Monday, August 11, 2014

Grizzle Grind 12 Mile Trail Run

Deb, Heidi, Me, Jean, Angela and Jody

Club Run held their first annual Grizzle Grind races yesterday. They offered a '10' mile and a 5K. I like their Facebook page so read about their race a few weeks ago. I thought it would be the perfect time to introduce some of my 'mostly road running' friends to trail running.We all signed up for the 10 mile option.

Grizzle Grind was held at Elm Creek Park in Maple Grove, only a half an hour from home. Angela, Deb and I  met at Heidi's for the ride over. We met Jean and Jody at the race start and had a good 45 minutes to mill around and use the facilities.

Ryan and Jordan were sweeps, it was fun to see some ultra buddies there. On the way to the start Tim Roe said hello and it took me a while to realize where I knew Tim from. It finally dawned on me, Tim developed Tuscobia  a few years back when I ran the race.

As we were waiting for the start two women popped out of the trail, onto the area where we were waiting.  One woman stated with disdain "road runners gonna use our trail" with disgusted looks on their faces. You know I just couldn't help myself. I told one of the women that she was a poor role model for trail running. She sneered. Whatev...

The race was very well organized. All aid stations were fully stocked with gels, water and Gatorade. The course was well marked and the volunteers were full of joy!

The course was held on a mountain biking path. It was very smooth-a few rocks and roots here and there-but mostly worn very smooth. Manymanymanymany hills. Up down and up down over and over again. I ran 24 miles on Saturday and yesterday was a scheduled 14 mile recovery run. It didn't feel much like recovery!

I was wearing the Superior 50K shirt from a few years back and fell into pace with another runner, wearing the same shirt. Bruce and I ran a few miles together, it was fun meeting and running with someone new.  After about 5 miles into the race I was warmed up and able to run faster..I didn't see Bruce again.

I popped out of the woods at 2:11, 12 miles on the nose. In comparing mileage with some of the other runners I realized I ran an extra half mile as I ran to the final aid station which was optional. I chose to fill up my bottle for the final two miles.  

We had a great time, all of us. We'll be back for the 2nd annual.  Great job, Club Run!!

Next Up: RAGNAR on Friday with Heidi, Jean, Jody and Angela from above photo.

Friday, August 01, 2014

One Year Diet Coke Free Addiction Anniversary

No More Diet Coke   

On July 30th I celebrated my one year anniversary on no longer drinking Diet Coke! YES!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Voyageur 50 Mile Trail Run: Blissed Out

Blissed Out. That is the title of this post. It is exactly how I feel and I just can't stop thinking about the day without smiling. I feel Blissed Out.

A little Voyageur history: the first Voyageur I ran was in 2002. The course at that time had a 13 hour cut off. I ran with my dear friend Marie and it took us 14:30 to complete. Paul Hasse was our sweep and he took us under his wing, allowing us to finish along with Tom, Marie's husband checking on us at each closed aid station. It was epic. I ate 25 Advil. I've learned much since then. There was hail/thunder/lightening during the whole the powerlines lightening was hitting the wires and we just kept trucking. Crazy rivers of red clay was sweeping us down those powerlines as we tried climbing up. It was nuts. I learned to persevere. Every Voyageur since has seemed easier because of the difficulty of this one!

The next 4 Voyageurs were all finished in 10:47, 10:26, 10:55, 10:43, all exciting and all with great memories of people that I ran with along the way. So many of these people no longer run ultra. I was the new kid on the block, the newbie. They all taught me so much. I miss them all greatly. A dozen plus of them continue to run ultra and I connected with each of them on Saturday. I enjoyed myself so very much.  

It had been FIVE years since I had run Voyageur! I met many new people to the ultra scene - they are who will continue to allow our sport to grow. I enjoyed meeting so many young new people to the sport!

Packed up my food and ready for the road.

I had intended to drive up the morning of the race, head home after the race as I did the past two Voyageurs that I have entered, so I didn't look up any hotel accommodations or the like. As race day grew near I thought it would be nice to sleep a bit longer than the 1 AM wakeup I'd have from staying at home. There were no rooms available and sleeping in my car didn't feel like fun again so I posted in the UMTR Facebook page to see if anyone had space. Just my luck Jenny responded to me and told me I could stay with her. She had reserved a room and had acquired two more roomies, Robyn and Harriet. I hadn't yet met Jenny but had met Robyn and Harriet previously. I felt so fortunate to have a  place to stay for Friday night!  We had many laughs before we turned in for the night-I slept well. We made a great foursome. 

Jenny and Harriet chose the early 5 AM start so left before I and Robyn did. We were going to start at 6 AM. I arrived to start with 15 minutes to spare so had time to say hello and drop off a bag for mile 25. I had quickly jotted down the cut off times for the return trip - miles 25 to 50 so I would know if I was in trouble. It's been a long time since I've had to worry about cut offs. I assumed I'd finish in 13 hours, maybe 13.5.

The day was warm-high 80s were forecast, the high turned out to be 96F-I imagine that was the temperature in the sun.

As I headed to the start line the RD told us that a Mud Run was taking place on Spirit Mountain. We'd come across them at about mile 23. We could take part in the Mud Run for extra credit (just kidding!)

I sided up to Jim . We chatted a bit and then we were off!  I was so excited. I began in the near back of the pack and thought about the year I began in the front with  Jeffrey. For some reason we wanted to try the race from the front. I remembered flying through the first few miles of the rocks and roots to the bridge. I remembered falling down and quickly getting back up for fear of being trampled.  That was my PR on the course. 10:26. You just don't know unless you try. I remember Jeffrey stating to me after the race "you were running UP the hills, out of the Zoo".. yup. More memories with good friends.

I had snapshot memories of each Voyaguer, all of my friends, all of the years that I had been running the race, all day long. I am so fortunate to have these experiences.

My plan was to consume a gel every 30 minutes. It has been working for all of my races this year, which have all been successful finishes, so I was sticking to that plan. Again, they worked beautifully. Energy was spot on. I had two pieces of watermelon and one orange slice in addition to the gels. 8 ECAPS. Water. That's it.

