CONQUERING MARJI – AN INSIDE LOOK

By: Andrea Larson

In case you didn’t already see it in social media, my first running race in eight years went pretty well at the Marji Gesick 100. I wrote about scouting and preparing for the race in prior blog posts as I “talked the talk” and now it was game time to “walk the walk.”

As I talked about in my last post, I recommended setting several goals. Mine for the Marji were:

  • First woman
  • First overall
  • Setting women’s course record
  • Sub 24 hours
  • Enjoy the effortless of the first 40 miles

These goals were lofty, especially considering the minimal training I could afford with a full-time career and family. I had doubts – starting even before the start line.

Although I typically fall asleep within minutes, I was still awake at 4 am the day of the race. I had often read that most people don’t get good sleep the night before a race and it’s really two nights prior that count – but does that hold true if you’re going to be running 30 hours later? Will I be able to stay alert through the night?

My last race was before I had a husband and children, allowing me to pour 700+ hours into training for a single race. I had put my first three hour run in seven years only three months prior to race day. And only managed five runs over three hours in preparation for the race.

My abridged training program did come at a cost. Since I did little trail running, particularly on steep descents, I found my quads were already sore just two hours in. I was not looking forward to the punchy descents at the end of the race.

Scouting the race course was invaluable. I knew the first 25 miles of the course, and picked splits at landmarks to keep me within myself on the early, flat, and easy miles. Having scouted the course, I was able to correct a wrong turn quickly, only adding about one “bonus mile” as well as correcting another runner who made the same mistake. More importantly, I used my experience from adventure racing to not beat myself up for this mistake, as I have learned that in long races this would likely be inconsequential. Just a few miles later when I met my crew, Ellen Humberston, on the course, I informed her what happened and asked her how many people were not in front of me. I couldn’t believe my ears when she told me that I was the first person through – meaning that the two runners in front of me also had made a wrong turn and apparently took longer to correct their mistake! And that’s all it took – from there on, I lead all the way to the finish line.

As the first overall 100 miler runner, I was the first person period to cross the finish line. As the race directors stepped forward to congratulate me, I almost teared up realizing the enormity of the feat. So I obviously accomplished several of my goals, but did end up a little over 24 hours. Since the race was actually 106 miles (plus I did a couple of “bonus miles” due to wrong turns) I did break 24 hours for 100 miles. And turns out only three other runners broke 30 hours – with 74% of the field never making it to the finish line…not too shabby after all!

I couldn’t have done it without my pacer / crew, IRONBULL Ultra Trail 50k/15k co-race director, Ellen Humberston. If Ellen is half the race director as she is a pacer / crew, then runners on 10/5/19 are going to have the experience of their lives.

Ellen serves as a perfect example of what a great crew can bring to race day. I can’t believe how many times Ellen met me on the course, in addition to the predetermined places we had laid out. She always had everything laid out – options for food, prefilled water bottles, and constant words of encouragement. Also, her company on the never-ending, seven hour loop all through the night was life-saving.

And of course, I have to be thankful to my family that supports my wild dreams. Although my husband wasn’t at the finish line, he was in a more important place – at home taking care of our three children.

Think about personal goals in your life that you accomplished and be sure to thank others who helped you along the way! I’d also love to her your stories, especially preparing for the IRONBULL Ultra Trail 50k/15k or Red Granite Grinder bike race.

Andrea Larson

Andrea is an avid multi-sport racer, a mother of three children 5 and younger, active on the town of Rib Mountain Park Commission and chair of the bike & pedestrian committee. Andrea Larson joined IRONBULL as executive director after a decade in research and development as a professionally licensed chemical engineer. Andrea has won the Wausau 24 mountain bike race, the current course record holder of the Marji Gesick 100 run, and team member of Rib Mountain Racing who ranked #1 in the United States Adventure Racing Association in 2019.

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