Monday, October 10, 2011

Glacial Trail 50K Race Report

Sunday, October 10, 2011
Greenbush, WI

Glacial Trail 50K and 50M is held in the Northern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest near Fond du Lac, WI. I was really looking forward to this race -- it was supposed to be beautiful and difficult trail, but best of all, a lot of the Runner's World gang were going to be there! I was excited to see old friends and meet new ones.

My morning started with a 3am wake up call and an hour and a half drive on a very empty highway. I made it to the start/finish area at 5:15am; plenty of time to spare before the 50 milers took off. Our little group consisted of me (50K), Ethan (50M), Todd (50M), Heidi (50K), Amanda (50K), Ava (crew), and Steve (crew). I had met everyone but Heidi before, so it was a fun reunion. At 6am, we cheered for Ethan and Todd as they took off into the darkness for 50 miles.

50 mile start

Heidi and I with our matching gaiters
The sun was rising as we lined up outside of the firehouse in the small town of Greenbush, Wisconsin for our 7am start. This is a small race with less than 200 people for both distances. It was quite warm outside for early October and I had not anticipated getting to wear a t-shirt and shorts. I don't quite remember how we started, but I'm willing to bet that the RD yelled go and off we went. We had about a half mile on pavement through town before we hit the trail.

The sun rising in the distance; Heidi just ahead of me in the blue.

Heidi and I started out in the back of the pack. She was moving slightly faster than me and took the lead. I kept her in sight for the first maybe 3 or 4 miles, but eventually she pulled so far ahead that I lost her. I spent the next few miles with an older gentleman who seemed content to just hang out behind me. He kept telling me that I was holding a great, steady pace, but otherwise we didn't make much conversation. I don't love having people on my tail if we're not talking or I don't know them, so I was ready to shake him as we rolled into the first aid station at mile 7. I took grabbed some of my standards, oranges and potato chips, downed a coke and kept moving. My friend stuck with me though and went left around the same time. He stayed with me until around mile 10, where I had what I'll call a baby ankle roll. It was enough of a roll to make me pause, but not enough that I was in severe pain. I pulled off to the side of the trail for a second to let him pass and walked for a few minutes to get my ankle to settle down.

Now I was happily alone on the trail. I was moving well, but stopping to take pictures every now and again. The trail was just beautiful. I felt like I was running through a painting. The trees were sporting brilliant fall colors, which made things just oh-so-pretty, but unfortunately those leaves had been falling. The trail was covered in a blanket of crunchy leaves. Every step was like a small leap of faith. You just never knew what lay underneath them. Smooth ground? A rock? A root? A snake? It made for tough running. I was constantly stumbling, kicking rocks, and tripping.

Leaves!  Leaves everywhere!

I exited the woods and ran across an open meadow on the way to the mile 13 aid station. This aid station was busy -- lots of people coming in and out. I almost considered eating some of the cheese curds that were there, but decided to play it safe and went for the potatoes instead. Shortly after leaving the aid station, I ran into Amanda, who had already been to the turn around and was kicking ass. She was running strong and I knew she was going to have an awesome day.

As I made my way to turn around, I got to see almost everyone in the race since I was in the back of the pack. I waved to some trail forum folk, saw Heidi again, and finally crested a hill and saw two guys sitting in lawn chairs. This was the turn around. I crossed the white line and went in the opposite direction. It took me 3:50 for the first half of the race.

Butler Lake in the background.

It's always a good feeling to be heading in the direction of where you came from. I was doing okay at this point. My legs were tired and the lower half of my body was starting to ache, but that's pretty typical for me. I decided that I would turn on my ipod after I hit the aid station at mile 17. You descend into this aid station from a long flight of stairs. Steve was waiting for me at the bottom and I got to see the crew for the first time and hear 50 mile updates. Badger was in third place! All I could get out of Steve about Ethan was that he had gone out pretty quickly. I feared the worst. This was a longer stop for me -- I chatted with Steve, got my pack filled with ice and water and ate. Finally, I decided it was time to keep going. I cranked up the ipod and took off.

Coming into the aid station at mile 17

The music helped me for a while. I was singing along and having a good time. It was also at this point that my shorts started to chafe my back. This happens to me on occasion. I should have been smart and applied duct tape or band aids before the race, but I completely forgot. Thankfully I had the brilliant idea to tuck my shirt in on my back. It didn't look very pretty, but it worked.

I don't know quite when things started to go downhill. It started out slowly. Oh, the top of my left foot is starting to hurt. That's okay, that's normal, I've been having issues with that foot lately after all. Hmmm, the bottoms of my feet are getting sore. These rocks are starting to take a toll on me. Maybe I should have worn the other shoes. What's that? Yes, legs, I know, I know, these hills are making you tired. Pipe down back there, sacrum. I heard you 5 miles ago.

Rolling into the final aid station at mile 24, there two members of the trail forum already there. Tom was grabbing some food and Susan was sitting in a chair with stomach issues. They both took off shortly after I came in though. Steve and Ava were here to cheer me on as well. They brought news that Todd had moved into second place and Ethan was in 4th. This motivated me to get going, since they would be catching me on the trail soon. I don't think I ate enough here. I remember potato chips, trying a pretzel, but spitting it out, and that was about it.

