June 14, 2017

Chippewa 50k Trail Race


April 29, 2017

 This was my fourth year running the 50k distance and the 5th year running the Chippewa Races held at the end of April every year in New Auburn, WI on the Ice Age Trail. I had just spent the week down in Northern Illinois with family after my Father passed away. It had been questionable as to whether I would make it to this race or not. I was able to make it and the plan for the day was to just enjoy a day to myself out in the woods. Time to reflect on the recent events over the last month and my Dad's death. April was not a fun month at all.

This course is an out and back with several aid stations along the way. As with most out and back races the out for me being near the back of the pack means I pass almost the entire field of runners on their way back to the finish line. I had four hours for the first half and 5 hours for the last half to finish. I was not worried about making cutoff's as I have successfully completed this distance and race three years prior to this. This race was for me. I was not going to try to keep up with anyone and intended to run at my own pace according to what was comfortable for me.

I did spend some time on the trail with friends at different times of the race and it was nice. Robyn has been killing her races so I knew I would not be able to keep up with her but there were others on the course that were running closer to my pace. I got into the turnaround aid station with about 15 minutes to spare. Spent some time eating and refilling my pockets with cliff bloks and then headed back out. That 5ish mile section to the next aid station always feels extra long for some reason. It is nice trail in the woods on single track. This course definitely has its charm. In the spring the leaves are not filled out and you can see lots of the countryside and the many lakes all along the trail. This course is described as rolling hills and it is definitely that! Those hills start to take their toll. The accumulated hills had me starting to hurt around mile 21 and I decided to take some ibuprofen to soften the aches and pains. This helped me to get my second wind and I was able to run much of those last 10 miles. That and quite often towards the end of races I start to get barn sour and just want to be done!

I did not set a new PR with this race but I was able to complete it sub 8 hours so was very happy with that. I had not run this distance since last September at Goosebumps 24 hour and it was nice to know that even with a Morton's Neuroma I am still able to run and complete a 50k trail race. 

Robyn and I at the start

Dave and I at the start
Here we go!

In the first few miles still feeling good!
Behind the Visitor Center about 2 miles in for the day
The final hill!

Just found out I was a Grandma as of 8 am that morning about 2 weeks early!
Finishing swag!
8/15 Grandmaster Females
45/62 Females
144/174 Overall

Zumbro 17 Mile Trail Race and Volunteering

April 8, 2017
Zumbro River Bottoms

This year I decided to play it safe and run the 17 mile race to ease into the racing season not knowing how my right foot will hold up with the Morton's Neuroma. Mileage this winter was much lower than last year due to the injury and I want to continue running so sticking to fewer miles is the smartest way to handle things for this year.

This year I decided to volunteer Friday night and sleep in my van to wake up and run. So I arrived at Zumbro around 6 pm after work to start my shift at Aid Station 5, the start/finish area. I helped at the Aid Station until 10 or so and then helped with the 50 mile check in until 11:30 to then get to sleep by midnight. I really like my system of van camping in the minivan. We take out the back seats and I have foam to lay down. This year I gear tested my new down sleeping bag for backpacking from REI. The bag was a success! I did not sleep as well as at home in my bed but there was no place I would rather be than at Zumbro for what I consider to be the race season kick off. There is nothing better than hanging out at Zumbro River Bottoms with all the trail runners, new and old friends alike.

Coffee and getting ready for the race!

My Van Camping Rig

Great Parking options at the Race Start/Finish Line

Bed for the Night
I woke up in the morning and used my backpacking stove to make coffee and oatmeal for breakfast. In recent years the start of the 17 mile race was changed to allow the runners to spread out more before hitting the single track trail. This worked nicely as the faster runners were able to stay out ahead and all the runners were able to get into position according to pace. We hit the first big hill, one of many!

View at the top of the first climb!

Zumbro River Bottoms

Everyone's favorite Tree section!
Running Happy! Section after Aid Station 1

Still running happy! After Aid Station 1
Oh those long and slow climbs!
I felt good for most of this race. I left aid station 2 and hit the section that always seems unrunnable to me. This year the sand was soft and deep so it was even harder to run. The trails were very dry and the weather was amazing but it made all that sand especially hard to run. I ended up walking a good portion of that sand!

I left aid station 3 to head up another big hill feeling fairly good. That climb is always hard. It seems to go on forever and even when running the ridge there are several more smaller inclines to get to the very top! Then once to the top you hit Ant Hill. Feeling confident I passed others going down. Wow does this hill hurt your ankles though. If you are going to run down this you have to really be light on your feet. I was doing well and got through all the rocks and hit the less technical portion of the down. And next thing I know I was falling down hill! It felt like I was falling in slow motion and I remember trying to control my fall to make sure that I did not hurt myself. It was quite interesting. Of course the first thing I did was look behind me to see if anyone saw me fall. Either that or to see if anyone was going to run over me while I assessed the damage. A little blood and a jammed thumb but otherwise everything felt good.

At the bottom of the hill we get to the long gravel road. I really wanted to run this the entire way but I just could not do it. I ran/walked this section and hit AS 4 with no intention of stopping. I had what I needed to finish and did not need to stop.

I slogged my way through these last miles and just kept moving. Of course when I hit the campground I attempted to run it in. I think I succeeded in that .

15/29 Grandmaster Female
139/203 Female
331/425 Overall
15:29 Average Pace

November 6, 2016

Icebox480 Trail Race, 11/5/16

http://icebox480.com/November 5, 2016
Whitetail Ridge Bike Trail
River Falls, WI

This was the 4th annual Icebox480 race. It was my 3rd year running the race. This race is very local for me. Last year I regretted missing the race so knew that I would be running it this year. It is a great opportunity to run 8 hours in the woods with friends and a great way to end the race season.

