40. My birthday plan.

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Okay, so here’s how this went – I wrote up this entry *before* I went and did all the things. And then, today, I added photos from doing those things. So it’s a little whack with chronology or whatever, but I think you’ll get the idea!

It’s just a number. I honestly don’t have much opinion about birthdays. Half the time I have to ask my husband how old I am when asked. But this year I turn 40 and I’m using it as an excuse to do all kinds of things. The biggest being running a 100-mile race in October. Because I’m turning 40 this year and… why not run 100 miles to celebrate that? Well, that’s in October. That’s like… 3 months away. Today is July 11. I will most likely be driving/working on my actual birthday, which is July 16. Yesterday I found out I had an extra day off for my “weekend,” which is now (Thursday and Friday). So that means I have 2 full days off! Like a normal person’s weekend! But so last-minute. So naturally, I kicked into gear and came up with a Toots-style birthday plan. And I’m going to try to hit all the things on my list. Here it is:

  • Run 40 miles (because duh, I’m turning 40, so what else would I run?)
  • Swim in a lake afterwards (because it’s the best feeling ever to swim in a lake after a long, hot, sweaty, buggy, summer run.)
  • Eat a greasy, delicious, drippy cheeseburger from the Hamburger Haus, which is one of those little local burger joints that’s only open in the summertime.
  • Get a waffle ice cream cone from Kelley Country Cremery on my way home.
  • Drink an ice-cold beer in the shower.
  • Eat birthday cake. Which is going to be extra-special this year. You’ll see why!

So that’s a lot of things, but if I do them all in that order, I should be able to check them all off the list with pure enjoyment.

Running 40 miles.

As I mentioned, I chose 40 miles because I’m turning 40, and that makes sense. I mean, right? That’s what most people would do… It’s also a training run, because my 100-miler is less than 100 days away (99, actually). So to make the most of my time home doing these fun things while also getting in as much time with Adam as I can (finding this balance is always a challenge), I decided to start my run between midnight and 1am. This is like triple-duty, meaning I’m A) getting in fatigue training (I’ll be running this on little sleep); B) getting some more night-running experience; and C) getting time on my feet (and for more reason than just a training run, which adds to the fun). I thought I’d give myself 12 hours to do the 40 miles, which comes out to an 18 minute/mile average, which is more time than I think I’ll need, but it’s self-supported, and I want to take some breaks, take pictures of flowers and my feet, yell at bugs and have fun and not worry too terribly about time, yet it’s quick enough that I can’t just hike the whole thing and take breaks and yell at bugs and take pictures of flowers and my feet. I think it’ll be a good balance. So that’s got to be a part of my birthday plan.

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Of course my perfect birthday day includes a run on the Ice Age Trail!!

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I ended up dropping my 40-mile goal down to 40k instead because I got a late start and wanted the extra time over the extra miles (and as it turns out, I was super-tired). I was totally cool with this decision, and actually wish I’d have thought of the 40k goal from the start. It’s still 25 miles and it was a great training day.

I’ve done a lot of training runs, fun runs, hikes and backpacking trips in the Northern Unit of Kettle Moraine. It’s a great place to train because the terrain is challenging, it’s single-track trail, it’s the Ice Age Trail, and there’s more reasons, but whatever, it’s just a good place not too crazy-far from home that I can get into the woods for hours and hours on some amazing trail.

 

The swim: One time I went for a long run and it was so freakin’ hot that I was completely drenched in sweat and the bugs had eaten me alive so I was covered in welts, blood splatters and I had dead deer flies caught in my salty hair. I stopped at Mauthe Lake Campground and jumped in the lake in my running clothes while all the beach-goers in their cute bathing suits watched me like I was a crazy person. It felt so amazing that I had to keep my mouth shut so I didn’t make orgasmic noises after resurfacing from my first dive into the water. It was just so exhilarating. So that’s got to be a part of my birthday plan.

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Such a refreshing way to wrap up a long run in the woods!!

The burger: Then one other time I stood in line behind 15 other people in the hot summer sun at this cute little outdoor burger shack in Dundee, WI while motorcycles grumbled past at an almost constant rate and little kids with dirty faces from last-night’s s’mores chased each other around the picnic tables. It was a perfect, small-town Wisconsin campground-area summer day. I made my order, sat at a picnic table and ate a burger with a crusty bun while I ignored the stream of ketchup-mayo-grease concoction running down my forearm until I was done. Then I licked it off and looked around to see if anyone saw me do it. But I didn’t care if they did. It was a really, really, really good burger. So that’s got to be a part of my birthday plan.

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The Hamburger Haus. Such a great little spot!

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Seriously, though. This burger!

The ice cream: I love ice cream. If I could only eat one thing for the rest of my life, I would choose ice cream. There’s this place that is on my way home called Kelley Country Creamery that has this super-delicious ice cream, and again, one time after a run I decided to hobble inside for a waffle cone. I don’t remember what flavor I got that day, because I know I wanted a scoop of every single one, but I sat outside trying to watch the cows graze in the field while I ate it. I say “trying to watch the cows graze” because my eyes kept rolling back into my head in pure, innocent, ice-cream-induced bliss. I might have a problem. So that’s definitely got to be a part of my birthday plan.

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This place has some tasty ice cream!

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I splurged and got a double-scoop. Lee’s mint and some sort of brownie explosion.

Shower beer.

Summer means shower beers. Well actually, so does winter. And spring. Fall, too. Shower beers, if you haven’t experienced one, are great. You should really try it if you haven’t. There are even really cool beer-holders that you can install in your shower to hold your can while you suds-up your hair and whatnots. I have the Sudski, which I placed on the back wall (opposite the shower head) and up high so the water doesn’t get into the can (or glass if you’re having a shower daiquiri, which is also very nice in the summertime). Those that know me or follow my Instagram have seen photos of my shower beers. Next time you go for a hot summer run, bikeride, or just got done doing some grueling yard work, and you’re all sweaty, dirty and hot, grab an ice-cold beer and jump in the shower with it. The warm water and cold beer combo are something to be experienced. If you don’t drink alcohol, that’s okay, too. I’ve used cold seltzer water, and that really hit the spot. Soda would work if you’re a soda person – the point is… get something cold and bubbly and take it in the shower with you. It’s one of my favorite things to do… so… that’s got to be part of my birthday plan.

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Sick of the shower beer thing yet? Oh well, I’m not stopping. ;)

Birthday cake.

This isn’t going to be just your normal birthday cake situation. I had Adam order me an 8-inch double-layer german chocolate cake from Manderfield’s, which is an amazing freakin’ local bakery, and I’ll pick it up on my way home after my run tomorrow. The thing is with cake… is it’s really good. Have you ever heard the comedian Jim Gaffigan say the line, “do I sit in it? Or do I eat it?” Well, that’s kind of how I always feel when I eat cake. I usually carefully slice off dainty little pieces with my fork, then slowly slide it off into my mouth and eat it slowly, trying to really savor the moment, because we’re all always trying to not eat a whole cake because we’re adults and know that it’s not healthy and cake is “bad for you” and you should only have the 1/4 of a sliver of a piece because of all the reasons. Well, for my 40th birthday I’m saying f*** that. I’m taking this delicious, professionally-made, yes-I’m-going-to-say-it moist cake, and I’m going to absolutely destroy it. You’ve all seen the one- or two-year old in the high chair eating their cupcake, right? They dig their hands right into it. They shove it into their face. They get it on their forehead, some lands on the floor for the dog, and most of it, maybe, gets eaten. That’s how I’m going to enjoy my 40th birthday cake. I’m just going to shove it into my cake-hole (because cake > pie) and not give a single crap about anything but enjoying everything about it. This, I think, is going to be the highlight of my birthday. I’ve been thinking about this one for months and months. So, that’s got to be part of my birthday plan, too.

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That’s how you do it, my friends. At the end of the video from my birthday day, you can see me destroying this thing. It was so much fun and I will definitely be doing it again! Maybe whenever I eat cake from now on! Haha!

Let’s do this 40th birthday thing! I’m um… pretty excited. Cake.

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Cake beard.


Tonight I love birthdays.

A video I put together with clips from all these things throughout the day. Cake destruction is toward the end.

A race report for a 5k?

Wednesday night, July 3

What will happen when a long-distance runner decides to run a fast 5k on a whim? Well? Let’s see.

I decided to do a race report for it – to be funny at first. I mean, what would I have to write about?

I woke up and paid $30 to run 3.1 miles with a bunch of people I don’t know and it was super-fun.

But the more I thought about things, the more complicated I made it, so maybe it’ll end up being kind of interesting. Or maybe it won’t. We’ll know tomorrow after the race!

Race details

The Fox Firecracker 5k

Thursday, July 4th at 7:30 am

Kaukauna, WI

Swag: t-shirt, medal, an American flag and apple pie (yum!)

So to start, I haven’t run a 5k race in… forever. I honestly don’t know what the last one was. Or when. So when I realized that if I hammered down from my trip out to Pennsylvania and New Jersey this week, I could possibly be back home in time to run our local 4th of July 5k. So I stepped on it. And I did it – I made it back late tonight (Wednesday). Adam even head over to packet pick-up earlier today and registered for me to make it official.

I’ve got a bib number, so… here we go!

When I first thought of this idea, I was just going to run to the start line (it’s 2.2 miles from our apartment), register that morning and toe the start line and have fun. But I was driving my truck… all day long… and so I was thinking… and thinking is dangerous sometimes… and so then I thought to myself, “I wonder how fast I could run it?”

Well, shit. Guess what? Now I’m planning on givin’ er. I decided I’d see what I’ve got in me. I’m not trained for this – to run fast. I’m trained to run long and slow. So yeah. This is going to hurt. It’s going to be hard. I will most likely have regrets. It’s possibly really stupid. Will I injure myself somehow? Can I even injure myself in just three miles? Probably. There are so many unknowns, and for some reason I’m really excited about that. Tomorrow morning at around 8 am I’ll be cursing myself, and maybe wanting to die, but for now it sounds like a good old, painful, torturous, fun challenge. Once again, what in the hell am I even doing?

