Birkie Trail Run Training: Week 7

Boring running week since I was traveling for work for most of it.

Monday: 8.1 mi, road
Tuesday: 5.2 mi, treadmill
Wednesday: 5 mi, treadmill
Thursday: 5.1 mi, treadmill
Friday: rest
Saturday: 10.3 mi, road & trail (home to Bagley to Hartley & back)
Sunday: 16.4 mi, trail (SHT – Normanna Road to Sucker River & back)
Total: 50.2 mi

Monday I was planning for 10 miles and didn’t get there. I had a lot to do to get ready for my trip – and even then I ended up packing Tuesday morning.

Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I managed to hit the workout room at the hotel and torture myself for 65 minutes (the max workout time on the treadmill + 5 min cool down) after dinner. Yes, after dinner each night, since Tuesday we went to dinner on our way from the airport, and Wednesday and Thursday we went shortly after returning from our site visit. Since I was the one who rented the car, and I’m also not a total antisocial jerk, I had dinner at 6 with the rest of the group, rested in my hotel room for an hour, and then ran. Trail running has helped me become more adaptable to running on a full stomach. Thursday was rough as I had eaten a delicious smorgasbord of Indian food, but I wanted to give myself the opportunity to have Friday as a rest day.

It turned out I needed Friday as a rest day since I had a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call, had to drive in the dark through a thunderstorm, and then found the airport coffee shop wasn’t open yet. Upon landing in Minneapolis, I hoofed it down to Starbucks but saw there was a huge line and had to head back to my gate. So I didn’t get coffee til I landed in Duluth. Thus, there was no way I would be running – I was already a zombie. I suppose I could have napped, but eh.

Saturday I ran from home to Bagley Nature Area, ran half the loop (the half without the hill), split off on the Superior Hiking Trail, and crossed to Hartley. I did the Root Canal loop at Hartley and was coming around the Old Hartley Road trail (which is now a gravel trail) and came upon a man who informed me there was a bear up ahead. A runner who had passed me earlier was yelling at the bear and making noise to try to get it to leave the trail, so I joined him. I wasn’t especially worried since it was a single bear in August – not a cub, not starving – but I wasn’t about to just scoot by it while it munched on the side of the trail. The bear moved after a few minutes and we cautiously approached the spot where it had been. Seeing no sign of the bear, we both took off. This was fortunate as it would have added a couple miles to my run to go another route, and it was already late. I’d actually almost decided not to run that day, since I’d hurt my neck rolling over in bed, but by 6 PM I was feeling guilty enough to get off my butt and get the run in.

Sunday I had another late start, due to 1. waiting until Austin Jarrow opened so I could get some more gels 2. rain and 3. procrastination. Oh and 4. missing a turn. It ended up raining for a significant portion of my run, so waiting was basically pointless. I drove out to the Normanna Rd. trailhead, which is kind of annoying to access. I think I could have taken an easier route from where I live if I’d just looked at a Duluth map, but I followed the directions on the SHT site, and then misread them and turned left on 61 too early, realized I would be heading into a dead end, and had to go back to the next left turn spot to get turned around the right way on 61 again. So I didn’t start running til 3:25 or so. And I forgot my GPS watch, which I have NEVER done (but have almost done several times, so I guess that was bound to happen), so I had to use my iPhone, at 49% battery, to track my run. (I put it in a plastic bag to protect it.)

The trail was ok, it had a lot of grassy sections which kept my feet soaked the whole time. It’s not particularly challenging, there are some ups and downs but nothing too hard. The worst part was the deerflies buzzing around me constantly, even with the rainfall. I wasn’t swarmed, but I couldn’t ever really be rid of them. They kept getting stuck in my hair, which was disgusting. I even had a whole (dead) one come out while washing my hair after getting home.

I was actually intending to run 18 miles, but when I got to the spur trail to the parking lot, I realized that I was only at 8.2 miles (or so… since Strava truncates after the first decimal place – they don’t even round!) and decided screw it, I’m over this. The bugs, the rain, and the grass had frustrated me. Plus I was going to be done after 8 pm if I kept going. This ended up being a good choice, as the gray skies and denser forest in the last few miles meant I was running in low light. I was pretty cranky for the second half of the run, and ready to get it over with. A few times during the run I heard what sounded like dogs barking/baying in the distance, but eventually convinced myself they were coyotes and started to get a bit scared with a few miles to go. They didn’t seem to be getting closer to me, but that didn’t mean things couldn’t change. I am a lot more afraid of encountering a coyote (or wolf) than a bear. For all I know, it could have been some hillbilly’s hound dogs howling for their dinner.

