Sunday, September 30, 2007

Duke preparing French Toast

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A bit chilly at the start! Jeffrey

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Fun with Friends

Early yesterday morning I headed out to the Afton State Park. We had planned to meet and run at 8 AM; no distance was set. Run and visit afterward. Duke was bringing french toast to prepare on the wood stove inside the Afton Visitor Center.

As I arrived Afton it began to rain, by the time I climbed out of my car there was thunder and lightening.

Alicia, Jefferey, Duke, Eve, John and I were going to run. As I pulled on my vest and grabbed my bottles I stated that 3-4 hours on the trail sounded good to me. Alicia twisted her ankle last week so wasn't going to go that long. Duke, Eve and John would probably run 3 and Jeff was up for whatever.

We took off down the trail. Jeff, Alicia and I left before Duke, Eve and John. We knew they would catch up and pass us soon, they are the speedsters of the group. Sure enough, as we were WALKING down the trail we heard the three speeders catch us.

As we were all running down a trail, I went into the woods to pee. As I was off the trail Alicia again twisted her ankle. I didn't realize this. After Duke checked in with her and learned she was going to walk back to the center, he took off after the others down the hill. I came out from the woods and didn't see a soul. I hadn't been paying attention to where we were as I was letting the group lead me. As I ran down the hill I yelled for Jeff. After a few minutes I heard yelling back to me. They had stopped for me so I could catch up.

Eventually John, Duke and Eve pulled ahead. Jeff told me 'we could run with them' (really, we couldn't, it was a joke) 'yeah, but let's choose not to' I said. I and Jeff ran along through the woods of Afton for two hours, then I told him I was ready to be done at any time. I felt tired! Jeff led the way through a few crazy heavily wooded deer trails where I became full of pickers, but it was great fun! I had no idea where we were. I was totally discombobulated and lost. Eventually, we popped out of the woods right onto an asphalt trail in back of the visitor center, where Alicia had began a warm fire. We ran 2:30.

Alicia's ankle had a huge knob on it. She is still going to run Twin Cities Marathon next Sunday. I hope it is OK. Duke, John and Eve arrived half an hour later. This is good: Duke and John arrived before Eve. I asked where Eve was and Duke said she had to run 3 hours exactly. She didn't want to have less than 3 hours. He said she would be running around in the parking lot if she didn't get her 3 in. I love it! We are all a bit OCD! Sure enough, soon Eve arrived.

Duke prepared french toast with thick Texas Toast bread and rice milk with Cinnamon. It smelled pretty good!

It was great fun to be back with my friends at Afton. Most of the summer I was spending a day a week at Buck Hill doing the repeats so I didn't make many runs at Afton. I sure missed it! I'm looking forward to running out there more often during the fall/winter.

Today it is still raining. Topaz and I headed out for 2 hours on the trail. We heard quite a few gun shots. Duck hunting opened and grouse hunting is going on too. Guess I better pull out Topaz's' orange.

Tyler has two baseball games today. I don't enjoy sitting in the rain, watching baseball, hopefully it let's up. Yeah, running in the rain is just fine..but sitting, ah, not so much.

Tyler wants to try Chipotle after his game. We've never eaten there. Guess I'll have to search for the nutrition calculator online.

Twin Cities Marathon is next Sunday. I don't really have a plan or goal. Just run and enjoy I guess :)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ed Fitz 100K

Each year for the past 5 years I've run the Ed Fitz 100K. My race reports are on the side bar. It is always a blast, 62 miles of asphalt from Finland to Duluth, with the last miles on the Grandmas Marathon Course.

I received an email that the Ed Fitz for October 13 is now CANCELED! I can't believe it. To cancel, this close to the race date? The Ed Fitz is an awesome 100K road race, along with a relay race. It is fabulous fun and I'm just so disappointed that it is gone.

I guess I'll run Twin Cities Marathon a bit harder next week, I won't have anything to save for the following week. Boohoo.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Leanness Lifestyle Elite Mastery Program

Leanness Lifestyle Elite Mastery Program

I’ve had many questions about the Elite program I refer to in my Leanness Lifestyle journal on the side bar. I don’t write a whole bunch about losing weight and my ever brain consuming saga of food and such here. I mention it in tidbits now and then, in the past this blog was mostly about food intake, it was pretty much the main reason I began this blog.

I did mention not too long ago that I had begun Afterburn Workouts and about the same time, was reading the Precision Nutrition program. I wanted to try PN mainly because Renee has had fabulous results with it. I know that we are not all created equal and that what is a good fit for one individual is not a good fit for another. PN doesn’t recommend counting of calories or macros, its loosely ‘5-6 meals a day, protein each meal, good exercise, etc.’ There are 10 steps to follow each day. The reading material was excellent; great recipes which I am still using, the best shake recipes that I have found so far and some good fish and chicken recipes that are now staples in my diet. I will post them in the future.

