Summer Running Goals 2018

“Summer” as defined by me has already been going for two weeks! Of course, real summer hasn’t even started yet, but it feels like winter will be here in a matter of minutes. I’ve been traumatized by the cold climate, I guess. Anyway, I set more goals.

  1. Distance personal best.
    Spoiler alert: I achieved this at FANS, so now 42.3 miles is the longest I’ve traveled on foot.
  2. “Unofficial” marathon personal best.
    I also achieved this at FANS. By my calculations, my new unofficial marathon PR is 6:58:32.
  3. “Unofficial” 50K personal best.
    I didn’t achieve this at FANS, but I guess there’s always a chance to do this some other time.
  4. Check out the Endless Summer Trail Races
    This is a fun weekday evening trail series in the Twin Cities, put on by Rocksteady Running. I always hoped that my travel schedule would bring me down to attend one of the races, but now I live here and have no excuse!
  5. Legitimize my 5K PR.
    Due to Be the Match 5K using gun times rather than chip times for official race results, my 5K PR is 29:00 instead of 28:30 (per my watch). I want to make that 28:30 (or better!) official!
  6. Race a new distance.
    I don’t know what that’s going to be, as I was so focused on FANS, and I didn’t want to make any summer commitments until after I knew how I’d recovered from that race.

The good news is I’m really excited to start running again, and working toward my fall races. Considering how down I was about running during the spring, it feels good to know I’ve mentally recovered and am back to enjoying the sport!

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Post-Mortem: Fans 24 Hour Race 2018

Over a week’s gone by, and I’m mostly back to normal. My foot still hurts a little bit, but I am able to walk without limping and most of the time I do not have any pain at all (although when I wrote that sentence, I had just gone to the printer to pick something up and my foot hurt a bit, so I guess I jinxed myself). I haven’t had much time to enjoy my break from running, because I’ve been traveling for work, but I’m looking forward to a weekend of nothing. Well, not nothing. I painted my bathroom. But there won’t be any running.

I’ve had some time to consider this years FANS experience. Overall I had a great time and I’m proud of my result. Of course it wasn’t what I wanted, but I did reach a new distance PR, and I made it past 12 hours. Some thoughts/lessons learned:

I liked bringing less stuff, but I really did need food at my tent. I got sick of the race food after awhile, probably because I was eating mostly cookies and pretzels. I realized right before I quit the race that I was behind on my food, and I either had to go back to the main aid station or walk a mile+ to the first aid station. I had some gels at my tent but what I really needed was a substantial snack like a bagel or a sandwich or anything different.

I don’t know nearly enough about foot care. I did a few things right, like stopping to fix my heel when my shoe was rubbing against it, or lancing my blisters and just getting on with it, but what I really should have done was tape up my callus to begin with. I read an article on I Run Far a couple days ago on blister care with a hilarious infographic on causes of blisters, with the #1 cause being “saying ‘I don’t usually have problems with blisters’ before the race.” TOO SOON, LIZA HOWARD. TOO SOON. I just ordered Fixing Your Feet so I can fix my feet.

42.3 miles wasn’t really that much harder than 31. Okay, it was also on a mostly flat trail, I didn’t have to carry my own water or gear, and I had plenty of people to motivate me along the way, but still. I was on my feet for almost 13 hours, and I felt pretty good the next day. As we were taking down the camp, I felt pretty crappy and sad about quitting early again, and thought maybe I wasn’t meant to run more than 50Ks. Then the next day I felt pretty good (other than my foot), and I realized that I completed 42 miles in about 13 hours with the last 10 miles at a slow walk, and the 50 mile dream was resurrected.

My job is more important than my race. I don’t get paid to run, I get paid to be an engineer. I had a site visit the Wednesday after the race, and it would have been unsafe for me to go out there with limited mobility. If I had continued for 11 more hours, even walking slowly, I doubt I would have been able to complete the site visit. Running is my hobby, not my livelihood, and this race was a good reminder of how to balance those. I’m reminded of one of my former coworkers, a construction manager who was a bull rider in his spare time. His superintendent finally told him that he had to choose between work and rodeo because he kept showing up to work injured. I don’t want to jeopardize my career for recreation.

