Friday, September 18, 2009

Superior Trail Races 2009 - Crewing, Pacing and Racing!

All in a days work. Or two days in this case. Though it felt more like one really long day. I guess that’s what happens when only a few hours sleep separates them. I am not sure if it was the 40oz of coffee that morning, topped up with several diet cokes and I don’t want to know how many gummi bears, but I was buzzing about all day Friday and had an absolute blast hanging out at the Aid Stations watching everyone come through, helping Eric and several others runners – some of whom I knew and some who I would get to know throughout the day. In retrospect I just hope that I was actually a help and not a hindrance – I know there are times when I am racing that I just want people to leave me alone and stop asking me what they can do for me. But maybe I am just a crabby runner…!

This is going to be more of a ‘trip report’ than a ‘race report’ given that I had no intention of doing any racing myself. And probably a pretty long, meandering one at that…

The long weekend started off with an excursion to Taylor’s Falls with my workmates. Yes, another team building event! And this one I was fully committed to attending given that we’d be canoeing on the lovely St. Croix. And it meant that I had a slightly shorter journey up to Two Harbors that night. I arrived up there just as people were leaving the race briefing. Chatted to a few folks – including Pierre who was brandishing bright yellow roller skis – surprisingly he didn’t arrive to the starting line with them Friday morning! Perhaps they’ll make an appearance at Arrowhead. Caught up with Eric who I’d be crewing for the next day in his first 100 mile attempt and then headed up the road to the very comfortable Grand Superior Lodge where I’d also stayed the night before last year’s race. Eric’s foray into ultrarunning is a bit like my own… start running with a (road) marathon training group and throw in a few trail runs, then the ‘short’ race at Trail Mix, which sets you up for a ‘less short’ race later that year and before you know it you’ve signed up for your first 50 miler. And there’s only one place to go after that. Well, many places really but one step at a time!

Day 1

We were down at Gooseberry Falls soon after 7am. It was great to see so many familiar faces milling about as I took some pictures and chatted with everyone I knew. Caught up with Jen Pierce and figured we’d be spending much of the day together as Zach was planning about the same pace as Eric. Erik Dalgaard who I’ve known from my early days with the run club at Plymouth Lifetime was also running his first 100 and I was excited to see how it would go for him. We ran the marathon up here together back in 2006 and had such a laugh doing it though I recall quite clearly at the finish line thinking the 50 milers were nuts not to mention the 100 milers. Who’d have thought we’d both be among them within a few short years!

Larry spoke a few words and then everyone moved to the ‘start line’ and off they went among great cheers. 70 brave souls. Warm and humid already at 8am. More coffee and a few more mini muffins (the start of quite an incredible day of feasting) and Jen and I headed towards AS 1. Not that we should have been headed there really with the ‘no crew access’ but we designated ourselves the official race photographers (
me - the amateur - and Jen - the pro). After hiking several minutes in the wrong direction we turned around and eventually found the AS well before and runners were expected through. The first to appear wasn’t someone I recognized (the “guy from Pennsylvania” – and eventual winner). Nor the second (the “Belgian guy”). But then Chris Hanson and Kevin Grabowski came along and soon a string of familiar faces including Adam and Matt, and soon after Eric, Zach and Erik. Pretty brief stops at this AS. Snapped a few more shots and then we were off to Beaver Bay. Now this was much more comfy spectating – out came the camp chairs – a second breakfast of granola bar and banana – and general good fun chatting with Amy, Lana, Kurt and Carrie, and many others hanging out in the now hot sunshine. Beautiful day for spectating alright. Not so much for running 100 miles. It was evident that many runners were already feeling the heat and this before hitting mile 20. Some had run out of water long before the AS and this would catch up with them later in the day. The runners came through in pretty much the same order. I had Eric’s Perpetum handheld ready to go, refilled his Nathan and he was off. Erik came though soon after. Meanwhile I caught sight of a Happy Trails shirt and figured it had to be a Virginia runner – and sure enough it was Gary Knipling whose name I recognized – this seriously energetic 65 year old would finish in a solid 32 hours to take 8th place overall! I’ll be seeing him at the Grindstone start line in a few weeks time.

