100 mile week – 13.1 every day for a week Challenge

100 miles in one week

Pretty easy you’d think for the person who has ran two 100 milers over the course of less than 2 days (note both have been the same mountain 100, maybe I should try a normal 100 one day). But I never had a 100 mile week in training. Seeing as the pandemic has no end in sight, I have a bunch of free time to see what the body can do outside of a regular training season. Traditionally, I would up miles, focus on race course specifics in training, and then have a nice taper. I’ve been doing one ultra distance a month since October 2019, and now am faced with harder choices to make those up on my own without events. I managed an ultra distance and a marathon within 10 days of each other last month. But my training has a feeling of loss and purpose.

My original goal was to train up for my first attempt at a normal 100 and go under 24 hours whatever that looked like, and even if I failed, gaining valuable experience for a 2nd attempt later. It has now switched to maintaining a good base and slowly working on speed again. Mixing distance and speed training is always tricky. I always feel kinda bummed when I see my 10k pace still about 1-2 minutes slower than my PR, despite being in much better shape physically. I can hold paces longer and without as much effort as ever before. I am recovering and able to go hard basically whenever I want, but that top speed has left my legs, especially after last year’s stress fracture. But now what, we are all there. You can see it as endless opportunity, like me, and then get bogged down with the decision of WHAT to do, or this whole thing has stopped you in your tracks and you do less or nothing at all…or you could be someone who just runs for fun and this changes nothing. Aimless training can be fun for a while, but then you wonder, what now?

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Early January 2019, I came up with the idea to challenge myself to a 7 day streak of half marathons in the winter to keep me motivated. This was before I found out how bad it was for me to train outdoors for long periods in the winter air. Enter pandemic Spring 2020. This is the perfect opportunity to do this. Time to taper, time to commit, and time to recover after. The idea was to do a manageable distance every day. A marathon was too complicated at this time, especially given what I know now even if that even makes sense, more on that later. 10Km seemed too short (and word is constantly correcting to a capitalized K, sorry about that folks, there’s no stopping the autocorrect here!), but my speed wasn’t where it needs to be to feel a sense of accomplishment and that could be less than an hour every day…not enough. I did some quick math, and 13.1 miles a day would get me to 91 miles for a week. What’s 9 more miles spread out over 7 days? I could walk those as cool downs at least. Plan accepted. 13.1 miles minimum a day in one activity with as much effort as I could give balanced out each day, and walking for active recovery to meet the 100 miles for a week goal.

So I began tapering, seeing a good 70-80 degree high week in the long term forecast for most days. During this time, I planned out routes and what would occupy my mind since I would be running alone (two reasons: I never have anyone to really run far with at whatever pace I am feeling, and pandemic mode). I decided to skip Monday due to bad weather (rain, in the 50s), and this was a good choice. Friend Megan debated me saying it seems more natural to start on the first day of the week. I thought about it, and decided that Tuesday would still be better for me. Tuesday’s weather was still overcast with chances of rain and upper 50s to low 60s. Not great, but better than Monday.

Day 1, I would do 3 of my neighborhood loop, which I thought was about 4 miles. Stay close to home and use home as my aid station. Catch up on all things Becoming Ultra podcast.

Day 2, I would use the arboretum loop, a known 10k loop which the MadCity Ultras are run on. I had never really done it by myself but two loops and then some seemed good enough using my car as an aid station. Would listen to Ten Junk Miles.

Day 3, unknown, would wait on the weather and maybe do the park and ride out and backs.

Day 4, unknown, Devil’s Lake? Depended on weather.

Day 5, Lake Kegnosa was the plan.

Day 6, Military Ridge at Riley out and backs was the plan.

Day 7, Donald Park, if it wasn’t wet.

Accept things will be fluid and go with the flow.

As you can tell, a lot of these were tentative on weather. I wrote down my thoughts and a lot of them stayed that way. One thing about ultra running or training is that you have to move and adapt to your situation. I had NO idea how I would feel each day, and the dynamics were always transforming into something else I could not even hope to plan for. It was half way through the week that I realized that it was Memorial Day weekend, and that would mean people. This immediately shifted a lot of my running routes as I didn’t want to be around people as much as possible if I could help it. This nixed Devil’s Lake on the weekend and Monday, and nixed Lake Kegnosa as well. It was a bit overwhelming, but I only took it a day at a time.

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Day 1, it was hard to even get out of the house with all the cloud doom and gloom looming over the house. It was drizzly and cool. I took a hand held water bottle and waited until the highest temp of the day to start. I wasn’t fond of the late afternoon start, but it forced me to try and be done before dinner. I knew this loop and headed out at an easy pace. I have to say my first few miles got me excited that my easy pace was this fast. I decided to walk more up the hills. Yeah, that’s another reason why I didn’t do all this near my house…hills. They are driftless style hills and I am not fond of doing them over and over again without reprieve. I thought for a first day, this would be appropriate forcing me to keep it a bit slower. Good thoughts, hah. Hahahahaha.

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It was pretty peaceful. When I got done with the first loop, my watch had almost clocked over to mile 5. This loop was longer than I recalled. I guess I only remembered the times it took me to do the loop and not the exact mileage. I came inside, had a quick potty break and grabbed some soda and refilled my water. Probably not enough calories, but I had eaten before I left for the run. I thought about doing the loop in reverse, but really cringed at the idea of running 1.5 miles up to my house in that direction. I settled into the same paces as loop 1. Ran up the 1st big hill which I hadn’t before, but walked more the 2nd. I did the same soda/water when I got done with the second loop, and the drizzly intensified. I was mostly protected from the wind with the hills and trees surrounding me, but why was there wind?! I was so tired of the wind here. Natasha friendo had informed me that with warm weather comes the price of wind. Boo I say. Vetoed.

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Rich was supposed to have joined me and I waited a bit on his response, but he was still working. I headed out for the final miles. I realized I was almost at 10 miles when I stopped back at the house again. I could just run my hilly 5k route, which uses the first third of the big loop I had been doing, but it meant going back up my big hill for 1.5 miles. Whatever right, I was almost done. I headed down and came back panting from pushing up the hill as to not lose pace on my watch. Silly me.

I ended with 13.5 miles in total, lots of Wisconsin style gain, and a pretty good half time. I ate some food and decided that I was going to play dance games as it was the first day for Stamina RPG4 tournament. My legs felt horrible and uncertain. I did some lower level songs and called it a little over an hour in playing. I noticed that my blister I had been battling from the previous week was not healed. Enter the fight why don’t you?

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Day One half done! Hills!!

The blister in question was in the middle of my forefoot on the bottom. I had to act fast, and was something I was clearly nervous about being an issue for the rest of the week. I started wearing socks to bed, and covering the skin in question in lotions and vasaline. I would also switch out my daily Altra shoes every day and wear different kinds of socks. I used XO Skin the first day and my first pair of Altra escalantes since my foot wideness is sometimes an issue early on in runs. I finished my run with a 0.6 mile cool down walk. 14.1 miles done.

The next day was beautiful, yet windy still. The sun was out though and that’s what mattered. Again, I waited until a bit later. So to wait, I decided to play dance games again. I managed some speedy passes and my legs felt stiff but less wobbly than the previous night. I played for nearly 2 hours, although a bunch of that time was modding the pad I played on and testing it out. Headed out to the arb with new clothes after the dance game sesh.

I arrived a bit before 2:30pm. The parking lot was overly full, people parked everywhere. I didn’t think in the middle of the day on a Wednesday (state parks closed Wednesday) that there would be this many people. I found some open parking in a back lot that I guess not many people knew about (they were still parking on the side of the road when I arrived). I set out with my garmin and a water bottle with a stored gel. Need to eat more I said to myself. Did I listen?

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I told myself I would walk a lot more today, and have forced walking breaks. The arb loop was saturated. Bikers, walkers, runners…everyone. Since they had closed the back half to traffic (which is another reason I decided to go there), no one was in the right place. Heading around the bend, I almost was hit by a bike! He wasn’t even watching the road, but looking off into the lake at the boaters. I yelled, and he whizzed by, too late to be phased by the runner in his path. The last two days proved I could not listen to podcasts with my phone. The connection would break with a lot of cord jiggling that I could not prevent. I was pretty saddened by this as I was going to use my music more as a motivator later on. It often disconnected (sometimes every 5 steps, and I would have to take my whole phone out and push play again each time it disconnected) with podcasts, but never did with pandora. So I settled on music I didn’t have banked on pandora.

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The only wild critter I cam across.

The sun was so inviting, and I shook off what was happening around me. The arb trees were in full bloom. When I made it to the end of the drive, I followed my watch for turns. Eventually, I got off course and about mile 5, I had to stop and open google maps to figure out where to go. I did this another 2 times. I was a bit frustrated, I shouldn’t care about pace, but I did not stop my watch for any of the half runs, but stopping for directions was annoying. I eventually made it back to my car. I fueled up with the soda I had waiting. I wanted to do a reverse loop but I was not confident I could make it around by myself. I followed my previous black line on garmin navigation. I STILL got lost on the back loop. Opened up google maps. Blah.

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I weaved in and out of people, left side, right side. I was bored now. 10K loops (thanks autocorrect for that capital k) are just long. I got back to my car thankful to have more soda. I was missing a mile somehow, so I headed out backwards this time along the open road to the arb. Motivation for running waning, and legs still stiff from the first day, I took a few pics that I found funny. As I was making my final back to the car, the oncoming cars (run against traffic they said) I came up on a parked large worker truck. I could not go to the left of it, there was too much brush, so as I came up to the right side, a car suddenly came around the bend and I went a bit too close to the truck and slammed my left shoulder into the side mirror. Ouch. But better than being hit by a car suddenly there. I started hobbling back to my car again as another runner leaner than me passed me with ease. I felt discouraged and slow. Every time I face the headwinds, my body would get chilled. The temps still weren’t too high, but the sun was still nice. I managed 13.15 miles and then a 0.55 mile cool down walk through the pretty trees.

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Responsible pet owner.

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Don’t go too fast, it’s only day 2!! Should taken this as a SIGN.

When I arrived back home I was even more stiff and DOMS had settled in from day one. GREAT. I was used to those paces, but somehow was still sore. Two weeks before for the Yeti 24 hour run, I had kept a faster pace for all 5 mile intervals and wasn’t sore from that at all. Maybe taper was a bad idea? I was having trouble making dinner, so we opted to go out to eat. This became a tradition for the week. It was hard even with just a half marathon, I lost a lot of time decompressing and prepping each day. I was starting to get hungry, a lot. There were things like that, that started happening I did not plan for or account for.

Day 3 was back to being cloudy, though a bit warmer. I talked with Megan and agreed hitting the trails up was probably for the best. I was sore and it was becoming hard to keep a forever pace. I hadn’t been on a few Madison Ice Age Trail segments, so I made a deal with the husband to come pick me up when I was done so I could go one-way, south to north, on the Ice Age Trail. I mapped it out on garmin connect, that Verona to Valley View Segment was just under 13 miles. Good! Simple! Follow the yellow trail blazes, what could go wrong?

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Warm welcome!

In an effort to really get in the mood, I plugged into the Between Two Pastries Podcast with Annie Weiss, the holder of the Ice Age Trail FKT – the whole thing – and a friend from the Altra red team. After reading her husband’s book, Meet you at the Terminus, I took a page from there and walked the first mile to warm up and just enjoyed the first part of the Verona segment, way more hilly going north than south! My legs were unhappy when I took a run down the first hill. The trails were dry and in fantastic shape. I was off and on again running for the whole Verona Segment, but not a bad trail pace…still around my 100k pace. This is when I started noticing that I was drinking a lot more. I shot a gel after 45 minutes anyway. I had to get better at eating. And today I would nail it. I arrived at the beginning of the Madison segment and it was lovely.

98191728_298084787868787_4817769127793917952_nThen I came up on a trail closed sign. I followed the detour and hoped it would get me back on track. No idea if this added or subtracted miles. Moving on!

I was always busy trying to figure out where I was in relation to everything else I knew about the area. So very distracted by the 100 mile man story I was listening to on the podcast, I took a not turn, and added an extra mile. Oops. I was using Garmin navigation, but completely missed the trail turn with the new inviting paved trail.

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I made my way back to where I came off the trail, just like in a race. And soon enough I was off the trail again near a construction area. I opened google maps to find the trail and where I went wrong. Again, I hate stopping to figure this stuff out. I headed back again and found the tiny forest opening without the yellow blaze noting it.

I was starting to run much better, though my strides felt short. I came across a golf course, and it was literally littered with people. There are two stories from people with opinions. Those that believe golf is one of the safest socially distanced sports, and those who believe that nothing with gatherings of people is safe. The 2nd group would be right today. True, golf CAN be safe if you play alone. No one at this golf course was playing alone, as they all would park their carts next to each other, and travel to each hole together. In addition, it looked like the women with kids were hanging around as well. This really steamed me up inside. I had time to go into deep though. How is it fair I have been sheltering to protect myself and others, when these people find it perfectly ok to do just the opposite. I ended up concluding it wasn’t worth the internal turmoil, and that these people are why we are still in this situation and we aren’t going to get out of it. You can’t blame everything on the government, local or national. All I can do it try to be safe myself and take my own appropriate levels of risk. Ok ok venting done. Back to running.

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Very interesting hide-a-way in the Madison segment??