I had fun running over the bridge across the river to the first aid station. I don't remember if there was a photographer there, I'll have to look up the photos. I have 5 other photos of me crossing that bridge and each one came back to memory as I was running at that moment. I remember one with Steve Quick , two with Jeffrey, one by myself and one with Scott Wagner. Good times. 

I was running with a pack for the first time. I normally use handhelds but after running out of water during a few training runs this summer on the Superior Hiking Trail I decided I better use a pack during the Superior 100 and figured Voyageur would be a good place to practice. It is the Nathan 70 oz that I purchased from TCRC. Thank you, Kurt! I really like it.  The weight of the water is dispersed over the back, so much so that it didn't bother me AT ALL. There are more pockets than I needed. I had them filled with 28 (yes) gels, keys, advil, ECAPS, a plastic garbage bag (rain), windbreaker, foot potion, toilet paper. I had plenty of space.  

At the first aid station I filled up the bladder so that I could get a grasp on how much I was drinking. It had only been about 4 miles and I drank 25 or so oz. Seemed good.  I filled up and moved out.

As I was running along a young guy named Drew introduced himself. This was his first ultra, having just run his first marathon at Grandmas!  Wow!  He was a swimmer in college and was now trying to find a new sport. I gave him a few tips and told him to enjoy every step. As we were chatting along we came up on Bill. He began to ask Drew if he knew who I was, my history, my bio, etc. Oh my gosh, Bill!  Stop!  He told Drew what races I had completed, he said I was a 'legend' and went on and on. My face turned beet red and I just didn't know how to react. I felt like a hot menopausal sausage running next to these two.  He told Drew that I was one of the most accomplished women runners in the area as I had finished over 15 100 milers and have run over 100 plus races, winning McNaughton 100 a few times and on and on he went. I was stunned and didn't know what to say. I can't imagine that is how anyone else would describe me?   I win when there is usually a high rate of attrition and just don't want to quit. I love it so much.  I have too much fun to stop. I just enjoy running, being with my friends that run, filling up my soul with the experiences. Wow. I'm flattered ..  thanks, Bill.

We ran through the grassy, hilly cross country ski sections. The course is much more traveled that what it was when I was a regular here. The grassy sections used to be filled with holes and longer grass, I recalled moving along slowly and having difficulty seeing the ground because of the long grass. Not anymore. The grass was short, the trails were more covered with dirt than grass. It was easier to run. I enjoyed myself completely.

The aid stations were closer in distance than they have been when I ran previously. At first I was perplexed by this as I was running out, I was almost irritated. Maybe just because I didn't look at the course maps prior so I didn't realize how many there would be. It seemed that they were too close and I would just eat up time on the clock. On the way back I was SO thankful and grateful that they were so close together. It was awesome to have ice stay as ice aid station to aid station. It was so great to hear "JULIE BERG! COME ON IN! YOU ARE HERE!" cheering, over and over. I really enjoyed it so much.

The volunteers are top notch. They couldn't wait to help out. Ice, water, heed, food, whatever anyone could use. They were there to help us. Thank you so much!

There were new sections along the course. With flooding two years ago and mudslides taking out the course, it has been changed in areas. One of the coolest changes was this hill we climbed, a ridge of sorts, with mud slide on either side. It was tall and steep. They had ropes to help us climb up the hill-it reminded me of McNaughton 100. It was very cool!

As I came into the power lines I was anxious. I couldn't wait to see what condition they were in. I was last on this section of the course last year during Eugene Curnow marathon when I fractured my ankle. I was so excited to be running and feeling healthy and strong.

Shane Olson took this photo. Climbing out of a power line hill.

The power lines were in pristine condition. They had dried out, were even DUSTY is places!  I've never seen them in such good condition. They were still work-lots of quad busting climbing and descents-but wow, it could have been so much worse. I was just smiling, ear to ear. 

All day long, smiling ear to ear. I was so happy to be here again. So happy to be running on two strong legs, reliving the memories of past Voyageurs and looking forward to making new memories today. I felt like I was shining.

As I came into the UMTR aid station Ryan helped pull my pack off my back and began to fill it. This is just perfection. To walk into an aid station, not having to ask for help, to be waited upon. I took full advantage of it!  He filled it up and I was on my way. Kudos to the UMTR aid station!

Zach Pierce took this photo

Somewhere along the trail I ran into Wayne and Deb. I ran my first 50 miler at Ice Age in 2002 with Deb. We go back to my beginning of ulta. She goes back to 1991 or so for ultra! That's so awesome. I met Wayne in 2008. It was so great to run with, talk with, reminisce with, Wayne and Deb. We ran from mile 20 to 50 together on and off. Mostly on. It was fabulous.

As we came up to Spirit Mountain we saw the Mud Run taking place. Participants were running up SM, covered in mud, then climbing the cargo net, sliding out of a water filled air contraption, then up the hill again. It was interesting.  

The run downhill into the Zoo is steady. As I ran I could feel my side ache come back on. I struggled with it at Savage 100 and Afton 50K earlier this summer.  I believe I breathe too shallow as I run downhill, causing the side pain. Ugh. I actually have to hold my side, slow down and try to breath from my lower stomach as I run downhill. I need to practice this all over again. The things that don't come naturally after a hiatus. 

I came into the halfway point - the Duluth Zoo - at 5:50 or so. The cutoff was 7 hours so I had plenty of time. I emptied all of my gels wraps, refilled my pack with gels, lubed up my feet, filled my bladder and moved on out. I kept on hearing how radiant my smile was. One man said 'your smile is as radiant as your pack'. I felt radiant. I felt like i was glowing inside. Oh, I was!

The 2 mile climb out of the zoo was brutal. We climbed and climbed and climbed and climbed some more. It was hot as hell and the sweat just poured off of me. This section of the course goes across Spirit Mountain so it is quite exposed. We then hit some pavement for a while. I climbed with Wayne and Deb. We had so much to talk about!  We yakked and yakked and yakked. It was so awesome!

