Monday, January 23, 2023

Northwoods Winter Marathon 2023

 If you remember, last year I took an incorrect turn and didn't make a check in after the first 13 miles. I continued on for another 13 miles but I did not get a finish. I was NOT going to do make the same mistake this year!

Andy emailed the participants that with 11" of new snow we could look forward to a slow soft course and encouraged us to drop down to the half marathon. I wasn't interested in that plan. I wanted a good long run so stuck with the marathon.

With a 930 AM start there was plenty of time for me to drive the 2.5 hours to Duluth, check in and still have time to get dressed in running attire and pack up my hydration vest.

I was surprised that as I drove to Duluth the air temperature kept going up. Normally the opposite takes place. By the time I arrived to the race start it was 23F!  We were going to have a warm day indeed.  

Andy checked in with me, letting me know that he added an arrow where I messed up last year. I told him that I did not hold him responsible for my snafoo at all-that was totally on me!  I must say though, when I came up to that arrow I gave it a pat and said thank you Andy!

The snow was soft and deep. There were some deep post holes where hikers and horses had travelled through but most of it was pretty decent. The course is just so beautiful. I enjoy the woods, the paths along the river, the hills. It really is stunning. Not many people enter the race, it is low key and you aren't coddled.  All plusses in my book.

I found myself running with Kate for almost the full first loop. The time went by too quickly!  Before I knew it we were running into the start/finish. I filled up my hydration vest which I had been wearing under my jacket to keep from freezing. As the volunteer filled it we noticed that I had completely drained it. I didn't realize that I had consumed 60 oz of tailwind during that 3 hours. It went down easy! 

I zipped back up and headed out for loop two. I picked up the pace as the course was a bit more packed down now with everyone having gone through once. It was foggy on the lookouts over the city/lake during the first lap but during the second lap the fog burned off, the sun came out and the views were fantastic!

I hadn't run a longer distance since Superior in September so it was good to learn that my hamstrings had healed, my legs were strong and I was back where I love to be. Effortless. I could run all day at this pace. 

Most of the second lap I ran solo. I'd come up on a person every once in a while but not very often. It was quiet, peaceful and meditative.

Running into the finish with a negative split, first in my age group and oldest finisher was a cherry on top of beautiful day spent running.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Spring Superior 50K 2022

 You just never know what the future may bring!  After a Covid race for Superior 50K last year we thought this year we'd have a 'normal' Spring Superior 50K. Nope. Torrential rains and record snowfall has wrecked havoc on the northshore. There is flooding, washed out bridges and roads, the Superior Hiking Trail was in pretty poor shape. John had rerouted us to other trails for the race but the day before had to make another reroute. We would now be running a two mile out and two mile back up a gravel road with 600' elevation each route x 8!

When I first heard this on Friday upon my arrival I couldn't quite comprehend it, nor could I wrap my head around it. What? We were going to be running a gravel road for 2 miles over and over? What? Wow.

I was disappointed at first, but then after a few minutes that disappointment turned into gratitude and relief that John was being safe and that he found another way to allow us to run!

It was a beautiful day, overcast and not hot, not terribly humid. Get this: I somehow managed to forget my bladder at home so had to rummage around my car to find a water bottle! I then wore my vest to hold my gels and things, a bottle in my hand. I'd been in trouble had this race been on the trail and I only had a bottle for hydration. I'd have made it but still. I found myself grateful that I'd have aid every 2 miles. Ha!

Out we went, up up up for two miles, and down down down for two miles. X 8. It was hilarious, but still, so much fun!  Almost everyone had smiles on their faces. We were able to see the leaders, the back of the pack, the 25K, the 12K and everyone inbetween. It was pretty incredible. I could stop to use the bathroom, have my drop bag, have aid, every hour. I was able to get a full day of hill repeats in!  I really have to say that I fully enjoyed this run. 

We had a little bit of everything for weather during the race. Sun, clouds, wind, calm, hail and rain. No thunder or lightening.

After I ran my 32 miles I hung around the finish and cheered in the runners. I was becoming quite cold. After Amy finished we went to find the bus to get some heat. A quick bus rid back to Caribou Highlands, a hot shower and delicious meal of roasted potato and veggies I brought along. I read a book on my deck and chilled. 

Sunday I again had a long run planned. This time I went to Tettegouche State park and ran 3 hours around there. A beautiful run to cap off a gorgeous weekend!

Chippewa 50K 2022


I wasn't sure that my feet would be up for Chippewa 50K after Zumbro 50 Mile only two weeks before and they were still healing from the blister fest of Three Days of Syllamo prior to that. Luckily, they had scabbed over quite nicely and I was ready to try them out again. For Chippewa I decided I'd try Injinji toe liner socks and wider shoes, the Hoka Speedgoat in Men's EE. I had tried them on a few runs and was optimistic. 