The rain and the general dampness of the trail made all the little footbridges slippery, so I walked over them to be careful. Apparently that wasn’t enough, because a mile or so from the end, I stepped on one slightly tilted plank and my foot slipped off into ankle-deep mud. I couldn’t get my footing back and ended up having to crawl to the next section of planks before I could get back on my feet. It was a bit of a desperate moment but not the end of the world. I am glad that’s the worst thing that happened because I had run my iPhone battery down to almost zero using Strava, and when I got back to my car, I found my other phone had also been drained to almost zero by… I’m not sure what. Trying to find a signal or something stupid. I really need to remember to put it in airplane mode before going off the grid for a run. I didn’t have chargers for either phone in the car, either, so if I had car trouble or an injury, I’d have been screwed.

I’m glad to be home the next couple of weeks and I’m looking to ramp up the mileage slightly before stepping back again once I go on my road trip. Halfway to the Birkie!

Birkie Trail Run Training: Week 6

Yep, it doesn’t say ultra in the title.

Monday: 7.1 mi, road
Tuesday: 10.5 mi, road
Wednesday: 6 mi, trail (Bagley and Hartley)
Thursday: rest (it was cold! perfect rest day!)
Friday: 7.6 mi, road
Saturday: 3.1 mi, pavement & trail (Run Like An Animal 5K)
Sunday: 15.7 mi, trail (SHT – Jay Cooke to the southern terminus & back)
Total: 50.1 mi

I’ve officially thrown in the towel on running the Birkie Trail Ultra. I’m just not ready, nor have I put in the work that I knew I would need to. Part of that of course is because I was sick and I was studying for the FE exam, but part of it is also my own lack of commitment to the non-running side of training (diet and strength training, specifically). Rather than spend like $400 on lodging, transportation, and supplies, I can spend a small amount of money on an administrative fee to switch to the Birkie Marathon, which I can drive to and from on race day.

It is a weight off my shoulders. I am so thankful the race offers this option. Now I can run a new race in a new setting, and I can run Wild Duluth again for sure. I win! I will save my mileage personal best for another season. I signed up for the Birkie Ultra on an impulse, when I was feeling sorry for myself about FANS. I didn’t think it through. Maybe if the cutoff was easier, I’d still go for it. I just don’t want to miss an early time cut and end up spending a ton of money on a hotel for a disappointing race with an early end for the second time this year.

Speaking of FANS, I am in Tulsa, OK this week, and during the flight leg from Duluth to Minneapolis, our approach took us right over the FANS course. How nice.

I did have a great training week last week! I bounced right back from my cold (which I gave to my husband) and reached that coveted 50 mile mark for the week again. I intend to continue to increase my mileage over the next few weeks, before cutting back during my road trip to Maine, and then of course racing at the end of September.

I was pretty proud of myself for running over 10 miles on a weekday. When I started running, the idea of a double digit weekday run was unfathomable for me. I wouldn’t have the time! Especially if it was fall or winter. This route was a hilly 10 miles, too – I ran the steep hill on Glenwood, the long hill on Arrowhead, and the big hill on Rice Lake Road. It was a little darker than expected when I finished, but not headlamp-dark. My legs were heavy for the trail run the following day, but I just took it easy.

Friday’s run kind of wore me out for the 5K on Saturday, but I don’t mind. The 5K was a whim, and it was kind of interesting to try to run fast on less-than-fresh legs. I was once again racing a storm on Friday, and several times considered cutting my run short due to threatening skies, but I managed to beat out the rain by a fair amount of time.

Saturday’s run was of course covered in my race report. Sunday’s run was pretty awesome. I got a late start due to my strange anxiety over long runs. I knew I wanted to run 16 miles, and I knew it was going to take a long time. Instead of starting and getting it over with, I worried and procrastinated and stressed myself out about it. I don’t know why I care how long a training run takes – I had the day to myself and no obligations to fulfill.

I really love this section of the SHT. It’s got lots of spots to run, and then a couple tough hills. I like that mix. There was one stretch of overgrown trail that I hated – I imagined myself crawling with ticks from the long grass. I checked myself later and didn’t appear to have any on me. Ew ew ew. The new section of trail from Wild Valley Road to the southern terminus is nice! It’s a lot of ups and downs, but very shady and pleasant. Some really great work has been put into this trail!

Once I got through to the last 3 miles or so of the return trip, things just clicked. I realized that I was zipping along around 14-15 min pace, sometimes faster, even after 13+ miles. I even ran a few uphills. Granted, this section is more gentle as it’s ski trails, but I still was pretty amazed that even after laboring through some of the tough sections in the middle, barely slogging along uphill, I had plenty of energy in my legs for the last few miles, and I cruised. Things are starting to click. 16 miles (well, 15.7) might take me awhile still, but it feels a lot more natural than it used to. Maybe it’s the higher mileage weeks kicking in, or maybe it’s just overall experience. Either way, it felt great to finish a long trail run without being destroyed.

Birkie Trail Ultra Training: Week 1

Last week was tough! High volume training week + unconventional “cross training.”