However, with PN, I began to increase my calories, I began to find that I didn’t really want to stop eating, that I enjoyed being FULL (all of the time), that I actually NEEDED to count my calories to keep myself on track. So, for me, it didn’t demand enough accountability. Embarrassing, really, but true. I managed to gain 8 pounds. It wreaked havoc on my fragile eggshell mind as I was getting ready for Superior. It wasn’t a good thing. Not that PN wasn’t a good thing, the way that I managed it wasn’t a good thing.

I have been a member of Leanness Lifestyle for 3 years, I can’t say enough good things about the program. I need accountability. I need to track every little thing. I am compulsive/obsessive. I have food addictions. These are probably the main reasons why I love Leanness Lifestyle so much. I first began LL to lose 30 pounds and over the course of 1.5 years I did lose the fat. Coach Dave offers Boot camps a few times a year, I joined 3 of his Boot camps and they were a big factor in my weight loss.

Before I asked Dave about Elite I emailed many of the members of Elite program to get their opinions of Elite. All but one raved about the program.

Two weeks before Superior I told Coach Dave I was ready for his Elite Mastery Program. I was ready to raise the bar. I was ready to be accountable to him and finish my weight loss. When I first joined LL I was over 160 pounds, I was at 144 when I contacted Dave for Elite. I had gained 6 pounds over the 2 years and 8 from my PN experiment. NOW, PN didn’t cause the gain. I caused the gain. I know that.

I weighed 144. Dave told me to be at 142 before our telephone consult on September 6, the day I was heading out to Lutsen for Superior 100. I was a nervous wreck, both for the consult and the race! I was 142.

The Elite program at LL is intense. It also has over a 90% rate of people keeping the weight off for over one year.

With Elite I have a teleconference with Dave each week. Wednesday afternoons for me. We discuss the week, my weight loss, any strategies I may need, exercise, problems I have, problems he has with me, etc. It’s usually an hour conversation. He leaves me with an assignment to be completed each day.

Elite is a one year program. Whether I meet my weight loss goal in 2 months or 10 months, I continue the program for a full year. I imagine I will even renew the Elite program after my year as maintenance throws me a curve ball.

I have huge leverages on the line. If I drop off the face of the earth, don’t call Dave on our Wednesdays and chose not to finish the program, I owe Dave $. I owe if I lie. If I don’t have a 90% or higher grade, I owe Dave. If I am not on target with my weight loss, I owe Dave. I pay a monthly fee. I have a weigh in that is supervised and faxed to Dave at the end of each goal period by another party! So far I have had two of these. These keep me on track!! NO WAY am I weighing in and not being at goal.

I’m learning so much about myself. It’s only been a few weeks and I can’t believe how I am learning and changing.

I was scared to death when Dave told me I needed to have my splurge meal. I was afraid of sugar, cake and frosting. Well, Dave told me those sugary things are triggers, probably an addiction, and I’d be staying away from them. At first that saddened me, but then I was able to handle it. Eventually, by the time Saturday rolled around and I was ready for my meal out I was strong and realized I didn’t have to have the sugary stuff. This made me feel in control, I knew that this meal out wouldn’t cause a downward spiral into a binge because it wasn’t going to be sugar or cake or that type of food. It wasn’t going to cause me to think of myself as a loser, a weakling, someone who can’t control what they put in their mouth. This was empowering to me. I went out to lunch, ate a fabulous meal at Champps: Chicken Cyn Sandwich with Criss Cross Cut Potatoes AND sour cream and loved every bite. I felt no guilt, I felt no out of control sugar binge coming on. It didn’t. I was in control.

I am planning a big year of running goals ahead of me for 2008. I know that with a healthy weight loss I will run faster, be leaner and stronger. I know that the weight loss will allow me to get into the best shape of my life and to be competitive as I run hard this summer. I want to be competitive. You know, I am usually the fattest woman runner on the start line of the 100 mile races. Not anymore. This is a big reason for Elite. I want to run well, be faster, be competitive.

I find myself looking forward to planning my menus, to grocery shopping, to my workouts. I find myself looking forward to WINTER. I have never looked forward to winter. Winter to me has always meant an increase in weight, being depressed, gaining even more weight because I am depressed, then retreating into myself and not getting out with my friends at all, because I feel too fat.

I haven’t had any sugar in a few weeks. The cravings are gone. I no longer feel sad that I am not going to have sugar as a splurge meal. Sugar makes me crazy! I don’t like being out of control and sugar does just that. It reminds me very much of being addicted to alcohol. I probably need to treat sugar as I do alcohol: none. Now, a person who is an alcoholic wouldn’t have a beer with their splurge meal, you know? A person addicted to sugar shouldn’t have cake, frosting and ice cream with their meal either.

So there you have it, that is the Leanness Lifestyle Elite Mastery Program.

Friday, September 21, 2007

What's Next?

What's next? That is the question that everyone seems to be asking me now. What race is next, what are your goals for next year?

Well, in the near future, I'll be running 10 miles tomorrow and 15 miles on Sunday. Working the mileage back up there slowly, after an almost full week off last week.

