Monday, November 17, 2014

November Post

This past year I’ve been trying to update my blog each month. It hasn’t been too difficult since I’ve had a race report or two each month. Here it is  November and there will not be a race this month-I feel compelled to at least post.

I was really looking forward to busting in big for my 50th birthday on December 30  but some things just don’t go as we intend. I was hoping to run Across The Years in sunny warm Arizona. The race offers a 24, 48 and 72 hour option. I would literally run from December 29 to December 31, into my 50 th birthday and the new decade. How cool would that have been? Super! 

There is always next year…

I’ve learned a bit more about this Morton’s Neuroma business.

I haven’t been able to run more than a few miles since Twin Cities Marathon on October 5.  I can run one or two miles with a bit of pain and by the third mile the pain is ridiculous. It feels like a giant acorn under my foot. It really sucks.

My friend Val had surgery to remove her neuroma in May and by July she was ready to run the Afton 50K. She went on to run Wasatch 100 in September. She wasn’t able to run for a long time, had the surgery and is as good as new. I’ll go with that plan!

Due to Val’s recommendation I made an appointment for a second opinion with Dr. Judith Hechter at Twin Cities Foot and Ankle Clinic. I’m so glad that I did!  Dr. Hechter examined my foot, she manipulated the neuroma exclaiming that it was excessively large. She told me that the neuroma is beginning to alter the structure of my foot-moving the small bones out to allow for room of the neuroma. She stated that 10% of her patients are runners, about 80% are women who wear narrow tight high heeled shoes and 10% have neuroma due to heredity-narrow foot bones.

Although I had already had one shot of cortisone Dr. Hecter wanted to administer another since she didn’t know if my prior Dr. placed the cortisone correctly. She also gave me a shot of   lidocaine to numb the area. The numbness was delightful.

The plan of action is as follows: if I can’t run 6-10 miles pain free by December 15 I’ll have the neuroma removed. My follow up appointment is December 15.  During surgery she’ll make an incision at the top of my foot, removing the neuroma and nerve. She’ll stitch me back up and I’ll put my foot up for two days, wear a boot for 10, remove my stitches and begin to run.  It’s a simple surgery-I’ll go into the surgical center in the AM, discharge in the PM.  I’ll run happily every after.

Friday I ran road for a few miles and my foot began to hurt. Saturday I ran 4 miles on snowshoe and it felt pretty good. Sunday I ran 3.5 miles on snow covered road and it was good again. I imagine the snow offers a good cushion for my nerve. I’ll keep trying each day. Little by little I’ll be better. Or I’ll have surgery.

I’m excited for the Donut Run!  Running it last year was such a blast I can’t wait to do it again. I’ll run whatever distance my foot will allow, hoping to run the 25K. It’s so darn much fun!!  The run is December 6. During the run I’ll learn if I was selected for the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run lottery. Whoop!  I have a whole 4% chance at being selected. Yup, lucky me!  December 6 is also Tyler’s 23rd birthday so I’ll end the day with a fun birthday get together centered around a good restaurant dinner. Nice!

In the meantime as I heal this foot I’ve taken up CrossFit again. I have to do something more than run a  few miles each day.  CrossFit allows a fun fast workout that gets my endorphins moving. My brain needs endorphins. I’ve joined CrossFit Fast Factory’s bootcamp group. 3 sessions a week over 8 weeks. By the end of the 8 weeks my foot should be a happy running foot and I probably won’t want to CrossFit anymore because I’ll be spending my time running.  Yay.

Well it’s currently 11F, -2F windchill and a ice and snow landscape. Early winter!  I’m off to bundle up and try out this foot for 5 miles. Letzzz go, Topaz! CrossFit tonight. OK, there’s an update!

EDIT: I just went through my posts and noticed that I have quite a few drafts I never published. I also see that my Superior 100 2014 race report received 7304 views. Seriously?? Wow!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Twin Cities Marathon 2014: My 40th Marathon!

Twin Cities Marathon 2014: My 40th Marathon! 

I can’t even believe that I’ve run 40 marathons. I remember when I first decided that I was going to become a runner. I wrote out my plan. I was going to quit drinking, quit smoking, begin to drink water, to walk, to change my diet, to lose weight and become a runner. In that order. It was the day I became a goal setter.  I wanted the lifestyle that I believed a marathoner would live.

I created that life. I am living that life. I love every day.

This recovery from Superior 100 has been a bit longer than not only my other hundred mile finishes but longer than the other two Superior 100 mile finishes as well.

I didn’t have any of the body fatigue or soreness that sometimes follows a 100 but I did / still do have very sore feet. My poor feet-both were painfully blistered and swollen. After the inflammation subsided and the blisters had dried I was still having foot pain. I described the symptoms to Karl  and he was pretty sure I was suffering from Morton’s Neuroma –as he suffers from the same.  Sure enough, it is the diagnosis I received. I then had a shot of cortisone which I don’t believe did  anything to better than pain.  I posted my dilemma to FaceBook and learned of others suffering from the same problems and the ‘work arounds ‘ they are implementing.

I went into Twin Cities Marathon  not knowing if I could finish due to the foot.  I decided I’d start and then stop if the pain became unbearable. I should have remembered I’m not really sure what unbearable is!

The ride down to Minneapolis was a treat. I rode down with my group of friends that I did RAGNAR as well as Get Lucky and Grizzle Grind together. We’ve had a lot of fun running together this year!  We had a perfect parking spot a few blocks from the start.

The marathon implemented a wave start this year. It really worked well. There was NO congestion, no walking for the first mile. Very slick.

It’s really cool to run down Hennepin Avenue-normally a high traffic area.  Marathon morning it is closed to just the runners. Fabulous!  About a mile from the start I had to stop to go pee.  Instead of waiting in line for a port a pottie near the Walker Art Center I opted to pee with the guys and just stood near the fence, thrusting my hips forward and pulling my shorts to the side. Genius!

The volunteers were amazing! I carried a handheld so each time I needed a refill I stopped at the aid table and the volunteer was very happy to fill my bottle with either water or Gatorade. When asked what I’d like I said whatever is in your jug.

