Race Report: Moose Mountain Marathon 2018

Am I headed for the same brick wall
Is there anything I can do about anything at all?
Except go back to that corner in Manhattan
And dig deeper, dig deeper this time
Down beneath the impossible pain of our history
Beneath unknown bones
Beneath the bedrock of the mystery
Beneath the sewage systems and the path train
Beneath the cobblestones and the water mains
Beneath the traffic of friendships and street deals
Beneath the screeching of kamikaze cab wheels
Beneath everything I can think of to think about
Beneath it all, beneath all get out
Beneath the good and the kind and the stupid and the cruel
There’s a fire just waiting for fuel.

Ani Difranco

Official Results:
Time: 8:42:12 (18:43 slower than I ran this race in 2016)
Pace: 19:56
Placing:
Overall: 259/306
Gender: 113/152
AG (F 1-39): 51/56

Watch Results:
Time: 6:23:45
Pace: 20:14
Distance: 18.97 mi (clearly it died — at 6 hours? that’s BS)
Heart Rate: N/A

Goals:
A: 7:00
B: 7:20
C: 7:59:59

Food:
What I ate the night before: hummus and veggie sandwich, bagel and cream cheese, some cookies and goldfish crackers at volunteering
What I ate on race morning: bagel with cream cheese, also about half of another bagel
What I carried with me: 7 gel packets, water, water with electrolye tablet, spare electrolyte tablet. I ate a bunch of crap at the aid stations.

Gear:
What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, ball cap, buff (I took it off pretty early on)
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker, hydration pack

Discussion: This was obviously not the race I wanted to run.

Starting on Wednesday of this last week, I started feeling stuffy, like I generally do when the weather changes. That was frustrating, but I also knew I had similar feelings the night before Chippewa Moraine this year and I managed to avoid getting full-on bronchitis or whatever garbage I was getting several times a year for awhile. I didn’t worry, and while Thursday I felt fairly crummy, I woke up Friday feeling better enough that I figured I’d feel even better on Saturday. I was sneezing a lot so I took an allergy pill, and a couple generic non-meth-strength Sudafed on Friday evening.

I didn’t make a packing checklist this year! I am really surprised. Usually I am so nervous I put everything on it. I literally write things like “fill water pack” and “take off rings” on there and check them off! I even put write blogpost on my checklists, which is kind of sad. I didn’t make one for this race, though, and I didn’t forget anything! Not one single thing, except I thought I forgot to bring a zip close bag for my cell phone and it turned out I had one in my car and two in the bag I used for toting around running stuff when I drive to a training location. (Note: using this bag to store a lot of my running supplies might be one of the reasons why I didn’t forget anything.) I packed everything on Friday when I got up, too. Usually I’m such a freak about getting everything set the night before, so it was nice to see I’m starting to calm down and get in a routine.

The drive up was really frustrating. It took a really long time, thanks to some bad traffic to start with at Spaghetti Junction, then more traffic in Duluth, then a quick stop to buy bagels in Duluth, then finally an extremely long wait north of Two Harbors thanks to a very small section of road that was down to one lane and thus using a flag crew. I was actually 45 minutes late to volunteering! Fortunately it wasn’t that busy, probably because everyone else was stuck in traffic. I was supposed to function as a greeter but I decided my services were needed at the merch tables instead. I did greet a few people but they just asked where the bathroom was and I told them there were porta-potties out back and they were dissatisfied with that answer. Then it turned out they were hotel guests anyway so idk what the problem was. I was a much better merch seller than greeter, especially since I was decked out in several items for sale, from my own personal collection. I really enjoy volunteering at check-in/packet pick-up, because I like the people who are assigned to volunteer with me, and because I like talking to the other runners. Many of them are starting to become familiar faces and remember that I have tried to upsell them on gloves and headwraps in the past, and seem to not mind. It’s fun to chat with these folks, even though most of them don’t know my name, and I don’t know theirs, or I do but pretend that I don’t while secretly sort of fangirling because they are accomplished or otherwise in the “cool runners” crowd.

I felt really fatigued at packet pick-up, and even at the time I had an idea that it was not a good sign. I was hoping it would translate into actually being tired when I got back to my hotel room (narrator: it did not), but it was concerning. Constant interaction with people helped keep my mind off how I felt kind of warm and that I had that weird spacey feeling I get when my sinuses are a bit stuffed up but my nose is clear. I was staying at the lodge next door instead of at the event location, so I had to go check in. Unfortunately since Ski Hill Road is very dark, I got confused and drove around trying to find the check in. I had to call and ask where it was — and it turned out it was really easy to find. So that was embarrassing, but the woman at the front desk was so nice about it and we laughed together. Then I couldn’t find my room, and it turned out that it was around the back of the lodge. It had a nice view.