I left the AS and took off after the trail forum peeps. Susan was walking and battling nausea. We exchanged a few words as I passed her. Tom was in the distance ahead and would stay there for a while. Finally, the leader 50 miler passed me. Now I was on the look out for Todd and Ethan. Then I heard Todd coming up from behind me. We were coming up on a big hill. He was looking tired, but still moving well. I practically shoved him up the hill and told him to keep going and that I would trip Ethan for him. He disappeared off into the distance. Maybe 5-10 minutes later, Ethan appeared, now in third place. He was stumbling up a hill and I basically shoved him off into the distance too. Go, go, go! Don't hang out with me...RUN! Only 10K left to go!

Ethan coming up from behind me

I was by myself again, anxiously looking back and hoping that the 4th place 50 miler was far behind. Not much later I saw Tom emerging from a camp bathroom. I tried to wait for him, but he urged me on ahead. It wasn't too long after this when things started to go bad quickly. I had maybe 4-5 miles left to the finish. I started getting queasy. My head felt light. My stomach was not happy. "Don't puke, don't puke, don't puke," was running through my mind. I stopped every few minutes to stand and bend over. I thought about how downed trees looked like nice places to nap. My feet were aching like crazy. They felt like they had been through a meat grinder. I contemplated my shoe choice. Yes, these shoes had successfully gotten me through my first 50K, but that course wasn't nearly as technical and the damn shoes didn't have a rock plate. Now every step was painful. I stumbled like a drunk down the trail, walking slowly. I thought about just how far I had to go and how it was a heck of a long walk. More 50 milers were coming now, but Ethan and Todd had a strong lead and I wasn't worried about them losing it. (And indeed, they finished well. Ehtan in 2nd overall; Todd in 3rd.)

Hey, I was here!

Those final miles were not pretty. I tried to run, but my pace was dreadfully slow and my feet were throwing a temper tantrum. The nausea had finally passed, but the hamburger feet weren't going anywhere. Tom caught up to me and we stayed together for a while. It was nice to have the company, although I'm fairly certain I was whining and complaining most of the time. We picked our way down a hill and he said something about flatland from here on out. Okay, I guess I'll try to run now. I zoom zoomed (his words, not mine) off at a blazing 14 minute mile. I almost kissed the sign that said only one mile left to go. Soon I was hearing traffic in the distance. I had never been so happy to see pavement before. I tried to pick up my pace for that last 1/2 mile, but I don't think I really did. I crossed the finish line in 8:31:XX. A significant slow down in the second half.

This was a rough race for me. In retrospect, it was probably stupid of me to run (2) 50Ks and a trail marathon in just 5 weeks. I don't think that I ever got a chance to recover. But I love to be out there on the trails and I had fun despite the pain. Getting to hang out with a bunch of the gang from Runner's World made it even better. 2011 has been good to me. Ethan helped show me that I could indeed run an ultra. So I did. Then I ran 2 more with a lot of help from the BF and trail forum along the way. You're all a bunch of damn enablers! I'm a bit concerned about what you people are going to convince me to do in 2012.

Thumbs up for Bob!

5,500 feet of elevation gain.  Ouch.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

How to Run a 9 Hour Marathon: Moose Mountain Marathon 2011 Report

Saturday, September 10, 2011
Lutsen, MN

Moose Mountain Marathon is held up on the North shore of Lake Superior near Lutsen, MN. It's up North. Waaaayyyy up North. You might as well call it Canada; that's what it felt like. The entire race is on the Superior Hiking Trail and follows the last 26.2 miles of the point to point Sawtooth Superior 100 mile course, which started the day before.

This was supposed to be my first marathon, but thanks to some unnamed friends, I ended up running my first ultra back in May and another trail marathon in July. Honestly, I'm glad I had some experience under my belt. The course is tough and I under estimated just how long I would be out there. After all, Sawtooth Superior isn't a Hardrock 100 qualifier for nothing. This race is technically a marathon in distance, but I was treating it like an ultra. I finished my trail 50K in a little over 7 hours. Thanks to the elevation and technicality of the course, I knew this race was going to take me longer. Just how much longer was a mystery to me.

As we made the long drive up scenic highway 61 to Lutsen, I was amazed and how much the terrain changed the further North we got. What are those things on the horizon looming in the distance? Hills? Oh, those are bigger than hills. Mountains? Kind of. While they certainly weren't the Rockies, they were, uh, big. Big enough that I thought, "Now just what did I get myself into?"

The race started Saturday morning on an isolated and desolate dirt road in the middle of nowhere. To get to the start, you turned off the main highway and drove up, up, and more up to get there. There were approximately 150 marathon runners ready to brave the forest. We all had to check in before the race started; the RD did a good job of keeping track of every racer while we were out on the course. He gave a short speech about rugged and remote trail and told us to stay safe and we were off. Just a short little half mile jaunt on the dirt road before we turned onto the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT.)

Marathon start.

I'm ready to go!

