I was running with some friends at the Zumbro River Bottoms this past
December, when Larry Pederson told me he thought I was ready for the 100
mile distance. He had been telling me this for the past year, that I
should move up to the 100, I kept telling him no, never, not me, no way.
This day was a bit different than the prior times that I said no, not me.
I told him I was contemplating trying the Kettle Moraine 100 Mile race in
June, but they were able to persuade me to run the McNaughton 100 Mile Trail run in
April, instead. Part of the reason was because my friend, Bonnie Riley,
who had won the Woman’s Champion the previous year, was going back in
2005. She jumped right in and helped Larry persuade me to try McNaughton.
I have run many miles with Bonnie; we ran our first 50K and our first 50
Mile race together. I knew that just having her out on the course during
my first 100 miler was one very good reason to choose McNaughton as my
race. I was very worried about getting in the long runs, as the trails
were covered in deep snow and there were no 50K/50 mile races in MN
before the April 16 McNaughton date. But once I said 'yes, I’ll run
McNaughton', everything else fell into place.
As race day drew near we began to make our travel plans. I would ride
along with Bonnie, who was running the 100, Larry Pederson, who was running
the 30 mile and Don Clark who would be pacing Bonnie during the race.
We had a long car ride to Pekin, IL. I left my home at 5:45 AM and
arrived in Pekin, IL at 7:00 PM. We attended the packet pick-up where I
met many others who would be taking part in the race the next day. I
walked over to the start of the course, it was a steep downhill and then a
sharp uphill. Others at the packet pick-up told me the course was tough.
One person told me the elevation change during the 100 mile distance was a
total of 16,000 feet. I don’t know if that is true or not. Two women told
me they were running the 30 mile distance because that was all that was
necessary on this course. They told me the downhill and uphills were
constant and a killer. Great.
As we left the packet pick-up, my doubts were beginning to subside; I
began to focus on the race and what I needed to do tonight: get my pack
ready, my drop bag, clothes out, etc.
The McNaughton race is run on a 10 mile loop so we were able to leave drop
bags at the start/finish area. This was a great help in planning what to
bring. I wouldn’t need multiple drop bags placed strategically along the
course. I could dump everything into one bag at one location.
4 AM Saturday morning arrived. We dressed, ate breakfast and packed up the
car. This was it. This was the day that I had been looking forward to and
training for, for four months. We arrived at the race start in plenty of
time to chat with other race participants. I sat at the fire, trying to
warm up. It felt chilly since I was just sitting around. I began to chat
with someone named John, who sat next to me. I ended up seeing him quite a
bit on the trail, and he finished in 2nd place! Only 3 minutes after
1st place in 18 hours and some change. Can you imagine?
Race Director, Andy, gave us the word and we were off. Tears were flowing
from my eyes. I was running my first 100 mile race. This was it, what was
going to happen? I said a prayer and was on my way.
The course was just spectacular. The foliage was green, the wildflowers
were incredible. There were fields of Virginia Blue-Bells and many other
wild flowers. The sky became clear and it warmed into the 70’s. What an
I was surprised, and worried, by the multiple hills. The hills were one
after another, up and down, up and down. There are also 3 stream
crossings. I didn’t bother trying to keep my feet dry; I figured they were
going to become wet eventually and the cold water felt quite good on them
My first ten mile loop was 2:06; my goal pace was to run the first 4 loops
at 2:20 each. I changed my pace after the first loop and the second 10
mile stretch was finished in 2:16, right where I wanted to be. I held this
pace during most of the race, except for the dark hours of midnight to 4
AM where one loop took me 4 hours!
During the second loop I began to run with ‘Steve from Missouri”, we ended
up running 50 miles together. He was a fan of Rocky movies, I haven’t seen
any Rocky movies, so he narrated Rocky 1 to 5 for me. I just listened and
enjoyed the conversation. It took my mind off of all the hills and the
pain of my blistering feet.
Each loop that I finished brought me closer to my goal. I began to get a
bit nervous (well, more than nervous) about running during the night. I
had lights, but not very much experience with them. Bonnie had purchased a
head lamp for me and I had a hand held, with extra batteries, so I was
prepared; but mentally, I was afraid of the night. It was inexperience
and just not knowing how I would deal with running (or walking) through
the night-time hours. Would I become scared, lost, I didn’t know.
I came into the start/finish just before 6PM, finishing my 50 miles. I
told Don and Larry I felt great, I hadn’t hit my bad patch yet, that I was
waiting for it. I kept thinking “I feel so good, when is this going to
change? When is the bad patch going to hit? It has to come soon.” They
told me to keep eating, that maybe the bad patch just wouldn’t come, that
I didn’t have to go through a rough spot. Well, this was news to me. It
was so strange, just because they told me that I didn’t HAVE to have a
rough spot, I was able to put that out of mind, to put that doubt to rest
and to focus instead, on finishing this race. I don’t know why I needed
them to say those words to me.
I grabbed my lights and told Steve from Missouri that I would head out, as
was our practice. He liked to spend more time at the aid station, I wanted
to get out of there and start ahead, then he’d catch me and we’d run the
rest of the loop together. I only needed my light for a bit of this loop
as the sun was just setting as we finished up 60 miles. I still felt
really good. Steve was slowing down so I headed out again without him. I
didn’t see anyone else on the trail at all for a very long time. He didn’t
catch up to me that loop so I was out on my own. The darkness freaked me
out. I could hear wolves in the distance, I pretended that they were dogs
but I knew they were wolves. I could hear all kinds of things in the
woods. I saw bats and one almost hit my head! I was afraid they were
darting toward my head-lamp.
