Mines of Spain, 2019: My 100-Mile Race Report

This is from 2019, not the current year, 2020. Just wanted to make that clear right from the start. I really hoped to have this done a week or two before this year’s Mines of Spain race, but I wasn’t able to make it happen. So I’m posting it right around the same time as others might be posting their 2020 race reports, and I apologize if that confuses anyone. I wanted to avoid that. But maybe it’ll be kind of cool because you can compare one year to another. I dunno. Anyway, it’s long as hell, so if you’re here and plan on reading the whole thing, get a cup of coffee, sit back and relax.

I really regret not doing this right away because I know I’ve forgotten so much already. I like writing these up when the lingering pains are still present and the tearful joy of accomplishment is still right at the surface, coming out in random, unpredictable bursts. But honestly, I think I was just plain burned out afterward, and so I put it off. And then I jumped right into a pretty intense brand new work situation and before I knew it… it was now… October of 2020. Dammit, if one good thing comes out of this year, maybe it’ll be my finishing this thing – finally! (I need to have this to read when I’m 80 and can’t believe that it actually happened! I really did run 100 miles!)

This photo is a spoiler – I finished. (I will also note right away, that when you see a photo posted in this blog entry with that Mines of Spain logo in the corner, the photography was courtesy of Mile 90 Photography. Please check them out, they do AMAZING work, as you will see!!)

Race Info:

Mines of Spain 100 – click here to go to the race site!

October 18-19, 2019

Mines of Spain Recreation Area – Dubuque, IA

There are two distances: 100k and 100 Miles

I participated in the 100 Mile race – this was my first time running a 100-miler, and the farthest I’ve ever run in one go.

The 100-mile race consists of 5 20-mile “loops.” The loops included some short out and backs, but essentially was a loop, starting and finishing at the actual Start/Finish line. This was also where “Crew-ville” was located, which was a large grassy area for crew to set up tents and hang out while waiting for their runners to come through after each 20-mile loop. More about that later, because it was one of the reasons I chose this race for my first 100-miler.

My stats:

Total miles: 104 (according to my GPS watch)

Total time: 31 hours, 23 minutes, 43 seconds

Overall pace: 18:06/mile

Elevation gain: 13,819 ft.

Overall rank: 42/54 (37 men and 17 women finished. There were 22 DNFs)

Gender rank: 12/17

Age group rank: 5/15

Calories burned: 9,407

A video I put together from race day:

Training:

The most challenging aspect of my entire 100-mile race experience wasn’t my sore feet at mile 75, or that I felt like I had to poop for the entire last 20 miles, or that it felt like every inch of my skin hurt at mile 90 — it was the training leading up to race day. I feel as though I’ve mentioned my training in previous blogs ad nauseam… because it’s hard to hold to any sort of routine, or to really find time AND places to run while driving as an over-the-road truck driver. So anyway, I won’t go into great detail, breaking down runs or anything. I promise I’ll try to keep it simple.

Getting unloaded? Go run. Getting loaded? Go run. 10-hour break? Go run. 30-minute break? Go run. Pretty much the routine leading up to the race.

I’ve been training for ultras as a trucker for over a year now, and it’s mostly become part of my regular trip-planning and daily focus. Where will I be able to run? When will I be able to run? Do I need to split it into two runs? Where can I park my truck and run safely? It’s exhausting. In fact, a lot of the time, the logistics behind running over the road is more tiring than the running itself – seriously. I actually enjoy the break from the planning more than I do the running after a race!

It really helped to have a run streak going. I started one back in March just to step up my motivation. I was getting down and not doing much, so I decided to do a “one mile a day” challenge. I called it my “no excuses” challenge. No matter what the weather was doing, no matter how little time I had, no matter how tired I was, I could do one mile. If that was walking laps around my truck, fine. I can do one mile. And I did that for March, and then just kept going (I broke it 2 days after my 100-mile race and am currently looking at doing some other type of streak, but not sure what yet.). So that streak kept me going every single day, and really was a HUGE help in getting as many miles as I could so I would at least feel a little prepared for this beast. Then there was my “peak training” weeks. I’ve heard this term used by other runners, and I honestly don’t really know what it means, or if it’s really got a specific meaning, but for me it just meant run. As much as possible. And I did. Every spare moment I had, I ran. On a 10-hour break (required by law as a truck driver), I would shut down at night, change, go out and run. Then I’d sleep 5-6 hours, wake up, change, and go out and run again. A lot of the time it was dark outside. Sometimes it was running around a truck stop parking lot. Sometimes it was a busy frontage road in the pouring rain. But I donned my reflective vest, blinky lights and headlamp and did it anyway. In addition to all the “regular” daily running, I tried to get in one long run on my one day off each week. I got in a few 20-milers, a couple of 30’s and a 40 once I got closer to race month. Thankfully I had the support of my husband, Adam, who took care of a lot of my weekly chores (laundry, grocery shopping, food prep) that I also needed to get done for each week of work on the road. It was nuts for a few weeks there, I won’t lie.

Hard work. But big, rewarding payoffs. All worth it. All of it.

So that’s pretty much how I got myself ready. And I still feel like I could’ve – and should’ve – done so much more. If there’s ever a next time I run 100 miles (which I’d really like to think there will be, because it was awesome), I’ll hope to be working a different sort of job that will allow me to do some more regular and focused training. Until then, I will try to stay in shape so that I can jump in on some shorter ultras. (Hah. Shorter. Like 50k or 50 miles. Look what’s happened to me! Since when is 50 miles short!? I’ve lost my mind!)

Race-day nutrition:

During my races and training sessions leading up to this one, I learned that my guts handle softer foods better than harder ones. For example, pureed avocados go through my digestive tract way smoother than say, a Clif bar. So I started making my own race “gels.” I live a generally low-carb lifestyle (except when I feel like drinking beer and eating pizza, or having a fresh-baked scone with my coffee, but I try my best to keep these for special occasions or as an occasional treat), so an added bonus to making my own race food was that I controlled the amount of sugar that went into it (which after 10’s of hours of running, large amounts of sugar also seems to turn down my appetite for the much-needed fuel my body needs to keep moving). In addition to the ease of digestion and lower sugar content, I was able to put all-narural ingredients into it. I figured this was all good stuff, and after some experimentation during the lead-up to this big mutha-hundred, I had a few tried-and-true flavors ready to go (the pureed egg with mayo and pickle juice was one that didn’t make the cut).

Race-day homemade food! Squishies!

I call them my “squishies.” I bought some Gu-brand reusable gel containers and some other cute ones (meant for baby food) from Amazon, and a couple days before the race I went to work. I had 23 squishies queued up and ready to squeeze right down my throat for quick energy (but they do actually taste pretty awesome, too). These were the flavors I made:

Coconut milk base with cinnamon, vanilla and chia seeds

Coconut milk base with cocoa powder, vanilla and chia seeds

Avocado base with avocado oil, cinnamon, honey and cayenne (my fave!)

Sweet potato base with MCT oil and maple syrup

Sweet potato base with olive oil, salt, pepper and turmeric

Almond butter base with MCT oil and strawberries (my 2nd fave! PB&J in squeeze form!)

Then during the race I was going to try to wait to add aid station food as long as I could, and then just grab whatever my belly was in the mood for (olives and pumpkin pie were two things I wasn’t able to pass up early on). Caffeine was also going be added in when I first felt like I really needed it, and then I’d slowly continue on with it after that. I stuck pretty close to that plan, and I fared pretty well, until sometime before my last loop when my appetite started to dwindle and I constantly felt like I had to poop (my most common problem.) I still don’t have this stuff completely figured out, but I’ve come a long way. And I think my stomach problems may be partially linked to the amount of pain I’m in. But that needs more observation to confirm. Basically, I better sign up for more races soon so I can figure this mystery out. Right?

Gear and drop bags:

I like to keep stuff as simple as possible. It’s one of the reasons I enjoy summer running – less layers and bundling up needed – shorts, shirt, sandals, go. Anyway, for clothing I did keep it simple. Ink n Burn capris, Ink n Burn tech shirt, cheap Target sports bra, 1/2 buff around my wrist to wipe sweat with, a pink Adidas visor (I need a new option here for a cool visor – suggestions appreciated!) cheapo Walmart Bluetooth earbuds, Garmin Fenix 3 watch, Bedrock sandals (I wore my Lunas for one loop but changed back to the Bedrocks – my feet slide around in the Lunas when they get wet. And as you will see, the water. There was lots of it.)

Drop bag things

I carried a Patagonia Houdini Jacket, which I wore at the start and towards the end of the race because it was chilly out, and that was a pretty nice little piece of gear that I’m glad I sold an arm to afford – they just seem so pricey for how little there is to them – but there’s a reason for it! So incredibly light, packs down to almost nothing, and kept me warm when I was chilled (it also keeps off a little rain, but if it’s actually raining, you’re just gonna get wet no matter what you wear, so…).

My vest is the Nathan VaporHowe. I’ve tried quite a few different vests, and this one was the most comfy for me and seemed to have enough room for all the things I wanted to carry. I did get one chafe spot in the middle of my back where the pack must slightly rub on my sports bra band, but I’m not sure which is at fault here – the vest or the bra – probably both teaming up, jerks. Anyway, I knew this was an issue going in, so my lovely mom got the job of lubing that particular spot every time I came around from a loop (thanks, Mom!), and it did very well.

I carried my phone for contacting my crew and to use for pictures and video. Along with technology comes chargers and things. I had a small charger with a cord for my phone and the special docking charge cord for my watch (even though there’s a cord hanging from it, you can wear it while it charges – kind of a cool design). My headlamp is my trusty Black Diamond Spot, which is what I’ve used for years of backpacking and running.

I also carried my Black Diamond Z-pole trekking poles and used them on, I think the last two loops? Maybe the last three? See, this is why I need to write these race reports right away! Grrr… They were very helpful after I got tired and sloppy-footed, and there was some mud at the very end I vaguely remember in my late-race fog-brain that was downhill and very slick.