I hadn’t run Twin Cities Marathon since 2012. Many memories came back to me of the past 9 TCM’s I’ve run. People along the route, aches and pains, joys of Boston Qualifiers, tripping over a rake..running Ann’s first TCM where she noticed her tumor in the bathroom stall next to me..…I miss her so. RIP sweet friend, 9 years this February. I was going through the snippets of memories as they were flashing before my eyes.

After Hennepin we ran up the hill through Kenwood and onto the Lakes. Lake of the Isles, Calhoun and Harriet. As I was running Calhoun I looked over and saw Bonnie’s apartment of years gone by towering above the tree line.  I remembered the morning we met at her place  and ran 10 hours around the lakes in prep for McNaughton 100.  The trails were too icy so we ran the roads. Good times. Great memories. Man, we’ve shared a lot. I miss it.

Running around Harriet I thought about all of the fat ass 50Ks I ran with so many friends who no longer run. I never thought those days would end. We are now only a few. Wonder who will be there this December?

I looked to see if Jeffrey would be standing in the spot that I’ve come to see him so many years running TCM.  Nope..I didn’t see him there. No Cowbell.

My foot began to bark at me. Not badly, but it was getting there.

Minnehaha Parkway. A nice long stretch before we hit the River.  Lake Nokomis-too many memories to list!  Forefront in my mind was my FANS 116 mile run. What a day! I thought of the people I shared that day with. I love them so.

By the time I hit  West River Road I was a hurting unit.  I tried to stretch out my toes, give them a bit of space. I had just purchased a brand new pair of my favorite road shoe in a wide this time for more space. Ascis Kayano. I had plenty of support and cushion. I popped an Advil. It took the edge off.

Well, I wasn’t going to stop at 18 miles. No thanks. I’d finish this.  Put the pain away. Disconnect. Ignore. I’m good at this.

I was realizing about this time that I wasn’t really having that much fun. I really wasn’t digging the asphalt and I remember thinking hmmm…this might be my last marathon. I realized I much rather spend my time on trail. I was tired of buildings and concrete and crowds of people whom I didn’t know.

As I neared Summit Avenue I looked for John. I normally see him here. Sure enough, I managed to yell out to him!  It was really nice to see a friendly face.

I continued down Summit, taking in all of the people and their signs, tiring of the large crowds. I knew I was approaching Mile 24 where the TCRC (Twin Cities Running Co)crew would be.

My eye caught Nancy and Alicia in the crowd!  I couldn’t believe it. I ran over for big hugs. So nice to see them along the course! More memories!! So many, too many to list!

I could see the TCRC RV up ahead.  I waved to Kurt, shouted out and moved on.  Two more miles!

The final push is so much fun at TCM. The bells were ringing in the St Paul Cathedral, the flags were flying out about the finish line, the State Capital in view.  I looked at my watch: 4:38. 

We all met at the “O” Sign for our finish photos and our ride home. It was so much fun to hear the adventures each had. What a splendid finish!  I was so spoiled, I had a ride home, too! 

My foot is still not right. It isn’t too bad with a shoe on, but barefoot it feels like I am walking on an acorn.

I’ve had a great come back year for 2014 and the goal was Superior 100.  I did it! A year ago I was walking around with a boot upon my broken ankle.  I feel so blessed. I may just take some time off and heal my running body, lift heavy stuff, recoup and recharge for my next training cycle

After Wild Duluth on Saturday? Not sure, yet.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Superior 100 Race Report: All About The People!!

As I sit here at my computer, soaking my feet which are 3 times swollen their normal size and blistered beyond recognition..I don't know where to begin.  Yes, my feet have looked like this before. Yes, I have finished Superior 100 before...but it's been a long time. It's been 7 years!  7 years!  Superior 100 is not the same as Savage 100 or Javelina 100 or any of the other 15 100s I've finished. Time moves swiftly.

After breaking my ankle at mile 35 last year I didn't know if I had it in me to come back .. to come back and try again. I didn't know if I could handle another DNF. I didn't know if I could take that DNF emotionally. I thought my Superior 100s might be a wonderful memory of the past.

As I was running Friday and Saturday I thought of that often. I reminded myself that I had entered because I believed. I believed I could. It didn't matter that a team of doctors told me I wouldn't run again. It didn't matter that this menopausal body is no longer the same as my 2007 body. It didn't matter that at one time I didn't believe I could.

I changed my mind. I believed. I recovered, I trained. I finished Zumbro 50 Mile,  Savage 100 Mile and Voyageur 50 Mile as my key training runs this year as my comeback to Superior 100 Trail Run. 

This will be a long report. A purge, an emotional outburst. I'm tearing up and getting chills already. It's been one hell of a ride. 

  Many times, most of the time, I write these reports to show you, the reader, that you can, too!  You can do whatever it is that you want to do-anything and everything is attainable. 

I changed jobs in July-after working at the High School for 11 years I applied for a position at the Middle School that became available. A position that offers another month per year and another hour a day, a full two tier increase. With Troy headed off to the U of M I really felt no need to have summers off. The month of July should be more than plenty in addition to the 4 weeks of vacation I have. I accepted the offer and then realized that I hadn't mentioned needing last Friday off for Superior. Ugh. I decided if I couldn't have Friday off, which I would have understood, as it is the first Friday of the school year AND picture day, that I would just run the 50 mile on Saturday instead.  I finally had enough guts to mention that I'd like Friday off and it was granted..sometimes I worry about the silliest of things.  

Remember that last year my Dad met me at Beaver Bay, Silver Bay and then when I dropped at Tettegouche I caught a ride from Matt Long to Co Rd 6, where he was planning on meeting me next. Well, I was distraught as I thought I may have blown the only time Pops would see me finish a 100. I was THRILLED when he mentioned to me this summer that he'd again like to visit me at the aid stations. I applied no pressure, I didn't give him a list of instructions to be crew, I just wanted to see his smile and to feel his hugs whenever he would be able to make it to an aid station.  I just wanted to see family during this long tortuous race. He and friend Deena decided they would come earlier and stay later this year. They were arriving on Thursday and would stay until Sunday. This gave me another chance to finish Superior 100 with Dad watching. This gave me even more reason to finish. A daughter always wants to see her Daddy proud of her.

I pulled into packet pickup early. It was only 4:00 and it didn't really begin until 5:00, which I didn't know because although I read everything I didn't retain much of it. Nerves.