It’s time to try something new. I’ve “failed” at the 24 hour event twice now, but I really love this race! I think it’s time for me to do the 12 hour race and set a different goal (like 50 miles?) before I give 24 hours another shot. Could the third time be the charm? Maybe. But it’s a lot of work and logistics and pressure to plan a 24 hour race. With a 12 hour race, I can sleep in my own bed!

Race Report: Fans 24 Hour Race 2018

Official Results:
Distance: 42.3 mi
Placing:
Overall: TBD
24 Hrs: TBD
Gender: TBD

Watch Results:
Time: 13:41:27
Pace: 18:25
Distance: 44.58
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 100 mi
B: 90 mi
C: 75 mi

Food:
What I ate the night before: pizza
What I ate on race morning: bagel with cream cheese, bagel with hazelnut spread
What I carried with me: n/a

Gear:
What I wore: to start – t-shirt, shorts, trucker hat, vest
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Discussion: Two disappointing results in two years! Not a good sign.

I slept really poorly the day of the race, which was frustrating. I hadn’t slept well in the days leading up to the event, so I was starting with a sleep deficit. That ended up not being a factor, but it could have been. I felt grumpy and wished I could just go back to sleep and not run.

My dad picked me up and we loaded up the car quickly. I only had one tub of stuff, plus a cooler with some pop, and a chair to sit in. He had the tent (a different tent than last year, he has an abundance of tents) and his own chair already in the truck. We got their early enough that we had a spot on the path itself, which was a huge benefit over last year. He had a great people-watching spot, and I had easy access to my stuff.

The weather was cool enough that I put on a sweatshirt while I relaxed before the start. I liked setting up camp early and having time to finish my food and chill out – even if that meant I had to get up earlier. It didn’t really matter since I barely slept – half an hour wasn’t going to make or break me.

The race started at 8, and I ended up running and chatting alongside someone I’d recently met. It was a little faster than I would have liked, and after a little bit he did break off and run at his own pace, while I settled into mine. My plan was to run 10 minutes, walk 2 minutes, for as long as that was sustainable. I think it worked really well for me while I was able to run, but of course I can’t say what might have happened once I really started to get fatigued.

After my first lap, my dad left to go to work, and I was on my own for awhile. This worked really well for me. I got food and water at the aid stations and only stopped at my tent if I needed something (electrolyte tablets, gels, bug spray, sunscreen). Since it was threatening rain, I had to keep everything in my tent, which was annoying. I ended up tossing my sunscreen and Body Glide into my chair and not caring if it got wet.

It started to rain somewhere around 10 or 11. I knew it was coming, and I didn’t really mind. I didn’t want it to rain before the start, because I didn’t want to sit around getting wet or have to set up the tent on wet ground. I didn’t want thunderstorms to force the race directors to suspend the race. Neither of those things happened so it didn’t really matter. I didn’t have any chafing issues and it was warm enough that I didn’t get chilled. It was WAY better than heat and sun. I felt like everything was going well for the first few hours.

At around 4 hours elapsed (right after my first weigh-in), I stopped to fix my feet. One ankle was chafing where my shoe met my ankle. My sock was too low, and my ankle was dirty, so I had to stop and slap some moleskin on it. That fixed the problem, and at the same time, I worked on my other foot. I have a callus on that foot from some really old blister (possibly stemming from last year’s FANS race), and a blister was developing under that callus. I slapped some moleskin on it as well, but what I should have done is popped the blister. That was stupid. I thought the moleskin would be enough to protect it, but it was protruding too much. It seemed like a good enough fix at the time, so I continued, and was still able to run.

Since things were going really well, and I was finding my run 10/walk 2 strategy wasn’t working very well (I was always hitting the aid stations/my tent right in the middle of the run cycle), so I thought I’d try running to each aid station, then walking 2 or 3 minutes or so after the aid station/my tent. I did one lap of that and found it more fatiguing than I’d like, so I went back to the run 10/walk 2, and that was much more comfortable. I was having a decent time of running my own race, staying out of my head, and just letting the day happen however it would. I was pretty excited that I was still running many laps into the race, which hadn’t happened in 2017. I came through the 6 hour runners on their short laps and cheered them on.