For my drop bags, I decided again, to keep it simple. We were allowed to have drop bags at all four of the aid stations, but I chose to just have one at Aid Station #1, Sauk & Fox. On each 20-mile loop I was able to access it 4.2 miles in and then again 8.1 miles later, or 13.3 miles into the loop. This worked great for me, and I actually rarely needed anything from it. I pretty much only accessed it to swap out an empty squishy homemade food for a full one, a Pickle Power, and maybe a salt tab or two. I liked that I only had one bag to get ready (less decisions pre-race) and I *loved* that I only had one bag to choose from during the race (the best time to have the least amount of decisions to make!). It was also easier because I didn’t have to remember what I had in what bag and what I used last time and was there any left of this item in that bag, etc. It was one bag.

The drop bag all ready to go!

In that bag I had these things:

Buff, Injinji socks (I’ll wear them if my feet get unbearably cold OR if I have some bad chafing that KT tape won’t help), KT tape and small scissors, Pickle Power shots, salt tabs, extra Tums, Pepto, and an Immodium, extra headlamp batteries, squirrels nut butter, 2Toms sport shield wipes, wet ones, extra squishy homemade food thingies, emergency Hammer gel, spare mini charger, heavier rain jacket, a small towel in case I had to dry my feet off to tape them, duct tape, and liner gloves.

Weather, terrain and trail conditions:

So, the weather, as I remember it a year later, was pretty typical for fall in the Midwest. I remember feeling a little shivery and cold in the early morning at the start, and by the time the race began, I couldn’t feel my toes. It took probably a mile to get them feeling comfy again, but I don’t remember them being cold after that (even after the water crossings), but they usually stay pretty warm when I’m moving. (Winter is a different story – I will wear wool Injinji socks if it’s below freezing. Yup, socks and sandals. Nope, don’t care.)

I remember seeing that other racers had changed into shorts after the first loop when the day warmed up a bit, and I kinda wish I’d have done the same – I was actually comfortable temperature-wise in my capris, but just the change of clothes once or twice would’ve been refreshing. I wore the same thing for the whole race, only adding my Houdini jacket at the beginning and end to ward off the chill.

Pretty great fall weather.

The temperatures ranged between about 40° and 60°F and for the most part was great for fall running. One thing I’m not 100% clear on is if there was any rain. I remember zero rain, but I also remember the trail being muddy at the end (like mile 90 or something really late like that) because I was being very careful not to end up in a mud-glissade on my butt down a switchback hill, because my body felt so wrecked I was sure I wouldn’t have been able to get back up again. Did it rain? Forecast history says no, I remember no… Fellow 2019 racers? Do you remember? I really don’t think it did.

The terrain in this race had everything, which was the best. It had meadows (that smelled so strongly like cotton candy that I was sure an aid station was making some, and I thought it such a brilliant freaking idea, because, I mean, sugar, and I hoped they had blue and pink swirl, which of course they would because they are standard cotton candy colors… Unfortunately nobody had cotton candy. It was just the meadows), there was single-track through the forest under canopies of fall-colored leaves, bluffs with a view, road (yeah, there was some road at the beginning/end of the loop and one short section that was detoured around a section of closed trail), stairs (lots of them, but I remember feeling glad for the change in muscle-usage and looked forward to those sections), river crossings, rocks, roots, grass. I mean, all the things. I absolutely loved the variety, although I could deal with less road if I’m being picky.

So many stairs!

There was really only one tiny negative nitpick I have from this race, but I would 100% not let this deter you from running in it. Right near the start/finish is a section of road and bike path that basically connects the start/finish area (which is in a park) to the Mines of Spain Recreational area. Along that short section of road is a sewage treatment plant. I actually don’t remember ever smelling it on the way out on each loop, but I remember always smelling it toward the end of each loop on the way back. But I also remember I was always eating something, probably to get in planned calories I failed to consume earlier during the loop, and since I was going to soon be seeing my crew and resupplying, I was downing what I could. Anyway, it was a smelly few minutes each time around. Just plan your eating better than I did, and you might not even notice it.

The biggest news of the race was the flooding. I believe it was Catfish Creek – a short section of trail was completely flooded to thigh-deep. They had a rope to guide you where the trail was, and if you strayed too far away from it, the river bank dropped off and you’d really be in deep. Like needing to swim, deep. But it wasn’t difficult to follow the rope, even on the last loops when I was foggy and unstable. We just needed to be careful of our footing because the ground was squishy and muddy underwater. They did have kayakers floating along that section in case racers had trouble, which I thought was so cool. At night there were two people in a canoe (instead of the kayakers) and they had a small fire burning in the middle of the canoe on some sort of little grill, maybe, for warmth, I assume. Or wait. Was that a hallucination? No, I’m pretty certain that was real (I never did get to a point of hallucinating. Sigh… some day!)

The high water section.

It was chilly going through the water, I mean it’s always a bit shocking getting in to water in October, but I actually found it refreshing (and fun!). As soon as you got out of the water and up to the road there was a giant fire built to warm up by, but I never felt the need for it, so I always said hi to the volunteers and ran on, keeping myself plenty warm that way. I found the water sections to be exciting, and another fun way to break up the course.

Crew and Pacer:

First of all, Crew-Ville! One of the reasons I chose to run the Mines of Spain as my first 100 (I have to admit it was my 2nd choice next to the Superior 100, which I did not get picked for in the lottery), was the Crew-Ville setup. Crew-Ville is at the Start/Finish and the only place where crew can be. Well, there was one other aid station they could access, but it wasn’t far from the end of each loop anyway, and so we just kept it simple and decided they could stay in one spot. This was so much more convenient than chasing me around in a car, hoping they’d get there in time, not get a flat tire, worry about forgetting to grab ice, or whatever else. And they were able to get sleep in between seeing me, play cards, crack a beer and not have to drive anywhere… it just seemed perfect. There’s a huge grassy lawn at the start/finish/crew-ville area, and there are big squares marked off where you can set up a tent. My crew set up a 3-walled tent with tables and chairs and bins and coolers and all kinds of things, and that’s where I’d head to every 20 miles to resupply my gear, food and encouragement to keep going. There was also a big pavilion, kind of race headquarters, where all kinds of food was available for racers and crew that had a special food bracelet. I believe the registration comes with a bracelet for the racer and one crew member, but you can purchase extras, so that’s what I did. It was a really cool set-up.

My crew.

My crew was the best. I had Adam (my husband), my mom and dad (Patty and Keith), and I even had two surprise crew members! Dick and Joanne (friends of our family) showed up and surprised me the night before the race! On top of this amazing crew, I had a pacer for the first time ever, Jessica.

Standing with my pacer, Jessica.

These people helped make this first 100-mile race an amazing experience for me, and I’m so glad they were all part of it. I simply don’t have enough words in my vocabulary to explain my gratitude, love and appreciation for the people that support me when it comes to these nutso things I love to do. And they just keep showing up! Who’s crazier!?

So my husband, Adam, is basically my crew chief. He takes his job pretty seriously and keeps stuff moving along. He’s kind of like the “Toots Wrangler.” I can be quite a lollygagger and he’s really good at reminding me to focus with a perfectly balanced regimented gentleness, if that makes sense. He keeps me doing what I need to do and makes sure I keep my butt moving, but the whole time with a sweet, caring concern in his eyes – and before I go I get a big hug and kiss and encouragement. He’s also crazy-good at all the math. As I’m stuffing food into my mouth and race vest at the same time, he’ll be telling me how fast I ran the last section and how fast I need to run the next section to reach my goals. And he’s good at keeping it simple enough that I have the basic knowledge of what I need to do when I hit the trail again. He’s not a runner, but he’s a natural at this part – he gets it.

Our Crew-ville set-up.
I didn’t actually nap at all. But I did lie down for like one minute to stretch a little and it felt way too good!

Along with Adam, my mom, dad, Dick and Joanne were all stellar cheerleaders, go-getters and helpers. They were always in a good mood, smiling, laughing, joking and keeping things upbeat, even though they were tired, too. One thing was for sure – they were going to do everything they could to keep me thinking positively, which wasn’t too tough because they’re all just fun people, anyway. And I was just so happy to be there. They all pitched in to help me find things in my race bins, grab food, hot coffee, hold up blankets while my mom lubed up my back and I lubed my butt cheeks, fill water bottles, point me to the bathrooms – whatever big or little thing I needed, they were all on it before I could finish a sentence. None of us have done this very many times (and I believe it was Dick and Joanne’s first ultramarathon crewing gig) but it felt like when I came into our crew station, we were a well-oiled machine.

And what a pacer! Jessica came to pace me for my last 20-mile loop. I met Jessica at the Frozen Otter race, which is a winter ultra – if you’ve followed my blog, you’ve read my race reports from those races. They’re a whole different kind of crazy! Anyway, Jessica has run in the Frozen Otter races, and we connected through that and were friends on social media. When I reached out through Facebook to see if anyone would be able and willing to run a 20-mile loop with me, Jessica said she would do it! She didn’t live too far from the race, and was curious about the course but couldn’t commit to racing it, so it was perfect for both of us! I felt kind of like a real ultrarunner having a friend there with a bib that read “PACER” on it. It’s sometimes weird little things that help it sink in. (Pacers are also sometimes called “safety runners” and they can help with all sorts of things, depending on the race and need of the runner. They can do math if you’re chasing cutoffs and you’re too tired to think, they can keep you from falling asleep and off of a cliff (literally in some mountain races), they can remind you to drink or eat, they can keep you entertained with stories or song, be a distraction from the monotony of running for 100 miles, or just simply be good company.)

