american birkebeiner, 2015.

whoa guys…where has February gone?! i mean, for months and months, especially since the start of winter AND even more so, since the start of this year, the primary athletic event at the forefront of my mind has been the Birkie (the American Birkebeiner). i signed up for this event once, a few year ago because some friends were doing it and i thought it might be fun. needless to say, i never actually went and did the race. so, it’s been on my mind and on my (yet to be seen) bucket list ever since. the year i signed up before now i wasn’t committed to training. i think i skied a whopping 2 times that season. and i decided it was best to sit it out.

but this year…this year was different.

maybe a year ago from now, i began making some changes in my life. let’s say – in my personal life. i realized some things i was doing that were opposite of setting myself up for success. some call it self-sabotage. (i usually look at things through rose-colored lenses, though). anyway, i knew, above all else, it was time for a change.

and so much has changed. adios not so great relationships. hello new job that was a bit of a leap. welcome back, training like an actual athlete. oh, and that dust that sat atop the generally fun-loving, quirky, busy, introverted weirdo i am…it’s been dusted off.

i decided to make a change and then things just started becoming more clear and more obvious. and when a few random friends mentioned they were doing the Birkie this year, i though, “well, why the heck not?!”

a funny thing about this race is that it pretty much fills up before Thanksgiving every year and then you wait to see if there will be snow and how darn cold it will be and all of that jazz. this year, there was not a lot of snow, and not too much cold. i’m not going to say that’s a combo i don’t enjoy – except when i’ve signed up for this big race. oh  well! there’s training to be done.

i’ve said it before and i’ll say it again: thank goodness for my friend and ski buddy Cindi who adventured with me (well, she got me to adventure with her) to some ski wonderlands…or i would have had a bit more trouble with this event. not only did she get me out there – she gave me a few excellent tips…and i swear i walked away from Saturday really pleased with my first Birkie result because of them. i heard, “keep your arms closer to your body” about a hundred times. i repeated it to myself about a hundred thousand times on race day. she gave me tips about climbing hills. and BOYYYYY were there hills! and lastly, the night before the race, i got a text that said, ” have fun and don’t crash! ;)”

YOU GOT IT!

i went into the race with a baby goal in my mind – to finish close to 5 hours. i’ve said to a few people close to me that i could have probably achieved that if: 1. i hadn’t started in wave 9 and 2. if i had more ski experience. you see, starting in wave 9 meant lots of slow uphills, especially at the start and some backed up downhills throughout the race. also, the conditions were pretty close to “fair” by the time i skied the course. again, oh well! ski on. as for #2, you can really only get better at skiing by skiing more. period.

Birkie, you’d be safe to guess you’ll be seeing me again!

rw quoteone of the things i was really, really looking forward to though in the Birkie though is that i’ve realized over the past 5 or so years…i’m truly an endurance lover. so, as the race goes on, i usually just keep on, too. just coming through the halfway point of the Birkie, i was feeling really good and with just 20k to go, i thought to myself, “this is just like the Lake Monona route and i can almost run that in my sleep.”

not only is the quote above indicative of the feelings i have about distance events, but its also especially fun to think about in terms of cross country skiing.

one of the best things i’ve discovered in training for this event is that, well, for one, i suck at directions. i mean, i’d probably not venture into the woods in the snow on my own. but in xc skiing, you really have no other choice. training for the Birkie and xc skiing is like one of those choose your own adventure books. you can go this way or that and eventually you’ll get where you need to go – but the path is different. it’s no different than any of life except that you actively get to decide over and over again over the course of your ski-venture.

on Birkie day, i took none of that for-granted. and it was amazing. yes, the first 10k or so were brutal on what they call “the powerline.” it’s a constant up and down and up and down and up and down again. at first i thought, “WHAT DID I SIGN UP FOR?!” as my heart was maxing out at 175 beats per minute. but soon after, we headed into the woods and i was like “WHOA, THIS IS GORGEOUS!”

i must have been smiling at the first and second and every aid station. but even in the very beginning, even some of the volunteers noticed. (the volunteers, by the way, fantastic!)