Sweet, Beautiful Maranda Lorraine took this photo

After the 2 mile climb we came to the next aid station. I refilled my water, pulled the Afton buff from my pack and placed ice within it to put in my running bra. It stayed there, frozen, until the next aid station. I couldn't believe it! I then refilled it at each aid station with ice. 

Every once in a while I'd lose Wayne and Deb, I'd have to slow down to potty, or they would. I usually left the aid stations before them, I just don't like to spend much time there, then we'd reconnect in a few more minutes. It was a great experience, running with both of them.

I found myself thanking God for being able to be on this trail again, for having a healed ankle, for having a strong body..for being able to run 50 miles today without a thought about dropping or any real discomfort.  I've had a weak body, a broken body and it has taught me to be grateful. To give thanks. To feel real joy. I find myself sitting here with tears in my eyes as I reflect upon my run. My adventure.

I found myself thinking about the past Voyageur's and the people that I ran them with. I thought often of Pierre Oster, who I miss so much. We ran SO many miles together over the  years. My last Voyaguer, we were running together and I was slowing down near the end. He would NOT let me fall in back of him. He demanded I finish in front of him. I told him I was tired, I didn't think we would finish in 11 hours, I swore at him. He laughed at me. He told me he I was strong and I was going to finish in front of him in 11 hours. I didn't think we were EVER going to hit the bike path. We did. He put me in front of him and we finished in 10:55. It isn't the finish time that is important---it is the time spent with Pierre, the friendship, that is important. The memory.  

The second pass through the power lines was more difficult. Hot!  The sun was blazing, there is no shade. I climbed the best I could, then walked the section to the next hill. Deb and Wayne ran through the section. I walked, steadying myself, coming to terms with the fact than a 15 pound weight gain due to injury and a  menopausal body is not the best body I've had to run in. I can adapt to the menopausal body but this 15 pounds is going to hit the road. 

As I was running into Forbay I heard this cowbell ring ring ring ring. It was so loud!  A woman was there cheering and ringing!  I laughed, thanked  her profusely and then saw Kelly and John. They filled up my bladder, made me laugh and sent me on my way. It was so good to see them!  I left the aid station smiling and feeling like 100 bucks.  

The final aid station.  I was ahead of the cut off at all check points so wasn't worried about time. It looked as if I'd finish under 13 hours. I was so excited. Nothing hurt, no blisters, my side pains went away once I began to breath deeply and with my lower stomach. I was happy.

At Jay Cooke I had to go to the bathroom. I asked Joe if there was one nearby, he told me Maudie used one at the building on the hill and pointed to it. Ugh. I didn't feel like walking up there. I figured I'd pee off the trail somewhere.

Deb, Wayne and I ran across the swinging bridge, I again thought about all of the swinging bridge memories. Next year I'll add this year's memory to my bank. We took in the beautiful view, were cheered on by the campers and hikers. I told them I was going to pee, would catch up later.

I detoured to the left of the trail, peed and looked up. A Forest Ranger was standing on the trail, looking at me, as I pulled up my skirt. Oops. I'm sorry! I had to pee. You wouldn't have wanted me to pee in my skirt? Oh man. Am I in trouble? Are you going to write me a ticket? Shit. No, I didn't shit. I peed. Can I finish my race? I have like 4 more miles. I couldn't hold it that long.....

He wrote down my race number and I gave him my name. Oops. What bad luck!

As I caught Deb and Wayne I told them what happened. Wayne tried to divert the Forest Ranger from my path by asking him a question but the Forest Ranger didn't break stride.  I may have a ticket arriving in the mail. Is it agains the law to pee in a state park?

We ran along, smelling the barn. I have become so slow on technical stuff. Wayne and Deb went on ahead as I scrambled over the rocks and roots. I took the time to reflect on my day. To acknowledge the pure joy that I was feeling. To think about the last few years of injury, how difficult they were. It's made me more thankful, more grateful, more real.  

I hit the bike path and began to cry with joy and gratitude. I stopped to wipe my eyes, blow my nose, knowing what would be around the corner. The road to the finish. The school. Maybe some friends would still be around. I looked at my watch. 12:30. Wow. I did it. 

As I turned the corner I ran as fast as I could to the finish. I heard Bill yell Julie Berg! A chorus of Julie!! Cheering, clapping, yelling, it's enough to make a person believe in oneself again! A huge hug from Maria. My friends, my runs, me. How good it is to be back.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Afton 50K Race Report: Love

I haven't run the Afton 50K races since 2011 and that year the State Parks were closed so John had the races at the Afton Alps Ski Area. It was brutal, I was 6 months post hysterectomy and I was in the midst of herniated disc pain. I was so damn happy to be running, although it took me 8:30 to compete!

Fast forward to 2014 Afton 50K races at Afton State Park. A beautiful breezy warm July morning, tons of friends, my best friends and new friends. Just a perfect place to be.

I left home at 445 AM so I would arrive with time to pick up my number and head out. I don't like hanging about waiting for the race to begin. I arrived at 610 for 630 start time. Because the parking lots were full I was directed to park right on the road, a few feet from the start line. Sweet!

Making sure that I had my watch, my iPod, 12 gels and a cooler with a RedBull, Ultragen and Protein Powder I headed out to the start, dropped my cooler and mosied over to pick up my number. Lucky 13. I was ready.

I hung with Arika and Maria while we listened to John give us the details. He asked how many were running their first ultra-many hands went up. It was so awesome to see so many beginning their ultra adventure. He asked how many were running their 5th Afton, many more hands went up..mine included.

He sent us on our way and off we went.  I figured I could finish in 7 hours. The course is a double loop. I wanted to run the first loop hard, in 3 hours or less, then let up a bit on the second loop. That was the plan. 

The morning was spectacular. Bright sunshine, real nice stiff breeze, not many bugs.  I felt great!  No ankle pain, no nervousness, just happy to be out there to do what I love.

Aid Station 1 came up quickly. I refilled with water and ate a gel. I have really been having great luck with my race nutrition since I have begun to use only gels, water and ecaps. I'm still shocked at the simplicity and how well this works. No more decision making at the tables, easy to carry and HammerNutrition sponsors most races so their gels are on most tables. The only downside is the stickiness of the product. My hands become sticky and my clothing is eventually sticky as well.  Oh well.  No stomach upset and continuous energy..well worth the stickiness.