I rolled into raceday with :30 to spare so plenty of time to use the facilities, pick up my bib and mingle around. I hung with Maria, Doug and Jim before we'd head out.

I was happy that my pace and Maria's were again pretty close so we ran together the whole way out, catching up and reminiscing. It made for a fun way out. The course was in really great shape. There wasn't much mud on the way out and it was free of snow and ice. It really was a nice day. 

At the turn around I filled up my pack with water, emptied my gel and block wrappers and headed for home. I tried to go a little faster, run some of the hills and see what I had left. I was moving quite well and then it began to rain and the course became very very muddy. Oh well. Keep pushing.

I had a dozen stitches in my back after having a cyst of some sort removed a few days prior. I had extra thick bandages covering it for the race but ouch, it was rubbing and quite painful. I hoped I wasn't doing any additional damage. I hoped I wasn't causing an infection.

I removed my pack and tried to adjust it to relieve some of the pressure on the stitches. It didn't really make any difference.

As I began to hike the hills Maria and Tammy caught me. It was great to run with the to the finish. Maria hiked ahead, then ran up the final hill into the finish. I climbed the final hill following her with Tammy following me. 

What a fun day, a great adventure!  Chippewa 50K is always a blast. I changed into warmer clothing and visited for about an hour, cheering in the finishers. A quick rinse with the hose and I was ready to head for home.

The Big ZZZZZumbro 2022


ZZZZumbro is a race all unto its own. There really isn't anything quite like it, it is a three ring circus. There is the 100 mile, the 50 mile, the 17 mile and now after the Covid year, the 34 mile. It's rather nuts-in a good way!

I hadn't run the 50 (54) mile since 2014 or's been a while between cancelled years, snowstorm years, covid, etc. Poor Zumbro weathers it all but still comes out shining.

I do dislike the midnight start but it's good for me to embrace things I dislike, to become comfortable with the uncomfortable, you know? 

I worked Friday until 4, went home to pack up whatever I might need for an overnight run-hydration vest, lights, gloves and hat as it was going down into the 20's and there was snow on the ground the previous night, roasted potatoes, shoes, extra socks. That's about all I'd need, I was ready to roll.

I arrived to Zumbro by 7, ate my potatoes and hummus, tried to nap but really wasn't able to, tried to stay warm and waited until 1145. At 1145 I picked up my bib, said hello to a few people and stood around for the countdown to begin! At midnight we began the trek toward morning. 

The first loop I found myself with Maria and Kim, I was happy to have the company as we navigated the trail in the dark. It's tough for me to begin at midnight as I can't see well so I can't go very quickly and then by the time the sun rises I'm tired and can't move very quickly. Ha, poor me!  

We chatted the whole loop, I enjoyed their company immensely. My feet were horribly wrecked already so I knew I'd be taking a lot of time at the start to change socks, lube, shoes, etc. I'd probably add a layer too because I was freezing. My hose from my hydration vest was solid ice and I hadn't been drinking. Oh for shame. I ran to my car and began the long process of removing clothing so I could remove my shoes and socks, retape and lube my feet, change socks and shoes, add gaitors back to the mix, pants, another vest, thaw out my tube and get out of there. I took up SO much time!  Like 20 minutes, seriously. I never do that but I've been trying to really figure out my feet, which I didn't. So .. onto loop 2.

Loop 2 and the soils began to soften, the mud began to thaw and it was quite messy. My water was flowing though, my feet weren't getting worse and it was becoming win. I didn't run with anyone after the first loop, I didn't see many people out at all, I just kept moving on. I enjoyed the sunrise, removing my lights and thinking about changing into shorts when I returned to my car.

I ran to my car, ditched gloves, hat, changed socks and fixed feet again, grabbed gels, a sandwich and then water from the aid station. I was too lazy to remove my pants for shorts-and then I became too warm. Ugh. I didn't use any aid from the stations except for water at the start/finish. I've become quite self sufficient. 

Loop 3 was super muddy. Slip sliding away muddy. The sun was up, it was nice and warm, it felt cozy. I loved it. I continued with the same pace during most of the race, I felt very good. My feet were no longer blistering, I was moving well. As I ran into the final aid station I had to laugh. A man yelled out ' you are so bad ass you don't need to stop for water ' it was hilarious!  He was right, I never did have to stop there. I laughed hard and kept on trucking. I was able to run hard into the finish line and felt really really good.