This year was a big year for me in mileage and races. I achieved my goals and then some. I have been struggling, though, since around the end of August. It started with a training run that resulted in some major pain in the toes of my right foot. I blamed it on a new shoe purchase and quickly sent those shoes back to the store and went back to running in the brand I had been running in for over a year. I thought this would fix it and everything would be good. I was able to get in some good training runs and then on another training run it happened again. It was time to taper for my pacing duties at Fall Superior so I tapered and hoped that this would be the end of it. I ran Superior with manageable pain in my foot but started to get worried. I talked to a few people who had similar pain in their feet and the news was not good. This was not going to stop me, though, and I ran Goosebumps 24 hour run with considerable pain that was on and off throughout the race. I was stubborn. I wanted that 100k and 24 hour run so I ran through it. After that race I realized that I needed to take a step back and get this injury healed or at least figured out.

I actually went to a Podiatrist to see what was happening. Armed with information on the various injury possibilities and wanting to rule out a stress fracture I showed up for my appointment. She told me what I did not want to hear. Morton's Neuroma. In a nut shell all I got was "wear a metatarsal pad in your current running shoes until you replace them and resume your activities slowly." While I thought this was good news, she did not tell me to quit running, I left this appointment with not much of anything. So I tried to resume my running that week. Just what does "resume your activities slowly" mean when you are an ultra runner logging 30+ miles a week? I ran a few easy training runs that week without pain and decided to host a group run out at Lebanon that Saturday. This run was a disaster. I was in considerable pain and instead of stopping my run I ran 6 miles with the group. After this run I realized that I needed to do something. I work best by setting goals so I asked my friend Robyn to be my accountability partner and set a goal to NOT run for three weeks until Icebox480. I would pool run, recumbant bike ride, and at the most hike with my husband on the weekends. This was very difficult. But I made it the entire three weeks without doing any running. I was still experiencing pain in my foot even though I was not running.  I sold and transferred my Surf the Murph 50 mile race bib, with permission from the RD, to another runner and chose to volunteer at the race instead. Although this was hard I wanted to be involved with the race.  Surf was my first completed 50 mile race the year before and I really wanted to run that race to try to pr my time.

Finally Icebox480 race day arrived. I went into the race keeping my expectations very low. I would do at least one 7 mile loop and then see how I felt. I knew I could hike this race and the beauty of an 8 hour race is that you can do as much or as little as you want. Well, except that you do need to finish at least 1 loop in order to not DNF or DNS.

Weather was predicted to get in the upper 60's and may very well have hit 70 degrees at least. Very unusual temps for early November but it was great weather for running and in my case partially hiking in the woods. The sun was shining and there was very little wind to speak of. The trail was dry and overall it was a great day to be in the woods seeing all my trail running friends and getting in some long awaited trail running.

On the Upper Midwest Trail Runner Facebook page there was a group of runners from the Brainerd area looking for someplace to camp the night before and all the local campgrounds were full. I live in the country and I am only 30 minutes from River Falls so I offered up my yard to total strangers! But, hey, they are trail runners so really not strangers at all. Turns out we had a mutal acquaintance and I had even run with a few of them at local group runs. Yes, this trail running community is getting larger but still seems like a small community at the same time.   They arrived late Friday night (after I had gone to bed) and in the morning I made them some coffee and we got to know each other and then they followed me up to the race.

I arrived at the race around 6:45 am for packet pickup. That was after stopping at the gas station to use the facilities and get some more coffee. It was busy at the gas station as there were other runners that had the same thoughts as me. Avoid the porta pottie lines at the start of the race! I dropped off my drop bin (of course overpacked with things I never needed, but it is better to be prepared just in case), picked up my packet and started chatting with others while waiting for the race to begin. It was still dark but the sky was starting to lighten as the sun rose. By the time the race began just a little after 7:30 we no longer needed the headlamps.

There was a few announcements, which I mostly missed and could not hear. I made sure to get in the very back as I knew I would be moving slow and did not want to be in others way.  The countdown began and we were off. I was in no hurry so the walking to funnel onto the single track trail did not bother me in the least.

Loop 1
I thought I was starting at the very back of the pack but somehow I got in front of some runners that ended up passing me at some point within the first few miles. I found myself running with Kelly and we chatted about injuries and health in general. I quickly realized that by trying to keep up with her I was pushing myself too hard with my foot issue. This day was suppose to be all about taking it easy and after tweaking my right ankle a few times I backed off.  I found myself hiking with Julie and Vicky and I discovered that both of them have experience with a Neuroma. I had never heard of this injury or issue before and all of a sudden I am running across alot of runners who have had, have it or have taken measures to fix it, through surgery and even a new procedure called cryotherapy.

So far things were feeling good. I was concerned about the few times I seemed to hit a root or rock on the trail and would tweak my ankle. The last thing I needed was to injure my foot further with a different issue. I was starting to wonder how just 6 weeks of low to no running could weaken my ankles so much! Or maybe it was the 72 miles out at Goosebumps that just really messed everything up. Turns out I just had my shoes tied too loosely and when I finally decided to tighten my laces (on the second loop!) I had more ankle stability.

I finished up my first loop feeling surprisingly good. I believe I finished in about 1:45 and my plan was to complete 2 hour loops I took my time at the aid station knowing that I did not need to rush out like I normally would.

