Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pool ramblings

It feels like it's been forever since I've been in the pool. Between taper/race/recover/race/recover and new job switch over, I don't know if I've been there the whole month of October. So I finally got my ass back in the pool yesterday, expecting it to be super crowded as I've never been there after a 'normal' work day is getting over with. Apparently Friday at 5ish is the best time to go - there was practically no one there! I decided ahead of time to do a mile to get back into it and not let myself cut it short.

I tried to let my brain wander more the way it can running. The only problem is that it's super hard to both let your brain wander and keep accurate track of the number of laps you're swimming. I'm pretty sure I did more than a mile (maybe a lot more) because every time I wasn't sure if I was doing 14 or 16, I would say I was on 14 - if I can't keep track that I have to swim more! So I'll have to work on that, too. Maybe it'll be easier if I do lap counts instead of length counts. It's like thinking about the distance you're running by keeping track of how many blocks you've gone. Ugh. Which is why I'm trying to let my mind wander or focus on form rather than think always about lap count. It also seems that when I don't super focus on lap count then my body can get into a 'stride' better, too. Which would also be easier if my pool weren't so damn short . . .

Thursday, October 21, 2010

From NR: My First Ultra!

My first ultra! Everything they said it would be all in one little race!

My first response when people ask about it? BRUTAL. In ALL CAPS! But! I quickly follow with how I finished strong and happy and I never said 'never again' at any point.

The day started off innocently enough. I'd been stressing about what to wear (like always, I'm getting better but I swear I can never dress myself for running) and settled on half-tights even though I'd thought I'd get too warm (and I did a couple times but I'm super glad I wore them). I figured I could always just sport bra it if I got too got and then I also packed a pair of shorts just in a drop bag just in case I got REALLY hot and felt like changing quick, but the most I did was take off the tank top I had under my Icebreaker shirt.

Headed down to Canal Park and onto the bus. Of course, with the sudden influx of runners (something like 20 runners registered the night before and morning of!), there wasn't exactly room for everyone. Time to pack us in three to a seat but luckily ultra runners aren't exactly obese so it worked just fine. Now, Highway 35 is still under construction so the bus wasn't allowed on it which meant side roads only for us. I generally hate driving a course before running it and it seemed to take forever to get there but it wasn't as though we were driving the same course we'd be running, so it wasn't really so bad, it just felt like we were sitting on the bus for ages. We got there late but Andy (the race director) gave us extra time so we'd all have time to hit the bathrooms and get our drop bags in the right boxes before starting.

Gather at the start line, listen to last minute course descriptions that no one will remember and we're off! Having never done a 50K before, it was hard to know how to pace. My thought at the Half Voyageur was to run strong while I felt strong so that's what I went for, trying to run strong but trying to hold back. It didn't feel too fast and I knew this section was nice and runnable so I took my time figuring a pace out, which seemed to be hopscotching with Tracy and Catherine for a while and running just behind Marcus.

Picture by Zach Pierce! Grand Portage aid station - I don't know why I look so tired already. I certainly didn't feel that way.

Then I fell in with Tracy and Catherine for a bit and that was quite lovely. One of the times they passed me, I just hung out at their pace. Turns out Catherine was gunning for a 6 hour finish and that's what I figured would be reasonable for me so I ran along with them for a while until it felt too fast. There seemed to be something I managed to forget for those first 10 miles: Whistlestop. Last weekend. I'm plugging along quite nicely when just after Ely's Peak my legs said "Wait. We're doing what? But we just ran a marathon last weekend! What were you doing running 6 hour pace??" See, the 6 hour rough goal was rather arbitrarily reached by looking at how two of my friends ran last year and figuring I'd be somewhere in-between their times. It also was a mark that did not take running a marathon the weekend before into consideration. Oops.

So, Ely's Peak. The only part of the course that I'd never done before the race. Surprise! Actually, as I headed up it, I thought several times of Lisa who was doing her first 100K so she'd have to go down Ely's Peak, run 20 more miles and then go back up. Now, Lisa is significantly shorter than I am and there were several rocks on the way up Ely's Peak that are past or at Lisa's waist so that she would need to heft herself up and down. So I was thankful that I was tall :)

I slowed down after Ely's Peak, stopped to pee, and later almost fell off a boardwalk. Hm. Not much longer after that I took a digger and I'm not too sure what it was that tripped me up. There was a small tree in front of me that I planned to use to stop myself but I didn't make it that far and ended up looking at it from the ground. Of course, I landed on my left side and ripped up some stuff that had finally been healing from my fall at Hawk Ridge. It wasn't so bad, though and I got right back up and continued on my way with barely an 'ouch.' Turns out I manged to sort of burn my left shoulder, though - a very strange mark that left the next few days.