I quickly changed clothes, milled around visiting a short while, dug into my cooler for my roasted potatoes and a protein shake and headed for home with a deep smile on my face. What a great way to spend a day. Thank you Zumbro!

Three Days of Syllamo 2022


I finally made it to Arkansas to run the stage race Three Days of Syllamo!  I entered a few years ago but ended up with double pneumonia so it was a no to. This year it was full speed ahead.

Lucky me: Maria made all the plans and arrangements and Doug did all of the driving and Sherpa -ing. All I had to do was run and run I did!

The schedule was 50K on Friday, 50 Mile on Saturday and 20K on Sunday.  The weather schedule continued to improve as race day neared.  It was sunny and warm all three days. Hurray!  A week prior my run was at -16F. I was ready for a warm up!

Thursday morning I arrived to Doug and Maria's at 445 AM for a 5AM take off. We loaded all of my stuff, played with their new pup TruckEe and headed out.  We had a pleasant drive all the way to Arkansas and arrived by 5 PM. We had plenty of bathroom breaks, two chocolate stops and a few food stops. One of the best 12 hour rides ever!

We checked in at Blanchard Springs for our race bib and shirt. After checking in we headed to our cabin where we would be spending the next three nights.  It was beautiful-two bathrooms, big kitchen and living area. It was sitting right on the river with excellent views.  We wouldn't be spending too much time here but what time we did spend was very comfortable.  Our race the following day didn't begin until 9:00 so we were quite relaxed in getting our things unpacked and together for the next day. I think I was in bed and asleep by 930.

Friday I awoke at 430 as usual. I quietly prepared my french press and started to get my things together for the race. It was chilly out, 26F, but the rain fell during the night and left a clear morning.

Doug schlepped us with all of our gear over to race start, about 20  minutes away. We milled around the start before the race director told us to go and off we went.

We began by running straight up a hill and then began to hike it. It was really nice to have a late and relaxed start as well as a long hike up the hill. The woods were beautiful and the air smelled like sprint. I saw purple and white flowers dotting the ground, what a beautiful sight! There were plenty of markings so I never felt like I was lost.

I kept removing my phone from my vest pocket to take photos of the landscape. Waterfalls, river, climbs and rocks - all very picturesque. The climbs were no joke!

Following behind Maria, letting her lead the way as I found my dirt legs after running in snow for so many months, was where I stayed.  I had a few "almost" wipe outs but managed to catch myself before reaching the ground.

Aid stations were plentiful. I stuck to water, gels and blocks that I carried myself. I had plenty.

We rolled into the finished in 8:30 having just been taking our time, enjoying the snow free trail.  Doug welcomed us to the finish line. Pasta and res sauce with garlic bread was served and I found myself famished.  I normally don't eat right after a long run but boy, I was really hungry and gobbled up a plateful. 

Soon after we ate we headed for the cabin where I ate oatmeal, peanut butter and a protein shake!  The slower pace and rough terrain really had me hungry. I needed all the energy! We cleaned ourselves up, repacked our packs and went to bed early for Day 2 which was an early 6:00 start for the 50 mile race.

I arouse at 4:00 again, quickly made french press coffee, grabbed my already filled pack, dressed, ate a slice of bread with peanut butter and we were off!  Doug again shuttled us to the start where we checked in and before we knew it were off for a 50 mile run.

This time we began in the dark and lights were needed. We ran down the paved road off into the woods, following up another long hill and along a river.  The sunrise was gorgeous. The group was separated pretty quickly and before I knew it I was off by myself.

Removing my gloves and jacket I was thankful I wore a sleeveless shirt and it was heating up pretty quickly. The high hit 80F eventually, something I was certainly not acclimated to!  I pulled out my phone as the sun came up to take some photos and later realized that I dropped outt he Advil that I had placed into the same baggie holding my phone. Bad mistake. 

At 10 miles I had to chuckle to myself because I realized my legs were already tired. Somehow I envisioned these three days of running would be like running a 100 miler with two nights of sleep and recovery built in and wondered  how hard could that be? Well, it was kind of tough!

I continued moving along, taking in all of the beautiful sights: the rock ledges, the outlooks, the amazing views. At 17 miles I came into an aid station and was famished. Doug was standing there with my drop bag and handed me my sandwich - it sure hit the spot. Doug is the best helper ever. He schleps us around, gets our drop bags, feeds us. He's pretty amazing. I noticed extra strength Tylenol on the table so grabbed a few for later. I no longer had to worry about not having and Advil.

My feet were beginning to blister quite badly as usual. I could feel the toenails begin to lift and move around. The bottom of my feet felt like they were oozing as well. I don't normally have blisters on the bottom of my feet but the small rocks were doing a number on them and I think my shoes were too small. I was wearing a women's extra wide Hoka Speedgoat when I normally wear a men's. Bad decision.