I made sure to have a gel every 30 minutes. This would be the first test at running a faster pace, in the heat, with only gels. They were doing the job.

I ran into many friends along the course, at aid stations and running the race. So much fun!

As I came into the 25K mark I looked at the time clock: 2:53. I was right on. Wow!  I ran hard, kept hydrated, energized and in good shape.  As I went over to my cooler I saw Don holding it, handing to me. How nice!  We chatted, I saw Jim Wilson and chatted with him as I guzzled down a RedBull. Thanks to Ryan for showing me the RedBull way at Savage 100!  I grew my wings and headed out to loop 2.

I began to feel the heat, the fatigue in my legs from the hills. Afton has many climbs and many areas of open prairie, although much of the course is shaded, thankfully. I made a mental note that I did not want to DNF a training run so made sure to hold back on the next 25K. I reminded myself that 7 was my plan and it looked like 630 was going to happen regardless. I was happy with this.  

As I ran along the river I saw Steve Quick walking toward me. I haven't seen him in a long time. A quick hug and hello and off I went with a smile. 

At the final aid station I saw Jeff, Al, Nancy, Kris, Tom and John all working the aid station. Hugs all around, big smiles and it's time to finish this party up. I come around the corner and who do I see? RD John. Awesome! Another hug, a laugh, a 'look at us' and I'm off with smiles galore. Good friends, this is what it is all about.

I ran into the finish at 618. Very happy with that time, not to mention how great I felt. I sure have the heat training in now. Voyaguer 50 is a few weeks away and it is usually really warm. Hopefully not really wet this year.  

If you haven't run a RockSteady Race you really need to give it a try. John and Cheri really have the RDing down to a science. They do a fabulous job. Great organization and great fun.  Thank you!

After hanging out at the finish, cheering in others and visiting with friends it was time to move on to more fun. I was meeting Bonnie and Marie after the race. We had such a blast!  We made sushi, spring rolls, soaked in the hot tub, went for a pontoon ride-what an amazing day!

On Friday I'm going up to Lutsen to run the Superior Sawtooth 100 course. Time to get some technical running in. Superior scares me. Although I've finished it 2x I've also DNFd 2x, my first and my last. I finally entered Friday. I am in. This whole year is all about finishing Superior.

In other news: We had Troy's graduation party last Sunday. We had so much fun. Many friends and family shared the day with us. I can't believe the time has come. He was awarded a Merit Scholarship as well as other scholarships to help with his tuition at the U of M. I'm so proud of him. We'll be empty nesters by the end of August.

With all of the changes at home taking place I chose to make another. After 11 years at the Big Lake High School I am now moving to the Big Lake Middle School. I'm taking a position that contains two classification increases as well as a pay raise, more hours. I will still have July off but no longer 8 weeks. I'm so excited for this new challenge!

Next up: Voyageur 50 Mile. Woohoo!  It's been 5 years since I've run the Voyageur. Looking forward to it.




Friday, May 23, 2014

Savage 100 Mile Trail Run: Race Report

Savage 100 Mile Trail Run: Believing in Myself Gives me an Edge

I wear this necklace all of the time. I wore it for the race, too.

Where to begin? It’s been a long haul but I feel like I’m finally breaking through the injury, the menopause and the depression. I feel as though I am coming out on the other side.

When I learned that Les Martisko was creating The Savage 100 Mile Trail Run so that he could finish a 100 mile ultramarathon as a way to celebrate his 70th birthday I wanted to be a part of the celebration.  Les and I have run many many miles together over the years.

When I first began Ultra I was fighting the cut offs and Les would patiently coach me during our races, letting me know that we were in fact going to finish.  He was always correct. He was always steady. I’ve learned so much from him.

Happy Birthday to Les, may we all be running 100 mile ultramarathons for our 70th birthday! 

Going into The Savage 100 I felt very confident that I could finish. Zumbro 50 was a dream come true five weeks prior. I had been having NO ankle pain, I believed in myself. Believing in myself gives me an edge.

The race course was held at Murphy-Hanrehan Park, a Dakota County Park located in Savage MN. It was a 16+ mile loop-plenty of hills, beaver dam water crossing, woods  and open prairie areas. It was all trail but for a short-maybe .50 mile tops each lap was dirt road.   It reminded me of McNaughton 100 in more than one way.

I chose to begin the race at 300 AM. We could start at 300 AM or at 600 AM. The race was finished at 1 PM Sunday for a total of 34 hours.  I figured I could use every spare hour I could take. My ‘goal’ was to  finish each loop in 5 hours-giving me a 30 hour finish.

Because gels, water and electrolyte worked 100% at Zumbro I was going to use the same plan. I'm so grateful to Karl for getting me off of the solid food leading to  stomach aches, gas, bloat and energy crashes and making such a strong case to me to try gels, only gels!  He always says to me IT IS WHAT THE BODY NEEDS, Jule! I had multiple changes of shoes, socks and clothing. Batteries, gels, electrolytes, foot potion, etc. I loved that I could use my car as my drop bag, reaching it every 17 miles. Woohoo.

I pulled on my Nathan Vest, filled one 20 oz bottle with water, my headlamp and handheld flashlight and walked toward the start area. I didn’t recognize anyone at first out of the 60 entrants. I didn’t know who was going to begin at 300 or 600 so wasn’t sure who to look for. Eventually Misty and Victoria meandered to the start and Bob took photos of us.  Let’s get this party started. Seriously. That was my thought. Party on the trail.

Misty, Me and Victoria <3 br="">

Kim Martin, our RD, gave us a lowdown on the course, the markings, the beaver dam, etc. and told us to go. We went! 

Interesting way that we began..all looking down!

As I began to run up the trail I looked up to the full moon, the stars and just felt such deep gratitude for being able to start this 100 miler. My ankle had been feeling solid, my training leading up to the race had been spot on. I was so grateful to be right where I was. Other than my nutrition for the week prior I had been 100%. I was going to be OK. I was going to finish. Those were my thoughts.