It felt so strange, I had no boys to call at home. No check in on their day, no football practice to talk about, no worrying about their schedule for the weekend.

Friends were volunteering and setting up. I picked up my packet and saw that I again ordered a Large shirt. They are always too big. I don't know why I don't remember to buy a Medium.  I dropped my ziploc drop bags off at each designated area. I spoke with John, Cheri, Bill, Joe, met some new people and really wanted to leave. My anxiety is high these days..I didn't want a full blown panic attack. I understand that anxiety is a symptom of menopause, thanks hysterectomy, or maybe I am just a dweeb. Before the panic erupted I was in my car taking deep breaths.

I headed for Caribou Highlands from Two Harbors. Our race begins at Gooseberry Falls and finishes 103 miles later at Lutsen, right at Caribou Highlands.

Dad and Deena were already unpacking, I did the same.  I settled in for the night after I set my alarm for 430. My bus was leaving at 540.

Our room at Caribou was just awful. I've stayed here many many times and always have been happy with the lodging. I rented a townhome which I had a few years ago had three levels-a bedroom and living area in the basement, a kitchen, living, bedroom on the main and a loft with bed, bedroom. Well, this year the 'townhome' was the basement portion, only!  At $250 a night, I thought it was a joke. One big bedroom, a small bathroom, a pull out couch, no deck, no kitchette but a microwave on a table. No heat, the fireplace didn't work, the lights about the couch didn't work. I couldn't believe it. I don't believe I'll stay here again. Sad. I will stay at Eagle Ridge instead. I stayed there last year and it was very very nice.

I slept well, woke and ate my banana, peanut butter and quinoa.  Dad drove me to the bus where I loaded. I sat near Kami, who was running her first 100 and Anjanette. I took deep breaths, meditated, envisioning my day, my night, my finish.

We had to pull over- all three busses so that someone could jump off the bus in front of us and pee in the ditch. Really.  I recalled someone peeing into a bottle next to me on bus ride one year. I guess this guy didn't have a bottle...

All of the 100 milers were at the Gooseberry Falls Visitor Center. Warm, clean facilities. Family, pacers, was really fun. Now that the race was going to begin I was no longer as anxious. Matt had his Peet's coffee brewing so I had 4 cups. It was that good!

We took many photos-me, Maria, Stewart, Jerry and Susan-our original group from 2006 and 2007 when I finished and ran many miles with them. I'll have to get a copy from Maria.

Lots of hugs, nervous chatter and then we heard John state the countdown had begun. We were lining up for a run of our lives. The sky was clear, blue, crisp...there was NO chance of rain. It was going to be a spectacular weekend of running.

We lined up and headed out!  People cheering, waving, photoing and what not. It was awesome. I waved and yelled to those whom I recognized on the sides of the trail.

As I've done in the past for my Superior 100 reports, I'll write from aid station to aid station. It helps me to remember the details in some sort of order.

If you read my past Superior 100 reports I believe I wrote details of the landscape. This report consists of landscape and people. So many people lending me a hand.

While running the first section of the race, 0-9.7 miles to Split Rock I was thinking about how great I felt. Normally it takes me quite a while, 20 to 30 miles, to warm up and feel normal. I felt really good from the beginning this time. I didn't taper for this race. I had tapered for Savage 100 and the two week taper made me feel fat, depressed and out of shape. The taper wasn't worth the mental health decline this time around. I ran 53 miles two weeks prior-lighter than peak weeks and then 45 miles the week prior. I felt great. No mental health decline. I had run 20 miles M-Thursday, before race day Friday.

I thought about how grateful I was to be running the race. I thought about last year while running this section and thinking that I wasn't sure if I should have been. It had only been 6 weeks since I had fractured my ankle at Eugene Curnow and I knew I had no business running Superior 100. Yet I tried.  I had already entered, I had might as well give it a go. This year was a different story. I was fully healthy, I was so thankful- and I  believed, deeply believed that I could finish. 

Zach Pierce  Photo

I again used the Nathan pack I had tried out at Voyageur. I didn't want to carry handhelds while trying to navigate down rocky steep downhills. I need my hands to hold onto rock during this race. The pack felt good on my back, loaded with gels, rain jacket, garbage bag for rain, foot potion, socks and 70 ounces of water.

Running near the first aid station I saw Don guiding the runners to take the sharp right path down the hill. I stopped for a big hug. Don told me he was happy to see that I had signed up for the 100. I told him I'd see him again. I continued to run down to the station which  was an out and back so was great fun to see the runners coming back toward me who had already visited the station. As I was running a woman gave me a tube of Hemp Rolling Aid. She said she had found it on the ground and asked if  I would drop it at the aid station. I did just that. 

Todd Rowe Photo

There was no crew allowed at  Split Rock so there weren't many people milling about. My pack was removed from my back by Holly. She emptied out my used gels, refilled my pouches with fresh gels, filled up my bladder with water and sent me on my way. She took good care of me!  I completely forgot that I had a drop bag to peek into here. I was so excited to be at an aid station, to see others, the excitement just overtook me! Luckily for me, I didn't need anything.

Another quick hug from Don on the way out and I was on my way to Beaver Bay. 10.3 more miles. This section is really gorgeous. There is a lot of rhyolite, the staggering split rock, hence the name of the park, beautiful waterfalls and a lot of climbing. I was keeping track of my gels, making sure to consume one every 30 minutes. I still felt good, was drinking plenty of water, not too much, running well. I knew that I'd see Dad at Beaver Bay along with Tom and Nancy who were volunteering at the aid station again. I was sure looking forward to it!

I just remembered that I took a wrong turn during this section!  I was talking away to Nick, from Faribault, who I met at 2007 Superior 100. Right after running over a bridge over a fast moving river the pathway took a hard left. I followed! Nick followed me! We heard Julie! Julie!  You took the wrong way!  Jeeze. I turned around and there was Anjanette and Kate, ushering us back to the correct trail-along the river and over all of the rock. I guess my body was tired of the rock!  Nick and I were back on trail. That could have been a bad scene. Lucky for us that runners were looking out for us!

I looked down at my watch and saw I was at 19 miles. Another mile and I'd be at the aid station!  

Running down the hill I could here CowBell ringing and lots of cheering! I knew I was close.  Emotion just bubbled over..I could feel tears in my eyes knowing that I was almost to civilization and seeing Dad!