How to run a 9 hour marathon:

Step 1: Pick a tough course. This marathon had 5,500 feet of elevation gain, which equates to over 200 feet per mile. There were climbs that had me with my hands on my knees. There were climbs that I had to stop and take short breaks on because my heart rate was through the roof and I could barely breathe. There were climbs that had me gripping rocks, trees, anything I could find to pull myself up. There were descents that I had to side step because I didn't have a sled and couldn't figure out any other way to get down. This trail also happens to be some of the most technical out there. The ground was completely littered in roots, rocks, and numerous planks/bridges. I'd try to get a rhythm going only to stub my toe on a huge root and almost fly off a cliff.

Step 2: Have no goals other than to finish, not get lost, and take a lot of pretty pictures. I had no qualms about leaving the trail to get a good shot, stopping to gaze over scenic vistas and just taking my sweet time in general. I wandered off into rivers, hopped over rocks, and even slightly bushwacked my way off trail.

Step 3: Help a fellow racer in need, with no regards as to how long it will take you. More on this later.

Step 4: Run with a sprained ankle. Sprain said ankle around mile 18. Again. For the 10th time since spring. Curse repeatedly.

The first section of the SHT is deceiving and lures you into over confidence. It was maybe a mile or so in and I was thinking, "Oh, this isn't so bad. Pfffttt, I run at (insert name of hard trails at home) all the time. I can handle this." Then it goes on to smack you in the face for your ignorance.

It was an absolutely beautiful day, but warm for Northern Minnesota in the high 70s. I was happily running the flats and downs, power hiking the ups, and stopping to take pictures when I felt like it. With only three aid stations on the course, I opted to wear my pack so I had plenty of water and food on me. I was feeling good and enjoying the beautiful scenery that the North had to offer. I spent the first few miles with this man on my tail who seemed content just to stay there and not pass. I got tired of it and stepped off the trail to take a picture and let him go by. After that, I was happy to just roll along by myself for a while.

Lake Superior in the distance.

Lots of these little bridges.

Does this even need a caption?

We did a lot of running along side the Temperance River, which was beautiful. I passed my first 100 mile runner somewhere in here. He was stumbling along, not looking well. I asked him how he was doing and he replied, "Horrible." I then asked him if he needed anything and he said that he needed a new pair of feet. Touche. My feet would begin to feel beat up later in the race and I was only going 26.2.

I knew that I had a steep downhill to tackle before the first aid station at 7.9 miles. We were up high now with breathtaking views of Lake Superior on the horizon. I kept thinking that we had to hit the downhill soon, but we just kept going up and up. Finally, we hit the switchback filled downhill. There hadn't been any rain lately (evidenced by the fire raging up there currently), so the trail was quite dusty. Our trails at home are very solid, but this one was loose dirt and I almost felt like I could slide down. I was worried about slipping, so I didn't quite let myself fly like I would normally do on a downhill in the beginning of a race. I made it down unscathed and into the aid station.

At AS #1

My crew was there to greet me and I grabbed my standards at the aid station: potato chips, crackers and oranges. I chatted a bit with a French couple and got back on the trail rather quickly. Not but a half mile down the trail, we were greeted with amazing views of the river. There was waterfall after waterfall and every turn seemed to more gorgeous than the last. I stopped frequently to take pictures, admire the scenery and soak in the experience. Sometimes when I stopped, a racer would pass me, but other times I saw no one. The pack was separating and getting very thinned out.

Yep, definitely went off trail to get this shot.

Gorgeous. I did not feel like we were in Minnesota.

Oh hi, don't mind me. I'm just off trail again.

We ran along side the river, crossed over it, and along side it again before we started what felt like the biggest climb on the course. It actually was not the tallest, but definitely the longest. I've done some longer climbs on trails at home, but this was much, much steeper than anything that I have ran before. It involved a very slow hike, and I even stopped to catch my breath a few times and ogle just how high we were going. There was a huge rock formation up top and I thought, "Oh no, we're not going up there, are we?" Time and more trail passes..."Yep, we're going up there. Shit!" I wasn't feeling well at this point. I felt a little nauseous and light headed. I took a gel and tried to compose myself. I eventually started feeling better, I think thanks to the gel. I probably had just needed the electrolytes and calories.

We were almost to the top of the peak when the French couple, who was just slightly ahead me at this point, and I ran into a girl who was not looking well. She was hunched over on the trail with an inhaler. We stopped to ask her how she was doing. Not good. She hadn't been feeling well the whole race and it had gotten progressively worse on the long climb. She was ready to DNF, but didn't know if she could make it down to the aid station, which was probably 2 miles away. The husband of the French couple down to the aid station to let the volunteers know and to find this woman's husband while we waited with her. She was wheezing and told us that she felt very sick. We made her sick down on a rock. She was very pale and I was a little worried about how we were going to get her off the trail. We hadn't quite made it to the top of the climb and then we had to go downhill to the aid station.

I don't know how long we sat with her before she declared that she wanted to try walking again. She was able to stand up on her own and wasn't wheezing anymore, but she was still white and nauseous. We let her set the pace and very slowly we made our way up the trail, stopping to take breaks. We made her sit down during these breaks and she would put her head in between her legs, which seemed to help. I was able to take in the spectacular views from up top while we were slowly making our way to the top of the big rock formation. I had no qualms about extending my race and wasting as much time needed to help get this girl to the aid station. I was only out here to have fun and enjoy the trail anyway. It never even crossed my mind to leave her.

