ask after, “did you see….” and always miss whatever it is he noticed along the way. I think this is because I generally just kind of tune out and focus on running. This was true for this race as well. I was fairly focused on not tripping over rocks or roots because the last thing I wanted was another injury. As someone who’s enjoyed a fairly healthy running “career,” two injuries in the last year really jolted my confidence.
With that being said, here’s a brief overview.
The beginning of the course offered a lot of nice downhill. I let myself have fun on the downhills and let gravity take me. I ended up passing quite a few people on the downhill, which I owe to some of my experience and practice training for previous races with substantial downhill. It wasn’t too technical, which would have otherwise tripped me up, so I was able to pull off a pretty fast pace here without expending much effort.
Eventually we reached a slow steady climb. At first, I kept a slow run. Eventually I found myself with a solid crew of run/walkers, and we went back and forth as we ran pieces and hiked other pieces. The incline wasn’t too steep throughout most of this portion, but it was continuous. I attempted to hike what I perceived as the steepest inclines and run the rest. There were a few particularly steep areas, but these were all fairly short-lived. This part of the course was mostly dirt/gravel and in the woods.
After a little flat/downhill, we approached the south bluff aid station. This area of the course is gorgeous, high up in the bluffs where you can see out for a long ways. This part of the course was truly single track and difficult to pass/be passed because it is fairly narrow and winds back and forth. Sorry to anyone following me here because I slowed down so I don’t trip on anything! We reached south bluff aid and I stopped for a little water with some half marathoners. Thank you to all the aid station workers! It looked like one of the garbages bins set up had fallen apart and there were cups strewn everywhere around it. 😦
After the aid station we go down some beautiful rocky step areas. One of the runners around me noticed some wild parsnip, which is a nasty invasive species that causes horrible blistering. I hope no one touched it! We wound our way down through the rocky areas and onto some more single track, but we were quickly on more open trail again. I almost accidentally took the half marathon course because I was following some runners, but quickly corrected myself once I noted the flags (10k followed white). Once again, there was some more down hill that I flew down and then as the course flattened out I tried to keep a steady, comfortable pace.
I think at some point I felt really good and relaxed and sped up a bit, unintentionally. At one point we were running through a semi-grassy area that was also covering up rocks/roots. I tripped a little bit at one point, just enough to make my ankle uncomfortable for about a minute (I didn’t fall or need to stop but it woke me up). I think this threw me out of my flow and my body woke up and reminded me that I have only run this distance once in the last 6 ish weeks. I slowed down quite a bit for the last mile, reminding myself that this was just a training run.
Toward the end there were a few small, steep “surprise” hills that I hiked up. When I approached the finish, I actually had no clue how close I was so I was taking it kind of easy and then there it was…. So I picked it up for the last few yards, but not without letting a few people slide past me.
After the race, I found my mom and Jake, and they told me that I was the 8th female finisher. This completely shocked me. I knew I’d passed people going downhill but I had no idea that I had passed enough to move up so far. I wasn’t planning to place at all, but I ended up placing 4th in my age group and 11th female overall (they miscounted). Even though I didn’t plan to race, I felt good through most of the course so I think my steady pace throughout kept me strong for the whole 10k. Placing 4th in my age group greatly boosted my confidence after a year of injuries and bad races. I felt like I was possibly back in the game. I was also happy to hear that my husband’s race went well and he did so well in his age group. Here I am post race getting my buff (which I love) for placing 4th in my age group:
The post race set up was solid. It obviously didn’t compare to previous years, but they had Karben4 and Ale Asylum beer and food starting at about 10:00a.m. They definitely monitored the beer more closely than previous years, where you could basically serve yourself. One of my fellow runners found me and said thanks for maintaining a good pace. Thanks to you red bandana guy! I’m not sure I was intentionally maintaining a specific pace, but it’s always fun to have the handful of people who you end up kind of running with and notice after the race.
Overall, I thought DWD Devil’s Lake recovered nicely from last year (although I wasn’t there last year). I know the courses were not as challenging as years past, and the half was closer to 12.5 mi than 13.1. With that being said, we climbed plenty of hills and covered some beautiful terrain. I didn’t expect to do so well in my age group, but that was a nice, confidence-boosting surprise. Now my focus is staying injury free and running healthy for awhile. I’ll probably focus on some 10ks/half marathons this fall. Then, I am looking forward to potentially running the 50k at DWD next year as my second 50k (I ran NFEC – WI in 2014).