The course was very well marked. There was really no way that I could
become lost, thank goodness! I continued to eat a good amount of food. I
had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, baked potato, chicken noodle soup,
grilled cheese sandwiches, etc. I felt like I was at a buffet, I was
eating and drinking and all was well. But I was by myself and I didn’t
As I was reaching the 70 mile mark I came up to the Heaven’s Gate aid
station and a runner that I recognized as Doug Hansel was filling his
bottle. I had met Doug at the Superior races in 2003; he was the winner
of the 100 mile race. I had run the 50 mile, and after waking up, walked
down to the finish line. Doug just happened to win the race as I was
sitting there watching. Nobody was around when Doug finished so I stoop up
and yelled “You just won the Superior 100 Mile Trail Run and all you get
is Julie Berg clapping for you” I re-introduced myself to him as the only
spectator as he finished Superior. He remembered me and we began to chat.
He told me he was going to drop, that he was sick and not having a good
run. I told him this was my first 100, that I was feeling great but afraid
of running in the dark by myself. He told me he’d run with me to the 70
mile mark; but once there, he might drop out.
It was so nice to have Doug to run with! I told him that I had been
running with Steve from Missouri but hadn’t seen him for quite some time.
Doug told me that there was a Steve at the previous aid station that had
dropped. As it turned out, it was a different Steve.
Doug and I came into the 70 mile point. We ate and filled our bottles and
Doug went to the fire. I didn’t think I’d get him going again. I thought
he was finished. Andy came up to me and asked if I’d like to know where I
was placing in the race. I told him it didn’t really matter, that I wasn’t
very competitive, that I just wanted to finish this thing in under 36
hours and that 30 hours would be awesome. I had been telling Doug that I
wasn’t competitive and that I couldn’t imagine what it must be like for
him, to have won races, to be in the hunt for a win. Well, Andy told me
that I was in 2nd place and that the 1st place woman wasn’t feel very
well, but was out on the course, about 30 minutes ahead of me. Well,
something happened to me when I heard that. I wanted to catch her! All of
a sudden I began to imagine what it would feel like to take 2nd place in
my first 100 miler..and I began to think about what it would feel like to
take 1st place. Wow, what a feeling that would be. I told Andy that I had
been running with Doug, Andy told me that Doug was done. He wasn’t going
to run anymore. Bummer for me. I finished my sandwich and asked Andy to
let Doug know I was heading out and would see him later. As I was trotting
down the hill, Doug showed up! He told me Andy told him I was in 2nd place
and that he would help me through the night. I was so grateful.
Doug just chatted up a storm. He would talk talk talk and I only had to
listen and throw in a word here and there. He talked about previous races,
about movies and he did a great Spongebob impersonation. I had a truly
good time running with Doug. I eventually talked him into finishing the
race with me. What did he have to lose? It could be his PR for his slowest
100, why not? He told me he’d try. He was having real bad stomach problems
and wasn’t able to eat anything. Here I was, eating so much, not having
any problems. I felt badly for him, but was so very grateful that I had
As we were coming near to the 80th mile, we came upon the 1st place woman.
She was feeling badly and was going to take a rest for a while at the
start/finish. I couldn’t believe that I was in 1st place. As we ran into
the 80th mile Andy confirmed to me that I was in first. I told him that
this was asinine. I couldn’t be. He said I was. This changed my
perspective of the race. I was no longer going to slog through the next 20 miles to finish; I was going to work myhardest wo win. WIN. Me? Win a race..and a hundred miler? Good lord. Crazy. I yelled out "Doug, I'm in FIRST place! We have to go! Hurry!" I borke into a run and flew down the hill.Well, it felt like I was flying, I probably wasn't though. He caught me a few minutes later and we ran that next 10 miles as fast as I could go.
Every time I came into the start/finish area Andy was right there, congratulating me on each lap I finished. He would ask what I needed, would tell me what food was available (potato, pizza, soup, sandwich) would then get a vollunteer to put together the meal and fill my bottle. It was amazing. I flet like a queen each time I came into an aid station. A dirty, smelly, tired queen!
90 miles in, Larry Pederson was back at the race to finish with me. ANdy told me I was still in first but htat there were 4 other women back there, he wasn't sure where. Oh my gosh, I had to get moving. Doug was getting some cookies, Larry was going to get his pack, I said “I’m going. I’m out of here, you guys will catch me!” I flew on down the hill for my last lap.
I wasn’t flying of course, but I was doing all I could do to get this
done. Larry and Doug caught up, Doug joked that I was a sand-bagger,
that after walking the 12 AM-4AM loop, he couldn’t believe I could move.
Larry and Doug were giving me a very hard time about ‘not being
competitive'. We ran most of that last loop, even some of the uphills; I
gave it my best. I was still leery of the bad patch coming through to
claim me, but boy oh boy, I was going to finish this thing, and under 30
hours, too. Unbelievable.
As we were running to the finish, I gave Larry my camera to run ahead to
get a picture of me finishing this race. I couldn’t believe it. I finished
my first 100 miler race in 29:07..and took 1st woman to boot. What a
I and Larry sat at the finish line, watching the runners finish the race.
It was such an awesome sight, to watch these runners finish their 100 mile
races. Everyone was so grateful to be finished. To have met the challenge
of a 100 mile race. I had tears in my eyes every time a runner came in.
As Bonnie and Don reached the finish line I felt such gratitude toward
both of them. Bonnie has been such a wonderful friend, Don has given me such guidance. To see them cross the finish line was spectacular.
All four of us climbed into the car; dirty and sweaty and tired and
smelly. I arrived home at 3:30 AM; having not slept since Friday evening!
Well worth a 100 mile finish.
I'll post some pictures soon!