I crossed a creek with nice cold clear water and stood there for a while, cooling my feet and legs. It felt so good. I laughed as I watched a golden retriever and his human play and splash.

Up up up I climbed, on my way to the turnaround. It was fun running into the turnaround at 25 miles, I could see all of the others in front of me, in back of me. It was a great time and confirmed that I really was not all alone.

I ran back to the start, enjoying all of the beauty of the course. As I came into mile 30 I was shocked when told I was so close to the cut off. I only had 8 minutes on the clock. I hammered down as well as I could and decided I'd just keep moving until they told me I had to stop. I definitely didn't have my trail legs under me this early in the season. 

At mile 35 I was told I now had 6 minutes on the cushion and that the cut off was soft so keep pushing. I was fine with that. On I went.

I ran up to a group of 3 and listened to them talk about the cut off. They all had different opinions. One was told that she could finish as long as she was at 45 miles in 13 hours. One was told they didn't really enforce cut offs and that everyone could finish as long as they hit 50 miles at 14 hours. I figured I'd just keep running until they told me I couldn't any more.  

When I came up to 40 miles the aid station told me to move on, they confirmed to me that I could continue. Continue I did.

Mile 45 told the real story. We were cut. It made sense as there was no way we'd be at the finish by 14 hours. One girl sat down and sobbed. Her heart was broken, I felt badly for her, but I was fine with the decision. We probably should have been cut miles before. 

Luckily for me, Deb was working this station and offered I and Brenda a ride back to the start. Doug and Maria were there waiting for me. We all headed back to the cabin to share stories of our day.

My feet were macerated. I soaked them, taped them, elevated them and hoped for the best for the next day. I was thankful for a later, 9:00 start. 

I hardly slept at all, much like the previous few nights. I awoke at 400 and made my french press, ate bread and peanut butter, packed my pack and tended to my mangled feed. We put all of our belongings in the middle of the floor as Doug would check out with all of our things later in the morning. What a guy! Always taking care of us.

Doug drove us to the start where we were all tired but looking forward to a nice sunny warm day of 'only' 14 miles. There was an unmanned aid station half way through, otherwise we were on our own.

Again, we began a different direction to run different trails. We climbed straight up. Maria and I hung with a group fo 5 the whole way. It was so much fun. Our legs actually felt better than the previous days once we began. It's funny how the body becomes accustomed to the running over a few days.

I changed into my larger men's shoes for this run and my feet felt so much better. 

The route was a big loop. We went through pine, oak and lots of walls made of large boulder, looking over the valley. We drank Coke at the unmanned station, had awesome conversation, did a fair amount of hiking mixed with running and thoroughly enjoyed our time in the woods.

We ran into the finish just over 3 hours, hung out in the sun, visited with others, shared trail stores and then headed out for Kansas City, MO where we'd spend the night at a hotel.

I had my own room, showered and relaxed. Finished off my roasted potatoes and salad I'd been carrying with me. Sleep wouldn't come but I did rest. I awoke at 4 to make french press, packed all my things and was ready to head out.  Maria and I walked to an amazing coffeeshop before we headed to MN. 

Our trip home was thankfully uneventful. A few bathroom breaks, some eating from my cooler and back home before I knew it soaking in Epsom salts, draining my blisters.

A beautiful trip to the Ozarks, one I am so thankful for. The running was fabulous, the company wonderful. I hope to go back!

Friday, August 06, 2021

My 8th Voyager 50 Mile Trail Ultra

 I am so happy that I was able to run yet another Voyager 50 Miler Trail Race. Voyager was my second 50 mile race way back in 2001. I finished an hour after the final cut off of the race, when the cut off was 13 hours.  It has now been lengthened to 14 hours. 

In 2016 I hurt myself badly. Tendonitis, stress reaction, vascular cellulitis. I finished but was quite a mess. 

2021 was a breeze! It was hot and humid, but so delightful to be out running at one of my favorite races again.

My alarm woke me at 2AM, I left the house by 3AM and arrived to the start at 530, :30 minutes before start. I drove through a mix of hail, rain, thunder and lightening. We needed the rain but I did wonder what it might do to the trail.

The race was limited to 250 starters but I believe only 168 registered. It was a small race. A very very fun race!

We could start anytime between 6 and 7.  I lined up to start at 6:10 with Jim and Bill. We ran very easily down the paved path the first mile or so. Lots of laughing, jokes and easy running. I climbed the hills with purpose one we popped out on the trail, finding my place in the race. 

After the first aid station our little group split up. Bill ran up way ahead, Jim a bit after and I slowly jogged after them. I was planning to hit the turnaround in 530 and hoping to finish by 12. 