and so it went, i skied and i enjoyed my time out in the woods. i took it all in. there were flurries flying by as i made my way south from Cable to Hayward through one of Wisconsin’s most treasured areas of the Northwoods. somewhere near 20k down, i skied up to my pal Mike who was also out there doing this race for the first time. it was awesome to see him and we ended up skiing together – or nearby one another for i swear close to 10k. and just after we separated, i ran into my friend Kristi who, by this time, is a seasoned Birkie competitor. she joked earlier in the week that she hoped to see me over the weekend, just not on the course, and then, of course, my goal was to chase her down by the end of the 51km. we skied together for a minute and laughed about our encounter and caught up more after we finished.

i wish i had been able to capture, in pictures, the beauty and fun that i had on that Saturday, a few days ago, in the Northwoods in February, but you’ll have to take my word for it…and maybe do the race yourself one day.

instead of going on and on though, i came up with a list of sorts to help explain my experience to all of you. i hope this gives you a simple picture, and some laughs about the experience….

so, without further ado:

SHAY’S BIRKIE 2015, BY THE NUMBERS!

2 bus rides – one to the start line and one back to the car at the end of the day

1 trip to the port-a-potties before the race

1/2 banana on my way to the start line. i decided NOT to eat the other half off the ground after 10,000+ people had already walked over that snow

7 restless hours of sleep the night before

1 trip to the UP – to ABR ski area for the inaugural ski of this season

30 (or more) laps at Lapham Peak ski area on their man-made loop of snow

1 day of skiing at Iola Winter Sports Park

1 long day of skiing at 9-mile in Wausau

6 coats of wax – an estimate because i actually don’t know how to wax my own skis

25 – dollars spent on hand and toe warmers this winter

2 warm (thanks to hand warmers in my vest pockets on race day) vanilla power gels

1 disgustingly cold vanilla bean GU (seriously, the hand warmer idea was GOLDEN. have you ever had cold GU? take my word and don’t try it)

10-ish cups of lukewarm water at aid stations

12-ish cups of warm ENERGY. which volunteers shouted to indicate they had either Nuun Hydration or GU Energy drink for us. ENERGYENERGYENERGY!

3-4 ‘nilla wafer cookies

1 oreo-like cookie

1/4 chocolate chip cookie. i could have eaten the entire cookie at the top of this hill

1 bitch hill. no, really, that’s what the locals call it. also, where i had the heavenly chocolate chip cookie piece.

2 (or 3) snowmobile gangs. these guys were hilarious and made me laugh. they’d heckle you and tell you to slow down around sharper turns…but cheer if you made it through unscathed.

1 easy fall trying to step around someone who had fallen right in front of me early in the race.

0 crashes!

1 shot from the shot ski or an apple pie-like beverage. also: a proud member of the 39k club!

51 kilometers through the Northwoods of Wisconsin from Cable to Hayward, WI

2 big cups of chicken noodle soup afterwards

1 bitch hill belgian ale at the angry minnow brewpub with dinner

countless smiles and high fives and congrats.

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ok, there you have it! this was one of the best things i’ve ever done. going back to the quote, and to a year ago, i had no idea what the past 12 months would hold, but by actively choosing my own adventure in life, by choosing another path, i got to show up last weekend ready to tackle just about anything. i got to tackle the amazing American Birkiebeiner!

AND, i realize that i get to do that, to choose my own adventure every single day.

 

 

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the difference.

this post is one part race report and one part inspiration. i woke up at 6am saturday morning ahead of the Ice Age half marathon. the race was slated to begin at 9am, so i figured i would hop out of bed, grab a little food and coffee and hit the road by about 7am to get there with just under an hour to start time.

the morning went off, pretty much, without a hitch. i actually rolled out of bed and into the running clothes i had laid out the night before. surprise, surprise…i was prepared. within minutes, my things were packed and i decided that with the 40 minutes before i wanted to leave, i’d quickly hit up the Madison farmer’s market. i narrowly missed it the week before and i wanted to grab some ramps, asparagus, and the most important thing – bacon! so, i made a quick loop, grabbing what i came for – plus a few more things, saying “HI” to some friends along the way, and jumping back into my car just before 7am. i swung by my house to drop off my goodies and was on my way!

the drive was easy. i grabbed my timing chip and bib in minutes and while relaxing in my car before warming up and deciding what i’d ultimately race in, i saw that fellow former-Badger, turned professional triathlete Gwen Jorgensen had won her second WTU race in Asia sometime in the last 12 hours. i got pumped up watching the highlight video and was really ready to go. my own silly goal in my mind was that i’d better beat Gwen’s finish time in my measly half marathon.