Jessica was a pro. I didn’t know much at all about pacing or being a pacer, but I’m pretty sure she’s done this before – she kept JUST far enough in front of me that I constantly felt like I had to keep up, but never so far that I felt I was struggling. It’s like she knew exactly what I had in me and pulled me right along. I could’ve easily talked myself into just walking the whole last 20 miles without her, as I was hurting pretty much in every single place on my body. My feet were achy and knotted, I was so tired, so very-very tired, and every step made my skin hurt. Like, all of it. But Jessica kept the conversations going, and I honestly can’t remember hardly anything we talked about, but I know she kept me thinking about things other than the painful physical sensations that were trying to take my mind over. I do know at one point, with her positivity and encouragement, I just started running again. I wanted to be at that finish line. My feet hurt and my skin hurt and my stomach was all kinds of weird, making me feel like I constantly had to poop, and at one point I just decided to pretend I was fresh and nothing hurt. I faked better posture, starting moving my feet faster and we even passed a few people towards the end of the loop. I didn’t care at all what place I ended up in, and I certainly wasn’t out to pass people – I simply wanted to finish before the final cutoff time, and that was it. But the fact that I was able to turn my mind somewhere else and do that felt pretty cool. So thank you, Jessica, for helping me finish strong!!

And thank you, Adam, mom, dad, Dick and Joanne. I love you all so much!

Stick around after this already way-too-long race report for a couple more stories about my crew (one involving a horse and the other some unknowingly inappropriate signs) and a specific poop-related story with my pacer (it was me that was doing the pooping).

Recovery:

First things first – taking in calories without having to worry about the consequences of running with it in my belly! When I got done with the race I was trying to decide what I was hungry for, so I munched on a little bit of pizza and a couple things from the food station at the pavilion, but what I ended up really wanting was my gigantic celebration can of Corona.

Celebration beer!

After we got everything packed up my crew took me out for a delicious, gigantic post-race Mexican dinner and it was amazing. I definitely did not have a suppressed appetite like I hear some racers do, and I was thankful because that smothered burrito and margarita was so delicious! It was also really nice to just sit down and catch up with the crew and hear about their experiences while I was out there running. It sounds like they had a good time too, and that made me happy.

From what I remember the physical recovery process went fairly smooth, especially considering how much everything hurt in those last miles. I know it was kind of hard getting around the next day, as my feet and legs were pretty sore as expected, but I did go for a mile and a half walk in the morning, and I think that helped. That was also my 233rd day of a “mile-a-day” streak I was on, and that’s where it ended. I did go for a slow 2-3 mile run a couple of days later, and I felt pretty good! Nothing was too out of whack, and I was going to be back to complete normalcy in no time. Except that I dove right into a brand new situation at work (first time training another driver!), so there wasn’t a lot of my regular running happening, even though I felt ready for it. And honestly, the forced physical break was probably a good one. The girl I was training is actually a friend of mine, and also a PCT hiker, so we did get out for some walks, and we had *so* much fun. But it was certainly a little more mental work than what I was used to, so I might’ve missed out on a little of that sort of wind-down. I’m thankful she was a great driver, a super-easy trainee, and a fun person to spend time with!

Post-race epsom salt bath and bath beer.

Gonna back up for a minute to share a fun post-race experience I had. On our way home, Adam and I drove over to Chicago and visited the Ten Junk Miles crew for one of the “gang show” podcasts. They fed us dinner and we grabbed beers and head into Scotty’s basement office to record. Looking back, it’s all such a blur, which is kind of funny. I’m pretty sure I was suffering from some sort of post-100-mile brain fog. And I had some pretty nice cankles goin’ on that I think the crew admired. But it was a really fun experience to spend some time with these awesome people and talk about my race and running and whatever else we talked about that I can’t remember! Check out Gang Show 118 here, and fall into the rabbit hole and listen to many more if you haven’t already, because their podcast is the best. I listen to a lot being an OTR trucker and they are my #1 choice.

Hanging out with Adam, Holly and Scotty in the Ten Junk Miles studio!

Fun stuff! Extra stories from the race:

First, overall I’m happy with how my first 100 went. I was definitely towards the back of the pack but I didn’t care. I just wanted to finish before the final cutoff, which I did, and on top of that, I never felt at any point like time was going to hold me back, as long as I just kept going. No chasing cutoffs!

Proud.

Before the race I did some visualization exercises, which I really think help me, and when I thought about how each loop would go, I was pretty close. Loop one was super-fun, nothing really hurt, I ran strong, and everything was new and interesting. Loop two was a little tougher than I’d expected mentally, and I think that’s because I knew that I had so much more race to go! Loop three was dark and I slowed way down. My feet were hurting pretty bad already and I was starting to get tired. Loop four was painful physically, but I knew if I got it done, I’d pick up Jessica to pace me for the final loop and that would be that. And loop five? Victory lap. If I head out on loop five I figured I’d know I’d be finishing.

What I actually wrote out in my journal before the race. Pretty darn close!

Here’s a funny one. As I mentioned earlier, my crew also made very good cheerleaders. Each time I came around a loop my mom would be holding up a giant sign that they had made out of a piece of cardboard. The first one read, “RUN JACK SLEEP” and when I saw it I couldn’t help but crack up immediately. They tried pulling a joke from the Ten Junk Miles podcast because they know how much I love it and thought I would get a kick out if it. I sure did. You see, Adam has heard bits and pieces of the show while I listen to it in the truck, and has also had to listen to me go on and on about one funny thing or another. Well, a popular guest on the show, and famous pacer for Scott Jurek (in the past), Dusty Olson, was on a show and came up with the proper order in which to do things: Run, whack, nap. And it means what you think it means. So the sign the crew came up with that my mom was holding up meant the same thing, but missed the mark a bit. So funny!

This crew seriously kept me smiling, laughing and I’m glad to see they had fun, too!

The next loop she held a new sign, “RUN WHACK NAP” – so they fixed it! And they got another big laugh out of me.

The third sign… well, it confused me. At this point I was tired and my brain wasn’t quite functioning right, so when I read, “RUN RABBIT RUN,” my first thought was, “why are they holding a sign for a different race?” Because Run Rabbit Run is another popular ultra race in Colorado – and I know my crew didn’t know that. Or did they? What the heck? And why? Well, as it turns out, the sign was actually meant to be the girl’s version of “Run Whack Nap.” Yeah, it was just one of those hilarious, ongoing things that just really stood out as a fun memory from the day. Each time I came in from a loop the first thing my crew did was crack me up, and that’s why I love them.

“The reason you’re able to run 100 miles is because you have horse blood,” Dick said. Dick and Joanne are friends of our family from where I grew up in Phillips, Wisconsin. In 2006 my mom and I backpacked across the country on the American Discovery Trail to raise awareness and research funds for Aplastic Anemia (which I was treated for in 1998 and recovered from), and Dick met us for a long stretch with his pickup truck camper to support us on the trail. I mean, the guy fed us, trailed us and looked out for us, gave us a sheltered bed to sleep in each night in his camper, chased down the Schwann’s guy so he could bring us ice cream in the middle of nowhere, Kansas on a 100-degree day. He was a trail angel extraordinaire. So I suppose when he found out I was doing another crazy thing, he thought he’d come and support me, so he and his wife Joanne did just that. It was a really nice surprise! So where does this horse thing come in? Well, when I was treated for my Aplastic Anemia, I received a treatment called ATG (I won’t go into much detail here – you can find the whole story here if you’re interested), but the jist of it is that there are two versions of ATG – horse and rabbit. I received the horse version – it’s a serum they get from horse blood to treat the illness I had. So Dick and Joanne found this toy horse and brought it along as a sort of “mascot” for the day. And we all found it pretty perfect. Now if I can just embrace the thought that I can run because I have horse blood… maybe I can get faster! Haha! Yeah, right! I’m okay being slow.

Dick and Joanne with the horse mascot.

As I mentioned, this was my first time having a pacer, and Jessica was great. She was always super-cheery and kept the conversation going the whole time we ran that last 20-mile loop, and even helped me poop. Well, let’s tell this story because that doesn’t sound right. Towards the end of the race my stomach started to be weird, which showed up as feeling like I constantly had to poop. I finally got to a point I had to try because I was getting pretty uncomfortable. I started scoping out a spot, and was coming around to probably the last good place for a while (towards the start of a long meadow section where I’d be in the wide open). I spotted a big tree up around a bend and decided that was a spot, and then? Voices. A man and his little boy came walking out of the tall grass right ahead of us on the trail dressed in camouflage. They were hunters, but man, I had to poop. So Jessica told me to go up ahead and poop and she’d distract them while I did my business. So I darted up the trail and into the woods just far enough off the trail to be leave no trace and started my business. I could hear her, basically right on the other side of the tree I was near – she started up a conversation with this hunter to keep him from heading down the trail toward me and my bare ass. I could hear them kind of wrapping up the conversation and then she started talking to the kid. I was almost laughing as I was finishing up – she was trying so hard to keep them from continuing down the trail! Then I heard them start heading my way, and I was just standing up and heading back toward the trail. They 100% knew what I was doing, but at least they caught me towards the end. What a pacer, hey!? She even covered me while I pooped. Haha! Thanks, Jessica!!

I really had a fun race. When this year’s race rolled around, I looked on with envy. I really wish I could’ve run it again, and hope to maybe run it again one day. This year was crazy with all the Covid crap going on, so in a way I was glad to just keep my distance (being a truck driver, I’ve been trying to stay away just because I’m going all over and who knows when and or where I might contract the stupid virus), but I still watched as some of the friends I met in last year’s race participated this year. It looked like they took all the safety precautions and ran a safe race. And there was no flood this year, so I got to see pictures of the actual trail in some section we had thigh-high water! Anyway, congrats to all this year’s runners!! It’s such an exciting time, and such a high to complete something so insanely enormous and difficult. And for some reason, even though it was some of the most intense, consistent pain I felt for a long stretch of time, that’s all faded and I want to do it again. And I will. But I also have many more things in my sights, and hopefully you’ll be reading about those soon.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed it!