I’m gonna bonk. We all know that, right? But when? 1 mile in? 2? 3? Will I pass out? Will I poop my pants? Will it all be amazing? I don’t know.

Goals. Because why not?

My normal time running around the 5k mark is usually about 32 – 33 minutes during training as of late, but I’m also not really caring about my 5k time. That’s a pretty slow and easy pace… for me, anyway. I know I’ve got it in me to do it under 30 minutes, and I’ll be disappointed in myself if I don’t hit that. But I’m sure I will.

Next goal would be to finish in under 27 minutes, or less than a 9-minute mile average. But… if I’m being honest, in my dumb head I’m hoping for faster. But I have no idea, at this point, how much faster. I can usually pace myself pretty well, but for this race I’m just going to go out fast, probably bonk my ass off, hyperventilate and maybe embarrass myself across the finish line somehow. I’m ready for all that.

Also, a fun side note – I turn 40 years old on July 16, so this will be my last race ever in the 30-39 age bracket. So what the hell. Let’s do something dumb for fun and go for it. Now I’m going to go to bed (I need to be up in 5 hours for this thing) and I’ll check back in tomorrow after the race and tell ya’ all about it. Good night!

RACE DAY Thursday morning, July 4

Before-the-race thoughts:

Nutrition plan: Why am I laughing at myself right now? Am I making a nutrition plan for this 5k now? Funny. Anyway, I’m going to eat OATMEAL for breakfast! Whoa! Considering I’m a low carb/high fat kinda girl, this is pretty weird. Usually low carb/high fat works pretty good for the long, slow stuff, and usually I fast for the start of all my runs. (Okay, now I’m having second thoughts about breakfast. Crap.) But see, my theory is this – for the fast stuff you burn up all the glycogen, so I dunno. Eat carbs for the short, fast bursts? Oh my gosh, you guys. Am I gonna end up on the toilet all day? Why do I never seem to know what I’m doing or what I’m talking about!?

Water and things.

Gear (because LOL): I’m going to wear my BAM-POW shorts (at Adam’s request) and a blue, swirly, kind of unmatching tank top (both by InkNBurn), along with my cheapo sports bra and my… Bedrocks or Luna’s?… sandals. I don’t know which to wear. I’ll go Bedrock. Orange ones. And I’ll wear my blue Brooks running hat in case it rains. My Garmin Fenix3 watch, Road ID bracelet (so they have Adam’s phone number when I pass out across the finish line), and a headband around my wrist to wipe sweat away. And a pony tail band. And an unconfident, awkward… smile? Okay, I thinks that’s all?

Adam asked me last night, “So why *can’t* you just run his this thing for fun?” I didn’t know the answer. I could? I guess? I thought about it too much? Because I’m crazy and a little dumb? Probably just to push my limits again. I don’t know.

Okay, gotta go get ready.

After-the-race thoughts:

Well, that wasn’t a big deal. I should’ve run it faster. Dangit. I feel like I should’ve pushed until I puked or something! (I’m laughing to myself as I write that because I’m just kidding. Kind of.)

Of course, halfway in, I’d have slapped someone if they told me to run it faster because my stomach was getting queezy, it was humid, and I was breathing pretty heavy. But overall, it didn’t suck as bad as I thought it would. Which makes me wish I’d have pushed harder. But it was still SO fun! Glad I got to do it!

Results:

Chip time: 25:40

Pace: 8:15 min/mile

According to Strava I PR’d. Neato.

I came in 174th place, and I overheard there were 1500 racers, so I don’t know what that means, and it doesn’t matter much, but it’s another stat. Stat, stat, stat. I didn’t shat. That’s what matters. Haha! (I’m still hopped up on adrenaline.)

I guess my age got missed somehow. But I think I was #14 in the 35-39 age bracket. (I would’ve been 5th in the age 40-44 age bracket.)

I don’t have much else to say! I ran it as fast as I felt I could without throwing up or passing out. I was very out of breath at the end, had a little tummy ache, and felt just a tiny bit dizzy. So I think I did okay there.

Before the race I ran out of time to eat oatmeal so I was gonna just eat an apple instead. But I didn’t end up eating that, either. I ran it on 20 oz. of water, a 12 oz.-can of cold-brew coffee, and 10 oz. of Tailwind. And my tummy was a little sloshy at the start.

Um… What else? Gotta make it long, because this is a race report by Toots.

Just a photo of toilets.

How about more pictures?

Why, yes. That *is* me sitting on a porta-toilet.

Happy 4th of July! 🇺🇸

My biggest fan. I love this guy. 💓

Endless apple pie! It goes on forever! And ever!

Very cool medal! Very fun, well-organized event! Yay for races!

Tonight I love apple pie and America.

Kettle Moraine 100, 2019: My 100k Race Report

(Photo credit: Mile 90 Photography)

Race Info:

June 1, 2019

Nordic Trailhead near Whitewater, WI

There is a 100-mile, 100k, 50k, and a 38-mile fun run

I participated in the 100k (62 miles)

The 100k race consists of a 31-mile out and back on the Kettle Moraine Southern Unit of the Ice Age Trail

Focus, Robin.

I ran 62 miles on Saturday. Then on Tuesday I Googled “Potawatomi 150.” Now, why can’t I just focus on one thing at a time? I was still recovering from the 100k that I’m going to tell you all about in a minute – AND I’m already signed up for my first 100-miler in October. FOCUS, Robin… focus.

The very first thing I’m going to share here is that my race went really well. It’s a spoiler alert. I didn’t have any major breakdowns, I didn’t puke and my feet did not fall off. My legs got sore, my feet got sore, my butt chafed a little, and I lost my appetite at about mile 55, but the most dramatic it got was balling my eyes out in the pouring rain because it, along with the thunder, was so beautiful, fun and electric that I couldn’t stand it. I just couldn’t. And a couple of other times I cried when I thought too hard about my crew standing in that rain, waiting at the next aid station, just to cheer me on to the next one. So I got emotional a few times, but it was due to overwhelming gratefulness and happiness each time. During that rain downpour, slopping through foot-sucking mud (I mean, it literally made an obnoxious sucking noise as each step would sink my foot into wet mud up to my ankle), I felt more alive than ever. Just so… so alive. If I ever wanted a “why” for doing this crazy shit, there it was.

Muddy and fun and smiles. (Photo credit: Mile 90 Photography)

So with that, I’ll list some of my stats here next, which you can skip if you don’t care, and that’s totally fine – a lot of this is for me to look back at when I inevitably won’t remember any of the specifics and want an easy reference. After that I’ll get into my crew, a brief (maybe) section on my training, what I did for nutrition, my gear, and other snippets of race details along the way as I think of them. It was such a fun day, and I hope I can really get that across here. I mean, what? I think it was like mile 46 when I did shots of Fireball with the crew from my favorite podcast. Yeah. That’s just an example. Fun.

My stats:

Total miles: 63.1

Total time: 14 hours, 16 minutes

Overall pace: 13:34/mile

Elevation gain: 6,040 ft.

Overall rank: 27/97 (63 men, 34 women)

Gender rank: 7/34

Age group rank: 5/15 (but I was awarded 2nd place here)*

*So I was awarded the 2nd place medal in my age group when I crossed the finish line, which was a shock to me – I mean, I never even thought once about placing. Anywhere. And it felt pretty freakin’ cool, if I’m being honest. After the race I pulled up the online results and my age group results did show me as 2nd – but the overall results show me as 5th, so I’m pretty confused by this. I don’t know if maybe the 3 other ladies in front of me dropped down to the 100k from the 100-mile on race day, which, I believe means they aren’t eligible for awards?? I emailed the race director just to make sure I wasn’t mistakenly given the award. If I was, I’d like to send it to the rightful owner!! But either way, this in no way hampers my thrill with my final results, because… holy shit I went so much faster than I thought I could!! Below I’ll post a video from race day. You will see that I keep mentioning that I was afraid all day that I’d bonk. I was running faster than I thought I would – or probably should – but if felt very comfortable, and it was almost an effort to slow down, so I just kept rolling with it and ended up with a pretty steady pace all day. I did place in the top 10 for women, so that is… insanely awesome. Stuff like this makes me question what I’m capable of. And it scares me. Because I don’t want it to go to my head and make me push too hard in future races to chase awards. It’s a fun perk if that happens, but it’s not what I’m out here to do. I just want to keep having fun at this. Ya’ know what I mean? Gah, I’m so proud of myself, but at the same time… I gotta bring it back in because that 100-miler, I think, is going to be much tougher than this one. I even told Adam, “I’m going to make it a goal to NOT place at my 100-miler just to get it out of my head — so I don’t push it too hard.” I just want to finish and have a fun race! (Okay, again. One thing at a time, right!?)

Posing at the finish with my finisher’s buckle and age group award.

Also, an interesting sidebar on these results – I ran my 50-miler in Marquette, MI last August in 14:18. I ran this 100k in 14:16. I ran 12 more miles, and my total time was 2 minutes faster! Crazy! Now, there’s a lot of factors that can go into that, though. A couple of biggies – first, my training was probably more consistent for this 100k, and second, the terrain was a little easier. Now don’t get me wrong, the Kettle Moraine 100 is not an easy race. But… I just think the terrain was easier than Marquette. There were a lot of long, runnable sections at this one. There are actually two separate units of Kettle Moraine. This race was in the southern unit. I train mostly in the northern unit. And I’ll be honest here – the terrain in the southern unit felt easier than the northern unit. Those long runnable sections really made for a fun race because I could just go into autopilot and run for a few miles at a time. So in the end, I don’t know, it was just a good day, a fun course, and a great race.