I got back to the room, laid out all my stuff, and lazed around until I decided it was time to try to go to sleep. I was checking race results constantly, looking for updates on how Neal Collick was faring in his attempt to break the men’s course record (success), on how my personal hero Mallory Richard was doing (she managed to overtake the previous women’s leader, finish 5th overall, and break the women’s course record, also set by her), and on how my friends were doing. (They were all doing well at the time.) I turned off the lights, turned on my white noise app, turned on a TV show I could easily ignore, and tried to quiet my mind by thinking about mundane things like multiplication tables. All the usual tricks. NONE of them worked. My heart rate was high, my brain was wired, and I could not get to sleep. OF COURSE. I wonder sometimes if volunteering gets me too amped up and if I should just spend a mellow evening relaxing, but I enjoy volunteering too much.

I probably did sleep for an hour or two, but it didn’t really feel like it. I was up at 6 am, getting dressed (it was already 51F so I opted not to take my rain shell and just went with my arm warmers, which I took off at the start), trying to stuff my face with as much food as possible even though I wasn’t very hungry, and doing all the normal race prep stuff. I was out the door by about 6:40, with a short walk to the race HQ to catch the bus. I took a steeper shortcut through the parking lot of my lodge to reach the road more directly, and I started sweating. Not a good sign, especially when it’s a sweat that comes from my head and my back instantaneously, and I can feel it. It’s the kind of sweat I get when I exert myself too much when I’ve got a head cold (or similar). I shrugged it off, thinking hey, it’s early, I’m barely awake, it’ll be fine. I was still sweating on the bus though (it was warm, but not that warm) so it worried me even more, but once I got to talking to my seatmate I started to feel better and took my mind off my possibly real, possibly imagined illness.

I caught up with some friends at the race start and then finally it was underway!

Start to Cramer Rd (0.8 mi, 12:39 elapsed, 15:48 pace): The race start attempts to spread folks out by running them along Cramer Road and then jumping on the Superior Hiking Trail before the trailhead. It doesn’t work that well but it could be worse! I am fairly surprised at this pace because at one point we were at a dead stop while we tried to funnel onto the trail. I felt fine at this point, the running was easy, there were tons of people cheering, and I rolled through the aid station and onto the main trail feeling confident.

Cramer Rd to Temperance (7.1 mi section/7.9 mi overall, 2:09:47 section/2:22:26 elapsed, 18:17 section/18:02 overall pace): At first I was trotting right along, probably farther toward the front of the pack than I should have been due to the funneling, but still keeping pace with folks. At first it felt easy, although for the first mile or so I was running behind a couple who were getting their quarter mile splits from some kind of app. I could not fathom why, especially since pretty much every app is inaccurate on the SHT. Every time they got a split, the man would say “we’re losing time” and try to hurry the woman along. I was very glad to let them get ahead of me; I’m pretty obsessive about my races, but I’ve never seen anyone micromanaging a trail race like that. It stressed me out.

Then running started to become labored. I felt like my chest was congested (and maybe it is, but only mildly), my nose was running nonstop, and my head felt fuzzy again. Plus, I was still sweating, and it still was “I don’t feel well” sweat, not running sweat. The first little climb was so hard. Even walking up it was hard. I started to let people pass by me by the bunches so that I could go my own pace, and after awhile I let myself slow to a walk. Even on the runnable sections, like along the Cross River. I was extremely frustrated. I was also concerned about my health. At Wild Duluth 50K, I dropped at the second aid station when I was experiencing more extreme versions of the same symptoms (the difference then, I was getting over a longer illness and still had a deep cough). I didn’t have momentary blackouts, but these climbs were relatively minor and I knew that I had big climbs to come in the next segment, and again at Moose/Mystery.

Here I was only a couple miles in and looking for reasons to quit. I thought oh, I can just stop at Temperance and volunteer. Or just sit in a chair for awhile until someone I know comes along crewing and I can hitch a ride. Or something. Then I started questioning what I was doing running. Who did I think I was, trying to run an ultra? Or a marathon? Or anything at all? I was a big wimp who wanted to quit when things went slightly wrong. I was someone who couldn’t even get through a fairly low-mileage training block without getting sick/worn out/whatever – how could I ever run something longer than a 50K?

Then I thought about my friend Jeff, who had been running the 100 mile race. He was kicking butt (based on Facebook updates and runner tracking) when I went to bed, but when I woke up I found out he’d dropped due to terrible stomach issues. I thought about how I was running 1/4 of the distance he was running, and that if he felt like I did, he’d still be running. I could pretty much guarantee that any 100 mile runner still on the course felt worse than I did, and they were continuing. It was time for me to figure out how to face adversity without giving up. So I decided to keep going. If I had to hike it in, I had to hike it in. There was plenty of time. (I guess I didn’t have a headlamp so I couldn’t have taken like 12 hours to finish.)

So I hiked. I let everyone pass me who needed to pass me. I gave up on my A and B goals, although I did manage to get into Temperance with my 8 hour pace intact.

