The Frozen Otter – one last big training run/hike

I did not want to. Until I started, then I felt better. And then I didn’t want to again. Then I did. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions.

‚ÄčThe following journal entry was written a couple of weeks ago, on November 6, 2016 at 3pm: 

With two months left until race day, I’m going on one more big hike/run, and for some reason I’m not looking forward to it, and I’m doubting myself. I really don’t feel like doing it, as I know it’s going to be long, strenuous, and it’s going to hurt like a mofo. I’m doing an insane back-to-back, kind of abusing the idea of a back-to-back by going overboard with mileage. I’m going 46 miles the first day, then 18 the next. This is how the Frozen Otter is set up. Only I won’t be able to sleep in between on race day like I am for this run… So technically, I should be able to pull this off, and I should be able to do it under 24 hours (total hiking time). The thing I need to focus on most is not getting injured. That’s the risk I’ve been taking every month since April, doing these long runs that I’m not quite built up for, miles-wise. 

But I LIKE these long killer runs. Right? I mean, I usually do. Well, truth be told, I think I’m just burned out. I love doing them once, maybe twice a year. What I want right now is a leisurely 10-hour hike. You know, the kind where I can sit and eat a sandwich. Lay in the leaves and stare at the clouds. Take a nap. Make a hot coffee mid-day in the middle of the trail in the dirt. Take pictures of tiny things. Slowly breathe in the fresh air. Not worry about time. 

But… That’s not going to happen for a while yet. I just gotta keep going. I’m so close, and I’m so damn determined, aka stubborn. Even though I’m tired and lonely from these hugely long hike/runs, I came up with a plan in April, and I’ve stuck to it. All I have to do is this one last insane training run. It was part of my plan for this one to be kind of like a dress rehearsal because I’ll be doing the first and second legs exactly how they’ll be on January 14. Only this time I’ll get a few hours of sleep in between. If I get it done, I think I’ll come out with the confidence knowing I can do the miles – and from there it’s going to all come down to the weather. 

For right now, the thought of going out on that trail at 2am, hiking by myself for 15+ hours, totally exhausting my body and mind and making everything hurt is intimidating me at the moment. But then again, it’s been a rough emotional week for some reason, and the pain from something like this might be just what I need. Is that unhealthy? I don’t know, but at this point, if it motivates me I’m running with it. (Pun intended so hard.). 

So I’ve been preparing like I’ve prepared for past long runs. Food, hydration, clothing, miles, where to get water (which I hope to God works out, otherwise I’m kinda screwed), and lastly, something I haven’t mentioned yet, but I find so extremely helpful – is visualization. As I drive this truck along for hours on end, I imagine myself out there. I think about how I’ll feel at different points on the course, what might hurt and when, if and how often I’ll have to poo, how I’ll deal with a stomach ache, imagining my shoes hurting me again and trying to push through it, and some ideas for micro goals. For goals, I’m going to just work on getting to each checkpoint – one at a time – which on race day will be landmarks I’m really familiar with (I know this stinkin’ trail like the back of my hand now), and they are around 8 miles apart. So I’m working on that. 

But… Right now, I’m going to crawl into the truck’s bunk and get a little sleep. It’s 3pm, and I just finished my 12-hour work shift, driving my full 11 legal hours and logging about 660 miles. It was a near-record day for me, and I’m pooped. So I’ll be starting on the trail in less than 12 hours and that’s stupid crazy since we still have a trailer full of cheese behind us that needs to be delivered. And I still need to get my pack, food and all my gear ready. Yeesh. So much to do in such a small amount of time. 

I can do this one more time… right? 

So… An update. Written today, on November 21, 2016: 

So how did it turn out? Well… We unloaded our cheese later than we hoped, then dropped off the big truck, loaded up the Subaru with our stuff and head to West Bend where we had hotel reservations. We arrived around 2am, which is when I wanted to start hiking – already well behind. So I went through all my gear and food, got organized, dressed and ready to go, kissed Adam goodbye and drove to the trailhead. I started hiking just a little after 5am. I didn’t feel up to it. I was tired, grumpy and lonely. 

Just under two hours into the hike I started to cheer up as the sky lit up. The hike went well. The water pumps were still running, I was feeling good, and even stopped to talk to a few people that were out on such a rarely warm and beautiful November day. Oh, and just after dark I helped a lost bow hunter back to his car! That was cool. 

The sour mood fades after the sun comes up. You look around and couldn’t be happier – tucked into a beautiful Wisconsin forest on a beautiful day.

At the halfway point I made the mistake of splurging on one of those cheap Hostess apple pies, (which was so delicious, by the way!) and an hour later my stomach issues started up. Dangit. And I’ve been working so hard on this! I hiked on, munching Ginger (which I don’t like the taste of) and babying my tummy as best I could with what fuel I had left. Salami was a great choice. It may have saved me. So did a couple of toilets! 

So good! With not-so-good consequences. Still debating whether or not it was worth it.