My dad came back at around 2:00, and I was still running at that point, which was awesome. I was slowing down and my feet were starting to hurt, but I wanted to hit the 27.4 mark (12 laps) and get the unofficial marathon PR before I stopped to do anything. I came through 27.4 mi (12 laps) in 7:17:42, which is faster than my marathon PR; interpolating, that makes my unofficial marathon PR 6:58:32. So at least I made my first goal for the summer! I kept moving after that, wanted to hit the 50K mark (lap 14, 31.6 mi) before I stopped for a break. I wanted to get an unofficial 50K PR too, but since I was really slowing down, that wasn’t going to happen, and I also forgot to hit the lap button at that point. I think I came through somewhere under 8:40, which means that I finished 50K at around the same pace I did Chippewa Moraine. I was in good shape, time-wise, but I was slowing a lot, and both feet were really starting to hurt.

I took a longer break to deal with my feet – I lanced my blister several times but could not seem to fully pop it, no matter what I did. I finally decided to just cover it up with moleskin to protect it, and let the natural pressure from walking push the rest of the fluid out. I finally got up and started walking. The blister hurt, but so did my other foot. I had not realized how much I’d been compensating for the pain in my right foot. I thought if I walked it off, it would feel better, but it didn’t really.

I weighed in again and continued to walk. The blister pain actually did start to subside, and I was right – the pressure from my foot did make the swelling go down for awhile. The pain on the outer edge of my left foot was what kept me from running. It was especially bad during the gravel sections – it was impossible to keep from stepping on rocks and that seemed to exacerbate the pain, even though it was on the side of my foot, not the bottom. I just kept going, figuring that it would either go away or I’d just get used to it, and I kind of did.

I asked my dad about the weather, and he told me after about 4:30, it should be clear, so I got out my portable charger to charge my GPS watch, which was down to 10% battery. I clipped that on and wore it for the next 3 laps. Since I wasn’t running, it wasn’t a big deal to charge it while on the move. I tucked the charger itself into the pocket of my vest so my hands were free (other than my water bottle), and checked periodically to make sure the charging clamp didn’t dislodge. I got it charged up to about 60% and then put it back. My feet were still killing me and I was trying to decide what to do. I was thinking I should get to 100K and then stop for awhile, then I started re-assessing and decided I’d get to 50 miles and then stop. I walked through while the 12 hour runners were doing their final short loops and was able to cheer everyone on. The trails were a lot more empty at that point, except for a couple other people hustling through one final loop. One guy was running with his pacer and ended up dropping her as he took off to try to get that last loop in before the 12 hour mark – he had a little over a mile to go and plenty of time, but he wanted to make sure he made it.

I came through after the 12 hour race had ended, and decided to do one more loop before changing my clothes and shoes for the night. Mostly I wanted to use the porta-potty with my shorts on rather than with running tights – I didn’t want to wrestle with my tights in that confined space! I was still walking, and pretty much everyone was passing me, but I was still moving at least! It was getting toward dusk during that lap, and I carried my headlamp with me just in case, but it turned out to be fine. There were lanterns out on the course which looked really cool.

I sat down in my chair after lap #19 (42.3 mi) and took off my shoes. My blister had bubbled back up again, so I lanced it a couple more times. I went into the tent and changed into tights, a new t-shirt, and a hoodie, since it was getting kinda chilly. I brought out some fresh socks and then worked on my feet for a little while. It was getting dark out and I wanted to finish dealing with my feet before the light was gone. I finally put my shoes on, which was a difficult task because I was trying to avoid dislodging my moleskin. I lounged in the chair with my feet up for awhile, contemplating what I was going to do. I didn’t have a lot of hope left that I’d be able to start running. The pain in my left foot was not getting any better, and in fact was worsening. So I had 11 hours of hobbling ahead of me — or I could strike my tent and go home to my cats. I thought about it for awhile, and realized I wasn’t enjoying the effort. This was twice that I’d done this race and had it not work out. I also realized that I had been changed and sitting around for probably half an hour (I don’t really know), so I would be behind on my nutrition at a time when I really needed to be sure I was on top of it. Maybe quitting wasn’t a bad idea.