Temperance to Sawbill (5.7 mi section/13.6 mi overall, 1:58:09 section/4:20:35 elapsed, 20:44 section/19:10 overall pace): I left Temperance with hands full of food. I thought since I’d been feeling hungry during the past section, I had better eat something substantial, so I grabbed a couple cookies, a handful of potato chips, and a pancake. I should have grabbed two pancakes, because within minutes of eating it, I felt way better. Like, I realized I felt like running again. Except I had slammed two cups of Coke and one cup of ginger ale and stuffed my face because I thought I was going to be hiking. So then I couldn’t run because I felt like a whale. I also forgot that right outside Temperance is a prime spot for photographers, so I ended up getting photographed stuffing my face while carrying my bite guard (it keeps me from clenching so hard when I’m running). So classy. I did end up actually running after I burped about 100 times. I ran over the bridge spanning the Temperance River and then continued running until I reached the start of the uphill section. For some reason I thought the big climbs started sooner, so I was hesitant to run past the first set of stairs set into the hillside. I kept waiting and waiting for Carlton Peak to come, and it didn’t. I did get passed by the 50 mile winner somewhere in here, and I was definitely passed by WAY more 50 mile runners than last time, but whatever. I didn’t count.

And then came Carlton Peak. It was fairly warm at this point, and the sun was out, and that section was exposed. So I started to cook. I didn’t know until I got back to the lodge, but I was sunburned, and it likely started there. Once I started the really steep section, I knew it was going to be bad. I let a lot of people go by me and tried to go at my own pace, but my own pace included stopping. A lot. Which isn’t like me, I usually want to push through and get up and over as quickly as I can. I don’t usually find stopping particularly helpful. But this time, I found stopping necessary. I felt really stupid, partially because I usually feel so smug about my ability to get up these tough, steep sections. It was definitely humbling. I did manage to fake it for a photographer (I didn’t forget about this prime hiding spot) but just past that spot, I didn’t just stop. I sat down. I FREAKING SAT DOWN ON THE TRAIL. I have never sat down during a race. I realize this is overly dramatic but I felt very dramatic in the moment. But I was so fatigued, and on top of that, I felt totally nauseated. And I knew there was more to come. So I sat, until someone else came along, and sat, seemed like she was also nauseated. I didn’t want to stick around and see if she was going to barf, so I kept going. And stopped a bunch more, and then when I finally reached the top, I walked it down. Slowly.  So slowly, even though it was runnable. I kept alternating between being at peace with my decision and becoming frustrated anew. I wasted a lot of energy being mad at myself.

I also forgot that after the descent from Carlton Peak, it’s uphill to the aid station. And the road crossing is not anywhere near the actual aid station. I mean, it is, but it feels interminably long, because once reaching the road crossing, I anticipated the aid station would be imminent. I took one year off from this race and apparently forgot everything about it. I drank some pop, ate some chips, took some cookies, and walked out.

Sawbill to Oberg (5.5 mi section/19.1 mi overall, 1:54:43 section/6:15:18 elapsed, 20:51 section/19:39 overall pace): This section is probably the “easiest” section in that it doesn’t have any brutal uphills like Carlton Peak or Moose Mountain, although Temperance might actually be easier due to the long descent. I knew there were a couple of climbs in this section (thanks to re-reading my race report the night before), and couldn’t tell where they were, so I conserved energy and hiked quite a bit of this section. I’m surprised, doing the math now (I’m not relying on GPS data, but on my lap button on my watch, to get the time between sections), that this section was actually slower than the previous section, considering the time I spent sitting on Carlton Peak. I am a very slow hiker.

I like this section and I was looking forward to running it. Even though there are serious uphills, they are pretty short and there aren’t as many roots and rocks in this section. It’s mostly shaded, and it’s just… nice. Plus it’s the shortest segment of the race! Now I feel like I have to run this race next year just to prove that this section is fun to run, even though I’ve been thinking of sticking to volunteering for the 2019 race.

Nothing notable happened during this section. I was just looking ahead to Oberg, knowing that if I could get past the last aid station, I’d have to finish. I was doing lots of dangerous Race Math and trying to figure out if I could finish under 9 hours and was worrying I could not get it done. I felt my E goal slipping through my fingers but I knew it was still possible. The big unknown would be the Moose.

I ran a bit once I was past the switchback climb. I forget that the sign that says “Oberg Parking Lot” is not anywhere near the parking lot, and there’s still like a mile or so to go. I ran into a group of people with a 100 mile runner – it turned out one was a pacer and the other 3 were volunteers sent to fetch him, as he had been feeling dizzy and lightheaded, but was fine and joking about it. We were met at some point by EMTs coming to check on him as well, but all was well, and he finished – I checked! I trotted in chatting with one of the volunteers, who has been coming up to the race for 12 years! Just before the Oberg aid station, we were greeted by Kurt of TCRC fame, and then the excitement of reaching the final aid station swept me up.

I forgot that I stopped at Oberg a little longer than I did at any of the other aid stations. I was chatting with Mike Borst a little, as he paced the winner for 20 or 30 miles through the night before coming back to help at the aid station. So maybe that contributed to my slightly slower pace during this section. Maybe not, I don’t know. Does it really matter? No.