The three of us made it to peak and we stopped for an extended break for our new friend to compose herself. Both of them were out of water, but thankfully I had plenty in my pack, so we divided it up. After our rest, we made our way down the other side of the "mountain." Going downhill seemed to help her and she was able to walk for longer periods of time now. She was very insistent about wanting to just get to the aid station and not be stuck on the trail, so we kept walking. She still felt sick, but was able to walk, so I figured that was a good sign. Eventually we ran into her husband, who had been alerted and came up the trail to find her. While she was very happy to see him, she really needed to get to the aid station and sit, which was now less than a mile away. Her husband insisted and he would take care of her and it would be okay, so the French woman and I wished her well and took off jogging to the aid station to let the volunteers know that the girl was okay and her husband had found us.

Part of the rock formation.

It's hard to tell, but you could see far off into the distance.

Trail off to the right.

It wasn't too long before we hit the aid station at mile 13.6. I was so happy to arrive and grab some food after our extended section. My French friend went to the bathroom while I went back out on the trail. I figured that she would eventually catch back up to me, but she never did so I was alone again on the trail.

Tired and only half way.

A couple of miles later, I was going up a slow uphill filled with switchbacks. I was walking a lot. I was tired and out of my rhythm. This was the first of my major low points. I slogged along, trying to decide whether I should keep going or wait for the French girl so I could have some company. I opted to keep going -- relentless forward motion, after all. Around mile 16 or 17, I ate some fig newtons and put on my headphones. The music got me going again. It was an instant lift. I was running again. This section was "flat," so I was able to make up some lost time and find my legs again. It felt good to run and I enjoying myself. The trail was a little less technical now, so I was moving well. Of course this is where I rolled my ankle. It's those easier sections that always get me. I let my guard down just slightly and BAM. Rolled ankle. I had to stop for a few minutes and lean on a tree and compose myself. My left ankle has been getting rolled all summer, so I'm used to it by now. I gingerly stepped on it. It would be okay, I just needed to walk again for a little while. Eventually I was able to start running again and pretty soon I made my way into the last aid station at mile 19.1.

Some of these were a little unstable!

Nope, I never tripped once. Honest.

Coming into this aid station, I had a list of things I needed to get done and was repeating in my head: Bathroom, fill pack, tape toes, eat. I was going to have my crew help me with some of this, but when I came into the aid station, they were no where to be found. Huh. However, no one else was at this aid station, so I got first class service. A guy took my pack from me as I went to the bathroom. When I came out, he had it filled with ice and water upon my request. Next I took off my right sock and shoe and another guy gave me duct tape to tape my big toe, which was already blistered and giving me a hot spot. Sock and shoe back on and hey, there's my crew! Just a little late to this aid station. One of the guys asked me what I wanted from the aid station. "Uhhhh, something..." "How about some coke?" My eyes lit up! Yeah, Coke would be great. I downed two cups of Coke, ate more chips, grabbed some gels and my crew walked me up to the trail. Only 7 more miles to go.
This final section just about killed me. 6 something hours had passed and I knew I was in for two big climbs on the way to the finish: Moose Mountain and Mystery Mountain. Since the marathon was named after Moose Mountain, I figured it had to be a doozy. I had a few miles to get there and I didn't know if there would be signs to alert me that I was on Moose Mountain or if I would just know from the grade of the trail. I just knew. I turned a corner on the trail and looked...up. "F$%ck." Climb. Use my hands to grab roots to get up. Climb. Turn a corner. "Ohhh, f$%ck." Climb. Grab onto trees to pull myself up. Rest. Climb. Turn another corner. "F$%CK ME!" Is this over yet? My heart was pounding out of my chest. I don't know where I could have run at home to prepare myself for this. It was, uh, a little steep.

View from the top of Moose Mountain.

I think I got to the top of the mountain before a 50 miler caught up to me. We exchanged out of breath pleasantries and he told me that at least the worst was over. I asked about Mystery Mountain. His reply was something about how it's much more gradual. Oh, thank you. I stopped to take a few pictures and admire Lake Superior, but my picture taking was starting to slow. I just wanted to be done with this race already. I was tired and longing to sit down.

Somewhere on top.

Then we had to go down Moose Mountain. F$%ccckkkkk. Can I fashion a sled out of something? No? Uhhh, okay, maybe I can just, uh, no, that won't work. Well, I can't RUN down this slope. Side stepping it is, I guess. I gingerly picked my way down Moose, but I almost think that I would have rather gone up it again. Going down may have been slower than going up.

Part of the downhill; this was MUCH steeper than it looks.

More trail. More looking at my watch. Run. Walk. Run. Walk. I'm tired. Is this over yet? Tired. I'm only at mile 23?! Walk, walk, run, walk, run. Long, slow, switchbacks heading up. This must be Mystery Mountain. Finally get to the top. I can see ski hills and chairlifts off in this distance, which is Caribou Highlands Lodge and where we are finishing. I am elated, but still have 2(ish) miles left to go. The last part of trail was just concentrating on getting done. I was exhausted. I wasn't sure if I was going to finish in under 9 hours or not. Then I decided that it would be kind of cool to finish in over 9 hours because I have run 8:XX hours before, but never 9:XX hours.