(read that with sarcasm, please. heck, it least it put a time to beat in my mind)

soon enough, i changed into shorts, deciding i would be warm enough wearing my MS Run Athletes kit (top and shorts) along with arm sleeves for the race. i warmed up and headed to the start line area with just under 10 minutes to 9am. when i arrived, the race director noted a discrepancy in start times posted on various online outlets and shared with us all his decision to postpone the start to 9:30 to allow for the mistake. so, i relaxed a bit more. took in some more water. and took the opportunity to stretch and warm up again.

one thing i’ve learned throughout my running ‘career’ is that for me, a warm-up is an important game-changer. i seem to get better as i go, as a general rule of thumb, which is probably why i enjoy ultra running. but more on that another time.

so, we started promptly at 9:30. the only thing i’ll note about the start is that there was a woman and about six men who took off like rockets right out of the gates. somebody made a comment about the woman in the group – which i find particularly funny because was the eventual overall woman! HELLS YES! i never saw her, but went out mildly aggressive to get away from the crowd a bit and gave myself until the first aid station to try to get settled into a rhythm. it was ok, but the first section of the loop was hilly so i eventually settled in, probably around mile 4ish. i had a bit of company for a mile or so which helped break things up – and i love having a brief conversation here and there. i think that helped me feel settled.

near the last mile i notice my friend Kristin who was doing the 50k up ahead. i didn’t have enough juice in me to sprint, but i caught up to her and we chatted for a bit. it was REALLY good to see a familiar face on the course and seeing Kristin, whom i admire greatly, lit a spark in me. we parted ways, but i told her i’d see her at the finish later and i took off again. at that point, i was near the half-way and noted my time, primarily so i could work to stay steady on the second loop.

i had another buddy for a bit of the first loop and then sort of got into my groove and just went. the second loop was good because i knew it would be hilly and also had some flats that i knew i could look forward to. there were also lots of 50k runners joining onto the course which was just the perfect amount of distraction. i loved running by them and telling them “good job.” this is one of the best things about trail running! anyway, i hammered away steadily and probably about halfway through the second loop i noticed a man who had passed me at about the same point in the first loop up ahead. he hadn’t disappeared and i decided i would work to chase him from that point to the finish.

i eventually caught and passed him with more than 1.5 miles to go and finished in 1:51.20. that was good for 6th woman, and officially 2nd in my age group – though they handed me a first-place plaque – which i realize today is incorrect, though the real #1 woman in my age group was the woman who won overall. anyway, i’ll take it! i’ll take it because i went out there and put out an effort that i was truly proud of. i remembered my motto, “constant forward motion” and that kept me pushing on, even when the hills seemed endless. oh, and i did beat Gwen’s time.

but another reason i brought up Gwen and also Badgers is two-fold. first, a great coach that i looked up to while at the UW had some media availability last week and he said something that really hit home. you can watch the video by clicking this link, but his wisdom that prevailed in my mind was, “the difference between the first eight and the second eight is simple. the first eight pulls harder, pulls longer, and is more determined….” (the specific comment is at about the 1:50 mark in the video)

and then today, this morning, in fact, i read Gwen’s race report which touched on a similar note. she says,

“Bobby McGee once told me, “Do you know what the likelihood of you feeling great at the Olympics is?” I shrugged as I had never thought about it.  “Zero percent,” he said. And he is right. The chance of feeling great on the one day you work towards for four years is pretty slim.”

and this is true, wherever you are in your sport if you’re trying to reach the next level. you’ve got to show up, do the work, and realize – the truth of the greats isn’t that they’ve trained so that their best race doesn’t hurt – they’ve trained to have the determination to push through no matter how hard it gets.