Oberg to finish (7.1 mi section/26.2 mi overall, 2:26:54 section/8:42:12 elapsed, 20:41 section/19:56 overall pace): The Race Math continued. I had 2 hours and 45 minutes to finish the race in under 9 hours. I also had 2 hours and 8 minutes to finish the race under my previous time. So the dream of a course PR wasn’t dead yet, although I was realistic about its improbability. My watch died only 8 minutes after I left the aid station, so I had to rely on the time of day as my only gauge of progress.

After a short uphill, there’s a nice downhill all the way to Rollins Creek, and I ran it as best as I could. I actually felt pretty decent at this point, but knew I needed to save a lot for Moose and Mystery. I told myself once I was at the top of Mystery, I could run.

Even though I’ve run this section a quadrillion times, I forgot how long it takes for Moose Mountain to actually start. There’s a lot of preamble, relatively easy uphill that belies the undefined slope (aka vertical line) to come. I was ready to just get it over with so of course it took forever to come. Then it also took forever to go up. And again, I stopped. A lot. Last time I ran this race, I kept telling myself to keep moving whenever I felt like stopping. This year, stopping was a survival technique. Maybe I should try trekking poles next time. I hauled my way up, bent over at the knees to catch my breath, sometimes leaning on trees, possibly even sitting once more (my memory is sort of fuzzy but yeah, I think I sat). I thought my legs would be jelly at the top, but they were okay. I was so happy to get to the top and walked my way across. It feels like the top gets longer every time I run this stinking mountain. I knew the saddle was coming at some point and that seemed to have more short ascents than I thought. Of course I was probably moving 5 or 6 minutes/mile faster when I last ran this section… I finally reached the descent (and the sign that told me it was only 3.5 miles to Ski Hill Road!!!) and was temporarily relieved… until I realized how shot my knees were. I’d been stubbing toes, rolling ankles, and otherwise destroying my joints, even with mostly walking. So this steep downhill was pretty painful, as was the climb over a downed tree. For a person of average height, it might have been okay, but I could barely get one leg over it, and it was a feat of strength to get my second leg over. I had NO flexibility at that point. I practically rolled over the darn thing.

Once it flattened out a bit, I was able to run, until I reached what I thought was the start of Mystery Mountain. I even started my “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” mantra – only to realize I wasn’t there yet! I crossed the footbridge and started the song anew once I started the real ascent. My brain was so addled that I kept losing track of where I was in the song. It was strange – I didn’t find Mystery Mountain that hard. It felt mostly the same, maybe a bit slower, but I never felt like I needed to stop or barf or black out for a second or two. Miraculous!

For some reason, I remembered the rest of the trail very differently. Like… there were more uphills than I remembered. I thought it was all downhill. Why? It’s clearly not. But I always forget. And am always rudely reminded. I ran as much as I could, even though this section is full of rocks and my ankles were killing me. I can feel every one of those ankle rolls now. Ouch. My feet hurt a bit too – I had a couple minor blisters on each heel and on my big toes. So I felt that, too. But as I crashed down the hill, I just kept thinking about hearing the river. The Poplar River – the sweetest sound in the world to a Superior runner. Of course I thought I heard it like 5 or 6 times and it turned out to be the wind. Sigh.

I hit Ski Hill Road and couldn’t believe it. I was almost there. I was going to finish in under 9 hours. I was going to run right by my nice cozy lodge room. And I was going to run the last 1000m or so with my eyes stinging with sweat. Ugh. I had to dig my sweaty buff out of the back pocket of my shorts (ew ew ew ew ew) and wipe my eyes in order to keep them open. One final insult.

Ahead of me as I turned the corner to leave the road, I saw a familiar figure making her way to the finish line, with the unmistakable triumphant shuffle of a 100 mile finisher: my friend Stephanie. I met Stephanie for the first time at the finish line of the 2015 Superior race, when I handed her a buckle and finisher’s medal and gave her a hug because… I don’t know why. Because she seemed cool and happy and inspiring. So I started calling her my role model, and then we became friends. Like Facebook official and everything. I could hear the emcee calling her name and the loud cheers for her, and then heard my own name as I came “flying” through the chute. Ha. And we hugged, and I practically started crying. This awful race had a happy ending. The race director handed me the buckle to present to her, and handed her a race medal to present to me, and we hugged about 10 more times.

I made the rounds at the finish line, checking in with friends and with others who I recognized from the trail, ate my chili, and then decided to pack it in and walk back to the hotel. I didn’t feel great, but beyond an overwhelming sense of fatigue and likely dehydration and low blood sugar, I wasn’t in that bad of shape. Which makes sense since I hiked like 80% of the race, I guess. I peeled off my sweaty clothes, took a shower, drank some vanilla Coke, and bummed around the room. I considered going back to the finish line but… it seemed so hard and so far.