I could make out the ski hills! Finally!

Just down the road and around the corner is the finish.

Finally, we pop off the Superior Hiking Trail and onto a dirt road, which leads us past a bunch of cabins and tourists (who do not cheer at all) and to the ski lodge. So close. Just keep running. I see my watch flip over to 9 hours. Any minute now. And finally, down a slight little hill and I can see the finish line. There's a fairly big crowd, lots of people from the lodge are sitting outside and there's a wedding reception happening as well. Cross over the line to big cheers. I am done. 9:06:XX. Not the longest distance that I have run, but definitely the longest time on my feet.


Clearly not my time in the background.

This race was a challenge. I think most finishing times are 5-7 hours and the winner usually comes in around 4 hours. Amazingly, I was not even DFL at 9 hours. I think 3 or 4 people came in after me. The trail is stunningly beautiful, but also the hardest I have ever ran. Aid stations, volunteers, and the RD were top notch. I can't recommend this one enough if you're up for it.

Elevation profile.

My gross feet/legs, along with swollen left ankle.

Very cool finisher's award.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Burning River 100 Mile Crew/Pacer 2011 Report

If for some reason you haven't read it already, you can find Bob's race report HERE.

This was, by far, one of the best experiences I have ever had in my running life. I wish these upcoming words could adequately describe the feelings of awe and inspiration I had over the course of a mere 27 hours, but I have a feeling that they will fall short no matter how hard I try. I watched a friend push himself to the edge and keep going even when going any further seemed impossible. Tigg and I were welcomed into Bob's home and treated like family over the course of our visit. I cannot thank him, his wife, and his girls enough for their incredible hospitality and generosity. Thank you, Bob, for letting me come along on this journey. To run with you and to get to experience this was more than I ever thought it could be.

The Gang/Crew:
Bob - What's a crew without their runner? Bob is an inspiration through and through. One of the most genuine people I have had the pleasure of being friends with. He is compassionate, humble, and kind. Watching him interact with his family was just a joy. His girls are already wonderful, but I know they will grow up to be amazing and strong women with such a father. As Joanne said, the world needs more men like him.

Eddie - Just awesome. Eddie brings sunshine into a room. You can't help but to love him instantly. He is loyal, gregarious, and would help anyone in need. And yes ladies, he's even more dreamy in person.

Tigg - A friend who has been there for me through thick and thin since the day we met. He has encouraged me, pushed me, and believed in me even when I didn't believe in myself. Most of all, he puts up with me, which is quite a feat in itself. I knew he would do the same for Bob and more.

Jenny - My shoe sister! What is there to say about Jenny that hasn't already been said a thousand times over? She radiates warmth. I can see why she continues to beat that cancer -- how could anything so horrible survive on someone so positive, so full of life?

Myself - A novice ultra runner, but eager and excited to learn.

With us in spirit was Badgerfan93, who I know Bob wanted to be there, but unfortunately could not make it.

Mrs. Eddie, Mrs. Bob, Bob, Me, Jenny and Tigg the evening before.

Eddie's Samurai Jeep; our transporation for the day.

Crewing the Race:
I wrote out our entire morning, describing exactly how the crew operated through the day, but it was far too long. The gist was that we followed Bob from aid station to aid station, doing our best to get him whatever he needed in a timely fashion. Mostly we filled his pack, helped him change clothes and shoes, duct taped his feet, constantly put food in his hands, and above all else tried to cool him down during the heat of the day. He battled nausea, heat and humidity, and foot issues through the beginning of the day. One interesting crew highlight involved Bridget and I standing in a Walgreens debating whether panty hose would work to hold ice in lieu of a bandanna, which were nowhere to be found. Needless to say, we didn't buy the panty hose but instead ended up ripping up a beach towel to craft Bob a bandanna, which he would use for a good majority of the race.

Station Road Bridge Aid Station: Mile 33.3

The Crew at Station Road Bridge.

The crew in action at Station Road Bridge.

Eddie and Tigg rip up the towel after we realize that we need some sort of bandanna for Bob.

Eddie shows Jenny how a gentleman should act.

I run with Bob into Ottawa Point Aid Station (Mile 39.6)

The boys ice down Bob at Ottawa Point.

Shower curtain change at mile 49.1

Flash forward to mile 53.5, Boston Store aid station, where Bob would pick me up as his first pacer. The crew had been operating since about 9am that morning; it was about 4:30pm at this point I had to check into the aid station as a pacer and sign my life away on a waiver. As a pacer, you need to take care of yourself first so that you can be there for your runner. A dehydrated, bonking pacer isn't going to do a runner much good. I decided to carry my handheld and a gel with me. I'd also get to eat from the aid stations. I was scheduled for somewhere around 17 miles with Bob.