Training:

It was March 2nd. I was in a funk. I finished the Frozen Otter in January, and since then I was having trouble getting back into any sort of training plan. I was only running a couple times each week for short distances and just overall feeling lazy and yucky. That day, on March 2, I was driving my truck down the road, feeling sorry for myself, and making all kinds of excuses why I wasn’t exercising more than I was. But all of those excuses felt fake. I felt like a fraud. The only real excuse I had was that I was being lazy, and I had a race I needed to eventually start training for. So I just decided to stop talking at myself. I decided right there, rolling down the interstate at 63 mph, that I was going to at least walk one mile every day for the month of March. I was calling it my “no excuses mile-a-day challenge.” At the next rest area, I pulled in, parked my truck, got out and walked circles around the parking lot until I reached 1.35 miles. It snowballed from there. 92 days later I ran my 100k. I ran a few longer runs in between there, climbed a couple of mountains when I got a load going out to Washington, ran a bunch of little shorter runs over the road, but you know which miles ended up being the most important? The one mile I walked at midnight after a really long, stressful work day after finding a spot to park my truck in a tow zone at a service plaza (because it was midnight and parking is full everywhere at midnight). I did my post-trip inspection, and immediately walked around the parking lot until I got my mile in. It was the best part of my day. Another time, at a rest area, I woke up a early to do a little run around all the parked trucks before starting my day and it was pouring rain outside. I put on my damn rain jacket, stepped out of the truck and went anyway. No excuses. There was also a couple of times I ran after dark. No excuses. That’s what I kept telling myself. I always figured, if nothing else, I can walk 33 laps around my truck to make a mile. I should be able to do that anywhere. 

Top of Mt. Si in North Bend, WA. Mountain climbing is good training! It kicked my butt in the very best and most rewarding way!

My training really picked up once I got my momentum back from my March challenge. I continued it all the way until… well, it’s still going today. And I plan to keep going because it’s doing good things for me. But anyway, I ended up with a couple of high mileage weeks – mileages that I never thought would even be possible as an OTR trucker. I hit a 40-mile week, then a 50, then a couple of 60’s, and even one 70-mile week! I felt ready for this race. I hope I can slow down a little here for a month or so, but I also hope I can pick it back up and do something similar for my 100-miler in October.

This photo was actually taken during a training run. A large portion of the race looked just like this, so I guess that training session worked out!

Also, in addition to all the running, I sprinkled in strength training. I keep that pretty simple just so I am more likely to be consistent with it, and the exercises I do are usually things I can do inside the cab of my truck with dumbbells or a kettle bell. I do this strength training 6 days every week, and each workout is anywhere from a short 10 minutes to 30 minutes, but it’s usually the former. Monday I do legs (squats, lunges, straight-leg deadlifts). Tuesday I do arms (bicep curls, tricep extensions, push-ups, shoulder presses). Wednesday I do core/abs (elbow plank, side plank, sit-ups, russian twists, side bends). Then I repeat, Thursday legs, Friday arms, Saturday core/abs. It’s simple, and it’s been working.

A sidebar about training: I reached a point during my peak training weeks when I started hitting 60 miles where I started to feel runner’s guilt – or something. I don’t know if that’s an actual term. But with my schedule, I’ll usually get one full day at home. So if I get done with work on Sunday afternoon, I’ll have all day Monday off, then I’ll head back out Tuesday morning. So my one day that I have an opportunity to get in a really long training run that will allow me to test my new foods and any new gear, is that one day I have off. That one day off is also the only day I have to spend with Adam. If I count in 8+ hours to do a training run, plus the travel time to and from the trailhead, that’s the majority of my day. Add in prepping for the run (making my food and gathering gear), and being tired when I get home from the run… that’s it. That’s my day. And I fell into a pretty deep guilt hole for a while, naturally. I’m still working on that. This is a pretty selfish sport, and I know that. I am pretty much dedicating this year to ultrarunning because I got it into my damn head that I want to run 100 miles after I turn 40. Goal oriented? Obsessed? Probably both. But it’s good for me. It’s good for my mental health, it’s good for my physical health, it’s fun, and it keeps things interesting. Some of the places I run while I’m out on the road are experiences in themselves that I would otherwise miss out on if I weren’t training for races. So I’ll continue on and do my best to balance my time and communicate that all with Adam.

My diet was also pretty consistent through the couple of months leading up to the race. With all the running and my diet being pretty good, I actually broke through a weight plateau. I’ve been sitting around 165 – 170 pounds for a couple of years, probably. But one day I stepped on the scale and it said 159. Then 155. I always feel better running at 155, so I was excited. The numbers don’t really matter THAT much to me anymore these days, but I do see the correlation with feeling amazing and that number being in the 150’s. So I’m going to see if I can keep it there throughout training and up to my next race. Then after that? Pizza. ;)

But really, I’ll just mention my way of eating here, but briefly. Only because everyone is so very different, and I in no way want anyone to think this is the “right way” to do it, and my “diet” is kind of controversial. But it just worked for me. I do “sort-of” keto. I would say it’s more generally low-carb, high-fat. Or maybe a mix of all of it. I stay away from sugar and grains. So I steer clear of candy, soda, bread, oatmeal, chips, crackers, quinoa – any of that stuff. I eat lots of meats, veggies, berries, fat and cheese (although I’m trying to cut back on dairy because I think I’m a little sensitive to it – I actually cut out heavy whipping cream, which is sad because I love the stuff so very much). This has actually been working for me because the low-carb thing trains your body to burn fat more efficiently, which is a much longer-burning fuel than carbohydrates. So during a long, sustained run, my body can use its fat stores for energy and go for a long time without my having to constantly shovel Gu gels and shit into my gullet — and those Gus and sugary products all tend to make my stomach upset, and then I stop to poop every mile. That does NOT equal fun. When I’m eating well and staying away from all the sugars and carbs, I feel amazing and my guts feel better for longer stretches at a time. I also practice intermittent fasting on a fairly regular basis, so my meals are usually calorie-dense, meaning I eat quite a bit at one sitting, which also feeds my inner binge-eater, but it a much more healthy way. One of the biggest things I like about being low-carb is that my cravings are almost non-existent, most of the time. I don’t know. Like I said, I don’t want to get too much into it because diet is so personal, and I know there’s a lot of good and bad about keto out there, and it’s now falling into the fad-diet category. Just a note – you can do keto all-natural, super-easily, without all the crappy products on the market for it now. Dammit, whatever you do, just eat real food. That’s the best thing you can do. Aaaaaanywho… it’s workin’ for me. You don’t have to do keto. Or Paleo. Or Weight Watchers. Or the South Beach Diet. You do you. What works for you, works for you. Find that thing, and do that thing. If I were forced to preach anything, which I am in no way justified to do because I am far from being an expert at this crap — just eat real food. Okay, I’m done now. So, on to nutrition for the race!

Testing out a sweet potato puree squishy real-food energy thingy (I seriously need a better term for these things) during a training run.

Nutrition:

As I’ve mentioned, I practice a low-carb, high-fat lifestyle, mostly. When I do long training runs or races like this, however, I take in more carbohydrates, but I try to do it strategically. A huge disclaimer? I really have no idea what I’m doing. It’s a constant N=1 experiment, and figuring out things that work for me is a really fun part of all this stuff. To start, I almost always start my runs, no matter how long, fasted. I feel my best fasted, so I run until I feel like I need to eat. Then I eat. This usually seems to happen around an hour into a run (it depends on effort, too). So if I’m doing a shorter run, I’ll hydrate, but won’t eat. On longer runs (and what I did for this 100k), I’ll start out fasted and start taking in calories consistently when I start to feel I need them. This race was an eye-opener for me. The day before I ate pretty poorly (lots of ice cream. Like… lots of it). When I do that, the next day will leave me feeling really hungry, even if I’m not (it messes with the hormones that regulate the feeling of hunger). So at around mile 2-3 of the race I felt hungry, but I waited to see if it would pass because that was highly unusual. I’m glad I did. At mile 5 it felt like someone flipped on a light switch. I think my body said, “oh, we’re doing this again? Let’s use fat instead.” The hunger was gone and I felt great. I went to about mile 15 before needing to eat.

The aid stations at these races are insane. There is so much food. And I wish I could handle running for an insane amount of hours AND eat all that amazing, delicious food, but if I want to feel good during the race, I can’t do both. So I now, so sadly, avoid most of the chips, cookies, gummies, and delicious aid station snacks. I can’t eat Gu or Hammer gels. I can’t handle gummy bears or electrolyte chews. If I need salt, I take a Pure Vitamin Club UltraSalt tablet. I do sip Tailwind, which is an electrolyte drink with calories in it, so I have that as an almost constant carb-trickle. But as for solid food? I realized that if I take in something that I need to chew or work at, so does my digestive system, which is already taxed, because my body is using every resource it has to fuel my muscles, which I think eventually has led to GI issues in the past. So I now make my own pureed food that I can eat on the run and my body doesn’t have to work too hard to use. And I really like them. It’s basically natural baby food. And I love it and it’s been working amazing. These are the ones I use so far:

  1. Sweet potato, olive oil, pink salt, pepper
  2. Sweet potato, pure maple syrup
  3. Avocado, avocado oil, cinnamon, honey, cayenne pepper
  4. Fresh almond butter, strawberries
  5. Coconut milk, chia seeds, vanilla extract

Squishies! If you decide to try these, and you buy those GU-brand bottles, make sure those are really pureed good and have no chunks at all. The other kind of bottles shows here (there’s a bunch of varieties on Amazon) have a larger opening, so if there’s a chunk of strawberry or chia seeds, for example, it’ll usually still go through okay.

I’ve tried an egg salad version, and it was really yummy, but the thought of eating eggs and mayo on a hot race day doesn’t sit well in my head. I’m also thinking about making a split pea one with peas, ham, salt and pepper. And, the avocado one is my favorite. I think it tastes kind of like cake batter. I just puree the crap out of all the ingredients and put them into a bottle made for GU-like gels. Then while I run, I can just squeeze them into my mouth and get my calories, carbs, and real-food nutrition. And to be honest? The aid station food actually didn’t really tempt me. I didn’t want the Oreos and potato chips, so I think I’m doing something right. Again, I have no idea, but I’m trying! The only things I did grab out of aid stations was watermelon (twice) because it’s SO damn good, and a few sips of Coke once I started taking in caffeine (which I also hold off on until I feel it will help me). Other things I threw into my mouth on race day were Pickle Power (an electrolyte drink that tastes like pickle juice), the Pure Vitamin Club Ultra Salt tablets, Tums (after mile 50 when my appetite started to go a little bit), an ice-cold seltzer water, a Starbucks canned espresso drink and a cold-brewed coffee. I think that’s pretty much it. It was nice to keep it so simple. And I pooped twice. Once before the race started, and once after I crossed the finish line. Success.