I said to my husband “I don’t want to do this anymore, let’s go.” He said ok, without any judgment, and I got up to take down the tent. My left foot hurt to the point where I couldn’t really stand on it, and that sealed it – but I made the decision to quit before I knew that. It turns out it was a good decision, because a day later, I’m still gimping around. I don’t know what the deal is – it doesn’t hurt at all when I’m not moving, there’s no bruising or swelling, but it hurts to walk. I am in big trouble if it doesn’t get better by Wednesday, because I am making a site visit in North Dakota and I have to be able to walk then. I’m hoping some stretching and massage, plus some rest, will be enough to make it feel better.

I don’t think the 24 hour event is for me, although I really enjoy the race! I guess maybe the 12 hour race would be a better option and would require much less from a logistical standpoint. I was questioning whether or not I actually ever want to do a long race, like a 50 miler or longer. I’m not sure if I’m cut out for that distance – I don’t seem to do that well with adversity, although I’m getting better. I lasted a lot longer this time and worked through a lot of issues before I ultimately gave in to the foot pain. I didn’t have any stomach problems, and today I feel pretty good. I was on my feet for 13 hours and traversed 42 miles, and I don’t feel much soreness in my hips or legs. If I’d dealt with that callus from the start (covered it up, or gotten a pedicure and just gotten rid of it), I probably would have been able to keep moving a lot longer.

I don’t feel the same level of regret I did last year, since I at least got in a mileage PR. I think the level of foot pain I’m still dealing with also makes me feel more justified – continuing could have done more lasting damage, or made it more likely I wouldn’t be able to do my job. I also had a great time – the atmosphere is so welcoming, and the other runners, volunteers, and spectators are so supportive. After a bit of time to think about it, I’m now really looking forward to doing the 12 hour event next year and creating some new challenges for myself. And… provided my foot gets better soon, I’m probably going to sign up for a fall 50 mile race, just to see what that’s like.

FANS 24 Hour 2018 Goals

Here we go again. After last year’s disastrous end at 29.5 miles, I’m ready for redemption.

My goals are the same as last year:
A Standard: 100 mi
B Standard: 90 mi
C Standard: 75 mi

The weather is not looking dry, but I think I prefer rain to heat. I think. Will I feel the same way tomorrow at this time, when it’s been pouring for six hours straight and my feet are raw and I’m shivering too badly to use my hands?

Many of the lessons I learned last year are not applicable to this year’s race. All my heat management techniques are pointless. That’s okay, though. I did learn a couple other things that I’m working on for this year:

  1. Less stuff. I brought so much stuff last year that I didn’t need, and it was extra embarrassing to haul all that gear back after quitting early. Some of it was necessary because I didn’t live nearby and I needed to be prepared for all kinds of weather. A few days before the race it was predicted to be cold and rainy, and instead it was hot and sunny. So I had a lot of clothes and gear. This year I am bringing way less gear, but I also only live 7 miles from Fort Snelling now. If I need something, someone can get it for me in half an hour. I’m not bringing any food besides vanilla Coke and some gels – I’ll rely on the aid stations.
  2. No crew in the morning. My dad is picking me up and helping me haul my gear, but after the start, he’ll leave for awhile. He’ll miss out on some prime people-watching, of course, but I found last year that I felt guilty about having someone sit there all day just to give me fresh water bottle every half hour or so. I have run enough ultras to know that I can be self-sufficient for the first several hours of the race, and rely on volunteers, aid stations, and my campsite for anything I need. I can focus on getting in the miles and not on worrying about the entertainment of someone else. No one that visited me while I was running last year was anything but helpful and understanding, and no one ever gave the slightest hint of annoyance at being there, but I still felt like I was inconveniencing people.
  3. Arrive earlier to try to snag a better campsite. Last year, I had to set up my tent off the path. The people who arrived earlier set their tents up along the running path, which was way more convenient! I had to walk off the path, through someone else’s campsite, to get to mine.
  4. Relentless forward progress. This worked okay for me for awhile last year – I felt too fatigued from the heat and the sun to run, so I walked. I’m going to aim to do a better job of that this time. And if I do have to take a break, I’ll do it – and then get up. I don’t have to leave early.