Bob came into this aid station looking beat down. His feet were bad and he couldn't cool off. Bridget was clearly worried about him. The men of the crew took action and broke out the duct tape again, this time for his toes. He was nauseous and I held him up from behind as his feet were getting worked on. Bob kept telling Bridget that he was okay, but she didn't believe him. I promised her that we would walk for a while and I'd make him eat as we were walking. This was a low point for everyone; Bridget was worried, Bob was feeling down, it was oppressively hot, but I was ready. Fortunately we were told that the rest of the course was shaded. I prayed that this was true, because Bob couldn't be out in the full sun for much longer. He had already ran for almost 12 hours at this point and his body was rebelling.


Miles 53.3 - 58.3 (heading to Pine Lane AS): Bob and I took off for Pine Lane walking down an asphalt bike bath. I kept telling him that it was okay now, that I was with him and he wouldn't be alone anymore. He was hot. His legs were doing great, but he was hot and couldn't eat enough. He was eating pretzels as we were walking. We agreed to run once the pretzels were gone and the bike path was ended. He was quiet as we were making our way. I chatted a bit, but I felt like I was forcing conversation on him, so we didn't do a lot of talking on the segment. We hit the trail and Bob started powering hiking up this switchback filled hill. He had a damn good pace for already having run for over 50 miles. I complimented him on his running and told him he was doing great anytime we ran over some roots or anything technical. I knew he wasn't feeling well and I was trying to keep him encouraged. Later on this segment he fell as we were hiking up a hill; the trail was missing a big chunk out of side and you couldn't see it because it was covered by leaves and plants. I felt horrible that he had fallen with me, but I helped him up and we came into the (non crew accessible) AS not much later.

I'm willing to bet this was one of his longest stops. I tried to get him to eat, but nothing sounded good. He ate a piece of watermelon as I got his pack filled, but I told him that wasn't enough. He went to the bathroom and when he came out, he was feeling even worse. He had a little bit of dry heaving here, but nothing came up. Despite not wanting to sit down during the race at all, we grabbed a chair in the shade and I let him plop down. A volunteer got me some ice and sponges and I tried desperately to cool him off as he sat there. I don't know how many minutes he sat there as I iced him down and told him to relax and that it would be okay. As he was sitting, he was drinking glasses of ginger ale. He also had some iced coffee and finally when I asked him again what he wanted to eat, he replied with bread. Bread! Good! I'm going to go get you some bread, Bob. Thankfully the aid station had plain bread, but I was ready to scrape off peanut butter and jelly to get him some plain bread if I had to. He ate the bread and drank more soda. After he got some calories in him, I asked him if he could stand and he did. Bob was up. We got the pack back on him and walked out of the aid station.

Miles 58.3 - 63.8 (heading to Happy Days AS): Not long after we walked out of the aid station, Bob told me that he was having some chaffing from his shirt seams. We decided to lube him up - he was carrying vasoline in his pack. I smeared a hefty layer on his back under his arms and he put his shirt back on. Unfortunately this was only a small preview of what was to come. We made our way down the trail and heard screams only a short bit ahead of us. We stopped. Another runner appeared and explained that there were hornets ahead and folks were getting stung. I think Bob and I exchanged a look of horror here; neither of us were too pleased with this information. We decided to cut around the bees and make our own trail in order not to get stung. It worked and we thankfully escaped unscathed. It was not too long after this incident that Bob started to perk up. It was getting later in the day and the woods were completely shaded. His core temperate was very slowly dropping. That along with the calories that he consumed at the aid station gave me a new Bob. He was starting to talk again and soon we were laughing and chatting away. We had to hike up a long climb in order to get to few miles of road, but he was doing great. As soon as we hit the road, he had more spring in his step than I had seen since much earlier today. We ran. We ran a lot. We were on a flat bike path and he was moving well. I'd look down at my Garmin and see a 10:XX pace. We had some great conversation through here and I was so proud to see him come out of that very low point. Best of all, he was eating. He ate some crackers and chocolate voluntarily. Success! We happily made our way to Happy Days, where we would get to see the crew for the first time in a while.

As we came into Happy Days, I could see his girls in the distance with signs. It was so great to see the crew after over 10 miles without them. Bob also had a coworker volunteering at this aid station who took good care of us. She filled his pack and Bridget got him to drink some smoothie. I'm not sure what else he ate at this aid station; I was relying on the crew to get him to eat as I was getting rocks of my shoes and trying to eat a little myself. We got about 20 feet out of the aid station before I had to turn back for our forgotten lights. Night was coming quickly and the woods were even darker.

Bob and I come into Happy Days Aid Station.

Miles 63.8 - 70.6 (heading to Pine Hollow 1 AS): We were told to get to this section by dark and we did...just barely. We had about 20 minutes of beautiful scenery that I could see in the dusk as we made our way through The Ledges. Bob told me this section was really cool and indeed it was. There were huge boulders to our right and the trail was rocky and technical. It reminded me a lot of a trail back home that I loved. We stopped briefly at a scenic overlook and took in the sunset. But we needed to keep moving. Always keep moving forward. Bob was great at his relentless forward motion. Despite his lows, he kept moving forward. Never did I hear a negative thought come from him. He thanked the volunteers. He was gracious and treated everyone well, despite how horrible he was feeling at certain times. It was wonderful to witness his ubiquitous positive attitude.