Gear:

This one should be fairly simple. I wore a visor, a small neck gaiter (to easily wipe sweat from my eyes), an Under Armour racer-back tank top, Ink N Burn 6” shorts (no thigh chaffage for me, thank you very much), a Nathan VaporHowe race vest, a cheap sports bra and my Bedrock sandals. A couple of things about the gear that stands out:

The race vest. I probably could’ve run this race with a handheld bottle, as the longest distance between aid stations was, I think, 5ish miles. Some were even less than that. But I like bringing my own nutrition, and for my 100-miler, I imagine at some point I’m going to use my trekking poles, so I want my hands free with hydration easy to get at. So I do use my bladder for plain water that I can consistently sip on. I also use one of the soft-flask bottles for Tailwind, and I refilled that at almost all of the aid stations (who had jugs of Tailwind already made up since they were a race sponsor! Awesome!). Also, using the pack, I have a place to stow all my own smushie pureed foods that I made up. And it’s comfortable. I did have a little bit of chafing on my back, which I’m guessing is just because of the 3-layers of sport bra, tank top and vest rubbing in there somewhere. But it was manageable and I didn’t even notice it until after the race. If I can remember for next time, I’ll reapply a lube of some sort in the trouble spots.

Very comfy race vest!

The almighty footwear. I get so many weird looks, some people tell me straight out I’m crazy, some say I’m badass, some don’t say anything, some I overhear talking about how it’s not good to run in sandals. Whatever, again, just like diet, everyone has a right to their own opinion. Sandals work for me, and I’m going to keep using them until they don’t seem to work any more, if that ever happens. I honestly don’t see the major difference between running in sandals and running in shoes. Neither are perfect, and they both have pros and cons, and it’s up to the individual as to which one weighs in with more pros. So shoes have a little more material and you wear socks. A lot of shoes are zero-drop now and so minimal, that it’s basically a sandal with a thin layer of material formed around it, anyway. I do get chafing from the sandal straps sometimes, but I don’t get blisters like I’d get with shoes. So I feel as though that’s a pretty even trade-off. And during this race, with all the mud and wet, I didn’t get wrinkly feet or trench foot. In fact, I was a little kid again running through mud puddles, aiming for them, and feeling the mud squish between my bare toes. It was great. The chafing does hurt though, I won’t lie, and the biggest downside to it is that it’s inconsistent, so I can’t seem to find one single thing that causes it every time so that I can eliminate it. I’ve tried adjusting them in different ways, and I’ve tried to pay attention to dirt, sweat, mud, wet, dry – all the different possible scenarios, and none of them seem to be consistent. So I have a race-day “foot plan” instead. I had my mom carry the “foot bag” to every aid station in case I needed to address this issue. In that bag I had duct tape, which I can use to tape the actual sandal strap if it feels like it’s being abrasive. I have Leukotape, which sticks pretty good to my skin, so I can apply that to a hot spot if I catch it in time. During this race I started in my Bedrock sandals, but I had my Luna sandals in the foot bag so I could change sandals completely if the Bedrocks were bothering me enough. I had a pair of Injinji toe socks that I could wear to put a layer of something between the sandal and the chafe. I even brought a pair of running shoes in case all things worked against me that day and I just needed a break. Thankfully, the Bedrocks performed great and I didn’t need to even open the foot bag once. I did have a few small chafe spots on my feet from the sandal straps, but I didn’t even notice it while running and they were healed up within a day or two. I did end up with a tender blister underneath the callus on the ball of my right foot. I have pretty thick, crazy calluses, so this happens sometimes – it happened when I wore shoes, too. I think this happens when I neglect my callus and don’t keep them a little trimmed down. I was still able to run, but it just felt a little tender after the race and took about a week to really dry up to where I could shave it down and work on the callus. Ahh, feet. They can be so gross. But I love them so much because they do so much for me. And I love to run in sandals. So I’m going to keep on doing it.

A timing chip designed for shoes with laces – cable ties to the rescue!

Mid-race. Those are truly happy feet!

Weather, terrain and trail conditions:

The weather at the start of the race was cooler (I think it was in the 60’s) and overcast with rolling thunder off in the distance. It was a little humid, so that was challenging, but having the sun hiding behind the clouds really helped with that. There was also a small breeze now and again, and I honestly was loving the weather – it just felt pretty comfortable. About 6 hours into the race the sun came out and it got straight-up hot for a little while, but that was short-lived, too, because then it started to rain. And then there was lightning and loud “CRACK”s shortly after. And then it POURED rain for a little while, which I loved so much it made me cry. That was somewhere just short of 50 miles, I think, too, so I was feeling emotional and tired. But it was a great experience.

There was a pretty cool storm that rolled through, and the lightning was striking all around while we were exposed in a meadow, so that was a little scary – but exhilarating, too.

The run was mostly on the Ice Age Trail, so the terrain was typical for the IAT. For the 100k it’s an out-and-back, so you run 31 miles one direction, turn around and run the same 31 miles back in the opposite direction. Now I mentioned earlier that I mostly train in the Northern Unit of Kettle Moraine, and this was the Southern Unit, and while I feel the Southern Unit was a little easier, it still had the steep ups and downs – just not quite as many and as often. So there were more long, extended runnable sections compared to the North Unit. It was fun. I usually struggle in the meadows (I think because they’re so exposed to sun and heat) but it was rainy or cloudy when I went through the meadows (there were a lot of long meadow-y stretches) so I actually enjoyed them quite a bit. On the way out (the first 31 miles) there were a few stretches of some pretty major deep mud holes that you couldn’t avoid or run around – I just plodded through them all (sandals!) and had no trouble. On the way back (second 31 miles), with rain and mini thunderstorms rolling through, those mud holes got wetter and deeper, and there were standing puddles all over the trail right after the rain poured for a little bit. So it was very, very muddy and very, very fun.

People! Running with other people!

The Ice Age Trail is really beautiful, too. This race was mostly single track through the beautiful Wisconsin forest, the trees were all bright green and full of leaves, the wild phlox flowers were INSANE in a few sections. My fellow KM100 runners know EXACTLY where I’m talking about! It was like running through a fantasy land because those dang flowers were glowing fluorescent purple on both sides of a narrow, winding single-track trail through the green forest. It was just super-pretty. There were a few climbs with some views, and as I’ve mentioned, wide-open meadows (which were really interesting when the lightning started!).

Beautiful trail, forest, and check out all that wild phlox!

Crew and other fun tidbits:

My crew was my husband, Adam, and my mom and dad (Patty and Keith). They were great, as usual. Since the race had Tailwind, they didn’t have to mix that up for me, so that was nice. But they were there at all the places we’d planned on meeting up, cheering me into the aid station with smiles, cowbells, hugs and any support I needed. They had a chair, a cooler with cold drinks and cold coffees if I wanted or needed them, and they had my pre-made smooshie pureed foods ready for me to grab, and a bunch of other things in case I needed them – like wet wipes and sport sheild (for chafing), and my “foot bag.” I didn’t really end up needing a whole lot, as everything kind of went to plan. It was just a really good day, and I feel really lucky. But their smiling faces, hugs and cheers were so morale-boosting, that it’s really the only thing (in addition to the energy of running with so many other awesome like-minded racers), that I can chalk up to having such a good race and being able to run so much faster than I thought, more consistent than I thought, and stronger than I thought. So, yeah. I love my crew, the volunteers and the other racers. I can go out and run 63 miles by myself if I really want to, but there’s a reason we all sign up for these races. People. Thank you to my crew for being awesome, supporting me in such a crazy, kind of sometimes stupid adventure, and loving me so much that you’ll still smile in the pouring rain patiently waiting for me to come by for 3 minutes to use you, hug you and leave. I love you.

These people. My favorite. My crew. I love them.

My mom took this picture of my dad waiting at the side of the trail for me to come in. It just gets me. Sweetest ever.

The volunteers and aid stations were incredible, too. They are always smiling and chipper and cheering us through, always asking what we need, directing us towards whatever we ask for… they’re all great. Hearing the cheers and ruckus going on through the woods at those aid station always propels you that last half mile or so before getting there. That is a small charm of race-day, too. A small charm, but a huge reason it’s so fun. In fact, speaking of aid stations, at Emma Carlin (mile 15.5 on the way out and 47.5 on the way back), was an aid station run by the Ten Junk Miles crew. Ten Junk Miles is a running podcast that I started listening to a long time ago. In fact, I remember before I really knew what ultrarunning was really all about, they said something in an early episode about how they walk up the hills during the long ultraruns. That was an epiphany for me. I always thought you ran the entire thing, like a road marathon, and I didn’t think I’d ever have the ability to do that. Until this podcast. I remember parking at the truck stop in Brooklyn, IA and running down the road to a side dirt road that had these huge, roller-coaster hills. I walked up those hills, and ran down the other side, and I was so happy and excited and remember thinking, “I can do ultra runs!!!” I never stopped listening. They actually created the podcast as a way for those runners who don’t have anyone to run with, to have someone to run with. So you listen to the gang shows where they sit around in Scott’s basement drinking beer and Jameson and talk about all the random stuff they’d talk about if they were out on a long run together – some of it is about running, some of it is not. But it’s so fun. So I always felt a little strange because I felt like I knew so much about all the hosts because I took them on so many runs with me (being a truck driver and not on any kind of regular schedule, I’m almost always running by myself), but they knew nothing about me. So they were all my bestest friends, and they didn’t even know it. But during the Kettle Moraine 100k I got to meet Scott, Holly and Adam!! On the way through I just stole some of their energy and vibe and ran on. But the way back? I was still feeling amazing, so I did a shot of Fireball with Holly. Then I did a second shot of Fireball with Adam. And Scott doesn’t drink or I’d have maybe done a third. But probably good that I didn’t! Haha! And no lie… a couple miles after that aid station, my feet didn’t hurt at all. They were starting to hurt quite a bit after the 31-mile turnaround. It was nothing I couldn’t handle, but I sure noticed when it disappeared for a few miles! Fireball for the win! It was truly so cool to meet the Ten Junk Miles crew!