Monday: 6.5 mi, road
Tuesday: 5.1 mi, trail (Bagley/Hartley)
Wednesday: rest
Thursday: 8.1 mi, road
Friday: 5.3 mi, road
Saturday: 8.1 mi, trail (SHT at Twin Ponds)
Sunday: 16.1 mi, road/trail (West Skyline Drive + Magney to Spirit Mtn SHT)
Total: 49.2 mi

This week of training started off strong, but ended with my confidence in the gutter. I’m trying to separate last week from the first few days of this week, as I keep thinking it’s Monday, but my training reached a fairly low point yesterday. I’ll have to save that for next week’s recap!

I like the format I’ve cooked up (I realize it’s pretty standard), with a mid-week mid-length run, and then a long run on Sunday. I used to do my long runs on Saturdays to ensure I got them in (with Sunday as a back-up day), but now that my spouse works Sundays, it works better for me to use that day to myself to get in my long run. I intended to have a longer run on Saturday (maybe 10 miles), but didn’t get up early enough in the day, didn’t run fast enough (I was really dragging), and had a hard stop due to an appointment to get my cat his summer haircut.

The Bagley/Hartley combo run is a really great way to break up the monotony of Bagley (repeated loops of a 1.7 mile trail get old) while avoiding the construction at Hartley. Since the two trails are linked by the Superior Hiking Trail, it only takes a short jog across Arrowhead road to run both trails in the same run.

I didn’t know this til recently, but Bagley used to be a downhill ski area! My dad and I were out on the pontoon boat listening to music, and he was trying to remember the year “American Pie” came out, based on a memory of skiing on Rock Hill with his friends in the early ’70s. I had no idea. UMD has a brief history of the area on their website, including a photo of the rope tow. It wasn’t Mont Blanc, but it was the only local option until Spirit Mountain opened.

Both Saturday and Sunday, I was hoping to complete my trail runs under the 17:17 minimum pace for the Birkie. Not because I was trying to race my training, but because I was hoping that wouldn’t be a tough pace to hit for shorter runs. It was disheartening to be slower than that for both runs.

Saturday I ran the SHT starting at Twin Ponds and going southwest (roughly). I run this section because Twin Ponds is the closest spot for me to jump on the trail, but I also hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate parts of this section. There’s a climb that seems endless on the way out, and it just wears me down. I think that alone will keep me from ever doing the Wild Duluth 100K, since it comes fairly early on in the race.

SHT altitude

Part of me is like, stop running this section if it’s so frustrating. But that’s the quitter in me. Really what I have to do is conquer this beast. Also I have to stop running it in full sun.

I saw lots of local runners I know out there – I guess that’s what happens when I do my trail runs in the morning instead of in the late afternoon. It was a nice treat to see friends!

Later that afternoon I did a couple rounds of knee-boarding, which I will call my strength training for the day.

Sunday I was absolutely determined to do 16 miles. This is my sole “long run” before Curnow – FANS doesn’t count. Once again, I got up early, but not as early as planned. I was stressed out/feeling guilty because running was going to cut into time spent with my nephews, but I knew I needed to get it done. I kept trying to come up with excuses to shorten it, but I managed to shut up all those voices. I did make a concession and chose to run the majority of it on the road/snowmobile trails instead of entirely on the SHT, in order to save time. It still took nearly 5 hours.

I started at the SHT trailhead near Ely’s Peak (the alternate trail head), but ran down Beck’s Rd to Skyline Drive. That was almost exactly a mile, and mostly uphill (actually the first 2 miles were mostly uphill, but it didn’t feel like mostly downhill on the way back! Very annoying.) It was a bit scary to be running along the side of a road that, while not very busy, has a fairly high speed limit.

I was making great time on the roads, but it was hot, and that started to take its toll on me, especially once I got onto the trails. This section of the SHT contains some fairly technical trail, although there are a few sections near Spirit Mountain that flatten out and are runnable. I ended up choosing to follow the access road at Spirit Mountain rather than getting back on the SHT, and then took a snowmobile trail down to where it meets up again with the SHT at Knowlton Creek. That took a big chunk of climbing off my run.

The short sections on the SHT really dragged. I hated every downhill, because it meant another uphill I’d have to maneuver. I was so sick of the steep, rocky climbs. It was hotter than I had anticipated – 80F or possibly warmer, with little cloud cover. The trail is mostly shaded, but the pockets of sun were tough. Once I got back onto the road, I had about 5 miles left, but I was pretty low on water. I hadn’t filled my pack up entirely, as I’ve never gone through a whole pack of water. That was stupid. I had to ration it the rest of the way, and that slowed me down. I walked long stretches of the road that I had expected to run. Another blow to my confidence. I know the Birkie course will not be that punishing – a cross-country ski race isn’t going to be held on a course full of rocks – but the distance itself is going to be punishing. The important part is I stuck it out, didn’t turn around early, and didn’t stop moving.