Feeling good and enjoying my time on the trail!
Loop 2
I headed out on my second loop feeling good and telling myself to take it easy to ensure that I would not injure my foot. I was enjoying being out on the trail enjoying the fabulous weather! I ran very slowly and hiked the hills. It was on this loop that both of my feet started to hurt as a result of my loose shoe laces! I think my feet were moving around too much and causing my metatarsals to hurt as a result. I finally tightened my laces about 6 miles into the loop! I really should have done that a long time ago as it made a huge difference. As I was finishing up this loop I told myself that this was the last loop. I wanted to be smart, even though in my heart I wanted to keep going. So I made the decision to hang out at the finish line and cheer on all my friends. I told one friend, Jim, that I was going to run this race with my head and not my heart. This conversation came up again later in the day to my chagrin.

So I hung out at the finish line. Took my shoe off and chatted with some friends.

Julie and Vicky, my hiking partners for part of loop 2
After sitting and relaxing for about an hour I decided to head back out to hike a third loop. I had just shy of three hours left of the race and knew that after a mile I could choose to bail if things weren't looking good.

Loop 3

I headed out on this loop with Dawn and was planning on running only some but mostly hiking. After trying out running slowly and realizing that nothing felt any different running or walking I took to running. It felt so good to be out there I could not stop myself. I know some would lecture me and ask if running 21 miles with an issue is smart but I have really gotten to know my body and the difference between injury pain and just normal ultra running pain. My discomfort had nothing to do with my injury and more to do with my low mileage for the last six weeks.I completed this last loop in about 2 hours as well. There was still an hour left on the clock when I finished up but this time I was done for sure. 21 miles was way more than I ever expected to run and I am happy with those results. I hung out at the aid station and cheered on all the runners that were running the 1 mile short loop. While walking that 1 mile loop did cross my mind briefly I decided to be nice to those trying to get in their mileage and not walk this loop and get in everyone's way in the process.

Felt good to be racing! Group runs are great but there is nothing like running a race!

With the sun shining brightly all day my company for the day!

The trail was surprisingly clear of leaves in many places

Lots of green for early November!

So I am officially putting an end to my running moratorium. I will go forward with running and take it easy to see what happens. If what I have is a Neuroma there is no amount of not running that will help it. This journey will become more about managing it instead. If what I have learned about this condition is true others have been running with it for years. Only time will tell how this will play out and in the meantime I will try to hold back on setting any goals or expectations for next year's racing season. In the meantime I am going to enjoy running weekends with others out on the trail.
Lebanon winter running here I come!

September 27, 2016

Goosebumps 6/24 hour Run

September 23/24, 2016; Friday 2 pm until Saturday 2 pm La Crosse, WI on the Mississippi River at Goose Island County Park

I originally registered for the 24 hour race last year planning on running 12 hours. Then the unexpected opportunity for a Boundary Waters trip opened up and I bailed on the race to go up North. I have been looking forward to this run for well over a year!The goal was set to run 100k or to keep moving for 24 hours. Getting to this race proved more difficult than I thought, however.
  • My training and races up to this point were going well. Well, except for a new situation happening with my toes on my right foot. About three weeks ago I picked up some Hoka Stinson ATR's and went for a run (had been running in Hoka Challengers for the last year) and had some pain develop in my toes after a few miles. I was on a trail loop so finished up the 6 miles in pain. I replaced those shoes with the Challengers again and was hoping that would take care of the problem. While the pain has not been as intense as the original run it has not gone away. So while I had big goals for the race I knew that my foot might very well determine the results I would actually be able to achieve.
  • Rain, rain and more rain! We have had so much rain that just one day before the race it was announced that the run may need to be cancelled. Either just the 24 hour cancelled or the entire event. I had taken Friday off work, my last paid vacation day this year, and I did not want to use it up at home. I started to research Plan B. The Grand Traverse race was happening in Duluth and I started to set plans in motion to head up north. The announcement was made on Thursday evening that the race was on with a possible short, short loop. I was so unsure what this would look like for 24 hours that I decided to head up North to run the SHT instead. I woke up Friday morning and as I saw the posts starting to come through on Facebook I started to have second thoughts about bailing on the race I had been planning on and looking forward to for over a year. After much indecision and waffling I decided to go to Goosebumps and hope for the best of conditions. It was the best decision! As a friend told me the race would be what I would make of it.
I arrived to the race at 1 pm after a little bit of commotion at home that caused me to leave late. As I was parking in my spot my friends Dave and Erich pulled in alongside me. This was Tent City and I was very pleased as my tent was my minivan! Each loop would run right by my car. This could not have been more perfect! I had brought a canvas awning for just in case and told Dave and Erich if they helped me set it up we could share it. It did not rain but it was nice to have to put our things under it for grabbing quickly while passing by. I set up my chair, which I dubbed my quitters chair. I am happy to report that it only held my gear the entire run. We headed over to the start line just before the 2 pm start and after a few announcements by Richard, the Race Director, he counted down and we were off.
Dave and I at the start of the race
Loops 1 - 20

The loop was 1.85 miles, shorter than the previous loop of 2.8 miles. This modified loop was a result of all the flooding and high water and I was happy it was not down to a mile! I started out with Erich and Dave running their run/walk method. They were on pace for an average 14 minute mile. While the walking is great their walking pace is too uncomfortable for me causing me to over stride. I kept up for one loop and then had to cut them loose and continue on my own. I did end up catching back up with them on loop two but at my own pace.