I've run each day this week, only 5-8 miles, some walking, some biking, a few Afterburn workouts. I feel good. Today while running I noticed that my Achilles tendon isn't tight any more. That's a relief. That was all that was bothering me after Superior 100, and it really wasn't a bother. Just a bit of tightness.

What is bothering me right now is a cold so bad that I can't breathe. Troy had this whopper of a cold when I came home from Superior, then Tyler had it, and I knew I'd be next. Usually I can fight off the boys colds, but not post 'run your immune system into the ground' race. My chest actually aches, my head feels like there is cotton stuffed into it and my ears are plugged. It felt quite good to run today and let it drain a bit. Ugh. Nasty stuff.

Race wise I have a few coming up, not much to get too excited about.

Twin Cities Marathon is October 7. What's that? 2 weeks away. I figure it will be a good training run for Ed Fitz 100K the following Saturday. I probably won't run TCM hard; I'll try to think of it as a good old asphalt training run. Sometimes training runs during races don't work so well for me. I like the rush of pushing myself. We'll see.

I think I'll take a hot bath and go to bed. Maybe in the morning my cold will be gone :) I'll be hitting the trail early, the watching Troy play football. Sunday I'll hit the trail early, then watch Tyler's double header. Love these ball weekends! Especially when the forecast is 80F and sunny. Oh yeah! One last summer hurrah.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

...and on the 7th day..she RAN..

Thump thump thump...was the first thing I heard early Saturday morning. Ah, good morning Topaz! Oh yeah, we'll go for a run today. He shrieked with glee, running to the laundry room door to sit and wait for me.

I looked at the clock; 615 AM. First thought: last week at this time Stuart and I were running toward Sugarloaf, finishing up the hell hole of Crosby Manitou. I thought about the race all weekend long. Where I was when, what I was feeling, what I was doing.

Before I began to dress for my run I looked at the thermometer. WHOA! 31F. Holy man, dig out the pants, gloves and um, the red jacket. Oh yeah.

It was a beautiful, sunny, cold run. I felt great and Topaz ran with glee. Poor pup hadn't run with me in over a week. He biked with me, roller bladed with me, but didn't get his run on. He was a much happier pooch yesterday and I was a much happier human.

We ran 5 miles and then walked/jog another 5 mile loop. Felt good!

Troy had a football game yesterday and something disturbed me greatly. The team we were facing, Milaca, forfeited the game after the first quarter, upon our making a (first) touchdown. The coach screamed 'YOU ARE STACKED!' And quit. I can't quite believe it. We are not stacked. Big Lake does a draft; one coach picks one guy, the other coach picks the next guy. Stacked we are not. The coach pushes our boys hard; they practice more than the other teams and it shows. They run laps upon laps and have great endurance. I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut when something like this happens. As Troy and I were leaving the field I heard a Mom sneer "he's on the stacked team.." I looked at her and said "hard training creates wins, not stacking a team" then walked away. I wanted to tell her off, but I kept my cool. I was thinking "BITCH" but held my tongue.

Today is another glorious day. I and Topaz went for another 10 mile run, felt awesome to run a bit harder today and feel my heart rate soar. Good stuff.

Tyler has a double header today. Better get to the field. It's a beautiful day for outside baseball!

Oh, I mailed in my entry to Western States. If I get in, I'm doing the Slam. There. I made up my mind.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Recovery Is Sweet

Thank you so much for all of the wonderful, heartfelt comments and kind words. I appreciate every one of them. Brent-you once mentioned the Berg Slam! Woohoo!! Caroline, I'm glad you got a kick out of the pseudo swear words! They were flowing freely!

Ever since the finish, and even during the race, I find myself comparing this race to last year's race, when in fact, there was no comparison. In the days following the race I have had no back pain, no quad pain, no blister pain. My Achilles have been inflamed and sore, my feet and ankles swollen, but that is not much compared to the pain I have felt during most of these 100's. I think that I am so damn happy to have finished this beast, that this has taken some of the pain away. The brain has so much to do with ultra running, even in recovery.

Tuesday night I had Troy's football game, I was freezing. I decided I might as well jump into a cold bath since I couldn't take the 8 pounds of swell anymore. I finally broke down and asked Steve to let me know when 20 minutes were passed I made it to 12 minutes. During the night I sweated out 4.5 pounds of whatever it is that causes the swelling. Is that water? Tissue? I have no clue. Last night I soaked and again sweated out 3 pounds of grossness. My Achilles now feels great I get get my clothing back on. Tonight I'll take Topaz for a couple miles of walking as Troy rollerblades with us. Tomorrow I'll bike and Saturday and Sunday I'll get my run back on. Tyler has a baseball double header on Sunday, Troy has a football game on Saturday and Steve is doing the mighty bird hunt up north. I'm looking forward to a wonderful weekend at home.

I'm thinking about 2008. I told myself that I wouldn't send my registration to Western until I finished Superior. I guess I better print off that entry. Maria offered to pace me at Western, and she offered Doug to crew for me! It really doesn't get any better than that.