As I ran into the aid station I heard JULIE BERG!  Julie Berg!  Number 16! Sweet 16!  I said Yeah, Sweet 16 almost 50! I could hear Deena yell out Julie!  She and Dad had my drop bag and ran over to me where I was given big hugs. Dad took photos, we were all just so excited!  They told me how great I looked, I told them how great I felt..I went through my drop bag, refilling gels, then had Nancy fill my bladder. It was so great to see Nancy and Tom here. Dad and Deena enjoyed Nancy's cookies!

Dad and I 

I ended up leaving the aid station with Kate. Kate timed out at 85 miles last year, was back for her finish. We walked for a while, she was waiting for Kami to catch up. I began to run along, toward Silver Bay. 

5 miles from Beaver Bay to Silver Bay. Lots of climbing, scrambling over big boulders, picking my way. I could feel hot spots developing on my feet and made a mental note to check on my feet at Silver Bay. I would think about what I needed at the next aid station: headlamp - there were no drop bags at Tettegouche and it would be dark before County Road 6 - batteries, foot check...

It felt good to have an only 5 mile section. Breaking up the race into aid stations seems to work well for me. It's easier than thinking about 38 hours to conquer or to think about 100 miles.  

As I ran into Silver Bay I could see Dad and Deena. Dad was taking pictures that he'd text to my sister Laurie, she would, in turn, post them to my facebook page as updates. It was a lot of fun!

My friend Kurt King was manning the aid station here. We said a quick hello. Amy was waiting for Jason so she offered me a chair. As I sat down to remove my socks and pop 4 big fat blisters she asked if she could fill my pack. I've never had anyone take care of me like this before in an aid station. I hesitated, just because I normally take care of it myself. It seemed as though she truly wanted to help. Well, ok, I sheepishly handed her my pack and she filled it up, returning it to me. She asked if she could refill my pouches with fresh gels and get rid of my garbage. I said well, ok, if you really want to. She did!  Dad handed me my drop bag. I took out my lights and batteries, knowing that I wouldn't hit County Road 6 before night fall. She returned my pack as I popped the blisters with my bib pin. Someone told me to be sure to keep my feet dry-so that I wouldn't get an infection. With all of the mud out there, that wasn't going to happen!  My feet were soaked, black  and pruny looking. A big hug to Dad and Deena and I'll see you in 20 miles!  They weren't going to be at Tettegouch. As I ran out Kurt said he'd see me at Sawbill on Saturday. Yes, Yes, Indeed!

Ninja Runners Photo

Silver Bay to Tettegouch is something else. It's just spectacular. A 10 mile section with beautiful overlooks and so many memories!  As I climbed up Mount Trudee I though of John laid out on his back, totally crashed during our BETA run in 2005 or so. Maria and I kicked his ass. I thought of Pierre, bonking at Bear and Bean Lake. I thought of me, Maria, Doug, Jenny and Guy, running this section the year after my hysterectomy, when I could only go 11 miles in total before I was totally wiped out.  As I climbed up to the lake overlooks I realized it was the first time I was up here alone. No Stuart, Jerry, Maria or Susan. No one to take a photo with as I have every other time that I had been here. I stood out at the overlook, feeling the strong cool wind through my sweaty clothing..I stretched out my arms and gave thanks for allowing me to be here.  Thank you for healing me, for giving me the strength to be able to be back out here again. I didn't mind being alone.

I stopped frequently, looking out over the lakes, over the ridges, into the trail box where John once wrote I NEED A REDBULL!  I laughed until tears formed in my eyes. I was creating new memories while reliving old wonderful ones.

Many beaver ponds during this section, lots of board walk that was rather slippery. I saw a good friend take a rough tumble here. 

As I climbed down from Bean and Bear I ran into Stuart. It was nice to see him again. I told him how strange it was to be at the Bean/Bear Lake outlook alone. He said the same thing. We trudged on together, heading for Tettegouch, mile 35.

I hunkered down, knowing what was coming next. The Drainpipe. I broke my ankle here last year. Instead of feeling fear and anxiousness I felt calm and strong. I knew I was going to be just fine. We arrived, I climbed down, scootching along on my butt, the best I could do. I saw Kelly at the bottom, she took a pretty awesome photo of us!

Kelly Doyle Photo

I was thankful to be in one piece as I ran into the aid station, hearing Julie and Stuart!  Yahoo! It's quite a great feeling running into civilization after being out in the woods for so long! I knew Dad wouldn't be at this aid station. I began to take the pack from my back..when there was Amy, again!  She again asked if she could help me out, I was just thrilled with her kindness. She removed my pack, my gels, my garbage, refilled the bladder and filled the pouches with gels again as she was waiting for Jason. While she did all of that I was able to yet again drain all of my blisters. They were going to cause me some problems. Stuart came by to say he was heading out, I told him I'd catch up with him. I cleaned my feet the best I could and applied some more foot potion. The mud, the rocks, the roots were causing me some great pain!

I left the aid station and caught up to Stuart. We climbed along, heading toward County Road 6...8.6 more miles for a total of 43. I knew it would become dark during this section and that meant I'd be moving very slowly. I ran over the piece of trail where I turned back last year, knowing that I had injured my ankle badly. It felt good to be going further..much further! 

Stuart was moving faster than I, as he took off ahead I began to reflect on the day. I was so thankful to be out here, to be moving my body through this beautiful landscape. It was a gift to be able to do this. I  realized that I hadn't had any rough patches, hadn't needed any Advil, was still eating a gel every 30 minutes, never came into an aid station without water...I was blessed.

I was running along alone when the sun began to set. As I climbed the high ridges I looked out across the landscape. The sky was pink, blue and purple. The moon was rising, it was absolutely beautiful. I stopped and just stood there, feeling so small in this big big landscape filled with water, sky and woods. It was magnificent.

Darkness came and I switched on my headlamp. It wasn't very bright. I had my eyes down to the trail, neck bent down, thankful my herniated discs were no longer strained, straining to see the mud, the rocks and roots. Bang, bang, foot against rock, ouch! I trudged on..wishing I had invested in brighter lights. I am GOING to invest in better lights! I believe the Black Diamond Ion will do. I have a Black Diamond something or other that is from 2005.