I dug deep for this race. I swallowed my pride, fought my instinct to quit, re-set my goals repeatedly, and vacillated between embracing the suffering and questioning whether I even belong in this race or deserve to call myself a trail runner. But maybe I was really showing a glimmer of what it’s going to take for me to finish a hundred miler someday soon. Maybe not this one… yet. I didn’t get the race I wanted, not by a longshot. I wanted to run a big PR, make a decision about running Surf the Murph, and finish triumphantly with plenty of energy to hang out at the finish line after and help out. Instead I might have gotten the race I needed. I had to forget about what I “could have” or “should have” been able to accomplish — it doesn’t matter how fast I ran the 25K in the spring, or how much I’ve improved since the last time I ran this race, or what I conjured up in my head that I could achieve. The only thing that mattered was what I could do that day. So I put one foot in front of the other as best I could, showed as much gratitude as I could muster for a beautiful day in the woods with friends and congenial strangers, and I’ll treasure the finisher’s medal probably even more than I would have if I’d made my A goal.

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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.

Off-Week #1

I can’t say that I’m enjoying this off week as much as I’d have liked. I started feeling cold-like symptoms on Tuesday, and have been suffering through them ever since. So far, I haven’t been completely incapacitated by them (I did take a half day from work in order to get some extra sleep on Wednesday, but that was it so far), and I’m hoping I’m on the mend. I was a little concerned because I had the same progression of symptoms I had back in October, but I also didn’t attempt to run an ultramarathon in the rain, so I’m thinking I might be on the mend.

Here’s how my week went:

Monday: Strength training
I did several reps of a rather complicated combined strength move I found on the internet when searching for “exercises for runners dumbbells.” I also did some planks (3×20 seconds) and wall sits (3×60 seconds), and then I did a yoga video.

Tuesday: Strength training
I did a circuit workout I found on Self.com, which I had to modify slightly because I don’t have an exercise ball. Also I had to do box jumps onto the basement stairs because I don’t have anything else sturdy to jump on, which made me hesitant. I did a yoga video and then went out to a nice dinner and walked around Bentleyville with my family. It was like 12F and windy as heck.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday: Nothing
I lazed around trying to recover from my cold. Oh, and watched some hockey Friday night. That got the heart pumping.

Saturday: Hiking
I decided on Friday night that as long as I didn’t feel worse when I woke up in the morning, I was going to go on a short hike. I almost didn’t go, but then after I ate lunch, I felt better, and went on a 4 mile hike.

It was cold, but manageable. I was worried about getting cold because I wouldn’t be running hard, but it wasn’t a problem. I made sure to wear my super warm gloves (which I need to clean now, thanks to the deluge of snot from my poor nose) but other than that, I wore what I normally wear to run when it’s cold-ish. (I wasn’t bundled up the way I was when it’s really cold, of course.)

I hiked the Superior Hiking Trail, starting at Martin Road and heading back to town this time. It was still fairly icy in spots, so I wasn’t able to enjoy the scenery the same way I thought I’d be able to, but I still stopped to take a few pictures and check out a few views. Since it was icy (and sometimes the ice was covered in a thin layer of snow, so sketchy), I never really felt the urge to run and didn’t worry too much about my pace. It was very relaxing! This section is okay – it has a really nice stretch along Amity Creek, but then it joins up with a gravel road, goes between two cemeteries (kind of a downer), and then ends up on the street for awhile before going into Hartley. I only went 2 miles in before turning around, so I didn’t get onto the street. While I hiked, I had “Life is a Cabaret” in my head, probably because I was by cemeteries and I want that song played at my funeral.

I did feel kinda chilled and tired when I got home and through the evening, so I was worried I’d get up and feel sicker, but I didn’t!

Sunday: Hiking and ice skating
I got up decently early and was actually out on the trail by a little after noon. It’s a lot less stressful to get out for a hike than it is to get out for a run. I don’t know why – maybe this will help me stop getting so anxious about runs, and stop procrastinating? Maybe?

I wanted to go to Ely’s Peak, but I suspected approaching it from the Beck’s Road trailhead would be treacherous, due to the steep rocky climbs. I ended up starting at the Magney-Snively trailhead (heads up: Skyline Drive is open to the trailhead, but closed directly after it), and after 3 miles, still had probably half a mile to go to Ely’s Peak, so I skipped it. I was only planning on 6 miles, and it would have probably added 25 minutes to my hike to actually “summit” the peak. So I turned around. This section is tough on the way to Ely’s Peak, lots of uphills, and my legs were definitely feeling it. There were a couple of icy or otherwise sketchy sections that forced me to slow down, and on the way back, I somehow was able to catch myself just before my tailbone hit the ground. Yikes.

I enjoyed a bit more challenging hike, even if at times I felt pretty tired from the effort. U had a song for this hike, too: I couldn’t get the Bloodhound Gang’s “Bad Touch” out of my head today, for some reason.

After I got home, had a latte, and took a shower to warm up, I drove out to Pike Lake, where my dad had cleared a rink on the lake behind his house. I didn’t get there until 4:30, when the sun was already almost gone, but we had a great time skating in the twilight for an hour. I brought a stick and a puck, but he forgot his down in the Cities, so we just skated around and had fun talking, and then looking at the stars with an app once it was late enough for the stars to come out.

I’m really hoping I didn’t overdo it during the weekend, because I’m hoping to get back to strength training during the week (and do more hiking & skating next weekend!), and also making some lunches for myself. I haven’t had the energy to make food or do any meal planning, but I do need to get to the grocery store for my work potluck (once I figure out what I’m making, ugh).