My Garmin watch is only good for about 14 1/2 hours so I brought with a portable usb charger to charge the watch as I ran. I wanted to capture the entire run and also track my overall pace and mileage. Each time you completed a loop the lap counters would track it but I do like my electronic records for tracking. I planned on manually lapping my watch when I left the aid station. This helps me not spend too much time in the aid stations as my watch will show me my average lap pace including the non moving time. Well after the first loop instead of hitting the lap button I paused my watch instead!! Did not realize it until about 1 1/2 miles into the second loop. Boy this was not starting out good. Now I would have to do race math. Things could get interesting.

I ran by myself from the start of the race until around 6 pm when Kristine Tibor was set to run with me through the night. She was also running the 24 hour but promised she would stick with me and be my "pacer" for the night. This was awesome! Well back to the first four hours by myself. I struggled for much of these hours. My right foot started hurting before my second loop was complete and I knew that while I could possibly manage the pain and discomfort it would put a damper on my run. I was not having a very good run and could not stop thinking to myself that if I was already struggling in the first 20 miles of the race how could I expect to complete 62 miles?? It was a very good thing that Kristine joined me. She was able to keep me out of my head and think about other things as we continued to run/walk the loop. I was getting the loops done between 30 to 35 minutes including my aid station time. I tried to spend very little time in the aid stations and instead grab food to go. I started running with a handheld water bottle and after Kristine joined me I realized that I needed to ditch the bottle. I normally don't like carrying water bottles during my run and after at least four hours I think it was making me very crabby. So the plan was to just hydrate at the aid station on each loop. This worked out perfectly. I just made sure to drink each time through and because I was not experiencing a lack of bathroom breaks (I actually started to worry I was peeing too much, is that possible?)I figured I was adequately hydrated.

The aid station at Goosebumps is packed with food! And they continue to make special foods throughout the night. We had Subway subs, pizza brought in (that was good and would have been better had I not been running for so long already!), chicken noodle soup, mashed potatoes (yum!) and in the morning they had an egg bake catered in by a local sponsor. So definitely no lack of food options. Which can be frustrating when you start to lose your appetite!

We had to pull out the headlamps just after 7 when it started getting dark. Fall is definitely here as our daylight hours are diminishing quickly. I was starting to experience waves of pain that would come and go in my foot. At some point I broke down and took some ibuprofen just to take the edge off. I was hydrating and eating well so was not worried about a negative impact. The funny thing is that it was not hurting any worse or different just still there.

Night Running
By about 12:15 am or so I had completed my 20th lap for 37 miles! I was ready to take a short break. Kristine and I decided we would lay down for no longer than an hour to rest and hopefully sleep. I needed this break as things were getting rough. I was not too tired as I kept the caffeine going through coffee and coke at the aid station but I really needed to just chill for a bit. I was starting to feel off kilter and not wanting to eat anymore. Nothing on the aid station table looked appealing and if I never ate again this would have been fine with me. I know that is not possible though. Taking the rest break ended up working brilliantly. I did not sleep for the full hour but managed to lay flat in the minivan, massage my feet for a bit and I eventually fell asleep as I think I even had a dream! I woke up on time (Kristine had promised to set her alarm so we would not sleep too long!) and was ready to head back out. I think needing to go to the bathroom was what woke me up! I just about ran to the porta potties! Not wasted steps though as they were on the loop and I needed to run that way anyway.

Loops 21 - 34

We were back out and making progress at 1:45 am or so. It was still warm and humid and I was running in shorts and a tank. Unusually warm for a late September evening. I felt like a new woman after that break. My feet felt awesome and I had renewed energy. I was back in a happy place and started running some loops with an average of 15:30 again. I recall telling Kristine that I felt like a million bucks! Well at least that is what I think I said. I knew this feeling would not last for the entire 14 laps but I was going to ride that wave for as long as I could. I had pulled out my mp3 player sometime before Kristine joined me at 6 and listened to a Defeat the Stigma podcast with Karl Metzler but quickly changed to music to distract myself. I turned on the music yet again and put in one earbud to get through these loops. Talking had slowed down and Kristine and I were just concentrated on finishing each loop bringing me closer to my 100k goal. One part of the course had some runners running towards each other and it was fun seeing those runners ahead of and behind you running their own race. Nice thing about loop timed events like this is that you have no idea of anyone's mileage and, for me, I don't get those feelings of being "behind" like at Chippewa 50k on the out and back section and knowing all the runners coming back are well ahead of me in the race.

My memory starts to get fuzzy at places but my feet started to hurt yet again and I broke down and took one more dose of Ibuprofen. This was the last that I ended up taking. Kristine ran with me for about 10 more loops and when it started to get light she went and did her own thing. I had four loops left to complete my 100k and Erich joined me for these loops. He slowed his walk and run down to match my pace. I completed my 34th lap just before 9 am when the 6 hour runners were starting their race. I watched the runners start their race and then started my next loop with the intention of stopping at the car to rest for a bit again. I was on my own at this point so I knew that if I was going to run anymore miles it would be up to me to get moving again. I got back to the van, crawled into my makeshift bed and went to sleep.
100k Completed!
I woke up about an hour later and decided that I had about 4 1/2 hours left to see how many more loops I could get done. I was ready to set a new goal and thought it would be good to see if I could get in 40 laps total. That was an additional 6 loops. At this point my friends were done running so I knew I would need to motivate myself to get it done. 