so on saturday while i was out there, when it felt particularly tough, i reminded myself that the best i could do was to keep going – to persevere – to not give up. i may never compete at the elite level but i do know what makes the difference in getting me from where i am to where i’m going.

it’s as true for running as it is for every facet of life.

because i can.

tomorrow morning i will toe the line for another half marathon. i’ll be racing the Ice Age 1/2 marathon and i’m excited to put it all out there on the trails.

i’ll be totally honest: i’m not sure HOW ready i am to do 13.1 miles. but the most important thing for me tomorrow is that i show up.

a little background: i signed up for another Ice Age race in 2012, but after discovering a tumor (which ultimately turned out to be benign) and fast-tracking surgery, i had to bow out of the race. the awesome race director told me he’d hold my entry for this year so when registration opened, i got right on it.

the thing that my little scare with my health taught me last year is that you can’t always be 100% prepared. heck, how often do we get the opportunity to say that anyway? and even when we think we are – life can kick you in the ass.

…which lead me to join forces with MS Run the US!

539678_10102073702700047_1769677452_ni think i’ve told this story here before, but the short of it is that late last year, i saw Ashley tweeting about looking for runners to join the MS Run Athletes team. i had followed Ashley (quietly) since she ran across the United States a few years ago and have since come to know that a number of friends have been impacted – either themselves with a diagnosis of MS or have a family member who is living with the disease.

and like i said, no matter how prepared we are, there’s always the chance that life might sneak up on you. so i joined the fight!

and the motto that i run by is “constant forward motion.”

i love that idea because it doesn’t allow me to dwell in past successes or failures. it doesn’t account for perfect planning or the obstacles life COULD throw in my path. so when i race, i show up at the line and go. constant forward motion.

just like none of my friends or their families chose to life their lives with Multiple Sclerosis, i can’t choose what might happen a week or month or year from now.

but what i can do is to keep moving forward. i can run, so i do. and in my running, i can be a voice and a pair of legs for those impacted by MS. i can raise awareness and money for research today, so i do. and i will toe the line tomorrow, remembering the reasons i run.

if you need a little inspiration today, checkout all of the awesome stuff going on with MS Run the US. oh, this video, for example:

and if you’re so inclined, visit my fundraising page where you can donate money that will go directly to MS Research.

what’s not to love about that?

keep moving forward, people!

stop MS. donate today. one final push.

hi lovely blog readers! thanks for visiting today. i haven’t been the best blogger, but i’m trying. i wanted to write a post today to share with you a cause that i’m running to raise awareness and funds for – MS Run the US. you can read all about the organization on their site, but i want to tell you why i joined the MS Run Athletes team and why i wanted to raise money for them to begin with.

i set out on this fundraising journey last fall for a few reasons – first, i knew i wanted to give backsomehow and being a part of a running team was an easy way to do it. second, i knew that my efforts in raising money for this specific charity would help a number of people (and their families) that i know and love who deal with MS on a day-to-day basis. and third, it feels really good to be a part of something bigger than me.
and since it’s april 10th, and my deadline to meet my goal is april 21st, i am doing one final push for my fundraising efforts for MS Run the US. and because of that, i’m asking for your help. DONATE HERE.
as of today, i have $1,210 raised of the $3,000 that i’ve committed to. would you consider helping me – and ultimately, many people with MS fight for a cure? chances are, that even if you don’t know me personally, you do know someone who is impacted my MS.
all i ask is that you contribute what you can – even $5 helps!
in a few days, an even bigger team of MS Relay Athletes will begin their run across the US to raise even more awareness and funds for MS research. i encourage you to follow along here. i’ll tell you something – the MS Relay athletes are really something else! (in a GREAT way). they are family members of people with MS, friends of people with MS, and even folks who have MS themselves. if that’s not inspirational, i don’t know what is!
and on Saturday, i’ll be running a 5k, representing MS Run the US here in Madison. you can join me, if you’d like!
thanks for visiting. thanks for your support.
much love,
shay

april.

seriously guys, how did it suddenly become april? i mean, i can remember christmas and that first big snow. now though, there’s no high temperature forecasted below 40-degrees in the ten-day forecast. spring is actually here. i’m confident about that.