Wild Duluth 50K 2017: Week 14

Wow! Look at that revisionist title!

Monday: 4.3 mi, treadmill
Tuesday: 5.1 mi, treadmill
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: 4 mi, treadmill
Friday: rest
Saturday: 8.4 mi, trail (Superior Hiking Trail – Fox Farm Rd to Sucker River & back)
Sunday: 11.2 mi, trail (Superior Hiking Trail – Reeves Rd to Lake County Rd 301 & back)
Total: 32.9 mi

I’m still training for Wild Duluth! So this still works as a training week.

Since up til Saturday, I was still planning on running a marathon on Saturday, I did short runs in a controlled environment while watching Game of Thrones on HBOGO. My cats watched the whole time, judged me on my form, and then swarmed onto the treadmill the moment I stopped it. They love plopping over on it, I suppose because the belt is warm.

Hm, that reminds me, I need to lube the treadmill deck.

To salvage the weekend, I decided to hit 2 more segments of the SHT. I ran 8.4 kinda sucky miles on Saturday. The segment is nice, with a few lovely views. On a cooler day I might have liked it more, but the sun was hot! It ended up in the high 60s F, maybe even 70, and I forget that those temps can feel fairly warm when running. I was really glad that the thru-hike distance was much shorter than the advertised distance, because I was ready to get that run over with. It’s a bit hillier than I thought it would be, but another day it might be a perfect section.

Sunday’s segment would have been really pleasant and runnable if not for the mud. The first half mile is along a county road, then the next half mile is on a snowmobile trail. A word to the wise: snowmobile trail = mud + standing water + long grass. Yuck. The rest of the trail alternated between pleasant single track and ankle deep mud. My shoes are in rough shape.

I had to hose myself off after getting home, and completely rinse out my shoes. I stuffed them with newspaper, which absorbed a bit of the water, and I’m out of town until Thursday, so they will have a chance to further dry out, but we’ll see. They only have to make it 3 more weeks.

When I wasn’t slopping through the mud, I was running along Silver Creek and LOVING IT. There are a lot of very easy to run portions of this section of trail, and I would love to get back there when it’s drier. It was a bit more of a drive than I’d have liked, but it is the farthest section of the Duluth to Two Harbors segment (and would have been even farther if I’d started at the Co Rd 301 trailhead) and is a bit beyond what I usually like to drive for a medium-length run.

I’m hoping for one more higher mileage week and then I’ll step down a bit, and then do something similar to the beginning of this week for that final race week – it seemed to work.

I’m considering running another race the weekend after WD50K, but I’m not sure. It would require travel, and I’m already doing a TON of traveling this month (I’m writing this post from Kansas, and next week I’ll be in Massachusetts. Right after WD, I’ll be going to Edmonton). On the other hand, it sounds like fun, and could be a chance for redemption on two accounts – one summer goal, and one fall goal. We’ll see.

Birkie Trail Run Training: Week 13

What’s a taper?

Monday: 5.9 mi, trail (Hartley)
Tuesday: 8.6 mi, road
Wednesday: 5.2 mi, trail (Minnesota Point)
Thursday: rest
Friday: 10 mi, pavement (Lakewalk)
Saturday: 5.3 mi, road + trail (Ran to Bagley, did one short loop, ran home)
Sunday: 11.2 mi, trail (Superior Hiking Trail – Rossini Rd to Lake County Demonstration Forest & back)
Total: 46.3 mi

I know the marathon is this weekend, but since I had 2 weeks “off” and my goal race is Wild Duluth, I figured there’s no harm in running a regular week of mileage. I spent a lot of time on the trails, too, I guess in some kind of attempt to make up for all the road running I’ve done this summer. And also because summer was giving its last dying gasp this past week.

Monday I ran at Hartley, and started a bit late, to the point where I was running in… hemidemisemidarkness, I guess. It is hard to get in a lot of mileage at Hartley since the trails have changed a bit, but I still enjoy running there.

Then I went home and made A Food.

It’s been awhile since I made something really good for dinner (I was on a good kick for awhile), but I made this Golden Rice Bowl with Spicy Cauliflower and Black Beans bowl. I had dinner and 3 lunches out of this recipe, and the flavors are delicious – turmeric! Red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper! Also I am mentioned* in the recipe!

*I choose to believe “some of my favorite people in the world” includes me.

Tuesday I ran an unremarkable road run. Eating a lot of cauliflower kind of messed with my GI system so I cut it a little short, I was planning on 10 miles.

Wednesday, I needed a reset, and decided to go for scenery over miles or speed. I haven’t been out on Minnesota Point in a long time – I run the roads out there, but not the trails. Part of this is because it involves running in sand, which I dislike. The trails are also pretty short – I had to run all over the place and get creative to get to 5 miles. Some of the trails end abruptly, or they are overgrown. I just prayed there wasn’t any poison ivy (I didn’t contact any, whew). I finished running at sunset.

