Wild Duluth 2011 Recap

The other night I sat in bed, my legs were weary, but my mind was reeling with how Wild Duluth unfolded for me. I scribbled away feverishly on any scrap of paper I could find. I like to remember these kinds of adventures. It’s fun to find them a year later, buried at the bottom of my nightstand, stuffed between pages of a book I can’t get into or most likely under my bed, covered with dust bunnies. When I put down my pen the clock read 1 am. I’ll leave a somewhat condensed version here and spare you the mundane deets, like finding agates on the course. I’ve got agate fever, or Minnesota Gold as my brother likes to call it. We hunted agates in the parking lot after the race for 10 minutes for crying out loud! And we found some keepers.

Back to the task at hand here … distractions come easily these days …

Friday night after the carbo load party, I started to organize all my things for the next morning. I laid out what I was going to race in and even put my number on my shorts (a type-a personality trait that seldom makes an appearance in my life). Sleep didn’t come easy to me that night. I woke up about every hour with sharp pangs of anxiety and nerves shooting through my body. When the alarm buzzed, I jolted out of bed and my heart started thudding in my ears. I managed to gag down two pieces of peanut butter toast. I knew that I had to eat more even though it was making me sick. I heated some water on the stove and made some maple oats and topped it off with a banana. I chugged a few glasses of water, brushed my teeth, put in a fresh pair of contacts and splashed my face with water.

It’s cold at the start and that combined with the oncoming adventure makes all of us shiver and shake. All of the runners pile up towards the start and get briefed on the course and then we’re off. It’s hard to take it easy, I feel so good, but I step on the brakes a little and just take in the beautiful morning scenery. The first 11 miles go along so smoothly and I feel like I’m on cruise control. I’m running with mostly guys for much of the first half of the race and there’s not much chit chat. This is fine with me as I’m used to running solo and I like the quietness surrounding me, it feels familiar. We reach the Munger aid station and my folks and Andrea are there. I greet them with hugs and fill my handheld and grab a few salty things and off I go. I’m on the Munger when I run into Marcus, who’s 20 miles into his 100k. He looks like he’s running strong and has a smile on his face, as usual. We toss out a few jokes about running in underwear to each other and as we pass he yells back to me, “Hey Deb!” I turn around in time to see him lift the back of his shorts and show me his undies. I burst out laughing and I’m happy that he’s feeling so good. I start climbing Ely’s Peak and shortly between there and Magney I come alive. I know there is going to be a lot of climbing after the base of Spirit, so I decide to turn it up a notch and see what happens.

I always feel really good between 15-20 some miles, this is my zone. I take advantage of the terrain and cruise all the way to the Spirit aid station. I fill up a pocket will pretzels, pound a few banana slices and some gatorade. It’ll sit well with me as I fast hike for the next few miles. I kind of slowed a bit here until the next aid station, but never hit any big low point. I climb into the Getchell/Highland aid station with a growling belly. I know I have to eat, otherwise I know I will not make it through the next part of the course very easily. I grab a few things that look good, crack a few jokes and get a move on. I don’t even remember running the section between here and 40th Ave. West, my favorite section. This is where I hit my low point last year and it’s in the back of my mind, but I’m feeling pretty good still, so I just go with it. I still can’t believe I feel so good. I keep wondering if or when I’m going to bonk, but it never happens. I just keep going faster and faster. I stop questioning why and just let the experience of running so effortlessly flow through me. It was surreal and I can’t explain it. It was out of this world!

I pick off a handful of guys between here and the final aid station. I roll in happy as a clam and have a few laughs with my folks and friends, eat an orange slice for good luck and to fight off scurvy. There’s only a 5k left after this! The run from Enger is amazing. I feel like I’m floating above the city. The next thing I know, I’m crossing Superior Street and entering the foot bridge down to the lakewalk. As I’m on the sidewalk heading towards the finish, I hear honking. It’s my brother and Jenny, they’ve just arrived, perfect timing! I cross the finish line and stop my watch. It reads 6:28. One hour faster than last year’s time. I can’t believe it, I’m completely thrilled and so thankful for all my friends and family. To have them out there all day is truly amazing. I feel so blessed and fortunate. It was a beautiful day for a long run.

After the race, my family headed towards Two Harbors for a birthday party for my Grandpa, Tauno. He turned 88 that day. He made us laugh all through dinner, ordering the waitress around and getting giddy at all the lottery tickets he received as gifts. He likes to play Bingo, too. He won $180 last week. He’s the luckiest guy in the world. Jenny decided to stay with me that evening and when we got back to my apartment around 9 that night we made tea and watched Antique’s Roadshow, our favorite. I started to get sleepy and was having lucid dreams of trail running that would jolt me back to awake, my body thrashing on the couch. I finally decided to go to bed and fell asleep almost immediately. But, as luck would have it, I woke up every hour hungry as a bear fresh from hibernation. I fixed that situation in the morning with a trip to Duluth Grill with Amy and Jenny. Now, a few days post race, I’ve been taking it really easy. My legs are recovering pretty well, although the right one is being a pain in the rump. It does not like going down stairs. The left one is just dandy. It’s time for some swimming. The trails will have to wait a couple days…

Photo courtesy Jon LaCore. Thanks Jon for coming out to support your brother and I!