I began to struggle with the darkness. I felt as though I couldn't see a damn thing and was moving at a snail's pace. I looked at my watch and had just finished a 23 minute mile. Good grief. It was going to be a long night.

Kelly Doyle photo. An amazing night sky.

A group of men came upon me, lights brightening my way. What a difference it made! I was able to run a few steps, then they moved on and I was in the dim darkness.  I stopped to dig my handheld out of my pack. I pulled it out and it didn't turn on! No light. I changed the batteries, starting to feel  panicky as I couldn't get it going. As I felt the wave of anxiety come over me, I noticed the pain in my feet vanish. I had something bigger to worry about than the pain of my feet...lights!

I could hear County Road 6 through the woods. Maybe I was getting close? I trudged on, picking my way up through the high cliffs, then down down down to the water, the muddy muddy trails sucking at my ankles. Ish. I had bats flying at my dim headlamp. 

Finally, I saw the trail end. I could see someone on the road directing traffic. I crossed County Road 6 and ran toward the aid station. Thank God! I made it. Dad and Deena were there, waiting. Deena said that Dad asked the radio operators 4 times if I had come in yet. He was worried. I had given him my 2008 pace chart and was off of the pace. Don't worry, I'm just slow, picking my way through the darkness with stupid lights.

Again, sweet Amy!  There she was, taking my pack, filling it up, taking my drop bag, refilling it with gels. I couldn't believe my fortune in her. She was waiting for Jason so was able to help me out again. I let her. I let her take care of me.

I've never had crew or pacer. I've always done these adventures on my own.  During a few races-Vermont 100 and Leanhorse 100 come to mind, I was fortunate enough to have been traveling with Alicia, Nancy and Tom. Alicia had Nancy as crew and Tom as pacer. Sometimes along the race I would be able to use Nancy as crew, too, if our times were overlapped. I relished in that. Otherwise, I've always been a solo act. 

I sat in chair to work on my feet yet again and explain my light dilemma. Joe was near, waiting on Maudie and said that I could use his lights. How wonderful. He was willing to give me the lights from his head! I asked him to first look at my hand held. Sure enough, I had one of the batteries in backward. He straightened it out and I had a bit more light. Amen!

Dad and Deena were calling it a night, they would see me in the morning along the trail. I kissed them goodbye and yelled 16 out!  As I was leaving I thought I saw John, then thought it must be a mirage. No!  John was there, go get it Julie!  Then I saw Cheri, too!  What a treat. Over and Out. Let's do this.

7.7 miles to the halfway mark: Finland. This is a tough section. It has some of the more impressive terrain on the SHT, including the high cliffs overlooking Sawmill Valley, Section 13, and a boardwalk that goes on forever over a beaver dam. There is a 20 foot tall rock that even in the darkness is easy to see. I always remember the first time Maria and I saw it 'well hello rock' we said!  It's called a glacial erratic. It's awesome. I patted and kissed it as I passed.

I was trucking along, no longer running, just hiking as fast as the mud, the rocks, the roots, my blisters would allow. I pulled my arm sleeves back down and pulled on a long sleeved shirt from my pack. I wasn't moving very quickly and it was getting cooler out.  Pretty soon I heard some voices approaching from in back of me.

I could see bright lights sweeping back and forth. Wow, awesome lights!  They flooded out my sad set up. Pretty soon Joel and Zac caught me. Zac was pacing Joel.  It was really good to have their company. Both have finished Superior 100 before. 

We moved toward the aid station and I lamented about  my light situation. Joel pulled a handheld from his pack, offering it to me. Really??? Really Joel?? It was super bright!  It's light flooded out the light of my head lamp and handheld. I couldn't believe it. He told me it would last for 7 hours on the setting it was on. Oh, happy days!  I began to run now, I could see the rocks and roots and mud. We mostly hung together the next few miles and made it into Finland together.

I don't believe I recognized the great volunteers at Finland. There weren't many people there. Zac headed for the heated bathrooms and I stumbled over to the drop bags, digging around, looking for mine. I found it and then realized I needed to fill my pack with water. I walked over to the table and began to fill up the bladder. Pretty soon Arika was there, asking if I could use anything. I asked her to pull out my garbage and repack with new gels. She helped me out. I told Joel I was heading out, I'd see them up the trail.

Wow. I was at the half way mark!  My watch said 1550. Pretty darn good!  I knew my  Garmin 310XT would probably die off soon, I made sure I picked up my second one here.

I was really bumming out about my feet. My stomach was good, nutrition was on, I was drinking, peeing, feeling good. My feet sucked. I knew it was only blisters and toenails, no broken bones, nothing serious. I knew I wasn't going to let this slow me down so much that I'd miss a cut off. I had to persevere. I rubbed my PERSEVERE necklace. I could do this.

Joel and Zac caught me, we had great conversations, and just buzzed along the trail. Joel's light was amazing so I would run with them when I could. Awesome!

Finland to Sonju is 7.5 miles of roots. Big roots. Roots that make me think of HR Puffinstuff cartoons. Big trees that have no business with their roots on top of the ground instead of under the soil. It's a floor of roots that are 6 to 20 inches tall and so close together than my foot doesn't fit inbetween. It's hell. My feet were already so beaten up I didn't know how this was going to go.  I found myself thinking ahead to Crosby Manitou which is even a worse section-harder yet than this. I brought my thoughts back to what was important, getting through this section. Oh the mud! There were many downed trees across the trail that were too low to get under and too high to clear. I'd climb, straddle, and jump off .. into the deep mud. Good grief.

The mud was ridiculous. All I could do was trudge through it. It did no good to try to skirt the edges, to go deeper in the woods, trying to avoid it. It was everywhere. It was deep, grinding into my puncture wounds upon my bloody stumps of feet.

