Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Superior 50K

I last ran the Superior 50K in 2013!  I can’t believe that 6 years have passed. I then went on to run Superior 100 in September of 2014. I have not done any training or running on the Superior Hiking Trail since. I have volunteered by marking, sweeping and working the aid stations but no running or training. The SHT is like nothing else that I train on. 

I went up north early and spent a lot of time hiking the north shore.  Gooseberry Falls, Crosby Manitou,  Cascade River, Bally Creek, Grand Marais,  I had a blast.  I really enjoy time in the woods by myself.

Friday I made my way to Caribou Highlands. I had a great lodge room with a window seat overlooking the finish area. I could watch people mingle about for check in.  I walked over and picked up my bib, visited with friends, had a fun time.

Race day morning was cool but dry. 31F so I wore tights, long sleeve top, gloves and packed my windbreaker. I filled my pack with 60 oz of tailwind, gels and a few advil. I was hoping the rain that was forecast would hold off.

John started us off and away we went, running down the short asphalt stretch to the beauty of the trail. We were clustered up, 200 of us trying to find our place.  Climbing right away, navigating the rock and roots reminded me of what this portion of trail was like during a race. I had to slow down a bit, catch my breath, let others pass and collect myself.  I was finding my pace.

I came into Oberg Aid Station 7.5 miles at 1:40. I didn’t need  anything from the station, just the smiles and high fives. I ran through, thanking all of the volunteers. It felt good to run fast through the flat parking lot! 

The climbs were no longer taking a toll on me, I seemed to become more strong as I went along. I wasn’t having any pain, no tiredness or anxiety. I was pushing it as fast as I dared to push without tripping or getting hung up in the mud.  There was a lot of mud.  I found that I was holding back. I don’t quite have the confidence back to let loose on the trail and really run hard.

I came into the second aid station as hail began to pelt me. I couldn’t stop laughing. What else is one going to do? I had my wind breaker in my pack but didn’t feel like pulling it out.  I ran through the aid station, not needing anything, toward the turn around.

As I was climbing up the mountain I ran into Amy Clark, whom I’ve been running  with each Monday since December. It was so great to get a big huge smile and hug from her. She was coming down the mountain with her friend, Erin, whom I hadn’t met before. I felt a real boost as I continued to climb.

The turnaround was a blast, of course. Hail pounding all around me, festive volunteers offering twinkies  and fireball (no thanks). I had a few laughs and began my trek to the finish line.  3:36 to the half way mark. Could I finish in 715?

As I came into the next aid station I decided to fill my pack. More tailwind, emptied out my gel foils. I was ready to move. I spent less than 2 minutes getting ready.  As I left the aid station I noticed that the mud was pulling my sock down into my shoe. My sock was so heavy and wet that it wasn’t staying up on my ankle;  it kept falling down. Although I was wearing gaiters me  feet were still covered with mud and it was grinding between my shoe and ankle. This was  causing friction and pain. Dang. I didn’t want to stop to try to deal with this. How was I going to make it better? I didn’t have any other socks, I hadn’t packed any drop bags. I didn’t have anything to make this situation any better…so I just continued to run, hoping for the best but figuring a painful blister was forming. Hmm. A blister might keep me from my 4 and 5 h our runs Saturday and Sunday. I don’t want that. Hmm..well, keep running. I will buy longer socks in the future, that is for sure!  This rookie mistake caused negative space into my brain which I didn’t need. I began to ignore the growing blister and ran on.

As I came into Oberg I was still feeling so great.  I hadn’t had any lows , no crashes, I was steadily moving along. I cruised over Mystery and Moose mountain without any problem. My neuroma were quiet, I was so blessed. 

I thought about the Superior 100 in 4 short months  and then this thought gave me anxiety. Man, I need to begin to wrap my head around that race again.  I’ve finished 3 of the Superior 100’s, the last one in 2014. It was the muddiest of years and I almost quit at one point. I don’t believe that anything can be as difficult as that race was for me, which makes me feel OK about any other attempts.  Any other attempts just can’t be as difficult as 2014 was.

I realized that I didn’t think I’d ever run on this trail again. This is a rough trail and I was in no shape to run it just a short year ago. Now, here I was, sailing through, feeling like I could push it, yet afraid to. 

Afraid of what? Afraid that I might fall. Or that I might hurt myself. Afraid that I might become tired or low on energy. Um, afraid to stretch out of my comfort zone. So many fears that I can over come.