Coming into the final aid station and feeling good!


Happy and High

My runner’s high after this year’s Wild Duluth 50k trail race is still running hot through my veins. My quads are bunched, tight and warm to the touch; like there’s a burning ember glowing inside each thigh. There’s no pain while sitting absolutely still, but the second I shift positions they burst with a protesting yelp. It feels good, in a weird sort of way. It reminds me of what was just accomplished. I’m constantly amazed at what the body can tolerate and how quickly it can recover from the stress (and exhilaration!) of running 31 miles over unruly and beautiful terrain.

Stay tuned, more to come …

Lightning in my belly.

Photo by Dennis O'Hara

The hourly countdown to Wild Duluth has officially started. I’m nervous, excited, jittery, jumpy and so pumped for tomorrow’s race. My body can’t decide how it wants to feel, I’m all over the place. I have have so much energy built up; I even cleaned my entire apartment the other night! My mom will be proud. Here’s an excerpt from a favorite poem, Lightning, by Mary Oliver that sums up what’s going on inside.

As always the body
wants to hide,
wants to flow toward it – strives
to balance while
fear shouts,
excitement shouts, back
and forth – each
bolt a burning river
tearing like escape through the dark
field of the other.

I’m loaded to the gills with pasta. I’ve got one more carbo load this evening at my friend Marcus’ place (he’s running the 100k and is going to kick ass!) with some other fellow trail runners. Thankfully pasta is a meal of many hats and it’s been different all week—thai peanut, pesto and the classic spaghetti and meatballs have all been on the menu this week. I can barely contain myself. How am I going to get any work done today? I’m sure I’ll be pacing my office like a caged lion and staring longingly westward out the window. I’ve got a good view of Enger Tower from here, right where I’ll be dropping into the city off of the SHT tomorrow afternoon…

The last long run

Yesterday, I took the day off of work to do my last long trail run in preparation for the Wild Duluth 50k, which is taking place a week from this Saturday. I had a running partner this time (I usually run by myself about 95% of the time), so it was nice to have company for the long haul. It was a gorgeous day and it felt like summer for a good portion of the run. We started down at the Bayfront and ran the Superior Hiking Trail west towards Ely’s Peak, 20 miles away. The first 3-4 miles were a steady climb right off the lake up to Enger Park. The run west is pretty much uphill the whole way, with the regular ups and downs mixed in, of course. It was only “mildly” brutal and we chugged along at an easy pace, fast hiking the ups to save our legs. It took me about 5 miles to get the calves loosened up enough to feel normal, they’ve been kinda tight this past week. The trees are coming into full force, too. In a week or so, I imagine that it’ll be like the 4th of July in the woods. And, it smells so good right now. Get out there and check it out! We only had two gels each to last us the entire run and by the end we were getting loopy. I was making sound effects as I tripped over or tried to navigate hairy parts of the trail. My running partner was mimicking me and I know we sounded like a couple of weirdos yelling in the woods. It was the perfect day for a run and I can’t think of a better way to spend my time. Here’s a couple of shots from his camera (that I also pulled off of facebook) during the run.

pine marten in a tree

action shot

Me, looking blindly at the scenery and having a horrible hair day. Around mile 20.

Diggin’ Deep

The next three weeks will be full of some hard trail running. Last week’s runs were just a tad brutal, but I’m a glutton for punishment. It’s not really punishment to me though, I’ve always liked to workout really hard and push my limits. It leaves me feeling alive. On Thursday, a group of friends and I did some hill repeats at Spirit Mtn. We topped off the run with a well-deserved beer on the chairlift as the sun sank behind us. Friday, I did a faster trail run in Hartley knowing full well that I had a long run (3.5 hrs) to do the following morning. I kept telling myself to slow it down and relax, but my body had other intentions and it felt really good to run fast, so I let it rip. Saturday was a different story. Maybe it was the terrain, too, but the legs felt sluggish at best and I couldn’t find my usual long run groove. Regardless, the miles eventually ticked away and there were some really good moments during the run, like being alone at the top of Ely’s Peak and feeling like I had the world to myself. It was one of those moments that make you fall in love with trail running all over again. (Insert a cool breeze, seeing your breath as you exhale, almost a dozen turkey vultures soaring overhead and pure silence. Bliss.) I feel like I fall in love with trail running more and more every time I go out. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sunday, I awoke to soreness in my quads, which I’m hoping is a good thing! Typically, I don’t have much soreness after a long run, but I’m guessing it’s from the hills and running fast the night before. Anyway, tonight calls for a nice, long road bike to hopefully work the kinks out. I’ll take the night off from trails and hit it hard the rest of the week. I start doing double duty this week, too! One run in the morning and one in the afternoon and more hills on Thursday. It’s time to dig deep! It’ll all pay off at my next race. I signed up for the Wild Duluth 50k again! Yee-haaawwwww!!!

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!