I picked my way along the trail, looking for the first crack of dawn. Pretty soon I could see the sky becoming  a bright pink, then deep purple and light blue. So beautiful. We were going to have a great day.

At each aid station I made sure I had an adequate supply of gels and filled my water bottle. The stations were amazing. As I approached I’d be asked what I wanted: do you want a burrito, a pancake, soup, potato? Um, no, gel and water please! Simple.

I caught Anjanette along the first loop and ended up running the first 53 miles with her!  We’ve never run together before. I first met Anjanette at Superior 100 last fall and I don’t think I had seen her since.  She told me she was going to try to hang with me for the next few loops but that she would run her own race. I told her that was fine. I was going to do what felt good, no pressure. 

As I finished up loop1 I headed to my car to wash my feet, lube them up, change socks. I dropped my jacket, changed out of long sleeved shirt into short sleeves, dropped my gloves, exchanged headlamp for sunglasses. I was ready to go after 6 minutes.  I believe loop one was less that 4 hours. I thought that was probably too fast.

Loop 2 went very well. It was fun to see the surroundings in daylight.  Again, the aid stations were amazing-lots of variety-lots of welcoming smiles. All I needed was a gel and water.

Loop 2 ended up taking under 4 hours too. I needed to slow down but I didn’t feel overtaxed or anything, so maybe I’d just go with it. I again washed my feet and changed socks. The rocks were chewing up my feet along with the mud. The bottoms of my feet were becoming raw and my stupid little toes were covered in callus with blister wanting to form. Honest to god, they end up smushed up in my shoes into the shapes of little wedges with deep points. My socks had a ton of grit in them even though I was wearing gaiters. All I could do was wash them down and clean them off. I had two jugs of water at my car so I’d just pour water over them, dry them off and lube them up. Hoping for the best!

During Loop 3 I began to feel antsy. I was changing my plan. I was feeling the endorphin rush. Screw the 5 hour laps! I felt like I should try to get in as many miles as I could before the darkness of night arrived. I felt like stretching out my legs and running hard! Anjanette said that she would probably walk Loop 4 so I thought that would be when I’d put the hammer down.

We reached 50 mile in 11:40. Great pace, I was feeling good. After Loop 3 I walked up to the start/finish and finally recognized a few friends. I gave E a big hug and yacked with Jeff for so long that when I took off to run away from the aid station I realized I had forgotten to fill my water bottle!  Oops!  Oh well, the next aid station was 4 miles away and I didn’t feel like it was a do or die situation. After running a few miles I told Anjanette was going to listen to my tunes and peel out. I was going to get as many miles in as I could before night fall.  Off I peeled.

Once I was by myself I was able to think deeply about where I was and what I was doing. I was feeling my strength, my weaknesses, my emotions. I was moving along so well and was quite surprised at how great this race was going.

As I ran into Natchez Arika, Jim, Ryan, Vickie, BJ  and Bob began to clap and cheer. Every time I ran in to Natchez Arika was there yahooing me!  I heard Hey Sugar, what can I get you? Oh, water and gel will do. Well, I think you should try a Red Bull. Oh, really? Well, I never have. Oh, you need to. OK, I will. Shall I drink it with moderation or guzzle it down? Well, I don’t really do moderation…yeah, we’d make a great pair..I don’t either. I guzzled down that Red Bull and grew wings!  I couldn’t believe the quick energy it gave me.

Before I knew it I was running with a pep in my step and a goofy grin on my face. I figured I might as well get a full bump of energy  so took down an espresso hammergel and a few advil. Might as well get a big bang!  I did! I felt like I was flying and I was nothing but pure positive in my mind. I have been practicing positive thinking for a long time.

I began to think about Superior 100, where I broke my ankle in September. I really want to go back and get another finish. As I felt like I was flying down the trail I said aloud “Ok, Superior Sawtooth..I’m coming after you and I am going to make you my bitch!” I had to laugh at myself, I don’t normally speak that way!  It was hilarious. I was totally enjoying myself.

Each time I ran into Horse Camp Aid Station the captain would exclaim 'Here she comes again, smiling as always!' I was. I was truly beaming, full of euphoria.

I hadn't listened to any music yet. I decided to turn on my iPod and enjoy, running along the trail, loving the solitary moment. I needed to be by myself, to think deeply. I love the social aspect of ultrarunning-the training with others, the races with friends, but I also crave the solitary moments. I mostly train by myself. I need the time alone where I can go deeply into my mind, my soul, for hours on end.  It’s good medicine.

I hit 68 miles at 15:30 and felt on top of the world.  At my car I refilled my gels, an electrolyte caplet, a bandana for my head, headlamp. It was still relatively warm -55F-so I would wait until the next lap to change into pants if necessary.

The 5th loop just amazed me. I couldn’t believe that I had been running so well for so long. I knew that when darkness arrived I would slow down miserable. I have horrible night vision. Even with two lights and brand new batteries my eyes fail.

The sunset was glorious. Deep magenta with purple streaks across the sky. I stood there with tears in my eyes. I was so thankful to again be able to do what I love. To  do what fills me up. 

The moon and stars popped out, lighting the way. So gorgeous. I stood still, turned my lights off and extended my arms to the moon. I cried. I was so thankful.

For the final 17 I added a pair of pants and gloves. I was getting really cold. I turned on my car along with the heat and thawed out for a few minutes. Some more gels, a bottle refill, change of batteries, wash of feet and I was on my way. I noticed that my Garmin 310 XT had died. I decided I’d consume a gel every other mile by the mile markers on the course. I was sticking with the gels for my nutrition and it was proving to work 100% again. No stomach upset and plenty of energy.

I couldn’t believe I was on my final loop. I reminded myself how a 100 mile race can be much like life. Ups, downs..many emotions. I had felt them all.

I had wished my family had an interest in coming out to check in during the race. It was only an hour from home and I thought maybe they would. I had extended the invitation to family and friends.