Laps 35 - 39
I felt good on the first several laps and was able to do some actual running verses just walking. As I continued on though I was really starting to hurt all over. Not just my feet but my hips, quads and calves were taking a beating. By the 39th loop it was starting to be too much. I made the decision that this would be my last loop. I groaned my way through this loop and when I got to the aid station I knew I was done. There was still time left on the clock and there may have been the possibility of another loop but it would have been so painful I decided enough was enough. With 72.15 miles done I had exceeded my main goal and I was happy with that. With 72 miles completed this year next year I will only have to run 28 miles for that 100 mile Sweatshirt. Guess where I will be late September in 2017?
Mississippi River
Race Director adding up all the miles for awarding the accumulative 100 mile sweatshirts
Kristine and I at the end of the race

September 13, 2016

Superior Volunteering & Pacing

Superior Fall Trail Races

Superior Fall Trail Races
Photo Credit: John Storkamp

Friday, September 9 - Saturday, September 10, 2016

  Where: Lutsen, MN on the Superior Hiking Trail

  What: 100 mile/50 mile/26.2 mile

  Why: volunteering at Beaver Bay Aid Station on Friday, 10:30 - 3 pm/ Pacing Janet from Finland Aid Station to ?? (hoping to stick with her until the finish in Lutsen). This is the plan.

I am excited to once again be traveling to Lutsen, MN to participate in the Superior Fall Trail Races. In past years I have volunteered at Check in on Friday night and the next year Silver Bay Aid Station Friday morning/afternoon prior to running Moose Mountain Marathon. I have completed that race twice now and it is one of my favorite races of the season.

This year I am trying something different. I will be volunteering at Beaver Bay Aid Station Friday then trying to get a few hours sleep before pacing Janet in the 100 mile race overnight. My plan is to run with her from Finland Aid Station (at mile 51.9), running through the night and hopefully into the next day, running with her into Lutsen.

If this is my favorite race of the season, why would I voluntarily miss it? Well I have my very first 24 hour race just 2 weeks later on September 23, 2016 at the Goosebumps 6/24 hour Walk/Run in LaCrosse, WI.  Plus I really enjoy pacing Janet in her races and she did not have anyone else lined up for pacing so I thought why not?  Training run for Goosebumps.

Friday, Volunteering, Beaver Bay Aid Station, Mile 20.1

I woke up at 4:50 am to get ready to hit the road by 5:30 for a 10:30 arrival at the Beaver Bay Aid Station for my volunteering shift. I  arrived on time and there were already lots of crew members there waiting for their runners to come in. This is the first aid station that crew is allowed to help their runners. The runners coming in still look good and fresh. The aid station was completely set up by the time I arrived so I visited with crew members while waiting for the runners to start to arrive. At this aid station the biggest job, being early in the race, is filling bottles with water or heed. The aid station soon became chaos as crew members and runners were everywhere. I do enjoy the energy and being able to help the runners. I don't volunteer enough at races and really  need to change that but life is so crazy busy it is hard to fit it all in. I was ready to leave the aid station around 1:30 or so. I believe it was around 2 when I got in my car to head north to Lutsen to try to get some sleep before my pacing started. I got into the room at about 3 pm and managed to get a few hours sleep. I was staying at the Caribou Lodge Townhome and wow was it nice! I normally would not stay here but asa pacer it was a perk I was able to enjoy. I was expecting to be picked up between 6 and 7 depending on when Janet left County Rd 6 aid station to run into Finland aid station where I would start running with her.

Friday night Pacing, Finland Aid Station to Sugarloaf Aid Station

I got the text message at 6:35 from Mike saying he would be at the hotel in 30 minutes. I made myself some oatmeal and coffee and made sure I had all my gear in my bag. We arrived back at Finland Aid Station around 7:30ish and I waited for Janet to arrive. Robyn was at the aid station so I was able to chat with her for awhile when she was not busy helping runners at the aid station.

Janet ran into the aid station shortly before 9 pm. It was dark outside. She took care of what she needed to and we headed out of the aid station ready to tackle the next 11 miles before seeing Mike again. We had one aid station before that but crew is not allowed at the Sonju aid station. Janet likes to get in and out of the aid stations very quickly so it is best to know what is needed at the aid station before getting there. Janet was moving very well at this point and it was quite the effort to keep up with her even though she was mostly power hiking. I believe I did a poor job of making sure I was taking in enough calories and fluids. I have noticed running at night I tend to be less diligent in this area. Maybe it is the weird schedule but eating at night is difficult for me.

Before the Crosby aid station, where Mike was waiting for us, there is some gravel road running and Janet took off in front of me. I was amazed that she was able to get so far ahead of me when she had been running all day and had 60 miles on her legs. She was running strong and I realized that she had improved greatly in her running since I paced her at Zumbro in 2015. Of course it did not help that at about 5 miles into the run my right toes started hurting yet again. This has me worried for my future races. I was able to manage the discomfort and keep it under control but I am hoping that it goes away and does not turn into an injury that stops me from running. I do not know what is causing it which makes it hard to figure out what I need to do to fix it. When I made it into the aid station I had to ask Janet if she still needed me to run with her as I felt I was not doing a good job as her pacer if I could not keep up to her. But she said yes she definitely wanted me to keep running with her.

