I woke up bright and early at 4:30 and scarfed down a cinnamon raison bagel and a spoonful of Skippy peanut butter while attempting not to think about the day ahead. I rubbed on my sore right leg and wondered if it could hold up for even a few miles. Would I embarrass myself? I quickly squashed the thoughts and put all my stuff together which was a good distraction from any negativity.
I wore Mountain Hardware Tights which I scored on Ebay for super cheap, my Muscle Milk Woodsy shirt from the year I sat down in the middle of the race and wanted to quit because my feet were bruised but then got up and finished anyways, a champion running hat, my friend Dan’s running gloves that I stole when he helped me move (I figured they might give me luck as he toughs it out through nearly anything), my podium sport’s jacket, a thick layer of Body Glide on my feet, Nike Drymax socks with Fitsocks F4 socks over the top, and the Altra Lone Peak 1.5 trail shoes. I also had a Amphipod Full-tilt airstretch velocity bottle waist pack with a Runready pouch added onto the front. I of course was wearing my trusty Garmin 310xt with the 1BandID on it.
In the drop-bag (which was a Tupperware thingy) I put a few bandaids, some alcohol wipes, compression socks, a change of socks, spare gloves, a headband, s-caps, generic ibuprofen, chewable pepto, cliffbars, honey grahams, vanilla powerbar gels, and a Saucony Pallidum Packable Jacket
I did my duty in the bathroom which was a super, mega relief as if you’ve read my blog at all- pooping is a big theme here and relaxed until it was time to go.
My husband Les was the epitome of calm and packed up the limominivan. Superultraguy Dan pulled up with his superultraguy friend Joe who was also going to be running icebox. We all climbed into the limovan and were off to River Falls to Icebox.
I got my bib and pinned it on my leg in the limovan. Happily at that point I saw Gerad sauntering past the limo. “HOP IN AND GET WARM” and he did. What was important about this guy? Over some vodka and beer it was decided that he would help me run a few loops of Icebox. He was beat up from being so fast at a recent marathon that he could slow down and help me out. I just hoped he could go slow enough. I was never so happy to see someone as I didn’t believe he’d really show up. There he was though with an icebox bib on and his Rambo shirt letting me know that Rambo would get us to the end of this thing.
My sweet husband dropped of my Tupperware at the drop site (a blue tarp near the aidstation) and I stuffed a couple of the vanilla powerbar gels into my belt pouch thingy along with some S-caps and made sure my water bottle was full. Then Gerad and I made our way to the start.
OMG THE START—it was time.
I didn’t really hear anything the RD said. All I heard was “GO!” and we were off. I followed Gerad. He constantly checked on me. I could tell the pace was slow for him. The time went by pretty quickly. The trail was pretty and I had to watch the footing enough that I was distracted. It was crowded in the beginning but thinned out within about 3 miles to the point of being comfortable. A half hour in, I said to Gerad “look! Only 7 ½ hours to go!” He glared at me. I felt good. The initial discomfort had disappeared and I was happy to be running on a trail.
Here are a few pictures of what the trail looked like (courtesy of someone else as I didn’t have my camera – sorry!)
A little over mile 4 there was an aid station with water and HEED. I grabbed a chug of water and then we continued on. A little over 2 miles later we were done with lap one. Apparently we finished lap 1 at 8:38 (1:08:00) This is where the main aid station was. The main aid station was filled with food and people. A volunteer grabbed my water bottle and filled it without me even asking. I ate a vanilla gel, swallowed an s-cap, drank some water. Gerad had some cookies, and we started lap 2.
A little bit into lap 2, we both were questioning whether we were on the right path or not as nothing looked familiar. We were looking for orange…or arrows…or anything. “I haven’t seen this before”
We were. It’s just an odd loop that makes up for the start to trail or something because then you pass by the aid station again and hit some massive uphill back to the familiar area again. That massive uphill was seriously wicked and cruel and evil. There were a lot of those, but that one was just so…mean. It went on so long and was so steep and showed my lack of training so much. We power hiked up most of it and at the top, Gerad looked at me and said “ready?” I huffed back “of course” and we started running again.
The roots started to grow a little on this loop and the rock piles got a little bigger. I still felt really good though so ran. Everyonce and awhile Gerad would get quite a bit ahead and then slow and wait for me. Everyonce and awhile we’d chat. The time flew by. My legs were still comfortable and I was breathing fine. At the 1st aid station (the Water/Heed) station Les and Dan were there cheering and cowbelling! That was cool and a nice boost. I swallowed a gel real quickly and a cup of water and we continued on with just a touch over 2 miles to finish the 2nd loop.
The last 2 miles of the loop are a bit deceiving. For a minute you can see the final aid station and think you’re nearly there. Your spirits rise as you hear cheering and noise and then boom…you’re routed away from it and up a hill and over a boulder in a totally different direction for nearly a mile before you head back. This also goes through my favorite area, the little wooden bridges, some covered in chicken wire, some not. All of them having rocks before and after them that you have to jump or tread carefully over to not twist out your ankle. Anything on the trail that was different, I enjoyed as it was distracting and made my legs do something different. Whenever I saw the bridges come up I got excited. Same with the area with the big boulder. The only spot I dreaded was the sideways bridge and the supposed “stairs” At loop my legs were so cramped that I had a hard time figuring out how to use the stupid muddy stairs!
