All week long I've been excited to run Ice Age, for many reason. One reason: most of my friends would be running too and we were all going to be staying in the same hotel; Second Reason: I had a time goal, I didn't know if I could pull it off; 10 hours? Shit man, never done that. 10 hours for 50 miles was my 'gold standard' since I first began this crazy world of ultras. Remember, my first 50 was at Ice Age took me 11:59, my second 50 which was at Voyaguer took me over 14 freaking hours. So, in my mind, since my first 50 in 2003, 10 hours for 50 miles was as incredible as a Boston Qualifier for me. 3: This was 50 miles, not 100. The McNaughton 100 was only a few weeks ago and was still very fresh in my mind. The cold, the rain, the mud, the messed up breathing, the pain, the pure exhaustion, all of that. I was looking forward to *only* (and how messed up is that thinking) 50 miles and no nighttime running, no flashlights, not having to eat a meal while running, oh yeah, it was looking very good in the weather forecasts too. High of 67 and SUNNY. Perfect. Perfect.
I did worry about whether or not I was recovered from McNaughton 100. I tried not to think about it too much. Until later in the race, I thought about nothing BUT that.
I left after Troy hit the bus on Friday morning for Tom and Nancy's. We then picked up Alicia at her place and met up with Jason, Jeffrey and Kevin. We headed on down to Whitewater WI and arrived near 430 to check into our hotel and head over to packet pickup. I saw Maria's van in the lot at the hotel but when I called her room she and Doug had already headed over to packet pick up.
I didn't recognize any faces at the pick up. We headed over to a restaurant in the town where we were staying. It wasn't very good. I ordered a pasta sampler that was as huge as could be with spaghetti, bow ties and rigatoni and three buttery oily sauces. Blech.
Back to the hotel where Alicia and I put together our drop bags and clothing for the next day. This is where I always begin to get nervous. As I put together my things for the race, and think that I have to wake up at 330 AM, yeah, it makes me nervous.
At 2 AM I woke up to a funny sounding alarm. I looked at the clock, nope, not time to wake up yet, I looked at my watch, no, not my watch. I looked at Alicia in bed, hey! That is where the sound was coming from, her watch! After a bit her watch stopped and Alicia never woke up! 330 came quickly. We were up milling around, eating our breakfast and getting ready to head out.
Tom, Nancy, Alicia and I headed over to the race. Pretty soon Doug and Maria arrived, then we saw Jeffrey, Jason and Kevin arrive. It was cold out, well, it was 43, it felt cold out. We huddled in the car, keeping warm, Alicia and I sitting on the car seat warmers. Nice! 545 and we decided we needed to place our drop bags in the appropriate place and get in line. Brrr.
1 2 3 go! And we're off. All the doubts and worries go away and I'm left running. Running hard. I was hoping to make the 9 mile stretch and arrive back to the start/finish at 1:35, so push, run hard, go girl. I did. I didn't talk much, I saw Travis and talked a bit, but was trying to focus and work out my fears and kinks and trying to get into my rhythm. I didn't have my iPod on yet, I had it in my bag to pick up at 9 miles. I was ready for it already. Travis went on and I didn't see him again until I reached the out and backs. We had a great time talking and hanging out after the race. I was even able tomeet his wife before the race start. Blogger has made a smaller world for ultrarunners!
As I approached the start/finish at 9 miles I looked at my watch. I'm such a bad pacer. Watch read 1:23. Well, that's a little too fast. It made me a little nervous, but, I figured if I began to slow I would just have a slower race. I never make up any time by going out slowly, and picking it up later. I'm tired later. I thought back to the last two Voyaguer's where Jeffrey has paced me quickly through the first sections. We fly through there and it has never bit me in the butt. I just get a faster finishing time. OK, not worried anymore. Just take off the long sleeved shirt, get iPod, a few gels and move on out.
I didn't recognize anyone. I did notice that the people I was running with were much leaner and quicker than groups that I sometime run with at races. Am I going too fast again? I haven't a clue. I didn't make any pace chart or figure out where I wanted to be when. I figured I wanted to be at the 26 mile mark in 5 hours and that was the end of my thinking this out.
I was surprised to see Nancy, who was crewing for Tom, at the aid stations. I thought Tom would be way ahead of me and figured Nancy would leave the AS shortly upon his going through, to meet him at the next stop. Am I ahead of Tom? Do I dare think so? I knew Tom was going to run sub 10. Am I on target for that?
I saw Matt and told him I wanted to run 10; he told me I was going faster than 10, no problem. Well, yeah, but it's like 20 miles in, you know, a hell of a long way to go.
