A fatass race is a free race with no prizes, and a potluck food at aid stations. It’s often coined as “No Fees. No Awards. No Aid. No Whining.” A few weeks ago I noticed that Minnesota ultra race report legend Kevin Langton was putting together a fatass run for this weekend. I didn’t really think much of it, and pretty much forgot about it until this past week when it popped up in my Facebook feed again with updates. About the time I noticed it again, my wife saw it as well, and the two of us agreed that a couple 10-mile loops on trails, that we had never been on, would be a great way to get in our long run mileage for this weekend!
We packed up a bunch of food, some to share, some for our personal aid station, and drove down to the Mankato area to meet up with dozens of other local crazy trail folk and experience 7 Mile Creek park. We arrived a bit early, not sure what kinds of delays road construction season would lay upon us. As people gathered we got to see a lot of people we already knew, having met at various trail races or training runs, and a lot of people we’ve never met before. The group of people assembled for the run was a lot of really fun people.
We started out with the distribution of postcards. Everyone was asked to bring some type of postcard that was then given randomly to someone else. We were given a couple of lovely hand-made cards as our gift for coming to the race. Kevin gave some general instructions on the course and we were off.
The terrain at 7 Mile Creek is no joke. The route consisted of two loops that made a bigger “almost 10 mile” loop. As we entered the path to the larger loop, it wasn’t long before we were introduced to the hills. The hills in this park were majestic. The first hill went on forever, and at times approached a 25-30% grade. This is absolutely brutal terrain to train on, but it’s exactly what I needed today, as I approach Moose Mountain Marathon next month.
Today I had the opportunity to run my first loop with Troy (as well as other folks like John Maas for brief periods). He and I run together at Elm Creek quite often and are pretty comfortable with each other’s pace. As we made our way around the larger first loop we encountered multiple hills that were incredibly steep and difficult to climb up, and to descend down. Finally, the larger hills gave way to more rolling terrain and eventually, as we moved into the smaller spur loop, the trail went flat as a pancake.
The excitement over the lack of hills on the spur loop gave way to a realization that the heat and humidity of the day was starting to wear on us, and the flat section of the course had a lot less shade to hide under. We pulled into the start/finish after the first full set of loops (around 9.5 miles on my watch) and replenished ourselves for another go. We decided to change direction slightly and hit the small spur loop first, as we were enjoying the respite from the hills, and we wanted to get the brutal running in the heat out of the way.
As we made our way around the spur loop we ran into my wife, and chatted with her briefly. She decided that she was going to head out for another round on the big loop, but she was done with the flat, sunny and hot spur loop. Troy and I kept moving and started to realize that the heat of the day was starting to take it’s toll on our water supplies. Troy made a wise, executive decision that we should detour slightly on the way back and fill up again before hitting the larger loop.
After leaving the aid station replenished again we started out on the larger loop. We made our way up the first two climbs, and back down, but it was at this point I started to feel like I was struggling with keeping my legs moving at more than a brisk hike. I told Troy to go on ahead, and for a while we played leap frog with one another. Finally around mile 15-16 he was out of sight as I did my best to keep up a solid pace, sprinkling in some light jogging on the downhills and flats.
About 3/4 around the larger loop there is a small lollipop spur that adds about .25 of a mile onto the course. I looked at my almost-completely-drained water bottle and decided I would skip that portion, so as to better conserve my hydration. Additionally, this small spur is almost completely exposed to the sun, and at this point in the race the heat, and more importantly the humidity, was becoming my biggest struggle. I made the final few climbs and descents before seeing the finishing road, doing my best to get in a bit more running before the finish. I clocked in with a total of 18.75 miles (ya, quarter mile shy of 19, who would have guessed!) with an average pace of 15:00 min/mile.
I rolled into the finish and proceeded to chill out with all the people who were still around. Troy managed to take a detour to finish out a full 20 miles, with another friend of ours, Mark, helping him along. We all bellied up to the picnic tables and snacked on the great food that people had brought. In particular the bread pudding that Kevin made was #$@! amazing. I knew better than to hit my stomach with too much sugar so I only had one scoop, but it was totally worth it.
This was my final long run before I tackle the Superior Moose Mountain Marathon. I’ve run portions of the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) before, so I know the terrain is tough. Having my final really long run on terrain like 7 Mile Creek was perfect training. I found a lot of mental strength today in getting my run done, and that’s something that I can take to the bank on courses like SHT. I am so happy that Kevin put this event on. It was an amazing day, with a lot of amazing people, who are accomplishing things I can only still dream about. Everyone was very welcoming and friendly, and we all enjoyed each other’s company while we shared our passion for running.
Now it’s time for my taper before the race. I’m really looking forward to easing my body down a bit and getting in some nice safe miles as I continue to prepare.