The Magney/Snively aid station was next and after eyeing up their table while the awesome volunteers filled my water, I decided that they only thing that looked good was an orange slice. After grabbing the extra gels from my drop bag, I continued my way up Skyline. Dropping down to the Spirit Mt aid station was the first time I ignored my watch timer - I had decided that the best way to make sure I was eating on time was to set my timer to go off every 45 minutes since I manged to muss up my adding during the Half Voyageur. Well, this time my timer went off and I just didn't want to eat. Which I said out loud. I did a lot of talking out loud to myself during this race. So I let myself go 10 more minutes and then forced one down.

Next up - the Spirit Mountain aid station. I decided ahead of time that juice sounded good but nothing solid looked all that appetizing - my stomach was starting to get just unsettled enough to not want anything. This aid station was manned by Connie's husband and kids, which was nice. They have made some fabulous hot apple cider and I downed almost a full cup of it before thinking maybe that wasn't such a hot idea for my stomach. Ah well, it was super tasty and just what I wanted. I was offered mashed potatoes a couple times but that really didn't sound good so off I went.

Here's where my stomach really started being unhappy. I made it up the stairs okay (all 131 of them!) and after that comes one of my favorite spots on the trail so I tried to let my legs stretch out. And then my stomach wanted to stretch out so to the side of the trail I went and didn't quite throw up. A nice guy went by me here and checked and double checked ("are you sure?") if I was okay. I started slowly putzing along the trail. Coming down to the zoo, where I really love to stretch it out but not this time, Randy caught up to me and asked if I need anything, insisting he had things to spare. I said I was fine, it was just my stomach feeling nauseous. Well in that case, he said, you need an e-cap. Now, I'd heard about these things but never actually tried one. I figured I might as well. Hmmm. It's a fricking horse pill! Shockingly, I had no trouble swallowing it. It seemed to work instantly - fabulous! I hung out with Randy for a bit - turns out it took him 15 years to run another 50K after his first one. He also mentioned that every time he runs something big right after a marathon, it seems that his legs give up suddenly rather than gradually. Hm. Well, I seem to be okay. Not great but okay so maybe my legs are going the gradual route, I'm sure I won't get much worse than I am here. Ah, silly Sam.

Sadly, the e-cap doesn't seem to last very long and I let Randy go. I start feeling really tired/sleepy here, too and think about how this would be a big problem with running a 100 miler (not that I'm actually considering one right now) in that I'd have to stay up all night and I'm not so good with little sleep.

Right around there is where I go downhill real quick like. My legs are shot. I cross Cody St and slowly walk my way up the road wondering why no-one was passing me. All I wanted to do was lie down. I pictured Liz running along (I don't know why it was Liz, but I thought this a few times and it was always Liz that I pictured finding me) and finding me laying down on the side of the trail. Or heck, right in the middle of the trail looked fine and dandy too. I stopped and dipped my hands into a couple of creeks as I crossed over them and that felt nice. I wanted to sit down but managed to convince myself that at least walking slowly was moving forward and sitting was most distinctly NOT moving forward.

Coming up to Highland/Getchell I was in really bad shape. I didn't think there was any way I could keep going for 10 more miles AFTER Highland. My legs just couldn't do it. I was 98% sure I wasn't going to finish. Just one problem - I didn't want to not finish. I actually said (okay, definitely whined - think Luke Skywalker and Toshi Station) out loud once "I don't want to drop" I just didn't think my legs could do it.

Somewhere around there, Marcus came up on me. I'd been wondering where he'd been at - I hadn't seen him since the first aid station and was worried that his leg was bothering him and he dropped. Turns out he'd been power-walking since then. Since mile 6. I'm not sure if my thinking started changing before or after he came up on me but when he did catch me, I thought "If Marcus can do it, then I can do it, even if I have to walk the rest of the way." My thought pattern changed from "I don't think I can do this" to "I don't know if I can do this." Two very different things! I figured the section after Highland was another of my favorites and that it would be easy enough to walk through since it's very runnable. I could make another decision at Haines Road (someone I talked myself into thinking there might be an aid station there). And so I slogged my way into Highland.