Next stop Silver Bay. Caught up with a few others here including Holly K would be running the 50 the next day. I have to admit I was a little jealous of the runners at this point - watching them leave this AS for my favourite section of the course, with fun technical trail and amazing views overlooking Bean and Bear Lake. The sun was still hot and ice was the most sought after commodity here. The runners were getting more spread out by now and we had missed the top guys go through but for the most part people were looking good. More photos and water bottle filling. I went out the trail a bit with Eric and later with Erik and each time when hiking/running I was pleased that my shin felt good. I’d had a few PT sessions that week and figured it should be ok for a night’s pacing. Met Scott Myers' parents here – it was their first ultra experience and unfortunately not Scott’s best one. Still, he was incredibly good humored at every AS and we had a good laugh at Co. Rd 6 as he plotted how to fool his parents into thinking he was feeling great upon arrival at Finland knowing they’d be there.

Onto Tettagouche. Without our camp chairs. We arrived here well ahead of the guys but given that it was now late afternoon a lot of the 50 mile and marathon runners on their way up to Lutsen tend to stop off here so the place was buzzing. Alicia and Kate were running the AS. And Valeria, Brian and
John, and many others were hanging out. It’s a pretty tight junction so everyone was in a close group cheering the runners as they came out of the woods. Some longer stops here to get sufficient food. Helped with a few foot repair jobs and two speed workouts down the trail to the car – the second to get my headlamp for Erik as I realized he couldn’t make it to Co. Rd. 6 before dark. Eric had already gone through and was looking great so I wasn’t at all worried that he wouldn’t make it. Earlier I had chatted to Wouter (the Belgian – though really he must be French or at least definitely related to Pierre) while he took a break to get some calories in. I noticed he’d been sitting a bit longer at each AS but seemed quite happy with how things were going. Funny guy – by now we all knew his story of running Cascade Crest 100 two weeks earlier (taking 4th place in 21 hours), Amtrack to Grand Forks and biked across to Gooseberry Falls! So it was no wonder he was feeling a little tired…

Jen and I made our way back to Silver Bay to pick up our chairs. Though it took me two trips to actually pick mine up. I didn’t think it was possible to get ultra brain just from crewing. Had gas station pizza and coffee for dinner. Lunch had been a smorgasbord of granola bars and gummi bears. And a banana just to feel healthy. While at the gas station Jen undertook the fun task of washing icky socks as she thought Zach might be running low – the humidity was giving him blisters early on (only to later find several spare pairs!). And I got my camera battery charged. And then onto Co. Rd. 6 where I was looking forward to catching up with Tom and Nancy. We parked up in the gravel pit, got our stuff together and headed down the road – to be greeted by the smell of grilled cheese sandwiches! I knew I’d be here a while so held off for now… Busied myself with a few runners coming through. Another foot repair job on Craig – borrowing moleskin from Sean Faulk who had decided to drop here. That was too bad as he was running strong earlier but like many others maybe not cautious enough in the heat. I knew Sean’s name from several race results (the correct spelling of the name sticks with me!) but had never met him before. But I have a feeling we’ll be seeing him at Hyland soon! Though it will be a while before I make it back there… but more on that later.