Sonju Aid Station. Joe was working the aid station. I mentioned that I thought he and Sara were running the 100. He said Sara was running the 50, he was volunteering. After hugs and hellos I sat in a chair to take care of  my blisters. Ugh. I normally don't need to sit down in aid stations at all. This was new and I wasn't liking it. Time was ticking but I didn't think I could run on these things and I remembered how badly they hurt while running and popping at McNaughton 100.  Joe brought over my drop bag as I took off my socks and wiped them down with the wet wipes I had packed. Ugh. Big red swollen blisters encompassing my whole big toes - both and the toes next to them. A man came up and asked if he could YouTube the procedure. I had no comment. I removed my pin from my bib and drained the best I could. The man took a dry napkin and tried cleaning my feet. It hurt too damn bad. I squirmed my foot away and barely dabbed at it with a wet wipe. Slathered on foot potion, new socks, changed batteries in my sad headlamp, Joe had my pack filled - so awesome - and I limped out of there, telling Zac and Joel they'd catch me on the trail. I was starting to feel a low spot rearing it's ugly head.

Zac and Joel moved ahead of me. I trudged through, reminding myself how thankful I was that nothing but my feet hurt, that I now had  a bright handheld light, that Dad would again be at the aid stations tomorrow, that I was strong and healthy and that I could do this!  I powered on. I told myself my feet didn't hurt, hell, I didn't have feet!  Move Julie, Move.

I climbed along, over the boardwalks, through the area where Maria and I saw moose tracks this summer, over the beaver dam. I turned off my lights and looked to the sky. The stars! Amazing. I just stood there in wonder. I smiled, counted my blessings and soldered on.

I could hear cars. Traffic. I knew I was coming close to Crosby Manitou aid station. It was about 430 AM. I knew Matt would be here with Peet's coffee, freshly brewed. I also knew this is the latest I'd ever come in before. 

Happy day!  The gravel road to the station. I ran along, stretching out my leg muscles and straightening out my back and neck. After being hunched up for hours it felt so good to RUN! Matt welcomed me in and Angela and Tina did a little dance!  I drank hot coffee and ate the best hash browns ever! I drained my blisters yet again as they filled my pack. Service with a smile. I was no longer alarmed and suprised by the kindness, it was now the new  normal. I thanked everyone profusely and moved on. I couldn't wait to turn out my lights!

This section is the hardest one for me. From Crosby to Sugarloaf is 9.4 miles and could take me 4 or more hours. It has. It might. I took myself out of the pain cave and remembered what Edward had posted. You don't have feet. You don't have feet. They feel fine. I began the descent down into the river gorge. I passed the campsite that Troy, Steve and I camped at last summer. I remembered how much fun we had. I thought about running this section with Topaz, both of us with fresh legs, I brought myself out of the negative pain cave. I smiled. I laughed. The sky began to brighten. I put away my lights. I watched the sunrise from the river gorge. It was incredible! The sky became a fiery pink, purple and blue. I just stood there, watching through the tree canopy-high on top of a ridge. Phenominal. A feeling of gratitude washed over me. The hair on my arms stood on end. I was so happy to be here. I began to sob. 

The trail began to level out as I ran to Sugarloaf. I thought Dad and Deena may be there. Zac and Joel caught me. Zac said he was going to attach Joel to me. Come on Joel, let's run! We ran together for quite some time, then I mentioned something but didn't hear a response. I looked back and didn't see them. The trail was finally runable, I ran as fast as I could.

I continued to tell myself that my feet didn't hurt, that I didn't have blisters, that I was going to finish this race, that I hadn't run 70  miles so that I could be cut at Sugarloaf at 11:40 AM. I was going to get this.

I ran into Sugarloaf. Amy was there again! She sat me down, grabbed my bag-took everything out, asked what I needed, put my night shirt in the bag, placed the light I borrowed from Joel into  his drop bag-wow! Wendy gave me a cup of noodles with broth and I began to work on my freakin' feet. I drained the blisters, more blisters, bigger blisters and had to get out of there. I heard Robyn say 'where's Julie..did she perform surgery on her feet and just leave?' no, I'm still I'm leaving!  Deena and Dad weren't there..Amy mentioned that Sugarloaf was kind of difficult to get to so maybe they were just lost?  Travis and Stephanie were here. Travis was running his first 100. Stephanie and he ran out super fast. I decided I was going to try that too! I ran out of there like I was on fire...

4 more aid stations! That's all I could think about. 4 more!  I had come so far. Cramer Road was next. 78 miles. I dropped here in 2005. My first DNF. I would never drop here again. This section is much more runable that what I had just come off of. I ran the best I could. I saw a few 17 minute miles. Flying for me at this point!

I heard cheering and was really hoping Dad would be here. I ran into the aid station and Deena was there with a hug right away! They were so relieved to see me and I was so happy to see them!  I was skipping the foot care here, I just wanted to run fast like Travis and Stephanie and get to the next station. I filled my pack, my gels, more hugs and looked for Stephanie and Travis..they had already left! They were really moving. I caught Amy in the corner of my eye, smiling, watching me with Dad and Deena. I gave Jason a tap on the stomach and exclaimed to Lynn that this was so damn hard. It was as hard as I remembered it. It hadn't become any easier. Fucking A.

I beat the Cutoff at Cramer Road. I didn't know if I'd beat the next one.

My feet were killing me. I knew that once I hit Temperance I usually feel like I've made it..well, hell, I didn't know if I was going to hit Temperance in time! Time was ticking.  I found myself sinking into a bad bad funk. I began to think maybe I'd just time out-at least I wouldn't be dropping out on my own, getting into an aid station too late, well, that would't be so bad...dangerous territory for me to be in, to be thinking about.  Dangerous thoughts for me to have. This mud, this mud was up to my freaking calves and it was wearing me down. The blisters were effing me up. Advil. Maybe it was time to try some Advil.  I led myself right down that path.  Pretty soon I was HOPING I'd time out. Yup, hoping. Oh no...

As I was climbing yet another freaking mountain full of mud and rock I came across Anjanette again. We were climbing up some god forsaken bare hill with the hot hot sun beating on us. She was just stung by a hornet. I didn't want her to freak out and drop because of it, so I told  her ' at least it's not a broken leg or something' that was probably quite insensitive, wasn't it? She was crying in this high pitched voice and I didn't know if she had lost her mind or if it was fear of the sting. Thankfully it was fear of the sting.  I had been telling myself for hours that at least I didnt' have a broken ankle, only it didn't sound so insensitve to me as I spoke those words to her. I felt badly afterward. She forgave me.

I could hear the beautiful, fully gorged Temperance River. It's one of my favorite sections. The water was, clear and cold, but the mud. I'd never seen so much mud on this trail! It was sucking my shoes off, up over my ankles, squishing into my blisters and creating more. I don't have feet..I don't have feet.