Those feet deserved that 100-mile finisher belt buckle!!

___

Tonight I love ultrarunning. I’m a backpacker at heart, but ultrarunning has really helped scratch the backpacking itch while it’s been difficult to find the time for it. I really did find a special love for ultras. And I plan to keep up my fitness so I can stay active in the community, at least a little bit. These people are amazing, just like the backpacking community. We talk about a lot of the same stuff – chafing, pooping, food… They’re my kind of people and I love them all.

More photos.

This guy. <3
My mom helping me paint my toenails the night before the race.
Pre-race packet pick-up.
Race morning. Foot prep.
So ready for this thing to START!
Coming around the Julien Dubuque monument.
Crew activities while waiting for me to run a loop.
That finish face! Haha!
Running all night. All smiles.
The look on my dad’s face… love this so much.
Someone was letting racers pet their dog at one of the aid stations, and it was honestly a really nice boost. Such a sweetie!!
The race director, Josh Sun, greeted all the finishers. What a great race he puts on!
A good day. And so glad to be done running.

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. ❤️

Marquette Trail 50, 2018: My 50-mile Race Report

Marquette Trail 50

August 18, 2018

Marquette, MI

Race consists of 3 loops: *one* 11-mile loop followed by *two* 20-mile loops (run in reverse order).

Well, no cliffhangers! I finished! I chased a tough cutoff around mile 41, but ended up coming in with about 40 minutes to spare on the 15-hour limit for the 50-mile race. It was a really tough one! And it’s not just me saying that – I had several racers who aren’t new to this sport tell me it’s tough, and some of the cutoffs are pretty aggressive – so I’m pretty happy I was able to just finish. So, the next 50-mile race I sign up for? Might be something a little less difficult – just because. Or maybe not. Because I am me.

Here’s a rough video I put together that will give you an hour-by-hour glimpse into what was going on in my head. Warning: there is some crying, some joy, and some cussing. Because that’s ultras. Enjoy!

Overall, here’s what went down: I started slow, but mostly because I got caught up in a huge line of runners hiking at the start. I’m new to these races and figured it was good for me to start slow, so I just rolled with it, basically hiking. It was dark and the terrain was pretty tough with rocks and roots and a few decent climbs and descents. But then another racer came up behind me asking if we were 50k or 50-milers, and most were 50k racers. She asked politely to pass explaining that the 50k racers have a much more lenient time cutoff than the 50-milers and that she was getting nervous. To be honest, I was getting nervous myself, but I didn’t want to just start running uphill passing people and burning myself out. But as she started to pass, I just kind of kept up with her, and before we knew it, we were out of the long line and going at a pretty decent pace. I felt much better, but realized that I’d already lost quite a bit of time, so I was hustling. I hoped that that start situation wouldn’t come back to bite me toward the end of the race. Whether or not it did, I honestly don’t know. Had I been able to run faster, would I have gone out too fast? Maybe.

At about mile 15 or 16 my feet started to hurt overall, kind of suddenly. I have a theory as to why, which I’ll cover a little later on here (when I talk about my sandal snafu), but I just kept going, constantly assessing my pain levels. I figured if it didn’t get any worse, I could push through. Thankfully it didn’t get worse. They did hurt the rest of the way, and after the toughest climb (Hogsback mountain), my left knee was feeling tweaky, so add that into tightening hamstrings (I need to stretch more or do yoga or something, because yeesh), it was a bit of a struggle. But it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle – and I expected to be pushing through some stuff. In hindsight, I’m glad I had the opportunity to work through a few tough spots and push on. This is something I crave during these longer runs.

My crew: I had a crew for this race. Adam was my crew chief and my mom and dad came along and ended up helping out a ton. Just seeing them at the aid stations was such a morale boost. They hugged me even though I was super-sweaty and cheered me in and out each time I saw them. But they did more than that. When I got to an aid station, I would take off my pack, and they’d be filing my water bladder with ice water, switching out my Tailwind bottle (electrolyte drink), and offering me options of things I brought to eat, and things I needed to carry with me. They took my empty Pickle Power bottles and handed me new ones, same with any other garbage I was carrying – at one point, even a ziploc with dirty toilet paper. Seriously. They’re the best! I didn’t even have to waste time looking for a garbage can. So, looking back, I wonder how was I so darn slow!? Well, I’ve never claimed to be a fast trail runner… I try to be consistent, but this had a few pretty slow spots and it was just a tough race! Glad I had Adam, my mom and dad there to support me!! It would have been so much tougher without them. And lonlier, since I don’t really know many people in the ultrarunning community yet. I feel a little bit like an outsider, still, but I think in time I’ll feel as though I fit in a little more. But for now, crew… I love you guys!

One of my favorite photos from the race (thanks, mom!). Adam is telling me I’ve got plenty of time and that I’m going to finish. That’s not the sun in my eyes… I’m nearly in tears of relief and pride.

These two – my dad and my mom. My biggest fans and always by my side helping make my crazy-ass dreams come true.

Pre-race: I didn’t feel as ready for this race as I did for my 50K. I think I was just nervous about the distance jump, and my training between the two races wasn’t as spot-on as it was leading up to my 50K. But I decided to go into it with the mindset that I know I can go 50 miles, so I’m just going to go 50 miles.

All four of us (me, Adam, mom and dad) camped for the weekend at the Marquette Tourist Park, which is a campground not too far from the start/finish line of the race. Adam and I arrived in the afternoon on Friday for early packet pick-up, and we met the race director because he was asking for someone to sing the National Anthem dark and early before the race started on Saturday morning. Well… Hello!? I know of a certain someone who is REALLY good at that! I was pretty excited to see him get to be such a big part of the event. What a cool opportunity to pop up! (He sounded great, too, by the way!!)

The morning of the race came to quickly. I had trouble sleeping, partially due to some loud girls in the campsite next to us, and partially because nerves. But morning came regardless, and I prepped the way I always do. I made a decaf coffee with heavy cream and tried to use the bathroom. My bathroom trip wasn’t nearly as successful as it was for my 50K, but it was going to have to do. Thankfully I didn’t have too much trouble during the race in this arena, but I DID have to poop in the woods one time. That was a bummer, but you do whatchya gotta do! And it still wasn’t as bad as some of my Frozen Otter training runs in 2016. {shudder}

Terrain: I thought the Northern Unit of Kettle Moraine was technical! Well, it is, but this run was a lot more technical. It was like Kettle Moraine on steroids! Just as many rocks and roots, but they were all BIGGER. The rocks were pointier, too. And the hills were a little bigger. I mean, Kettle Moraine is still amazing for training – especially for a race like this – but man, oh man… I fell one time, and as I started to go down in slow motion (like you always do) I spotted a very pointy, pyramid-shaped rock that my left knee was aiming right for. I was able to quickly put out my left hand and catch my fall with my knee JUST grazing the point of that rock. The guy behind me told me I looked totally graceful – maybe he was just being nice, but I’ll take it! I did end up with a little bruise and a scrape on that knee, but if I hadn’t caught myself, it would’ve been really ugly. I mean, a potential race-ender. I felt pretty lucky. Yeah, the terrain was no joke.

The climbs were insane. Sugarloaf is one of the famous climbs because you climb hundreds of stairs to the top. Then there’s Hogsback. This one is close to the 50K (31 mile) mark, when you go around the 20-mile loop the first time. Yup, you literally climb on all fours in places. There’s a really technical section of worn-down trail around tree roots and you basically crawl your way up crevices in rock until you reach the top. Once at the top you are rewarded with views of Lake Superior (and a breeze) that made it all seem worth it. Then you butt-scoot down smooth rock on the other side. And then you run that same 20-mile loop the opposite direction, so Hogsback comes up right away after leaving the first cutoff at 31 miles (which I made with only 30 minutes to spare, by the way! ).

The incredible view from the top of Sugarloaf.

There was a really nice, flatish section along Lake Superior in the middle of that 20-mile loop, though, which was a sweet little reprieve from the hills. It was sand and pine needles, with incredible views of the big lake – and an amazing breeze to go with it. Which brings me to…

Weather: It was in the mid- to upper-70’s, party cloudy and overcast at the start and sunny at times throughout the day. It felt cooler in the shade of the forest, and the breezes at the top of climbs and along the lake were amazing. I don’t think I could’ve asked for better weather to spend 14 hours in the woods!

Aid Stations: The aid stations and volunteers were awesome, as they always are! I had my crew, so I didn’t partake as much as would’ve been fun to, but when I did, everyone was so helpful, cheerful, and the snacks I did enjoy were life-savers – particularly watermelon at mile 41 just after beating the most aggressive cutoff. I felt like I was freakin’ starving and I knew I didn’t have a ton of time to spare, so one of the volunteers shoved a couple of granola bars in my hand, then sliced off a huge chunk of watermelon, chopped off the rine and handed it to me for on-the-go. I flew off down the trail, not even caring how sticky my hands were getting from that juicy, delicious sugar-bomb. That watermelon was the best thing on earth in that moment. Thank you, volunteers!!

At an aid station getting crewed. The pack was new to Adam so we struggled with it a bit when we were rushed, but it was a good choice to wear it. Ice water in the bladder kept my back nice and cool!

