So today was my final long training run before the 50k next week (!!!). I wanted to get some longer mileage in after all the elevation from last week’s long run up Whiteface Mountain. To wit, I drove up to the Missisquoi Wildlife Refuge and ran 21 miles on the longest of the trails. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife website:
Missisquoi National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1943, is located on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain near the Canadian border in Franklin County, Vermont. This 6,729 acre refuge includes most of the Missisquoi River delta where it flows into Missisquoi Bay. The refuge consists of quiet waters and wetlands which attract large flocks of migratory birds. Upland areas of the refuge are a mix of open fields and a hardwood forest of American elm, white ash, white oak, silver and red maple. Both of these areas provide habitat for migratory songbirds, resident mammals and other wildlife.
Missisquoi refuge is one link in a chain of refuges for migratory birds that extends along the Atlantic Flyway between northern breeding grounds and southern wintering areas. The refuge provides important feeding, resting and breeding habitat for migratory birds, especially waterfowl, in the northern Lake Champlain section of the flyway.
The area is beautiful to run in. Up until August 1st the trail I had wanted to run (called the “Jeep Trail”) was closed during bird mating season (Osprey I think), but now it is open and it makes for a nice, flat trail run.
Map of the Jeep Trail at the Missisquoi Wildlife Refuge
The trail is 3.5 miles out (so 7 miles total): 1 mile (the orange line on the map) starts a Louie’s Landing and follows a crushed gravel road to Mac’s Bend; then its 2.5 miles out to the end of the Jeep trail, on a double-to-triple track mixture of relatively flat dirt, grass, and pine needles. This latter section is occasionally riddled with pot marks, some downed trees, and roots & rocks; but on the whole it is an easy run through dense forest and marshes.
My first two out-and-backs were done in 1:06 and 1:10 respectively. I was shooting to keep a 10 minute pace; while I fluxuated a bit I managed to stay on track. I brought a handheld water and put a gu and a Probar in my pack. I used the car as an aid station, filling up on water and eating a humus wrap. On these first two out-and-backs I felt pretty good, though my knees started to hurt a bit towards the end of the second one. I contemplated stoping at 14 miles, but pushed myself through that mental roadblock because I really wanted to run 21. I have never run that far and I wanted to push myself to get it done.
This last out-and-back was a real struggle. My legs were noticeably starting to hurt, and I was feeling really drained. I decided to switch between run 9 minutes/walk 1 minute; and run 4/walk 1—depending on how I felt. While I didn’t follow this perfectly it did allow my legs to recover a bit. By the last mile I was definitely uncomfortable, but I told myself to gut it out (despite the now downpour of rain) and finish strong. Somehow I managed to maintain a 10ish minute pace (finishing in 1:15) even with the walk/run strategy…interesting
I am glad that I stuck with my run, but I must say that I miss running the hills and mountains. Call me a glutton, call me sadistic, but climbing and descending rocky and mountainous terrain is something that I really enjoy. It might be painful and agonizing, but my almost daily runs through Hard’ack have taught me how to appreciate and embrace running hills.
While I hope that I have prepared enough for the 50k, I am not going to agonize over it. I have done what I can do despite injuries, setbacks, and juggling work and dissertating. All I can do now is finish out my taper and then enjoy the run as best I can.