“Redemption” & “Wanting Something SO DAMN BAD”
(yup two titles - couldn't decide - both resonated)
The second I finished my 1st Ice Age 50 Mile, I knew I wanted to tackle it again, but better.
(like not turn around too early, not tack on an extra 4 miles, and really “race” it since I would be experienced the 2nd time around.)
Why do I love this race so much? It will always hold a special spot in my heart as my 1st 50 Mile race. But the PEOPLE is one of the reasons that I love this race and what keeps me coming back. From the fellow racers to the volunteers and all the crews, the spirit of this race is special. Also the COURSE, from running through rolling prairie lands, to pinewood lined trails, and dense single track forests, you get a little of it all.
Why redemption? It started off as redemption from my “mistake” last year that had me run an extra 4 miles. But became more… the end of last year/start of this year didn’t exactly go as planned. I learned after months of feeling “off” that I was dealing with low iron, adrenal fatigue, and hormones that were all out of balance. Add to that inflammation in my hip…plus a scratched cornea (stuck in glasses)…the stress of a flooded basement (thanks to the polar vortex)…a badly stubbed toe, yup things just seemed to not be going right.
When it came time to register for Ice Age in December, my excitement was mixed with fear, I hadn’t run in over 2 months, my body was still “getting back to normal”, when and would I even be able to train?, but I kept myself positive. One foot in front of the other. [that became my mantra]
I wasn’t running yet without pain, BUT I could hike! And I HIKED…over 52 hours logged on the treadmill, and over 80,000 feet of climbing (like climbing Mt. Everest almost 3 times).
It was now my birthday [January 14] and I had still not run. I’m blind as can be, and not super confident in my glasses, but it was time to suck it up and try running. And you know it felt great!!! What a mental victory, I needed that. Between time off, working on strength, and getting testosterone replacement therapy, I think I was finally getting back. I took it easy and started with a hike/run plan and built up my mileage slowly.
I was feeling more positive but also felt “behind” in comparison to my training from last year. But you can’t look back, only forward, and though my training was different this year, I was confident that all my hiking and strength would help come race day. I was determined to toe the line to the 50 Mile race, even if they had to pull me for not meeting cutoffs. What I lacked in training, I had experience from last year and a stronger belief in myself.
But when you want something SO. DAMN. BAD, you realize ANYTHING is possible.
Fast forward to Race Week.
To say I was excited would be an understatement! It had been a long road to get to this point. So the fact that I was able to race, it felt like a victory already in my head. Of course I had some nerves, 50 miles is a LONG way, you have to respect the distance, and know that anything can happen on race day. But what was funny was I was almost nervous about not being nervous. Bill (my husband) kept asking me, so have the race day nerves set in yet?, and honestly I kept answering, NO, I just really excited!
What was fun about this year as well, was getting to race with two of my Edge friends and teammates, Andrea (who I was also coaching) and Cary (both running their 1st 50 Mile race). Last year I remember my nerves were through the roof, not only because I racing my first 50 Miler, but I was racing solo, no one else from my Edge community was running. There is something comforting about toeing the start line next to people who feel like family, who you train with, and who have endured the same blood, sweat, and tears during training.
Fast forward to Race Weekend.
The night before the race we had a team dinner, where we laughed, talked strategy, laughed some more, and talked with our “crews” about the plan for the day, before calling it a night to all go back and prep individually for the day ahead. My goals for the day were 1) just finish happy, with all the obstacles I faced during training this year, just finishing would be incredible, 2) I wanted to be super-efficient at aid stations – in other words, no wasted time, and 3) and my big fat hairy goal (BFHG) if the day was going well, was to break 10 hrs 30 mins.
Race morning I was calm, cool, and collected (what a difference from last year where I was a ball of stress). I went through my race morning routine with ease, and waited in the hotel lobby for Andrea and Andrew (Edge teammates) who were giving me a ride to the start. As we drove to the start you could see the sun starting to come up and I felt this peaceful calm come over me.
Before the start, we laid out “base camp” and dropped our dropbags. We took our obligatory pre-race picture, exchanged good luck hugs and hi-fives, and I ran into some friends I had made during the race last year as we made our way to the start line. The national anthem played, and I got goosebumps, it was almost go-time.
Andrea | Cary | Me :)
This year I was excited to have my first try at “racing” a 50 Miler. I had my two-50’s from last year under my belt. I knew this course inside and out (no wrong turns for me this year). My plan was to stay conservative the during the 1st loop – the Nordic Trail Loop. Feel comfortable and 100% within myself. The next out and back – to Rice Lake – I planned to get slightly aggressive while still being smart. And on the final out and back – to Emma Carlin – push as hard as I could.
The starting gun went off, and quickly we were gone into the woods. Andrea, Cary, and I were lucky to run the whole first loop together. Talking and telling stories, the first 9ish or so miles went by fast. I felt in control of my pacing/hydration/nutrition. I came through the aid station that is at the Start/Finish and was efficient. Said hi to our Edge crew members, took what I needed from our base camp and was quickly back out on the course. I felt good because I was already pacing ahead of my effort last year.