Well, low and behold as I turned around at the second out and back stretch, I caught my first glimpse of who was where. Tom was a few minutes in back of me. This gave me hope. I knew that he knew how to run this thing. I knew he knew pace perfectly. He's run many many Ice Age's and almost all under 10 hours. I spoke with Tom at the next aid station and vowed to keep him in my sights. We had a great time for many miles. I began with him in front of me, maybe 20 feet in front, and I just kept him in view. I was listening to music and wasn't up to talking, so I just kept him in view. Jason was up ahead of Tom for quite some time. Eventually I turned my iPod off and Tom and I began to talk. I asked him about our pace and he told me we were right on. He had no doubts about breaking 10 hours IF WE KEPT THE PACE. That was the big question.
We ran into 26 miles at 4:50 or so. THAT made me happy. 1/2 way to go, I felt good, I hadn't pooped yet so was a bit concerned about that. When would I have to go and would I lose Tom? I began to notice other things as well. My hands. They were not puffy at all. This has never happened to me. They are always puffy when racing. I was drinking SUCCEED. At first I had to plug my nose to drink the first two bottles, the water was soft, sulferey or something. I'm sure that my MN well water would taste horrible to some, and the SUCCEED didn't hide what I thought was a bad water taste. I continued to sip on my 26 oz bottle; making sure to drain almost a whole bottle every hour. I wasn't peeing like usual either. Usual I over-pee. I pee every hour at least and in the final hours every 15 minutes. Well, that wasn't happening with the SUCCEED. Hmmm, maybe Hammer Heed will be replaced with SUCCEED? We'll see.
It was great to run with Tom; he had Nancy at the aid stations and she was a great cheerleader. She had Jason's big professional camera and was taking pictures at every station. I was running bare bellied and a bit self conscious, but who cares? I was hot. I hadn't run with the tattoo I had done last summer without a shirt before so I was getting a lot of comments on that. I was becoming self-conscious but wanted to be comfortable foremost.
Pretty soon we were catching Jason. We plugged along and eventually were running with him. He was running strong. The three of us kept moving. Tom had us running up hills-lots of hills, it was very seldom that Tom walked a hill. I was getting tired. We were 37 miles into the race. We were still on sub 10 hour pace. I was worried about blowing up. I was worried about not holding the pace. I felt like I was going to puke. Do I really want 10 hours? Who the fuck cares? Maybe 10:10 is ok. So, it is still a PR. Hell, 1025 would be a pr, you could do that without killing yourself out here. This is dumb. Maybe I'm not recovered from McNaughton. Yeah, that's a great excuse. Shit. This sucks. I'm a horrible weak runner. 10 hours my ass. What the hell was I thinking?
Then I began to fall. Bam. Down on the roots. Back up. Run a bit more. Play Ozzie Osbourne Crazy Train loud in my ears. So loud that Jason heard it as he was in back of me. Sing loudly to Crazy Train. Take my mind off the tiredness. Shit. Fell again. Jason helped me up. My confidence is going in the tank. Turn off music, concentrate on hitting 40 miles. Where the hell is 40? This is the longest fucking 4.5 miles ever.
Finally. 40 miles. Oh my gosh, 10 miles left. I am so tired. Can I hold on for 10 more miles? We're still on 10 hour pace. Oh my gosh. Keep running, following Tom, he'll help me. If I don't follow Tom I am going to slow down and walk and say fuck this shit.
I have to crap. Damn. Now with all of this falling I have scared the shit out of me. Tom, I have to pull over and finally poop. I go into the woods and am instantly covered with mosquitoes. I haven't even seen a mosquito yet this year. Gee, fine time to find them. I do my business and head back out on the trail. I know that 43 mile aid station is soon, then it is back toward confusion corner. I'll see all my friends again on this little out and back. This lifts me. I'll see my friends. OK, run now. If you were still with Tom and Jason you would be running. They don't walk. OK, run. God, I'm tired. God help me, please, help these negative thoughts to go away and let me hit 10 hours. I really want 10 hours. Tom told me if I didn't hit 10hours I had nothing to blame it on. The weather is perfect. I'm running strong. I've been doing the pace. Go Julie. Go.
TOPAZ!! I yell out loud. I'm struggling. Topaz, all the training miles we've done together. Give me strength. Give me a paw hug and tell me to stop whining and get this done. Topaz! Tears run down my cheeks and I realize I'm almost at the aid station. Thank God.
I'm disoriented. I recognize a woman that comes to me from the aid station but who is she? Lora she says, and this is Bubba. Bubba is running. Lora. I knew someone named Lora was going to be at the 40 mile aid station. She asks someone to take our picture. Lora. I grab some pretzels, more SUCCEED. I look for Tom and Jason and they must have already left. How? I never saw them on the path. They must have left while I was getting my pretzels. I must catch them.