I digress. We made it to the main aid station again. Gerad once again munched on some cookies. I had an s-cap, a pb-jelly wedge, and a piece of banana and water. My bottle got refilled again too! I took off my coat too as I was getting too warm.
Then we were off again to begin loop 3. I let Gerad know that this loop would be a mileage PR for me. Yep you read that right. I have run many, many half marathons. However, my weekly mileage tends to be between 15-22 mpw. My long runs are between 10-13 miles. Obviously I’m going to be kicking those up now, but haven’t quite done it as of yet. Anyways. I gave him a heads up as I wasn’t sure what happens when you start outrunning your training. I still felt fine and was going to do it regardless but there was a tiny nag in my head that said “you’re an idiot” I smashed that and smiled and ran attempting to keep up with Gerad who looked as though he was taking a jog in the park. He once again would get way way ahead, then slow and wait…check on me…then go ahead…then wait. Run with me a bit rinse and repeat. Keeping even somewhat close to him meant I was running most of this lap. On one of the bigger uphills, I walked and took another gel and nearly finished my water. I was getting tired. The rest of the time I was running, and chasing Gerad. I ran into a tree about 100 meters before the 1st aid station. Not sure why. I just sort of veered right into it. It wasn’t a bad thing. It kinda told me to slow down a bit and pay attention a little more…or you’ll run into a tree.
At the aid station I chugged some water and refilled my bottle, threw away my gel wrappers into the garbage bag. I think Gerad was antsy to get to the main aid station. I think he was antsy to get done with the whole thing. So was I, I just wasn’t as fast, or strong as Rambo! We continued on.
For the first mile after the aid station I was pretty close to Gerad and then I just couldn’t keep up. I slowed down a bit and talked to a runner who was nearby about shoes and roots and trees and trails. It was a nice distraction. I was at a new duration, mileage and elevation gain I had never before touched. I still felt nice and strong if a little bit tired. It was time to slow down at least a little bit. I had pain in the side of one of my knees signaling that one of my IT bands was unhappy.
Soon enough the aid station came into view and there was Gerad munching cookies (I wonder how many cookies he ate?!)
I cruised in and had an S-cap, 2 pb-jelly wedges and a gel. I put on the saucony jacket and let Gerad loose. I think I saw relief in his face as he said “Are you sure?” He was off on his loop 4. I planned to walk loop 4 and I was off. Running.
I did loop 4 by myself. I had no one to chase. Every mile was a mile I had never hit before. Every minute was a minute I had never run before. I ran. I didn’t run fast. It was more of a ‘shuffle’ with some running mixed in. I walked nearly every uphill unless it felt better to run it, which once and awhile it did. At mile 20 I looked at my Garmin and kind of did a double take and thought “oh, that’s kind of cool!” and continued on my shuffle running. Sometimes I’d do a funny sprint as it felt really good to open up my legs a little.
At the 1st aid station I had water and gel. I was happy that my stomach was feeling fine. My legs were tired and my quads were definitely out of order. I knew it was a little over 2 miles to the main aid station. I could do that. The question was, would I keep going once I got there?
That 2 miles was long. I ended up counting. I figured if I could run to the count of 60 then I could walk. Once I got to 60, I started over “why not just run for 60 more counts?” I ended up running to the main aid station, slowly running, but I got there…with my shuffle run. I resolved by that time that I would do another loop, even if I had to walk it. My legs were cramping off and on and I was tired. I had definitely outrun my training. I had 3 hours to complete one more loop. I could easily walk that. I would do it. No matter what. I was resolved. One more loop and then I could stop. Just one more.
At the aid station, Dan immediately was on me “do you want me to go with you for a lap?” If I could tell you how much my spirits went up at that minute.
And we were off. On lap 5.
This lap took quite a while. Without Dan, it would have taken even longer and felt worse. There was a mix of walking, shuffling, jogging, half-assed running, cramping and even some laughing. The cool thing was, I was with someone who tripped every time he laughed at me (Karma really is a bitch). Ok that wasn’t the cool thing—really it was cool to have someone cheering me on, cheering me up, and understanding what I felt like, not dismissing it. I actually felt happy even though my legs were cramping up. That is pretty awesome. Dan would go in front of me and run slowly so that I could follow his pace. It truly kept me going.
I did make note at the marathon mark that I had completed a marathon. Now when people ask, I can say yes. There you have it, it’s done. Which mile was the hardest? Actually the last one. I wanted to run fast to just finish. I knew the end was coming and that I could be done and rest my shredded legs but I had nothing left to run with. All I could do was shuffle. Dan once again got in front of me and put a pace out for me to follow to the finish. Then he jumped onto a board near the aid station and said “here let’s finish on this” It was like a tight rope. Of course I tried hopping on and promptly fell off. Then I proceeded to the aid station and said “I’M DONE”
No really, I’m done.
So there you have it. I didn’t run for the full 8 hours. I “failed” my goal of running for 8 hours.
However, I went from running a half marathon to running a 50k.
And I ran for 6 hours and 44 minutes.
How do I feel today? Sore. I’m sore. And tired. But I also feel kind of proud.
I’m also in awe of the types of friends I’ve somehow managed to make. Not sure if I deserve such cool people in my life but at the race, there were so many amazing people and even on Facebook and via the texter machine so many many supportive people—over something as simple as running.
One last thing: Sorry for the lack of poop. I know you were all waiting to hear about pooping in the woods. For some reason, I had the nutrition spot-on. I didn’t have a single GI issue. What?!