Upon ending the Madison segment, it dumped me onto a road. I took the right turn and saw a girl with her dog running dead in the middle of the road. I found it odd and stayed off to the side to soon come up on a giant ROAD CLOSED sign. Again? Twice?!

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I stood there pondering my action. It was due to some construction nearby and torn up road. I figured I could squeeze past and get through fast enough to not impact anything, so I did just that. I also noticed (weird timing) that a car that lived in the closed road area, squeeze past the barrier to get to their house.

Soon enough I was well on my road connector way. I was thankful for the sidewalk along the busy road. Legs were feeling even better. I gazed out to the country side and start encountering the hills.

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Why is this photo so long? The hill was just as long.

I knew I was near Timber lane, which is one of the 3 sisters on the ironman bike course here. Usually hills are much worse for me biking than running, but still they were daunting looking at them from afar on foot. Rich was on his way. He would park in a small lot (found thanks to the IAT virtual map online) and come meet me for an out and back. He actually found me! But I also realized I got lost on the road connector and went a block too far. No navigational damage done since it popped me out where I would have been anyway.

100730413_1098588413848209_229310812194340864_nRich parked at the beginning of the very short Valley View segment. This segment is ALL downhill from south to north direction. Very nice for me, but probably not so nice for Annie when she had done it. It was beautiful and loved the vert. When back at the car, I downed a mountain dew, like literally POUNDED it SO fast. Ahhhhhh. The segment ended with a very rich neighborhood. I ended with 13.82 miles, a bit more than the predicted 12.98 miles. I started a new walk activity, and walked back to the car. It was exactly a mile back to the car. Ended the day with 14.82 miles.

I got Rich to take Friday, Day 4, off, so we could run together. I was planning on getting there early, there being Devil’s Lake and doing that Ice Age Trail segment (which is 9 miles by itself), but life had other plans. We needed to take my car since my car had everything I had been using and the state park sticker. But when I got in my car, it did not start. Same face I had with the close road signs, sigh, I stared at the steering wheel. Switching cars, we took off in the non-park sticker car, fully aware we might have to pay a fine. It was muggy and humid, like most of the days had been so far.

100051378_2612336448984789_6154929465085394944_nWe arrived around 11am, a bit too late of a start. Heading out we met very few people. The climb in that direction (still opposite the way Annie went) was brutal. It reminded me of the east coast and I loved it. I looked for mushrooms and morels. No luck. A runner came up on us (one of two that day), and we had a nice chat in passing (we stood to the side). The power hiking continued as my legs felt a bit weak, and the trail continued to climb up and up. I tried to run some flats and a few downhills when I could, but my legs were not having it. In addition, when we finally made it to the bluffs portion of the lake, the crowds began. I was overwhelmed. We stood far off the trail when we could, and one time a huge family with no regards to the 6’ rule was coming towards us and I jumps on a nearby rock. I did not know it was very wet and I instantly bit it. I slipped hard onto my right hip and tore open my pinky finger and scuffed up my right arm pretty good on the large rock. No one cared to really help, and I’m sure it looked pretty bad. Only about 4-5 miles in, this was a bummer for the mood. 100092808_252695372490230_7167323500942721024_nI just wanted to get away from people as fast as I could. And it got worse. I lost confidence in the rocks and had a hard time scaling down the bluff rocks, and the people were everywhere. I’d like to toss that one out. Most people were kind however. We finally made it to the bottom. The parking lot on the south shore was PACKED. People were grilling, mingling, and just various levels of not caring about what was going on in the world. We trudged on and found the trail going up again on the other side. I was kind of excited because I had not been this way.

But there was almost as many people on this side. Albeit this side was easier to maneuver than the other bluff without all the rocks, it was just as steep. We finally made it up toward the campgrounds. Certainly no one would be out that far with the campgrounds closed until further notice. Not as scenic or exciting, we passed by empty campground with the exception of one camper. This is when the 2nd runner passed us. No words, just passed on. Garlic mustard became so prevalent in the landscape. We made our way back as I kept looking down at our slow pace thinking it was going to take x hours to make it back. The glory of running is getting there faster. I was so bummed out I just was defeated. And I was also trying to beat the oncoming rain.

We made it to the road and decided to head back the way we came. Eventually, we made it close to the car and I started trying to run again. It was hard but doable. Ended the run with 14 miles. We stopped for gas and got snickers ice cream bars and more soda.

100090388_2980727262041125_506109613196705792_nI should note that all my water was filled with liquid calories. I wasn’t going without. But I was afraid both of the trail days I would run out of water so I wasn’t drinking enough as I should have been. The idea I was only slightly over half way with the week weighed on me.

Back home, we grabbed some take out again. Later that evening I needed a milkshake. Now a new tradition! I needed the salt and whatever else it was offering up. I rolled out and stretched. I was feeling much better but Rich got sore despite mostly hiking. I felt like I had cheated. I didn’t even run 50% of the time. I got the miles in, and I did them all at once. Later that evening we went for a short walk, 1.22 more miles for the day pokemon Go shiny hunting.

I was dreading day 5, so I kept it simple. I got up, ate breakfast and headed out to the Riley parking lot for Military Ridge State Trail. I knew I had to get it in early to beat the afternoon storms that were predicted. I was sad my car was dead, I was sad I didn’t run like I was supposed to. It was only a half marathon. I was still doing well preventing the old blister from getting worse, which was a miracle. I was doing well with calories and doing my best with recovery. The first two days, my feet tried to swell up, and I would put them up. The next two days, they did not have that affecting them. The first 13 miles did not feel like a half had gone by. The 2nd day felt exactly the miles I had been in a marathon (day two mile 2, felt like mile 15 for example). Day 3 felt like ultra world, and Day 4 felt like 100k mark for sure, the time when I feel most down in a 100 or late in a 100k race. Everything matched up to the one-time mile experiences.

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Feeling defeated from all that, I started walking on the trail. I was surprised there were hardly any cars there. Most people bike from this location, and a few runners. Locals will walk but there aren’t many of them. Last time I was here, the parking lot was plum full and chaotic. I walked one mile for my warm up. Then I started running. THEN I started RUNNING. I felt way better than I had any of the other days. I refused to look at pace. I went by feel, and the first mile was faster than my first day. I kept this up for a few miles and made it back to the car. I didn’t have to carry water bottles for this one for most of the plan.

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The plan was to do shorter out and back from the parking lot. I would fuel and drink when I came back each time. On the 2nd out and back, I decided to put in a few walking breaks. This is when I noticed I could not slow down when I was running. I switched my garmin to the heart rate screen and gauged effort by that. I didn’t want to become sore again after what happened the first day. This day flew by and was my 2nd fastest day, and I think only slower because I walked that first mile. As soon as I made it back to my car the skies started opening up. 98344663_266436794553118_248339965446979584_nIt was good timing. I squeezed in 13.2 miles plus a 1.15 mile cool down walk after. Wow that felt so good, and started making me wonder what was possible.

I had little aches and pains along the way, but none would last for more than half a mile at a time. Some would return on a different day, but still never lasting. Everything ended up working itself out.

The 6th day came and I decided to walk it to be sure I was recovered for day 7. I had gotten over most of the guilt of walking to get in miles. Maybe some of it was avoiding disappointment. I had had such a good day 5, and I didn’t want to ruin it. Today there was pokemon go community day, so from 11am to 5pm, there were shiny pokemon spawning.

Today was the first day I took a huge break in the activity. Rich and I parked at a nearby park and walked all the trails hunting pokemon with no course objective. This was far less stressful. The sun was obscured slightly by haze, it was hot and I was living life. 100683037_911486999324088_342332275293159424_nWe took a break to get sunscreen and drinks and food. We had a picnic on a blanket in the park. Then we continued on! Somewhere around mile 11 I discovered I was toasted. Beyond help. How was I so red and Rich was not? I had spent way more time outside than him this year. I worried but finished the day with 13.15 miles and a slower 1.4 mile walk at home. The idea behind walking for community day was to not dawdle around and go fast to click on as many as possible. It’s hard to cover ground fast when you aren’t in a car or populated area with a lot of spawns (like downtown you can go a crawling speeds because you’ll get 4-5 spawns at any given point around you, versus where we were you’d get one every minute).

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I got home and realized how bad the burns were. I had no aloe, and everything was closed for Sunday/Memorial day. I used lotion I had and A&D. That night was horrible and uncomfortable. I did not sleep hardly at all. I wore very similar clothes the next day to prevent any of my burned skin making contact with literally anything. I covered myself in sunscreen, way more than usual.

101230583_563209330910195_5319741738296803328_nSince it was day 7, I would end it at the park and ride. I would do very short out and backs or loops so I would not have to carry water. It was up in the mid 80s for this one. I was so happy with it, even if I was suffering. This is what I wanted (not the burns). I started off running, but quickly realized this pace was not sustainable and pretty sure I burned out my energy very early on. I made it 4 miles before burning out. I fueled with soda and now a new drink fuel powder (have to say I was not impressed). I was out of gels, so I used pixie sticks. I ran along to music. I would go up the trail under the trees (avoiding sunlight), but the air was stagnant and the humidity was real. I thought this way would be better, but when I took the turn to loop back on the sidewalk (fully sun exposed and no trees to block wind), it was magical. The wind was more a breeze in my face and I welcomed the cooling effect. This loop became my standard…just under 2 miles. I will probably use this in the future now!

100523712_2643652702622880_8193978967116480512_nI could tell my adrenaline was popping off, as I was able to ignore my sunburns. I thought about all the men and women and what memorial day meant as I passed under the giant flag from the fire station. I thought about the war on the virus…the front line men and women might look a little different than a physical war between countries. I constantly thought about my friend (also Altra red team) Ray who mentioned how not fighting someone’s perspective about something to bring more peace between people in a keyboard warrior world. I still think about that a lot. 13.45 miles later I finished. I was done with 100 miles. I managed to finish running. I thought about how I was able to run at the end of Cloudsplitter 100. I will always keep that with me. It wasn’t even slow. Though it did hurt.

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I did a cool down celebration walk in flip flops (1.57 miles). My blister had finally reared its ugly head that day and I was caught walking because of it. If it popped today, then it did. My calves were tight and tired. And still looking back, was I able to do more? I should just walk away from this experience for now and not ask what if; this is valuable experience. Most high mileage weeks involve spreading out the miles differently. Doing semi-high mileage each day was way more taxing than I imagined. 101216609_971534586610976_6849640343609016320_nIf I had done 15 one day, 10 another, and a longer 20 miler later in the week, it would have gone differently. You’d take the 20 slower than the 10, but not go all out in the 10, recovering better in the 10, and being more aware of recovery for the 20 and so on. 13.1 miles is definitely a mix of different things, but at least it’s a distance where you can recover from it decently and you don’t have to do too much extra work with nutrition unlike marathons. Still I considered the time I was out versus the miles and tried to compensate. No matter how you look at it, getting in 100 miles in a week is certainly something to be reckoned with, no matter how you do it.

The ending was quiet, much like my Military Ridge FKT, you just stop, no one was there this time. No family or friends, just me and my car to get back home. There weren’t even any people at the park and ride lot, I am guessing from the midday heat. No post celebration, no where to go that is safe but home.

The biggest quandary was stopping. I didn’t have to stop. I was almost at 13.5 miles for that run alone, just to push me over 100 miles while still running (not the cool down walk I was doing every day). I considered doing more, but my skin was in pretty bad shape and my blister was on the verge of giving me more issues if I’d kept going and as I was then, I could still run and do whatever after that week, something I don’t always get to do after long ultras. My body was in good shape, no sense not continuing to run on after. I wouldn’t even call what I got niggles, they were so short lived and randomly cropped up in random places.

100061185_2832678846859657_4914316311821025280_nSo what was recovery like? I did taper two weeks into it, or at least 10 days. I feel like this was too long judging how I felt after day one and two. Maybe this would be more acceptable had I did all the miles at once, but with the recovery day to day, I am not sure the taper was short enough. Between the runs, which were mostly 11am-1pm every day, with a few later in the day, I started eating more and more every day. I was hungry, but would feel full after a good meal. I ate out more, but it did help with sodium levels…but I needed to make sure I balanced that out with water, so that’s all I would drink during the days outside of running. I listened to my body and ate when I was hungry. I stopped when I was full. I feel like that is important if you’re doing something like this or everyday life. No need to overstuff yourself. But don’t feel guilty for getting in a bit more than you’re used to. The milkshakes post run just felt like the icing on the cake I needed to really polish off the calories. I’m not saying it’s the best choice, but whole foods weren’t always appetizing.

During runs, I used mainly liquid fuel, whether powder mixed with water or using soda. I am a huge fan of sodas, and never have GI issues with them and they are fast calories. Still holds true. I used a lot of my expiring leftover gels to get them out of the way. I hate them, but hey, they were mostly free from races (“free”, you pay for the race and goodies). I am having more and more issues gagging them down. I could have fueled more at the beginning. But I did consume a majority of my calories around my runs.

100856910_1387549798104723_6157262401126268928_nOtherwise, I used a hand massager mainly on my calves when I felt like I needed it. I used recovery boots, but not sure if they had a major impact. I foamed rolled larger muscles to keep them in check a few times. But mainly I focused on feet.