Last year I had the dream the Grand Slam on my mind but didn't get into Western. I didn't really want to think about the Grand Slam or Western until Superior was off my back. Now I find myself thinking I want to go back to Superior to better my time. I really never thought I would. I thought I would rather volunteer and run the marathon. Hu.

Alicia told me while we were running (or jogging that felt like running) Superior that a group of our friends are thinking about heading out to Colorado and trying Leadville. Well, how could I resist that? I ran Vermont this summer and really didn't want to go back, but I sure would for the Grand Slam. That leaves Wasatch. I have heard it is as difficult or more so that Superior. Ouch. 38 hour time limit. Ouch again. Al Holtz, fellow Minnesotan tough ultra runner, was out at Wasatch last weekend and stopped at about 80 miles as he didn't feel he had the time to finish. He finished Superior in 34 last year. This year for 100s he has run McNaughton, Massanutten, Tahoe, Leadville to name a few. Sheesh. Al is going to enter Western and then the Grand Slam if he gets into Western. It has me thinking about it. Real hard. Al says 'come on, Julie, let's do it' That's about all the push I need.

I feel like I should take advantage of all of these little scenarios next year and my health, now, instead of later. Who knows what the future holds.

Guess I'll be printing off that Western States entry, now..

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Superior Sawtooth 100 Mile Trail Run The Report

I am sure it will take me a while to get through this report. I have tears in my eyes and find myself sobbing from the comments some of you left from my last post. CJE-wow, thanks for the prayer. It is just what I was asking of God before, during and after my race. Thank you all, for not only wishing me well, but dropping in here, leaving comments, inquiring about running, my Mom, etc. It really is amazing to me.

You may find this strange, as I open up here, about so many things in my life; but in my non blog life, I don't open up all that easily. I don't really confide in others, I've lost some very close friends of the past. I've lost friends to cancer, drugs, alcohol and suicide. I now have a hard time creating friendships. I become afraid and close up like a clam. I begin to get close, and create space.Thanks for listening here.

OK, Superior. I was freaked. I couldn't enjoy the last week at all. All I thought about was the race and how tough it was going to be and how would I make it through the night and how would my legs hold up this year and was I trained enough?

Since I DNF'd last year I have been putting in more miles, tougher miles, faster miles, tons of hills and heavy lifting. I increased my mileage from 70 miles average to 85 with many weeks at 90-115 miles. I decided to set the goal to 4 100's this year: McNaughton, FANS, Vermont and Superior. I began to lift heavy on the legs 2x a week. I had read that runners should lift lighter with more reps. That didn't get me anywhere last year. Didn't get me to the finish line. My legs gave out. I increased my poundages and lifted less reps; more sets. Laying hams curls up to 100 lbs, barbell squats up to 205 pounds, calve raises over 400 pounds. Long sessions on the stair stepper. I worked my legs until they screamed at me in agony. It became easier and easier. They recovered more and more quickly. Instead of lifting 1x a week I could lift 2x a week. I began hill work. Long runs on hilly asphalt each week, then Buck Hill. Paul Hasse told me 30 Buck Hills to finish Superior. I began my first session with he and Pierre Ostor and thought I'd die at 5. Really. I got in 10, then 15 the next week, 20, 25 and 30. Progression. Slowly but surely. I felt confident that I had the training in, but was I strong enough MENTALLY? I had to be. I was not going to quit this time. I didn't even say 'unless I break something'. I was not quitting. Larry told me I could be a finisher even if I finished at midnight. Oh Lord, don't let me be out there finishing 102.6 miles at midnight, but if I am, so be it. I had lights, I'd be a finisher.

I met Doug and Maria at our townhome at Caribou Highlands on Thursday afternoon. The race finishes at Caribou. It's a great place to stay during the Superior Spring/Fall races. I packed up my zillion and one drop bags into the van and we headed out to Two Harbors for packet pick up. It was hot, but was going to storm. I couldn't relax. I was scared to death. I had a stomach ache. I had a head ache. I was nervous.

I dropped my bags at each station sign posted and said hello to so many of my friends. Eve and Duke were there, Scott-who I hadn't seen since Trail Mix, was his old funny self, so good to laugh with him, Stuart from Kansas City, whom Maria and I ran a good portion of our race with last year. Stuart received a beautiful table that Larry handcrafted for finishing 10 Superiors! Amazing. Bonnie, Andy, Les, Dallas, Sara, Jerry, John, we were all running the 100. I managed to eat and we headed off back to Caribou. It stormed and rained hard all night long. Ugh.

Friday morning, still pouring outside, Doug drove us all to the start. We begin at Gooseberry Falls and are able to use the Visitor Center. Nice and clean, warm; a great place to start. I looked outside and couldn't believe that the rain had stopped. Happy Days!

Larry ushered us to the starting point and said GO. We were off! We began on a bridge/pathway that went uphill so most of us just walked for a long time, then a big grassy uphill into the woods, more walking. I could finally feel the tension leave my body. I just needed to begin this race and let it happen.