Step one, take off the jersey under my t-shirt and shove it in my drop back. Step two, get water bottle filled since I went dry. Step three, plop down on the ground in front of the table and eye up the food. Wait, what? I looked around to make sure I wasn't too much in the way. The other two guys there didn't seem like they needed around me so I stayed where I was for another few seconds. Nothing really looked good here, either, but I had already ignored my watch timer once and was behind on food intake. I nabbed part of a salted nut roll and started chewing (to spit out the second bite after crossing Skyline), grabbed my water bottle and a couple pieces of watermelon, nodded my thanks to Shane since I wasn't up for talking and went on my not-so-merry way. Apparently I was described as 'death warmed over' - probably accurate. Shane also told me later that I was maybe a bit rude which makes me sad. I never want to be rude to the awesome volunteers.

I then promptly dropped a piece of watermelon. I considered not going back since it was a long 8 or 10 steps back but smartness won out and I went back to grab a piece to replace it. I of course didn't think to salt them until I was on the trail and I was definitely not turning back then. I also started taking another gel since my timer had gone off again - a tinsy bit at a time, following every sip with water and hoping that would keep my stomach from rebelling. Ran into Marcus' mom who is great and crossed Skyline, to find Kris! We chatted for a bit as I crossed the road and then I went on my way.

My new mantra started here and took me to the finish - "just a little, just slowly." I took all pressure off and said I didn't need to run a lot or fast. Even if I only ran 3 or 4 steps, it's faster than walking. Bit by bit, I could run further and a little faster. My stomach didn't get better as quickly, though, and kept me from running very fast. I could already tell that I'd be in trouble water wise again, though. My plan of little sips of gel following by water was running me dry fast. I needed to ration - no more than half my bottle before Haines so I'd have half a bottle to take me to the next aid station. I managed to mostly keep to this, though I was really thirsty, so I drank more than I 'should' have. Luckily, a guy went by me after Haines and shared a sip of his water. What I wanted to do was guzzle the rest of his bottle but I kept it to a sip. We both were sure that the next aid was at 27th instead of 24th for some reason and we both went bone dry before then.

I was getting stronger and stronger feeling, though. I was even running for a bit up slight inclines! Very exciting. I no longer felt like death and as soon as I crossed Haines, I knew for sure I'd be able to finish. Though, I couldn't figure out where all the women were! I'd been passed by a handful of guys, but no women at all since Tracy and Catherine. Somewhere after Haines, though, I was sure I was hearing Liz's voice behind me somewhere (again, I don't know why I decided it was Liz). And I kept seeing Eric a ton out there, who said when I asked that he was out cheering for Deb so women were out there somewhere nearby. Not that I was really concerned with my standing but I was wondering where everyone was.

Coming onto the water reservoir, I felt great and passed back the guy who gave me water. Into the 27th Ave aid station - last one! They had apple juice which was all that looked good and the volunteer there poured me a lovely glass of it. I drank a bit of coke since I've heard that can help with stomachs, drank my apple juice, was cheering by Johnny Cash on the volunteers iPod speakers and headed out.

The last three miles were awesome. I was giddy! This is a section that always feels nasty to me for some reason but it felt just fine at the pace I was going. I made sure to hold back some, though, since even though I felt free and clear, I thought I better make sure I finished strong and didn't crash again. I caught up to a guy who passed me up Highland as I crossed Skyline. I was running uphill! Strongly! It's the last uphill before the finish! I paused to ring the peace bell and started my gimp down the last mile. The stairs out of Enger were EVIL! And then the downhill. Ow. It hurt so much but in a 'but I'm so close! Why must it hurt now?' sort of way so that I actually started laughing a couple of times!

Off onto Michigan Street, try not to get hit by a truck, cross the road, over the bridge, under the highway and THERE'S MARCUS! I was super excited to see I had caught back up to him. He was walking his way in and talking to Leslie. The big dilemma, though! What if he doesn't start running when I catch up? Do I walk in with him and try to convince him to run in or run my way by him? Happily, he started running as I approached so we got to run in together. Of course, the two of us seem incapable of running next to each other without picking the pace up bit by bit. I blame Marcus. The punk also decided to sprint in and I not interest in sprinting at the end of my first 50K so he beat me to the finish! Like how I say that as though me deciding to sprint would have made a difference? It was fabulous to feel so great and finish laughing, though!