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Friday my legs felt terrible when I set out on the Lakewalk. (Well, actually I started in Kitchigammi Park.) I wasn’t interested in slogging it out so I kept forcing my legs forward and ended up running a sub-13 minute pace without overexerting myself (once my legs loosened up, that is). I narrowly missed getting hung up by the scenic railroad where it crosses the trail near Blackwoods, but it passed before I got there. The acoustics were right and I could hear the announcers and the crowd at the East-Denfeld football game even after I was a couple miles away. It was a great way to spend a Friday night. I thought about all the football games I went to in high school, usually sneaking in with the pep band and dancing along to “Green Onions” and the other jazzy tunes they would play.

Saturday was hot. I was headed to a hockey game that afternoon so I needed to get my run in before. That meant running in the heat of the day, and I’m pretty sure it was 85F, with full sun, when I headed out. It was pretty miserable and I walked whenever I felt like it. I was so glad to be out of the sun during my quick loop at Hartley (I did the big hill loop, so at least I didn’t cop out that way), and I was wishing for a water bottle on the way home. On a 5 mile run! Ugh.

Sunday was hot too! I hit another Duluth-to-Two-Harbors section of the SHT. It was only 70F in Duluth, so I thought it wouldn’t be so bad up the shore. Nope, it was almost 80F. My run was painfully slow, due in part to the heat and also due to the more technical terrain, as compared to the segment I ran the weekend before. I had to climb over fallen trees and pick my way through scree, so I naturally slowed down over the mostly runnable section headed the opposite way.

I’m taking it fairly easy this upcoming week (with my usual strategy of denying the race is coming up soon) before spending basically the entire month of October traveling (3 out of 4 weeks, I have a business trip, and the only week I don’t is the week leading up to Wild Duluth, so I’m not thrilled), so who knows what kind of mileage I’ll get after that. I’m excited about the Birkie, even after finding out the race time limit is 7 hours (which was my goal time, oops) and realizing I’ll have to leave the house at 5:30 a.m.

Birkie Trail Run Training Weeks 11 and 12

The woman who kicked the hornet’s nest.

Monday: 10.4 mi, treadmill
Tuesday: rest (trip logistics)
Wednesday: rest (driving)
Thursday: rest (driving – some walking at Niagara Falls)
Friday: 2.5 mi, treadmill
Saturday: rest (some walking at Thorne Head Nature Preserve, also lots of aggressively bad dancing)
Sunday: rest (water-skiing for “cross-training”)
Total: 12.9 mi

Monday: rest (walking around Kennebunkport, water-skiing)
Tuesday: rest (driving)
Wednesday: 3.75 mi, treadmill (plus walking around the ballpark in Cleveland)
Thursday: rest (driving – some walking at ballpark in Detroit)
Friday: 6.6 mi, road
Saturday: 9.1 mi, trail (Superior Hiking Trail – Twin Ponds to Haines Rd & back)
Sunday: 12.6 mi, trail (Superior Hiking Trail – Rossini Rd to Fox River Rd & back)
Total: 32.1 mi

A week and a half of only treadmill running really sucked! Good thing it only consisted of two runs. My Monday (week 11) run got split into 2 runs so that I could get some stuff done. I ran on the treadmill, then did some trip prep, then ran on the treadmill some more. I’m trying to remember why I did this – I assume it must have been raining or cold. Or I just wanted to be around to get more stuff done.

I had also intended to run Tuesday (week 11), and in fact got dressed in my running gear and, after visiting my grandparents, started driving to the Highland/Getchell trailhead, and about halfway there, looked at the sky and realized the one time I don’t obsessively check the weather before going out running, a giant thunderhead is looming over the hill. During the downpour, I drove to buy pet food and litter, which was a good use of time and was sort of on the way. I considered going home and running on the treadmill, but realized I had a lot of trip prep left to do, plus some additional housecleaning. (I actually cleaned my house somewhat during the time I had off before we started driving. It still looks messy compared to most people’s houses, but a heck of a lot better than it had, and it was nice to come home to clean sheets and no dirty dishes.) I can’t do laundry and run the treadmill at the same time since they are on the same breaker, so I decided not to run. I could have managed my time better and gotten in one more run before I left, but that would require a lobotomy.

My treadmill run on Friday (week 11) was uneventful, as was my treadmill run Wednesday (week 12).

I was SO glad to get back out running on Friday (week 12). I almost didn’t get out there because I thought it was going to storm – then I watched the radar animation and saw the path of the rain. However, it was misty and visibility was low, plus my allergies were acting up badly and I’d taken a pill that was making my head a bit fuzzy, so I shortened my 8 mile run to 6.6. That doesn’t seem like much but 1.4 miles takes me awhile, so I was able to provide my brain enough excuses to turn back for home early.

Saturday (week 12) I wanted to make sure I ran before the predicted thunderstorm hit (spoiler: it didn’t) and get home in time to have a shake from Coney Island Deluxe courtesy of my dad. I decided I’ve been avoiding tough trails long enough, and decided to run the Superior Hiking Trail from Twin Ponds back toward Enger/24th Ave W/Highland-Getchell, turning around when I reached around 5 miles. This didn’t work out. First off, it was 1. sunny and 2. warm, two things I was not anticipating. I didn’t put on sunscreen, because I am stupid, and I only brought one handheld, which I thought would be sufficient for a cooler day. Maybe it would have been enough, we’ll never know.