Post-race notes and the one (big) bummer: I set up 3 goals, which I don’t even want to bring up because I’m seriously embarrassed that my 3rd goal was even something that popped into my head – achievable or not. Goal one was to finish under the 15-hour cutoff and be an official finisher. I did that. My second goal was to have pretty even splits, which I didn’t do so well, but I felt like I was giving fairly consistent effort throughout, and my splits were more affected by getting caught in a slow line of racers at the start and the terrain throughout. I think I have a lot of room to work here for sure, though. I did power-hike a lot of the last 4 miles with a new running friend, Missy (thank you, Missy, for being awesome!). It ended up being four very memorable and fun miles. Running with people – so fun. My third goal? Yeah… Um, I set it to finish under 12 hours. Now, I know doing a sub-12-hour 50-mile race is a thing, but I pretty much knew this goal was out of my league since the women’s course record was 11:24. But my 50K goals felt almost too easy to reach, so I needed one in here that was tougher. 12 hours at the Marquette 50 was a little too tough. At least for me. I feel great about accomplishing goal #1, and feel like I made a good attempt at goal #2, but maybe my goal #3 should’ve been something that, even though I might not accomplish it, could at least be something that could motivate me to push harder. I mean, I threw that goal out before I even started. I’ll get this goal-setting thing nailed down one day. Maybe.

The bummer? I finished just before 8pm with about 40 minutes to spare before the final cutoff time, and all that was left standing for post-race celebration at the finish line was a table containing the finish buckles (thank goodness!) and an aid station. I don’t like to complain about stuff, and I don’t want to make a huge fuss about it, but I did just run for over 14 hours, and the big food venue (local Mexican restaurant burritos and bakery from a local bakery!) was packed up and gone, as was the live music, and the runners barn was all packed up. I apparently had a hoodie in there with my name printed on it that I didn’t know about, and it was packed away somewhere already. But really, the worst of it all was missing out on the post-race meal. I was HUNGRY. And yeah, there was an active aid station, but at that point, the last thing I wanted was another 1/4 banana and a handful of pretzels. But… Thankfully I have an awesome crew. They had ice cold, bubbly drinks waiting for me, at least. And then they whisked me away to a local burger joint where I was able to satiate my 50-mile hunger with a ginormous, messy, double burger and onion rings. So all’s well that ends well…

Duuuuuuuuuuude.

Recovery: I’m writing this a week after the race, and I’m still babying a sore left foot. I had all the typical sore muscles and puffy feet, but I had one spot on my left foot that concerned me. Of course I was being all dramatic thinking I had a stress fracture the day after, but I think it’s just inflammation or something because it’s getting better every day. And I must have sort of numbed the nerves on my feet from all the pounding, maybe? Because I’m currently having a strange sensation that I can only assume is those nerves coming back to life. My feet do NOT want to be in shoes right now, but truck driving kind of requires it. Bummer.

I know you were wondering what my 50-mile, sandal-wearing feet looked like afterward! Well, here ya’ go! DIRTY!! And happy to be done.

Fave from the day: Having my favorite people there, taking time out of their lives to support another one of my crazy adventures. I am such a lucky girl. And a thankful, one, too.

Oh, also the scenery. And the toughness. And that I have a new personal record for a 50-mile race (because it’s my first, haha!) and now I can go beat it! Yay!

Lake Superior from the top of Hogsback.

Sandal Snafu: So I did the stupidest thing you can do on race day. I started in new footwear. Doing anything new on race day is dumb, but new footwear? Come on! What was I thinking!? Well, I was thinking that it was better than the other new pair of sandals chewing my feet into hamburger (they need to be broken in). These new sandals were a new brand – Luna. They were lighter and felt softer, and I felt confident they wouldn’t create raw spots like my Bedrocks did after 20-ish miles. They didn’t create any raw spots – I was right about that. The thing I didn’t factor in (stupidly), was that they are structured differently than my Bedrocks – my feet are used to Bedrocks. Not Lunas. So around mile 15 or 16, it just hit hard. It wasn’t just a spot or a joint or a hot spot or anything – both of my feet – like the entire foot – just HURT. My foot was moving in a new way for 20 miles! So at one of the aid stations I switched back to my old Bedrocks (which are wearing thin, but my feet like them), and while the pain didn’t go away, it also didn’t get any worse. So I was able to push on just fine, and was happily surprised that at the end of the race, I had zero rub spots from either sandal! So I guess it all evens out. Now I just wait and hope that this pain in my left foot isn’t something serious and it goes away. Or I might literally kick myself in the butt somehow for committing what has to be THE race day cardinal sin. (I do really love the Luna sandals for different reasons that I love my Bedrocks, so I’ll be training in both of them from here on out. It was actually really nice to swap them mid-race, and I’ll probably do that again.)

Final thoughts: It was hard. It was fantastic. It was beautiful. I loved it all.

Looking back on the race, I was surprised to realize that there was no point during the day when I didn’t want to be there. I asked myself once how bad I wanted it (when I was really close to a cutoff), but I decided to put on my stubborn pants and just do what I came there to do. Finish. The struggles make it all so much sweeter, and so much more memorable.

Aid station, mile 47. My expression: “How am I still running!?”

Stats:

Finish time: 14:18:51

Overall: 69/132 (but I was really about 5th from the last finisher – ranks include those that did not finish, or DNF)

Age group: 13/23

Female: 19/37

Distance: 52.9 (from my GPS watch/Strava)

Avg pace: 16:14 minutes/mile

Elevation gain: 6,584

Calories burned: 5,030

Personal records: 50-miles (only because it was my first, and I think I can beat that time next time I run a 50!)

Tonight I love that I’m currently not wearing anything on my feet. My feet also love that they are naked. Happy feet.

Naked, happy, elevated feet.

Strava stuff.

Before the race I let my mom, dad and Adam write something on my arms with a Sharpie for when I struggled. Mom’s: “Because you can.” Dad’s: “Go girl, go” Adam’s: our fishies and heart symbol. It was pretty cool to see them throughout the race.

Using my finisher’s buckle to open my beer.

2-hour nap at our campsite on Sunday!

Dances with Dirt, 2018: My 50k Race Report.

Dances with Dirt

July 14, 2018

Devil’s Lake State Park, Baraboo, WI

Pre-race stuff: On Friday night I picked up my bib and t-shirt and the plan was to camp about 20 miles north of the start line, so Adam and I started heading up that way. We stopped at a Starbucks and the thunderstorms started. So… we totally bailed on camping, grabbed a super-cheap (like only $60), last-minute tiny cabin and went to a really good burger joint for my pre-race meal. I ate 3 big chicken wingies, a cheeseburger without the bun and a side salad. It was just right. I got to bed too late, but slept solid for about five hours.

The day started perfect! The only way I can describe it is to just go there. Fellow racers, you are going to know exactly what I’m saying here… I got to the race start, headed over to the line of port-o-johns, and had the most perfect BM you could imagine. I know I poop-talk too much, but this is a really big deal on race day – especially since it’s the first time this has ever happened for me. Every single race I’ve ever done in my past started with GI issues (my diet has changed a lot since then, so I chalk it up to that). I bounded out of that toilet over to Adam and he just shook his head and giggled at me. It was going to be a good day.

All I consumed in the morning was an instant decaf coffee with heavy cream in it. This is what seems to work best for me, as I’m used to (and prefer) to run fasted. But with a distance like a 50k, I knew I’d start to get hungry within the first couple of hours, so I tucked an FBomb (which is super-delicious macadamia nut butter) in one of my shorts pockets, along with a Pickle Power (a pickle-juice flavored electrolyte shot – so good!) and carried one small handheld water bottle with plain water in it. And off I went!

The terrain: The terrain throughout the course was mixed. There was some wide and smooth trail, some typical forested single-track, some fun-technical trail (like rock and root-hopping – my favorite), a very small section of large rocks that you need to carefully make large steps up and down from (I think I even used my hands a little), a little bit of pavement through the campground, and rarely was it flat. It seemed as though we were always running at some sort of ascent or descent, but for the most part, they weren’t too steep. I’m used to training in the Kettle Moraine North Unit on the Ice Age Trail which has super-steep, short ups and downs – these at the Dances with Dirt seemed more gradual and more gently sloped in comparison. That certainly doesn’t mean they were easy, though! Just different! I definitely walked almost all the uphills, but almost all of the downhills were runnable, so I ran when I could. The hills there sometimes felt like they were never going to end. On one descent in particular I had another girl running behind me for quite a while, and eventually she hollered out, “What the heck!? Are we running to the bottom of the ocean!?” Yeah, it kind of felt like it! The long downhill running gave me noodly legs, but the nice part was it actually felt GOOD to power hike UPhill afterward. I remember actually looking forward to the climbing! It was just an overall great mix of terrain and elevation gains and losses – a very fun course, in my opinion!

The scenery was great, too. One of my favorite things about Wisconsin is the forests. We do really have some beautiful, lush forest. And there was a lot of that on this course. There was a climb we got to do twice on the course that brought us to an incredible overlook from the top of a bluff, and there was patches of fog prettying it up even more. The wildflowers were out, too. I haven’t spent a lot time in this area, so it was nice to explore it in this way.

After a climb, at the top of the bluff.

The weather: The weather surprised me. I thought it was going to storm and rain on and off all day, but it never rained at all. It was hot, but not as hot as I thought it was going to be (but still. Very hot). I believe the temperatures were in the mid 70’s for most of the race. What made it difficult was the humidity. I was pretty much soaked through completely from head to toe within the first hour. I mean, my feet were even wet just from sweat dripping down my legs. The skies were pretty much cloudy all day, so the sun stayed hidden – I imagine if the sun had been out, mixed with the humidity, it would’ve been way more difficult. There were a few meadowy stretches that felt really warm, but when we were in the forest it felt a little cooler, and even in a few spots when we got up a little higher towards the tops of the bluffs we’d get a little breeze – and that, my friends, was glorious, even if short-lived. All-in-all, I cannot complain about the weather. It was a mid-July race, and it could’ve been hellish, but it wasn’t too bad. Just really sweaty and humid. July is still my favorite month, though! Heat, humidity and all!

Aid stations! The aid stations were great! It was nice to just carry a small handheld water bottle and have someone offering to refill it for me about every four miles. I didn’t carry any sort of hydration pack or anything, and I only ran out of water one time – and that time I rounded a corner as I squirt the last drop out of my bottle and BAM! Aid station! Perfect! There were a few minimally-stocked aid stations (due to difficulty to get stuff to them), but almost all of them were fully stocked with soda, Gatorade, salty snacks, boiled potatoes, grapes, bananas, salt, water, and probably some other things I’m overlooking. The best part was always the people volunteering to help and cheer us all on!