9.3 miles to the Split Rock aid station. Last year this took me 2.08 hours, I was ready to run it this year in 245 or so. My plan was to slow down a bit during the day from last year, and hopefully gain the hour in the evening. I wore a Rush Pack from Golite this year. I had only worn it for a two hour run prior to the race. I could not stand my waist pack any more. I can't use a Camelback because I drink too much and can't gauge the amount that I'm drinking. I'm a guzzler. With the Rush Pack I can carry two 24 oz bottles on the side, storing all my gear (clothing, iPod, camera, food, foot potion) in the bladder area. I loved it! The pack never bothered me. I drank both 24 oz bottles before I reached the aid station, but I didn't want to carry 72 oz of Heed with me so decided 48 oz would have to suffice between aid stations.

During this first section I hooked up with Maria, Stuart from Kansas City and Jerry from Missouri! Just like last year. Crazy. Unplanned and very fortunate! I and Maria made no plans to run together, we needed to do our own thing, but I was very pleased when I found myself running again, in this group. The first section took me just over 230. I was feeling wonderful and happy. It wasn't raining, it was a sunny great day.

10 more miles before the next aid station at Beaver Bay. Another long haul. Lots of climbing, the beautiful Split Rock River Loop, lots of waterfalls, rhyolite from the lava flow, simply beautiful. HARD, but stunning. Many, many steep climbs.

Again, I came into the aid station dry. I conserved my HEED to last just about a mile short of the aid station. I was drinking about 24 oz an hour, as usual. Drop bags were at this station. I restocked my pack with gels, blocks, filled my bottles and grabbed a whole peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I was famished. The past 20 miles of climbing was creating a lot of hunger in my belly. I was still running with Maria, Stuart and Jerry; having a fabulous time. We were about an hour later than last year. Right where I wanted to be.

Beaver Bay to Silver Bay is 5 miles but tough and slow. Lots of rocks and scrambling around trying to get over them. Lots of high leg lifting, climbing, etc. Tough stuff to get through. We took pictures, laughed together, we were all very happy to be running together again. I was thrilled to be here!

Silver Bay to Tettegouche is another long 10 mile section, but with beautiful spectacular views. Climbs and overlooks of Bean and Bear lake, Mount Trudee, just awesome. We stopped frequently to snap pictures, to look at the views and catch our breath. We had to stop to look. There was no way you could look at views and run at the same time. You'd hit a rock or root and fall down in a second. Yeah, it's that crazy of a trail. You can't take your eyes off of your feet for one second. There is a white and red tower in Silver Bay that we saw 5 or 6 times from the overlooks. There are neat views of the City. What a great time I had, I enjoyed every minute. Of course, I did complain of all the rockiness and rootiness sections. There is a section called The Drainpipe. Oh my gosh! It's craziness. Steep, steep, rocky downhill that you have to climb down down down. "Man, this is just awful rockiness" "This is too climbful of a section" "This is a section of nothing but climbiness" "This is just too rootful" I was making up all kinds of words that I used over and over and over again.

After we hit the aid station, we ran across the suspension bridge at Tettegouche, we noticed John Storkamp had run from the aid station to the bridge to take pictures. I don't know how he got out there so quickly. It must be the fact that he just ran a 2:53 marathon!

From Tettegouche to Co Rd 6 I'd need my flashlight. I'd been carrying it my pack, with my headlamp at 6. Sure enough, it became dark. I began to worry. I was running well, now with nightfall I'd have to slow down. I wasn't looking forward to that. This was no Vermont; I wouldn't be able to really run during the night. I'd be picking my way over damn rocks and roots. Yeah, the expletives began flying out of my mouth. We climbed, climbed and climbed out of Tettegouche, to the Sawmill Dome, climbing, climbing, climbing up rocky cliffs. The first 4 miles of this section just sucks. Sweat was rolling into my eyes, my feet were hurting. Just hold it together. You are finishing this thing so don't start to worry about it now.

As night fall came, the stars popped out. It was a beautiful, clear night. I was looking forward to the aid station as I knew Tom and Nancy would be there working. Pretty soon we came out to Co Rd 6 where the aid was. They had hot soup and grilled cheese sandwiches that were excellent. An added surprise: Jeffrey was checking the runners in. I didn't know he would be there. I took all of warm night clothing out of my drop bag and packed it into my pack, along with extra batteries, food and strapped on my head lamp. Night time was here. I was afraid of what was going to happen out here during the night. Would my legs cease up on me? They felt fine so far. I hadn't taken and Advil, every now and then I'd feel a pain in my knee, but nothing too bad. The bottoms of my feet ached but I didn't have any blisters. It wasn't raining. It was a clear, warm night. Good stuff.

On we went from Co Rd 6 to Finland. Maria was going to pick up Lynette at Finland and Lynette would pace her to the finish. The four of us were still running together, I was so grateful to have Jerry, Stuart and Maria with me. We also ran alot with Jason and John. It was really nice to have company during the night. John has some incredible stories to tell about this race. He had a half a dozen very odd things happen to him. He is a riot!