My perception of the enormity of running 100 miles has changed since my hysterectomy. Prior to that I ran 14 100 milers in 5 years. Since hysterectomy I’ve taken on one battle after another head on.  Recovery from hysterectomy, herniated discs, avulsion fracture, break, depression. All related to hysterectomy-of this I am certain. I may have been knocked down but never knocked out. I’ve come out on the other side and I am getting there, back to where I want to be.  To the person I will be.

As I posted earlier, May is my RECONNECT. It’s become my RESET as well. I truly felt like I pressed my reset button. I had made the recovery, I was ready to stop dwelling on the past and I was ready to move on to the future. A bright, bright future!  RESET.

As I ran into the final stretch I wasn’t sure of the time. The sky was beginning to lighten, the moon went away. I made a final pit stop and guessed it to be about 26 hours.  I began to get choked up, to speak my gratitude out loud. I had made my peace.

I ran into the finish line, there was a lone woman standing there to take my bib and hand me my finish time. 26:07. I was totally thrilled. I wasn’t injured, I wasn’t tired, I was strong, happy and healthy.


I walked over to my car, stripped out of my wet muddy stinky clothes. Mixed up a shake and began to dress. It was  a long process.  My body felt that old, yet familiar, feeling…100 mile pain and fatigue. Yes, I had missed it.

I placed First Master Woman, 13th Overall.  Not bad for my comeback! My endurance is back-my speed and body composition will follow. I’m working on it, I’m bringing it!

I'm looking forward to a summer of training hard, reaching my goals. Up next is the Afton 50K, Voyageur 50 Mile, Superior Sawtooth 100 and TBunk. I got this.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014


This weekend I explored a brand ‘new to me’ state park. I feel  so fortunate to live in a state where lakes, rivers and state parks are abundant. Now if I lived in a state where it wasn’t below zero for 5 months of the year…

The Interstate State Park is a glorious place!  I was amazed at the topography of the trail: many roots, rocks and elevation and then open prairie, grasses and city running. It was amazing. There were times when I felt like I was on the Superior Hiking Trail, at Afton State Park and at Lake Maria. I loved it!!

While volunteering at Chippewa 50K last week Jeff Allen invited me to his T&A Run. (Trail and Asphalt)I recalled receiving an invite in the past but wasn’t able to take advantage of it due to injury. I was all over it this time.

I met up with 27 other awesome runners in the parking lot of the Interstate State Park at 800 AM-Wisconsin side, St. Croix Falls. Not only were many of my friends in attendance but I also met many new people!  What a great day.

The sun was shining, it was 43F, I wore shorts for the first time! WOOHOO!  My training schedule stated 17 miles for the day so as long as I ran 17, anything else was frosting.

Jeff went through the plan. Two groups: speedy and not speedy. Speedy would run 24 or so, not speedy would run 17. OK, perfect!  We’d meet paths every once in a while for aid and to regroup.

Let’s go!  The trail was magnificent. I will definitely go back to run at Interstate State Park. We went over rock, roots, great hills, open field, lots of trail, nice single-track and then we’d pop into the city of St Croix Falls-along the river, through a golf course, it was amazing.

I felt like I was back in my element. Back to being able to knock off a 20 miler without worry. Back to being able to run alongside my friends. Back to doing what I love.  Laughing. Belly laughing with great friends while running. What is better? It’s been a long time.  I ran with a smile on my face and joy in my heart.  I felt The me that I’ve missed and have been trying to get back to.

I’ve designated MAY as my month to reconnect. As I was running along the path I felt it taking place.  I am reconnecting. Reconnecting to myself and reconnecting my relationships. Reconnecting to the good habits that had become my lifestyle.  Reconnecting with Me.

One way to reconnect with the me of my past is to get my ass out of bed  to run early morning workouts again. I have SO missed them. I keep telling myself I’m going to reconnect with this habit..but I have made the decision to fail at this over and over again. It's in my hand and I have chosen to let it go .. over and over.

Last night I had it with myself. I pulled out my running clothes, my watch, my shoes, my banana and my gel. I thought about my sister who wakes up at 4-430 each day to run, about Heidi who wakes up at 345 each morning, about Karly who woke at 440 yesterday and Amy who is always waking early to get her run on.

Before falling to sleep I set my alarm for 430. I was going to do this. I thought about how running early makes me feel: accomplished, energized, in my happy place, set for the day. I thought about how running early revs my metabolism early, how I drink more water, how I care for myself during the day after an early morning run.  Running early frees up my afternoon. I can take Topaz for an easy hike in the woods, I can go to the gym for weight training, I can go to yoga. Running early makes me happy. Running early is what I used to do. Running early is something I have missed.

Yet…yet…I had been having trouble getting up. I had been turning my alarm off and sleeping longer..and  spending the day frustrated with myself. It's ridiculous.

Well today was the day. My alarm rang. I thought about my clothes all ready for me, I thought about how great I would feel after doing this. I thought about how this used to be my normal. My no big deal. My first run of a double much of the time. I pulled  my comforter down like it was my blanket of depression and rolled it away from my body. I stepped out of bed, into my clothing. I patted Topaz and explained to him that I had to do this for myself. I couldn’t take him along with me today.  It’s too tough for him at 12.5 years now. I told him I’d walk him after my run. He cried when I left but I had to do this..for me.

I did. I ran through the slightly brightening morning. I heard the birds singing, the frogs croaking, I spotted deer crossing the road in front of me. I felt my body moving swiftly through the darkness, my breathing easy. I watched the sunrise. I ran. I ran with joy. True joy. 

The morning was beautiful. No cars, no people, no music. A symphony of nature.

7 miles. I ran back home to Topaz. He welcomed me with kisses and leaped with excitement down the driveway as we jogged for his mile. I was beaming with happiness. We both were. It’s a great way to start the day. To start the reconnect. I'm looking forward to tomorrow morning. To do it again.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Zumbro 50 Mile Midnight Trail Run: Euphoria


Yes. Total Euphoria and Bliss.

I don’t know where to begin. I guess I’ll begin  a few weeks out from Zumbro. I had been healing well, running mostly pavement because my beloved trail was under 4’ of snow and ice. Trail made my almost healed ankle feel loose and painful.  I hoped for the best.