It was probably close to 7pm when we got to this AS and I was expecting to see Eric come through pretty soon. He’d been somewhere around 30-32hr pace through the first few AS and though I knew leaving Tettagouche he was probably on the upper end of that he seemed to be in good form and getting enough water and nutrition despite having run out of water at least once earlier in the day. The time passed quickly at the AS between chatting to Tom and Nancy and helping a few runners. Before I knew it the sun was fading and I was wondering if maybe I should go out the trail with my headlamp. I had on my Keens but figured I wouldn’t be going too far. Just as I was thinking of heading off Mike Henze (FANS 24hr superstar) who was crewing for
Richard Chrz said he was going to do the same - even though I think he knew Richard had a headlamp he figured there might be others without one. So we headed off down the road and into the woods. I quickly realized that whatever light was left in the sky it was much darker in the woods. There is a pretty steep climb up from the road and then some up and down. It’s a pretty rocky section and overall I would rate the 9 miles from Tettagouche as the toughest section of Sawtooth. Thinking about this didn’t help. I had reassured Eric that he had loads of time to make it before dark. We started to meet a runner every few minutes and I was hoping each head-lit body would be closely followed by Eric but then we met Zach and he said that Eric had hit a rough patch not too far out of Tettagouche and was having stomach issues. Crap. Soon after we met Richard so Mike turned around with him. I figured we’d gone about somewhere between a mile and a mile and a half at this stage. I was mostly fast hiking and running a little. Shin felt good but my feet were getting a little sweaty in the Keens! Then I came across Pierre and Erik – who thought Eric might possibly have turned back to Tettagouche. What to do?! I continued on and I think only a few minutes later met Ryan who told me Eric wasn’t too far back and he’d very kindly given him a second light. Yes! Sure enough we soon met up. Probably a bit over 2 miles to make it back to Co. Rd. 6. Eric hadn’t been able to eat at all that whole section and had hardly drank anything either. He was feeling pretty rough and well off where he'd wanted to be so I knew he may be thinking about calling it quits at the AS. We agreed not to make any decisions until he got there and got some food into him. We hiked pretty slow but kept moving along and made our way down the rocky terrain and back onto the road sometime after 9pm. At the AS Eric knew he needed to eat but had no appetite for anything. I started on my first grilled cheese and got him to eat some of it which actually went down okay. He was drinking a little as well but by now the night was setting in and out here along the road it was pretty chilly. Several others had come through - some, including Jason who was looking strong and enjoying one (or two) grilled cheeses - continuing on, and others not. Bodhan, still smiling but no longer in his red polka dots, decided he'd had enough fun for one day. I went up to the car for some more supplies and ran into Laura who'd just driven up from the cities and had been at the AS when Erik has come through, and was heading for Finland. By thetime I got back to the AS, Larry had come along and Don was here also ‘gently’ coaxing Eric to get his ass out of the chair. It was quite comical – there was a guy from Iowa whose name escapes me that was also on the verge of dropping and Don was basically working his way over and back between the two guys. In between all of this Eric was telling me he was going to wrap it up here and we could get some sleep and then I could run the next morning. At this point I believe the 50 miler was on the cards. We even joked about him running the marathon. Yes, definitely some ultra brain setting in. It was getting close to 10:30PM now and I knew we needed to move if we were going. I hadn’t realized until talking to Mike Henze earlier that I could pace from this AS (allowed after 6PM) so I had changed into my running shoes upon getting back to the car but kept my long track pants on as I figured we’d be hiking more than running. Eric was pretty cold and shaking quite a bit despite a few blankets around him. I wasn’t sure how much to try to push him to get going but I could tell he was thinking that 50 would be better that 40-something. Got a bit more food and drink – I made it to three grilled cheese – equaling Jason’s record I believe! Bonnie kindly offered to drive the truck to Finland. And after a few final words of encouragement from Don – who in fairness told Eric to go down the trail a few hundred yards and if he felt awful turn around and no one would try to argue – though as I write that now perhaps the truck would have been already gone :) Anyway, it worked and Eric was on his feet… and even the guy from Iowa decided to come with us. Success! We left sometime after 10:30PM and sure enough were soon warmed up and hiking a good steady pace. About a mile in there is a campsite and there was a group out along the trail cheering for us which was a nice surprise. Further along we came across Andy the friendly hiker who we sent back the trail to Iowa runner – we plotted a pretty reasonable (at the time) story about Andy being a pissed off ultra runner who’d been timed out by Larry last year and was back to take revenge on the runners making it through the cut-offs this year. Iowa guy zoomed past us a few minutes later. Either Andy was a super motivator or a really annoying kid. But not an axe murderer.

We kept up a good pace all the way to Finland arriving around 1:30AM. Eric was in good form and his stomach was coming back. The rice burritos being served up here were going down well. But I could tell he had pretty much decided he was done. After some more debate – with Don working solely on Eric now as Iowa guy had decided to call it a night immediately upon arrival - I said I would go put on my shorts and we’d get going again. But it was not to be. Eric was glad to have done the 50 but I think the combination of a still dehydrated body, the late hour and knowing that tomorrow would be another hot day made a nice comfy bed at Caribou Highlands seem all the more appealing. A good achievement for anyone on the day that it was. The others who would arrive after us all decided to drop and through the night the aid stations would see people come by foot and leave by car. We’ve been complaining about the summer being too cool here but no one was expecting high 70’s to hit the northshore for the weekend. Add to that the intense humidity on the mostly heavily forested trail and you get a 50% finish rate.