The biggest thing for me, in a race or during this (and I have previously lacked the motivation and not put in the effort during training, usually a huge mistake), was taking care of my feet. The blister I had gotten before it started was problematic. I had power hiked 7 miles and was not used to walking at a very fast pace (13-14 min/mi) on trails, and nor did I pre-treat those areas for the long walk, and it resulted in two blistered areas…three days before the week started. I didn’t run the two days prior to starting to let it heal, but it did not. I carried this blistered area the whole week. I was successful but using vasaline every run on every area and switching off shoes and socks every day for a different foot sensation. At night I would use neosporn and socks and make sure I was hydrated every night (and started hydrating for the week the two days prior). You can control a lot of variables if you feet are happy.

The day after the week was over, I did an easy walking day, babying the blistered area. The 2nd day after, I went for a run, a harder run. There were so many variables that I am not sure which was contributing to my run. It was humid and hot, in the upper 80s. It was sunny, my skin was still in bad shape. My calves were really tight and my heart rate ran a bit higher with less effort. Nothing felt off however. I am certainly not heat adapted yet, and we have had hardly any days here yet above 70°F before this started. I love heat, but it’s still a beast to deal with. I was managing my Yeti pace with a lot of effort. The biggest thing was I could NOT find my forever pace. My body was so confused. Walking was too easy, even walking fast. Running a slower pace than I’m used to was hard to maintain (again maybe it was the heat), and I could not slow down from that slower pace without walking without sacrificing form or cadence. I was in a puzzling state. I will run today in the 60s and report back.

Overall I felt like I could keep going, albeit at some random and weird paces with walking mixed in.

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Miles all at once, or spread out? On day 3 and 4, I was saying to myself I would MUCH rather be doing these miles all at once. After day 4, it became a lot easier than doing the miles all-at-once feeling. So in conclusion, I would say at first, it sucks. It’s just hard and feels harder than it should. At some point, your body does adapt and it gets better, and you will feel good and then bad, and the waves will keep washing over you, but never as bad as it was for the first few days. I can’t say how it would feel to do more miles than this in a day, but listening to longer FKT runners, it does always get better. I feel like 13.1 miles at a time is such a drop in the bucket compared to 30+ miles a day.

Someone asked about laundry. I will say the same as I did for my Yeti blog. I got all my clothes washed the day before starting. The temperatures fluctuated daily so I was never stuck wearing the same thing from day to day. I had enough bras and undies to last the week so I never did laundry again. But doing laundry BEFORE you start is key! I would not want to be worrying about getting laundry done or putting it off for late at night when all you want to do is decompress from the day. For me, decompression after a run is imperative, and sometimes takes as long as my runs.

101547915_623555658252942_4912846406508609536_nLastly, sleeping. Mostly sleeping was normal to weird. Normal that I got good sleep until I got sunburned. But weird in that, I was getting up earlier and earlier each day. I wasn’t going to bed later typically, but looked forward to sleep each night, but not to the point of exhaustion, which was very nice. Honestly the challenge was probably more helpful for my sleep than anything else.

I was planning on also using this as a way to see which distance I would virtually try for the Midwest States 100/100k for June. I am still on the fence. I am not great at 10 miles, but it’s shorter than 13.1, but for 3 days longer, which doesn’t seem to prove an issue after this experiment. However, doing less than an hour of running a day (10k/day) option and trying to go hard is really tempting, though I know people will be much faster for obvious reason. The huge drawback of this sort of thing is you have no visual of who you are competing against. I don’t even know if I can be ranked as competitive, but I will most certainly try. My bones are itching to do well either way. Not everyone is on the same playing field. I am luck I am near flat land and can use it to my advantage, I can use trails or road. I have access much lower temperatures, though I will likely not choose to do morning runs to avoid heat. If I were in Virginia, I would have a hard time being faster than I would be here.

Advice. If you want to try this, a few things to note that I found useful for myself (and I know others are different, even from talking with Heather from Team BU as she completed it today—so proud of her, and having her start it mid way through mine was really neat to sit and chat about every day, feeling connected and not so alone!!):

– Come up with pre-planned routes that are interesting. Routes where you have access to a car, bathroom, aid station (house), or plan to go long. I split mine up between short and long loops, and one-way runs. I mixed things up every day. Trails and roads. Heather I believe did the same out and back every time…that could create a lot of accountability!

– Plan one day ahead each day. When you are done with your run, prep for the next day while that day is still fresh in your head. What could you have done better, fueling? Socks/shoe combo? Hydration? Don’t wait until right before your run. Keep all your running stuff in one area so you don’t lose things. Charge your watch every evening.

– Laundry all done before you start. Lay out your outfit the night before.

– Weather checks. I checked the weather daily and planned accordingly. Sometimes I would switch where I was going to run according to the weather. If it was rainy the previous day, I would avoid trails. Hot and sunny? Choose a more shaded route (or find out your route wasn’t really shady after all and learn for later).

– Fuel around your runs. Avoid post run eating binges and hunger by doing this. And hydrate really well before and after.

– Always be over-prepared for your run. Treat them like a long run. Avoid the chaffing through prevention, and same goes with the feet. It’s not just 13.1 miles, it’s a week effort that deserves respect for the long haul.

100825618_1358361484443627_2290365261338902528_nI think this is useful for anyone who plans to do a streak from 1 mile a day, or 5 miles a day, or 13.1 miles a day or up to 30+ miles a day. The longer you go the more complicated things get. But every bit of this is a learning experience. I have never done a stage race and clearly I have underestimated the effort to go into it. Don’t feel guilty if you have to take a walk day, just don’t stop moving. The goal of this was to do the miles all at ONCE. Based on the Yeti experience, splitting up the runs throughout the day, even if I did 3 miles and then 10 miles, it would have felt much differently. I wanted to do the minimum miles I set a goal for in one go. Even when I stopped briefly for lunch/drinks during my 2nd to last day, I wasn’t relaxing necessarily, I had my watch set to go again as soon as I was done and was the only time I paused it. I did not mentally take a break and I think that counts for something…especially when I knew I was going to try to go as hard as I could on the final day. It was a bit weary on me mentally knowing I had 13.1 miles a day weighing on me and I absolutely did not want to have to start over for any reason, probably why I do not ever count how many days in a row I do anything (running or otherwise).

As a final remark, if you are to try this, absolutely never give yourself a time constraint. This is supposed to be a fun thing, and you can easily add enough pressures and stressors to make it not fun real fast. It really was like a roller coaster of 100 miles, and as close to doing a 100 in training as anything I’ve ever done. I’ve done 26+ mile days once a weekend for 3 weekends in a row. Vastly different. I feel like this is much closer to the training for a 100 miler than that was based on how I felt. However, I have no way of testing it out since there are no races.100939825_670490540178145_3604119542990635008_n I will potentially redo a week similar to this in July in case Badger 100 is still on. It would be interesting to see if 10 miles over 10 days is any different stress wise. Would 3 more miles, and a few walking miles a day make a difference? Loads of questions still remain for me. I hope to get some answers at some point. Looking forward to my big weekend coming up to see how the legs do!

Update, ran a half mile PR today (3 days post last day). Legs are doing better!

The Yeti 24 Hour Endurance Challenge

I knew about this event for a while, but didn’t want to sign up. What was just 5 miles every 4 hours worth? I could do that easily. But with that sort of confidence, you know you will be thrown for a loop…or out and back. Whatever is your style.

Looking for something, some goal, to keep me motivated in May with the whole Pandemic happening (it’s still not quite “springing” out yet here, just greener grass, I am sad I was unable to go home to Virginia this year), I wrote up a blog post on my thoughts current to the time I wrote it and when I posted on my facebook timeline to share, I started to include links to virtual races for smaller race companies.

This got me thinking more and more about doing one myself just to say I did something. Mentally, the easiest one I posted about was the Yeti 24 Hour Endurance Challenge, running 5 miles every 4 hours for 24 hours. This differs from the Goggins challenge (4x4x48, 4 miles, every 4 hours for 48 hours I believe), which is free to do, and vastly different from a virtual 50k or 1-week 100 miler. With the weather in Wisconsin being ever so unforgiving during the “spring” time (mind you, it snowed in May last year, and Spring wasn’t even to be found until June…per my opinion on what Spring means to me as a southern), I spied a weekend of low 70 degree days! I saw this about 2 weeks in advanced, but never trust a 14 day forecast, so I sat on it. A few days beforehand, the highs and weather did not really shift much. I decided that Sunday would be my day. I signed up a few days before and made my commitment to it as well as the 1000k virtual race across Tennessee…more on that later I guess.

I thought about start times a lot, but didn’t put it on paper (literally) until the night before. I decided that 3am would be the official start time when I could go for a run, come back and nap and go out again for the rest of the challenge. I previously have done a similar challenge, the Solstice Challenge (50 miles in 2 day without overnight runs). It went ok, but this challenge provided me the opportunity to fix what didn’t go well during that. The major difference being that I had time goals for this challenge, and was doing far less miles, and I could not travel for this challenge to get a change in scenery. This made me ponder hard since my very local area is very hilly, and any way I go out from my house is directly up a long hill in any given direction within a few feet of departing. Cue the eye roll.

What didn’t go well during the Solstice challenge? I did not eat enough throughout. I did not take good enough care of my body between legs of the challenge, or before or after, did not plan routes ahead of time (and I had FAR less time between legs, though less miles per leg), had nothing laid out in preparation (clothes, nutrition), and lacked what I needed to fight the weather (it was late June and very hot/humid, and BUGGY). I did not care about pace, just getting it done.

This time the weather was a non-factor, just windy with temps between 50 and 73, sunshine as far as the eye could see…or clear dark night skies. I had enough bras to switch in and out and enough clean undies (doing all your laundry beforehand, key tip!). I would rinse my body with a quick soap-over after finishing, and had all my foam rollers out, my air compression boots, and hand percussion massager out.

I picked out 6 routes, 2 left up in the air for creativity for down time at home. My first route would be during the night, and planned a route that would be ok to run alone, a simple out and back. The second would be early morning with low traffic, so I picked a long loop I could do that ran along a highway (I encountered a total of 2 cars). The 3rd would be a loop and stick I traditionally did that I considered “flatter”. The 4th and 5th leg would be left up to the creative part of me, seeing where I could go in 5 miles without using any of the other legs too much. The 6th and final leg would be the out and back I took first, but with a longer out (my first one was two shorter out and backs to break up the mileage and not be too far from help should I need it in the dark). I ended up changing the final leg, more on that later.

The week leading up to my “event” I put in some hard speed work time and tempo pacing (for me at my current ability anyway), not really knowing if the event was going to happen. This would be the first thing I changed. I gave myself a week after my virtual Blue Ridge Marathon/Half/bonus ultra mile to recover before ramping back into pace. I virtually ran with my sister for her first half (self-supported!!) on the actual Blue Ridge Half marathon course and checked in via phone for minutes at a time at least every mile as I ran in a county park that provided me with the 130 foot (or as I called it, 130 points) hill that I would run up and down in order to get as much elevation gain as she was. After she finished, I continued on to do 26.2 miles and a bonus 1.5 mile to officially make it another “ultra” in April to continue my one-ultra-per-month streak. A cheap one, not even a 50k, but an ultra by definition.

The day before, Saturday, I did a 90 minute dance game marathon with my husband (the East Coast Stamina 8.5 Lower Division marathon, which meant playing 24 songs in a row ranging from 2 minutes to 8 minutes each all in a row, switching off to get the best score). Then a bit later, we went for a 3 mile shake out run and a 1 mile walk. My legs were dead from playing. I wondered if and how this would affect me.

Went to sleep around 10:30pm, which was on the early side of normal for us, but I was tired from the day and figured it would go well. It did not.

I sat there for hours, and every time I looked at the clock, one hour had passed. I tossed and turned. Nothing. I was so tired. Eventually it was 2:45am, and it was time to get up. I set an alarm, but didn’t even use it. SMH. The neat thing I came up with for my first leg was to run without my contacts. My vision isn’t good enough to drive without contacts to give you perspective, but not too shabby in my honest opinion. I was always scared if I was in an ultra and something happened to my contacts (I always pack an extra pair for my drop bag if temps are above freezing), and I would be without “seeing”. I thought, why not try to run without? I was running on familiar grounds I knew and passed over often enough to know where the cracks in the sidewalk were worse. I also was lazy and did not want to take them in and out between legs when I fully planned on napping between legs 1 and 2. I had prepped my clothes for the first two legs and would go based on temperature after that (though all bras and undies were prepped).

I slipped everything on and went downstairs to find my headlamp had yet again not charged overnight. At this point, I fully expected it to not have charged (long story with this particular headlap, and am still working with their customer service 9 months later). I grabbed my backup headlamp and lighted vest and pocket knife and headed out. BLIND, not really. It was so dark I couldn’t even really tell I wasn’t wearing anything to help my vision. Neat.

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I left up the bigger hill (shorter though) from my driveway which I decided to be the stopping and starting point each leg. Whew, this sucked sleep deprived. I was feeling the lack of sleep and lack of nervous adrenaline that usually keeps me afloat during normal early morning events (see Ironman which I also had to wake up around 3am and last until midnight, or Devil’s Lake Dances with Dirt which starts at 6am over an hour away from me). I drug along uphill then downhill which led me to the Military Ridge State Trail where I would do two smaller out and backs and head back home. The air was thicker and I breathed easy. My legs already felt heavy, as the fatigue of the past week showed its head immediately. There were no people, no cars. The trail was tricky with the hard divoted footprints and bike tire tracks carved into the dirt. I moved slowly along, slower than my A goal pace.