The fast 'winner runners' started after I did so it was cool to have them come up on me, chat a quick second and move on. I'd also see them come back which was the norm. It was really great to see everyone again. 

Aid stations were minimal and cut in half. Water, ice and oreos I think. I drank 180 oz of tailwind and 40 oz of water. Crazy. It was so hot. I was so thankful that there was plenty of ice and water.

The river crossings were nothing but rocks. Even with the thunderstorm passing through there was no moisture. I found the rocky SHT section very slow as I picked my way up up up the peak. 

I was pretty excited to see I was going to hit the turnaround at 530, where I set my goal. I decided I was going to take the time to take care of my feet. I had my only drop bag here. I came into the aid station and Bill and Jim were there. Bill was packing up ready to head out and Jim was shortly behind him. I took my time, cleaning my feet with wipes from my bag and applied desitin. Blisters were starting to form under my calluses. I'm running Superior 100 in a few weeks and need to practice caring for my feet. You'd think after all of these years I'd have this down to a science but I usually just don't want to be bothered with it and just pop the blisters as I go. This causes down time in the days after racing as I can't usually get my shoes on with popped blisters, inflammation and most painful feet ever. I knew that I had another big week of training beginning Tuesday and needed my feet to cooperate. I took 15 minutes to eat a sandwich I had packed and fix my feet. TIme well spent, it turns out.

I hiked out of the turn around with purpose, ran up the hill when I could. At spirit mountain I passed Jim and just kept on trucking. The SHT portion gave me difficulty again and I made a note that I would be training on the SHT before Superior 100. I have a reservation now for August 20 to spend the weekend up there running. 

The powerlines were still something else when though abbreviated as they are closed.I slowly climbed the exposed hill from hell, feeling my brain bake. I thought about the next aid station and all of the ice that would be available. This cooled me down. The power of positive thinking!

At the next aid station I came upon Bill. He was messing with bottles and taking care of himself. I had my pack filled, laughed and smiled as an aid station worker told me I had the best attitude and was doing what needed to be done. I was!  I marched out of there, heading for home.

Pretty soon I heard Bill come upon me. He had been walking the last 10 miles he said. I told him to just follow me. We'd get to the finish. He did, we ran when we could and hiked on the climbs. 

Eventually we came back to the bike path, knowing we would soon be finished. Bill had a bit more pep in his step all of a sudden, I told him to go for it!  He finished a few minutes before I. I made my goal: 11:52!! 

I felt so great during this race, no lows, no wishing it was done, no wanting to quit, no aches or pains. It was a great day. So much thanks to the volunteers, the race staff. the ice and water!

I hung around until the end of the race, cheering in all of the runners. Hopped into my car and headed for home. What a great day!

Superior 100 is up next. Hoping I can have a good day there, too!

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Black Hills 50K

 I ran the Black Hills 50K in 2018 and had so much fun I knew I would be coming back. I entered in 2019 but my dad ended up in the ER, trip cancelled. In 2020 covid made the cancellation. I was ready to visit again for 2021. 

On Friday morning I began my trek west to Sturgis, SD. I again had lunch at the beautiful rest stop in Chamberlain SD with Dignity statue, drove through the Badlands and Custer National Park, some hiking to Harney Peak and then landed at my cabin in Sturgis at the RV park. It's a clean campground, $49.00 cabins and just a great place to stay as they are the packet pickup location and the start of the 100 mile and bus rides out for other distances are only a few blocks away.

Saturday I woke at 4, ground my beans for my french press, dressed and packed. I was out the door around 545 to catch the 600 bus. I met Jenny who was also running the 50K, we rode the bus together to the start.

It was a beautiful day, dry, with a high forecast to be in the low 70s. Picture perfect.

Our bus arrived to our start - the 70 mile stop of the 100 - before 7 so we had over an hour to hang out. I was looking for Erika to come through as she was running the 100. I was also looking for Amy, as she was pacing one of her friends. Pretty soon I noticed a blue Bill Pomerenke shirt. Sure enough, there was Andy, Erika's husband, pacing. I then saw Erika. I ran over and gave her a hug and congratulations on her 70 miles covered, and after running Kettle 100 two weeks prior. She finished Black Hills, too. Amazing.

Finally 800 was near and we here herded down to the start. Off we went!  We were all on top of one another for quite some time as there are quite a few cattle ramps in the first few miles. They have to be taken very slowly as they were wet and slippery. I just hiked, took my time, moving forward. It was cool to know what would be coming up, to remember portions of the course. 