As I run away I remember. Lora Runs! Blogger friend. Oh my gosh, how did I forget? I knew she was going to be working the 40 mile aid station. Good grief! I was able to meet her in person. And Bubba. Run Bubba Run! Ironman blogger going ultra runner. Now it all clicks in place. I am getting ultra brain.
OK, 7 more miles. I run and run and run, trying to catch Jason and Tom. Finally I can see Tom running up a hill in the distance. Of course. He's running a fucking hill. Can I do this anymore? 7 miles. Yeah, you can run 7 miles any day. A man following me asks me if I am falling for him? What? Falling for you? Yeah, you were really falling on the way to the aid station. Oh. Yeah. BAM. I go down again. See, your falling for me again. Shit. I cry again. I can't run. I keep falling. I suck. I'm a sucky weak slow fat runner.
I finally catch Jason and Tom. I'm so happy. Jason is struggling now. He's shuffling his feet, raising lots of dust. How does he not catch his foot on a root? I've lost confidence in my footing and can't believe he isn't falling. Eventually Jason tells me to pass him. Are you sure? Yeah, he's sure. I'm feeling a little better. I know I have to run fast to stick with Tom. Can I? He's running up the damn hills again. Ugh.
If you want 10 hours you have to stick with him. He's going to make it. Tom tells me how many more miles we have to the aid station, then 2.5 miles to the finish. How good does 2.5 miles sound? I want the aid station.
Tom pulls away from me. I can't keep up. He runs up another damn hill. He's strong. Go Tom Go! Go get that 10. I'll try. I try. I try. I keep chugging along. I play my music loud. I listen to Guns N Roses and Black Sabbath. Rock on. Run on. I am strong. I am woman. Hear me fucking roar. ROAR.
The aid station. I fill up a bottle and tell the volunteer "the last Hurrah!" I'm so happy. 2.5 miles. Woohoo! I see Tom running away from the aid station. I follow. I run hard. 28 minutes to go 2.5 miles. Can I? I won't know unless I try. I can smell the barn. Damn, it's coming. GO JULIE. GO. I run, I run as fast as I can. These tired legs are flying. Confusion Corner. I thank the woman who is standing there for her volunteering, I run. I run up the damn hills. This is it hunny. Now or never. I don't have another 50 mile race this year. I have a few 100's a 50K, a 24 hour run. This is it. The day is perfect. Nothing hurts. No advil today, nothing swollen. NO BLISTERS. I pulled a brand new pair of Inov 8 Flyrocks from the box the morning of the race. No Blisters.
I'm with a group of 6-7 people. We're running our asses off. It all comes down to this last mile. We all want a sub 10. I look at my watch. Time is ticking away. How much farther? Don't know. Only 8 minutes left. I can hear the cheering. I turn off the music and run. Run hard. Up another hill. Run it.
Oh my god. The finish line. Oh my god. I have under a minute. I cross one batch of carpets for the timing device and think I'm done. No! Run! Go up to the finish line. Shit. Am I going to break 10?
Julie Berg from Big Lake, MN. 9:59:19.
Oh yeah :)
Tom and Nancy are cheering. The buckle is placed in my hand. I let out a whoop. I did it. Damn, that feels good. Reaching a goal that I didn't know if I had any business in being able to reach.
Lisa Smith Batchen had sent me an email with my workouts and my race strategy. I had rehearsed her tips in my mind. They worked. All of them. Thanks Lisa!
We sat in the sun of the finish line and watched all of our friends finish. Kevin finished in 910! Crazy fast. Pierre and Paul finished a bit later than that, after Tom and I finished Jason came in, and Alicia came in, then Maria and then Jefferey, we had a blast. It was so wonderful to sit there and swap race stories.
I spoke with Travis some more, some people that were at the race came up and introduced themselves tome as they read this blog, I was able to meet Juli Aisters, who I had been emailing earlier. She came in second at the Transcendence 6 day. It was incredible to meet her in person.
Too much fun. As much as running these ultras can suck at times, in those dark moments when you doubt yourself, you dig deep and you get the job done. You keep moving forward, believe in yourself, even when you don't think you deserve to believe in yourself. It's a crazy mental game. Your mind has to be able to reign in the negative thoughts that you will feel during an ultra and change them to the positive. The bad times during the race will make you realize how incredible the good times are.
Friends are a big part of this. What a great weekend. After the 600 finish time we rounded up all of our things, headed to the hotel and went out to a fabulous restaurant. I had a wonderful grilled chicken cesar salad. And a whole lot of fun with my friends :)
Pictures to follow..