And for me, one of my favorite parts of this race was Adam meeting me at miles 10, 13 and 25 (the only places he can get decent access to). When I first signed up for this race, he was still going to be out west, so I wasn’t planning on having anyone there. Before the race, he offered to get a bag of ice ready to put on my neck and I just said, “No, no, no… I’ll be fine. You don’t need to do that much.” I just asked that he replenish my consumables. When I came into mile 10, he did it anyway – he put a Ziploc bag of ice on my neck and I was transported to heaven for a few minutes. Then again at mile 13, and again at mile 25. Yup. Bag of ice for the win – nice call, Crew-master Adam! (He also talked me into stretching my legs out a couple of times and helped me with that, too!)

Food, drink, salt: I’m still trying to figure out my stomach on long runs, because I’ve dealt with nausea, loss of appetite and diarrhea during long runs in the past, and it’s not fun. But lately I’ve found the less I can get away with eating, the better I do in that regard, so I didn’t really consume much. But I’ve been able to get away with that comfortably since I adopted a mostly-keto-lifestyle (I consume carbs during and around long runs, but am otherwise usually in ketosis). This allows me to go longer without eating a bunch because my body is trained to use my body fat. This is liberating. I felt like this run, especially, that everything was going almost perfect. I felt my body asking for something about 8 miles in, so I ate my FBomb Macadamia nut butter, and at mile 13 I had a piece of banana and a few sips of Coke from the aid station. After mile 13 I think I grabbed a chunk of banana and a sip of Coke from every aid station that had them available, and once I had a few potato chips. It doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but I don’t think I needed much more! I really felt dialed in, somehow. It must’ve been a combination of planet-alignment, luck, and miracle. But really, I think the low-carb/keto thing has made miles of difference for me, and I hope it continues! I could almost feel my body ask for that carb trickle, which is what the bananas and Tailwind seemed to provide. The Tailwind is a powdered electrolyte mix. I had some premixed in a bottle that Adam dumped into my handheld at the 13-mile and 25-mile stops. I had the tropical buzz flavor, and I was nervous my stomach wasn’t going to tolerate a flavored drink, but the flavor is really light and it turned out to be one of my favorite things from race day! Also, in between everything I had the Pickle Power shots, which I alternated with S-caps (salt capsules), and at one aid station I actually licked a shot of straight table salt from my hand, which was totally disgusting, then realized they had a bottle of S-caps there! So I took one of those, too. I think the consistent salt/electrolyte intake helped replace what I was losing in sweat. I just mostly consumed what I felt like consuming and it worked out pretty well! Oh! And I can’t forget my secret weapon! Caffeine! I don’t normally drink caffeine, so when I do during a race, it’s like I get a kick in the rear and the turbo jets come on! And it’s so fun! I think this is why the Tailwind worked so great, too. I had a shot of coffee at mile 13, then trickled that Tailwind buzz drink and did the same at mile 25 – and that brought me into the finish – fast and strong!

Post-race notes: I had three goals going into this race, and being my first 50k ultra, I really wasn’t sure what to expect, so I set my first just to finish. Second, to come in under 10 hours. Third, to come in under 8 hours. So I crushed it coming in at 7:20! In hindsight, I maybe underestimated myself… But I’m still learning. I don’t want ultrarunning to turn into an “I’ve gotta be faster” kind of thing. I just want to get out there, run on trails, talk to people, have fun, and hopefully finish! I accomplished all of these things, and came in pretty much right in the middle of the pack in all categories (age, sex, overall). I seriously don’t know if I would change ANYTHING about the day. It was completely satisfying!

Recovery: Today is Sunday, and my muscles and feet are a little sore, but I think I might go for a short run in the morning – meaning, I’m already recovering well in that respect. The worse that came out of it all was some chafing on my feet, which I’ll try to quickly explain. I run in sandals, which I could write a whole other blog about, but I really prefer them to shoes right now. I love the way my feet/toes can spread out, the air on my toes, and they’re super-minimal, so I can feet the terrain beneath my feet. Simply said, I find them more comfortable than dealing with socks and shoes. So instead of blisters and black toenails, I now get some chafing from the sandal straps (a trade-off I’m totally cool with). It’s usually a non-issue in dry conditions, but if it rains, or apparently, if it’s so humid that I’m soaked for over 7 hours straight, little particles of sand, dirt or whatever get lodged (I think) in between the strap and my skin and cause rubbing. Usually by the time I realize where it’s rubbing the chafe is already set in, so until I figure out a solution for that, I just run through it. On race day, that feels like part of the whole package (some pain), so no problem. But today, those little spots are pretty tender and annoying, so I’ll be babying them for the week to heal them up. I also had two teeny chafe spots on my back from my sport bra, but I didn’t even notice them until I was able to look at my back in a mirror last night. I use an anti-chafe product called 2Toms in my armpits and lady area and it worked pretty great.

Faves from the day: So in the end, my favorite things that assisted me in this race were first, Adam. He’s really got a natural talent for being a crew-guy! Neither of us really know what we’re doing with this stuff right now, but what we’re doing is working so far! It should be fun to come up with a strategy together for the 50-miler (August 18!!). Second, third, fourth and fifth in no particular order are my Bedrock sandals, my InkNBurn clothing (seriously SO comfortable!), the Pickle Power, and the surprise one was the Tailwind! Those things are all on the top of my list for my next race for sure!

Stats: Just a few if you like that sorta’ thing. I find them interesting, but I’m not in this to compete with anyone else (and besides, I’ll never be fast enough! Haha!). I enjoy competing with myself and the races are great because you can totally feed off the energy of all the other racers – which is so much fun and helps motivate me to keep going and get better!

Finish Time: 7:20:08

Overall: 68/111

Age group (35-39): 8/14

Female: 24/48

Distance: 31.2 miles

Average pace: 14:07 minutes/mile

Elevation gain: 3,733 feet

Calories burned: 3,148

Personal records: 50k (well, it was my first official 50k, so that was easy)


Tonight I love birthdays. Yup, after all my “Oh, I’m so totally keto and stuff,” I’m gonna shove a whole bunch of delicious sugar in my face – because know what? It’s my birthday tomorrow. And that’s what I want! A carrot cake muffin and a weird-looking cookie. Yay birthdays!

Post-race dirty sandal feet!

I have a really stupid look on my face! But I’m happy! LOL!

Finisher. :)

Let’s get muddy! 31 miles of muddy!

It’s so ON!

Tomorrow’s the day! I’m going to try to run 31 miles through the woods! And it might rain and storm the whole time, so the Dances With Dirt might turn into a Dances With Mud – and that’s okay, too!

I kind of failed at my first tapering week. I really didn’t think I’d have any trouble cutting back on running, but I ended up getting a trucking run to Spokane, WA and had a little extra time along the way, so I stopped twice at amazing places and couldn’t resist enjoying some trails! So two days in a row I trail ran 8 miles, but it was so worth it!

The first place I stopped was the Painted Canyon area of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. I got on the trail, turned around at about four miles and it started to rain. Running in and out of little stream canyons turned into quite a challenge, as it got super muddy, but the storm clouds and intermittent sunshine was making for some pretty amazing views and colors down in the canyon.

Painted Canyon area if the Theodore Roosevelt National Park

The next stop was near Butte, MT on the Continental Divide Trail! I parked at a rest area, crossed over a stream, scrambled up a steep hill, over a fence, along a busy ATV trail, through a swamp crossing, and finally got to a dirt road that led me to the CDT trailhead. I smiled as I ran the smooth single track trail slowly uphill through tall pines and huge, rounded boulders and enjoyed the fresh air. Again, at about four miles I reluctantly turned around and went back to the truck. Yeah, I totally could’ve kept running to Canada!

The Continental Divide Trail! Oh, my heart!

Once in Spokane I met up with Adam! I was picking him up there, and he was going to ride along with me until we got home! I was retrieving my husband from the west coast! We met up with our friend Charlene and had dinner and drinks and hung out in Spokane. It was a fun night.

😍

After a couple of deliveries, we ended up parking in Yakima, WA and taking my 34-hour reset by enjoying a 4th of July fair, complete with fair food and a really fun demo derby!

Cars dragging boats. Best thing ever!

The next morning I ran my last long run of only 8 miles, and it was time to cut off my miles. I decided to not run at all the week of the race – that way I’d be super-antsy to get on the trail and run on race day (that worked, by the way!).

I actually accomplished the no-running goal without any problem – but mostly because I got sick (so awful when I’m over the road!!). I mean, the throwing-up-in-the-rest-area-toilet kind of stomach bug. I hate throwing up, and I’m horrible at it, as for some reason it always wants to come out both ends. Is that TMI? Maybe… Anyway, it made for a rough next couple of days, as I was pretty exhausted from being sick, trying to finish up my week over the road, and then trying to scramble and replenish lost nutrients so I could still, hopefully, feel ready to run the 50k! What a bummer!

So! The race! I’ve given myself three goals to shoot for, which is kind of a thing I like to do. Goal #1 is usually one I’m pretty confident I can attain. Goal #2 is a little more specific, and goal #3 is usually something I’m unsure of. Well, for this one, being my first 50k ultra race, they’re all up in the air, as I really don’t know what to expect. So…

Goal 1: Finish

To be totally honest with you, I really think I’ll finish. I just hope it’s a good running day – which means I don’t feel like I’m bonking at mile one, and I’m not crazy-tired (which may all depend on whether or not I sleep through the thunderstorms tonight – we’re camping!). Also, again, maybe TMI, but I’m getting my period tomorrow and it’s going to be my heavy day, so that’s going to add an element of fun, but as I’ve said before, I’ve never let it stop me before. Tomorrow will be no exception! So finish. I can do that! Right? Haha!