The course is really amazing. Long climbs straight up, single track coming down, over and over. There were some jeep roads, some ATV paths, mostly singletrack. I'd run through soft pine trail, such nice footing, to hard small rocks interspersed upon the trail, to sand, to grass. The views were amazing. Jagged walls of rock, soft rounded rock, vistas overlooking the forests below. 

In 2018 there were ropes to help cross the rivers, the water was over my waist. This year there was NO water in the rivers. NONE. It was so dry, although it had rained the night before. The ground sucked it right up as the trail was not wet or muddy at all. 

As I was running up one of the dry creek beds, littered with rock, I fell. All of a sudden I was down flat on my belly with a sore knee and skinned nose. I lay there, stunned. A man who nearly fell on top of me helped me up exclaiming 'damn, now I've lost my pacer'. He just wouldn't pass me, he stayed directly in back of me for miles although I asked him to pass. I was glad to see him go on. I should have just stepped off the trail earlier and forced him to move on. I walked off my pain, making sure my knee was stable and that I couldn't see any bone. It was mostly a skin wound I think, it swelled and bruised quickly. I wondered if it would knock me out of the race. I vowed to pay attention and would not over do it by any means. I didn't mind dropping from a 50K if that's what my knee needed. 

Eventually I caught up to the people who passed as I was laying in the trail. I was feeling pretty good again. My knee felt swollen but not real painful.

It was great to cheer on the 100 milers as I came upon them. Some looked terrible, some looked fresh. I knew what they were going through. I moved along, enjoying right where I was, running free.

At the final aid station I saw part of Erika's crew. They expected her to finish around 33 hours or so. It looked like it was going to storm, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to hang out at the finish to watch. I was so glad that she was still moving forward.

Pretty soon I hit the pavement, knowing that I was only 2 miles to the finish. I finished in 2018 in 7:58 and it looked like I could finish in 730 this time around. I was pretty amazed. With a fall and a sore knee, I was still going to PR the course.

Running into the finish line, collecting my finishing coffee mug, breathing a deep sigh of gratitude.  This. This is what I love to do. 7:22. Wow!

Happily, I recognized Jodee's face in a sea of people. We talked a bit before I began to freeze. I walked back to my cabin and changed, heading back to the race finish. The rain began and then the downpours. I walked back to the cabin and changed again, staying in this time!

What a great race, a good effort and a beautiful course. Next year I'll try the 50 or 100. Why not?

Friday, June 11, 2021

Chester Woods 50K

 I wasn't sure how the legs would feel for Chester Woods 50K after running Superior 50K only two short weeks prior. Luckily, I was feeling completely recovered and ready to roll!  

With a 600 AM start I set my alarm at 2AM so I could leave home by 3 and arrive to race site by 530. Everything went to plan. I pulled into the lot at 530, collected my number, packed my hydration vest, worried about the 98F heat forecasted and rolled out to the start line. It seemed that some participants had decided not to start, the group seemed pretty small. We didn't have a wave start nor did we wear masks. Covid was in the rear view mirror. I'm thankful to be vaccinated. 

I scouted out Amy and Steve, saw Carl and Dave, Lynn and began to run. Oh man. Hot. Amy and I ran together the first 8 miles or so, enjoying our conversation and the landscape. It felt pretty good so early in the day and there was a good stiff wind that didn't yet feel like a blow dryer to the face.

As I finished up the first loop in less than 2 hours I became disoriented as I saw so many people - like tons of people at the start. They then began to scream and cheer for me. It was crazy. I then realized that they were the 5K/10M racers. I quick went to my car to refill my bladder with tailwind, drank .25 can of ice cold coke and ventured on back to the course for loop 2. 

Dodging the runners waiting for the start was chaotic. They were so kind, cheering me on, yet I was being careful not to run into anyone. Sweat was rolling into my eyes, making it difficult to navigate! After running half a mile I could here them come upon me. It was nice to see new life, new legs, new energy running alongside of me.

Loop 2 was great!  I kept on keeping on, saw Jim and Bob, Carl, Lynn and Dave. I ran the loop solo, just kept chugging along. As I was finishing up a man caught up to me. When he told me he was running the 10 mile I commented that I was finishing up 20. He said 'oh, here I thought I was catching up to a fast person. I assumed you were running the 10. I looked at him like he was a nutball and apologized for not being a fast 10 miler as he wished. Good grief! Finished up in 2:14.

Running into the start / finish the second time was very quite. I didn't see a soul. I refilled my bladder again, finished off the can of coke, grabbed a few gels, a puff off of my inhaler..the heat and humidity was taking it's toll .. and moved on out of there.