I thought about the Temperance aid station. Mile 85. Or was it 80? Was I losing it? It's 85.  I knew friends of mine from UMTR would be staffing it. Friends who believe in me more than I sometimes believe in myself. I began to get excited to see them. They wouldn't let me drop or time out there. I better get a move on. Dad and Deena would be here, too.

I had to go to the bathroom. I had consumed over 60 gels, 2 cups of soup, 2 bananas and a hashbrown. After peeing at Jay Cooke State Park and the whole Ranger situation during Voyageur 50 I  knew I wasn't going to poop in Temperance State Park!  Where the hell was a bathroom???

I came into Temperance and Misty told me they'd been waiting for me. I gave her a huge hug. So good to see her!  Bob came up and gave me a spin and a hug. Dad and Deena were there, with my drop bag. I quickly asked how much time I had, I had an hour I believe. I began to grumble about my blisters. I popped them and they squirted up over my head. Nice. I asked Thad how many miles to the next station. He asked Misty. 5.5 miles. Happy Day. I slathered on more foot potion and gave kisses goodbye. I hoped I would make it to the next aid station.

As I ran along I thought about the race. This section that I enjoy so much. Real civilization! People hiking, dogs in the water, people asking how far is your marathon? What? 103 miles! For what Charity? What? You are running to test yourself, to see what you are made of, what??? It was awesome.  I stopped at the river and stuck in my feet. Ah. Cold clear wonderful water. Wash away all of the mud.  Back to the trail. Let's do this. 

Ian photo. Me. Totally and Incredibly Happy. Doing what I Love.

Carlton Peak. My favorite section. The huge walls of rock are incredible, awesome hiking-full hands on knee, pull up the body, nose to the rock, climbing. I love it with my whole being. Maybe not so wonderful at 90, really, it is a sweet area. I climbed, flashes of past races coming to memory.

I thought I heard some music in the distance. I listened carefully and realized it was my iPod. I hadn't even thought about it this whole race. It was playing in my pack. I had no desire to listen to music during this race. Interesting. A first.

Sawbill. Mile 91 was up next. I was able to run most of this section. It was getting hot. Many of the 50 milers who began at Finland at 530 AM began to pass me. They'd all exclaim 'hey 100 miler (because the 100 milers had a pink ribbon or because I looked like hell?) you are amazing, hey woman 100  miler, rock it out, etc. It was cool. I was doing my best..but still didn't know if I could do this.  One woman asked to get past me on the boardwalk. Can you move over to the grass? Hu? No, I can't. I have 90 miles in me..I'll fall in the fucking creek. I stopped for most of the 50 milers who needed to get by, I'd just stop near the side of the trail and let them go, cheering them on. 

I ran into Sawbill with 30 minutes to spare. Time was getting tight. Kurt King was here as he said he would be, told me not to worry, Matt told me I had this. I quickly lanced my blisters and filled my pack. I didn't see Dad here. I wondered if I had worried him too much at Temperance.  

I knew many people were being cut in back of me. There were quite a few. I didn't want to be one of them. 

As it turned out they hadn't expected me at Sawbill so quickly. I ran the best I could. I hit a few 18 minute miles. They were in the car waiting, putting their feet up, catching a break. When they checked in I had already left, 7 minutes prior.

This is where I changed my mind. I was running along, thinking that I wasn't going to make it to Oberg at the drop dead 700 PM cut off. I would't feel too bad because a rule is a rule, a time out is a time out...I did my is what it is and my feet hurt like hell.

I thought about what Karl told me. Keep it simple. I had no crew, no pacer. I didn't have to worry about anyone else. Eat gels, water, eat during the end when you feel you can stomach it. Run hard near the end if you are cutting it close. I had no hard left, did I? I had been keeping it simple. Oh, and 100 Miles Is Not That Far :)

I see Wayne running like a madman with Anjanette following. Running at blistering speed I tell you! I yell out Anjanette don't you have blisters? How can  you still run like that? Yes, I have blisters but they don't feel any better going slowly than going faster. I just slam them down and run. She then shows me how she slams her foot down with added emphasis. Well, what the fuck, I yell out! Well. Imagine that. Everything turned for me. Right there. Wayne! Anjanette!  I want to finish too. I didn't run 90 miles to time out. Maybe my Dad won't want to come next year. Maybe this is my one chance to finish a 100 with him here. I thought about the Grandmas Marathon we ran when he turned 60. I want another finish. I posted links to follow results for this race, Dad wast texting Laurie and Laurie was updating everyone and  I don't want to say I timed out. I want a fricking buckle and an orange star. I want to run!  Wayne! Anjanette! I'm in, too! I'll be the caboose!  I'm running! Run I did. 

I ran after Wayne and Anjanetee like my life depended on it. I looked at my watch and saw that we were hitting a 15 and 16 minute mile pace. Through the deep mud. Climbing forever. Over boardwalks CAKED with mud. Where is Oberg? Where is Oberg? A few more miles. We gasped, climbed, ran. They were faster than I. I drank, ate a gel, gasped, ignored my feet and kept on. I was going to finish! I was going to give it my all to do this. Why had it taken so long for me to decide?

Pretty soon I couldn't see them anymore, they reached the ridge before I. I stopped to pee. They got ahead. I wanted to hear cheering, to know they were there. I ran. I gasped. I trampled through mud. I gritted my teeth. I gave thanks for having placed them in   my  path so that I could change my mind and change my race. They were placed here for me, I just knew it! 

I heard it. I heard the cheering. They made it to Oberg! I began to laugh. I began to cry. I was going to make it to Oberg before 7. I wondered what time it was. Oh Lord, let it be before 7!