I had a secret goal that I wanted to hit around 5 hours, which I thought was possible given I kept around a 10 min/mi. I feel like this was asking a whole lot from my tired legs which had been dishing out much faster paces all week.

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There were technically two ways to record your legs. 1) Stop and start your watch each time, you would have an average pace for each leg, could start from different places (should you drive to another place) and not have your data look like a 3 year old found your sharpies in the junk draw and then found a nice clean slate called your basement wall…, you won’t have a “total time elapsed” unless you paused during a leg. However you would have to add up the distance, risk going over or under with ultra brain, and it would be much harder to have an “overall” pace (rest in peace pace calculator 😦 ). Of course this is all speaking from a data standpoint, you could just run with a timex.

2) You could pause your watch (this is for the Garmin series at least) which sends you to a screen that says “save, resume, resume later”. Pick resume later, and the watch preserves your run for “later”. You cannot start a new activity during that time. When you go back to record an activity, it goes straight to that last activity on pause until you hit go. This disadvantages of this method is that you can accidentally hit that start button and easily get bad additional data, you will have an overall elapsed time and moving time, and it will pick up where you left off. To explain that last point, if you started one run in a park near your house and paused and resumed near your actual house, the point where you stopped and where you started again, the data would show a straight as-the-crow-flies line from A to B. It doesn’t count the distance between, but it sure does look weird and questionable. The advantages are you will have a continuous overall pace, cumulative miles and time.

I chose to resume later to have that accumulation of data to keep me accountable. Since these were training miles, I didn’t care about the time adding up between my pauses. I did care about overall pace. One goal was to keep a consistent pace throughout the legs. I figure if the miles get done, it doesn’t matter what the overall elapsed time (which was 24 hours, but technically whatever it took you from hour 20 on if doing the challenge by the book). Having multiple legs/splits would also make me question which mile I was actually on, this ended up being really great to have after mile 15. I took a picture of the paused screen with the current data at that point each time I stopped each leg, which ended up being a very specific sidewalk tile line I came to find out.

I arrived back at home, drank my pre-prepped iced BCAAs (I love cold drinks), drank some milk and showered off avoiding my hair. The temps hovered around 57 for that run, so I didn’t sweat much. I slipped back under the bed covers and proceeded to freeze? I didn’t expect the cold to keep me awake. I was shivering and basically had a repeat of what I experienced before my 1st leg. Ugh. My next leg had me starting at 6am. Seemed logical, until I figure out it was only 3 hours and not 4?! I majored in math.

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So this is what 6am looks like?

I flowed off the side of the bed, the sky lighter out. The sun shone brightly through our windows as I gave it a dirty, sleep glare. I opted for a long sleeve shirt, capris (my legs got a little chilly in shorts at 57, and now it was only 50), a vest, and ear warmers. I have to say BOTH outfits were very appropriate and I was never overly sweaty or uncomfortable. Winning!!

The route this time was a giant loop. I started with the less steep, longer hill (which also adds some distance), and then down into my personal 5k out and back course, but this time I would continue on the highway to do a loop around. The local farmer on the road was out and about and waved. The highway was longer than I recalled. I passed by many many worms and I often thought about how the early bird gets the worm, and maybe there was some truth to that (though then I started counting birds and got to 6 and mentally gave up haha). I concluded there were way more worms than birds. It became a dodging game. I passed by another farm, and heard roosters. How iconic. I hate it, thanks. My morning hate really came out and I considered quitting the run. However, my logical brain popped in to say “hi, brain here, do you wanna start over and have to run in the morning AGAIN?” No. I continued on.

I watched all the red-wing black birds cautiously hoping it wasn’t their nesting season yet. I know this highway stretch is notorious for attack from them. I narrowed my eyes, like they could even tell I was “watching them”. I made the turn onto my road leading to my neighborhood (again, this is #2 hill repeat up this massive thing), and agreed that if I could drop my pace before I got there I could walk at the fire hydrant 2/3s the way up.

This got my pace brain working. My paces from leg one were probably more sluggish for me because I was without contact and it was dark, and it was 10 minutes after I got up. But my paces were a bit better on leg 2.

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I got home and decided to try the nap thing ONE last time, and dedicated myself to getting the 3 hour break in (4 hours between legs, not 3). I rinsed off again, and cuddled in bed. I managed 1 hour of sleep. I felt a little better now. I got up and had a banana and orange cutie and a mountain dew. Caffeine and sugar seemed to be the ticket.

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10am was the next leg. I got dressed up in a loose shirt and shorts and headed out. It was so much warmer, now 67 degrees and sunny, with the wind starting to pick up. Rich decided to join me. I decided to make my route go downtown, but all left turns so we would not cross traffic. I went a bit faster! I was feeling much better and awake.

For those of you who do not know, I am not a morning person, and 95% of my alone runs are done after 10am. I was cranky and tired from the sleepless night. But the sun just kept shining regardless, and I couldn’t be mad at that.

We started by heading up the big hill and doing a left turn town loop. I thought this would mainly be downhill/flat for the 2nd half of the run, but I was mistaken. I also did not know how far this loop was but I could troubleshoot when I got closer to home again. Turning the corner to head out of downtown (which downtown is like 5 blocks long lol), we got hit with the wind. WHEW!! That is the exact type of wind that would make a biker think twice about going out for a ride. The push-back was incredible. And guess what? It was gradual uphill! I had not really run this section in this direction before, and it was a long stretch. After making the next left turn to head back towards home, I figured out I would be about 1 mile short, so I took a short out and back on Military Ridge I had done earlier that morning sans contacts. The path was so knotted with divots, I have no idea how I navigated it earlier. It was also much harder to keep up pace on. I headed back out to home and went back up my big hill keeping my fire hydrant plan.

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Does this shirt make me look fat? Yeah cause the wind is way up in there!

Back home, it was time to lunch it up. I didn’t shower after this run because I frankly wasn’t sweaty between the low humidity, the wind, and the pacing. I immediately started my foam rolling and recovery for the next 30 minutes after grabbing a banana. Lunch was leftover quinoa soup. In retrospect, this was a mistake. This was not a calorie dense food. Even if I ate a lot, I would not get in sufficient calories, this would catch up with me later. It was at this point I decided that I didn’t want to drag this challenge on longer if I didn’t have to. I’d made so many mistakes in timing so far, I felt as if there was no going back anyway. I decided to run every 3 hours for MY challenge.

I had made up a list of things to do between my legs. The first space between legs was dedicated to napping. The second was supposed to have been for plants, but ended up being napping. So between eating and recovery efforts, I repotted some plants I had been rooting, and refilled some water jugs, and cleaned my computer screens (something I have put off for YEARS). I watered my plants too. Trying to be productive between legs is a great idea, but difficult to execute because you might be a tired runner (who got like no sleep).

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The next leg I ended up doing at 1pm alone. I headed out in the warmest part of the day (who knew the wind had NOT maxed out yet?!), miles 15-20, and did a new downtown route. I knew this would be risky especially in the middle of the day with two major road crossings. But it WOULD be flatter, except I still had to climb the big hill back up to my house again. After climbing the longer, less steep hill (and an amazing choice for pacing and energy) I headed downtown and around to streets I had not ran, ever. I had calculated the distance on garmin beforehand to make sure I wasn’t going to be majorly off. What a beautiful day! I was cheery and had more energy, thanking lunch at this point. This route was uneventful with the exception of the two road crossings I had to stop briefly for. I cursed the hill I had to climb to get back to my house, and crossed the made-up stopping line at my house with my fastest average (I think) yet!

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Cue the recovery with boots and massager and foam roller for the next 30 minutes. I was still not overly sweaty so I remained in my clothes. I got pretty miffed at having to climb a hill every time I was within 0.3 miles of my house (which made me out of breath and tired despite having easy going miles beforehand), but there was no way to avoid it…literally no way. The other side to enter our housing area is still a very long hill and out of the way mile wise. My mileage ended up short of what garmin connect showed me before starting leg 4, and it continuously makes me wonder how much garmin is cutting me short of miles sometimes.

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I forgot to eat this time, if I recall correctly, I had a few cheez-its but it was not enough. I was more thirsty and had chapped lips. I prioritized that. Got full from drinking and did not get in real calories. Rich would go out with me again for miles 20-25. I decided to do this before dinner and decided during my downtown run, I really wanted McDonald’s (which never happens).

It was also between legs 4 and 5 I discovered a blossoming blister on the ball of my right foot (unsurprising because if a blister happens, it’s always there). I couldn’t even feel it, and it was still intact. I cleaned my foot and decided to switch socks and cover the blister in a blister pad and KT tape. As I walked around in-between legs, I noticed that the tape was all coming off. UGH. If this blister popped, it would surely hurt my pace and my mood. I had been switching shoes EVERY leg and was rotating through to make sure I didn’t get any hot spots, but didn’t matter, I should have also been switching socks as well and doing more prevention. I know personally if I go faster than a 10:00 min/mi pace, I am prone to extreme blistering for whatever reason. I’ve done 100k without a blister, but have done 5k and gotten huge ones. Shrugs shoulders.

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Gotta recover!

We left for miles 20-25, leg 5, up the less steep hill to get additional distance in. I had a plan to make this more residential in an area I had not been, but the initial garmin data said it would be hilly, and for some reason I did not believe it. I was tired immediately and my pace was noticeably slower. As we traversed down our big hill (I decided to come up another side of it coming back), I told Rich that the wind was a headwind both uphill AND downhill! I had no idea how or why, but it was true cause I made a joke last time I went down that the wind was blowing in my face downhill (against the wind!) so coming back, it would be a tailwind…and was wrong hah. We made it to a neighboring subdivision, and it was just hilly as garmin said. I made it to the end of where we would add on that 0.7ish miles and was defeated and said “Rich, let’s just do the out and back, I’ll figure out how to get more miles somewhere else”. I was tired of the wind and the hills there. I was scared my blister would pop. Mood bad. I just wanted this one to be over. I hit my slowest mile climbing up the other side of the big hill heading back, and did a small hilly loop to get the miles made up from cutting my loop short at the out and back.

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My pace 😥

I knew the end of this leg meant McDonald’s though. And I showered up like before and changed for the upcoming final leg which I knew would be cooler as the sun set. I felt more fresh and had all new clothes on. My blister was a big issue now. I ignored it and scarfed down two cheeseburgers and a fry with a half of a large Dr. Pepper. My spirit was renewed. I saved the last half of the soda for when I finished as a reward since we had no soda left in the whole house (major planning mistake).

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Back home, I had little time to get myself together and head out for the final leg. I had little hope I could hit 9 min/miles this round but if I did, even if it was 9:58 min/miles, I could break under 5 hours for the cumulative running time. I held myself to my 5 miles each leg, and not pausing for traffic or whatever if I felt bad or needed a break. I was lucky to not really need to and to really focus on a pace where I did not need a break for anything. I’ll preface this also with I am not a fast marathoner, and have never really trained to be fast at that distance, and really don’t want to as it’s not something I’m interested in (Boston Qualifying).

I spoke with my friend Megan about the paces. She cleared my head and gave me insight. I didn’t HAVE to climb my hill back to my house, it was the last leg, I could end where-ever I wanted! This was brilliant. I knew the course I had picked, heading down and out and back on Military Ridge, was mainly flat, but tough to run quick on compared to road, and coming back from that I would have a 1 mile climb. So the thought was to end the run a mile before getting home and walk the bonus 50k mile as a victory lap playing pokemon go haha. This would mean a longer out and back.

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This was on the way up the big hill from my house as well as the cover photo. I passed by each time and made me smile.

I lubed up my foot the best I could and wore my loosest shoes and tightest socks. The sun was setting and it occurred to me that we might not make it back before dark…I mean anything could happen, and we’d be stuck without a light. I trusted myself and headed out with Rich who agreed to do the final few miles with me. I was warned by a friend that the McDonald’s would backfire, but I had faith that it would not. I had one hour to digest.

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Turns out the late bird can get worms too. Last leg, worms are coming back!

The wind was still blowing. I tried my best heading up that big steep hill at first and pounded the down, and landed at my fastest mile of the day. The rest was a struggle to maintain hitting the limestone path for the long out and back. I had a dream to watch the sunset on this journey, but the timing didn’t work out and I had no time to just stop. This section of trail is very meaningful to me. This was the trail I would go to every day during my stress fracture recovery, run as far as I could given the time I was allowed to run/walk, trying to make it to the goal of the oasis. We did not get to the oasis during the out and back, based on distance and not time, but I saw it in the distance. I was reminded how far I had come since then and how far I still had to go even now. I remember getting that far in my first few runs. I remembered the hot sun from late summer as the last remaining sun set in the distance. How I miss the heat. I had switched to a long sleeve shirt by this point as temps dropped to the low 60s. I knew the temperatures would drop fast. The McDonald’s rumbled, but nothing came of it. I managed to suppress its call pretty well. It proved way more of an advantage than a hindrance. And it was a great conversation point with Rich.

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At the turn around I feared the wind would blow into my face all the way back, but as we turned, it did not. I pressed on switching my iPod to one of my go-to go-hard songs. 180 bpm, 5 minutes. I can always run that. I made it back to the streets, half a mile left, slight uphill and then down to the finish of 30 miles. I pushed, but the pace would not budge. All my miles during this leg were faster, if not by much even, than a majority of my miles that day. But my effort was now much higher. As I turned the familiar corner I had visited so many times that day, my watch clicked over to mile 30 and beeped. I ran a few seconds longer afraid it would not be 30 if I stopped right away.