Before I knew it I was on the pavement, ready for the finish line. I felt a twinge of sorrow as I wasn’t quite ready to be finished with this grand adventure. I then ran around the pool, into the finish line. I was greeted by an explosion of clapping and yelling of my name, photos and hugs. It was amazing.

7:18 First Women's Grand Master. Almost an even split. 

A few days after the race and I am back to 100% I believe that soaking in a cold bath helped decrease the inflammation. I no longer binge post race on sugary items. Post race I eat as I do any other time.  I walked Sunday and Monday. Tuesday I ran for thirty minutes and today I’ll run for 45 minutes. I have back to back long runs this weekend. 4 hours Saturday and 5 hours Sunday. I’m working toward a 50 mile finish at Black Hills, where I ran the 50K last year. I’m getting there. I am back and I couldn’t be happier about that!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Chippewa 50K OH WHAT FUN IT IS

I’ve had some bad luck making it to race start lines this year. I had entered Three Days of Syllamo in Arkansas for mid March. I had planned a fun vacation with fellow runners, staying in a beautiful home on the river and running dry trail for a few days. That didn’t pan out. A week before the race I came down with what I thought was a cold but when I spiked a temperature I realized it was more than a cold and thought it was probably bronchitis or something like that. A doctor appointment confirmed double pneumonia.  What a bummer. I was out of that fun.

I recovered quickly and then was going to run Zumbro 50 miler the first week of April. Well, Zumbro being Zumbro…we were hit with a blizzard and the race was called off. I was actually relieved that John cancelled the race so that I didn’t have to drive down there-I would have and it would have been dangerous.

With Chippewa 50K around the corner I wondered what could possibly stop me from lining up. I was hoping to break the bad luck.  I kept reading on social media that snow and rain was forecast for race day but I didn’t pay much attention. I’ve been running in snow and ice since November and really couldn’t care less what the weather was, along as it wasn’t another blizzard.

Last week as I ran 4 hours at Afton I noticed a lump I’ve had on my back for a few years began to become irritated, larger, and maybe infected. I tried hot packs, tried applying pressure and couldn’t get anything to release from it. I made another appointment to the friendly doc. I didn’t realize she’d removd it and stitch me up at the same visit. She told me it was a very deep sebaceous cyst, about 3mm deep and round. 12 stitches later I was on my way home. 

I forgot about those stitches until I put on my pack Saturday morning. The pack landed right on top. Ouch. I tightened down my pack and hoped the stitches wouldn’t interfere. They didn’t!

Race day was dry and cool, the trails were beautifully set up, a bit of softness and only a few sections of mud. It was a glorious day!

Last year I finished the race in 806 so I was hoping I could finish with a faster time. Last year this was my first race back after 18 months off so a faster time shouldn’t be difficult. I’m also 38 pounds lighter. Big changes.  I kind of thought 3:30 out and 3:30 back would be a good plan. 7 hours total would be magic.

I started the race  with light tights, long sleeved top and a light windbreaker; gloves and ear warmers. It was 33F. I wore that jacket all of the way to the turn around and was comfortable all day.

The lakes were full, some flowing out of their shorelines up onto the path. It was so much fun to run around them, skirting the water, running along the soft moss. 

The course is an out and back, it’s so much fun to see all of the runners coming back as I am going out. It felt good to be running at a faster pace this year, a few minutes per mile made a big difference.  I came into the turn around at 325, very happy with my pace. I wasn’t running too fast, I was very comfortable, running well within my ability. Greg filled my pack, I emptied my trash and cruised back to the start, enjoying every step. Truly enjoying every step.

While running these events I am always thinking about, wondering about, trying to put into words what I love so much about running. It sometimes evades me. I enjoy spending time along in the woods, I enjoy focusing on only me, only placing one foot in front of the other. I enjoy endurance. I feel like I can conquer so much through endurance. I can squelch feelings of depression and anxiety, of self imposed restrictions. I am open, feeling, not trying to cover feelings. I let them flow and feel. I feel so much joy. I feel so much joy that I feel my heart flutter...and why? Why so much joy? I don't know, but I fell it..wholly.

I drank 60 ounces of tailwind and 3 gels on the way out. On the way back I drank 40 ounces of water and 4 gels, 2 cups of coke. I felt well fueled with plenty of strength and endurance. I didn’t have any low points, I was reveling in the beautiful woods.

