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 doing..it 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.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Zumbro.. 2021 Covid Version

I have quite a few Zumbro race reports on this blog. They go back to the first Zumbro Fat Asses in the early 2000s, through the races and up to this past weekend.

If you click on the Zumbro label on the far right side a whole lot of Zumbro will show up!

Zumbro was cancelled last year due to Covid, was cancelled in 2019 and 2018 due to blizzards. I last ran the 50 M in 2014 when it rained and hailed. The final rain measure was 7" in 12 hours. Crazy for sure.

2021 Zumbro had a different format. Both a 17 mile and 34 mile option were offered. I signed up for the 34 and was so excited to get down there. Covid races this year have been a silver lining during a dark dark time. The races are small, there are no spectators or lavish aid stations and many hours are spent running upon the trail, alone. Definitely my jam.

The race would take place over 4 days with only 100 or entrants per day. I signed up for Saturday at 800AM.

I left home by 5AM and arrived to the race start at 740. I had enough time to change, pack my hydration pack and start my day. I very easily walked up to the start, squeeled with delight at seeing some friends whom I haven't seen in a very long time, heard shouts of GO JULIE as I started my day, running across the start line with a huge smile on my face. I don't think I stopped smiling the remainder of the day!

As I ran  along the course it became apparent to me that this course was very similar to the old fat ass runs Larry would mark out for us so many years ago. I would come across certain lookouts and recall certain memories with old friends. A lookout that John and I stepped off of the trail to witness, a path that Rick and I ventured down, a conversation that I had with Bonnie. So many emotions. Many additional climbs were added to the course and there was the nice flat road section to open up the hips and let 'er rip! It felt good to run a few 10 minute miles after all of the slow miles slogging through all of the mud.

Oh, the mud!  The course was covered with mud. Some of the soils were wet clay like, sucking shoe mud, as I tried to stay upright, calling upon my core to keep me steady. I didn't fall,  just kept on trudging forward.

I came into the first aid station and nearly broke into tears when I saw Donny Clark helping out. Don helped me run my first 50K training run at Afton State Park in 2001. It was great to reconnect again, it's been a while. Covid has put a lot of time and space between so many of us. 

At the next aid station I saw Bill and Chris, so great to see their friendly faces again, too!  I refilled my pack with water and moved on toward the finish of loop 1. 4 more miles of road to go for the first lap.

I came into start/finish at 3:55, feeling really great. Heard others holler out my name and encouragement, giving me a lift.  I ran into the start and ran back out. I didn't have a drop bag and didn't need more water. I was out on the second loop, smiling all of the way. The second pass around seemed to go more quickly, mentally. I had settled down, knew what was coming up, was finding my run nice and relaxed and was feeling fabulous. As I climbed a super hilly section I removed a PB&J sandwich from my pack and had lunch. My stomach was growling and wanted real food. I had been consuming a gel each hour, and drank 200 calories of Tailwind the first loop. I wasn't feeling Tailwind for the second, I'd stick with water. 

I came upon Brian and Joshua and ran a few miles with them, then opened up on the last section to the finish line and ran as fast as I could. I thought I may make 8 hours but I came into the finish at 803. Pretty darn close. I ran hard into the finish, I left it all out there. 

It was so great to see a handful of people that I haven't been able to see this past year or more. I lingered as long as I dared and then headed for home, basking in joy and a deep deep sense of gratitude. I'm so thankful to John and Cheri, all of the volunteers and the runners at Zumbro. What a delicious day!

Tuesday, January 05, 2021

16th Bloggerversary Post!

 Ah, 16  years ago I began this blog. It's difficult for me to believe that 16 years have come and gone but they certainly have. I turned 56 years old a few weeks ago, we rang in 2021. What a year 2020 was. 

I had an absolutely delightful birthday week. Runs with friends, runs alone, time with family, 11 days off from work..truly delightful.