I still managed to water-ski and knee-board that afternoon, so again, I got my strength workout in!

Race Report: Superior 25K 2017

Official Results:
Time: 4:06:15 (45 minute improvement)
Pace: 15:52
Overall: 215/301
Gender: 111/185
AG (F 30-39): 59/95

Watch Results:
Time: 4:06:20
Pace: 16:56
Distance: 14.54 mi
Heart Rate: N/A

A: 4:15
B: 4:30

What I ate the night before: chimichurri burger and fries
What I ate on race morning: bagel with cream cheese and hazelnut spread
What I carried with me: 4 gel packets (I ate 1), candy (had one Jolly Rancher), mints, water.

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

Discussion: Writing a race report feels wrong. Initially I considered not writing one, because celebrating a PR or even dissecting the successes and failures of the race seems trivial and disrespectful. A runner passed away on the trail during the race. It’s a terrible loss for his family, friends, and students, and a traumatic event for the race staff and runners, especially those who were involved in trying to save him. We take risks we don’t even realize when we run these remote races, with miles between aid stations. A couple of miles seems endless in an emergency. All we have out there on the trails is each other, and dozens rose to the occasion.

I don’t want to dwell on this story; it isn’t really my business, nor is it about me. I’ll share that I asked myself what I would have done, had I been the first person to come upon the runner. I can’t say for certain, but I know that I was in no way as prepared as the runners and hikers who were assisting, and I need to update my first aid and lifesaving skills. I am not a medical professional, but I need to do the best I can to be prepared to help on the trail.

The rest of the weekend is worth talking about, even though in perspective, it seems small.

My husband and I drove up on Friday afternoon, arriving just in time for me to start my volunteer duties. I helped sell merchandise this year, which I haven’t done before. It’s a little different than checking people in, which I really enjoy doing – I like chatting with each runner as they pick up their bib or race shirt. However, selling merchandise is a bit less stressful – packet and shirt pick-up can have a tinge of drama, and it can be rushed. Since people choose whether or not they want to look at all the swag for sale (and it’s great, the race director creates it all and he has an incredible eye for design), they’re not in a hurry and have time to chat. I made some new friends, which is basically the reason I volunteer (besides giving back to the trail running community), and reconnected with some others, including one guy I knew from high school, who I hadn’t seen in probably 20 years.

After I finished volunteering, my husband and I went to dinner at the Poplar River Pub at the Lutsen lodge. I ate an actual meal the night before a destination race – I think this might be a first. It wasn’t the world’s healthiest meal, but it was more substantial than the junk food I ate before Chippewa. We went back to our resort for the evening and watched a movie and went to bed around midnight. I tossed and turned a bit, especially since I realized while laying out my gear for the morning that I had forgotten my bib in the packet pickup room. Or at least, I hoped it was there. Overall I got a decent night’s sleep, and got up around 6:45, walked down to check in and find my packet (it was there, of course), and then back to my room to get ready.

The weather was cool and it was overcast, but the forecast had improved and it appeared the rain would hold off until the evening. I packed my ultralight rain jacket and a pair of gloves in my pack, just in case. I decided for a shorter run, I wouldn’t bring along anything other than water and a couple of gels. I think I might have put a Clif bar in there just in case I needed something substantial, but I can’t remember. I got dressed, ate, putzed around worrying, and then left for the start at about 7:40. Staying at the race start/finish takes away a lot of my race day anxiety. I didn’t even make a checklist this time, and still felt like I had everything I needed before, during, and after the race. I’m starting to get the hang of this.

I ran a little less than half a mile to warm up, just enough time to worry that my legs felt like lead weights. I met up with some friends from the Twin Ports I met at Voyageur who had driven up that morning (crazy!), and then fell into place with a new friend I’d met during my volunteer stint. She was helping to sell surplus tech tees (2 for $5!) and pint glasses ($1 off your first pint at the bar! One of the mainstay volunteers negotiated that deal) while I was next to her selling surplus race shirts from previous years (I bought one for myself). Her husband was also volunteering, but I recognized them both from my first volunteer experience, working the finish line at the Superior Fall Trail Races in 2015, when he finished the 100 miler. They’re both really cool people, and she and I discovered we had similar race goals, so we ran together at the beginning. We separated when we reached the single track – she took off and I hung back. She ended up finished about 20 minutes ahead of me, so we both outperformed our goals significantly.

It was slow going once getting onto the single track, as there was a muddy section to start off, plus some small hills. I walked all the hills, even the little ones, because I knew I had to save energy for Moose Mountain, my bff. I like the way this race starts – the half mile or so stretch of road helps everyone separate before reaching the single track, but the single track slows everything down again – it’s so tempting to go out too fast on the road, so the trail helps check that impulse. The first section is kind of funny at the back of the pack, because of the people who appear unprepared for the terrain or elevation, trying to pick their way through the mud unscathed, or trying to recover from taking the hill too quickly. I tried to hang back, avoided passing anyone, and let others pass me without concern. I had my own race plan, and I wasn’t going to abandon it a mile in just to feed my ego.

