On Friday I arrived to the DECC in Duluth for the mandatory pre race briefing. I was going to meet Scott and Alicia and attend the meeting, then follow them to a mutual friends' home who was going to put us up, or put up with us, for the weekend. It was really nice not booking the hotel and spending a wad of cash, that whole scene. I was looking forward to staying at K's home.
Scott was running the 100K solo and Alicia was going to crew for us. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that she was planning on doting on me every bit as she was going to be there for Scott.
We attended the meeting, picked up our race packets and headed over to K's. We hadn't had dinner yet so we stopped at CUB FOODS and did a fair amount of shopping.
The three of us were able to have the guest house to ourselves. It was very nice; we set the alarms for 2 AM and dozed off to sleep.
2 AM and the wind was whipping! I could hear it blowing outside. Oh man, I just didn't want that. Luckily, the temperature was 48F, it was temperature was warmer than I had thought it would be.
We packed up all of our junk and headed off to the start line, in Finland, MN.
It was REAL windy. But REAL beautiful. The stars were so bright, up in the beautiful north woods. The moon was almost full; just spectacular. We were watching shooting stars. I asked the stars to guide me to the finish line without an injury. They obliged.
At 4 AM the sky was so bright that I didn't need a flashlight. I put in back into my bag and never did use it.
As I went to the port-a-potties I realized that I was definately going to put my wind pants on over my shorts. It was freezing! That wind was crazy, I'm glad I didn't know what the wind chill was, but I bet it was in the 20's.
5AM and were ready to roll. I had my iPod, food, clothes, etc. with Alicia in her car; she would follow us along the 62 mile course to the finish. She was going to pull over before each 5K aid station to see what we needed.
This is an interesting race. There are 100+ relay teams, consisting of 5-8 people. Each team has a vehicle, one person runs a 'leg' of the race at a time, hands off a baton to the next person, and so on. The team, in the vehicle, drives along the course.
For the solos; if you are lucky, you have a crew. That person will drive along the course and cater to your every whim. Alicia even bought us hot coffee at one point..just because we thought it would taste good at that moment. And it did!
You would think there would be a ton of traffic and chaos; but there isn't. It is very well run and quite organized. If one isn't up to the solo, I would certainly suggest one try the team relay.
OK, so 5AM and we are off! The solo runners are offered a 5 AM or 7 AM start. If you can finish in 10 hours, you are encouraged to take the 7 AM start.
As I was running along someone introduced himself as Brent. Here it was Brent from WI who posted on my blog a week or so ago. It was real neat to actually meet him in person. Brett finished in 11:15! An awesome first finish at the 100K distance! Congratulations, Brent.
I really struggled with my running the first 4-5 hours. My right thigh was hurting, it's never ached before and I was worried about having had the flu earlier in the week. My legs were dead. Just tired dead. I was thinking about all of the miles I have run this summer, all the races, TCM was just 2 weeks ago, well, duh, I should have tired legs. But I didn't want them this early in the day. I didn't feel like I had eaten enough carbs the night before, I didn't have my usual pasta feast. All of these things kept nagging at me.
Around 1.5 hours into the race I fell in back of Scott and just couldn't catch him. It was making me mad; not that he was in front of me, but that I could not catch him. He would run, then take a good long walk break, run again, walk break. I could make NO gain on him. I wasn't taking a walk break, I was running consistantly and could not catch him. Up the hill he'd go and I'd be trudging along trying to catch him.
I was lucky, eventually he waited for me to catch up. I think he was stretching and just decided to wait. I ran the next 45 miles with him! We would run a while, then walk, 'run to the passing sign', then take a walk break. He told me this is how he has always run this race-I figured I'd run along with him, he has 5 finishes here!
I think the walk breaks saved my legs. By miles 25-30 I was coming back, getting into what I call "The Julie Zone". I get into a place where nothing hurts, I have only happy thoughts and yeah, I'm going to finish this thing.
My Big Lake Run Club was doing the relay race out there. I was SO happy to see them along the course. It was awesome. They all piled out of their van, ran around me with hugs and candy, gave TONS of encouragement and piled back into their van, continuing up the road. I saw them out there a few times. Once I was so happy to see them I did a little dance.
I was feeling awesome.