This year I have some advantages I didn’t have last year. Obviously, I live here, so I’m not paying for a hotel room and I’ll be able to sleep in my own bed. The weather will be cooler so if I’m having chafing issues, I can switch to pants. (I’m making a mental note to pack a pair of tights.) I bought a pair of shoes with a rock plate but smaller lugs, so the gravel won’t bug me as much. And, of course, I now have “beat last year!” to drive me forward.

I won’t have time to post my Summer 2018 goals post yet, but I am setting a couple goals that will pertain directly to FANS – I’d like a distance PR, an unofficial marathon PR, and an unofficial 50K PR – hopefully I can get all three!

Fans 24 Hour Training: Week 4

Tapering hardcore.

Monday: 5.1 mi, road (Minnesota Point)
Tuesday: 5.1 mi, paved trail (Lakewalk)
Wednesday: 3.4 mi, road
Thursday: rest (kind of)
Friday: 4.4 mi, road
Saturday: 4.2 mi, road
Sunday: rest
Total: 22.1

I spent the first part of the week in Duluth, which was nice. I ran on the Lakewalk and on Minnesota Point – the two easiest spots to run when staying in Canal Park! It was nice to be back. I bought a new pair of shoes at Austin Jarrow and have been breaking them in. They have a rock plate but much smaller lugs than my current trail shoes, so they should be good for the gravel paths at FANS.

Home for a few days. #lakesuperior #duluth #onlyinmn

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Wednesday I got in a short evening run in the neighborhood after we drove back from Duluth. I’m really just trying to keep my legs moving and maintain my weight leading up to fans.

Thursday I went to see Slayer in concert in Minneapolis. They’re retiring, so this was my last chance to see them play, ever. I didn’t run but I did do a hell of a lot of jumping around and I was on my feet for 6 hours. My legs were exhausted afterward. So was that really a rest day? I don’t know!

Friday and Saturday were more boring neighborhood runs. The nice thing about finally living in a neighborhood with somewhat of a grid layout (not entirely, though, because it is St. Paul) is that I can mix things up and don’t have to take the same route. It gets annoying to have to manufacture mileage, but it’s better than running the same old routes because only a couple roads actually go through. Friday I also hit up REI since they were having a sale and I had a bunch of gift cards.

Sunday I took an unplanned rest day as I seem to be coming down with a cold. There’s no workout I can do right now that will help my race, but hundreds of ways I can mess it up, so I just took a day to relax, stain some furniture, and see Solo: A Star Wars Story.

I suppose I should do some planning and prepping for FANS… but I haven’t yet. I’m headed to Duluth tomorrow for a couple days, so most of my prepping will have to be Thursday and Friday. Maybe if I’m more laissez-faire about it, it’ll go better.

Spring 2018 Running Goals Revisited

“Spring” is almost over (for these purposes, spring is March, April, and May), so I should hold myself accountable to the goals I set for myself.

  1. PR at the Hot Dash 10 Mile
    DNS, womp womp.
  2. Course PR at Chippewa Moraine 50K
    I had a 25 minute course PR!
  3. Overall PR at Chippewa Moraine 50K
    I fell short of this goal, unfortunately. Time to improve my nutrition in ultras.
  4. Sub 4 hours at Superior 25K
    Yes! I had a great race and came in at 3:49:45!
  5. Sub 30 minutes at Be The Match 5K
    I ran a gun time of 29:00 (watch time 28:30, grrr, I am stupidly bitter), so check check check!

60% achievement – that’s a D- in school, but I consider it pretty good. I don’t set goals that I can easily check off. Well, sometimes I do, but not exclusively! It’s sometimes nice to not make my goals so that I don’t have to make up new ones, ha.