I ended up in front of a couple of runners also from Duluth, who were running together and having a conversation. It was just like Chippewa all over again. They ended up talking to me for a little bit, then they stopped to pee, and then they caught me on Moose Mountain. We climbed up together, with one of the women keeping up her end of the conversation. I was pretty amazed she was able to keep talking as we climbed up the steep trail; I was huffing and puffing and my legs were howling at me. Once we got to the top, we ran in a line for awhile before they passed me, and I didn’t see them again until we neared the aid station. I ate a gel about 5 minutes before I started the Moose Mountain climb, which was a great idea.

I started to see the first 25K runners as we crossed the top of Moose Mountain, including the first woman (who I believe finished 5th overall!), and as I started my descent, I ran into a UMD hockey alumnus, kicking butt in a new sport (he was 8th overall!) I caught up with a self-professed “flatlander” who ran with me from the bottom of Moose Mountain through to Oberg. People seemed to be a lot more spread out this time around, so I wasn’t having as much trouble passing as I did the previous year, or at Chippewa. Or maybe I was just in a better mood. On the switchbacks heading up Oberg, I saw the 50K winner come flying down with wild abandon. He ended up setting a course record, and I’m not surprised, considering how he looked. A man on a mission. He also runs wearing glasses so I felt some solidarity.

I reached the Oberg aid station in under 2 hours, and when I hit the lap button when I left, it read 1:59:59. I was probably about 15 minutes ahead of the previous year at this point, although I’m not 100% sure since I didn’t take a lap reading last year. Right before the aid station, a guy was sitting cheering on runners and playing music, which perked me up. At the aid station, I had a couple of cups of Coke and a cup of ginger ale, which tasted so delicious. I chowed down on some potato chips, stowed a couple of Fig Newtons in a pocket in my pack, got a hug from a volunteer friend, and turned around.

The run out of the Oberg aid station is much nicer than the run in, since it’s just a short uphill section followed by some nice runnable downhill sections. I passed runners that I knew from previous races, and offered encouragement to those who were looking like they couldn’t wait for the aid station. I understood – I’d been lusting after a pop for probably an hour. I was passed by a 50K runner I recognized – last year, he was the dude who was totally fried and out of water. He looked great this year in comparison, and he remembered me, too. I knew the backside of Moose Mountain awaited me, and I wanted to get it over with. I ate one of my cookies “fruit and cake” just before the ascent began, and then slowed down to a moderate walking pace when the familiar terrain of the mountain began. It was a tough climb, and I took it as slowly as I could. I was passed by some 50K runners whose climbing skills were impressive. I was jealous – I have got to get better and faster at the steep ascents.

When I finally reached the top (well, it’s the first “top,” as it’s more of a saddle profile), I cheered out loud, because I knew I’d finished the hardest part. I tried to run as much as I could across the top, but I slowed to a walk several times if I hit even a hint of incline. I was able to scramble down the other side pretty easily, other than one big step down off a root which my legs weren’t quite ready for. I trotted across the flat section between the mountains, trying to decide if I wanted to have another gel. I’d finished the other Fig Newton while crossing Moose Mountain, so I wasn’t really hungry. I decided to eat a Jolly Rancher while I plodded up Mystery Mountain.

I slowed to a walk as I reached the start of the Mystery Mountain ascent. I knew to take it slow: it wasn’t a steep ascent, but it took a long time. I started singing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall” in my head, to keep busy while I was going up. I saw a group of people on the switchbacks above me, and thought it was a group of spectators cheering runners on during this last tough climb. When I reached the group and realized what was actually going on, that I had come upon a fallen runner receiving CPR, my heart sank.

Since there were at least 10 people already assisting, and I had no specific skills or tools with which to assist, after ensuring someone had called for help, I continued. I really don’t know if this was right or wrong. It felt wrong. If there had only been one or two people, I would have stopped. It felt wrong to stop, too; since I couldn’t provide any real help, it seemed like it would have just been self-serving. But maybe there was some specific way I could have helped, if I’d stayed. Everything felt wrong. It still feels wrong. Of course it does. The only way for things to have turned out “right” was for the whole thing to never have happened.

I kept walking in a daze, up the hill. I reached the top of the hill, started down, and met a woman coming to provide medical aid. I described his approximate location to her, so she could relay it back on her phone. I kept going, trying to run, lacking the motivation. Again, running seemed wrong.

