Bay City runner Lori Gromaski ran her first ultra, a 50-miler, at last weekend’s North Country Trail Run in Wellston, Mich. This is an extremely popular race—sign up for the 2014 event began this week and already several hundred runners have signed on. Also, registration for the half is expected to close at 6 p.m. today, Aug. 30, and the marathon and ultra distances likely will do the same next week sometime, according to the North Country Trail Run Facebook page. The event, which takes place in the Manistee National Forest and is known for its large race medals and other cool swag, includes 13.1, 26.2 and 50-mile distances. Lori, who finished in 12:02:44, describes the race as “friendly and very laid back, at the packet pick-up and race start as well as throughout the entire event.” She shares more here, including why she wanted to run this race, and how it all panned out…
An Ultra Birthday Year: I decided to do this distance to challenge myself like never before. I turned 40 this year and wanted to do something kind of crazy to celebrate my 40th year. Well, an ultra marathon is kind of crazy!
Where She Stayed: I stayed at a hotel in Cadillac, about 40 minutes from the start of the race. As I was driving to packet pick up, and to the start the following morning, the drive seemed so long, yet I would be running further than that particular drive was!
A Race of Her Own: I actually went and ran it by myself—I didn’t even know anyone else that was running it! My parents came up to spectate at a few of the spots where they were able. They saw me sprint in to the finish area. Next year there will be at least 20 people that I know that signed up for one of the distances—it’s really going to be a great time!
One ‘Awesome’ Race: Absolutely beautiful scenery! Every runner I encountered out there would say encouraging words to each other, and the volunteers were the best ever! They really made a huge difference, every volunteer out there was extremely helpful, cared how you were doing, and enthusiastically cheered every runner on. The first few miles were just spent getting into a mindset of knowing that you would be out there a LONG time, keep a slow pace, take your walk breaks early, drink often and take the hills easy, very easy—there are a lot! Even at 20 miles and beyond, it was hard to wrap my head around running 50 miles. I didn’t listen to music at all, didn’t even have the desire to. I just kept going, listening to my Garmin beep every 10 minutes for my walk break, until the battery gave out at 10 hours, and the sloshing of water in my hydration backpack, and the sounds of the forest. I never felt like I hit a mental wall, or a physical one where it was questionable if I could finish. I had all day to do this race, just keep plugging away! I felt weightless, painless, and free that last mile. I just flew with a total adrenaline rush, every ounce of energy I had left sprinting to the finish, with a smile!
Fueling for 50: I brought my own food for breakfast race morning: a banana and peanut butter on a bagel with honey. I ate all during the race, and had a couple burgers, etc. post-race at the party they had at the finish area. I did however check out Cops and Donuts on my way home in Clare for a post-race treat on Sunday. One of the goodies was a bacon maple donut…so good! Two strips of bacon on top! I deserved that, right?
Most Memorable Moments: Hands down the enthusiasm of the aid station volunteers and the perseverance of my fellow runners—I could see many were in pain, but I saw all those that were hurting finish. It was an amazing experience I’ll never forget. I’ll never forget the brutality of the hills either!
Going Back for More: I don’t think there is one thing I would change about the race. When I should have been thinking that I can’t wait to be done, I was thinking to myself that I can’t wait to do it again. I already signed up for 2014!
Anyone else run this year’s North Country Trail Run? Any tips or insight? Or is it on your wish list? (It’s on mine!)