The next section we had to run was 9.4 miles into the Sugarloaf aid station. I asked what to expect in the next section and was told it was a rough one. One big climb and a lot of up and down. Not to mention that it is long. It was also very technical! We hit that hard climb within the first 5 miles and wow was it hard! Janet cruised her way up, making it look effortless and I chugged my way up with my heart beat pounding in my ears and my lungs near to bursting! All I could think was that this climb rivaled Moose mountain. That got me to thinking that I most likely would not be able to run all 50 miles with her. I pretty much decided at that point that I would, at most, be able to run till light but probably not much further than the 25 miles that would entail. If Janet was moving this strong overnight I could not help but think that come light I really would not be able to keep up. I knew that there were backup pacers that had volunteered to help pace and it would be better for Janet to run with them.Well, after those 9 miles from Crosby to Sugarloaf things took a turn for the worse. Janet was experiencing some nausea but it must have gotten much worse as she got sick. I won't get into all the details as it is not my story to tell but my pacing duties were finished at the Sugarloaf aid station at about 6:30 am Saturday morning. While I was sad that Janet's run was over I was not necessarily sorry to be done running myself. Those 21 miles overnight on the Superior Hiking Trail were really difficult! The tagline for this race is Rugged, Relentless, Remote and all I could think about during my run was that the roots and rocks (and mud this year) was definitely Relentless! Running in these conditions can really take a toll on the ankles and mine were starting to hurt. I did not want to take ibuprofen because I did not want to mask the foot pain to make sure I was not hurting myself worse. I did take some finally when I realized that I would not be running the full 50 miles with her. At that point I needed some ankle relief.

Mike gave me a ride back to the hotel in Lutsen and after taking a bath and falling asleep in the tub I got out and crawled into bed and slept for about 3 hours. I had considered going home early but decided to head over to the finish line about 12:30 and see what was happening. I started seeing people I knew, including some friends that were unable to finish the 50 mile race due to missing cutoffs. After running with Janet overnight I realized that with as slow as I run my chances of making the 50 mile cutoffs would be near impossible. My chances at the Moose Mountain Marathon were definitely better considering I have run and finished it twice now.  Sheila was heading out to an aid station to crew her husband, Terry, running the 50 miler so I asked her if she wanted some company and we headed out together to the last two aid stations to meet up with her husband at the aid stations. I enjoyed this a lot as I was able to see many of my runner friends coming into the aid stations on their quest to complete their 50 mile race. I had fun encouraging other 50 mile racers as they ran into the aid stations and offering help when needed.

This is the third year I have been to the Fall Superior Races and it is one race that I thoroughly enjoy and plan on going back to next year. We shall see what distance I will be running then.

August 21, 2016

Afton Sunset/Full Moon Group Run

Saturday, August 20, 2016

What: Group trail run at Afton State Park. Sun sets at 8:10 pm so we can catch the sunset and get some night running in. Remember to bring your headlamp! This is a self supported run. One loop is 25k but opportunities to cut that short if you prefer. We will meet at the visitors center parking lot. Invite your friends! Great training opportunity for Superior or other fall running races.

I enjoy putting together group runs and have come to enjoy the Full Moon Group Run's out at Afton State Park. So with Voyageur race completed and summer coming to an end I thought I better get a Full Moon run on the calendar in August before a busy season of fall running races. The full moon was middle of the week so I chose August 20th as a good weekend to hold the run. I guess I should have named it the Sunset/Waning Moon run.

We had a lot of rain in the week proceeding the run and it was predicted to rain most of the day on Saturday as well. There were several downpours near my home and I knew the trails would be wet and muddy.  This does not stop us trail runners though. I mentioned to a few runners in passing that they would not cancel Superior Fall races for rain right so why should we?

I arrived at the Afton visitor around 6:35. I wanted to get there a little early for when others started to show up. I drove through a downpour but when looking to the west I saw blue sky and big fluffy clouds. I knew it would not be raining for long. Within minutes of pulling into the parking lot the skies let loose. I grabbed my umbrella and ran to the visitor center to use the facilities. By the time I walked out of the visitor center the rain had already stopped.

There were discussions on the event page of some groups of folks meeting early to get some miles in before we met up at 7 pm. They got stuck in that downpour!

The cars started pulling in. And it was looking like the crowd would be large for this run. A little bit of rain and mud won't stop this crew from putting in some miles at Afton in the dark.
The group + Robyn Reed taking the photo. Group was too big to take as a selfie!
 I asked everyone if they had brought their headlamps and told everyone the plan was to run the Afton Trail Race loop. Then pretty much told everyone they were on their own. If you don't know Afton find someone around you that does. There were plenty of runners very familiar with the loop. Pick your pace. I would be running in the back with the back of the pack. Turns out I really was the back of the pack with little to no effort on my part. Someone shouted "Go" and we were off. The front runners showed themselves immediately and I hung out at the back of the pack.

The trails were greasy and muddy so the going was slow but the temps were perfect for a night run. Maybe this should become the 1st Annual Afton Sunset/Full Moon run held every August? Perfect timing for some training for Superior and always a good time.

Here are a few pictures taken by others to enjoy.

Photo Credit: Robyn Reed
Photo Credit: Robyn Reed
Photo Credit: Robyn Reed
Photo Credit: Rose Ryan
Photo Credit: Rose Ryan
Not sure who took this photo! lol
Photo Credit: Robyn Reed

August 2, 2016

Voyageur 50 Mile Trail Race

Minnesota Voyageur Trail Ultra July 30, 2016

Carlton, MN

I really thought I signed up for this race NOT under the influence of a runners high. I mean shouldn't two weeks be plenty of time after another race to be completely back to normal and sane once again? Apparently not for me. At least not after finishing the Zumbro 50 mile trail race I guess. As this race got closer I started doubting my sanity. 50 miles in the middle of summer? 50 miles including running the infamous POWER LINES not once but TWICE? Once I had signed the dotted line (and paid the money), however, there was nothing to do but train and run.