I knew the last time I ran this I finished in 644 and I really had felt I could beat that time..until earlier in the week I saw how hot it was going to be. Running into loop 3 I was still feeling OK, thought it could still happen. I put some ice in my hat and bra at the aid station, lubed up my feet again and kept on pushing. There were wide open meadows where the heat was insane. I just put my head down and tried to jog on through. The shady wooded areas were amazing. 

Running past Jim again I gave him a hug, knowing that he'd be finishing up 50 miles soon after my 50K. I met Amy on her way back out as I was coming inbound. I was going to finish this in a PR course time. I reminded myself to take care of myself. Keep drinking, keep gelling, when dizzy slow down, keep pushing but don't push too hard!

I ran into the finish at 626. Yeah!  First GrandMaster Woman and a Course PR. Tough day in the heat, but I'll take it!

So much fun visiting after the race, watching my friends come in. Just like pre Covid times!

 I'm so grateful to be able to run again, to be free, uninjured. What a blessing. One I hope to continue.

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Super Superior 50K

 I've posted so many Superior Trail Race blogs that I have run out of titles!  Each race is so different, yet the path I travel is the same. 

Covid style Superior 50K was so filled with so much joy. John and Cheri were holding the race for 4 days, 250 racers per day. I was running at 6AM on Saturday.

As I travelled from home to Lutsen I stopped to hike/run a portion of the Split Rock Loop, Temperance and Poplar River. My condo was ready early so I was able to check in and explore some more. 

6AM Saturday was warm, humid. I was stunned. It was going to be a warm day - that turned out to be an understatement!

It was really great to give out hugs, to not be wearing masks at the start, to keep space but still feel 'normal'. I began with Maria and her son Ryan, who would be running 3 miles out with her and then back. After Ryan turned back Maria and I hooked up for the rest of the race. What a treat!  We've run many miles together on the SHT but I don't think we've run a race together. 

The heat and humidity were oppressive. I was soaked, luckily, my body was doing what it was suppose to be doing. I was sweating profusely, drinking 180 oz of water in total, half of that was mixed with Tailwind. I consumed 8 gels and a package of shot blocks. I never became hungry, dizzy or thirsty. Just hot. So hot.


Maria and I made our way along the trail, taking in the beautiful flowers, ramps, full foliage on trees and ferns. It was gorgeous. 

As I huffed and puffed up Carlton Peak to the turn around Maria mentioned that the cut off for the race was 4 hours here, she wanted to make it. We picked up our climbing page, I lagged, and made it with a few minutes to spare. There was not a cut off here, today. The final cut off at the finish was 11 hours or so. We had plenty of time.

We turned around and worked out way back to the start. It was fun to see others coming up the trail that we had just run. I was able to give out hugs to runners I haven't seen in so long. 

On the way back I stopped at Oberg to fill up on water one more time. I had a final 7 miles left to cover before the finish line. I was overheating. My fingers were swollen, my watch was tight, I was so wet and had only peed once. I continued to drink, continued to soldier on. 

Maria had the best idea ever. She text Doug to ask him to have two cold Cokes at the finish line for us. Oh my gosh, that is all I could think about. Cold coke!

The Course;

Before we knew it we were running down ski hill road toward Caribou Highlands and the finish line. We ran together, crossing the line, so grateful to have spent 8.5 hours together, across this beautiful land, down this amazing trail.

The Course:

Doug came through and offered us our Coke!  I guzzled it down, allowing the cold liquid to cool my parched throat. It was divine.

What a great day, so grateful to spend it with a good friend, doing what we love!

Note: Look at our fat fingers!!

Monday, April 26, 2021

Chippewa 50K 2021 = Covid Style

 I was so happy when RD Jeff stated that the 2021 Chippewa 50K Race would be taking place. He did such a magnificent job with Mindy Creek Marathon last August, I knew that  Chippewa would be much the same. Chippewa would take place over three days, 50 runners each day. How sweet is that!  I had entered last year so entered again for a Saturday slot.

Because Chippewa is only 2.5 hours from home I've never spent the night near the race; I prefer to sleep in my own bed and head out early. I arrived to the race course at 730 with plenty of time to collect my things as well as  myself for the 800 start.  I wouldn't need  a drop bag or anything, everything I needed would be on my back. It as so weird not seeing so many great friends that I normally see at this race. Some ran Friday, some were running Sunday. What a weird weird year, albeit much better than last. 

I packed my hydration vest, collected my bib and a very nice sweatshirt that I had preordered, said hello to Jeff and Patrice, a few others and went back to my car to await the start of the race.

Feeling Euphoric

At 800 Jeff told us to go so off we went. It was raining, near 40F and windy. I chose shorts, a long sleeved top and a windbreaker which I removed and put back on 3-4 times during the race to keep off rain, snow and ice. There was a little bit of everything along the course!  The trail was in great shape, not very muddy, mostly dry and soft. 