Eventually it warmed up, I was able to give Alicia my pants, gloves and ear band. Thank goodness!
Just before 50K the 7AM starters began to catch us. It's so cool to see them. The winner from last years race was the first to pass us (he won this race, too). He moved along like a well oiled machine. I just can't imagine to be able to hold that pace. He finished in like 7 hours. Gah.
Somewhere along the course Scott told me his favorite part was coming up. We turned the corner and there was like a one mile rolling downhill. The sun was shining, the leaves were in their full color, the road went down, down, down; and you could see Lake Superior in all her splendor. It was beautiful. It took my breath away.
We ran and ran and ran..down, down and down. It was awesome. I think I smiled the whole way.
Scott has run the course .. and finished .. all five times. He knows it very well. He told me when each aid station was coming up, etc. It made it very nice. It was like I had a tour guide!
Alicia, as I said, was just fantastic. I told her at one stop that I'd like a sandwich, she'd pull ahead to the next 5K check point, walk across the highway and stand there, sandwich in hand, asking me what I'd like at the next check point. It truly was a treat.
At one point, near the end of the race I asked her for a potato chip. I and Scott had grabbed a handful from her earlier and they were really good. Sure enough, at the next aid point she had a baggie chips for me to carry along the course!
The last 18 miles of the course is run on Grandmas Marathon. I know that course very well, so it really surprised me that the course seemed so hilly yesterday! Of course, after running 50 miles I guess anything seems hilly.
I and Scott hit 50 miles at 9:45 or so. You know, when I run FANS, on pavement as well, it takes me almost 12 hours to get 50 miles. And there aren't any hills! This makes no sense to me. I suppose since I usually enter FANS for the 24 hour option, maybe I run slower. I don't know.
Shortly after the 50 mile mark Scott began doing calculations and figured maybe we could break 12 hours. I was feeling really good. I thought maybe we could. We ran/walked a while longer and Scott told me I should go ahead and break 12 hours. I thought about it a while and decided yeah, I'd give it a try.
I ran ahead, I felt sad to break away from Scott, I had really enjoyed running with him and he saved my legs. But I wanted to break 12. Off I went.
I asked Alicia for my iPod at the next station and rocked on for the finish line.
The relay runners make the ultra runners feel like rock stars. I had one group of relayers stand along the shoulder and do the WAVE as I ran by. They yelled and screamed at me and told me how awesome I was. It was incredible.
It was one big ego trip, those last 5 miles in.
Rick; an ultra runner friend of mine appeared around 55 miles. He ran the Glacial Trail 50K last week so wasn't running. It was so neat to run with him for a while. I had no idea he would be out on the course. He just wanted to offer his support.
I had 5 miles left. If I ran 11 minutes miles I would make it. I had been running 11 minute miles; I could do it. Maybe. If I didn't fall or puke or who knows. Anything could go wrong at this point.
Alicia parked her car and ran over to my side of the road. "Right here, this spot is 4.5 miles to the finish" I told her I might be able to break 12 hours. If I ran my ass off.
I ran my ass off.
The relayers were SCREAMING! "Woman solo! Woman solo! Your an inspiration! How do you do it? GO GO GO GO GO GO!" It was crazy fun. I was smiling so much my face was hurting!
I turned into the wooded finish area, about .5 mile left and knew that I was going to do it. Woohoo!
Oh my gosh, as I'm running into the finish, there is Bonnie. I couldn't believe it! She was clicking off pictures and clapping and yelling. She and her daughter had driven up and were able to watch Scott and I finish.
The announcer: And here's a solo..Julie Berg..from Big Lake..just ran 100K..congratulations!
11:53! Yeah hoo! I ran this race 2 years ago in 12:40.
It was awesome.
I felt really good. 4 minutes later, here came Scott, in 11:57! He broke 12 hours; a PR for him too. Woohoo!
We walked into Lake Superior and soaked our feet and legs. It had warmed to about 55 degrees, but by 5 PM it was cooling back down.
Bonnie went back to Minneapolis and I and Scott were treated to massages. It was fantastic.
What a wonderful day in the beautiful Minnesota northern woods.
***I brought along my camera; I didn't realize the battery was low. I did get 2 before pictures I'll post. Bonnie will be emailing me many that she took. I'll post those when they arrive.