It was shortly after dark when the chafing became a big problem. A very big problem. He told me that shirt was bothering him, but he didn't have any other shirts to change into. I told him that we'd find him one. Eddie or Tigg would have a nice loose fitting tech shirt that we could switch him to after we got to the aid station. However, it wasn't long after that conversation that he told me that he was just going to take his shirt off. No problem, I told him, that's a good idea. I knew the chaffing was really bad at this point because Bridget told us earlier that Bob never runs with his shirt off. So I helped him out of his shirt and we stuffed in into his pack. His arms and back were red and raw. I slathered a bunch of body glide on him, apologizing as I was doing so, worrying that I was hurting him, and gingerly helped him put his pack back on over the chafing, but the damage was done. He didn't complain, mind you, but I know that he was in a lot of pain. Not much further down the trail, he told me he was going to pull off and lube up some, errr, other areas. I sat down on a log and waited for him. He took off the compression shorts for good and had on regular shorts again. He was chafing badly there as well, but there was nothing left to do but to lube up and just keep moving. We took off again, still running unbelievably well, thanks to Bob's strong legs.

We had been leap frogging with another pair of runners during the section. They would catch up to us when we stopped to deal with the chafing, but we would pass them once we got going. This runner's pacer was tired and was going to quit at the upcoming aid station. He told us to him let him know if we found anyone that was willing to run with him. I immediately told him that I would take him for the next section. Tigg was picking up Bob and I wasn't tired, so I was happy to help him. His name was Todd and as we passed them, I told him I would find him at the upcoming aid station after I tended to Bob and got him in good hands with our crew.

We had to climb the famed "Sound of Music" hill to get to Pine Hollow. Honestly, I completely forgot that the hills that we were climbing were "those" hills. I just knew they were tough! Bob was gutting it out at this point. He needed to eat and was hitting another low point with the chafing and the lack of calories. I was worried about leaving him, but I knew that he was in more than capable hands with Tigg. We pulled up to the aid station and the crew was there immediately. Bridget and the girls were getting tired and gave Bob some final hugs and kisses and headed off to sleep, but our work had only just begun. We had "only" 30 miles left to get Bob through at this point, but it was not going to be easy.

Miles 70.6 - 73.9 (heading to Pine Hollow 2 AS; non-Bob pacing): This was another loop that the runners needed to complete. We'd be coming right back to the aid station that we left. After I helped the crew with Bob and watched him take off down the trail with Tigg, I found my new friend Todd. He was resting in a chair with his friend and father. I told him that I was ready to go when he was. He got up out of the chair after a few minutes and we took off down the trail after Bob and Tigg.

This was a fun little section with a lot of stairs and hills. Todd was a chatty guy, so I just listened to him talk for a while. He was living in California, but was originally from Cleveland. He was also a vegetarian and a snowboarder, so we had a lot in common and plenty to talk about. We were leap frogging with a group that Bob knew (Hope and Steve), so we talked a little bit about Bob with them. They told Todd that he could hang out with them after I was done pacing him.

Toward the end of this section, Todd decided that he was going to take off without any warning. And take off he did! All of sudden we were running. And I mean running! I looked down at my Garmin and we were easily clipping off a 9 minute mile. Where did this come from and how long is he going to be able to keep it up? Up and down the undulating hills we ran. I had already come over 20 miles and this was a fast pace for me. I hoped he couldn't do this for much longer or he would drop me for sure. I started to slow behind him on a hill and I think he sensed that I was dropping back and slowed as well. All of a sudden we were walking again. I asked him where that sprint had come from. He replied that he desperately needed to get to the aid station and lube up his _______. (Use your imagination.) Looks like Bob was not the only one with chafing issues. Todd and I eventually got to the aid station and he thanked me for pacing him for that section. I told him I was happy to help and good luck and that we'd hopefully run into each other later on the course. I went to go find Bob and company and it turns out they had come into the aid station just a few minutes before us. Bob's not a GU guy, but he had switched over to gels. As long as he was getting in calories, I didn't care what he was eating. Bob didn't stick around long here, but I could see that he was still struggling with his nausea and chaffing. He and Tigg took off shortly for the next aid station.

Back to Crewing:
Mile 80.5 and 85.2 (Covered Bridge 1&2): Eddie and I had a good bit of time to kill. We loaded up the Jeep and decided to find an all night gas station as it was close to 1am at this point. After a few botched attempts, we finally found one. I changed out of my sweaty running clothes while Eddie sought to find a cheap sweatshirt. It was COLD in the Jeep and even chilly standing around in the night air. No luck at the gas station, so we went to find a sweatshirt at Walmart. On the way there, we ended up in the Taco Bell drive thru. I had just ran 21.5 miles and was hungry and I don't think the crew had much for dinner either. I bought Eddie 4 tacos and we ate dinner in the Walmart parking lot. By far the most romantic ultra running date I have been on.