I snapped myself out of the daze and pushed a bit, passing two other first responders on their way up the hill (giving them the right of way, of course), and passed a few other people on my way down. A woman went by me the other way and told me I only had a couple miles to go. “Listen for that river, girl, then you’re almost there!” I passed a couple of women picking their way along the sides of a muddy section, and just charged through like a buffalo. There was a spectator at that point, and she was cheering us on. “There are hoses at the finish! Just keep going!” she encouraged the others as I stampeded my way through the muck. I listened for the river, and when I hit the bridge I knew I needed to run it in.

Once on the road, I got passed by a couple 50K runners who looked strong. One was singing “Amazing Grace” aloud. I picked up the pace, running the last half mile at about an 11 min/mile pace (according to my grossly inaccurate watch). I turned off the road toward the finish and kicked it into high gear. I heard myself announced as “our friend Donna Carpenter from Duluth, completing her second Superior 25K,” and accepted my medal at the finish line, and then a hug from my friend, the finish line coordinator. He asked if I was ok, and I sort of waved my hands, and asked if he was ok, but I could tell he wasn’t. I got some lemonade and watched other runners finish. Each time a runner came around, the volunteers would shout “RUNNER!” and rev up the crowd, reminding everyone “we all need it today!” And we did. We cheered so we didn’t have to cry. Or we cried anyway.

I threw my shoes in the garbage and hosed off my feet, then ran into one of the women I’d met earlier (the one who had the breath to still talk when climbing Moose Mountain). We hugged and she made sure I wasn’t alone. We all did our best to take care of each other.

I went back to my hotel to shower. Physically I felt ok; a little tired, a little cold, a few tight muscles. No chafing. I changed into comfy clothes and watched TV for awhile, then once my hair was dry, I went down to get my post-race chili, met up with my friend from the start, and cheered on some more runners. My friends from Voyageur finished and we talked for a little bit, then they left to drive back (crazy, but they are used to it!) and I returned to my hotel. We drove up to Grand Marais for a little while, just to see it, and then drove back and had dinner at Caribou Highlands.

It was a difficult day for most runners, crew, and volunteers, though that pales in comparison to how hard that day and the days ahead will be for the loved ones of the runner we lost. Run gently out there, everyone, and look out for one another.

Superior 25K Goals (2017)

My first repeat trail race! This should be interesting. It is most likely going to be cold – like 35 degrees colder than last year!

Last year I ran 4:51:40, which is a minute and a half slower pace than I recently ran a 50K. So I’m hoping I can improve upon that. I don’t know by how much. The temperature will probably be more favorable, but I think the trail is going to be pretty disgusting, considering the volume of rain we’ve gotten. (Maybe it hasn’t rained as much up the shore, I don’t know.)

I know what I’m getting into this year. I’ve faced down Moose Mountain and Mystery Mountain twice before. And yet somehow I still want to do it again? Ugh.

This year, my goals are:
A Standard: 4:15
B Standard: 4:30

I think the 4:30 is conservative, but accounts for any possible issues with trail conditions. If I am slip-sliding up the back of Moose Mountain, I am dead meat. It’s funny because last year, my B standard was 4:15… oh how little I knew.

My non-time-related goals are to finish injury-free, avoid stopping on the ascents, and of course not soil myself in any way. I’m relatively relaxed about this race, since it’s no longer a goal race, I know the course, and I just ran like 15 miles last weekend with no problems. My only real concerns are trail conditions and weather, and really I don’t care too much about the weather other than that I hope it doesn’t rain during the race. It’s looking like a high of 46F. If it rains on top of that, it could get ugly.

I’m driving up today and volunteering at packet pickup before the race, which I enjoy doing. I like talking with all the runners and there are so many cool people who volunteer at event after event. If I’m not totally destroyed by the race, I’ll probably jump in and volunteer at the finish as well. I am staying at the start/finish this year, so it’ll be really easy to pop upstairs, shower and change, have my vanilla Coke, and go back down to have chili and help out.

I’m going to try to stay relaxed and sleep better the night of the race, and to eat better in the morning as well. Easier said than done, but again, I’m not as keyed up for this race as I was for Chippewa Moraine, so maybe adrenaline won’t get the best of me. I have the day off today, so I’m at least getting some extra rest that way.

Oh, and I’m wearing my old shoes. Then throwing them away at the hotel, lest I be tempted to run in them again.

Wild Duluth 50K Goals

Well, tomorrow I’ll either be an ultrarunner, or I won’t. I’m pretty sure I will be.

A Standard: 9:45:00
B Standard: 9:59:59
C Standard: 10:59:59

I won’t be very happy with the C standard, but who knows? I don’t think this course has as challenging of an end as the Moose Mountain Marathon (specifically, it does not have a Moose Mountain!), so I don’t know why I couldn’t improve a little on overall pace. I know most of this course backward and forward, literally. It’s only the beginning that’s a bit of an unknown.

The weather forecast seems to be improving. It was looking like a 90% chance of rain the entire day as recently as Tuesday’s forecast, now it looks to be more like 40%, with a high of 65. I can handle that. Last year was much colder.