During this section is a 440 foot boardwalk that goes over a Beaver Dam upon which you walk. A small portion was under water. I was afraid to go over it, for fear of falling into the damn dam. I didn't. I walked slowly and gingerly, making it across safely. There are more huge climbs, and a long downhill into the depths of the earth. It was cold down here, but at least there were no bugs this time around!

Jerry was feeling really good, and wanted to hit it hard. He hoped to reach Cramer Road (mile 77) by 9 AM, to meet up with his son, Mitch, who was running the marathon. The marathon begins at Cramer Road. We gave him a birthday hug and he headed off into the darkness. We told him we'd see him at the finish.

When we ran into Finland, Lynette hadn't yet arrived. I refilled my pack with supplies, ate another soup and sandwich and we headed out. As we were running along, Lynette caught up! She had just missed us at the station and Doug told her she could catch us. She sure did. She and Maria hung back a bit, and Stuart and I pushed on. I was so relieved to have Stuart to run with. Knowing that he had finished 10 of these bad boys gave me confidence. If I could just stick with him, I'd finish this bastard.

It was getting tough. The bottoms of my feet ached, but I was able to eat, drink and move along. Not quickly, but at least I could move along. My legs weren't killing me yet. It was OK.

We went through the Sonju Root Fest and I became pretty quiet. I was wondering if my legs would cease up. This is where they ruined my race last year. I was very careful of the roots. I hadn't fallen down yet and last year I had fallen 4x in this section. I took it slowly and easily. Stuart led most of the way during the night. I just followed behind. Swearing and grunting and complaining every once (or more) in a while.

I was happy to get through the root fest without breaking anything. I still didn't feel any blisters. Now my toughest section was up next. The Manitou River. It's nothing but rockiness and toughness and pain is the assness. It's so hard. It's badness in the darkness.

I was apprehensive. We came into the aid station and Steve Quick was volunteering at the aid station. "Julie, you told me you'd be here at 5 AM. It's 5:01" I was shocked. Wow. Still on track. I refilled my HEED, my supplies and we headed on out. I was scared. The Manitou River gorge is bad ass.

We climbed up forever and a day, down forever and two days and we are 62 miles into this race and legs are tired and so is everything else. My skin was beginning to hurt. Down we went, into the gorge. Down upon the pointy, slippery, sharp shale rock stuff. It moves under your feet. Past the campsites, down some more. The positive thought I had in my mind was 'well, at least this year there is a bridge, last year it was out; and it will be light soon'. Eventually we came across the first bridge, climbed and climbed and climbed, down, down, down, across the second bridge. The raging river below us. Now the climb out of the river gorge. Oh man. Up, up and up we went. Sweat rolling off of me, I had to take my night jacket off. My body ached. My feet were crying. My head was pounding. Keep going. Just climb. Don't look up, just go up. When we finally reached the ridge I began to cry to myself. My legs weren't dead. Thank God. Pretty soon we began to see the sun rise. Rejoice! Daylight was upon us. I took a few pictures and listened to the first birds. I put away my lights. Yippee!! I knew there was a runable section coming soon. Once we went over the next bridge we could RUN! It would feel so good to use different muscles.

The bridge came and we ran the next 2.5 miles to Sugarloaf. What a sight for tired eyes! Doug, bless his heart, was there and had my drop bag in his hand. He helped me take off my jacket,my lights, take my pants, gloves out of my pack and placed everything into my drop bag. He gave me a hug and I was up and out of there.

Man. The next aid was where I dropped last year. I told Stuart the hill of doom was up next. The hill where I decided I couldn't take another step. The hill where my legs could not go on and my brain said stop. Would it be as bad as I remembered? We climbed up and up. We complained. I swore. This trail was freaking relentless. It is always up or down or rock or rooty or all at the same time. It goes on and on and on, beating you until you are a bloody crying mess. It pummels you. Over and over. Eventually there she was. The hill. I began the descent. It was as horrible as last year, but my legs held up. I wasn't going to quit. No way, no how. Alicia was going to me at mile 77. New life! New conversation! A new voice! I was excited. I was going to go and and damnet, I was finishing this damn thing.

As we ran into Cramer Road there were cheers everywhere! Tom was picking up Jason here, Alicia was here for me, it was wonderful. I was all smiles. I sat in a chair for the first time during the race and applied some foot potion. I didn't feel blisters but the bottoms of my feet were painful. Every step hurt. I bit my tongue as my eyes teared. It hurt so badly. I restocked and got out of there. I was on new territory. It was only 1045; I told Alicia I'd be there at 12. I was on Cloud 9!

Off we went. We told Stuart he'd catch up, we were going to walk out. Tom and Jason headed off and John after them. Stuart caught us and we moved along the course. It felt so good to be further in the race than last year. I was feeling very positive. Joe Lovett told me at Tettegouche "you'll finish. just don't lose your head" he was right. I wasn't going to lose my head. So much of this is mental.