 

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I beat my A goal by almost 3 minutes, and at the end of the 5th leg, I was only about 30 seconds ahead of that goal. Just wow. I worked. I sat down in some cool clover bed of the nearby park and opened pokemon go. The first pokemon I clicked on was a shiny pokemon I did not have in the game. How lovely! I chilled for a bit and then started my bonus mile and back up that darn hill for a final time and get that last half of the Dr. Pepper.

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I showered up for a final time and we headed back to McDonald’s for a sweet tea and a Sprite. The final Sprite felt SO very good. It was like magic.

My blister did not pop, and I am not sore, but am a little inflammed. I would have liked to follow up with a recovery run or walk, but the blister is fragile and I will allow it to heal a bit more before heading out again. Listening to my body right now is a great thing. I had some weird aches and pains in random little places while I did my recovery session between legs, but repeating those after it was done, they are all gone.

Speaking of which, doing this broken up is good and bad. I had time to think about this since I have done this kind of thing twice now and have done similar distances all at once, fatigued and not. It’s a very different experience than doing it all at once. When you break up all the runs, you get time to recover between and you can take care of yourself, eat, do whatever. You can go faster theoretically, and come out the other end not as sore. However, breaking it up over hours gets tiring, and could impinge on sleep. And it takes planning especially if you don’t want to do the same route every leg/split. When you do a distance all at once, it’s over, but it takes a larger toll as you are out there, and there is less chance to be consistent. Nutrition is tricky and you can’t as good of care as yourself.

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The weird sick Onix!! Shiny!!

Looking back, doing the distance all at one time is probably still my preferred method, as the one message I can’t stress enough over these two experiences is your day is so consumed with the run. That can be fine, but I am used to having more of my day available to doing things other than running or recovering/eating to run. Also people tend to dislike it when you pause your watch during a run. I hate the stigma behind it but I do understand it. I think if you are claiming a pace you got with pauses is disingenuous, but if you are doing it for training, it’s fine. I set a marathon PR technically using this method, but to me, it was a training run and one I took massive breaks in, so this “PR” doesn’t even register, though I hope it shows I have some potential in beating my marathon PR one day.

I think that’s something you can truly ask of yourself if you were doing the 5 miles or more at a time. Can you hold those paces for a longer effort? I love thinking of the possibilities. If you are stopping your watch and going like 50 feet and resting, I’m not sure this is productive training, though doing mile repeats or putting purpose in your intervals, I think the value will add up. This is how I got my half PR. So I’m setting out to test the waters this way again. I think this endurance challenge is great training. The only thing it’s not great about for a training run is showing what things are really like when your legs get overwhelmed late in a long race. And in Ultras there is really no way to replicate how you will feel at mile 70 of a 100 during training, but training for “shorter” distances like 50ks or under, you can possibly get there if you so choose to. I think there is a lot of valuable discussion to come from comparing the two methods. But for now, I’m just posting my musings about it. I do prefer these backs to backs rather than long runs for myself, and then going out for one long effort as checkpoints. Everyone is an individual though, and finding what works best for you is a great experiment. There were several people who reached the coveted 30 miles in 24 hours during this virtual run experience and a great challenge for anyone and can be done walking.

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It was my thought that this challenge would bring no value to me, but that’s the other thing to discuss right? You can go as slow or fast as you want because in the end it’s counted as 24 hours regardless if I finished early or on time. It’s a level playing field with a lot of creativity left up to you, the runner. My goal was around marathon pace and keep at it for the 30 miles. I knew if I went faster, I would start falling off in pace and risk injury possibly for my fatigued state. I knew I could go slower, but I don’t, because that would rid the challenge part of this for me specifically. It doesn’t matter what distance we are talking about, 1 mile or 5 miles or 20 or 30 miles, you will have a pace. You probably have a 5k time, and maybe you’ve tried to beat it, and maybe that’s hard, but if you walked a 5k you would not have the same experience as going balls to the walls bat crazy pace. They are two different experiences within the same distance covered. I’ve never truly raced a 50k, so I don’t have a base for that particular distance, but speaking from the close cousin the marathon, I’ve taken them super easy and I’ve tried to PR. Two experiences. Usually the slower ones are more enjoyable from a personal perspective, but I do love a good challenge to fight myself over pace in a race. I see value in both.

I really thought that this would not be challenging enough since I can do 30 miles all at once, but doing it at a faster paced then I might otherwise was actually a great learning tool. But that’s the thing, you can make something as challenging as you want! Go hard, go fast, until you fizzle out on the 2nd leg, or maybe you never do and you find out more about yourself either way! Start slow, speed up. Start and stay steady like I did. Do anything you want. There’s no way to compare you experience to anyone else in this kind of environment. And that’s kind of the beauty of it. Maybe I will try a 12 hour challenge soon for 30 miles? Maybe span it over two days? It makes for great training and I have some tough things to train for right now, races or not.

Choosing a time. This is a big personal choice. My best advice is are you a morning person or night owl? My biggest mistake was probably starting too early for myself. I’d say starting 1-3 hours earlier than you’d normally run is probably wise, but for me that was on average 7 hours earlier and was just overwhelming. I would have had an easier time running into the night, but on the other hand, I was able to enjoy more sun and heat by having a majority of my legs land in the hottest part of the day. Also take weather and temperature into consideration, since you can start when you want (technically, I know busy moms and work interfere with this kind of decision). People tend to not like the heat, so if you have a hard time running in the heat, make it so you don’t land later runs in the heat…cause usually later runs are harder and harder to do and manage with or without weather. Draw up some potential plans, see what you like best. I know I don’t sleep well before events, and I do not sleep well after an event (the 2nd night is mmmm sweet though). What do you work well with?

Find stuff to do before you start to do between your legs. Get creative with your legs by finding new routes or challenging yourself to beat your own times on the same route. Wear fun clothes (wash ALL your clothes before starting, again, key tip). Rotate through shoes if you have the option. Sweat builds up on our shoes after time. The whole point of this challenge was to be alone together and have fun. Share what you do, explain what you are doing. Make it a goal to find a certain object on every run, observe more around you. And eat. Definitely eat.

Recover as you would any long distance. Get out and walk about the day after. Get those feet up and relax, take a bath, drink water and replenish yourself. Take care of yourselves out there!

 

Revenge on Frozen Gnome with the Solo IAT 50k

The Frozen Gnome 50k DNF and the Solo 50k on the Ice Age Trail Revenge

January 11, 2020 – Crystal Lake, Illinois

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You wouldn’t think Illinois was hilly, but somehow, someway, they found some in a seemingly small park or two with many trails and loops. That’s part of the magic with Ornery Mule Racing events. Every trail gem will be found and showcased. The caveat of this race was that it takes place in the middle of January in the upper Midwest winter. There is a 10k and 50k option on a 10k looped course with one main aid stations at the start of each loop…and boy was it an aid station. The course cut off was 8.5 hours on a very hilly course for the 50k.

I ended up signing up for it as a training race and a way to better force myself to figure out winter running especially with my cold urticaria (allergy to the cold). Everything regarding this has been so complicated. But it seemed race day temps weren’t going to be too bad. 32 degree start, with winds almost matching the temps.

The biggest unknown with the forecast was if it was going to rain. Rain around freezing temps is more complicated than snow, as rain will soak through as it takes a long while before snow will do the same. Luckily it held off, but it did pour on course beforehand so the trails would be muddy for sure. Rich and I stayed the night with a friend only a few miles from the event. Got up, headed out, and got a nice parking space, which there seemed to be plenty of. I hung out with friendo Megan who was out for the 10k, as were most of my friends at the race, and we had donuts. I spent time in the car getting all my gear on, which included my baselayer, a sweatshirt, and my light waterproof Altra Wasatch jacket. I borrow a pair of baselayer leggings from Megan, and topped them off with another wind layer tight and wool skirt. I was all jacked up in layers. Oh did I mention the buff for my neck too and winter beanie? I was a hot mess of random collected stuff, and nothing matched. Very unlike me, but I wasn’t about to DNF due to clothing choices just because I wanted to be cute.

Race started shortly after dawn (after 7am). I met a few trail sisters and friends near the start, making it really feel like a reunion. Though I was not as prepared to run 31 miles that day, I toed the starting line…training run, right. I had a plan based on effort, and stuck with it. The first loop, I stayed with Megan for a while, but her 10k effort was faster than where I needed to be to sustain for 5 loops.

The course started in a park, and quickly swung out into the trails of the park, passing by a lake/pond thing and we hit some icy bridges. I had enough footing to trot across, but without spikes, it was slower going. The course rose up some stairs and continued on some open prairie trails. I was still in more a conga line, and mostly behind a lot of slower people until the end of loop 1. After the prairie, we entered the woods and the trail rolled along…something I need to work at being better at physically. There was some mud along this path, got worse after each pass. Very slick footing that people lost the battle with on the downhills.

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About half way through the loop, I came upon this really muddy section that was very akin to what I had to go through at Rocky Raccoon several times for several several miles.

I knew tip toeing around it would do no good, and time would be lost by doing so, like I was seeing everyone doing. It’s best to not make trails wider than they are anyway by “going around”. So with power and speed, I pressed straight through. Good tip, the faster you go, the less time it takes for the mud water to enter your shoes and the less that gets in them overall. There were 5 loops, so this would happen again regardless.

The course rose more up for a smaller loop around some neat trees and a bit more mud. The course was tacky but with the falling snow (now), the ground was beginning to freeze…but not enough to make a difference. Having the ground freeze would have been more useful in my honest opinion.

The last parts of the course had some really steep inclines, and I got to power hike them with my skill, which was nice to have that speed there on others. Coming down was easy, but I came to one spot that was pretty icy.

82386835_2598617710192308_4369358324295008256_o I did not take note at that time where it was. There were spots between the tree to see how far up you were though. Butt Slide Hill, one usual feature of this winter race, was something to look forward to. I was indeed curious as to how slidey this hill was for me. There was the rope there, but no snow to slide on. In fact, the mud wasn’t even an issue there either! I ran straight down and it was a wheeeeee moment.

The rest of the course wound through the woods up and down and around. Some neat tree fungi clung to their bark. I fought the urge to take pictures. Coming into the finish area, it was nasty. Puddles abound, and the finish line was deep with water. The cold seeped in and I stepped to the side and to the aid station to refill. I was only carrying 1L of water, and I went through it all. Topped it off and had a bunch of soda and took off again. The second loop started out much better being able to pace myself without the crowds from the first time around.

82054260_2598622106858535_7542456557439549440_oI scooted around. Snow was lightly covering the trails so you could see the most recent footsteps. Things were going swimmingly and paces were great overall for my time goals. I was staying warm, although had some mental complaints about the head my head was giving off, and opted to fully unzip my jacket. Around mile 10.6, I saw a volunteer taping off part of the trail I guess maybe people had gotten lost on or wasn’t marked well enough. Not watching my footing taking a sharp left turn on the trail, my left foot slipped on the icy mud forward and my right leg went backwards causing me to split and since it was downhill, I sat on that backwards leg. OUCH.

The volunteer came over to me to help me get up but I literally had to sit there for a bit and really rearrange myself; take my leg out from under me, as my groin and hip really pulled the tendons and muscles to my right knee which hurt the worse immediately. Left leg seemed unaffected other than the achy knee pain I’d been suffering since Freight Train in mid-December (I had to remind myself it had not even been a month since finishing that). With great amounts of help from said volunteer, it took 3 minutes to get on my feet (my garmin had stopped from the fall, hands took some damaged but it was superficial). I hurt, and it wasn’t good. I was not even sure I could make it back to the finish…about a 2 mile journey. I still wanted to try and walk it off, so I meandered down the hill, limping pretty badly. In the back of my head I knew it was over. This race wasn’t worth further damage.

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I eventually made it back to the start, and sent Rich off for my trekking poles (I had brought in case the mud was really bad). I decided on one more loop, that maybe somehow I could still finish this, maybe the pain would just dissipate enough that I could pull it off. My 11-12 min/mi became 17-20 min/mi. I couldn’t even power hike. I forced my weight onto my right pole for support. The whole loop, I said goodbye to all the features I had gotten to know along the way, and took pictures on this loop. I knew that fall had been a nail in the coffin for my 2nd ever DNF. Even if I had forced my body to continue another 2 loops after I hit the finish line again, I would not make the cut off. There was no longer any point to be on course. The ground was getting better with every passing mile though, and wish I could have stayed longer. I made it 3 loops total of the 5, making it 18.6 miles, 8 miles on the busted side, which happened to really be an upset hip. It’s hard to tell when you are on course if the injury you got will get worse progressively or if you can push through it. I felt the entire time I had really overstretched or overextended the muscles there. I might have pulled something, I have no idea. But I have goals this year in 2020 and this wasn’t worth sacrificing those goals, not now.

At the end, I wanted to cry, I knew it was over long before I crossed that line for the final time. A volunteer greeted me with a medal from a previous years’ 10k. I refused it the best I could. I did not do what I had come to do and did not deserve anything. He still gave it to me, and a promptly took it off and gave it to Rich. This is when I truly grasped how amazing the aid station and start/finish line really was.