Covered Bridge was a large aid station that was mildly depressing. People were huddled up in blankets by a fire, runners were coming in looking like zombies. Many sat down in chairs while their crews did the best they could. I imagine there was a large number of drops here. Bob and Tigg came though not long after we arrived. Bob was drinking Coke with salt mixed in and had some rice and broth. They had ran their last section well, but the upcoming one was a toughie. We quickly sent them off into the darkness and settled in for a long wait. I did see Todd come through this aid station shortly after Bob and yelled into the quiet night, "Yeah, Todd buddy! Go get it done!" and he was happy to see me and thanked me again. (He eventually did finish, about a half hour after Bob.) It was at this point that I made a lot of updates to Runner's World.

Covered Bridge Aid Station during the middle of the night.

Eddie changed into his running clothes, as he would be pacing Bob for the last 15 miles after he and Tigg returned. We got antsy waiting for Bob, but it was interesting to see the other runners coming in. One woman came in, took a seat, and started brushing her teeth. Eddie and I thought this was a great idea and might give Bob a lift. We rummaged through the bags and found toothpaste, but no tooth brush so we decided not to mention that idea to Bob. Finally, after what seemed to be a very long time, Bob and Tigg came back from the loop. Bob was tired, sore, chaffing like crazy, and was running on empty. I could see the look in his eyes though and I knew he was going to get it done, no matter how bad it was. Underneath the pain was fierce determination.

Mile 93 (Merriman Road): While Eddie was pacing, he had no choice but to entrust the Samurai Jeep to me and Tigg. Tigg drove while I navigated and huddled by the heater trying to get warm. We had a long wait here at Merriman Road, as Eddie and Bob were running about 8 miles and would pass through a non crew accessible aid station on their way.

Eddie and Bob came through at dawn. The sun was rising. Knowing that Bob was a coffee guy, I made him some coffee at this aid station. I think he was happy to have the coffee after being forced to eat so many other things. I believe this was also the aid station where he downed a rum and coke. He wasn't talking much now. No more idle chit-chat. No more what do you want to eat, Bob. No more filling of the pack; he had switched to handhelds a while ago. He didn't linger long here. He was a man on a mission now.

Mile 96 (Memorial Parkway): The last aid station. Eddie and Bob made excellent time getting here. I believe Bob's pace for the section was 12:40, which is blazing fast at this point in the race. Tigg and I set up at this aid station. There was no coffee here, much to my dismay, but we got him another rum and coke ready along with gels and a ginger ale. When Eddie and Bob came running into the aid station, Eddie stopped to talk for a second, but Bob just kind of looked at us and kept going. We thought that maybe he was heading for the bathroom, but no, Bob wasn't stopping! Screw the AS! Bob was finishing this thing! We all looked at each other and kind of laughed. Eddie took off after him and we yelled that we'd see them at the finish. Tigg and I were cracking up as we frantically packed up all of our stuff and got back in the Jeep and blasted toward the finish.

Mile 100.8 (FINISH): We called Bridget and told her what happened and that Bob only had 4.8 miles left to go. We may or may not have ran a red light on our way there, but we made it without getting pulled over the police. We were on a high from Bob being so close to the finish and from being up all night and were screaming and yelling at the runners on their way to the finish as we drove by them. Most had enough energy for a first pump or wave. We found Bridget and the girls as well as some of Bob's siblings. Burning River lets as many people as the runner wants to run the last mile in with them. Bridget was going to wait at the finish for Bob while the rest of us ran in the last mile with him.

Bob's brother, Tigg and I went the full mile out while the rest of the gang waited a little closer. It seemed like forever that we were waiting for Bob and Eddie to appear on the horizon. We watched other runners come down the street and I just couldn't stop smiling. It was an amazing thing to watch these runners in their last mile. Some of them were walking, others were still jogging, but all of them knew that they were going to make it. Finally, finally, we saw Bob and Eddie show up in the distance. Bob was chafed beyond belief, sunburned, exhausted, his shorts were cut up and hung like a skirt, but it was a beautiful sight. He could barely muster the energy to greet us when we approached, but he lifted up his arm to give me a silent fist bump and I said, "I am so damn proud of you."

So we joined Bob and Eddie in silence. Bob couldn't speak. He clasped his hand on his brother's arm for a moment and then we walked. We walked down the street and I felt so much pride well up inside. Soon his other brother was there walking along side us. No one spoke a word. Then his sister and his girls joined us. The girls knew without being told that it was time for silence. The only thing you could hear was feet walking and sniffles coming from the entire group. Bob held his youngest daughter's hand as we made our way down the street. My eyes were welling up with tears and I heard Eddie beside me. We walked with our arms around each other for a moment, knowing exactly what the other was thinking. I wish I could convey the emotions felt on this walk, but it's too difficult. It was the most emotional mile of my life. Better than any mile of any race that I have completed. Better than the last mile of my ultra in which I was crying with joy. I will look back on this mile many times in the future. Tigg played camera man and got some really nice pictures of everyone together. As we could see the finish line down the street Bob looked around at everyone and spoke his first word, "Ready?" And so we ran. We ran in silence and in tears and the group slowly pulled away as we approached the line and let Bob cross over with his girls and into the arms of his wife.

100.8 amazing miles that I will never, ever forget.