I couldn't believe that Temperance was up next. I love Temperance. I had never run it, of course, during the 100, but I love it in the 50 mile. We were beginning to see some of the 50 milers. They began at Caribou at 6 AM. Some of the speedy ones were arriving. It was awesome to see them! When they saw our 100 mile race numbers they would yell out a shout to us, telling us they were in awe, how could we run 100 miles? Just seeing life out on the trail was exciting. I pretty much saw the same 5 people the whole race. 5 very wonderful, special people, but it was nice to see others! Stuart even told me he was sick of looking at me! In a kind, gentle, kidding way :)

Temperance River was beautiful and crashing and misty and loud. We saw tourists! Dogs! People in the other world, hiking and enjoying themselves. We went through Temperance aid and were heading out toward Sawbill! Sawbill! Wow. I was stoked.

Before I knew it we were approaching Carlton Peak. Ah, another favorite place of mine during the 50 mile. Beautiful granite rock, so huge, so cliffy, so incredible awesome. The last 25 miles of this 100 are easier than the first 75. If I had never run the 100, I wouldn't believe a person could call the last 25 'easier'. There would be no easy on the Superior Hiking Trail. When you are running the 100, it gets easier past Cramer Road. Oh yea, there are climbs and descents and rocks and roots, but nothing like the first 75 miles.

We see Valeria, and Jeffrey and Karen and pretty soon Curt. We see Mary and Deb, all running the 50 mile. It's great to see everyone out there. I get tons of hugs and good jobs. One gal stops and grabs my had and introduces herself and says 'your Julie Berg, you will finish today Julie Berg'. It's good stuff.

Sawbill! Oh man. It's coming to a close and I'm OK. No blisters, I hurt everywhere, my feet hurt so I'm biting my tongue to hold back tears as I run, every foot placement is pain, my skin hurts but I have 12.6 miles left. I can do anything for 12.6 miles. Me, Alicia, Stuart and John. We're going to finish. We walk a good portion of the section, my feet ache worse when walking so we begin to run. Oberg is coming up.

I know when Oberg comes I will begin to sob. I know when Oberg comes I will be able to finish. I know Oberg is everything. Sure enough, I see a sign that says Oberg Parking Lot with an arrow pointing. I don't know how far or how long ahead the aid station is, but it is somewhere out there. I begin to run hard and everyone follows. We're panting and breathing hard. It feels like we are flying, I'm sure we are not. We run forever. Oberg isn't there and isn't there and isn't there. We walk a few hills, pretty soon, it has to arrive. We run hard some more and tears flow from my eyes. I gasp and sob. Oberg! It's here!!

7.1 miles left. I get confused. I ask Alicia if is 7.1 or if it is 7.1+ the 2.6 for the 102.6. I want to be done, that's all. She says 7.1 Thank God.

7.1 miles. I don't want to have to turn my lights on again. I don't want night two of darkness. Yuck. I look at my watch. The award ceremony begins at 8 PM. It will be close, but I'm going to try to make it. If we get there before 8 we won't need lights. Maybe. I'm going to try to run hard. Well, as hard as I can.

Alicia takes the lead, I ask her to run, I need to run, my feet ache, they feel better when running. Alicia, me, Stuart and John. We're running when we can, climbing when we have to. We climb Moose Mountain and I argue that this isn't Moose Mountain. It wasn't steep enough, tough enough, it didn't take my air away. Surely there is another climb, a rougher tougher one. They all tell me, no, this is Moose Mountain. I don't believe them. There is a rougher tougher one. I know it! I've run the 50K, 50 mile each 3 times out here. There is certainly a climb tougher than this one in this section. Guess what? I was wrong. Moose Mountain just didn't seem that tough this time..

We run along and Alicia says we're getting close. Well, I need to know how close. I ask her 'one hour or two hours' she tells me 1 hour. Everyone else agrees. Maybe even less than an hour they say. Holy shit! Less than an hour? I can't contain my excitement. I'm too excited. I try not to be, I try not to be too confident, I could fall or die, or who knows what could happen, but I think I can finish now.

Oh man. There is the bridge and the dirt. We're off the freaking trail. The trail of pain and tears. We're on the gravel road. I'm running as fast as my legs can carry me. There is Matt, in his van, screaming and yelling and taking pictures. I'm bawling! Bawling! Stuart says we'll finish in 35:something. OH MY GOD. 35 something. Holy Freaking Shit. I'm swearing a blue streak. It's a release. I'm crying, I'm so thankful Stuart ran with me the whole 102.6 miles. And John, and Alicia the last 25. I'm blessed. Truly blessed.

We are running up the pavement FAST. Feels fast. They let me lead. I turn into the resort and see the pool and Alicia directs me to the finish line and I'm crying and sobbing and oh my god it is done. 35:37.

Everyone is there. Everyone is clapping and screaming and yelling and crying. I'm beside myself and all of these people that were a part of my finish. Maria and Doug and Eve and Duke and John and Alicia and Stuart and Jerry and Tom and Nancy, they are all there and so many more and Larry and Colleen and Jo and I'm just going to burst hugging and crying on everyone. It's crazy fun.