A few of my worries:  The midnight start was a bit of a concern as I knew this meant I’d be up for hours.  I am not a napper. I would awake at 5 AM on Friday, run a few errands, arrive to Zumbro and hang out until the midnight start. I ended up  awake for 41 hours. I wasn’t tired! On the other hand, the midnight start was perfect for my next goal: Savage 100Mile Trail Run.

I knew I’d have a slow first 6 hours in the dark. I have horrible night vision so I had a headlamp and handheld flashlight to light my way. I haven’t worn a headlamp since I herniated my discs. The last time I tried my spine became very fatigued and pained. Some time has passed so I was again hoping for the best.  I step gingerly during the dark hours, dodging rocks, roots and mud, trying to navigate foot placement.

I figured with a slow first 6 hours I would be stiff by the time daylight approached, and possibly fatigued. Maybe I worried too much about that which I can’t control.

My goal was to finish, without a time goal. I figured 15 hours was a reasonable amount of time. 5 hours a loop. 5 for loop 1, during the dark, 5 for loop 2 half dark and then tired and 5 for the final exhausting loop. This was going to be a good long run for the Savage 100.

While packing up on Friday I couldn’t find my ugly grey Nathan vest anywhere. I don’t like bladders-I over drink. I like using handhelds so I can track what I drink per hour -and a light vest with pockets to stash my gels. I probably tossed it after the grossness that permeated it while running at Superior Sawtooth 100 in September.

On the way to Zumbro I swung into TCRunning Company in Maple Grove. I knew that there was a nice colorful Ultimate Direction vest with my name on it! I made my purchase and ventured on to Zumbro.

It was pretty quiet when I arrived to the Zumbro River Bottoms. It was warm, in the 60s and the snow – blizzard – that we had the previous week was all gone!  Woohoo!

The 100 milers began at 8 AM Friday, there were 60 of them out on the course. The course is a 17 mile loop full of steep climbs, lots of mud and  rock. It’s challenging.

I milled about the check in, connecting with awesome friends. It was a party atmosphere and I was ready to get my party on.

At 1130 PM I took inventory of what I needed to bring with me and began to pack up. I attached my iPod to my nifty new Ultimate Direction vest, I placed 4 gels into each pocket-my plan was to eat a gel every 30 minutes, drink water and do Scaps for electrolytes. Lucky for me HammerNutrition was a sponsor so I would find gels at each aid station. I placed 7 AA batteries in a pocket for my lights-they would dim in the cold night and need replacement battery-I had some wipes for cleanup in another pocket.  I lubed my feet, my armpits, my waist, my bra line. Affixed my gaitors and went back and forth wondering if I should wear shorts or pants. I decided on a light weight pair of pants, long sleeve shirt and windbreaker. Rain was forecast in a few hours. I had shorts, socks and a sleeveless top unpacked and ready to reach for upon my next loop. I’d be back in 17 miles.

1150 PM I heard John on the loudspeaker rounding up the 50 milers. I sucked down a gel and removed myself from my car.

I lined up in the back of the pack. This was going to be a long training run for the Savage 100 Mile Trail Run. Woot! I was back in my element which I have missed so much. Oh my gosh, let’s do this!

I was so excited!  As I was running with almost 200 others at the start I realized how much fun I was going to have, how much I’ve missed ULTRA and how far I have come…again. I was laughing out loud as I passed John on his ladder telling us to get this party started.

Loop 1: The loop began with a steep climb up the ridge. I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t killing me. There are many many steep up and downs, with beautiful views on top, even in the dead of night. My calves didn’t blow up. They stayed strong. I looked out over the ridge and could see headlamps climbing up the hill, I could see the start/finish lights way down below. What an awesome adventure I was going to embark on.

There was quite a bit of mud on the trail from the quick snow melt during the week. I could feel it go up and over the top of my shoes. I was grateful that I was wearing my gators! 

During the first loop I was running near Robin and Mike-it was fun to recognize them and have enjoyable conversation while we caught up!

I had to change batteries after a few hours.  I was glad I had extras on board.  I was making sure to eat a gel every 30 minutes, I was staying on schedule, drinking 20 oz of water each hour.

I returned to the start/finish at 4:45. I felt awesome!  It was still dark-there wasn’t any light in the sky. I ran to my car, removed and washed my feet, lubed them up and changed socks and shoes. I didn’t like the feel of one of my toes in the Inov-8s I was wearing so swapped out for another pair of the same model. I changed out of pants and put on a pair of shorts, was sad that I still had to use lights, filled up my bottle, grabbed a few gels and moved along. Elapsed time: 4 minutes. Sweet!

Loop 2: I ran back into the darkness, up the bluff, thinking to myself ‘wow, only one more visit to this bluff, one more visit to this downhill, one more visit to…’ etc. It seemed like time was moving quickly.  I was feeling so good I actually found myself excited about running the 100 miler here next year instead of lamenting and wishing I would have run the 17 miler instead. Whoopie!

I could overhear people talking about the rain that was forecast to arrive soon. I felt sprinkles on and off, but nothing that I was concerned about at this time.

About half way through Loop 2 the sun began to rise. I could finally pull off my headlamp and put away my handheld light. What a relief!  That headlamp was giving me a headache and I just can’t see in the dark!  I had surgery years ago and now wear glasses in the evening when it becomes dark. I have never run with them, though.

At about mile 26 I came up to Robin again. I was feeling super!  We checked in with one another-I shared with her that I had been eating 1 gel every 30 minutes, no solids and that I felt super. I told her my theory was that it took my untrained body 4 hours to began to burn fat, whereas when I was in tip top shape it took about 1. Oh well.

Waves of euphoria were flowing through me! I was feeling so good, so strong and so shocked!  I could now SEE the trail, I could move faster, my ankle was solid. No pain!  Woohoo. I wasn’t tired. I was in new mileage territory. I hadn’t run 50K since last September so as I crossed that threshold I let out a whoop! Not long after that whoop I’d think to myself ‘ok, don’t get too excited, you know how the bonk is’ then ‘oh, just enjoy it, flow with it and ride it while it is here!’  So I did.