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There was a heated tent on the side, had hot coco and other drinks, many benches to sit on and heated fans blowing hot air around. It was purely amazing. I saw everything at the aid station. They had all the basis covered for food and drink there. Nothing less from Ornery Mule. I shouldn’t have sat for so long, it was a long few miles to drive back and getting to the car even after I was done for the day. I was freezing soon after.

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I decided to take a designated break from every physical activity after that for at least 3 days. Knee pain almost disappeared entirely, and now seems like a thing of the weird past. I got up some nice snow miles in the fresh snow, but then Wisconsin decided to stop snowing yet stay near freezing temps. I spent two weeks planning out how I was going to make up this 50k. I decided on a route based on the Ice Age Trail so I would have less chance of getting lost, and made it one-way to motivate me and to see more of the trail in one go.

I decided on starting this winter ultra trip half way through the Whitewater Lake Segment, heading north through the Blackhawk Segment, then crossing into the Blue Spring Lake Segment, to the Stony Ridge Segment, to the Eagle Segment, and on to the Scuppernong Segment for a final hurrah. It sounds very simple, follow the yellow blazes. But I’ve never been there on those trails before. I have no idea what the trails looked like, winterized or not. I had a high chance of getting lost or something going wrong. Megan wanted to help out, so we devised a plan where she would car hop to specific meeting locations along the trail where it would cross a road. She sometimes would get out and head backwards towards me on the trail to meet me, and we’d both run back to the van, then she would go to the next meeting location and so on.

Planning on a Friday two weeks out from Gnome, things collapsed before they started. Andrea was going to let me stay the night at her place and we would take my car to the finish to drop it off, and then her take me down to the start, but she had to get in a 20 miler, and I didn’t want to interfere with that plan. Megan had curling, and I didn’t want her to be pressed for time either. So I delayed it for a week. The snow that fell that week stayed put through the whole next week, as we went through minor melting and re-freezing day/night cycles, temperatures on fluctuating between 25 and 34, with very overcast skies for days on end. I was kind of worried about the unknown trail conditions, and how traveled on or not they were since the snows.

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So January 30th, I headed out to Delafield where I would shop for 1.5 hours to cure off some of my “race” anxiety. What fun it was. Then out to Andrea’s. I had a rough nights sleep there, remembering not sleeping and looking at the clock thinking it was 11pm and it was 1am. That’s about how my nights go when I’m anxious. I naturally woke again and again, and finally woke “woke” up around 5:30am, we were to leave the house at 6am to make it to the start at 7am and start. I rose to my phone not being completely charged (yup, that’s what I forgot this time, a phone charger), and a notification from my weather app saying there was freezing fog and slick spots. I didn’t really pay mind to it until I was following Andrea to Scupp in my car and saw her run a stop sign for no reason until I tried to stop and I also ran said stop sign. Speed was quickly adjusted for.

We both made it, parked my car after filling out a state annual park pass (oops), and headed for the start on Esterly Road on the Whitewater segment. Megan messaged me telling me about the ice. Yeah, we knew. We all arrived safe at the meeting lot, snow covered and icy. We were late due to the extra caution, but what’s 15 minutes?

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It was about 28 degrees and overcast, just like it had been for over a week already. Nothing changed. No real wind to worry about. We took some pictures, and I pushed off into the woods.

Andrea yells at me from behind “follow the yellow!”

I was alone. The trail was pretty nice! As soon as my friends were out of sight and I took a left onto the Ice Age Trail (IAT), the trail became not nice hahaha. It was immediately a narrow, one foot in front of the other path, covered in ice from where they path had been beaten down. Some sections would crop up that were less icy, and had some more snow cover, but for the most part, it was hard to get traction or footing to push off. So I shuffled along quickly realizing within minutes that my legs were pretty swollen from sitting all day the previous day (should have had the shake out bike or something low key). Once the swelling feeling subsided, I was bombarded with the “let’s fall asleep” foot, except this time it happened to be BOTH feet taking turns! I stopped periodically when I started to get the pins and needles feeling to remove my foot slightly from the shoe and take whatever pressure from it off. This cycle continued for 2.5 miles.

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Megan had run her van ahead and met me coming back about 1.75 miles from her parking spot on the trail. She told me about the hills and such, but the main thing on my mind was the trail conditions. I hardly had time to think of the gain or hills or whatever. My sole focus was being upright the whole time and not taking any risks that would put me in danger. My shuffling had put me at a 16 min/mi almost right off the bat. This depressed me, and I didn’t know it was going to get worse.

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The very narrow path.

We got back to the van, and dropped my jacket off and headed back out quickly. The next section was much of the same narrow icy trail, and I started thinking to myself:

Well I didn’t shave my legs for this, so that’s good.

This is really the Ice trail, not the Ice Age Trail.

My ankles will be made of steel for the rest of the year!

How did Annie NOT get lost?!

I wonder if I’ll PR all these Kettle sections on Strava?

What are all these black dots? Soot, I’m sure. (They were actually bugs.)

Overall the blackhawk segment was pretty well traveled. And I had no right to complain about the ice. I would have borrowed spikes, but there just weren’t long enough sections in my mind to justify using something new to me so early on. Looking back, they would have increased my pace by a fair bit. Because it was well traveled, I did not have to worry about breaking trail. Although it was difficult footing, I could manage without falling. The snow sections were more difficult since the divots in the snow were deep and partially frozen over from the constant melting/refreezing cycle.

I would spend my time guessing if the foot size was male or female, or what shoes they wore. At some point I swear I ran into cowboy boot, or pointy high heel, shoes prints.

Pretty soon I made it to Young road (or thereabouts), I met up with Megan and grabbed an oatmeal cream pie, consuming Sprite every chance we met (including the first time which was all I took in). I had plenty of what Megan calls “onboard” nutrition in the form of liquid gels (great for winter!).

Speaking of packs, I decided to weigh my pack. It was just under 8lbs without the nutrition, so I’m sure it ended up being around 8lbs for the run. I did this on purpose because I knew I would have to carry more for the Georgia Death Race in March, including the 1.5lb railroad spike. But I had nutrition, extra water, a mylar blanket for safety, my phone, ipod, and spike in my pack. I admit, it’s heavy.

I headed out and up from there. I believe the next stop would be horse camp. I went through a forest of pines, a LOT of the same age pines. Some had red paint slash marks on them. I was confused about why they had them on them. 83823431_2639825506071528_6043692401984274432_oThe terrain got worse, as everything in the forested pine section had melted slight and frozen completely over creating mini foot hills that you couldn’t get a good hold on and my feet were sliding out from me every which way. Though no snow, so no depth to the course, it was hard to run on. I found a broken pine branch and put it in my hair (about the half marathon mark now), I remarked how slow I was). I ended up carrying it along for a lot more miles. Some of the end of the trail was snowshoed. Although this didn’t make it easier by much, the trail was a bit wider in places, but inconsistently so.

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Coming out at horse camp, I knew I needed something more on my back where my pack was. I asked Megan to Vaseline my back up. She was on it. I had some hot coco here she had brought and more Sprite. Most sections between where I would meet Megan would now be less than 4 miles.

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Not so runnable, but fluffier snow. I’ll take it.

I was pretty stoked about this. The next section was snowier, and was a little more manageable, but some deeper snow had my ankles getting really unhappy, and my wet feet were taking a beating with the shifting snow underfoot. I had to slow down if I was going to keep going for twice the number of miles I was at. I reluctantly took it slower and power hiked a bit more to save my feet and ankles, following frozen footsteps that had long come before me in the snow. I tell you, following other people’s gait and stride length is not something I recommend ever.

 

 

 

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Cool fungus tree.

Megan ran back to meet me again (trying to get her monthly mileage goal on the last day of the month!), and we took a quick detour to her car at Emma Carlin. It was right around here somewhere I got to one confusing intersection. I opened up my phone and looked to see which direction to continue on. I was about to choose wrong. Straight or right? Both were well traveled (as the previous segment had not been as well traveled). Right was the correct choice.

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Continuing on, the trail dumped out into my first real long prairie section. The footing was especially hard and deep here, that my running dropped to a fast shuffle, picking my potholes to try and dig into, when all of a sudden the trail opened up! For whatever reason, the trail became completely runnable along with some shallow bulldozer tracks. The wind also picked up in this section. But I was running! This was the first time I could actually sustain a pace and only turn my ankles every so often instead of every other step. I had two good miles when my watch beeped….what?!

 

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Last picture before my phone died.

I saw it display a facebook notification. I most certainly did not turn bluetooth on, because that would drain my batteries, both phone and watch. My screen would not display, turn on, or do anything. I also noticed my flashlight on! What in the world? I tried every button. I eventually managed (in like 3 minutes) to hard reset the phone on my way up some random hill after this nice runnable prairie. 5% battery?! I couldn’t do anything. My battery went from 40-some % to 5% in seconds. I guessed it was the cold and the wind took whatever heat I was giving it away. I hurried towards whatever road Megan was going to be waiting at. I knew people would freak out if my strava beacon stopped tracking. After some GREAT running miles around mile 17-20 (great as in compared to anything else on trail that day), I reached Megan and gave her the scoop. She would try to charge my phone and get word out to people I did not die.

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The snowmen on the trails kept me company.

I at some point had taken my first gel, being able to fill up on tons of soda and hot coco for a while and often enough. This gel was SIS lemon-lime, I did not prefer the flavor, but the texture was amazing for the temperatures, and still liquid. Will have to remember this if it gets cold. I kept an extra cream pie in my pocket to get mushy and warm, this also worked well. Though I knew I was irritated with the course conditions when the crinkling of the simple plastic bag it came it got on my last nerve.

Mile 19 was my fastest, sub 13 minute mile!! I know that sounds very slow, but given course conditions I’m going to praise it. Mile 20 was over 13 minutes but I also had stopped to get aid, so that’s a huge win. The Stony Ridge Segment was FABULOUS, great running, a few hills that kept you moving, but the trail was plowed? Sledded on? I wasn’t sure but there was more the two feet width to the trail and it was fairly level even with the previous foot steps in it. I was very thankful. The next stop would be Wilton Road. I felt bad leaving my phone with Megan, but it was a useless paper weight unless it could communicate with the outside world. She would try and charge it while I ran the next short segment.

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Charles the Possom.

The trail got a bit tougher the closer I got to Wilton Road, the aid station I ran in a local North Face Race in September (it was so warm then!). I reached the famed spot and Megan informed me that she couldn’t charge it with her cables, and needed to run to my car (now were we closing in on where it was parked) to get my cable. I told her that was fine. I was doing mostly ok with less aid that I planned up to that point, so what was 3 more miles?

I headed out into the prairie north of Wilton Road. It didn’t look like anyone had really been there since the snow. I realized maybe ONE person had been out this way since the snow 1-1.5 weeks ago. Being exposed to the sky, it was really hard packed on top, the kind of snow you step on and are on top of for a split second before sinking deep in the snow below the surface. The person who had been there had clearly been hiking or walking because the steps were not very far apart, too far for MY walking/hiking, and too short for running. This was really awkward, so I started breaking trail instead, but the thickness of the ice layer on top of the snow was making moving VERY difficult, and I slowed tremendously. The snow here was calf deep, as most of the other places where I had to be in snow was only ankle deep or a little more or less. Each step was extremely draining, having to pull my leg forcibly upward, and while I tried to step where they had been a person sometimes, the edges of the hole would catch the wrong way and I would stumble. Keeping upright was being made difficult with every step. This section was so soul sucking, I wanted to cry. There was no way out, and with the snow melting in my shoes and refreshing the skin of my feet with freezing water (melted snow) every step of the way, I was losing body heat fast.

It didn’t take 10 minutes for me to super chill. I went from good to bad that fast, and I was not moving very fast (though as fast as I personally could have). I tried to start running a bit to get my blood flowing faster and get feeling back to my feet, but the snow dragged me backwards and pulled at my knees and hips. If this had been fresh snow, it would have been much easier to deal with and faster to run in. When you have fresh snow, or snow that isn’t as melty/frozen, you can pull your legs through the snow with little/less resistance. Frozen snow, you have to pick up your feet all the way up and out, you can’t shuffle or drag your way through it. I wasted a ton of energy. It was a great and fun challenge up to here, mile 22. But if I did not keep moving, I would not make it. This stretch lasted almost 3 miles until I made it near highway 67, a large parking lot.

A little before making it to the parking lot, all of a sudden, the well trodden trails returned instantly, like there was a designated “thou shall not pass” sign that was invisible to me that I crossed paths with. The running was not ideal, but it was a blessing to not be stuck in iced snow fields exposed to the wind. I was back in the forest too, a place I had run before! I had run this section with Andrea two years prior for a 15 mile run. I was close. My spirits lifted as I met the only human I encountered thus far. He was a nice hiker, I stopped for quick conversation and asked how he was doing. He was telling me about how he cleared this nearby tree from blocking the path completely “just the other day!” Always be kind, and it lifts you up. I told him I came from Whitewater, he said “I know where that is!” I did it today I proclaimed on my way up the hill. “Oh really? That’s pretty far, I hope you have a good rest of your day.” He was so nice! I milled uphill away from him and saw more snow bugs. I had entered known territory.

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Upon reaching the parking lot to meet Megan, she gave me a 60% charged phone as I started strava again. I took in a can of goodies and hot coco this time. I had filled up water at Wilton, and decided no more water (it was really heavy and I was done feeling extra heavy). I kept worrying about Megan getting in and out of these icy parking lots, but she kept magically doing it like clockwork. I headed out towards the Scuppernong trails.