It was after 2AM when we were leaving Finland and close to 3 getting back to Lutsen. Not that I remember much of the drive but thankfully the road was quiet! There had been talk of the morning races on and off but given that I needed about a week to digest the contents of my stomach, not to mention that my shin had started to bother me on the hike to Finland, I figured it was a fun idea but not a very smart one. I set my alarm for 6:30AM.

Day 2

It can’t be 6:30AM already? It isn’t. Some people coming in downstairs. Back to sleep. It can't be...? It isn't. Shelly’s alarm going off at 5:15. Back to sleep. Sort of. It's 6:30. Will I or won’t I? I get up. Lean over the balcony and see Matt sleeping downstairs. He’s half awake and tells me he came 2nd in the 100K (Adam taking first). I tell him I’m going to run the marathon. He says something incoherent or at least something I didn't want to hear. I shower, get dressed, realize I look like I’m pregnant with twins. I call Eric. At first he thinks I say I’m not running and tells me that’s a good idea as it looks like another humid day out there. I clarify my intention and he says it’s still a good idea. I drive over to the lodge, see Holly and Chae, pick up Eric and we set off for Cramer Rd. Via the Coho Café which thankfully opens at 7AM on a Saturday. Large coffee. Food? God no. Well, ok I’ll have a croissant. The coffee perks me up no end and by the time we turn onto Cook County Rd 1 - I decide my goal will be 4:20 and perhaps that will be enough to win and possibly be a course record. I knew Kim Holak had run 4:24 last year or the year before but I didn’t know if that was the record.

We get to race start about 7:30AM. I fill my water bottle, add a nuun tab, and stuff 2 gels in the carrier pocket and a baggie of S-caps and nuun tabs in my shorts pocket. I tell Eric in the unlikely event that he doesn’t want to sleep for the rest of the morning and might find himself at Oberg in about 3 hours time that I would really love to see him there. And if he had a can of red bull in his hand that would be even better. I get myself signed up. Good thing Larry was there to verify my free entry as the checkbook was the last thing on my mind that morning. Larry gives me the scoop on the 100 milers' progress – Chris Hanson was closing in on first place at one point through the night or early morning. Kevin Grabowski was holding steady in third. I chat to lots of people including Anne F who was talking to Shelly at the time. Anne asked if we knew each other. No, but we slept together last night. I spot Edan from Thunder Bay who is originally from Dublin and has not lost his accent one bit. We met up here back in 2006. I recognize the girl with him who turns out to be Nicola and I knew she had won this race previously. I see Wynn and figure there’ll be a record attempt in the men’s division also. I toddle off into the woods for a few minutes and realize I will have some fun digesting those grilled cheese sandwiches over the next few hours. I warm up by running a few short out and backs along the gravel road. My shin hurts. I ignore it. I am stupid. I love racing.

It’s time to line up. I see Kim Holak and think I should have stayed in bed. She tells me she decided to sign up the day before and I tell her I decided an hour ago.