With vacation scheduled the first week of July my training dropped slightly late June and early July and I went into this race hoping that all the running (and races) I had done in spring would be sufficient. I ran Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon two weeks prior as a training run for this race as well.

The trails had dried out considerably since running Curnow. The huge mud puddles were gone and the stream or creek crossings were smaller.

I drove up to Carlton after work on Friday night with plans to stay in the Royal Pines Motel with friends. I was able to leave work early as I had worked extra the beginning of the week which had turned out to be a very busy and hectic week. I suppose this was a blessing in disguise as I was not able to obsess over my readiness for the race (too busy) and I was able to leave early on Friday. The traffic driving north, however, was terrible and the drive took longer than it should have. I arrived up north about 8 pm. I chatted with some other runners staying at the motel and finally went into the room to start putting together my stuff for an early morning wake up.

The race started at 6 am and I needed to get my drop bag to the start line by 5:45. I found out the gas station next to the hotel was open 24 hours so I was up at 4:30 am and out the door of the hotel by 5 am to be sure I got some coffee before the race.  I arrived at the Carlton High School shortly after 5 am (very short drive) dropped my drop bag off and went inside to check in and try to stay warm before the race started. My Garmin says it was 49 degrees at the start of the race. It was surprisingly chilly at the start but this was a very good thing. Temps were predicted to be mild for the end of July. No rain predicted and in the mid 70's. We could have not asked for better weather for this middle of summer race! I was quite pleased with the predicted weather.

I saw many friends at the start line as we mingled waiting for the start of what would be a very long day on the trails for me. This race allows 14 hours to finish but also includes intermediate cutoff times at each aid station past the turnaround. Cutoff for the halfway point was 7 hours at the Zoo AS which is 25 miles in. I had my pace chart and race plan which basically had me running an overall average of 16:30 minute miles. My goal was to get into the turnaround with plenty of time to spare so I would not be chasing the cutoff's for the last half of the race.

After the race director's instructions we were off at about 6:03 am (these three minutes can be vital to a back of the pack runner!). The start is where I made my first mistake in this race. I did not pay attention to where I was starting out in the pack. I started out too far in the front. I was not thinking where I started would be that important in this race because we had some road and the Munger Bike trail to start on for those faster runners to get in front of me. I guess a half a mile was not enough time for that to happen. We started funneling onto the trail headed to our first AS which was about 3.4 miles in, through Jay Cooke State Park.

Swinging Bridge in Jay Cooke State Park
I was running and feeling good when I hit the swinging bridge. It was enjoyable to run in the cool weather and also to run this section of the trail on fresh legs. This section of very technical single track is normally run on tired legs during the Eugene Curnow marathon so I enjoyed running it for the start of the race. My AS plan was to be out within 30 seconds. Down some coke and grab my food to go. Overall I did very well managing my time in the aid stations.

I left Jay Cooke AS and the next section of the trail is wide cross country ski trail that runs along the river and along the campground. This is where many of the runners behind me started to pass. For the most part I was OK with this until friends I thought would be running my pace passed me up as well. I received a lot of encouragement from these runners as they passed and I just had to keep telling myself, "start slow, finish strong". I believe this will be my new mantra for all races. Or another could be "run your own race, run your own pace". I know what works for me and I am much better off if I stick to a consistent pace throughout the race. I also do better if I position myself towards the back of the start line. I get caught up talking to my "fast" friends at the start line way too often!

Course markings are excellent. It is hard to get lost during this race.
The aid stations are fairly close together for this race. There are 8 aid stations visited once outbound and once inbound and the turnaround AS near the Zoo in Duluth. I carried my fuel and hydration but planned on eating PB&J sandwiches from the aid stations and using my cliff blocks as supplements when I could no longer eat the sandwiches. Turns out this worked well for me. The sandwiches are also something I can grab and go better than other food choices available. I felt really good physically for most of the first half of this race. Hitting roughly mile 11 you start to climb the Power Lines. Running into these backwards was great considering I had never run them this way. I tried very hard to not think about the fact that I would have to run them again at about mile 40. Live in the moment. Or as I was doing just run AS to AS and don't think about what was ahead of that. My time was good and I was on track to get into the turnaround AS in about 6 1/2 hours. This is what I had hoped for. I knew it was too much to hope for anything faster than that.

Stream crossings. A lot less water than Curnow so was able to rock hop and stay dry for most of them.

I ran into Becks Aid station (second to last before the turnaround) which was being manned by Upper Midwest Trail Runners volunteers. I knew a lot of the runners who were all trying to encourage me but I have to admit I had a pretty good negative attitude going at this point, feeling like I was the last runner. They got me what I needed and sent me out telling me I was in good company as they pointed to all the runners just leaving the aid station.

I hit my goal of getting to the turnaround with time to spare and unfortunately was feeling pretty wiped out at this point. I had others runners pass me by that I thought I would stay ahead of and this was not helping with my morale. But I don't quit easily so I spent a few extra minutes in this aid station. I had the Ibuprofen debate with myself. Should I or shouldn't I? I really don't like to take it in the middle of the race and will only resort to taking it at the very end of a race and then only if absolutely necessary. Well I broke down and took some just to see if it would make a difference chasing those cutoffs for the rest of the race. My soreness was definitely not related to any injuries and I was not feeling any specific pain that I thought masking would become dangerous. I had very little time to spare and if I slowed down too much I would never make it.