Click here and check out the Ten Junk Miles Podcast. They also have a race coming up in August that you should check out!

Recovery:

Recovery went great. Somewhere around mile 55 I started to lose my appetite a little bit. I need to figure that out for my 100-miler because it’s going to be crucial for me to take in calories at that point. But I think it’s going to be okay, because even though I pushed on to mile 63 and the finish, I still got down a couple of my pureed foods without too much trouble, and TUMS worked when my tummy felt a little queasy, although it didn’t seem to cure the problem, just hold it off. But after I crossed the finish line, I used the bathroom, sat around, walked around, tried to eat some chili and chicken soup, a banana… and thinking back, I think after 30 minutes rest and recuperation, if I had been running the 100 miles, I think I would’ve been okay appetite-wise. I felt like I was already getting it back. So it’s just something I need to remember during my 100. Just rest up a little bit, poop, eat, and then keep going.

The morning after. All smiles after a 3-mile walk with my mom.

My legs felt kind of sore for a few days after the race, but it was totally fine. I had no trouble getting up and down from the toilet (which was an issue after the Frozen Otter in January!), and I even went for a 3-mile walk with my mom the next morning. And then a 4-mile run on Monday. And 3 miles on Tuesday… and I continued to run. So recovery was amazing. Less than a full week after the race I felt 100% back to normal. Unreal. So, I guess I’m going to carry over most of the things I did leading up to this race to my 100-miler in October. Because it worked. And hopefully it does again.

Next up?

The goal I made was what I’m calling my 50-50-100-100. I want to run a 100-miler after I turn 40 years old (July 16, 2019). To get there, I decided to sign up for and run a 50k, a 50-mile, 100k (this one!) and then a 100-miler. One left! The biggie! It’ll be the farthest I’ve ever run (so far the Frozen Otter at 64 miles is the farthest I’ve gone in one go). Anyway, that 100-miler will happen on October 18-19, 2019 in Dubuque, IA at a race called Mines of Spain. Here we go, let’s do this!! Training has already begun!

YouTube video I put together from race day:


Tonight I love running in the rain. It can be easy to just not go run because it’s raining out, but I’m always SO glad I did. It feels amazing. Especially during a race, as it turns out!

My favorite photo from the day – the looks on those spectators’ faces as I rinsed mud off my feet in a mud puddle!

The Frozen Otter, 2019

It’s a long one! Grab a snack or pull up the squatty potty and dig in! Read about how I went a little nuts around mile 60, my embarrassing recovery issue, and all the excruciating details about the stuff I wore and used. Have questions? Anything? Ask! I hope you enjoy the read.

Race days make for a happy Toots! (Photo credit: Karen McLennan)

Stats:

Total miles (Garmin): 65.02

Total time: 20 hours, 32 minutes (a Personal Record!)

Overall pace: 18:57/mile

Overall elevation gain (Garmin): 9,131 feet

114 racers, 59 official finishers, 35 “Frozen Few” finishers.

(To be considered one of the “Frozen Few,” racers must complete the full 64-mile distance in under 24 hours. Racers can still be considered an official finisher with less than 64 miles, as long as they did not accept a ride and made it back to the start/finish on their own power. They are then ranked under full 64-mile finishers.)

Overall rank: 19th
Gender rank: 4th

Start (10am) – Butler Lake (CP1):
7.43 miles
Time stats weren’t listed in results for some reason, but I did not stop at this checkpoint. I checked in, immediately checked out and kept going.

Butler Lake (CP1) – Greenbush (CP2):
8.08 miles
In 2:30pm / Out 2:39pm (9min break)

Greenbush (CP2) – Hwy P (CP3):
7.09 miles
In 4:38pm / Out 4:49pm (11min break)

Hwy P (CP3) – Greenbush (CP4):
7.09 miles
In 6:54pm / Out 7:07pm (13min break)

Greenbush (CP4) – Butler Lake (CP5):
8.08 miles
In 9:22pm / Out 9:35pm (13min break)

Butler Lake (CP5) – Mauthe Lake (CP6):
7.43 miles
In 11:48pm / Out 12:27am (39min break)

Mauthe Lake (CP6) – Hwy H (CP7):
9.06 miles
In 3:11am / Out 3:36am (25min break)

Hwy H (CP7) – Finish!
9.06 miles
In 6:32am

The race:
This year I over-explained everything on my gear section, so you can geek out there if you want, but I’ll put a few notes here about the race itself first.

First of all, when I arrived at early check-in on Friday afternoon I was given my name/time pieces from the “Frozen Few” plaque, which means there were enough finishers faster than my fastest time to kick me off. So, I didn’t plan for it, but getting my name back on that plaque became a new goal in the back of my mind, but not the most important one this year because I hadn’t really prepared for that. But it was there. My three goals going in this year were:
1) finish
2) get a PR (finish faster than 21:49)
3) finish in under 20 hours
I managed to get #1 and #2, and missed #3 by about a half an hour. I’ll take it! As for getting back on the plaque? I’m not sure if I did or not. I think it’ll be close.

2019 shirt design, my two name/time pieces and my newest dog tag

We weren’t required to carry extreme weather gear (sleeping bag, shelter, full change of clothes), but it was a close call. I believe it did eventually dip down to a -20° wind chill in the early morning hours. It felt cold, for sure, but I think it helped being in the woods for most of the course.

It was snowing at the start of the race, and the sun poked through the clouds and floating flakes of snow after a few hours and towards sunset it cleared up. Once darkness fell, a nearly full moon came out with a skyfull of stars. That kept it cold, but man, was it pretty! The woods were beautiful all day and all night.

The trail was snow-covered after getting a fresh few inches the night before the race, but the tricky part was that there was a solid layer of ice underneath in stretches in the first maybe 16 miles. My hip flexors were actually aching (I normally don’t notice them at all) from constantly light-braking with my feet every step to avoid slipping. And it sounds like there were many falls amongst racers. It was tricky because you couldn’t always see the ice until you were on your butt. I literally slid into checkpoint 3 on my butt while taking video, so that’s fun (and can be seen in the YouTube link below). What was weird was that it wasn’t slippery on the way back through after the 23-mile turnaround. I think maybe it got colder and the snow stuck to the ice, giving us traction. Thankfully!

One of the few times I sat down (maybe even the only time). When I slid into CP 3 at Hwy H!

I had a little bit of knee trouble, and it really only hurt when making a brake-like motion going downhill, which I guess I blame on the ice and slippery trail conditions. So I found that barrelling down the hills, praying to God I didn’t trip and Superman to the bottom, was the only way to approach the hills with no pain. It was risky, but it was also quite fun.

On the subject of pain, I have a question for you – what are your thoughts on taking NSAIDS (Ibuprofen, Tylenol, etc) during a race? In 2017 my general practitioner recommended a pain reliever plan to hopefully get ahead of a knee twinge I was concerned about. It basically involved alternating Aleve and Tylenol, while not overdosing according to label dosing instructions. I followed that plan in 2017 and had no trouble. I used the same strategy this year (I was more concerned about my feet this time), and again had no issues. But I recently heard on a couple of different podcasts, in random discussions, that some doctors *highly* recommend staying OFF NSAIDS during a race… And apparently some are quite passionate about their argument. So I guess it’s something I need to dig into. What say you, my friends? What do you think? What do you do during a race?

As for how it all went for me, overall? Great. I had a really fun time. I did run/hike with a new friend, John (I met him during a long training run), for almost the first 30 miles, and we were making plans to push each other to a sub-20-hour finish, but his knee suddenly had other plans, gave out on him, and sadly he had to drop. That bummed me out, so I used that emotion to propel me. I mean, what else can you do but push on… So I did. I stayed in high spirits. I ended up doing the remainder of the race pretty much by myself with the exception of a few short conversations when I’d catch up to someone. But I was used to being out there at night alone, as that was how most of my long training sessions ended up, so I just watched the moon, followed the circle of light emitted from my headlamp, talked to myself and trudged on. And on.

One thing I did differently this year was I participated in the drop-box option at mile 46 (also the start/finish). In 2017 I walked the 1/4-mile back to the parking lot, sat in a warm car, charged electronics, visited with family and friends, ate a burger at the pavilion, changed socks… while it was fun to lollygag, it used up about 90 minutes. This year using the drop box and not going back to the car I only used 39 minutes. And I can still improve on that time. I’ll 100% do the same next time. Drop box for the win!

I had no hallucinations this year, but somewhere in the last nine miles, after about 60 miles and more than 18 hours of steady activity, in the dark and cold of the early morning, alone, I heard voices in the woods. First they were yelling my name, and so I’d stop and listen. As soon as my feet stopped crunching in the snow there was silence. Then I’d start walking and under the crunches I started hearing people talking. It sounded like they were right there, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying because my footsteps were too loud. Every time I stopped to listen – silence. I finally realized I was going crazy, so I pulled out my phone and risked being “that asshole” and played some music sans earbuds (admittedly I was carrying earbuds, but with only a few miles left I said f-it because I didn’t want to dig them out). The voices stopped, and maybe a couple of hours later I was running into the finish, so happy to be done.

After the race I got my cherished dog tag and headed to the pavilion with my Mom and Dad, who came along to cheer me on (and were at EVERY aid station because they are freakin’ awesome!). At the pavilion, a volunteer made me the best damn cheeseburger (thank you!)! I chowed that down with a bowl of soup and contemplated a beer, but I didn’t want anything cold. In hindsight I should’ve taken a swig of the Fireball that was sitting on the table. See? No matter how many times I do this, I’m still a rookie. Next time… Fireball.

I did take some video clips and threw them together in my cheap, simple phone app. You can see that cheese here:

Oh, and the clip in the video where I mention snot bubbles? I didn’t remember taking that one. It was fun surprise after the race.

Recovery:
Okay, how much should I share? All of it, I suppose, because that’s what I do. So prepare yourself for TMI. First of all, my recovery was mostly normal. I was tired. Duh. I had a really tough time walking around on Monday and seriously – getting up and down from the toilet involved bracing myself against the wall and counter while sliding my feet along the floor until I plopped onto the seat (pro tip: wear thick, fuzzy socks or slippers with no grip so they’ll slide effortlessly along the floor of your bathroom, and remove any rugs to aid in the toilet-plop). Getting back up required grunting noises. It helped.