Larry sets us free. Wynn bolts off and another guy goes with him. Edan and Nicola and another guy are ahead and then Kim. I decide to tag along behind Kim. WTF am I thinking? I know I can’t keep up with this lady. I am breathing hard within 200 yards. I realize it is mostly my stomach demanding attention and that I will be taxing my system a little more than usual today. A loop around to get the marathon distance and we are back across Cramer Road and soon onto the single track. I realize I have not have been on this section of trail since Sawtooth 12 months ago. And that was in the dark. I love it. We are running fast and dancing across the roots. Edan and Nicola are a little ahead and Kim is right in front of me until she stops to get a gel down and lets me by. Soon we are all running along in a line. There is some climbing and I am impressed by now easy Nicola makes it look. I know that she could jog up Mystery Mountain and make it look graceful. But I notice she is not carrying a water bottle and think that might be a mistake on a day like this. I am out of water by the time we arrive at Temperance AS. 1:11 on the clock. I didn’t know exactly how many miles we’d covered but figure it was over 7 so I was happy with that (7.9). No time wasted here as I have the bottle open, nuun tab added, fill it, 2 cups of coke, and I am off. Alicia is there with a quizzical look – she has been up all night except for a few hours sleep on a picnic bench at Finland! As I’m running by I tell her about Eric. Into the woods again for a few minutes before the trail hits Temperance River. It is beautiful along here. Some fun rocky sections. I left the AS ahead of the others and proceed through the grassy section, across the river and a good part of the way up the gravel path with no one behind me. Then Edan appears and soon Nicola and another, new guy. We pass Vishal from Chicago along here. It had been fun seeing his crew at the AS throughout Friday. We had passed Eva in the first section. She was moving well and would finish first female in just under 31 hours. And then sleep in her car that night before driving back to New Jersey. And no doubt still be smiling when she arrived back east. I tell Nicola to go ahead as we start climbing. I remembered how this had felt just after sunrise 12 months ago. On that occasion no part of my body wanted to run but I had given myself an hour to get up Carlton and 45 minutes to get to Sawbill. And I had gotten close to that. Today I figured I should make it in half the time. As we started to descend Nicola lets me by and we hammer it down the back side and then along the flat section, across the road and along the boardwalks – where I almost end my day – and into Sawbill AS. 2:03 on the clock. Sweet. Again, I wasn’t sure of the exact mileage but I figured at least half way (13.6). And I knew the next section would be kinder. I refilled, grabbed a gel and left the AS ahead of the others. I had not seen Kim since Temperance but figured she would not be far behind. I’d taken the two gels I had with me just before the two AS so I planned to carry this one until almost Oberg and then take another one for the final section. As soon as we hit the trail I started to run pretty hard. From the start of the race my shin hurt with every step. Not shooting pains just a consistent ache. Though it was better when I landed more on my forefoot so it didn’t bother me as much in this section where I could increase my cadence and run smoother. Not quite Chris Gardner smooth though I told myself that’s exactly how I was running. I decided if I got passed in this section that I would drop at Oberg. I don’t know that I would have or not. I wanted to win. I wanted to break the course record. And if I wasn’t going to do that I figured there was no point in making my shin worse. Makes sense right? OK. So I didn’t care about the shin. I just wanted to win. I like winning. But of course I wouldn’t have dropped…

10 miles to go. Too soon to be thinking about winning. Just keep moving at this pace. The guy behind me was keeping pace and that really helped. Turned out to be Ryan who was running his first trail marathon. His parents were at the finish line and I told them it wouldn’t be his last and that next he would be running 50 milers and then… they didn’t want to hear any more! My stomach was not bothering me particularly other than my abs were getting a serious workout holding it all together. But I knew I needed a potty break. I was also trying to remember the end of this section from last year. I knew that Teresa and Pam had hiked back out to meet me so I was looking for landmarks. Soon enough I saw the junction where they’d met me. I remembered Pam telling me it wasn’t far. Then I remembered how I’d been annoyed (sorry Pam) because it was far. But was that just 100 mile far or really actually far? It was really actually far. Over a mile for sure. We crossed the wooden bridge and then onto the ski trails. Some winding around here and I knew it was at least a half mile so I ducked off the trail and into the woods. Ryan flew by shouting “nice pace”. It took a bit longer than desired but I felt so much better. I arrived into Oberg AS and there was Eric with my red bull. Yeaay!!! It was down in seconds. Water bottle refilled and I was on my way again. Eric said the guy had just left. I was more concerned with the ladies behind me. I started to ask how Erik and others were doing but he told me to get going! I passed Pat Susnik and Nicholas Olson as I was getting on the trail. I was clearly full of energy after my red bull and made the mistake of cheerfully asking them how they were doing and telling them they looked great. They didn’t look great. They didn’t feel great. They said something about running 95 miles. Probably along the lines of “How the hell do you think we feel?” They would probably have appreciated it more if I told them they looked like shit.

