The Chippewa 50K adventure started on Friday when our good friend Dan showed up with his gear and his dog, Britney, ready to load up the limovan. Hubby, Dan, Britney and I were planning on camping for the night before the race in a tent and none of us were very versed in this endeavor. We loaded and unloaded the limovan multiple times before settling on the items that were important to survive the night and then we hit the road.
Britney was excited to ride in the limovan and kept trying to take the wheel and even tried to control the gas pedal at one point. Some lovely smelling treats calmed her soul off and on. We hit Chippewa Falls and decided that it was important that we get some food from Walmart. Once inside Les and Dan were immediately distracted by the sparkly items on the shelves so we were there for a bit, but did make it out alive.
For food we didn’t actually get anything for dinner. We got chips, hummus, fruit, and alcohol. Once we were back in the parking lot, we attempted to figure out dinner. That was a dilemma. I decided pizza was fine and so we headed for a pizza place that apparently didn’t exist. We walked in and it smelled like fish and turned out to be a buffet. Dan had a panic attack and we walked out. We called pizza hut. That had to be safe right? TWO LARGE SUPREME PIZZAS PLEASE. I was hungry by the time those pizzas were done and so polished off half of one. It wasn’t even that good.
We headed towards the David R. Obey Ice Age Interpretive Center where the start line for the 50K is in the hopes we could figure out a campsite before it got too dark. It was getting late. Les figured Dan knew where he was going and I figured Les and Dan knew where they were going. We drove through Bloomer, WI. We drove out of Bloomer. We had no cell phone signal. We really didn’t know where we were.
The gaslight came on. After a flash of amusement/exasperation for not filling the tank, I said “Let’s turn around and go back to Bloomer for gas” Hubby disagreed with that. He said it was too far and that we should go to the center where we’d know somebody who could drive us to a gas station.
That was a bad idea.
We were in a precarious situation as we, in all actuality, didn’t have a clue how to get to where we were going. As we wandered down a dirt road, Dan piped in- “I did this last year and it was the wrong way!” Les drove a little further, before he took Dan’s words into account and turned around. The gas dinged again warning that the limovan was about to die. We all tried our phones to call for help. No signal.
Jokes went around. AT LEAST WE HAVE A TENT! WE HAVE FOOD!
Les finally got through to someone at the center and it turns out it was 2 miles away. We were going to make it, maybe. The limovan, did indeed make it to the parking lot and we all piled out. The gentleman chuckled at us and then got us gas from the shed. Seriously- he gave us a quarter tank of gas so we could make it to the gas station! How nice is that????
It was dusk, and getting really cold. We still had to do this ‘camping thing’
Hubby and Dan set up the tent in a cluster of pine trees next to a couple other tents. Then we piled in to “sleep.” The temperature was in the 30’s. We were cold. It was cold. This was an unhappy situation.
I had a sleeping bag that said it could handle the cold. I was shivering. Les and Dan both had crappy sleeping bags. I figured if I was as cold as I was in my awesome sleeping bag, they were dead. I knocked them on the head at about 2am afraid of their demise. “ARE YOU DEAD?!” They were still alive. They were colder than I was though. We all went outside to pee. We got even colder. At 3:30 or so we took our quarter tank of gas and drove to the gas station, filled the limovan with gas and spent next couple of hours with the heat blasted drifting in and out of sleep. If I had to guess, I would say we each got approximately 3 hours of sleep the night before Chippewa in some pretty uncomfy conditions. I’m confident that I’ll never be ‘tenting’ again.
At 6:20ish I went into the Ice Age Interpretive Center to wash my face and put my contacts in. I said HI to a few of the people I knew, grabbed my race packet and then wandered back out to the limovan to have breakfast. Les was already out taking down the stupid tent and Dan was volunteering with registration. All I wanted to do at this point was go home and go to sleep. I wasn’t in a very good mood at all.
I ate a cinnamon raisin bagel, took my medication, and slipped into my running clothes with the heat blasting in the limovan. My stomach was ill, my body hurt, and my mind was definitely not in its usual “YAY TRAIL RACE!” spirit. Uh oh. Hubby popped into the limovan and tried to cheer me up but I was pretty pouty at this point.
Soon enough the clock crept towards ‘start time.’ I’ll admit that seeing some friendly faces is a boost. I got and gave some hugs and pats on the butt to some folks and that was nice. I switched my mind to ‘let’s do this’ and lined up to go.