Each time that I have  run Chippewa I realize that I forgot how beautiful it was.  The course is a constant roll of hills, all singletrack, next to many many pot hole lakes which come right up to the trail. The lakes are clear so that I am able to see the rocks and water life through the glassiness of the water. Much of the trail is laden with soft pine needles, there is a blue heron rookery along the course and many bridge water crossings. The Ice Age Trail is truly beautiful. There are a few campsites along the way and one of these days I'm going to camp along the route. I'd love to spend more time picking my way through, taking in more of the views and then nestling in my sleeping bag under the stars.

I found myself swelling up with gratitude and admiration of the trail, ( my eyes teary, my nose running) of the outdoors, of nature, of God.  It was overwhelming and at times I found myself getting emotional. I tried to pinpoint the reasons why and all I could come up with was how happy I was to be right there, at that moment, taking in the fresh air, the dirt, the lakes, my body moving strong and healthy. My mind happy. It was hard to put words to. I think that because for the first half of my life this is something I was never able to do, nor anything that was within my wildest dreams of was difficult to walk, much less run. Here I was, running for fun, for peace of mind, for health of body. I was in awe of it all and so grateful that after 25 years running is still such a joy.

Into the first aid station at 5 or so miles I didn't need anything. I thanked Patrice and continued on. I began to reflect on the other Chippewa 50Ks I had participated in.  This would be my 5th Chippewa. My first one wasn't until 2011 as I ran 6 x the  McNaughton 100 Trail Run the week before so would volunteer at Chippewa instead. I remembered that my first Chippewa run was a few months past the radical hysterectomy I had. It was hard for me to get my breathing under control during that race. I remembered that it took me over 7 hours. I remembered 2018 was the first race after injury and an 18  month recovery.  Ugh. What a lesson in patience and letting go that was! That race was a gift to me, I knew I'd make a come back. I also remembered it was over 8 hours (806). So many memories upon this trail. 

Running into the second aid station at 10 miles I was feeling euphoric. I didn't need anything, just ran through and said thanks. I began to chide myself for feeling so good. I couldn't hold it in. I was euphoric and bubbling over with joy. I passed a few runners in the driving rain, hearing comments back that I was enjoying myself too much. I really was.

As I climbed up the hills I found a strength I haven't always had. I was able to run up the hill, crest it and run back down. I felt strong.  I came into the  turn around, emptied my gel trash and just turned right around as I didn't need anything here, either. I'd get water at 24 miles. 

Running fast (for me), over the roots and up the hills, a man that I came upon called me 'hill master' I had to chuckle. Hills have never been my strength. He was very kind. As I ran on I began to catch those that were ahead of me at the turnaround. The runners were kind as I ran past, commenting on my smile, my attitude, my pace. I responded to a runner that I only have one pace 'steady'. He told me he had gone out too fast and was suffering for it. He told me he could learn a lesson on pacing from me, that I was so strong.  I told him, quite honestly, that I don't have to worry about going out too fast...I didn't have that bone. He told me I was killing it. Another asked me if I was part goat as I  passed him on a hill.. I've never heard such complimentary things as I've run past others.  This was a nice, a very nice change of events. I thought back to some of the negative / crazy things I heard from  some of the Zumbro runners two weeks ago  and reminded myself not to take those things so personally or seriously.

Still euphoric, I ran into the mile 24 ish aid station to fill my bladder. I was ready to hit the last 10 miles and see if I could keep this euphoria, this steady run.

Running past hikers, dogs I stopped to pet and talk to, coming upon runners that I was able to pass, it was really something. It was such a treat. The rain stopped and a flicker of sun came out across the trail. I raised my arms and let out a sound of pure joy.

I began to count down the miles, thinking I might make this run under 7 and possibly, my best Chippewa 50K time, whatever that was as I really didn't know.  As I hit the last 2 mile mark I looked at my watch. I still had time to hike up the last blasted hill to the finish line. I might do this. Running hard, I came up to the hill, put my body into hiking mode and made it to the top, running into the finish.

6:53. I didn't know then that this was in fact my best Chippewa time. The finish time didn't make this such a joyous run. The run, the landscape, the breath of my lungs, the movement of my body, the calm of my mind, the joy. It was intense. So intense. All of these things made this such an incredible day.

When I arrived home I was recounting the day to my son, Tyler. I tried to put to words how much I enjoyed ultrarunning, how much joy I had felt upon my run. I couldn't find the words, I couldn't find the explanation. It just is. It. Just. Is.  I feel so blessed.