I wish I had run the Hot Dash 10 Mile, and I feel stupid for not getting up to run it, but whatever. It’s not like I forfeited thousands in prize money or something. I’m sure I would have enjoyed it but it’s fine. I like sleep, too.

Checking in on my overarching 2018 goals:
-Taking deliberate rest breaks: I plan on taking 2 weeks off after FANS.
-Running more miles than 2017/reaching 1000 miles earlier than 2017: I am 70 miles ahead of my 2017 mileage through May 23rd.
-Going outside daily “with intention”: Not every day, but more days than not. I’m keeping track in my running journal.
-Turning strength training into a habit: No
-Tracking spending: I forgot I was going to do this, so no
-Spending more time with other runners: Kind of? I walk at lunch with 2 other women, and I have people to talk to pre and post race, but I’m not going on group runs or anything. I didn’t join the running gym as it’s really far from my house.

Now I have to hurry and make up my summer running goals since my first opportunity is just around the corner!

Race Report: Superior 25K 2018

Official Results:
Time: 3:49:45 (16 minute improvement over last year, 62 minute improvement over 2016)
Pace: 14:48
Placing:
Overall: 217/297
Gender: 98/164
AG (F 1-39): 54/83

Watch Results:
Time: 3:49:53
Pace: 15:48
Distance: 14.54 mi (somehow the exact same GPS distance as last year!)
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 3:59:59

Food:
What I ate the night before: salmon BLT with fries, bagel and cream cheese
What I ate on race morning: bagel with cream cheese
What I carried with me: 2 gel packets (I ate 2 and grabbed 2 at the AS), water. I ate 2 cookies, 2 cups of Coke, and a cup of ginger ale at the AS.

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, ball cap, buff,
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker, hydration pack

Discussion: Oh man, I really love this race! Of course I’m glowing because I finally got under 4 hours, but I always find myself more fulfilled and happy after a Rocksteady Running event.

This year has been a lot different as I no longer live in Duluth. The drive is now 4 hours instead of 1.5, which sucks. I feel so far away from home right now (and my cats!) There’s a lot of construction between St. Paul and Duluth, too, but we left early enough to avoid traffic since I was signed up to volunteer. I thought I had to be there at 3:00, so I was ridiculously early for the actual check-in (it began at 4), but there was plenty to do. I was tasked with selling merchandise again this year, which is fun. I like talking to other runners and I always like the other people who I’m working alongside. It is so great to see those people out on the trail, or volunteering the next day, when I need a pick-me-up during a race. Every friend I’ve made as a runner has been from volunteering, and every time I volunteer, I make new friends.

After my shift was over, I was pretty drained from all the talking and from being on my feet, and also very hungry. We had dinner at the lodge restaurant and then watched a movie (Munich, which is boring and long) before lights out. I actually slept, sort of! I woke up early, though, so I probably only got about 4 hours of sleep. That’s way better than normal. I still don’t understand why I woke up at 5:45 but whatever. I laid in bed til 7 regardless.

Usually I do a lot of prep work the night before a race: lay out all my stuff, stock my hydration pack, etc. This time, I did basically nothing. That was kind of dumb as I did waste some time finding stuff and prepping. I also didn’t make a checklist of race day to-dos, which resulted in me nearly forgetting to put on my bib. Whoops. I “made” my bagel and cream cheese, walked over to the race headquarters for the mandatory race day check-in, and decided it was warm enough to skip my arm warmers. It wasn’t even raining! Miraculous. It was fairly humid, though, and without a breeze, the air was very… present. I went back to the hotel room to finish getting ready, and finally made it out the door just after 7:45. Not bad for an 8 AM start! This is literally the greatest race for that reason specifically.

I didn’t bother to warm up, because I obviously didn’t have the time, but I hadn’t planned on it. I don’t think it’s as necessary for me in long runs like this, although the beginning of this race is fast since it’s on the road.