I really hate that section of the SHT. After passing through the 24th Ave W trailhead, there’s a quick flat section followed by this really long, steep, annoying climb. It’s less than 400 ft in total elevation change, but it has a fairly steep grade and I am also not a mountain runner so I don’t know what I’m talking about. Then there’s a bunch of little climbs I don’t like, some of which are exposed. So I was hot, rationing water a bit (nothing dire), grumpy, hungry somehow (oops), and overall not having a good time. I reached Haines Road and decided to turn around there, even though it was short of 5 miles (I think 4.6?), because I didn’t want to go up that climb (it’s short but steep and also slippery due to lots of exposed boulders) and I also wanted to be done before 5. I tried to make up some time on the way back after having a gel (not enough), and was starting to enjoy myself once I started the descent of the aforementioned annoying climb. Somewhere before Miller Creek, while I was cooking along, I got stung by a bee. I haven’t been stung in a long time (which is surprising, since there are bees all over the place on the SHT), and while it was initially less painful than I remembered, it still sucked, and it hurt the rest of the run (I was stung on my right calf muscle) and the rest of the night it both hurt and itched. I decided to cheat a little to get done sooner, and ran along Skyline Drive past Enger Park Golf Course instead of dipping back onto the SHT after crossing Piedmont. I was able to get done a bit more quickly by running on the road (although I got back on for the last 2 segments at Enger Park), and by that point I was SO DONE with running and didn’t care if I ran 10 miles.

I decided I will not be running the Wild Duluth course sections of the Superior Hiking Trail from now until the race. I don’t need to be annoyed by/sick of the race course come race day. It’s just very irritating that the SHT section nearest my home is the one I hate the most. Yes, I could go the other way from Twin Ponds, but it’s all downhill from there until the Lakewalk, and then it’s a lot of city running back up the hill to Hartley. I barely consider that the SHT.

Sunday I tried out a new segment of the SHT, as per my fall running goals. I drove up Highway 61 to check out the Rossini Road to Fox River Road section. I actually intended to go the other way, but when I pulled up to the Rossini Road trailhead and was getting my gear on, a woman I know came out of the woods. We started chatting and she offered to run the Rossini Road to Lake County Demonstration Forest section with me at another time, since it would be new to her. So I headed back toward town instead of up the shore. I think I’m going to make a separate trail review post, so I won’t get too far into the details of the trail. I started about as late as I could start while still getting done before dark. This was great until I took a wrong turn on the way back and ended up going north until I was past Larsmont, so I got home after dark anyway. Oh man, I cannot even think about what it’s going to be like when daylight saving time ends. The run itself felt good and I was moving along pretty well. I didn’t get hungry til the last few miles, at which time I reminded myself during a race, I’d be eating stuff at aid stations instead of eating a single gel over 12.8 miles. Oh, I ate a tiny granola bar right before I started running. So a tiny granola bar and a gel over 12.8 miles (and 3.5 hours). Not the best. I did have plenty of water as I decided to wear my hydration pack (which I’d initially vowed not to wear until the race – but I didn’t want 2 handhelds and it’s basically the same as a weighted vest, right?) and didn’t close the valve on the mouthpiece so it leaked all over my passenger seat and my gear. Sigh.

Fall Running Goals: 2017

It’s meteorological fall! Time for some new goals!

  1. Course personal best at WD50K.
    The time to beat is 10:25:27. Obviously an overall 50K personal best would be amazing, too, but the course is harder.
  2. Set another marathon PR.
    This is tricky, because the Birkie is not actually a marathon distance. So I’ll look at overall pace in addition to overall time.
  3. Run all the remaining segments of the Superior Hiking Trail between Duluth and Two Harbors.
    Segments remaining: Sucker River to Fox Farm Road, Fox Farm Road to Rossini Road, Rossini Road to Lake County Demonstration Forest, Lake County Demonstration Forest to Reeves Road (11 miles, yikes!), and Reeves Road to Lake County Road 301.
  4. Take 2 weeks off deliberately.
    Once I’ve finished Wild Duluth, I’m going to give myself 2 weeks off, for real, with no guilt. I need the mental reset, and to let the blisters and scabs and twinges truly heal. I’ve taken time off before, but usually due to either illness or a mental funk, so it’s never as satisfying as planned time off.

Checking in on my summer running goals:

  1. Reach a personal best in distance.
    Nope.
  2. PR at the marathon distance.
    I ran 7:22:17 at the Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon, a PR of 1:01:12.
  3. Run from home to my dad’s place on Pike Lake.
    I never made the time to do this. I still need to plan a route and then drive it to see how safe the roads look.
  4. Run from Gooseberry Falls to Split Rock Lighthouse.
    I did this at the end of July. It was ok. I might try it again and go all the way to the lighthouse.

Only 50%? That’s not a very good showing. I did a lot of other fun stuff this summer so I don’t mind.