A woman was on the side of the trail. Did I make it? Yes. I'ts 650. Run hard, you'll have time to refuel. OK. I ran. I ran hard. I plowed off of the trail onto the parking lot. People yelled. Cheered. Yahhooed. Julie Bergged. It was incredible. Dad and Deena were laughing and so happy that I felt great, that I was moving, that I had changed it around. You look great!  We missed your last station you were so fast! I took charge. Here's my pack, I need it half way filled, please get my drop bag and remove the head lamp. I have 5 minutes. Don was there. Don, I didn't come 93 miles to have you stop me. Don was the clock master. Do I have 5 minutes? Yes, Julie 5 minutes. You got this!  OH no, no batteries in the head lamp. My good headlamp was a piece of shit, this piece of shit lamp was terrible. I've never come into Oberg needing lights before. I was LATE. Deena, there is a bag of batteries in the ziploc. Don, can you fix this up. I'll get my pack. You looked strong coming in here. I fake it well. Here is your pack. Thank you. Juli Aisters!  Hi Juli! You go girl. I will. I am. Paul Hasse!  Kurt! Kurt Decker!  High Five Kurt!  Julie!! Go Get it! You Got It. You go it Old School pacer, no crew, you go Julie! Darn right I do!  I found my will. Are you going to fix your feet? No Dad, I have no time for that!  I'm running. I have 3 hours to get 7 miles. I have to GO. Smiles, hugs, tears...running.

 Kurt, High Fiving Me Out Of There!

Oberg. I'm going to go for it.

I have another chance. I'm running. I'm drinking. I'm gelling. Mud. Frickin mud everywhere. Deep  mud. Grinding into my feet. No, I don't have feet.  Wayne and Anjanette. Where are they? They should be here by  now.. keep running. They'll catch up. Dan! Dan and Jamie, running so fast out of Oberg. Dan, I wish I could keep up with you!  You go Julie, you got this. You are my hero. Oh Dan, I'm not a hero. Yes, you are my hero. Wow. OK, I'll be your hero, I am flattered.

Anjanette and Wayne. I let them by, I follow them as best as I can. We run along. We climb. Moose Mountain. A 50 miler catches us. His first 50. We all climb together-straight up. Sweat rolling down. We have to move. Gosh it's hard. Climb. Climb. Climb. We pass Dan again. That's weird. Dan's a fast 230 marathoner. We all climb.

Down we run, toes squishing against blisters, block it out. Block it out. Think about the finish, about the people, the friends that have helped you today. This race has been all about the people helping me out. It becomes dark. Now I have even a sadder headlamp. A spare one. I've never needed lights from Oberg to the finish. Oh well. Be glad you are still in it!  You almost gave it up. Two times I almost quit today. For Realzzzz.

We run forever. What seems like forever. 20 minute miles, trying to go faster. Trying so hard. Up Mystery Mountain, loving the switchbacks, pitch black. We can see Wayne and Anjanette's lights ahead, then me, the 50 miler, Dan and Jamie. We are conquoring. We hear someone. It's Rick and Jordan! Go Jordan, your Gnarly Bandit!  We run past. We want to hear the river. That's all we want. We know when we hear the river we are getting close to the finish. It takes forever. Dan says it is 3 miles, 50 miler says it is 1.5...I figure its never coming. We trudge on. We descend again. Down into the bowels of the earth..the mud..the fucking mud. 

We hike as hard as we can FOREVER. It can't last FOREVER.

Listen? Is that the river? Oh my god, its' the river! We turn a corner and go away from the river. Ugh. Is that the turn you spoke of Dan, Dan, was it? Are we getting close. I demand an answer. I want a correct - in my mind answer - I want Dan to tell me we will be there in 5 minutes. He can't tell me that. We run on. The finish will come. We all want it so badly. We discuss how long it it taking. The anticipation. We make a sharp right. This is it!  This is the right! DAN, is this the RIGHT? Yes, this is right. Where the hell is the campground? We hear the wild loud river. OH MY GOD!  I hear cheering, people standing on the bridge. Dan says OK, Julie, we are going to run it in. Let's go. We run. We run fast. Up across the bridge, through the lot and onto the road. The sweet road. I run as fast as I can. I see two runners ahead. Oh my gosh, it is Stuart and Deb. No way!  Stuart!  I can't believe you are here! I thought he was hours ahead of me. We pass them and run it in, over the grass, next to the hotel. 100 miler! She's a 100  miler!  "Julie Berg, from Big Lake" Clapping, screaming, yahooing, she did it. I run across the line. Big hug from John. Julie, you did it. You did it again. You are it. He hangs the medal from my neck. There is Deena and Dad and the look of pride and relief and happiness in his eyes - that was all I wanted. Wow. I did it. 37:39. 21 minutes to spare. Crazy. Holy hell.

Congratulations from my friends-to my friends. What a day. What a couple of days. Sweet. Just sweet. Yes, definately worth the swollen feet of today. They heal. A DNF hurts much longer.

I look for Maria. I hadn't seen Doug all day so assume she was up ahead all day. There she is, all tucked in to the table, looking content, finished and safe. Amen!  Her third finish.

Thanks to so many. John and Cheri, what you have done is amazing. What a race. The runners, the volunteers, incredible. I want to do it again. And again. So many friends who finished that I congratulate: John, Susan, Stuart, Jerry, Kate, Adam (winner), Daryl, Jordan came in shortly after I, Travis a few minutes before, Marcus, Kathy, Brian, Scott, Peter, Kami, Troy, Nick, Anjanette. A finishers party.

The finish. Me and Pops.

Dad and Deena were going back to the townhome,  I said I'd hang about for a while. My stomach began to turn, I began to look for the bathroom. Ugh, no longer near the pool area-luckily I ran into Arika. She walked me to the bathroom. I then picked up my drop bags and milled about. I was beginning to get cold. I didn't see any food to eat or anything to drink...I didn't see anywhere to sit. I wandered back to pick up my buckle and star. Yay!  I had them now. I decided I might as well head over to the townhome, too. There wasn't anywhere for me to sit and I was starving. It was almost 11:00 PM Saturday. I had been awake since 4 AM Friday.

I said goodbye to many and began to head out. It was about a mile walk. I saw Deena from WI and her friend getting ready to leave. I asked it they would be interested in dropping me off...heck..I figured everyone had been helping me all day long..I might as well as for some more help. They were happy to help a tired 100 mile finisher out. They dropped me off at my door step.

I bathed, drank a veggie protein shake and collapsed into bed...but sleep wouldn't come. I was jacked up on caffeine and everything ached. No worries...I finished. Nothing was broken. Life is Good. Dream Big. Set Big Goals. Reach Goals. Yes, Yes, You Can!!!!

PERSEVERE!  The necklace I wore and continue to wear.

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.