I’ve run this race two other times, plus I’ve done a few training runs on the same trails, and I’ve run the marathon which includes the same trail (in only one direction).  I really reaped the benefits of that this year. I knew when to take it easy (the switchbacks on Mystery), I ran quickly but in control down the back of Mystery Mountain, I ate a gel between Mystery and Moose Mountain, and I knew after I got down the back of Moose Mountain that I wasn’t that far from the turnaround, and there were plenty of runnable sections. I also knew when I was finally at the last downhill into the aid station and turned on the jets to ensure I got there under 2 hours. I made it to the one and only aid station at the Oberg trailhead in 1:57:56, which includes the time in the aid station, so I was on track for under 4 hours if I didn’t lose too much time on the way back.

I ate 2 cookies while walking uphill out of the aid station, and then started running once I hit the downhills. Once I got in the vicinity of Moose Mountain again, I started walking to conserve energy. I knew it would be painful on my legs and my lungs, so I walked some easier sections to save myself some of that pain. It paid off, because while Moose Mountain sucked, I was still able to go up in one sustained push – no stopping to catch my breath or try to put out the fire in my legs. It’s better to just get it over with. I remind myself that 100 milers have to do this with like 98 miles on their legs. I surely can do it with 10 or 11. It helps.

The top of Moose Mountain seemed longer this year than it has in years past, but I also was able to run most of it. I only needed a little bit of recovery after the climb before I was able to run again. Maybe not that fast, but I was still running! And it was kind of cold up there, with a lot more wind than I’ve ever experienced up there. I started wishing for my arm warmers, as the only things cold were my hands (which were also puffy, ugh) and forearms. I walked the few uphills I came across, but it seemed like that descent was never going to come. I had no idea how many miles were left in the race at this point, and I was worried I was getting farther and farther away from my sub-4 goal. I hate going down that side of Moose Mountain a lot more, because it’s steeper with more big drops down that are hard on my knees. Maybe it’s not a big step down for a normal sized person, but I’m short, and my legs are short.

I got to the bottom and ran for a bit, until I got to the last footbridge before Mystery Mountain. Once again, I wanted to save myself some pain and started walking before I ran out of runnable terrain. I ate a gel and starting singing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” to pass the time. To give readers a sense of time, I made it to 49 bottles before I got to the top. But it worked! It kept me going. My hope was that if I got to the top of Mystery Mountain with half an hour or more remaining, I’d make it under 4 hours, because I think it’s around 2 miles from there to the finish, and it’s almost entirely downhill. I took off once I reached the top, and was running technical downhills better and faster than I ever have before. Somehow, I was flying, as if I hadn’t run 13.5 miles already. I just wanted to get to the river, because then I knew that I’d be on the road imminently, and could speed up more. I heard the Poplar River and knew it was close, and I plowed through the remaining mud as best I could. I crossed the bridge grinning, and then I walked the one final evil uphill that I swear was not there when we started.

I’m not really sure how fast I ended up going since my GPS was so off, but my watch says I ran the last full mile (mile 14) in 12:16 and the last 0.54 miles in 9:03. Uh, that is faster than my 5K PR. Granted, it is all downhill, but still, wut. Whatever my actual pace was, it felt very fast and yet I didn’t worry for even a second that I had dropped the hammer too soon. I actually caught one of my friends on the final descent toward Caribou Highlands, after we’d left the ski hill – so within the last 0.25 miles of the race! What a jerk move on my part, haha. There was a huge crowd of people at the finish line cheering for me, both friends and strangers, and the race announcer called me “our good friend Donna” which always makes me feel like I belong. I was so thrilled so have made it under 4 hours, by a LOT, and really pleased with pretty much everything about my race prep and execution.

I cleaned off my shoes, strode off to take a shower (I had hardly any stiffness in my legs, and NO chafing, not even from my sports bra), and then went back to have my post-run chili. I considered returning to volunteer for awhile longer, but I was feeling a bit tired at that point and didn’t have warm enough clothes for standing around. Plus my husband was back in the room, hoping we could do some exploring. One of these days I’m going to be one of those badazzes who finishes a race and hops right into volunteering.