Picture by Eve Stein.

So a time of 7:20. Not so bad with all my walking (probably a good straight hour of it during my rough spot) and I finished strong and happy to boot! I was excited to be handed a finisher's mug, too. Awesome. A few minutes later, in came Liz - I knew she was right there behind me.

Overall, a beautiful day! I had a good time for most of it (what's an hour or two during a 7 hour race?) and even though I started too fast, I did managed to back off before my body forced me to. I pulled myself through a bad spot and was able to break the rest of the race into manageable pieces. Now I just need to figure out what is up with my stomach and what it wants to eat.

Monday, October 11, 2010

From NR: Whistlestop 2.0!

Okay, do me a favor. Next time I set a race as specifically being a test race and something goes wrong remind me to listen to that, huh? I decided during the City of Lakes 25K that I probably shouldn't do Whistlestop and then changed my mind. Sigh. Of course, I know I would have regretted not giving Whistlestop a go, so there's that, too.

So. Right now it feels kind of like a waste and I'm pretty frustrated but I did do a lot of things right and that's good. I've heard from a couple different people that it takes 10 marathons to finally figure them out and this was number 8. The short story is that I had a great first 18/19 miles and then my knee decided to start with the shooting pain, forcing me to walk a ton. Let's start from the beginning, though! What's a marathon race report from Sam if it's not a million pages long?

It took until Friday afternoon for me to start getting nervous and I was freaking out a little on the drive over. The spaghetti feed calmed me down quite a bit though, so that was good. I got to see Shelly and Rick and meet Mark again and the spaghetti was loads better than I remember it being from last year. I ate a ton. And then we went to Dairy Queen :)

We timed the morning out pretty perfectly - Kyle dropped me off at the bus pick up in Iron River, I joined the port-a-potty line and then the bus line and was at the starting line with about 20 minutes to the start. Back to the bathroom line (there's a line in Marathoning for Mortals that goes something like 'When you get to the starting area, get in line for the porta-potties. When you get through the line, come out and go back to the end of the line. Repeat') and then just enough time to duct tape my shoelaces down (sometimes, I do learn!) and re-tighten my pony tail before taking off warm clothes and heading to the road. I found Tonya and went to stand next to her for the start, though neither of us were very talkative.

It was so much warmer this year! It was nice to not be freezing while waiting for the start. It was a little too warm by the middle, though. There was one point where I had skipped water at one of the stations because it was so close to the previous one but then it was a while to the next one and I got super, super thirsty. That's one thing I wish was different - that the aid stations could be more evenly spaced. Though, I know they can't really control that - it depends where there's trail access.

Back to the start, though! It was one of the stranger starts I've been at - first the usual count down "Two minutes to race start. One minute to race start. 30 seconds." and then a count UP "1, 2, 3 go." Okay, that doesn't read nearly as strange as I (and others around me! Not just me!)found it that morning . . . ah well.

Off we go. Down the road for just over a mile and then onto the trail. I had Bobby Darin's version of Mack the Knife in my head for about Ten. Straight. Miles. Don't get me wrong, I love this song, I listened to it on the drive to the bus specifically because I don't mind it being stuck in my head but by mile 10 I was desperately trying to get something else stuck in my head. I ended up with Lake Pontchartrain by Ludo in my head for pretty much the rest of the race.

I focused right away on making sure I wasn't starting out too fast. I needed 8:12s to run a 3:35. I would find a good pace, speed up a little, see the time and slow down a little, see the time and try to even everything out. I did a great job of not panicking if a number was too fast or too slow and just adjusted my pace accordingly. I had some great splits at times: 7:54, 7:58 (great start, not too fast, slow it down just a tich), 8:15, 8:11 (perfect!), 7:57 (oops, a little excited), 8:07, 8:29 (oops, too relaxed!), 8:13, (the next miles are where I found a great rhythm. I had a fabulous group hanging right behind me and sometimes beside me and it was fun to be the person that everyone else was hanging onto for a good pace) 7:55, 7:53, 7:47 (oops, too excited. I said 'calm down, Sam' out loud here), 7:55, 8:19, 8:01, 7:59.