Enroute to Rice Lake it was all about staying within myself. I was being a slight bit aggressive on pace, but still playing it smart.
I was excited because I would finally get to see part of my crew (Becca (a fellow Edge teammate who crew’d me last year) and Gwen (my daughter) around mile 20 at the Rice Lake aid station. We exchanged hugs, I got Gwen Oreo’s (just like last year) and I was in and out quickly (boom – nailing the goal of being efficient through aid stations).
Becca | Gwen | Me
I didn’t look at my watch much except to see where I was at come the 25 mile mark. And I was shocked. I was actually on pace for my “dream big goal” of a sub 10:30... I was in some pain by now but manageable. For a moment some doubt creeped in, last year you felt great still at the 35 mile mark, why are you in pain earlier this year, but then I quickly snapped out of that negative talk. This year you are racing more aggressively, because you know what you are doing, it’s ok to hurt earlier, keep your head in the present and keep grinding out miles.
At this point I’m running with Cary, we turn a corner toward the next aid station, and we spot a pug on the course…(Edge, my community, has two pugs that are the owners (Robyn & Brian) dogs that we’ve all adopted as our own dogs too)…so seeing a pug for anyone at Edge is like a good luck charm. Then we realize OMG that pug is Tank – and Robyn is right behind him! Robyn & Brian (and Tank & June) had surprised us all with a trip up to help cheer us all on.
Just as I was hitting a low, it was great to see more love from home, that was just the spark I needed entering the second half of the race.
I was on my way to Horserider’s Camp – the scene of my big mistake early turnaround last year. I had waves where I felt strong, and waves that seemed like time was standing still.
I got to the street crossing where I had realized my mistake last year. And it was the same two volunteers! As I approached, I yelled “omg you were here last year! Remember the girl who made the wrong turn?”...and they yelled back – “yes! you’re back”, and I replied, “I won’t be making the wrong turn this year…see you soon!”, as I crossed the street.
The climbs and terrain at this point are challenging, I forgot how unforgiving this section was last year. I went back to my mantra “one foot in front of the other.”
Finally I was at Horserider’s Camp aid station (mile 37). I was greeted by one of the aid station volunteers by name!! (perks of racing in the SAME thing! #luckygreenshirt) The volunteers all recognized me from last year, and wished me well as I made my way to Emma Carlin. It was only a few miles away but it seemed to take years.
I made my way to Emma Carlin (mile 40) – the final spot where I would see my crew – and I got to see Bill (my husband) for the first time of the day. There were hugs, hi-fives, and cheers of motivation! I was in a good space…pacing was on, efficient thru aid stations, and now just had to get this thing done. Single digit miles left to go. My knees hurt and my IT bands were shot. I didn’t feel stable on the downhills so took them gingerly. But said when it’s runable. You run!
All the feels seeing this amazing crew with single digits to go!!! #edgefamily
I made my way back to Horserider’s Camp and was greeted with “go get it, finish this thing.” And on I went. I made it back to the street crossing. 5 miles to go.
Around mile 47 my watch went from low battery to dead. I had no clue on my pace or overall time. I was running with another woman who’s knees were hurting her too, so we kept one another company and pushing along.
At mile 48.5 I was surprised to see some of my Edge teammates, I yelled to Robyn that I had no idea what my time was, that my watch died. And she yelled back, “if you want sub 10:30 you’ve gotta f*chking dig!” So I dug. In my head I took off like Usain Bolt (probably didn’t look the way), but that next 1.5 miles after running for over 10 hrs I left EVERYTHING I had out there. I’m not sure how I didn’t puke.
I started to see the red Saucony signs the line the finish chute and was holding back tears. I saw Bill and Gwen. Grabbed G’s hand and said “Mom needs help getting to the finish. Let’s do this together!” As we turned the corner I could see the time clock, holy f*cking shit, I was gonna do it.
(yes my child is running with a cookie ;)
I crossed the finished and burst into tears. Happy tears. 10:22
All the ups and downs of training. The times of doubt. The times I felt behind in my training. Worried about my injury returning. The times early on where I thought...I’m going for the 50 but may get pulled off the course for not making time cut-offs. It all rushed thru my head. Gwen asked, “are you ok Mom?” and I said “yes, I’m really happy...these are happy tears...” 📸: @mile90photo
[ps. Total side note…when I finished, after it all processed, and I saw Robyn, I was like, I had more of a buffer to hit sub 10:30, she replied, “I’ve never been happier to lie to an athlete to see just how badly they want it.” Ha ha, you know what, I’ve never been happier to be lied to either ha ha.]
And my teammates CRUSHING their 1st 50 Milers!! (look at those SMILES!)
AND...these people - my family, teammates, crew, people who would give up their entire day just to help you live out your dreams...a huge thank you to Bill, Gwen, Becca, Andrew, Melissa, Katie, Fran, Rich, Robyn, Brian, June & Tank...I am incredibly lucky to have you all in my life - THANK YOU!!!