my running has changed a bit over the course of the last few months. i’m just realizing this as i type it, so bear with me, but perhaps this is my running life – a two year cycle of peaks and valleys in speed and distance. and i think i am about to embark on a new journey.

in my own mind, i have been going back and forth on this for a while, but i made the decision last week that i need to be smart about starting out again. i was signed up for a 50k in may – a race that was originally a 50-miler a year ago, just before i had surgery. so i postponed the run and then, this year, i decided i would sign up for a 50k instead. 50 miles in may wasn’t going to happen for me. i was smart enough to know that back in december. and i kept promising myself that i’d get going and put in some good miles and run this upcoming 50k even though i’ve just started to feel better.

after some quiet time with my own mind though last week, my better judgement prevailed and i made the decision to see if i could shift down to the half marathon race. the race director is great and moved me down.

for me, sometimes it’s not testing my limits so much as it is about setting myself up for success.

when asked why i ultimately decided against doing the Birkie all-together this year the answer was simple – i experienced being completely unprepared when i did the NF50 last fall and i never wanted to experience that again. not if i could help it.

last week, too, a running buddy inquired if i was interested in joining her team to do the MadCity50k. i agreed and i am really excited. we’re going to have a really fun team with a silly name and it’ll be just the thing i need to kickstart my spring.

all in all, i would say that april is off to a good start. spring is here and ready to go!

race week.

my second 50-miler is fast approaching and i can’t help but reflect on the past year:

a year ago today i was just over a month out from my actual race and i watched a few friends complete their first Ironman triathlon. i had met these two women a few months earlier when we ran a 100k relay race together and learned what kind of toughness it would take for me to complete my own upcoming endurance race from them. i saw them throughout the day and at the finish and i was truly inspired.

i also feel a lot more relaxed going into the whole thing. i’ve got a few more races under my belt than i had last year before my 50-miler and i think that helps. i’ve run on the trails and i got in a nearly 8-hour 50k a month ago and i think those experiences are invaluable.

i put in fewer miles this year, but i feel ready and prepared just because i kind of know what to expect. i feel like i know what it feels like to be out there for the entire day and i am way more prepared to do what it takes to make sure i stay on top of nutrition and hydration. i swear this is half the battle. the mental and the nutrition make an enormous impact.

it is race week and to kick it off by watching the Ironman Wisconsin finish to the very end (12:00a Monday) was an awesome way to get pumped up. now i just need to make sure i’ve got all of the little things – that i’ve got all of my ducks in a row come friday evening so that i can fall into bed that night and wake up in the wee hours and be off. the past few days have been pretty great and the next few are certain to be darn good too. ready or…ready…here we go!

the marquette trail 50. a race recap.

the to-do list in my mind is growing to epic proportions. it seems like it is a mile long and that mile is one can’t run – instead, i need to be deliberate and go with care until the light at the end of the tunnel appears.it is kind of like distance running. my life right now is certainly like an ultramarathon. and i love that. running the marquette trail 50k reminded me to love it. that was two weekends ago and i’m still busy but loving every second. so, onto the race!so, two fridays ago my friend Angie picked me up at about 9am and we headed north. to the U.P. for those of you not in the midwest, i’m referring to the “Upper Peninsula” (the northern part of the state of michigan). after discussing how we had been confused about the time change that would occur once we left our home state, we had a pleasant drive up with lots of chatting and catching up the way you only do when you actually get a bunch of hours in the car with a friend and nothing but the open road ahead of you.

besides regular conversation, we talked a lot about what we thought the next day’s race might hold. would we be attacked by a cougar? how hard would the course actually be? how long do you think it will take you? what’s your goal? after this race, what’s the plan until the big show?

we talked and talked and laughed and we discussed stopping to buy knives to carry on the run in case of the aforementioned cougar attack and before we knew it we saw the hills or marquette, michigan ahead and lake superior as far as our eyes could see. we had arrived.

we went to packet pickup and got our numbers, then to dinner and before we knew it we were beginning to hunker down to attempt to get some pre-race zzz’s.

the 5am alarm clock came quickly, but i was awake and ready to go before i knew it. the awesome thing about small races is that we drove over and arrived about 20 minutes before the start. the race director did a roll-call and suddenly it was 6:30am and we were off!