Around mile 40 my knee started to twinge. Nothing abnormal. I’ve had this happen a lot of times before, and I can usually walk through it. It persisted until I reached the car at 46 miles. I was sore, tired, and ready for a nap. I had 18 more miles to go to reach my goal – my plan was to resupply and gather myself back at the hotel – and maybe grab a nap – before heading out for that last stretch. I was so tired. Have I mentioned that yet? Yeah. Tired. I even thought about abandoning this last stretch and trading it in for sleep. And maybe beers. 

I drove back to the hotel. I had to hit the trail at 2am if I wanted enough time after the hike to take a shower, pack up and head back in time for us to start work again that afternoon. But I got to the hotel around 9:30pm. That didn’t give me a whole lot of time. So I quickly ate pizza, resupplied and reorganized, took a shower and slept for a measly two hours, then head out again. 

I was tired. In fact, I was staying awake driving just fine, but missed a speed limit change along the way. I realized it had changed from 70 mph to 55 mph when I passed a police car sitting in the median (at 1:30am!). I’ve only been pulled over twice in my life for very minor things, but never speeding, and received verbal warnings both times. Well, this was my third time being pulled over. Thankfully it was also my third verbal warning. The officer was super nice. I’m not a speeder. For real – I drive THE speed limit. I’m one of those annoying drivers. So getting a speeding ticket would’ve been kind of sad, and an ugly ding on my squeaky-clean record. And my precious CDL. So I felt awake after that. And super alert! Such a dumb mistake. Ugh. 

I got on the trail for the last 18-mile stretch at 2am as planned, and there’s not a whole lot to say. I was a zombie. My knee hurt bad enough that I considered turning around at mile 2 (which I later realized would have been a good choice), it rained on and off, it was dark for most of it, it was lonely for all of it, and by the end I was stumbling a little, talking to myself, walking sideways down hills to help with knee pain, which in turn caused my gait to change just enough for my right big toenail to catch on a boot seam two or three times. I nearly tore it right off. I knew without even looking at it that it was gonna turn purple, eventually dry up and fall off. Seriously. Who needs toenails!? They’re such a nuisance. 

So. Very. Exhausted.

I didn’t run any of the last 18 miles, but even with practically crawling down the descents toward the end, I still managed to finish in 6 hours. Going at a fast hiking pace, I averaged 3mph, and I was so totally satisfied with that, considering the whole fatigue and cranked knee situation I put myself in. I got to the car, drank the rest of my cold coffee, and drove back to the hotel. 

Once back at the hotel, I made a warm Epsom salt bath and crawled in while I sipped on a thirst-quenching apple cider vinegar drink (a new favorite!). I may have dozed off a few times, as I realized an hour later I should probably shower and get my other stuff done. I packed up my stuff, slept for about an hour, and then Adam and I went to a local burger joint where I hungrily devoured a delicious burger, onion rings and a malt. The rest of the day was a tired blur of limping while shopping for our week on the road and getting ready for work. It was gonna be a rough one. 

In the end, I came out proud of myself for completing this challenge. I was also feeling so thankful that I had Adam pushing me just the exact right amount to help me get my butt out there. I would not have done this one without his encouragement. It’s really a fine balance between being supportive and being pushy, but he’s really got it down! As much as he wished I would say, “screw it – I’m staying in, drinking beers and playing cribbage with you,” he still encouraged me to go for my training run. And once again, while out on the trail, I was totally humbled by every mile. The darkness. The pain. Loneliness. Hills, roots, rocks. Water, salt and food. Time, pace, heartrate. And love. Love for this complete insanity. Really, what am I even doing!? I don’t know. 

…But… I managed going 64 miles in 27 hours, including my break in between going back to the hotel. I was kind of amazed by that after Adam brought it to my attention. My total hiking time came out to 20 hours. Looking at race day, if I add an hour for my supported resupply at mile 46, and a slower pace due to cold and snow conditions, I have a pretty good chance at this thing. I know I can get the miles in… Now it’s up to the weather. Oh, and now… My knee. Which is finally pain-free after two weeks of doing nothing. I’m nervous I injured it in a way that will creep up earlier than 40 miles. I don’t know how long I will be able to push through that level of injury-type pain during the race. That might be what puts me out. Or anything else totally unexpected. Who knows! It’s a long race, and so much can happen. 

Between now and then, I hope to get in some shorter runs to try out some cold-weather gear I haven’t been able to try out yet, and maybe one more 32-miler in early to mid December so I’ve got a good month to recover all joints, muscles, mind-screws and toes. 

And seriously? This right big toenail needs to go. One less to worry about. I’ll only have seven more to lose. Just seven. *sigh*

After almost 10 years with these poles, I lost a metal tip on one of them. You can tell which one! New tips have been purchased.

Morning light lit up this fall-colored leaf like a little beacon.

Tonight I love Hostess pies. Wait, no I don’t. Yes, I do. Yeah… I really do.