A quick wave to Oberg Mountain – we had to do this loop the first time I ran the marathon in 2005. Larry’s add-on at the start is much more sensible. And considerably easier. Which of course makes no sense at all when you think about it. And then onto Moose Mountain. This came much quicker than I was expecting. I guess I was moving well. I was convinced Nicola would catch me on either this climb or the next one. So, after another potty break, I kept moving as fast as I could and started to run immediately after hitting the top. Nice flat section through the woods here and then a mix of up and down and before I knew it I was approaching the switchbacks on Mystery Mountain. Ah, the fond memories I recalled. Not. This final section had taken me 1:50 last year. Yes, I remember these things. 1:20 was my goal today. It was getting close to an hour. Damn I had forgotten to pick up a gel in my red bull-induced excitement. Nothing for it now. I saw Kevin up ahead and he was running. I figured if a 100 miler was running these switchbacks then I certainly could. As I passed him he asked if there was anyone close behind - I told him about the guys leaving Oberg. I figured he would know that was a ways back but later he told me that got him worried and he moved faster in case they would catch him. They finished about 30 minutes after him. I knew I had to be close to the top. I also knew how many times I had thought that last year. A few trips out to view Lake Superior and then it was downhill. Oh yes baby. We are hammering this home. I saw Ryan up ahead and then a large group of hikers. They saw him of course but not me so I almost took one of them out as they turned around to carry on after Ryan had passed. As soon as I’d gone by I thought I should have asked one of them for water. I had been rationing myself to a mouthful every 5 minutes. I was almost out and dreaming of a huge glass of coke. Ryan let me by and I continued to descend at a good pace. Then finally that beautiful sound of Onion River, the open trail, the left turn, the bridge… at some point along this section I had decided 4:12 was possible. Time was ticking by. I was getting close. Up the hill and then onto the gravel road. But still some way to go. Past the ski lodges that you at first imagine to be Caribou Highlands. More flags up ahead. 4:10. And then across the grass and onto the trail by the lodge, around the pool, and HOME. 4:11:03. I told Larry it was harder than Lean Horse 50. I meant it.

Boy, was I one happy chick at the finish line. At least for about 30 seconds - until I realized just how badly my shin hurt. God how stupid was that? But how much fun. Three weeks until Grindstone. Plenty of time to recover. And hey, if I can do that for 26.2 miles on three ibuprofen I am sure it will all work out.

Eric, Guy (who’d had to drop from the 50 miler after he pulled his hamstring. Ouch.) and several others were at the finish line. I iced my leg and got some fluids into me. Then took a shower and got ready to head out to find Valeria, and Erik and Zach. We decided to hit Sawbill first where we caught Val flying through and smiling the whole time. Stan had just gone through ahead of her looking strong. They’d run together for some of the early sections. John Mass had also come through and a few hundred milers. It was fun seeing some of the same people as the day before. Well, not so much fun for them I suppose. The poor guy from Alabama (or Arkansas?) was much happier when we told him there was a 50 mile and marathon race – he was a bit concerned by the people flying by him! Laura was there waiting for Erik and had been at all of the AS through the night. She headed off out the trail to meet him. Zach arrived and was suffering pretty bad with his feet. He got them fixed up and Eric decided he’d do a bit more of the course and headed off towards Oberg with him. What a neat way to finish off the weekend’s events!

Steve Q was working this AS and gave us the low down on how strong Duke was running and we figured he’d surely win it which he did to set a new CR of 9:32.
Brian P ran an awesome race to come in next having moved up through the leaders as the miles counted down. Next was the guy from Kansas and then Matt Howard who told me later that was the fastest time he would ever run that course as he wouldn’t be attempting it again! He did enjoy it but is looking forward to the much more runnable terrain at the Madison NF Challenge. After a stop at Oberg to catch Val again and for Jen to swap places with Eric and pace Zach to the finish – we made our way back to Lutsen to watch Stan finish 5th in his first 50 miler. Nice one. John Mass in 7th – another smart runner who ran his own race on his first attempt up here… and next Valeria in a fantastic 10:52 to take an hour and a half off her winning time from last year! Way to set the record.

We hung around for a bit and then headed down to the lake for an ice bath. Val and Eric got two picnic chairs and sat in the water while I settled for chilling just my lower legs. I think it helped but I proceeded to limp around for the evening. Back at the finish line we watched the 50 milers continue to come through interspersed with 100 milers. Erik finished his first hundred having run a very smart race taking it easy through the heat of the day on Friday and fast hiking many of the sections. Which works well when you have legs as long as Erik! Wouter finished with a smile on his face – he’d taken a break at Oberg when we were out there earlier and we’d gotten a good laugh when he said “I suppose, this would be a really stupid place to drop”. He went on to tell me about his next race in France in a few weeks time – just 90 miles that one. I tell you – related to Pierre. Soon after Zach and Jen came though looking happy but no doubt glad to be done – I am guessing it will take a while for the feet to look the same… Jenny M finished her first 50 smiling and many other familiar faces continued to cross the line. We headed indoors for dinner though I know my stomach would have been perfectly okay not seeing food until Monday. The two groups from Chicago were in the restaurant and between us all I think we livened up the place nicely. I am not sure if it was the few glasses of wine or the lack of sleep but everything sure seemed funnier than usual.