It became very hilly, but my calories I took in were doing work. I hit 25-26 miles. Slower than I wanted, but the trail were most ideal here compared to what had been. There was that sledding width groomed-ness about this trail. Like someone had taken a kids sled and drug it along the trails making a perfectly person-wide trail that was flat snow and runnable. I have no clue what was going on but I accepted. Quickly came across a wild Megan in a nearby prairie, she had made it back to me again, coatless this time!83797372_2639829856071093_5950830415861252096_o We took a quick pic at a “Springs” sign, and headed back into the wood to the place my car was parked at ZZ. When we arrived, Andrea was pulling her SUV up from her family arrangement she had, kids in tow. Cheering roared from the back seats. They parked and we rounded the corner, with smiles on our faces. I stocked up on some calories at the van, and was given a lucky dollar from one of Andrea’s kids. I tell ya, I find money in the ultras I do well at. This one was worth a lot I guess! (Though I found over $2 in pennies after cloudsplitter 100.)

Megan and I received a rose, and before we got too cold standing there, we hugged our goodbyes and headed off for the final 4 miles. Scupp was an icy covered trail, but SUPER wide, and some of it (we were on the orange loop for what that is worth to those who know the area, I do not lol), was run over by some tractor or something making two paths for each of us to run in. We weren’t fast (I should say just me), but we were running. I hit a wall at mile 29 when I realized I needed something. I had gels but I also only had 2 miles left. I decided to save my gels for next time. Hill after hill came, but mostly in the first 2 miles of this loop. I should mention that I’m so used to opening up on the downhills, but absolutely could NOT at any point during this run because of the ice (traction) or because of the uneven frozen divots in the snow created by other people that would oftentimes turn my ankle. I was snow blind a majority of the day, it was very hard to see any texture in the snow, which lead to more ankle turning and catching myself several times a minute. My hips were so tired.

Though I was fading from nutrition, we came down the final hill back towards where I was parked and hit a decent mile. Could I have kept going? Sure. But why? I was done. I stopped my watched ceremoniously between two trees before reaching the pavement. Seemed like a finish line to me!

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We spied the group running the John Dick 50k the next morning doing set up in the building nearby. I quickly got my car key, grabbed all my stuff to change into and was instantly in the bathrooms to change completely before I froze. I was walking pretty fine. I continue to too. We sat there for a bit at the van having a hot coco before taking off back home. It was really nice, and would definitely do it again not in the winter. I would also dig being the supporter too, as Megan yo-yoing back and forth with me was very entertaining. When would she show up? Who would spot each other first?! It was a great thing to look forward to.

I state what I am happy with:

– I did not get lost once. I had a few questionable spots, but the blazes were really often and clearly marked (maybe not great in the night time though).

– Despite having a heavy pack, I was glad I got the significant amount of practice in with it.

– I managed my feet and nutrition very well. My layers were great and have finally nailed how to handle the upper 20s and low 30s for running with my cold sensitivities.

– Negative splitting the 50k. My second half was faster, as my pace average was in the 17 minute range coming in half way. I know this was mainly due to improving trail conditions (sans that prairie section after Wilton road), but it’s still harder to move faster the further you are into ANY run.

What I am not happy with:

– Judging myself for my pace and effort and layers and comparing them to others when I should not be. I am not running under the same body conditions as others out there and not accepting myself that it IS harder for me to do these things under 40 degrees. On the other hand, I excel when it’s hotter. I have to always remind myself of this.

– Judging my pace. My original goal was in the 7 hour range, but that quickly changed once the trail conditions were more known, and it was not possible. I ended up for B goal which was getting under the Frozen Gnome cut off to “earn” my finish. I know it’s not the same course, but I felt like I needed to do it. I am also constantly comparing my paces to others who have done 50ks recently, even if they had it easier.

– I’m not happy with the trail conditions obviously, but that cannot be helped, just like race day, you can’t control how conditions are, but I did have some control of when I did this. It could have been more ideal for sure, but it also could have been the -28 degrees it was this exact time last year. Take everything with a grain of salt.

What I learned:

– Freezing fog isn’t bad for running, but is not great for driving.

– Winter ultras can go from 100 to 0 very quickly, and become a dangerous situation. I am glad I had others there for my own accountability, but also for safety (first!).

– Never underestimate any 50k (this is always a lesson learned).

– No one cares what your pace is, especially on some training run.

– I have not learned about these snow bugs. Someone educate me.

Why do this? I have done one ultra distance a month since Cloudsplitter in October, so why break the streak?? Its good training for time on feet which is harder for me to get in the winter. I had 4 specific training runs before this 50k attempt. The first two were 9 and 10 miles back to back days, where I feel like I had overdressed, and the pace went well, and were in the fresh snow. The last two were shorter, under 6 miles, but they took everything out of me, and I think it was because I did not use enough layers to stay warm enough, although I was not cold during the run. I also learned if I end up breathing too hard in effort/pace, my throat started to narrow and it becomes harder to breath. I REALLY had to watch that, and learned that on a recent speed workout (which I had never really done when it was cold before due to excess snow covering the ground).

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I have no idea what I will do for February, and I have GDR in March. Everything is really leading up to that, and time on feet and climbing to me are most important for that. After GDR it is green on full time training for Kettle Moraine 100k and after that Badger 100. So many big goals and dreams of mine and I’m staying in Wisconsin for them. I hope again you enjoy this marathon of race reports. I’ll be back in the future with lessons I’ve learned in a blog report soon.

These may be inaccurate but, final stats:

31.1 miles traveled

3,156 gain (and very close to loss as well)

8:25:21 time elapsed

7:48 moving time

16:15 average pace

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Only Known Time – Military Ridge Trail

Military Ridge OKT/FKT

Start date: June 6, 2019; 7:34am; Dodgeville, Wisconsin

Finish date: June 6, 2019; 9 hours and 21 minutes and 17 seconds later; Fitchburg, Wisconsin

Total miles: 40.85 miles traveled

Type: Unsupported female

MRT

This was my first attempt at an FKT, or Fastest Known Time, also OKT, or Only Known Time. The Military Ridge Trail, according to https://fastestknowntime.com/, had no prior recorded times by male, female, or otherwise. Since I lived near the eastern part of the trail, I was familiar with a few miles of the 40sih long stretch of non-technical rail trail.

According to the website, this is the description of the trail:
The 40-mile Military Ridge State Trail, in Iowa and Dane counties, connects Dodgeville and Madison by way of an 1855 military route between Verona and Dodgeville. The trail runs along the southern borders of Governor Dodge and Blue Mound state parks passing by agricultural lands, woods, wetlands and prairies. There are several observation platforms adjacent to the trail for viewing wildlife and other natural features. In Ridgeway, the trail passes by a historic railroad depot.”

 

For the map I used, please follow this link: https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/name/militaryridge/pdfs/militaryridgemap.pdf

Based on this map and information, I decided to start in Dodgeville and head east along the trail. The website states an address for the trail, but this is incorrect. The park called Wilson Park is not the location of the start of the trail. That park is close, but about a mile away from the trail itself. There were a few options of where the trail started. One was across a busy highway, but no trail existed there, but a building and a parking lot. This location didn’t make sense. Across the street was a sign saying “Military Ridge State Park Trail, Parking lot ¼ mile; Access from Hwy YZ”, but a trail existed here made of the same substance much of the trail consisted of. The third option was starting at the Military Ridge Parking lot, located further away from the website suggested address. I decided on the actual sign, as this was the only real sign near the trail. The trail looked as if it began at this sign, with the highway directly next to it, and nothing across the street looking like any trail (just a parking lot for a business there as I mentioned). If you also go by the map above, the start of the trail in Dodgeville also stops before crossing the Highway.

The end point, which I had visited several times by foot and bike, located in Fitchburg, Wisconsin, I decided to be the bridge that crosses over a busy highway called Highway PD, or McKee road. The pedestrian bridge is a highly recognized bridge from the road and trail. About a mile east of this bridge is a 5-way bike path intersection that would lead to other trails. However, based on the website map (see map link above), the trail seems to end at this street, McKee. I would run to the sign that marks the trail there at the bridge before crossing the bridge. There is no parking at this location, as also indicated by the website.

I decided to do this unsupported, as I thought there would be plenty of water and the weather would be good enough to get through rationing water throughout between towns. There are a few corrections I will make to the map/website as I go deeper into what went on on June 6th, 2019. Unsupported means I must carry everything from start to finish with the exception of water. I started out with a hydration pack (2L), full of V8 fruit juice until I ran out. I had honey stinger chews, marshmallow bunnies from Easter, an assortment of gels, one peach fruit cup, and mints for nutrition. I also carried a pack of tailwind (trail size), salt chews in a plastic baggie, sunscreen in the form of a small deodorant stick, two tech tubes, sunglasses, 2toms antichafe roll on, my phone, and used a Garmin 935 (GPS only mode to conserve battery). All this weighed quite a bit and slowed me down a little.

So let me begin.

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Actual starting location.

I began in the morning as my husband Rich drove me out to Dodgeville from Verona (where we live). We arrived at the address mentioned on the site only to find out that the trail was nowhere to be found. A local man was going on his morning walk and we asked him where the trail was from there. He said it was quite a bit aways and described where it was, around Highway YZ. Not being from that precise area, we didn’t know where it was. I looked it up on google maps and we got back in the car and drove over. We parking in a veterinarian lot across the street and I headed over to the trail sign. Upon inspection, I decided this was the best starting point, although no parking lot was that close visually. The sign felt the most official and most logical. Trying to start garmin and strava at the same time was a little complicated and glad I had Garmin as a backup, more on that later. I did a few second test, and sent off my info and posted links as I began my trip down Military Ridge Trail (MRT).

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Address on Website. Incorrect.

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So much fog.

The parking lot was indeed ¼ mile away on the left. The trail was moist, we have had a LOT of rain lately and few days of sun and not many days over 70 degrees. This week had been an exception with the temperatures at least. The trail was mostly double track here, as you could fit two persons across easily. The mossy and dirt ground was slippery to say the least. The fog was really dense at the start, 7:34am. It felt like the east coast for sure. The distance from Dodgeville to the next town (Ridgeway) was nearly 10 miles. I knew this going in I would have to conserve water (which was currently V8 juice). I preferred this direction knowing this was going to be the longest section I’d have without water. I would later be proven wrong. I also chose this direction because it was net downhill. I am not sure this mattered at all since I got a total elevation gain of about 600 feet in 40 miles, and ~850 loss. Not a big deal either way. If I did this again, I might go the other direction, later on that.

The biggest thing to note were the massive MASSIVE amounts of gnats and bugs. No bug spray would have helped. There were just clouds of bugs suspended in the air as I passed through them, they stuck to my very sweaty skin. I checked the weather on my phone, 100% humidity (no doubt with the looming fog), upper 60s this early in the morning! I kept to a 0.25 mile walk, then running the rest of the mile, to prevent burn out on such a flat trail. My pace stayed steady, but my arms were waving around like mad. If I got my heart rate up, I’d breathe harder, with my mouth open. The bugs were so bad, I could not have my mouth open to breathe. This was truly burdensome.

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Other than the saturated air, and fog, which I had hoped by 10am the sun would have burned off some of that (did not), and bugs, the first 9 miles went smoothly, although footing was difficult at times. I suspect this part of the trail is not traveled much, as access to the trail is extremely limited the first 9 miles (no road or other trail access) despite following main roads the entire distance. I would passed entrances to people’s driveways, but that’s about it. The bright side to the adverse conditions was I would not have to worry about sun exposure for a while. Speaking of that, I was expecting the trail to be mostly exposed. This section was mostly definitely tree covered for the most part, which trapped the moisture even more and felt like I was swimming rather than running.

For the bugs, they stuck to my bare shoulders and back, and I would wipe them clean and aggressively every ½ mile or so (or less). I was afraid I was wiping off my sunscreen I had applied and also my antichafe. I wiped my chest with my hands every mile, and while swatting the swarm clouds, my hand would hit 2-3 bugs per arm swipe. It was insane and I wanted to quit because it dominated my experience. I was kind of lucky I was sweating so much because even though the bugs probably stuck to my skin worse because of that, I was able to wipe them off quickly because of the amount of sweat. Somewhere around mile 4, I had to apply some A&D I was carrying with me to my underarms, already feeling where I had chafed before. Ugh. At least I had it with me! I never needed to reapply that.

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Bug AFTER wiping myself down with my hands and tech tube.

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Ridgeway, still very foggy and humid.

I arrived in Ridgeway right on schedule. They had restrooms here in a shelter. I used that, and took advantage of a nearby trashcan to toss my fruit cup I had eaten (I tried to eat the heaviest items first!). There was a water fountain also at this shelter and I drank from it, but did not fill up my water. Probably a mistake. I didn’t look at the map, but retrospect is golden. The next town would be Barneveld, 5.4 miles away from Ridgeway. Ridgeway was a cute little town, reminded me of smaller towns on the east coast with a few shops as I could see the main strip in town from the trail. There was an old rail station here (was the shelter now) and it was well maintained from what I could see. Fog still had not lifted completely at this point. I was well soaked and sweat ran down the back of my legs continuously.

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Sometime at Ridgeway sorting out my pack (after taking it off to access the food and fruit cup), and while putting it back on, it stopped my garmin for a brief two seconds. I heard it beep and then pushed start again, thus leading to my missing two seconds on my garmin. Good thing it keeps track of total elapsed time!

