Entering my first Door County Fall 50 relay run, I felt pretty prepared having prior experience running a Ragnar relay, but some things can only be learned through trial and error. Here are five things I learned during the race that will undoubtedly lead to a smoother run next year.
- Plan for the Worst Weather
After keeping an anxious eye on the weather all week, I was relieved to see the chance of precipitation was less than 10 percent the day before race day. As it turns out I had fallen victim to an amateur mistake: believing the weather report. It’s still best to plan for the worst in a place where weather changes rapidly. Next year I will over-prepare for the weather, despite what the weatherman tells me.
- Run for the Hills
As a frequent runner, the length of my assigned legs didn’t make me blink, but I wish I would have better prepared for the rolling hills. The first half of the course is filled with spikes and valleys of elevation changes as the path takes runners from the lake shore, up hills and bluffs, and back again a handful of times. Feeling energized, I ran my first leg through Ephraim and into Peninsula State Park at a good pace and the multiple climbs and downhills left the entirety of my lower half feeling put through the ringer. Next year I’ll incorporate hill runs – both up and down – into my training plan.
- Don’t Take Fuel For Granted
For most races I have a fueling plan to ensure I am properly stocked with fluid and carbs to get through the race running my best. Running hard can irritate your digestive system if you aren’t planning ahead. Since I was approaching this as more of a “fun run” I didn’t put as much thought into the food aspect. This left me feeling rather depleted after my first leg, and then, after I downed a grocery store sandwich, my stomach didn’t feel as settled for leg number two. Next year I’ll plan out my food and fuel up more strategically.
- Pack A Post-Race Outfit
We were excited to join the post-race party at the finish, but I had already changed into my second change of clothes prior to my second leg, leaving me stuck in them for the rest of the evening. The electric energy of the crowd and feel-good music filling the huge tent kept me warm. However, next year I’ll bring post-race clothes to stay warm and refreshed.
- Embrace the Mantra
The race mantra goes as follows: “Get to Gills Rock, face south, and don’t stop running until someone hands you a beer!” It sounded like a fun phrase ideal for event promotion, but it quickly became a very real, life-giving mantra during those moments where it looked as though we were in the midst of a January blizzard with more than 30 miles to go. Next year I’ll again use the mantra to my advantage, but hopefully in slightly better weather circumstances.
All that being said, despite the historically bad weather, I still had a fantastic first time running the event and I am already eager to sign-up for 2019.