once again, i didn’t get to really tell Ang good luck and we got spread out pretty quickly. there was only one place where i might have crossed paths with my friend on the course, but i hoped she knew that i was sending good juju her way all day.

the trails were flat out beautiful! there were times when i thought i was in Narnia or that i was Katniss (from the Hunger Games) just out there in my element. especially through the first 10 miles, i ran with a number of people. there was a group of us that stuck relatively close together, but as i dawdled at the second aid station, the group spread out. i didn’t mind though because i was toying with the idea of making a pit stop to relieve myself and also because when you’re out there in the woods like that there’s a whole lot of wonderful to be taken in when the trails are covered with pine needles just enough that you can barely hear your own feet meeting the ground.

did i mention before how beautiful it all was?

after the second aid station we had a long stretch to go until the next stop and there was a solid segment of trails which were very run-able (i’ll get to the hiking part in a minute). so, i continued to move forward, enjoying the scenery and reminding myself that once i made it to the 3rd aid station i would be just over halfway done.there was a moment in there – maybe a few moments when i reminded myself to take it all in.
that leg was about 7 miles long and included our first major climb. earlier in the race we had a bunch of rocky and rooty terrain to get across so there was some hiking and careful stepping but the next part was where we made our way up Sugarloaf Mountain. it’s a midwestern mountain, no doubt, but we don’t have much elevation like that in Wisconsin, so it was a special treat. actually, the treat was that instead of making our way up the “mountain” through the dirt, we marched up a total of 252 stairs.really, it was a treat and the cherry on top was the view!

first i snapped this.

i snapped a few pictures and then began my trek down, this time back on trails.
the trails led us along Lake Superior with some loose bluffs and a beach below where we were running. there was just one time when i saw a man strolling on the beach with his coffee and three dogs when i thought – i might rather be doing that right now, but i forged ahead.looking down to the lake from up where we were was amazing. lake superior is clear and chilly and much of the bottom is covered with stones. i’m sure there is some geological explanation for this, but i’m no scientist, so i can’t elaborate a lot. when i looked down i could see the beauty of that great lake, even though i was only getting a snapshot of its expanse.soon i caught up with a few others. one, whom we later deemed, “chicago,” because he kept going off course and we needed to get his attention and the other a woman from the madison area. we directed “chicago” back on course once and then he took off. a little later, a man who showed up at the start line in a kilt caught us and before i knew it he was ahead of us too and not long after that my running buddy from madison and i said goodbye, as well.

i’ll say one thing: for being a race of less than 100 people, total (for the 5mi and 50k combined), there was rarely a time when i felt really, really alone out on the trails. i hold those time in complete solitude in very high regard because there’s a sense of connection and respect that comes with being out there doing your thing.

and my mind rarely wandered from the task at hand and even just half a race completed, i felt a rush of peace come over me.

there were a few times when my mind did wander though. i mean, climbing Hogback Mountain, which sometimes required two hands had me occasionally thinking, “what am i doing?” and “how did i get myself into this” and more than once, “i could die up here.” i reminded myself not to look down as i climbed and climbed and there was only one time, when i was near the top of that summit when i thought, “thank god i haven’t seen the movie 127 hours yet!” because all i could think about was if my clumsy feet missed a step i might end up wedged precariously between two rocks. but i also reminded myself of my history of knocking my noggin hard and that a goal of mine for the race was, “NO concussions,” so along i went. up and up and up!!

obligatory self-shot…before Hogsback (i think)

i paused for a few minutes at the top. i paused to catch my breath. i paused to turn around and take some quick pictures with my phone and realized even then that my photos wouldn’t do justice to what i’d just done. i paused to take it all in.

the view, atop Hogsback.

and then i paused because i looked down and realized that i was about to head back down the other side of that little mountain just as i had come up. making my way over exposed bedrock instead of trails. taking my time to get my footing and calculate my next move. and a few times, scooting down on my butt.

there was no other way and just after i began my descent, another madisonian who had been a little ways behind me showed up above and said, “hey, how’d you get down there?” and i responded, “well first i pooped my pants a little and then i slid down.” i was joking about the pooping, and we both had a laugh and then we continued on – downwards!