I had a blood blister on the tip of my 2nd toe on my left foot, but this happens in every race. I think that toe naturally curls under and tries to grip with every step. But it didn’t really hurt, so it’s no biggie. And it looks cool. I also ended up with a weird bruise on the top of my left foot just behind the big toe, and there’s a small bump on the tendon. Not too sure what that is. It sometimes hurts, but not when I run… So… It’s okay? I think. And my knees hurt a bit – a sharpish pain right in the front of my kneecaps. And I think this caused my baker’s cyst to flare up. And, as always, my feet and toes got puffy and didn’t want to move – typical post-race inflammation that I need to work on.

A fancy, heart-shaped bruise

And here comes the TMI, which I will admit is embarrassing, but whatever, I’m human. I full-on shat in my pants at home on Sunday. I mention that I messed up my body before the race with my diet (below where I talk about my race-day nutrition), and I’m pretty sure this was its way if saying a big F-you. But, thankfully I was at home and could take care of it right away. So that is only the 2nd time I can think of that I full-on pooped in my pants, and both times were running-related. *Sigh* I should go back to hiking.

So, in conclusion, I had a great day, a great race, it made me happy and temporarily satisfied with physical activity and time in the woods (which as I write this, I already need more), and I finished strong with a PR and can already see places where I can hopefully improve for next time. Maybe I can still get under 20 hours. But first, I turn 40 this year and I’m going to run 100 miles. You’ll hear all about it, oh, don’t you worry (unfollow me now if you’re already so sick of my long race reports! Now’s your chance!). Anyway, I said this would be too long, and I did not disappoint… I mean, keep a rolling. I dug into my gear selections. So… There’s more. Sorry!

On to… Gear!
Here’s what I wore, list-style. I go into detail about these items a little further below:

Sugoi Subzero tights

Ink N Burn Sport Skirt

Patagonia underwear

Cheap sport bra from Target

Injinji Nuwool crew toe socks

REI-brand midweight undershirt

Short-sleeve Ink N Burn Tech Shirt

Patagonia R1 3/4-zip fleece
Patagonia R1 full-zip fleece

Patagonia Nanopuff jacket – it’s synthetic (not down) so maintains some warmth if it gets damp.

Altra Lone Peak Low RSM trail shoes

Dirty Girl gaiters

Kahtoola microspikes (I carried them, but didn’t use them this time.)

Fat Otter buff

Smartwool ear cover and hat

Black Diamond down mittens

Cheap silk gloves liners

That skirt! 😍

Notes about the wearables:
The Sugoi tights again worked great, and this year I added the Ink N Burn Sport Skirt over the top for an extra layer of warmth on my ass, because it was going to be a cold year, and that was super-nice. It might be a lady-issue, but my fatty bum always gets so cold in the winter. This layering system was perfecto – just that one extra layer did the trick – no frozen fatty bum. And I had side pockets on the skirt to stuff random stuff into – usually wrappers I didn’t want to drop on the trail, and a few that I picked up.

I started out wearing the 3/4-zip fleece, but shed it probably 4 miles in because I was starting to sweat (avoid sweating and change your layers up as soon as you can in these cold activities. That sweat WILL freeze when you stop for even a second and you could get into some trouble. PSA over.). I also shed my ear cover. It was cold (low teens) but I got toasty quickly when moving. I added the fleece back in sometime after dark when my arms began to consistently feel chilled.

I switched from my Patagonia 3/4-zip fleece to a Patagonia full-zip fleece (same weight/thickness, basically just a different design) at 46 miles because the full-zip has side pockets (the 3/4-zip does not). I put my Smartphone in the pocket with a body warmer (which is like a hand warmer, except it’s larger with a sticky back).I stuck the body warmer directly to the inside of my fleece pocket and the phone battery held up much better in the cold temperatures that way.

I wore the Patagonia Nanopuff on the last 18-mile stretch when the temps eventually dropped below zero. This layering system worked perfect for me in 2017, and again this year.

Shoes? I’ll keep a long story short. I usually run in sandals, but with this being a long winter race, I chose the Altra Lone Peak so I had toe protection from the cold. I had quite a lot of foot pain in training due to the transition from sandal to shoe, but by race day, the foot pain was minimal (thankfully, as this was one of my biggest concerns going in). The shoe had great grip, but there were icy patches that got sketchy, and traction devices would’ve been helpful – I chose to power through them and never used my microspikes, and when temperatures dropped on the return trip from the 23-mile turnaround, the ice wasn’t nearly as slippery. The one con to this shoe is that there was a small visible hole in the outer (waterproof) shell after the race, and with only a few long training runs in them before-hand, I was a little disappointed to see the early wear. My Altra Neoshell boots I wore in 2017 did something similar, but I blamed it on running with traction for the entire race (unusual rubbing). While that kind of sucks, I’d go with the same shoe again. I like the wide toe box, zero drop, and they did successfully keep my feet warm and dry the entire race. I didn’t take them off once and only had my standard tip-of-the-2nd-toe blisters. I did have foot pain on my left foot with a weird bruise, but not sure if it was the shoes or the fact that I just ran 64 miles. Okay, that wasn’t short. But trust me. I could’ve made it a LOT longer! Shoes… They’re a thing with me.

There was snow, but not a lot, so I wore my lightweight Dirty Girl gaiters instead of my knee-high Outdoor Research winter gaiters like in 2017. It was a good decision, as the DGs worked just fine keeping any snow pieces out of my shoes. I’d switch back to my OR higher gaiters if it was significantly colder and/or if there was deeper snow.

I wore a thin buff around my neck the whole race and pulled it up over my mouth and nose only during the later half of the race for extra needed warmth. I also carried a fleece-lined Buff but it was way too warm to wear. I won’t even carry that thing unless it’s going to be -20 from now on. It is too warm!

I started the race with just the Smartwool ear cover, shed that pretty quick (so needed nothing on my ears during most of the daylight hours), put it back on after dark, then switched to my hat during the last 18-mile stretch.

I have yet to find the magic cure for cold fingers. They are fine when I’m moving, but as soon as I stop to do anything, they get cold and quickly feel numb and become useless stumps. My strategy was to do what needed to be done as quickly as possible, suck it up buttercup while they were still stinging-cold and get moving. I wore a thin liner glove the whole race and used my big Black Diamond mittens on and off later on in the race. I eventually had hand warmers in them so I could get a jump on warming my fingers right after a stop. Once I got feeling back in them (usually 5-10 minutes after moving), I’d shed the down mittens and was okay with the liners. During the last 9 miles I kept the down mittens on, along with the liners. And hand warmers. It got cold.

Other gear:
BackpackOut There USA MS-1. This is the same pack I used in 2017. It’s comfy, not a ton of bounce when jogging and lots of accessible pockets without taking it off. I only had to remove it to put water in my water reservoir during the race or to remove/add my fleece. I didn’t have luck with the bottle holders this year, and I don’t remember that being an issue in ’17. Don’t know why. But once I removed a bottle, I had a hard time getting it back in the holder, so I barely used the bottles. I might consider switching to a smaller backpack with no waistbelt and a front pack next time. But I would use this pack again if I don’t have time to train in something that new, or the funds to aquire that something new. It’s a good pack for this race.

Water containersCamelBak 1.5L water reservoir with insulated tube.
Yes, I’m one of the crazy ones that still uses a hydration bladder. I was able to keep water flowing through it as long as I took the following steps, and not missing a single one: fill with warm water (at aid stations, I used half cold and half hot water), keep as much of the tube (which is insulated) and the mouthpiece tucked into my shirt (almost in my armpit kind of wedged under my pack strap), after drinking, blow a puff of air to move the water out of the hose and mouthpiece (but not so much that you blow air into the bladder (this takes practice to get it just right), and most importantly – *SIP OFTEN.* This keeps you checking on it and the water flowing, keeps you hydrated, and if it does start to freeze up, I can usually catch it early enough that I can get water flowing again pretty easily. With that said, it did freeze up on me after I left the 46 mile aid station for the last stretch – but that’s because I didn’t follow my own advice and stopped sipping often. I did have a bottle with me that I added Tailwind to, and that was tucked into the front of my fleece and stayed thawed. Even though it made me look like I had a 2nd pair of weird boobs. But I did not care. Liquid hydration wins. I think for the next one, I may try training with just the one bottle to keep it simpler – kept tucked into my shirt – like a weird set of boobs. Because that seemed to work. I’ll chug a few cups of water at each aid station, then fill my bottle to sip in between out on the trail. I still like the bladder, but it would be nice to not have to mess around with it and keep stuff simpler.

Black Diamond trekking poles – Same ones I’ve been using for over 10 years. I’m considering upgrading to something lighter. I actually had some hand cramping during the race and numb fingers during recovery – I think these symptoms are from using the poles. And I love using poles, so I have to work on this.

Black Diamond Spot headlamp – takes 3 AAA batteries (be sure to use lithium batteries) I switched out the batteries once at the 46-mile checkpoint and had no issues and could see great. Same headlamp I’ve been using for years.

Electronics:
Phone #1 – Verizon Google Pixel 2 XL – held up okay. I used it for video and pictures, so had it powered off unless I wanted to use it. It died from the cold somewhere around the 10-hour mark, I think, but I wasn’t protecting it from the cold (it was tucked into the thigh pocket on my skirt). At mile 46 I recharged it and placed it in my fleece pocket with a body warmer and it held its charge great the rest of the way. It came in handy around mile 60 when I was hearing voices in the woods. I played some music to shut them up. 😉

Phone #2 – US Cellular pre-paid flip phone – my biggest disappointment. It worked perfect in 2017, and doing everything the same this year, the battery dropped to almost nothing in the first 6 miles. I know the cold was a factor, but my guess is that the three-year-old battery couldn’t hold up. I ended up powering it off before it died, as it was my main contact phone and I wanted it in case of emergency. Next time I will try to replace the battery beforehand or just stick with my Smartphone. Verizon works pretty good out there, too.