50K is such a great distance. I’m comfortable with it. No pain, just fun. They don’t take all day long to run, the recovery is pretty fast, if something goes wrong it can normally be turned around. 

I came into the finish at 657, elated!  What a blast, it truly was. Spending the day with friends, swapping race stories at the finish, watching others finish, all of the things I love to do. I feel such gratitude, like I am really blessed, to be able to do this again. I love it.

Coming up is Superior 50K, then Black Hills 50Miler. I haven’t run  a 50M since Voyager 2016, after becoming injured there I wasn’t able to run again until 18 months later. I’ll be very conscientious as I run Black Hills and  be sure not to cross that line from joy to injury!! I can do it .

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Northwoods Winter Trail Marathon


I was so excited to hear that Andy Holak was bringing back the Northwoods Snowshoe Marathon in Duluth. As the Northwoods Winter Trail Marathon.  I always loved that snowshoe marathon!

The new race would take place on different trails, with option of snowshoe or trail shoe. There would be a half marathon and full marathon option. I was all in. I was going to run in trail shoes.

I stayed at Fitgers on Friday night and attended the trail film festival/packet pick up at Iron Works. It was so much fun! 

The race didn’t begin until 930 so I had lots of time in the morning. In fact, I felt like I needed a second breakfast before start time!  I began with 2 bananas and an orange. At the start while waiting I ate a sweet potato.  I was all set!

The weather was uncharacteristically warm. The high the day before was 42 degrees and at the start it was already 32 degrees with a forecast of 40. Unbelievable. It made for very warm, wet conditions. The snow was deep and melting, it was so soft and hard to maneuver through. 

I was surprised that we were able to run on these trails as most are public use and fat bikers use them. I saw people skiing, biking, snowshoeing and running. We were making deep footprints on the trail. We were really messing it up.

The conditions were real tough. We were post-holing through the snow, up mid calf through some of the trail. The snow was too soft to run on top of, we just sunk. Within 2 miles I had to remove my windbreaker. I was glad I had a pack so I could just stuff extra clothing away. It was very warm.

There was an aid station at mile 7. It took me over 2 hours to get there!  I  didn’t need anything, I just trudged on through. I had plenty of Tailwind in my bladder and a good supply of gels.

The trails were just gorgeous. We ran along Hawks Ridge fat bike trail which is perched high above the Lakeside neighborhood with incredible views of Lake Superior and the City. It truly was amazing…yet incredibly difficult to run through.

As I was running back to the start I began to think about how long it was taking me.  It would be 3:30 hours before I finally got to the start/finish again. I began to worry about daylight. I began to worry that it would take me to dark to finish. I hadn’t brought a head lamp. I never dreamed it would take me so long. I began to listen to others complain about the conditions. Their feet were cold and wet. They weren’t going to continue. I began to take a self check. I felt good, strong. I wasn’t sore, I wasn’t cold. I was working hard but sure didn’t want to stop. My only concern was daylight.

I decided I wouldn’t worry about the light. I wasn’t going to stop because of something that may not even happen.

I ran into the start  and asked if anyone had a head lamp I could one responded so I refilled my bladder with water and threw away my empty gels. I asked a group of women if they were ready to head back out with me but they were all dropping. I was so shocked.  I said so long and headed out.

I was hoping the trail would have been in a little better condition for the second loop but it really wasn’t. I was still sinking into the warmed snow and doing a lot of sliding.  I decided to make an effort to run faster so that I would finish in daylight.

I didn’t see ANY other runners for the whole second half. Not a one!  I began to wonder if anyone else was running the marathon.  I was running a good two minutes faster per mile, I figured if it was getting dark at the aid station, mile 20, I could stop there. I trudged on and made it to the aid station at 2:45PM. I had a good two hours to do 6 miles in the light…I figured I could go for it.

I continued on, picking up my pace as I neared the finish. I felt so good, so strong, so happy. I loved the trails, the beautiful views of the lake, the overlooks of the city, it really was incredible.

After 6:30 hours I came into the finish. It was a great effort. I was thrilled with my :30 negative split. It was daylight. I made it! 

After I finished a volunteer walked up to me with an age group award. I couldn’t believe it. 1st Place 50-59 and 3rd woman overall.

I had a spectacular time. A great day!