It was getting hotter for sure. The trail remained mostly tree covered even approaching Baneveld. Apparently the trail was going up and down through here (according to GPS scale), but you really can’t feel it. Still feels mostly flat, especially overall. This area the trail goes through is called the driftless area, an area in Wisconsin that the glaciers did not reach in the last ice age. Pretty cool seeing the hills. The area between towns so far is mostly farms, and not very visually appealing if you’re used to that sort of thing.

Somewhere between Ridgeway and Barnveld, I managed to with my sweaty thigh:

1. Butt dial my friend Andrea (thank goodness it was her and I hope she had a good laugh)

2. Started up two cell phone games (battery killer!)

3. Stopped my Strava, many sad faces.

It took over a mile for me to realized all this had happened, when I opened my phone to take a picture I believe. Always have backup data!! Thank you garmin. Apparently I had put my phone in my pocket backwards in Ridgeway (screen facing skin and not outwardly). My phone lived in my right shorts pocket the whole day for quick access. I was pretty upset at this chain of events. This happened about 13.5 miles into the run.

I ran out of water sometime before reaching Barneveld. I knew I was getting close to empty half way between Ridgeway and Barneveld, but thought I could make it without searching for water. I learned how much water I had by feeling the back of my pack and giving it a good squeeze. I started slowing down a bit. I hit a gel and got some food from my pack along the way. I knew from experience on researching the towns two days prior that there was no water in Barneveld.

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Skies starting to clear up.

Upon reaching the shelter there, I searching for a spigot. I actually found one that seemed duck taped but water still came out. I filled my pack up with the sketchy water anyway desperate for water. The water flowed very slowly so it took some time to get it out. The next time I would access water would be Blue Mounds which was the next town 4 more miles away. I knew I would not make it without water and still running. Between Barneveld and Blue Mounds, the trail became more exposed and the sun was starting to get rid of the fog. There were a few rollers here, if you can call them hills. The trail would go from crushed limestone to the soft slick mud (not tacky, but just moist and slick). I stayed in the middle mostly in the moss/grass for traction.

 

 

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Blue Mounds State park in the distance.

I knew when I was passing by Blue Mounds State park, as the big hills loomed over the trail. I did wonder if the trail would pass over them, they do not, they bypass the hills…somehow. I knew there were nicer restrooms at Blue Mounds. I stopped for a bit here and took advantage of the restrooms. The baby doll that was on the table there two days ago was still there. Not much else to do, I threw away an airheads wrapper in their trashcan there. I headed out to Mount Horeb, I was very excited to get there. It was only 5 mile to Mount Horeb! And I knew if I could get there, I would feel refreshed and renewed because it was where the Ironman Wisconsin bike course went through…a personal boost for me. Blue Mounds was my half way point.

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Tried hard to get non-foggy pics in but nothing to wipe off my camera lens. These mile marker posts were about 0.5 mile behind my own distance for much of the trail.

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Just yuck.

While heading out to Mount Horeb, I would go through so many more bugs. I had been hoping as with mosquitoes, that the sun would discourage the bugs. I would choke on them, swat them, and was convinced my arms would be sore in the morning because of them. I literally felt like my shirt and shorts had just been in a pool. I checked the humidity and conditions again. Humidity had not yet dropped below 65%. Again, I ran low on water. I knew if I could reach Mount Horeb, I’d be able to get water. I slowed again trying to conserve water, as I was going through water much much faster than anticipated (probably due to the high temperatures and humidity). My legs were getting stiff, I found two benches, one happily occupied by a red wing black bird (joy, I love being the target of their aggression!), but I didn’t care, I would wiggle my legs and release the tension. I wasn’t sore, but I am not used to going flat for so long.

I met a runner heading out of Mount Horeb when I got about 1.5 miles from the access area there and asked how far it was. I was really trying to conserve water. I did run out but I was in a safe place at this point.

Once in Mount Horeb, I gathered water from the spigot there in my pack, filled it ALL the way, knowing the distance from there to Verona (or so I thought) and knowing what lied ahead (again, so I thought). I dumped my tailwind in at this point. I knew I was going to need the electrolytes. I sat down on the bench there in the shade. I talked to a few bikers who had done the trail several times, one guy from Dodgeville. I asked about the bugs, and they said that they had just gotten bad. Lucky me.

While I rested on the bench there, I took the time to treat the right side of my right foot which had been bugging me for a few miles now. I reapplied antichafe, and also took the time to reapply sunscreen. What a mess that was…I was so wet and sweaty I was not sure the sunblock would take. This took a bit of time, and while I was disappointed, I knew I did not want to risk sunburn or chaffing that night or the next day. Always wear sunscreen folks. I also reapplied the antichafe to all other parts, in fear chaffing would take over my run still with the humidity so high and not washing off the salt from my body. I know enough about the effects of humidity to not mess around.

I headed out on what would be the longest and loneliest stretch of trail ever. It’s very straight, very flat, and VERY exposed. The hottest part of the day was upon me.

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Weather when I was on the long stretch of no shade. Right before reaching the town of Verona.

I hit the marathon mark not long after Mount Horeb. I knew it was all downhill and flat from there, but you really can’t feel a 1% grade. I started to do shorter intervals, run 0.1 mile, walk 0.1 mile just to keep me moving. I knew somewhere there was Klevenville…never came. Apparently, it doesn’t exist on this trail, so don’t expect anything just because it’s on the map. My main focus became Riley. Not because there was anything there, but because I had actually run there from my house and the Ironman bike course also went by there too. I needed that confidence. There is a port-o-potty there, but from Blue Mounts on, I did not really need to go anymore…not great. I knew once I got to Riley, the whole trail would be exposed to the sun and dry dirt. Somewhere near Riley, I realized I only had a small bit of water left…this was very bad going into this stretch. I had thought about the stream (Sugar River), but it has very limited access, and the blue-green algae content has been extremely high in the past 48 hours according to the local news…all beaches closed for swimmers. There were several bridge crossings, and I would stretch out my calves at these points. My pace dropped severely. I succumbed to a walk right past the 50k mark, also noting it was my 2nd fastest 50k time.

 

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I would run every 0.25 miles now. Every time I would stop, I would eat one of my marshmallow bunnies. I was still slowing down! I was putting food in me though. Not enough water. These bunnies did not end up working out for me in nutrition. Noted. I was pretty disappointed because I kept trying to eat them and they went down easy. I guess the puff nature of the food made it seem like I was taking in more than I actually was.

Now the long stretch, the endless sunny stretch…

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Riley. Has trail access and Parking lot!

I knew if I did not walk this, I would indeed run out of water and perhaps have to quit altogether. The next town was Verona, where I lived. I knew I could access water there. The humidity was oppressive, as the surrounding marshes and wetlands and grasses areas trapped the moisture well and was outputting it to the trail. Little breeze helped anything, as wind was calm most of the day with a rare breeze passing by. The trail before Riley was becoming marshy, and by the time I hit the seemingly endless exposed portion of the trail between Riley and Verona, it was all marsh and wetland. The bugs started to lessen as I approached Verona however, the only saving grace, as the cottonwood seeds increased instead.

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Single digit miles now.

I intersected the highway and there were two underpasses that felt like caves with a significant temperature drop in each where I would sit against the cold walls. The first underpass (knowing exactly where I was) had a small stream run under the eastern side, and I put my hands in it, IT WAS SO COLD. I sat down and started cupping water in my hands and covering myself in this water. It felt so good. I washed my face off and poured the water down my back. A biker passed by me and asked if I was ok. I chatted for a bit, and explained that I was not that far from Verona (he was heading towards there). I said I was out of water. He went on saying he didn’t have any. Since this was unsupported, while I appreciate his concern, I could not take any if he had any. I got up from the water, and headed to town, just 1.5-2 miles out.

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Neptune, how many times I’ve passed this sign before, thankful to have reached it today. Marsh in the background.

Right when I was closing in on Verona, the trees came back for shade and I picked up the pace a bit. The biker returned with a bottle of water he had gotten and offered it to me. I refused, and thanked him greatly for his concern.

I hit the massive junction shelter in Verona. I got water from the fountain there. All the freaking water. I found an empty soda bottle and grabbed it and filled it with water and carried it along. I was so exhausted from lack of water, I hit my slow intervals again only to find out that I was getting bad side stitches on my left side. These eventually went away and my pace picked up as I approached the paved portion of the trail. I arrived at the park and ride, the only trail head of the entire trail, and the place I basically run and bike from a lot of the time with friends. It felt good getting past this. I don’t recall any more bugs here, which is weird, as I entered the wetlands again and I knew there was a giant pond a mile from the park and ride there where traffic is loud and usually bugs are a huge issue (but I guess they’re usually mosquitoes). It was at this time I realized the bugs were probably from all the rain we’d been having. Made sense with all the standing water everywhere.

I was so close to the end. The trail was so flat here (I would do time trials on my bike on this section!), and I knew it was just a mile. Two of my friends were waiting for me after tracking me on the Strava beacon all day. I saw the green pedestrian bridge where it crossed over McKee. I found the first railing of the bridge which coincided with the sign for Military Ridge, and called it done. I ended up totaling 40.85 miles, some of that probably garmin adding, some of it me wandering around a shelter, probably not all of it though.

Average pace was 13:44 minutes/mile, which is not bad, but I really thought my time would be lower. However, the unsupported aspect of it really showered what I was made of and what I had to do when things got tough. Would I say self-supported/support would be easier and save time? Absolutely! I had to take care of myself and rely on what I had. There were several gas stations and stores along the way that I could have bought what I needed especially when water and nutrition were failing me. I did want this to be unsupported so I did not utilize these things. If I had had a crew or pacer, I could have gone faster. I would not have had to spend so much time helping myself, especially reapplying a small stick of sunblock that I was carrying to my whole body. If someone would have just sprayed me, it would have taken minutes off my time. If I had planted water ahead of time, I could have filled up in no time flat instead of trying to rig my hydration bladder in lower positions hoping I had filled it all the way up under spigots. I could have called for someone to bring me a hat, thus not wasting as much energy on swatting bugs for countless miles. I could have had someone bring me my sun running hat as well, blocking the sun during that long shadeless stretch of trail. So many “if I had this”.

Regardless, I am proud of myself, and would love to see someone do this supported as road paces are not out of the question on much of this trail, given the trail isn’t damp/moist from rain or muddy, and supported the whole time. I bet there could be a blazing fast pace on this one. My moving time was 8 hours, 39 minutes, and 30 seconds, with an average pace of 12:43 minutes/mile, a whole minute ahead of my solo pace. I realized even if I had been supported, I would have had some stoppage time, but my pace would have been faster had I had more water and nutrition. My planned pace was lower than that even. But it tough to even plan a pace for these things when you are completely reliant on yourself.

What I can say mentally and physically:

Mentally it was tough. I had been alone a bunch before, but this takes the cake. Hardly anyone uses the trail on the western end compared to the eastern end (probably because Madison is on the eastern end), and there isn’t much “wear” to the trail on that end, but I didn’t see a soul for miles…this is also in part due to the limited access along the trail as mentioned before too. Usually in races, you at least pass someone every hour or two at minimum, and seeing people at aid stations more often than that. This was just so empty. True this was done on a Thursday, between the normal work hours, but even in Verona, there are many people using the trail all times of the day, even 5am. It was tough really having no one there. I would post pictures to my status about this but it was much too difficult to really mess with my phone during due to the humidity and eventually heat. I would have loved to message more but I was also very cautious about battery life. When I saw my two friends, Shana and Rebecca, said they were potentially coming to the “finish” I did get much more excited and felt accountable. The mood of the trail changed once I was in Verona and there were more people around, per usual.

Physically my legs did ok just had a tough time with the continuous flatness, thus breaking it up by doing squats and stretching at bridges, and when I’d find a bench, sitting and doing a physical shake out. My arms got so tired of swatting the bugs and wiping my body down so many many times. It just felt nasty. The physical part really wasn’t bad until I was running out of water…which happened more often than planned. The weather took a physical toll as well, with humidity ranging from 60-100% at all times, and the high getting up to at least 85°F, starting out at 66 in the morning, with minimal breeze and calm winds. The forecast was supposed to be 77°F with clouds increasing in the afternoon (neither happened). I only remember the sun being cast out by clouds twice. Once in the morning by the fog, and one cloud in the afternoon. Conditions were not ideal at all. You can get really bad chaffing if you sweat that much with the heat and humidity and you don’t continuously remove the salt in your sweat from your body. It was very hard to be more upright for two reasons: one was the pack I carried being heavier than I’m used to, and two, the bugs had me leaning very far forward as to avoid getting bugs in my face/mouth. I just couldn’t breathe right under those conditions. Today my abs are a bit sore, and my calves are tired, but not really too sore or bad. I am only slightly sunburned, and only two small chaffing spots (very much a victory).

I would love to go explore more complete trails end to end some day, and until I am more knowledgeable and experienced and faster, that time is still to come. I feel accomplished being the pioneering time on this trail and hope to inspire other women to get out and do their own thing no matter what it is. I have women in the running community that I look up to too.

Please keep in mind if you are planning on doing this with utilizing water on the trail, Sugar River is a good source, in the fall-early spring, but farms go through fertilizer and it dumps into the creeks. Also note in that between fall-early spring, the water sources will most likely be turned off from the buildings due to cold temperatures here.

 

Link to my garmin activity:
https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3722568644