Goal 2: Finish in under 10 hours.

I would have to run somewhere around 20-minute miles to finish in 10 hours, and I should actually be able to hike that pace, so… This should be attainable. I think. There’s hills and maybe mud, which my worn-out sandals don’t get much traction in. Am I already making excuses!? Haha! Lookit me! No. I CAN and WILL FINISH this thing in under 10 hours. There. 😉

Goal 3: Finish in under 8 hours.

This one puts me at running somewhere just under 4 mph, which is possible for me if I’m having a good day, but on hilly trail, unfamiliar terrain, and coming off of the stomach flu, bonks might come into play here if I go out too fast or something. Again! What’s with me and these excuses! Oh, I dunno – I think one of my biggest hold-ups might be aid stations. I’ve run long on trails before, but they’ve always been self-supported, so this will be different. But sooo awesome!

NBD. Right? This is the back of the race shirt – and it was on the waiver I signed. So there’s that!

So… all in all, I feel good about this, and thank GOD, I feel recovered from my evil stomach bug! And I’m actually really excited – more excited than I’ve been during any of the road races I’ve done in the past. Why is this so different? Because I get to run something really hard, get dirty, be in the WOODS for hours on end, and there’s going to be freaking tables of food about every five miles. Seriously? What could be better!? Yeah, I really think I’m going to love this ultrarunning thing.

Will I be saying that tomorrow at mile 28? Umm, probably not. But during that post-race beer, I’ll be looking for the next race I can sign up for… I bet ya.

At the start/finish line during packet pick-up. See ya, tomorrow, race!

Wanna track me as I run? I start tomorrow, July 14th at 5:30am. Go to this link and put in bib #239 or my name!

Tonight I love solid bowel movements! Because, you know, I’ve been sick… So yeah. It’s a big deal! 😋

The 50k is coming!

First of all, I’ll start with a happy update since my last post – my coolant tank has been holding coolant steadily at the “full” line! This is a big deal for Delores the Volvo! And me! I did have a couple of long waits at shops for a trailer light and a goofy situation getting a tire repaired this week, but that’s just truckin’. Always something. But at least it wasn’t coolant-related! Yay!

Ready to rock ‘n roll! Should I wear these insane shades for my race? Haha!

So on to the subject I popped on here to write about: My upcoming 50k race!

I just finished my peak week of training (at 44.8 miles! Holy moly! In one week! That’s a lot for me!!), which means the next two weeks are taper weeks, which means I run less and less leading up to race day, which is July 14th, which is 21 days away! My plan for the actual race week is to run zero miles and focus on sleep. Because… I’m tired.

So looking forward to this!

Runners generally talk about the difficulty of taper weeks – after all the training, it’s hard to just back off suddenly. And I get it, I really do. And I might find myself there once I’m deep into taper-ville. But right now? I don’t think that I’m going to have any issues with that – At – All. I’m just worn out and looking forward to the slow-down. (But I hear that’s what they all say.)

So I managed, so far, to stick to my wacky, flexible, truck-drivery, homemade 50k training schedule, without missing a beat, for 14 whole weeks! When I look back on that, and all the places I’ve run to make this shit happen? That’s craziness! But, because of my perfection-ish obsessiveness, I feel ready to run those 31 miles. I think it’s going to go just fine and be really fun – I mean, as long as I don’t have a major bonk day, which could happen, and dangit, I’m due for my lovely period that very day (not awesome, universe). But then again, that’s never held me back before. So whatever!

135.8 miles in these last four weeks! And my legs feel good!

The race: The 50k I’m signed up for is called Dances With Dirt at beautiful Devil’s Lake State Park, which is just north of Madison, WI. Definitely check it out! There’s bluffs, a lake, forest, and apparently, dirt – and in addition to the 50k that I’m signed up for, there’s also a 10k, half marathon, full marathon and a 50-mile event, so there should be lots of fun trail people hanging out. I’m really excited to dive into the ultrarunning culture and meet some other crazy-awesome people – I hear so many great things! And? I’ve heard ultras referred to as eating events with some running. Yeah, I think I’m going to really like this stuff.

But. A big but. That 50 miler is one short month after this 50k, and while I’m trying to stay focused on one race at a time, I do know after seeing some online videos, that the Marquette Trail 50 is tough. Like, seriously, there’s a good chance I could just not be quick enough and get pulled from the race for missing a cutoff time. So I can’t help but have this in the back of my mind, too. I’m going to give it my best shot, you can bet on that! And, 50 miles feels crew-worthy, so Adam is probably going to be my guy! He’s gonna feed me, fill my water, and kick my butt back out on the trail from the aid stations when I want to linger. So that’s going to be yet another whole new (awesome) experience.

And why all this? The very original idea was to run a 100-miler in 2019 – because I’ll be turning 40. I mean, why not? Reasonable. Right? Haha! Nope. Not at all. But that’s how I roll. We’ll see what I say after hopefully crawling to a finish at the 50 miler. And the 50k. First things first! I gotta focus!

Maybe I will have a tough time tapering! I’m pretty wound up!

Tonight I love the Ten Junk Miles podcast. They really kept me great company on a lot of my runs. Thanks, guys. ❤️

A funny sweat story:

A few weeks ago I went for a run and was laughing at myself when I got back to the car because, well, this! Sweat patterns can be so weird!

Then tonight, I took my shirt off to change, and… this! Oops! I did it again! Didn’t realize I chose the same bra/shirt combo. And there were a LOT of people on that rec trail! Probably gave ’em all a good chuckle. 🤣

Work Run Repeat

I need a vacation soon. This has been a trying week, but mostly because it started out with needing a new radiator last-minute, totally throwing off any sort of schedule that I can never really count on, anyway. Here’s what happens: I plan, plan, plan. Then it changes. But, that’s just trucking. Heck, that’s life. So… I’ve got a delivery 1,200 miles from home, and my trailer will be ready at 2pm. I’ve got it all figured out, so I get up a little later than normal and head to town with my duffel of clothes, clean dishes and a huge tote full of healthy food for my fridge. I know it’ll all just barely fit in there, too. It’s a small fridge, but bigger compared to the fridges I’ve seen in most other trucks. It’s one of the features of this truck I really love. Anyway, fridge-lovin’ aside, I get to my truck, toss in my stuff and pop open the hood right away. It’s Tuesday and the shop where I park is still open. I always like to do my pre-trip as soon as I can just in case something is a little off. That way there might be time to have them take a quick peek. Usually all is well, and I move on with my planned day. Not today.

Turns out my radiator is cracked. After all was said and done, I was set back a precious 7 hours (but better than the two days if they hadn’t had the parts – silver lining?) and I was on my way – only to have to make another pit stop in Milwaukee to have a hose clamp adjusted and my coolant topped off again. Because almost all of it leaked out, setting off my red-blinky-noisy-scary stop-alarm on my dashboard. And after that was all taken care of, I had to wiggle this beast of a vehicle through a construction-peppered downtown Milwaukee at night. That was fun. Well, no, it wasn’t fun, it was sketchy. But I made it unscathed. Sometimes I look back on stuff like that and wonder how. How did I even?

So, yeah. It’s been a stressful week. Adam’s still out west, and in order to not miss him I’ve been trying to not think about him (he’s so busy with the movie set that we’ve hardly talked -at all – mostly just some text messages here and there).

In Oregon getting beardy and doing movie things!

It’s impossible not to think about him, as it turns out, but the working and running has kept me busy enough, I guess. But I’m feeling a little disconnected from him. And a little blue. I know once we see each other those feelings of disconnect will dissolve and we’ll be back to normal in no time, but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t wearing on me a little bit.

And I’m thinking more and more about using a week of my vacation to, I dunno, do nothing? I want to hike and visit friends and visit family and catch up with people I love and camp and sleep and eat ice cream and float down rivers and sit in front of bonfires and go for long runs and see more friends and more family and catch up some more and sleep more and hike a really long trail for like 8 months. But I have a week. When? What? Vacation is even stressing me out right now. What’s my best use of a week off? When should I take it? Who do I see? Where do I go? How do I do everything all at once? I need to do all the things and immerse myself in the company of all my people!! Because I miss everyone so hard! Ugh. Guess I’ll just keep working. It’s too much to think about.

I do have two events coming up that I’m looking forward to, though. Just weekend deals, as of now… And it’s races! It’s been forever since I’ve done a race, and I’m pretty excited, actually. I signed up for a 50K (31 miles) in July, and a 50-MILE race that’s in August, because apparently I’m officially crazy. I was on the wait list for the 50-miler and honestly didn’t know if I’d get in, so I kind of put it out of mind and focused on my 50k – that one was a for-sure thing. So I came up with a very flexible training plan about 2 months ago and got to work on it.

Because of my job, I did get the opportunity to do a couple of “runs” in the mountains. Which thoroughly kicked my arse.

Training for an ultra race is hard as a truck driver. Mostly because finding time and places to run is exhausting. Also because if I’m not running, I’m sitting. Driving. A lot. And my legs get twitchy and need to stretch and move. Whenever I’m home I get in a longer run, and on the road I try to get in two our three shorter runs and some body-weight strength workouts in where I can. And, lately, headstand attempts, which I’m terrible at.

Headstand in the truck! Getting there, but still pretty horrible at them!

I’ve somehow managed to keep up with my plan so far, but it’s kind of tiring me out, and I’m trying to take it easy this week – and already looking for the next chance I’ll have to run. Tomorrow, I think. If there’s a safe place to run from wherever I park my truck. Sigh… Turns out actually running is the easy part of this. Who would’ve thought?

Oh. And then suddenly? I’m #2 on the wait list for that 50-miler! So chances are pretty good I’m going to get in. And now I’m kind of freaking out. My last 20-mile run was a beatdown, and I’m already nervous about my last long training run (25 miles) and my 50k race. Can I even DO 50 miles? Yes. I can. It’s going to probably hurt – really bad – but I can do it. Right?