I will be starting the race off running with a friend, which is a first for me. Even when I’ve had friends at the starting line, our paces have been different enough that we’re separated almost immediately. I am not sure we’ll run the whole race together, as I’m not very good at running with other people, and I do like to be alone sometimes. I hate to be alone at the start, though. I’m so glad to have someone to ride the bus with.

The usual non-pace-related goals apply: no puking, no soiling myself, no medical emergencies. Keep moving. Don’t fart around at aid stations. Eat, and then take more food to go. Enjoy myself. Stay calm. Don’t get lost.

Tonight I’ve still got plenty to do to get ready, and a hockey game to attend after packet pickup. I won’t be eating a burrito bowl this time; going with pizza. And I’m not going to have caffeinated pop either, anything to try to prevent the sleepless night before Curnow.

Here goes nothing!

Race Report: Grand Traverse Duluth

Official Results:
Time: 4:57
Pace: 18:27
Overall: 32/48

Watch Results:
Time: 4:57:17
Pace: 17:09/mi
Distance: 17.33 mi (hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha)
Heart Rate: N/A (I didn’t wear it since it has been malfunctioning)

A: 4:30

What I ate the night before: burrito bowl (I’ve made better choices in life than this one)
What I ate on race morning: Clif bar
What I carried with me: 1 Clif bars, 5 Gu packets, Powerade

What I wore: t-shirt, shorts, ball cap, buff (which I took off right away)
Gadgets: GPS watch, fitness tracker

Discussion: Well, that was a new experience for me. Grand Traverse is a very low-key run, not even a race. At sign-up, it asks if you are hiking, running and hiking, or running. Why, I do not know. I said running and hiking, because that’s what I do! I like that it is not just for runners; it’s also a supported hike. There aren’t even timing chips or bibs, and there’s only a finisher token (a special rock?) for the 27 and 21 mile runners.

The morning started off ok. I had planned to get up early, get all my gear together, go get a coffee and snack, and then relax at home for a bit. I decided race morning that I’d rather sleep a bit more and skip the coffee. This was a very good decision, but a latte would have tasted nice. I filled my hydration pack, checked my gear, took a super fast shower since I’d run a few miles on the treadmill the night before and wanted to start the race smelling a little better, then got dressed and headed out. I poured most of a 30 oz Powerade bottle into a 20 oz bottle I re-use, and then tossed the rest of the bottle in my gear bag before I left. The lid was not on, so it spilled all over everything in my bag. It was a good thing I wasn’t planning on wearing my heart rate monitor.

I arrived at Fitgers at about 7:15 (15 minutes prior to bus departure), checked in (I told them my name, they put a check mark by it, that was it), and then talked to a guy for a little while until the bus showed up. We all trooped onto the bus (all the 16 mile runners fit on one bus!) and I chatted with a guy from northwestern MN who got stuck sitting with me. I gave him a few tips on the course from my experiences. We piled off the bus just outside the Magney-Snively parking lot, got off, listened to a very short speech, and then started running. We started the race on the road and crossed the bridge over Stewart Creek before getting on the Superior Hiking Trail, rather than starting on the spur trail from the Magney-Snively trailhead.

Start – Highland/Getchell: 5.9 mi, 2:04:40, 21:12 section pace
Ew, that section pace looks bad now that I’ve calculated it. My GPS was off by over a mile during this section and it was extremely annoying. I thought I was doing really well. I mean, I knew my GPS would be off a little bit, but the pace was off by almost 4 minutes. It was disheartening, for sure. I did realize that my goal was a bit ridiculous, but since I didn’t put too much thought into it or into the race in general, I’m unconcerned about missing it.

I was leapfrogging with a few groups of people during this section, but put them behind me once we got to the climbs. Since I know the course very well, I was able to be very strategic about my pacing. I knew when the stairs out of Spirit Mountain were coming, and I also knew the section that followed it is easy enough that I could keep running even though I felt like donkey crap after getting to the top. I thought I ran this section well, bombing down the hill to the Knowlton Creek crossing, pushing harder than I usually do, but I guess I had too many slowdowns. It’s a tough section with lots of uphill, so I need to cut myself a little slack. It’s going to be a lot harder 3 weeks from now.

I felt a little off for most of the run, thanks to the burrito bowl. I wasn’t stopping in the bushes or anything, but I felt really bloated and my abdomen was a bit distended which made running uncomfortable at times. It was a tasty burrito so whatever. I ate a gel right before the stairs at Spirit Mountain and another before the climb into the aid station at Highland/Getchell. I was in & out at the aid station; I ate a donut hole and took some pretzels to go. They didn’t have any pop or potato chips, alas.

I was passed by a couple of 27 mile runners during this section, which was a bit disheartening, but they did have an hour and a half head start and were of course faster than me.