Back out to the finish line for more laughs. Karen Gall finished and was an absolute riot filling us in on her final hours on the trail. The rocks and logs miss her. Brad Birkholz came along sometime after midnight with a huge pack looking as if he was taking off on a long hike but apparently he was just heading over to the playground area to set up base camp. After several minutes of sleep deprived mindlessness discussing how Valeria and I would make excellent sherpas (being foreign, maybe even exotic, made up for being clueless about Little Debbie’s) we decided it was probably time to call it a night. I am writing this and wondering - did that whole scene even happen?

It was another amazing weekend on the trail. On THE trail. I am lucky to have run some awesome trails around the country - but there is nothing quite like the Superior Hiking Trail. Congrats to everyone who participated in the weekend’s events and thank you to the tireless volunteers at all of the AS and everywhere in between, and especially to Larry, Colleen and family.

If you were there this photo by Jen P requires no explanation. If you weren’t – the boys are simply wondering “Is he really going to run in those?” He did.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The Aftermath

I woke up Sunday morning in more pain than I have ever felt after a race. Of course it wasn’t the all over body pain the 100 milers were feeling but the intense shin pain had me wishing I felt the way I had 12 months ago instead. By the time we got back to the Twin Cities the whole muscle was very swollen. I iced it repeatedly that night and kept it elevated – while following IM Madison online tracking Pam (a.k.a Kona bound rock star!) and Tanya. I can walk quite okay on the ball of my foot but flexing it either direction at the ankle and putting much pressure on it is not good and even today after two PT sessions the muscle is still swollen. And in case you are wondering, fascia burn is as painful as it sounds.

Anyways, PT and no running (except in the pool, yawn) for a few weeks and I should be right as rain for Grindstone. Sounds like the perfect taper eh?


SteveQ said...

My favorite thing from the race was Jenny referring to Crazy Erik and Normal Eric, to keep them straight. I finally put name and face together for Erik - seems normal to me.

You're going to give some people fits when they find out you went up just to pace and then jumped into a marathon... and won.

Now, when is that photo of Matt going to appear?

Anonymous said...

It was great to meet you! Congratulations on a great race, karma repaying you for your work the day before. Hope the legs heal up in time for Grindstone - Good Luck!


Beth said...

I know I will never run a 50 miler, but if I did I would want you to crew for me! Congratulations on a great weekend of crewing and racing. I've never been on the SHT but after hearing all about it I want to go and see for myself. I hope your shin behaves and is better soon. Thanks for the great race report!

Wayne said...

Wow, Helen... what a weekend! Nice job helping out and Congrats on the marathon win. I hope the shin heals up well, and quickly.

RichardC said...

Big Kudos for helping out!
speachless on your Marathon time. Amazing! :)

nwgdc said...

What. A. Weekend.

Great writing too (all 17 pages worth)! I can't imagine the look Matt P was sporting to give Adam that look of "I'm about to vomit."

Absolutely hilarious! Get healthy!!

Londell said...

I have found all three sides are rewarding (running, crewing and working a station). Thanks for sharing all three in one weekend... What a dream come true! And do need to get a mother here for you? Take care of the injury, as I read it makes me nervous... I know you are very wise and know your body, but you are also a very competitive and such a success, which that can lead to problems...

Hope we share an aid station at the Murf?

Zach said...

It was funny seeing you everywhere over the weekend, you just kept popping up at aid stations, popping out of the trailheads, etc. Had I been a bit faster, it would have been funny to also see you run by :) Thanks so much for all the help, and for hanging out with Jen making her 36 hour adventure a bit less tedious.

Julie said...

What a fabulous weekend you had Helen. You were able to watch the races with the drama unfold, take care of your runner and still participate in a race winning and taking another course record down! WOOHOO! Way to go. Now heal up that shin and kick ass at Grindstone, I know you will :)

Matthew Patten said...

That is Adam's look of envy.

Scott said...

That's so cool that you got a little bit of everything, and congrats on a great race! Too bad I missed you at the finish. Hope the shin calms down, and I'm sure you'll do great at Grindstone, can't wait to read about that one.

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