Garmin Fenix 3 – watch for GPS tracking and stats. I recharged it once at mile 46, after about 13 hours. I like having one continuous track recorded, and this way-too-expensive watch does just that while staying charged for a pretty long time.

Anker battery charger – kept in my drop box at mile 46 and used it to charge both phones before the last stretch.

Pocketjuice small portable charger – kept on me during race for a quick charge if needed. I didn’t use it on the trail, but I did use it at mile 46 to charge my watch while my phones charged on the Anker.

First aid & other items – SOL emergency bivvy, REI whistle, spare Black Diamond headlamp without the strap, lighter, fire starter, heat blanket, small Swiss Army knife, hand and body warmers, blister pads, 2Toms butt shield anti-chafe wipes, medical tape, duct tape, blinking red bike light, orange smiley face blinking light for backup, chapstick, Aleve, Tylenol, salt caps

Toilet kit – Deuce of Spades trowel, TP, ziploc bag for used TP (a leave no trace practice – please get used to carrying out used TP!), hand sanitizer, wet one wipes, and Immodium

Nutrition:
Huma gels – these are great when you don’t want to eat anything because you can just squeeze ’em down your throat for the calorie bump.

Tailwind drink mix – my fave. Always had a bottle with some mixed in. Didn’t consume as much as I’d have liked because my bottles were difficult to reach. I’ll fix that for next time. Probably just keep one bottle tucked into my shirt.

Starbucks Via – I have a caffeine strategy that I like. I stay off caffeine as much as possible in my normal every-day life (and I’m a trucker. If I can do it, you can do it. 😉), then on race day, when the fatigue sets in, I have a Via and feel like I get a turbo-boost. I wait until I really feel I need it for the first dose, then continue its use from there.

I also carried candied ginger and Pepto for tummy upset, but didn’t use, but I maybe should have in the last 6 hours.

Other food things: I just put a bunch of random things in snack-size ziplocks so I had a variety of sweet, savory and whatever to choose from. That way if I lost my appetite, hopefully something would appeal to me and I could get some energy in me. I had things like M&Ms, mini almond butter cups, Waffle Stingers, Annie’s gummies, Cheetos, boiled eggs (which are SO weird when slightly frozen), pre-cooked breakfast links, grapes (so awesome!), and cashews. I did end up losing my appetite towards the last hours of the race, didn’t drink enough, and ended up with some digestive issues… Meaning I had to trail poop (*so* not fun when it’s like -5° out). I could get into why this happened, but it would go on way too long. To keep it short, I screwed up the timing with putting my body into ketosis before the race. I should’ve worked on it sooner so my body was fully fat-adapted, but as it turns out, I believe, it was sort of in transition still. So it just didn’t feel right. Live and learn and poop.

Extras for fun:
Biggest gear fail: the flip phone I thought was indestructible but nearly died at 6 miles.

Biggest gear win: Ink N Burn skirt over my tights to keep my butt warm. And hand warmers.

Fun surprise: Seeing Ross and Randall – two long-time friends from my backpacking group that stopped out to cheer on racers!!

Favorite food consumed: Nutty bars at the Greenbush aid station and a close 2nd, those sausages at the Hwy P aid station (thank you, volunteers!)

Nutty Bars!!

Aches and pains: Top of left foot just behind the big toe, front of kneecaps, cramping in left hand

Weirdest thing: hearing voices in the woods in the last 6 miles of the race

That’s all folks. I hope it helps someone out there! My ending piece of advice? Try not to poop your pants. That is all.


Tonight I love a lot of stuff, which happens to be all people because people rule – the race directors and volunteers because they make this race happen, and they make it so fun… along with all the other racers! Also? A big one – my mom and dad – for being two of my biggest fans and for cheering me in and out of every aid station. Thank you! Everyone!

My mom and my dad on race day, cheering in racers at Butler Lake (photo credit: Karen McLennan)

This is my favorite photo from the race. Almost seconds after my dad drove away from the race, my mom passed out in the back seat. We were all exhausted, and this photo just tells the whole story. And it’s freakin’ adorable. ❤️

Vloggin’, movin’, and runnin’

Been also doing a whole lot of truckin’.

What’s new? Well? The super-short version: Adam and I moved into a new apartment closer to town. I’m being featured in a series of vlogs online about trucking. And I’m about to run 64 miles. Again.

The new apartment? It’s in Kaukauna, WI. Adam and I have always wanted to live in Appleton, so we moved to Kaukauna. I know. I swear to you, one of these days we’ll live in Appleton. But really, it’s practically Appleton anyway. It’s right on the edge and it’s by all kinds of things like restaurants, grocery stores, and you know – all that junk. And one of my favorite parts? It’s a stone’s throw from the CE trail, which is a paved recreational trail, so I can run without worrying about getting run over by cars. And? I’ve run on it after dark and felt safe. Bonus. We like this place a lot so far. And! We have the best shower curtain a person could have. I think it’s my favorite part of the whole place. Well, maybe it’s actually the dishwasher (seriously. You forget how amazing these things are until you don’t have one!). But that shower curtain. Yeah, it’s pretty rad.

Best shower curtain ever!

Next, v-loggin’. I was approached at work to see if I’d like to start doing a series of video logs. I was nervous about it because I’m a rambler (as you know if you’ve read any of my other blog entries) and these videos are all around 2-3 minutes long. That’s it! So short! That’s like… two words! But seriously – it’s been a really fun (and good) challenge for me. I just take some video on my phone, send it to a great guy I’ve been working with (Hi, Matt!) at BConnected, a local marketing company, and he does the editing. People look it over to make sure I didn’t say my name wrong or have a booger in my nose (although if I did, you know I’d want to point it out and laugh about it), and it gets posted on the V & S Midwest Carriers Facebook page for the world to see. It’s been a really fun project! I get to talk about trucking, some of what I’ve learned, promote the industry, hopefully inspire more girls to drive, and sometimes brag about the company I work for (seriously awesome people!). So watch for those! Here’s a link to the YouTube channel and if you follow V&S Midwest Carriers on Facebook, you’ll see them there, too. Something you wanna see, know about, or hear me talk about? Let me know!

Here’s one of the videos:

Then there’s the whole 64 miles thing. The Frozen Otter. I’ve participated in this event as a racer for several years, and once as a volunteer (which is equally as exhausting as racing, by the way). I completed the full 64 miles in 2010 for the first time, proudly becoming one of the “Frozen Few” and the 4th person to ever finish it. That was the 4th year the race was in existence. And only 4 finishers up to that point! It’s brutal! Then I finished it again in 2017 – you know, to see if the first time was a fluke. And the reason to go at it this time? I’ll admit it. I’m hooked on it. It’s hard. I like doing hard things. I like to break myself, then keep going. It’s close to home. It’s something to do in the winter that keeps me training and in shape. And it gets me out in the forest for long hours, a lot of them at night, and that is a kind of peace you need to experience, meaning I can’t explain it because it’s that awesome. Winter in Wisconsin, in the forest, alone, at night – just you, the stars, the owls and the crunchy snow under your feet. It’s silent. It’s peaceful. It’s serene. It’s sparkly in the moonlight. You just have to do it.

So that’s what’s new. The Frozen Otter is what’s on my mind mostly at the moment because it’s less than a week away. I’ve got to mentally prepare myself, and a lot of that preparation for me is visualization. I’m mostly trying to run through the last half, with feet that hurt so bad I won’t want to take another step (because they will – I’ve been having trouble with that) and then pushing them another 32 miles. And if the forecast holds, we’ll be running in 5° temps or possibly lower (not including the wind chill). For up to 24 hours straight. I’m ready. And I’m nervous. And excited. And. It’s going to be SO cold! Let’s see how far I can push my body and mind this year!

Brrrrrr!

You can bet on a blog entry about how that goes! So follow here if you need some more good toilet reading later on.

And be sure to follow my vlogs! I’m sure to embarrass myself at some point, and you don’t wanna miss that!

Thanks for reading, following, encouraging, and being you. Lots of love, my friends! ♥️


Tonight I love that freakin’ shower curtain. Because cats. Unicorns. Guns. Fire. Rainbows. Duh.

Sidenote: I started a self portrait series a little over a year ago, and I’m usually inspired by a song lyric – this one was created with the Frozen Otter in mind and is one of my favorites:

“I do whatever it takes… ’cause I love how it feels when I break the chains.” – Imagine Dragons

A random ramble

Kind of a dreary, blah day. I could use some sunshine.

I’m bored. That’s why you’re reading a blog entry about, um, nothing much. I’m laying in the bunk of my truck waiting for a phone call that there is a door for me to back into so I can get a load of canned something going to freakin’ Atlanta. I’ve been waiting for over 3 hours and can’t get a timeframe as to when they might be able to get me in. The answer is, “depends on product” and “there’s a lot of trucks waiting.” So…. hours, probably? I don’t have any idea. But the good news is that I can park here overnight, so I’m going to just go to bed, I guess. Gotta sleep some time.

So I lay here, wait, and think. It’s been a weird week for exercise. I’ve been in situations where I’m either waiting (like now) and don’t know if it’s going to be 5 minutes or 5 hours and so I don’t wanna gear up and be 3 miles down the road when they call. Also, some places (like the one I’m in now) don’t feel safe. As I was driving into this facility I observed some kind of shabby neighborhoods and people walking around wearing hoodies with their hands in their pockets and their eyes swiveling from the ground, up to the right, then the left, then behind them, and it just appears they’re up to no good, even though they probably aren’t and I’m just being paranoid and super judgemental of wearers of hoodies (p.s. I love hoodies). Anyway… I just didn’t feel the “good place to run” vibe here. Also I could just exercise in my truck, but. Yeah. I don’t want to. There. I said it. I feel lazy, and I’m making excuses. There’s always a way. I am just choosing to ignore those ways today. And so, I’ll feel cruddy and hopefully get a chance to do something cool tomorrow. But probably not, because my sleep is weird. We’ll see.

