Ode to Dirt

“… when the world around me is both still and buzzing with life, when I feel small and humbled and awed, when I am strong and powerful and loud, when I must stop not to catch my breath but to hold it to take in vistas visible only after having run for miles, up and up and up and up, calves straining, lungs burning, heart overflowing … that is when I am most myself.”

I found this article today and it really resonated with me, so I thought I would share a bit from it. I can’t get this trail running business out of my head! It’s with me always. Looking back, I didn’t realize how much of an effect training for and running this 50k would have on my life. I’ve done a couple of other races before, but they had no such effect on me as this one did. I knew when I first committed to running it, I was looking for something to challenge myself. I was feeling stale, in both mind and body and spirit. I needed something to “wake me up” and this was it.

Wild Duluth Weekend

I successfully ran my first trail ultra (50k) this past Saturday … with the help from a lot of great friends and family! Thank you all, I couldn’t have done it without you! This was, by far, one of the physically hardest things I’ve ever done. And, I can’t wait to do it again! I might be hooked.

The first half was great and it felt effortless, relatively speaking. I found that happy spot in my mind and just enjoyed my surroundings. The second half was where things got real. Really real. I made it through the downhill ski area of Spirit Mountain and then right back up the downhill ski area. I passed by the terrain park and remembered flying over the last jump on my skis with my good friend, Kelly, this past winter. It made me smile, I wished for snow and told that jump I’d see it in a few months.

I reached the next aid station feeling tired, but now where ready to stop. My Dad was there to run with me and keep me company for the next 5.7 miles to the following aid station. Miles 25-28 were brutal to say the least. This was definitely the hardest stretch of the entire race. I’d never run this far in my entire life. The terrain in this section was so intense. I had a hard time finding the chance to break into a half jog. I tripped and fell to my hands and knees at one point, scraping and bruising my right knee. I was a little shaken up and my Dad made light of the situation, saying that it was a good thing I wasn’t wearing pantyhose. I thanked my lucky stars that he was there with me at that point. I think I would have lost it otherwise. I also got a side ache and my hamstrings started to bunch up and rebel at every uphill. A fellow runner was kind enough to give me one of her salt tablets and that helped my hammies from freaking out on me. It wasn’t long after that that I experienced some small hallucinations. Leaves appeared to be flying off the trees like little burnt orange birds, up and away to the left for some reason. It was totally weird!

We eventually made it to the last aid station. There was only 5k to go to the finish. I popped a couple of banana slices and topped off my bottle with some water. I don’t know where I got my final burst of energy, but after I reached Enger Tower, I knew it was all downhill and I let gravity pull me from there. It felt like my legs were separate from my body as I cruised down the trail. I was probably moving pretty slowly, but it felt like I was going fast. Before I knew it, I had entered the final stretch and crossed the line in 7 hours and 28 minutes. I knew immediately that I would be doing this race again. It was a beast, but I loved it.

Now, after a few days of not running, I feel lost. Does that happen to anyone else out there? You spend so many hours, weeks, months, years preparing for a race and when it’s over you don’t know what to do with yourself. I guess it’s time to move onto the next adventure! What’s on your list for the rest of fall and the upcoming winter? I’ve got some ideas already …

Here are some pics from the race, courtesy of Eric Hartmark and Kate Lindello.

My Dad and I high above the city.

Going down a steep section of trail.

Coming into the finish! 31 miles complete!