Highland/Getchell to 24th Ave W: 5.7 mi, 1:39:41, 17:29 section pace
This section went a lot better, although I either misread the race map or it was mislabeled, because I thought this section was 5 miles long. I finally remembered that it was 5.7 miles and calmed myself down about it. I was really getting frustrated with my GPS at that point, and thinking even my backup plans of 5 hours and 5.25 hours were going to go out the window. So much for going with the flow in a low-key run.

It was misty during this section of the course, which is a bit of a problem for a foureyes like me. I could still see through my glasses but I did have to wipe them off a few times. Good thing the bottom of my t-shirt wasn’t sopping with sweat. I slowed during rocky sections, as the mist had made the rocks wet. I was passed by a few more 27 milers, including one guy who said he had gotten off trail for awhile. I told him he was still only like the 6th or 7th runner and he seemed surprised and happy to hear it. I ate a gel a bit before the big climb of this section, and had a bit of a Clif bar as well.

I passed some 10 mile hikers during this section, and rolled into the aid station long enough to eat a cookie and take a cup of pretzels. And also to find out the final section was only about 4.5 miles, not 5.2 like I thought. I was elated.

24th Ave W to Fitger’s: 4.5 mi, 1:12:54, section pace 16:12
I left the aid station feeling really good, ate my pretzels while wishing they were chips, and then tried to pick up the pace a bit. I think overall I ran the section to Enger better than I usually do. I rang the peace bell as I ran through Enger Park, and then began my descent. I knew I would be on sidewalks and paved trail once I finished the descent, and I was excited, although my bloated tummy was making running a little uncomfortable. My hands were really puffy, as usual.


It me.

Once I got to Superior St, I was ready to start running. I crossed the highway and headed down by Bayfront. I crossed the railroad tracks, thinking how annoying it would be if I got stuck waiting for the scenic railroad to pass by. I crossed Railroad St. and passed the aquarium and AMSoil Arena, then enjoyed the cool (if a bit strong) wind off the lake as I hit the back end of the Lakewalk.

There were a lot of tourists around at this point, and I must have been a sight to behold, sweaty and salty with dirty legs and an air of sloppy desperation. I wanted to be done and I was still hoping to come in well ahead of 5 hours. I was nearly mowed down by a Segway tour while running behind the arena, and then I reached the slip bridge and realized it was up.

I had not considered that the stupid slip bridge would be on the course, but I was there just in time for a Vista Cruise departure. So I stood there for probably five minutes, as best I could tell, with no choice besides running all the way down the slip past the Irvin and then back around. That would prb take almost as long and would take a lot more energy than standing there. But I was fuming. I was like “I’m never running this again, this is so dumb, rahrhahrehsdkfhadk.” It finally went down and then a bunch of people were in my way and I managed to restrain myself from shoving them aside or at least making a rude comment, but just barely. I passed the real lift bridge and a bunch of people milling around the waterfront. Fortunately there weren’t too many tourists and it thinned out once I got past the canal. I could see the Fitger’s smokestack and was ready to be done.

I wasn’t exactly sure where the race ended. I thought it might end at the base of the stairs up to Fitger’s from the Lakewalk, but no, that was not the case. The race ended after I ascended the stairs and crossed the little bridge over the Lakewalk. There was a little table near the building, I told them my name, and they wrote down the time of day next to my name. That’s as formal as the timing was. They were out of race shirts in my size (they allow registration up til the day before the race, so this isn’t a shock; they are going to send me one) and none of the food at the table looked appealing (I did want a cookie, but they were out of everything but sugar cookies), so I walked through the Fitger’s shopping complex, stinking and filthy, and got in my car to drive back home.

I stopped to get a latte and a snack on the way home, and then hung out for a few hours, relaxing. Well, not relaxing, as I didn’t feel super great when I got home, but I felt well enough to go to the Bulldog hockey game with my mom at 4. I ate some fries there, and then ordered a pizza and breadsticks when I got home.

After the race, I thought I’d never do it again, and if I’d written my review right after I got home (it’s Saturday night right now), I’d have had a lot more negative things to say. But this race was supposed to be a training run, it was supposed to be low-key and fun, and I let myself forget that. I would like to do the full Grand Traverse at least once. The cutoff is kind, based on a 3 mph pace. I can do that for 27 miles, I think. I did it for 26.2, after all.

I did push the pace more than I normally do in a race, and I didn’t fall apart. I will need to give that a shot at Wild Duluth. I was very tentative during the Moose Mountain Marathon. Maybe I try not to be so tentative with WD50K. I don’t know, we’ll see how it feels. I still need to eat more. Like, why didn’t I take 3 donut holes instead of one? Or two cookies instead of one? These are easy fixes but I just don’t think of them in the moment.

I do know I am so, so excited to sleep as late as I feel like tomorrow. Man that is gonna be sweet.