My body is healthy-I capped off last week running with a total of 65 miles and feeling strong. I haven't run that mileage since 2016 when my body retaliated after Voyageur 50 miler. 

I'm in a good place. I'm listening to my body. I'm spending time outside with those whose company I enjoy. That's living life!

Awesome 13.5 mile run with friends on New Year's Day. 

A fabulous vegan loaf of bread for my birthday gift :)

Friends on my Birthday run!

2020 was very difficult with COVID taking over the world, upon my family and friends but I've hung in there, I've trusted in God and am coming through on the other side. That's all I can do.

Cheers to 2021!  We don't know what it will bring, but we can continue to be kind and take care of ourselves. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Wild Duluth 50K

Wild Duluth lived up to her wild name!  A few days before the race the weather reports were looking dicey. Lots of snow, freezing rain and wind. It was going to be an interesting day.

Due to Covid restrictions we were going to have a staggered start between 7 -10 AM, only 10 to a bus, no aid other than water at aid stations. Masks at start/finish/water stations. I was so excited to be able to run WD again. So grateful to the Holak's for allowing us to run.

I spent Friday night at Fitgers. I usually stay at Fitgers when not driving up race day. It's quiet, clean and I can always pick up last minute supplies at Trail Fitters. I picked up some gloves this visit.

Saturday morning I headed for Bayfront Festival Park to make my 630 AM bus departure, for a 700 start time wave. It was a beautiful morning. I had many layers packed into my hydration vest along with a PB&J, gels, sweet potato and rice. I was all set. 

I lined up with one other person at the start and Andy yelled go!  Off we went. In the darkness I could see the big wet flakes slowly falling to the ground.

My headlamp was only necessary for 30 or so minutes. I removed it and placed it into my pack. I was very comfortable in fleece tights, long sleeved medium weight top and light jacket, gloves and ear band. I pulled up my mask when I came upon a few runners, passing. The sunrise was gorgeous, making the snow flakes shimmer orange. Beautiful.

Every so often I stopped to take a few photos. The St Louis River, the large pine forest, the foggy lake. Spectacular.  

I felt good. Well rested, strong, enjoying each step. I noticed the snow was sticking to the ground, alarmingly so. I thought with the warmed ground that it would melt on contact. Not so. It was piling up on the grassy areas, the rocks and the boardwalks. The boardwalks were pretty trecherous.

As I ran along through the day a few of the faster runners from the later waves would catch and pass me, but for the most part it was a very quiet day. I was deep in thought, fully immersed in a day by myself, running away from the world and it's problems. 

The snow began to pile up. 3" in total by the end of the race. 

I came into mile 16 and was filling up my bladder which was empty. I had drained it during the first 4 hours. As I was filling it up, Doug Barton walked up. He was volunteering while Maria ran. It was good to see Doug, a friendly recognizable face, even through his facemask!  Maria began an hour after me so I never did see her out there. That was the only bummer of the race-with Covid and all of the precautions were weren't able to see one another nor hang out at the finish. It was so good that they took all of the precautions though, so that we could race.

I said goodbye to Doug and continued to scamper along the trail. The freezing rain began to fall. I could feel my arms were beginning to get wet. I didn't feel like stopping to pull my windbreaker out of my pack. I ran on. 

The beautiful trail. My quads were starting to get tired at about mile 27, a few  miles to the finish. I reflected on how grateful I was to check out of real life for a day and just enjoy myself, running down the trail. 

Eventually I popped onto pavement, following the next few miles to the finish. I felt tears upon my cheeks, trying to hold back. I couldn't. I was so happy and feeling such gratitude.

Pulling on my mask I came into the finish. I again saw Doug (yay), collected my shirt and cup, gave a million thanks to Kim and headed for my car. I drove home, smiling all of the way.

No pain, no tiredness, no low points. Just one hell of a lovely day to run.

Up next: Chesterwoods 50K November 8.