As I was running along I thought of my conversation with Topaz before I left. I told him to think of me, to send me good strong running thoughts. I told him that I would run for him since he could no longer run for himself. I told him I would run for me, for all of the times that I wasn’t able to run. I could feel his good karma while I was running upon the trail. Tears began to flow from my eyes.

I thought of myself in a ball of pain, on the floor,  in the kitchen. The herniated discs so painful that I didn’t know if I should scream or cry, two years ago. I thought of my broken ankle and being told that I would never run again, last September.  I thought of the beginning of this downward spiral: the  hysterectomy, the menopause that immediately followed and then began to break down my body, my mind.  Changing it into something I didn’t recognize. I almost let it take me down. I almost became tired of fighting it. I was ready to give in. Almost.

I could hear thunder in the distance. I saw the lightening. The winds began to strongly blow cold air. Mother Nature let loose!  Hail, torrential rain. So much for my easier run during Loop 2 in the daylight!  Holy Shit.

I composed myself. I wasn’t going to panic. I could do this. I have run in rain, in storms before.

I was climbing the ridge to Ant Hill. On that  ridge the wind was blowing leaves at me, branches were falling from trees. The  rain was pummeling my face. I could taste the salt from my face. I couldn’t see!  I pulled my windbreaker from my waist and put it on, pulling my hood over my head. It was soaked within minutes.  I gingerly began to climb down Ant Hill. Luckily there were rocks strewn about so it wasn’t quite as slick as some of the other mudified areas. I began to laugh, hysterically!  What else could I do? Keep on moving, one foot in front of the other.

The mud was so deep that it pulled off my shoe! My gaitors had been pushed up from the Velcro in the back from the mud but they were still attached by the hook in front, so it was dangling from my toe. I went straight down!  Ick. I had to laugh, it was a riot!  I was having a mud bath. A stinky slimy mud bath.

Now I was getting cold. I was soaked through, in shorts. As I ran along a long dirt road section to the aid station I saw Rick and Jordan. Jordan was running his first 100. He was freezing. Rick told me they would get a garbage bag at the aid station. I ran into the aid station and asked the kind folks from TCRunning Company if they had any garbage bags. Yes!  A life saver. The kind volunteer popped a hole in the top and two holes for my hands. Matt came to tell me many had dropped. I couldn’t. I was not hurt. On I went. The rain was coming down in buckets. I grabbed a few gels and carried on, running up the trail.

I tried to navigate the mud. It seemed best to go straight up the middle. When I tried to run along the side I ended up sliding into the middle anyway. WOW!  I still felt fabulous though, I was riding the endorphin rush.  I hoped it would last.

I had heard that many were dropping. Of the almost 200 50 milers there were less than ½ of us still out there. Of the 60 100 milers there were less than 1/2 as well. There was a high rate of attrition.

Loop 3. Final. As I ran into the start/finish at 34 miles I just couldn’t believe how great I felt. Sure, I was a cold wet dog but I didn’t have any ankle pain, no pain at all, no blisters, no chafing, I was golden man, golden! I really couldn’t believe it.

I was going to change, but then decided why bother. It was still pouring, I’d still get soaked.  I went up to the aid station and everyone asked how it was going. When I replied oh fine, it’s an adventure, it’s not that bad!  I received a few eye rolls and one person began to ridicule my response, explaining to me why he and many others had dropped. It was unsafe. What would happen if I fell, etc. I wasn’t putting anyone down for dropping, I was just having an awesome time and as long as my ankle didn’t hurt I was good to go! They had asked how I was doing so I just responded.

I decided to listen to my iPod for Loop 3. I still couldn’t believe it was the final loop!  I was beginning to wonder when the low would come? Maybe it wouldn’t!  I had been eating a gel ever 30 minutes, I was still on task, I was ahead of my projected 15 hours. WOOfrickingHOO!

The rain stopped!  I was still foraging a deluge of mud and water but the rain had stopped!  I was having so much fun. SO MUCH FUN!  I was a bit over the top, coming up on people and just bubbling over with happiness while so many were suffering. I tried to hold it back, but I wear my emotions on my sleeve and it really was hard for me to do. I was bubbling over with joy.

Climbing another ridge I came upon Jim Wilson. I just love Jim!  He was moving along. I gave him a hug and moved on.

I was doing what I love to do. Doing what had been taken away from me. I was reveling in the movement of my body, the joy that it was bringing to me. I was thinking about Savage 100 and the fact that I was excited about it, excited to dig deep and to see what I still had inside of me. It’s been a long time.

I began to get choked up. I began to hold my hand to my face and sob. I was here, I was running under these horrible conditions and having the time of my life. I went from moments of sobbing with joyful emotion to holding back, trying not to get too excited. Holding back was futile.

2 more miles. I couldn’t believe it. I felt great, strong. I was doing this. I ran along, under my 5 hour loop goal, under my 15 hour total goal. I began to do the math. I’d finish in under 1450, possibly 1430. Wow.

I ate 30 gels!  THIRTY GELS!!! Nothing else. I drank water, had two SCaps.  THIRTY GELS!  I took two Advil for good measure. Just because. Wow. Stellar.

As I hit the field to the start/finish someone yelled out GO JULIE!  Another yelled, COME ON, RUN THROUGH ONE MORE MUD PUDDLE, as he pointed to the huge body of water sitting in the field. I did it!  I splashed through that last mud puddle and laughed crazily. They laughed and cheered!  I heard Cheri say IT’S JULIE! IT’S JULIE BERG! A group of people came together and cheered and yelled as I came into the finish line. I couldn’t contain myself. She’s smiling!  She’s still smiling!  I was. I was euphoric. I did it. I could still do it.

I gave John and Cheri each a hug. John and I stood there, laughing at one another. I whispered – ‘it’s been 5 years, John, 5 fucking years’- ‘I know, but you’re back now’. Yes. Yes I am.

I visited with others, drank my super recovery drink and changed into clean clothes. I learned that I was First Master Woman.  I left that party with a huge smile on my face. I am still wearing it.