And then we were off! Chippewa 50K had begun!
Chippewa had a lot of lessons in it for me. It was awesome and a struggle. I fell immediately on the FIRST DOWN HILL. Who does that? Oh, that’s right…I do. Crash. Giggle, get up. It became a mantra—“well at least I got THAT outta the way!” I’m pretty sure I said that out loud as I got up, brushed off, and kept moving about 20 times during the race. I wasn’t picking up my feet at all during the race and ended up tripping and flying through the air multiple times. Oops. I also dozed off a few times which made for interesting stumbling. No matter, I moved forward and ended up smiling.
It turns out either pizza hut or lack of sleep messed with my stomach pretty bad. Within the first 8 miles I had to pull off and poop twice. This theme recurred more times than I care to disclose over the 31 miles I ran. I kept moving forward, each time wistfully ticking off the people who cruised by as I squatted behind a tree. “Crap happens” right?
I didn’t entirely escape the tripping/falling unharmed as on the fourth (or fifth?) knock I felt a pretty awful crunch feeling in my big toe and had to swear then laugh as I knew that once again I had busted my big toe. What can you do except keep moving forward and pretend it’s not there? On one of the downhills my ankle rolled so far that it hit the ground and the speedy folks who were already headed back from the turn around slowed a bit with wide eyes and “ARE YOU OK?” “She rolled that” “She rolled her ankle!” “Ankle roll!” “It’s ok, she’s still moving!” was called out down the line. I felt super human and kept going pretending the ankle wasn’t even mine. (PS: toe is ugly and busted today… ankle mildly swollen and sore but fine).
I was lucky at Chippewa. At one point, Mike Madden was there running by me and chatting. At another it was Dave Shannon. For another stretch it was a gentleman I don’t know but he was a joy to chat with. I had Doug Franzwa give me a cheer. I had some other runners yell my name- what a boost! Julie Berg was at an aid station at mile 21, which was an amazing treat. Bob Marsh was at two locations with a smile, hug and words of encouragement. Every runner who passed or who I passed was full of cheer and encouragement. I only felt downhearted in the beginning and then I couldn’t help but have the joy of trail running return to me. Even my stomach cramps couldn’t hold me down.
Making it to the turnaround felt amazing. I was a little battered from falling a lot and my tummy hurt but there was the hubby with a smile and a refill of Tailwind;and there was Ananda, who had gotten a bad ankle roll early in the race toughed it out to mile 10 and then had to pull. She was standing there cheering even though she could hardly walk on that swollen beast. Andrea (who I’ll talk about in a minute) was standing there with a smile too.
I left the turnaround feeling refreshed and ready to finish Chippewa. I was going to finish.
Soon enough I had to poop again- are you surprised? This was frustrating for me. I was running low on water and feeling a little dehydrated and very nauseated. The pooping thing was pretty annoying.
I ran alone most of the second half of Chippewa. That was OK. It was actually pretty enjoyable. I had a lot of time to think as I was shuffling pretty slowly. I was running at a shuffle run as my hips were pretty tight. I felt good that I was at least running. I was smiling and that was good too. I kept moving forward.
When the last aid station came up, I got extremely excited. I had been out of water for about an hour and a half and so was pretty dehydrated and droopy. I hung at the aid station for a while sucking down water and eating a banana. I got my bottle refilled. Lo and behold, Andrea showed up! Remember that smiling girl from the turnaround? She hopped in the race at the turnaround and was enjoying herself. She asked how I was doing and I said it will be a long last few miles, and that I was a bit dehydrated and sore but that I’m having a good time. She said she’d run with me. OH! YAY! She did. You know what? That was exactly what I needed. What a spirit boost to have someone with you for the last few miles. We chatted and smiled for the last few miles. Andrea is a joy to run with and I’m so happy she was there.
We made it up the final hill and across the finish line and Chippewa 50K was in the books.
The Chippewa trails are pretty easy. The hills are mild, the trails aren’t very technical and the scenery is beautiful. I’m a little disappointed at my time but incredibly proud that I finished. I think I have a lot in me. I probably have a lot more and so will use the lessons from this race in the races that I do going forward. Most importantly, get some sleep before the race and pizza hut is a bad idea for fuel food.
After the race there was all you can eat soup, sandwiches, cookies, and beer! An amazing spread. It was a beautiful day and there were so many amazing people there. I’m so happy that I did this race. I had an awful great time. I was also never so pleased to spend the night in my own bed after a race.