This has been a weird week for me. But good. And fun. I’ll tell you why. I started out delivering a load I picked up last week, then grabbing a new load going to Minnesota – one I’ve done before. After that I went to a place to get loaded and a co-worker/good friend of mine texted me as I pulled off of the shipper’s scale saying, “hey, I see you!” I asked if he was at the creamery I was at. He said “yup. Just backed into the door you pulled out of.” So I drove around and chatted with him. He asked where I was taking my load. He was going to the same place. He asked where I was going after that. Same place. After that? Same place. After that? Different place (but a snafu changed that, too, and now we’re again going to the same place). I can’t tell you how weird this is! But it’s making for an interesting week, because I’m not used to hanging out with friends along my routes. But this friend is super rad because we share a love for food and talk about it a lot (we both dabble in keto), and so when I first saw him he goes, “want some espresso? Just made some up in the truck.” Ummm… Sure! Then when we dropped our trailers in the same lot, he walks over and hands me a huge stick of venison sausage! It’s been too long since I’ve hunted, even longer since I’ve gotten a deer to process, so it’s also been a while since I’ve had venison sausage. What a treat! Then later, after a discussion as we followed each other along the interstate about keto-friendly jalepeno poppers, he says, “I bet I could make those in my toaster oven in the truck.” I now have 6 out of 12 jalepeno poppers left in my fridge (it was hard to stop at 6, just fyi). And some panacotta. That he made. He likes to cook and make things and I have nothing in my truck to heat food, cook food, nothin’. I eat pretty healthy, make stuff at home and bring it along with me then eat it cold while I’m buzzing down the road, but when it comes right down to it, I’m boring. But he’s not. He’s made all kinds of drool-inducing foods in his truck. Sooooo… after the jalepeno poppers thing? I’m seriously considering adding a toaster oven. They were really good! And they’re wrapped in bacon. So… bacon.

Needless to say, I’ve got a pretty good friend here, and I don’t know what I did to deserve it, but I’m certainly not complaining when someone wants to share yummy food with me! He even once tied a plastic grocery bag with homemade (again, even keto-fied) strawberry cheesecake to the mirror on my truck because he was passing through where I was parked for the night in Indiana and I was going to be sleeping and it was Christmas and we were both on the road. It made my holiday.

It’s broke. And the light was missing.

Oh, and! He talked me through fixing a broken wiring harness for a trailer light. That probably saved me a good couple of hours at a frustrating shop. And it was pouring rain the entire time and we both got completely soaked in the process. We also hung out one night and just bullshitted for a few hours. See, one time Adam and I joined him and his family for a night of camping and the three of us stayed up until daylight talking around a campfire. How we don’t run out of stuff to talk about, I don’t know. And if he’s reading this, hi. And thanks for sharing all the stuff. And I owe you. I know you’ll say I don’t, but I’ll get ya’ back sometime! 😊

So that’s that. The week only gets weirder tomorrow because after I deliver the load I’m waiting to pick up here I drop my empty trailer near Atlanta and bobtail home. A long way. It’s weird because I’ve never driven that far without a trailer. I hear it makes for a rough ride (the trucks are designed to pull heavy things, so it’s much smoother when it’s doing what it’s designed to do, therefore it’s rough when it’s on its own). It’ll just be bumpy, I think. But I also have a pretty new truck that rides quite smooth, so I’m pretty sure I’ll be just fine.

My latest Instagram of Venus. She’s a good truck and she yells at me when I get too close to other cars because she cares about me (I think).

I’m tired now. And feel like crud because I’m being lazy this week, but starting to feel a twinge of excitement to get back on track next week, which probably just means I needed a break. I tend to go hard and start to burn out a little, then naturally back off without thinking about it (just like I am now), which lets me recover just enough to start the cycle all over again. My next race is mid-January and it’s 64 miles and overnight and in unpredictable winter conditions and it’s hard, so I have to keep up my momentum for that. So yup. Random rambling. If you didn’t read all of this, that’s okay. You wouldn’t see this anyway because you’ve already checked out. And that’s cool. And one more thing… I miss Adam. And we’re moving soon.

#cliffhanger

Have a nice night, friends!

Tonight I love cream cheese.

Introducing Venus de Volvo

A new truck story!!

Oh, hi there!

As unfortunate as having a major breakdown is, I have to admit that getting a new truck is actually quite fun. And… as fun as getting a new truck is, I have to admit that the break in period can be a little sketch. Here’s what happened:

I moved all my crap into the new truck, enjoying the “new truck” smell, a dash with no dust on it, no hairballs clumped anywhere on the floor (which would be of my own hair, of course), and all the cabinet latches were still attached and in working order. Oh, wait. I lied. There was one latch that popped off right away (it’s funny because those things gave me so much trouble in my last truck). So yeah, this was a *really* new truck. It’s a 2019 Volvo VNL 860 and had less than 1500 miles on it when I jumped in and turned the key for the first time. Aww, yeah. Fun.

But then I went on my first run in this new truck, with that doggone bad-luck cloud still hanging over my head. I grabbed an empty trailer and drove 28 miles to my pick up. After getting loaded I turned out of the driveway to leave and my steering wheel made an unsettling scraping sound, and by the time I pulled into the truck stop where I planned to scale my load, it had gotten worse. I opened the hood and checked my steering fluid. Dry. As a bone. I made it back to the Volvo dealership where they discovered a cracked fitting that all that fluid leaked out of. They replaced it and I was on my way in a half an hour. I made it 50 miles before needing a new part! But whew! It as a quick, easy fix.

The rest of that day went great, and I was enjoying getting used to the smooth ride and all the new features in the truck – aka new safety features with alarms that were set on high volume and scared the bejeezus out of me when they went off. I delivered my load, got reloaded and found a quiet little spot to park for the night. I even took a couple photos of my new ride.

Here’s one. She’s pretty, hey?

Now it was Saturday and I was about 50 miles from home where I was to drop this trailer, hook to a loaded one and make my way to Virginia. I was cruising right along in my new, sweet ride, feeling cool, listening to music, chillin’ out, and

*BOOM!!*

I think I jumped 3 feet out of my seat! Something let loose under my truck and it was LOUD! My right turn signal was flashing and I was making my way to the shoulder before the air guage for my primary air tank totally bottomed out. The secondary tank quickly followed, but held at about 60 psi while I came to a stop and pulled the brakes on my own (the brakes will set on their own if you lose all your air too fast, which means your tires lock up, and that’s a scary thing I hope never, ever happens to me! This was too close!). I was shaking, so I first glanced in my mirrors to make sure nothing needed to be attended to right that second (i.e. fire or something of the sort) and then I just rested my hands on the steering wheel and took some deep breaths. I got out of the truck and could hear air leaking – badly – from somewhere.

From my Instagram stories.

I knew this wasn’t going to be a quick situation, so the next thing I did was dig out my damn safety triangles – again – and get them set up behind me (I believe the law states we need to have them up within 10 minutes of breakdown). And then I began to look at everything. It wasn’t a tire. Everything looked right under the hood. Air compressor was still there and doing its thing. Brake drums all appeared to be intact. The air leaking was coming from underneath the truck, kind of under the driver’s seat.

We have these air tanks that sit under the driver’s seat, and we can access them through a side fairing below the driver’s-side door. They have little nozzles that we can turn to release moisture out of the air tanks, which is done on a regular basis, so I’m pretty familiar with them. My first thought was maybe one of those spun loose, but all of them were tight and no air was leaking out of them. I couldn’t see anywhere else and getting underneath the truck wasn’t possible with its low clearance – and being parked on the side of a busy highway didn’t make me feel safe even trying.

Top photo: fairing under the driver’s door. Middle photo: Shows the fairing opened up. Bottom photo: The three air tanks and their little nozzles.

I started the phone calls. It was a Saturday, of course, so after hours dispatch was on duty. I also tried calling Volvo a few times, and our maintenance guy (whom I’m getting to know well lately!). I was between all these calls when I phoned a friend who’s been driving a lot longer than me. He walked me through some things to check – I wanted to be sure it wasn’t something really stupid because it sounded like they were going to send out a tow truck, and I’d have felt horrible if it was as easy as reconnecting a hose or something. Then another Midwest Carriers driver pulled up in front of me in his personal vehicle – he was driving by, saw me broke down and was checking to see if I needed help. I did! He looked all over and couldn’t see anything, either. Same thing as me – he couldn’t get a view of where the leak was coming from. So he went on his way while I waited for the tow truck (thanks for stopping, George! You’re awesome!).

As soon as the tow truck lifted the front end of my truck up, I got down on the ground and peeked underneath. I saw it immediately. An air hose about the diameter of a quarter had popped off the back of one of those three air tanks I was describing earlier. The tow truck driver crawled under and said it looked like something on it had cracked, too, so it wouldn’t have been something that could’ve been fixed roadside anyway. So I felt a little better about the whole tow thing.

Another day, another tow.

So… I got a ride back to the same temp truck I was in when my last truck died. I threw the basic essentials in as quickly as I could and took off to continue my run for the week. On Monday I found out that the air line was fixed and the truck was ready for me again. I couldn’t wait to get settled back in, but I first had to finish my week. Thankfully the rest of it went pretty smooth.

So now I’m a few days into a new run in the new truck, and so far, so good. Well, this morning the button for my tractor brake popped off after I backed into a dock, which startled me for a second, but then I laughed. It just screwed back on. It wasn’t like it broke or anything. Man, new truck things!

C’mon, Venus! Quit playin’ with me!

I hope that cloud is gone. And I’m really liking this truck, even though there’s a few things I’m still getting used to. One of them is sleeping on the top bunk! The bottom bed converts into a table, which I love, but I know that if I change it back to a bed, put sheets on it and sleep in it, I’m not going to want to switch it around twice every day. So I’m leaving the table set up and trying to use the top bunk to sleep. But it needs a better mattress. That’s for sure.

Loving this space!

So there ya’ have it. Adventures in trucking. With a new truck. I hope to move many, many miles in Venus de Volvo!

Tonight I love my kettlebell. Swinging that thing helps with stress!

This is the cracked head from Delores, my old truck. Pretty ugly.

More cracked things (I think they called this a casing – where the piston fits into?) Also where all my coolant was leaking into.

Oh, and I also just got this new (well, used) adorable little commuter car. #TootsDrivesAJellyBean

A view I could do without for a while!