but once i descended it was kind of like the homestretch. all i remember is down and down and down. it was still hard – at least mentally. ok, physically, too. my quads and IT bands were sore from the downhills, actually, but i knew what i had to do. get to the  next aid station.
between the descent from the top of hogsback to the end, i remember a few things. i remember those chocolate pretzel cookies at one of the aid stations. i stuffed one of those in my face. i stopped off in some tall grass in a corner to relieve myself…again. of of my running buddies had caught up with me again and shouted, “whatcha doing over there?” and then, “that’s a good spot.” i agreed, as i was also hoping i wasn’t squatting in poison ivy. and then i continued on once again.

another view from Hogsback. Lake Superior in the far background. exposed bedrock to be climbed down in the foreground.

next, my primary thought and goal was to make it, as quickly as possible, to the next aid station. to the last aid station before the end.
this was also the spot where 50 milers had to turn around to go back up Sugarloaf and Hogsback…AGAIN!
the aid station was also staffed by the cross country team from Northern Michigan University and i thought it was really cute. these young girls kept telling all of us how awesome they thought we were while their coach kept telling them to actually help the runners coming into the stop. i thanked them and said “good luck” to my 50 mile friends and headed toward the finish.
the last 5ish miles weren’t too rough. actually, the course was relatively easy compared to the last 20-some miles. i told myself to think about picking up my feet, to keep moving with purpose and to think about finishing strong. with a few miles to go – probably 2 or so, it began to rain. i was glad i was nearly finished. i was glad for the break in the early afternoon weather. the rain felt nice.
i ran on and on and made it my goal to make sure i finished under 8 hours. mostly because i figured it wouldn’t take me longer than that to begin with.
soon i began to recognize sights from the earliest part of the day. i hurdled (hopped over) some downed trees.
i crossed the railroad tracks.
and i came upon the bridge and the dam that i had seen when we first left the start line.
almost home. almost done. i could hear the finish line. i could almost see it. i ran my heart out and before i knew it, i had arrived.
my first 50k! two adorable and enthusiastic little girls handed me a can koozie and a towel. i promptly sat down, but before i did, i grabbed some peanut butter newman o’s (my favorite packaged cookie – for sure) and a cup of chocolate milk and THAT was my first real post-race food.
and i’ll tell you…winning combination!
i sat through a beer, estimating where and when my friend was and when she might be done. i was also sitting with chicago’s friend and a woman, Carol, whom i had run with early on and we chatted and cheered on finishers. not too long after, I saw Angie’s yellow shirt and purple-ish had come around the corner near the bridge!!!

finishing!!!

we were so excited because i had been talking about my friend. i was so glad to see her rounding that bend. we cheered and i snapped a picture of her and the buddy she had gained out there. it was great so see her come in, too, with a smile on her face. and also, just minutes before it began to really pour. the rain opened up a few minutes after Angie finished.
we sat around for a bit and then it really started to downpour so we quickly headed out. we finished our evening with hot showers, burgers, a few beers at Ore Dock Brewery (a brewery started by some friends of mine) and then bed!
it was an awesome weekend. from the company to the running to the scenery to the post-race festivities. it was all awesome.
what i wanted to say about this race – about the race – is that they have an awesomely gutsy race director who planned a really tough course. and he warned us. and he was also unapologetic about the toughness, too. the volunteers at packet pickup and especially at the aid stations and the finish line were GREAT. i mean, they were top-notch!!!
and the other thing i wanted to mention was a giant THANK YOU to my friend Angie for finding this race and for convincing me to do it with her. i would have never signed up for this on my own and i am indescribably grateful to have a friend who somehow gets me to push my comfort zone without me really feeling pushed. i honestly wound never, ever have signed up for this race on my own but i’m glad, i am proud, i am so happy that i did it.
when it all comes down to it – i like to race for the experience. it doesn’t matter so much if i am fast or slow or have a hard or easy day, but i love to be challenged and i love to do things i wouldn’t have done on my own. i’m so lucky. and i’m incredibly grateful, too!