Someone tells me that Wynn won! He won in 23 something and it's his first 100 and I can't wait to congratulate him. I talk with him for a long time and am so excited for him and get to talk with his Dad, who crewed for him. Great job, Wynn; and Duke! His first 100 too, he ran so well, I'm so excited! Crazy fast boys!

We watch many more finishers and then it's award time. Susan Donnely won the woman's race in 31 hours! I received Woman's Masters FIRST in 35:37. What a treat. I finally have the red finishers jacket, and the buckle that I have wanted so badly for the past year.

After congratulating everyone and settling down, I go back to the townhouse for a shower. Doug, Maria and Lynette go to bed and I am wired. Alicia and I go over to Jason's. Oh, Jason finished, 10 minutes before me, congrats Jason!! We visit with Jason, Pierre, Tom, Nancy, Jeffrey and John. Then it's time to go back to rest.

I sleep like a rock until 5 AM. We all pack up, head on out. We met at Betty's Pies, our traditional post race breakfast. Then it's time to leave the festivities behind and head on home. Thankfully, I made it home without any problems. I was a bit worried, as after leaving Valeria at Betty's Pies, I ended up seeing her at the gas station. We talked at laughed, I was going to put gas into my car and she asked 'is something wrong with you car?' I was like, ah, no. Why? She pointed to my hood. It was open. I pulled the release on the hood instead of the gas cap cover. I've never done that! I guess ultra brain set in! Sweety that she is, she asked me if she should follow me home! I told her thank you, but I'd be ok. Actually, I was afriad I'd fall asleep. I was exhausted. But I arrived safe and sound.

I'll post pictures tomorrow, I'm going to help the boys with their homework, take a bath and go to bed!

Now, with this monkey off of my back, I think I'll begin to plan 2008...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Onto the Superior Sawtooth 100 (102.5) Mile Trail Run

Well, ready or not, She's here. The big one. The one that I have been training for since I gave it up 30 hours and 77 miles in last year. The one that I have thought about every single day for a year. The one that I made a conscious decision to say I'm done. As I stood on that hill, somewhere between Sugarloaf aid station and Cramer Road, I knew it was over. I could NOT muster up the mental tenacity to continue. I skooched down the hill on my butt, I couldn't bend my knees, and I cried. I told myself I am not the strong woman they think I am. I am weak. I am not trained for this. I suck. Now they'll know I'm human too, I'll show them. I'm done.

I had hoped that I would forget my thoughts as I stood on that hill. I hoped that I would forget that I looked at my pace chart and saw that I was right on pace for a finish. I had hoped that I would forget that I just. didn't. feel. like. finishing. that. fucker.

It was too hard. And I was too easy.

I remember it all. Vividly. Move vivid than I care to remember. I am still not ready to put into words what all happened inside of my mind at that moment. Someday I'll be able to talk about it, to write about it, but tonight, I still can not.

Tonight I've packed my drop bags. I've packed a bag for each of the stations. The first station with drop bag access is 4 hours in. I'll carry gels, blocks, beans and gummies. The first aid station is 10 miles out, I can refuel on 'real' food there.

I have 4 big REI waterproof drawstring bags for clothing, shoes, lights, etc. For the other stations I've packed a huge Ziploc baggie with gels, gummies, blocks, beans, socks, foot potion, Advil and Ecaps. I packed a bag with a clean top and bra for the morning, I've never changed clothing during an ultra. I don't know why I always think I may want a change of clothing for the morning.

I've found rides for the boys to football and baseball, run off maps for Steve to get to their games, laid out football and baseball uniforms for practice and games, made meals in advance, bought birthday presents and cards for parties, filled up paint ball tanks and ammo for the tournament. I think we are all set. I can't imagine just being able to leave for a race with the only preparation being getting myself packed!

Tomorrow after bringing the boys to school I have a telephone conference, then I'll head out to beautiful Lutsen and Lake Superior. I'm going to have a blast! Really, all of my friends will be around. I'm rooming with Maria, Bonnie, Les; all of which are running the 100. Also Alicia, who will pace me from mile 77 where I dropped last year, will be staying with me, as well as Lynette who will pace Maria, and Doug, who will shuttle us all to the start and to the pre race activities tomorrow evening.

John and Jason are running the 100, Wynn and Duke are running their first 100's and man, I think one of these dudes is going to win this beast. They are young, strong and FAST. I just hope they don't end up racing each other and pushing too quickly. John, Scott, Nancy and Tom will be volunteering; Pierre, Don, Rick, Maynard will be marking and tearing down. It'll be a crazy, fun reunion of sorts. Oh, and Larry and Colleen will be masters of the event. Now I'm thinking I shouldn't have listed so many friends because of course I'm missing someone.

I'm excited.I'm scared. I have feelings much like two years ago after I decided to run 50 miles instead of trying 100 at FANS. I was filled with anxiety as I prepared for FANS that next year. But I did get retribution. I will here at Superior too.

Then I wonder, why does it matter? Why does a DNF bother me so? Why do I have to go back and finish this?

I don't know. It's just me. I will finish. 37:59:59 and I am happy :)

Run On!