2016 Clinton Lake Ultra 30

by Justin Stewart

What a day. Completed my second 30-miler this morning. Felt great. It was three 10-mile loops, with each loop having roughly 1,200 feet of climbing, I think. There were roughly 125 runners. I went into the race with mixed emotions. I wasn’t sure my foot would hold up from aggravating it after a trail race in late February, and my mileage hasn’t been where I wanted it leading up to this race because of my foot. Highest mileage week leading up to the race was a few weeks of 55, with my longest run being 14.   

Good news -- the foot held up for the race. Bad news -- I irritated it again and I’m icing it as I type and hobbling around the house. More good news is that I was able to get a new course record. I went into the race with an idea of what the record was (3:35:52) but I was confident I would only be able to go 3:45 on a good day, and that if I broke four hours, I’d be happy. I had plans on running with last year’s winner for the first loop and evaluating the situation from there, because he had run the 30-mile course many times before. Right after the start I found myself alone for the first two laps, just me and the trail. I caught myself really becoming engaged in the trail and my surroundings and was mentally telling myself to enjoy this moment. There’s just something about running on a good trail. Each loop I felt better and better, and each lap I was dropping minutes. It was hard to tell what exactly my pace was in the woods because my GPS watch isn’t too accurate on trails and in tree cover, but I knew I was moving pretty well. It’s a hard line to run between going out too fast and just enough to keep a good pace but without dying those last few miles. I kept feeling good so I just kept pushing the pace. If I died on the last loop, I’d deal with it then.   

The first loop was 1:14 so I knew I was close to record pace. Second loop I dropped three more minutes and came across in 1:11 (2:25 and some change). Last loop I was 1:08, which, to be honest, really surprised me. I was pushing so hard that last lap, I knew I was flirting with danger. One thing is, I think I ate just right. My intake settled well in my stomach. I had one GU at mile 7ish and some water at the 5.5-mile aid station on the first loop. The second loop I had a 12-ounce coconut water that I carried in my waistband behind me, a 100-calorie baby food squeeze thing (sweet potato and carrot, I think), a GU (vanilla bean), and an organic fruit roll-up-type thing, with the same things for the third loop. The third loop was awesome. I started seeing runners on their second loop and they were really encouraging, which helped lift my spirits.   

Overall I had a blast today and really surprised myself. I also met a lot of new and awesome people. This ultrarunning community is great. I’ll definitely remember what happened on Saturday for a long time. It really was a special day. Congrats to all who battled the course and finished. A special thanks to the race directors Don and Ellen for putting on a great event. I’ll be back next year. Also, it was awesome meeting and talking to Joel Lammers from Wisconsin and sharing an ice bath in the nuclear lake, soaking in the radiation. Lastly, a special thanks to Denise McKinley from Amer Sports (Salomon & Suunto rep) for the hookup on some shoes. I’ll most definitely be putting some miles on them. From here I’ll have to take some time healing my foot. I’ll be on the bike and on the stairs for a month or so probably, and then maybe start running, hopefully getting ready for the USA Mountain Running Championships in New Hampshire at Loon Mountain in July. ‘Til next time.   

Justin Stewart, a runner from Springfield, wrote this blog post after his win at the Clinton Lake Ultra. Stewart set a new course record, 3:33:37.   

Editor’s Note: Ellen Byron, co-director of the Clinton Lake Ultra, said:   

“We want to thank our volunteers for all that they do, from trail prep to signage, timing, food and any number of mundane tasks. We are so grateful to have them.   

Also, although we budget carefully and try not to over-buy food, we tend to purchase extra provisions due to the remote location of the race. Pat Mills, our trail sweep and volunteer-at-large, brought all the extra food to the Daily Bread soup kitchen. As in past years, all proceeds from the race will be donated to a charitable non-profit as soon as we close out with the Second Wind board."

This story originally appeared in the May/June 2016 issue of In Passing.