4th annual race in Marquette, Michigan and this is the 3rd time I've done it. First two times in 2009 and 2010 I was around 5:20 and 5:40 but this time it was 6:03!!
Friday - drive to Marquette, set up tent in campground, lights out about 11pm with the family after some pasta salad and hydration.
Saturday - up at 5:40am, drink some coffee on my sweet Batch Stovez, stove. (http://www.batchstovez.com/) then a Clif bar and a banana. Kinda full. Get race gear on, fill water bottle and walk over to the start about 6:15am. Nice thing about Tourist Park is that you can camp within 200 yards of the start line. Warmer than expect 58 degrees is perfect. I start with a long sleeve wicking shirt, but strip down to just shorts by mile 3. Nice easy paved start for 1.5 miles, then ski trail, smooth and easy, then under the 550 bridge, and out on the Noquemanon trail past ROTC rock. About mile 4, just over the railroad tracks things get interesting. The north country trail here is the most rocky rooty climb for about 3-4 miles that any human has had to endure. Luckily it was light out enough and legs are fresh enough that it was ok. Mile 5 mark is an aid station (forestville) then more single track and tough rocky areas until 10 miles at Sugarloaf. On this single track I broke away from a group of 5 runners just ahead of me to make up some time for my stops in the bushes. Hammered the single track up and down and boardwalks over marshy areas pretty hard. I felt like i was really moving. Came out onto the road (550) and looked ahead and the first woman was just in front of me. Then, about 10 seconds later, a bit more nausea and another trip to the bushes. While there 3 of the guys I thought I had dropped passed me back! CRAP.
The trail down is really rough and rocky and downright dangerous if you stumble, so be slow and cautious. Finally at the very bottom you can really turn it loose and get some speed down to the lakeshore. Off in the distance you can see "little presque" point/island just offshore. You will run right by it on the NCT in a few more miles.
After the shoreline section past little presque the trail crosses 550 road and covers some nice single track and an aid station before hitting "bareback mountain." This tough climb is over shear slick granite rock outcroppings and is NOT runnable, just walking/hiking it works just fine. Finally some rough, seldom used single track on the side of a pond take you to the old railroad grade and the "top of the world" loop.
At this point I was feeling a little low. I knew I wanted to walk much of the climb but forgot that the actual climb doesnt start for a mile or so. In simple laziness i walked some flats and just tried to conserve energy since we were only about 19 miles in with 13 to go. This is a tough climb, great view and FAST downhill. I was careful not to go to fast up, lots of walking, and not too fast down (dont blow quads). Kept refueling and drinking and was feeling good here after some nausea earlier.
Finally 4.5 miles to the finish over same god foresaken single track of rooty rocky deliciousness and you're home. At this point i was totally cooked, and only going on the idea that there was only 40 minutes of suffering left. Unfortunately 40 minutes turned into 52 minutes with lots of walking and stumbling on the dowhill rocky sections. 6 hours 3 minutes of brutal Upper Michigan torture.
thanks to Andrew Grosvenor and Joe Jameson for a truly yooper toughness inspired event.