I keep thinking about the Frozen Otter. I’ve done that twice, and it’s 64 miles. But it’s also a winter race, which really is a whole different beast. And I had 24 hours to do that one – it was probably mostly hiking and some running. These races are going to have shorter time cutoffs and I hope more running than hiking. And a lot more sweating. I’m a total noob when it comes to ultrarunning. So I’m definitely learning as I go, and we’ll see how it turns out. I’m really just winging this thing.

As of right now, my confidence obviously isn’t super-high, but I’m just going to keep plugging away and try to focus on the 50k for now. That’s on July 14. One month away. 50k. Focus.

One of my fave photos from a mountain run in Missoula, MT at the top of Mt. Jumbo. Loved this run!

But even before that, this cup of hot decaf coffee while these guys finish unloading my trailer. Then I drive towards Boston, and then towards home where I can start another crazy week all over again. But hopefully this time a good long run and no new parts will be needed on my truck. Fingers crossed.

Tonight I love seeing my coolant tank full. I really do.

That’s a nice thing right there. A full coolant reservoir!

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.

​The 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. 

The Frozen Otter – how I’m training

​I’m deep into planning my largest training day (50 miles!) for the Frozen Otter – race day is only 3-1/2 months away! We just arrived at the gorgeous Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan) for the week, so I’m going to use the Lakeshore Trail here as my training grounds. Adam and I have a 3-day backpacking trip planned with my parents for the weekend, so I’m going to use tomorrow (Tuesday) as my day to complete the 50 miles. Hopefully I’m training and planning well enough to be recovered for the backpacking part of our vacation without too much trouble. I’ll go over a few details as to how I’m preparing for this training run in a little bit. 

But first, since I haven’t said much about it yet, I thought this might be a good time to talk about the training plan I came up with for this crazy race. I mean, 64 miles is a long way to go, and how the heck do you prepare for that!? In addition to the obvious difficulty to train for something like this, being an over-the-road truck driver has made it a little extra tricky. I’m pretty certain my way of training is far from ideal, so I don’t know if it’s a plan I’d recommend. But, well, who knows! Maybe it’ll work! 

If I had the time I did when I was a 9-5er I’d be putting in more weekly miles, stair climbs, and longer workouts – and maybe more general daily movement besides sitting on my rump in front of a steering wheel for 10 hours a day! I’d probably sign up for a few ultrarunning races to get in some training with support/aid stations, enjoy the comeraderie of other crazy-minded folks like myself and immerse myself in the overall race experience that I miss and love so much. These long training runs do get a little lonely… 

So I don’t know if what I’m doing is enough, or the right way, but I think I’m using my time as best I can. It’s been fun and challenging so far, so no matter the outcome, I guess that’s a success, at least! And hopefully the big outcome will be a Frozen Otter finish! 

So how am I actually training? I started back in April. I went on a 20-mile tester hike so I had an idea of where I was at with my endurance fitness. Did I have any left at all? Would it break me? Would I enjoy any of it? Turns out that I DID enjoy it, it didn’t break me (not even close), and I still had a little somethin-somethin left of my endurance muscle memory. 

May quickly rolled around, and as soon as registration opened up for the Frozen Otter I paid my fee and officially signed myself up. Now, along with my stubborn drive was this financial accountability. So here we go! It is so on! 

From there I drew up a plan from that 20-mile base run I did. The basic idea was to run on my days off (usually road runs at a quicker pace), do bodyweight strength workouts on the road while I’m truckin’ (and run when I can), and get one long run/hike on trails each month leading up to the race. These long runs were going to be key – they would be the closest simulation to race day, especially since I could train mostly in the Northern unit of Kettle Moraine where the Frozen Otter is held. These long runs would also keep reminding my legs that they need to stay in shape (I have serious conversations with them on a pretty regular basis. It’s a good relationship), and I’d have a chance to test some gear and fueling strategies. And so far… I’ve learned a ton. 

Oh, and really quick – when I say “running” on these long runs, it’s fastpacking, or hiking/jogging, or jiking. Hogging? It’s basically a combination of jogging and fast hiking. I try to jog most of it, but I hike up the big hills and jog on the straight parts – I basically go as fast as I can (which isn’t super-fast) while keeping my heart rate at a pretty steady level so I can go for a long time. I’m not out there full-on running down the trail at a 9-minute mile. That would be pretty cool, though! 

So the training I’ve already done is the 20-mile tester in April that I mentioned, a 30-miler in May, 32 miles in June where I wiped out about four times, a 20-mile new-pack-test in July that chafed the crap out of my shoulders, a 40-miler on August 1, then a 32/10-mile back-to-back in mid-August when I had some horrible gut issues, and a 40-mile overnight fatigue run in September that was one of the toughest long run/hikes I’ve ever done. 

So dead tired after my overnight 40-miler on no sleep! So satisfying, though.

I’ve tested four different packs, I’ve tried new shoes (with success), all kinds of food, gels, and drinks. I’ve trained on little sleep, and once on no sleep, I’ve fallen several times (once was a downhill tuck & roll that I’m kind of proud of), I’ve run in the daylight and the dark for hours and hours, I’ve talked to myself, got bored, tired, sore, and hopped-up on coffee. I tried distractions like listening to podcasts, music, silence, making up stories in my head and then sharing them with the squirrels… and when all else failed, I just kept going… and going. Each run has been tough, but I always managed to finish the goal I set out for – mentally spent, physically sore, and totally satisfied. There’s just something about wearing myself down like this that I enjoy. It’s so weird. 

I’ve got a few long runs left before January: 

October – 50 miles 
The biggun’ is my October run. Tomorrow’s 50-miler, in Pictured Rocks. This is the bad boy I’m planning for now. It’s the longest run of my training plan, and I hope to finish in 16 or 17 hours. Yeesh. I’m feeling intimidated just writing that down. That’s a long freakin’ time to be so active – running and pounding on my feet and legs, pumping my arms, breathing, sweating, heart-thumping… Also, I’ve been working out some gut issues that I’ve been having on my long runs, so I’m hoping less hard-to-digest food and better hydration will be the ticket. 

To plan for this, I first figured out miles, start and end points. The Lakeshore Trail is 42 miles long, so I added in a loop during the middle of the run to add on about 10 miles. 

Then I planned for water. There’s a lot of places to get water on this trail, so I’m not worried about a lack of it, but I picked some spots to hopefully maximize my time getting it. The water will need to be treated in three of my four planned stops, so that takes a little extra time. I’ll be doing these 50 miles 100% self-supported, so I hope to be as efficient with these breaks as I can be, and I guess planning them out is the best start. 

Next I came up with a fueling plan. I’ve been constantly experimenting with this since I started, but this time I’m trying Huma gels (Chia seed-based energy) alternated with real foods which are sweet or salty, depending on whatever my tummy is wanting when it’s time to consume fuel. These foods are things like string cheese, an Epic bar (meat bar), Bearded Bros energy bar, macadamia nuts, Snickers bites, an Ocho dark chocolate bar, Combos, Phat Fudge, Pastrami & cheese rollups, and dill pickle chips. It’s a mix, but that’s the idea. I had a loss of appetite a couple of times during training – and it SUCKS. So I’ve stretched out the variety to help with this… I hope! 

For liquid fuel, I’ll carry a 2-liter bladder for plain water, and two 16-oz. bottles. One will be for either Pedialyte or Tailwind drink mixes, which I’ll alternate between. The other will be for cold coffee mixed with chia seeds. 

I also planned for what I’m calling “on-trail maintenance.” I’ll be taking a salt tablet every hour and alternating ibuprofen and naproxsen sodium every 2-3 hours to help with pain and inflammation (the alternating is to keep the tummy happy). The pain killers and salt tabs usually fall away from my plan once I’m out there and I end up taking way less than planned, but I’ll be armed with them if I feel they’re needed or if I’m struggling. 

And finally, recovery. I’m going to eat, sleep, eat, bathe in Epsom salt and sport my sweet new hot pink compression Injinji socks. I also hope to get in a small hike or walk in the couple of days following this training run to keep the blood flowing. I don’t know. I’m not very good at recovery yet, to be honest. The focus has been so much on just the race part… So I guess I need to put more thought into this. It’s important, too. 

The winning pack by Out There USA.

November – 45 miles/20 miles (back-to-back) 
I hope to complete this one in the Kettle Moraine, sort of simulating the actual race. Start at Mauthe Lake and go north to the turnaround, then back south. Then the next day, head south to that turnaround and back. It should hurt real good. 

December – 32 miles 
I might do more miles, or I might split this into a couple shorter runs, depending on weather, how much cold training I have in, and if there’s winter gear that I still need to try out. 

January 14 – 64 miles/RACE DAY! 
The plan is to finish 64 miles! I wonder what the weather will say about that!? It’ll be a major deciding factor! 

Any other racers out there reading this? Any suggestions? Questions? Let me know. Not sure I’ll ever figure this thing out… Which is kind of why I’m doing it again. I completed it in 2010 in 21 hours and 49 minutes, so you think I’d know what to do. Nope. It’s like I’m still a super-newbie. That’s how it feels, anyway. There’s always new things to learn, and it’s a totally different race every year. I have no clue what to expect. 

Overall it’s pretty addicting. And crazy. And I can’t quite explain it. But I love it. All of it. 


Tonight I love string cheese. I think it’s the one real food that my stomach hasn’t denied at one point or another on all my training runs so far. Thanks, string cheese. You’re the best. 

The horrible neck chafe from one of the packs I sent back. Too bad, because everything else about it was great.

Chia seeds mixed in with coffee. Or rocket fuel.

The Ultraspire Titan pack. I love this pack so much, but it’s just a wee to small on the capacity-side to use in the Frozen Otter. I’m keeping it, though. So comfy!