So I headed out of the Zoo AS and already my attitude shifted to the positive. Out and back races are very hard on me mentally. Being in the back of the pack of all my races I see just about the entire field of runners coming back on me and can't help but think about how much farther they are ahead of me and how much closer they are to finishing ahead of me. I know this is negative thinking but I can't seem to help myself. Once I start running towards the finish line I start to immediately feel like I am making progress. Sounds irrational I know but when I am running these longer races I sometimes lose control of logical and sane thoughts and the illogical and insane thoughts take over. What can I say but that it is a constant mental battle.

I have run the Eugene Curnow race three years now so I know the course fairly well running back to Carlton. At this point it was about 12:30 and it was starting to get much hotter. Running Skyline is in the open and the views are great but there is a lot of sun in this section. I realized that I had forgotten to put on sunscreen that morning but it sounded like too much effort so I just hoped that I would get back into the shade. I managed to not get sunburn so my risk paid off this time.

As I continued on running aid station to aid station I started to slowly pass some runners. I played leap frog with a few but passed others along the way. This time when I ran into the Beck Aid Station I was in a much better mood. I was starting to catch up with a few friends and we ran together for awhile. I don't remember what mile I came upon my friend Gregg but it was just shy of the 30 mile mark (I think this was Beck Aid Station). He had slowed down and was considering dropping at the aid station. He was actually doing great considering he has just been running a year and he was hitting a new time and distance PR. I encouraged him to keep going if he was not feeling too bad as we were still way ahead of the cutoff times and he could just keep moving forward even if that was slowly. He kept up just behind me for quite awhile and I hear he made it 39 miles before he decided he would not make the next cutoff after the power lines. Amazing job on his part!

I finally ran into Seven Bridges aid station and was still about 30 minutes ahead of cutoff with the next section to run: the Power Lines. Wow were these hard the second time around. I was running behind another runner and tried to keep up with him but he got ahead of me in this section. I was struggling going up the Power Lines. I had to stop several times on the way up the steep climbs to catch my breath. We were lucky on this section as there were clouds in the sky and the sun was behind the clouds for most of this section. That was pure heaven considering the effort it was taking to climb those hills! This section started to eat up some of my extra time but I was still doing well and according to my Garmin my average pace was still under the 16:30 which meant I would finish in time.  Again, I concentrated on thinking about the next aid station and not thinking about the climbs I knew were coming even after the Power Lines. I was so happy to be done with this section. Of course just when you think you are done, bam! there are two more very steep climbs! Can't believe they managed to surprise me yet again!

I do remember hitting the Peterson Aid station and thinking to myself that the major elevation climbs were done! I was dismayed to overhear a gentleman telling another runner that there was one more major climb. That burst my bubble big time! Well nothing to do but just get out of the aid station and keep moving forward. I hit that climb and although I was at the cussing stage I powered through and just got it done. The only way to get to the finish line is to just keep moving, even when it hurts right? I told myself I wanted to finish this race within the cutoff time and that I could take one week, maybe even two weeks off running after getting it done! This is what kept me moving at a running pace instead of a crawl.

Finally I managed to run into the Jay Cooke AS. I had filled my hydration pack with water before the Power Lines so I did not need to stop and just kept moving. Only 3.4 miles to the finish and I was on track for finishing within the 14 hours. This section always feels longer than it is with all the roots and rocks that just kill your feet this late in the race. I continued to pass a few more runners in this section and knew I just needed to keep moving as quickly as I could. When I finally saw the gravel hill leading up to the Munger Bike Trail I was ecstatic! And I had about 20 to 25 minutes to run that last half mile. It was a great feeling to know that even if I had to walk this section I would finish. Of course there was no walking allowed in my mind so I just slowly shuffled my way forward. I turned the corner onto the road and there was the finish line. Oh, that's interesting they have a Sheriff handling the road crossing this year. Two years ago I had been at that road crossing helping to stop traffic for the runners. I laughed to myself when I recalled how many runners would come running up and tell me that no way would they be stopping. I felt the same way. How can you possibly ask a runner to stop and wait for cars when the finish line is in sight? Luckily I was able to run my way through the intersection without interruption. I heard someone call out my name from the finish line (still don't know who that was) and then saw Rick Bothwell as I was crossing the road and he gave me a high five as I sprinted (well it was my "I just ran 50 miles on these legs on super crazy hilly trails" sprint) to the finish line. Finishing clock said 13:44 and change. I had made it! And I still had 15 minutes to spare! Wow was I glad to be done running!

I struggled after I stopped running. I had a hard time catching my breath and felt lightheaded and sick to my stomach. Not enough to throw up but I remember wishing I could just throw up so I would feel better. This was the worst I have ever felt after a race and I can only guess it was due to the fact that I had just run my fastest 50 mile race in hot and hilly conditions. I tried to eat the awesome lasagna at the high school but I was just not able to eat much. I was really glad that I had the option of staying in the hotel room another night as I was in no condition to drive home that night. I was able to get a good nights sleep and was somewhat better on Sunday but really did not feel good until Monday morning. It was an interesting feeling and makes me wonder how other runners can run their races feeling sick. I don't think I could do it. I seem to have an iron stomach and I much prefer that to how I felt after this race.

Next race on the calendar is the Goosebumps 24 hour race in La Crosse, WI on September 23/24th. Anyone available to pace me? Some overnight company would be nice. It will be my first 24 hour race and I have yet to set my goals for time on feet or distance during this race.

First, though, I have pacing duties for my friend Janet up at Fall Superior 100 miler. Will be good training for the night running. Plus I just love running the Superior Hiking Trail up north! 

Chippewa 50k Trail Race

CHIPPEWA 50K TRAIL RACE April 29, 2017  This was my fourth year running the 50k distance and the 5th year running the Chippewa Races h...