Here's most of my group of fun! I guess we weren't together for all that many miles but it felt like a while.

So that's the first 15 miles. Kyle said I was 13th woman coming through mile 16 and I was on pace for a 3:33. Giving myself the usual slowing down it seems a 3:35 would have been very doable (of course, who knows in a marathon, right?). I knew that sub-8:00s were faster than the plan but they mostly felt effortless and I figured as long as I kept myself right by 8:00s, I'd be okay. Too fast? Maybe but I don't actually regret it like I regretted last year's pacing. Last year I ran the first half with lots of upper-7:40s feeling like I had to because there was a guy I was running with and I was afraid to lose him. This year the pace was slightly slower and felt right and smart and not out of control at all. This year I was the one that others were using to hang onto a pace with.

Coming into mile 16, I suddenly started bonking a bit the last half mile before the aid station. Suddenly, I couldn't keep with the girl I've been running with for miles and she was running in front of me rather than the other way around and pulling away. That's when I realized that this was my 6 mile stretch between gels. So I focused on staying calm, trying not to let her get too far away and knowing I'd get some more fuel in soon. Now I know that 6 miles is probably too far in between food for me since I was good to go pretty much as soon as I had more.

Miles 18 and 19 I'm very proud of. I started slowing down there partially to my knee hurting some and partially to legs getting tired. I focused on just running a mile strong at a time. Going through my head were thoughts like "Just run this one mile strong then you can re-think. It's okay to fall apart later just do this one mile and then you can remember mile 18 and be proud that you ran it strong." I had been making similar deals already - just whenever my mind caught up and I suddenly realized 'Wait! I'm going fast!' I was able to cut of any negative thinking of 'there's no way I can keep this pace' and just decide to keep the pace (if it was reasonable) for 3 more miles and see if it was still comfortable after that.

Somewhere around mile 19 my knee started very painful stabbing pain. Of the surprising variety that brought Boston to a sudden, panicked, painful halt. Something else I'm proud of, though - I didn't panic. Not even a little. There were no tears at all. There was lots of frustration, some quiet swearing when it first starting, plenty of bitching (see below), and some thought about dropping to save my knee for Wild Duluth but no tears. I quickly abandoned any thoughts of stopping since I figured I could easily walk 5 miles (that's about where I briefly entertained the thought) and there was no way I wanted to voluntarily get my first DNF for such a 'silly' reason.

Here I am somewhere around mile 22. I saw Kyle way ahead of time and then saw him pull up the camera and I laughed at him and waved him off. He took a picture anyway, of course. My knees seem to be angling in pretty bad in this one. Maybe because I'm going so slow? I walked some when I got to him to let him know my knee was ridiculous. Oh! And you can see my buddy just behind me in the picture there. He caught me soon after but I ended up going by him in the last mile.

I was almost enjoying myself with about two miles left - asking a couple seated spectators if they wanted to trade knees (shockingly, they didn't), finding a fellow injured and bummed runner (the guy in the picture) to run/walk and bitch with. He was also having an unexpectedly bad day and having some bad cramping. Though, he was more bitter/annoyed and I was more going with it at that point. I was looking around and had a mix of finally enjoying the pretty day (I was rather focused earlier on) and thinking how long it took to walk so I would try running for a bit and then a stab would make me walk some again. My slowest mile by a lot was mile 23 with a 12:13, I think that might have been the mile I saw Kyle in. When I was walking, otherwise, I was trying to channel Lisa. Okay, that sounds a little mean, but that's not how I mean it! She's been working on the ultrarunner power walk when she has to walk up hills on trails so I tried to think about walking strong as long as I had to be walking. It didn't always work but it helped divert my thinking from negative things, anyway.

I decided I wasn't going to walk any of the last mile. I figured I couldn't do any more damage to my knee (faulty thinking to be sure!) so I might as well finish strongish. The last mile was 9:00 exactly which was much faster than I had been going but slower than I figured it would be. I don't know if it was all those turns (if you haven't run Whistlestop, about 3 or 4 blocks from the end for are a bunch of right angle turns that you make) or just the sudden running for a straight mile on sudden pavement but I super gimped my way down that last block into the finish line. Lisa, Leslie, Shelly and Rick (and Wayne? For some reason, Wayne was really hard for me to pick out, though I know he was cheering for me at several spots!) were at the beginning of all the turns and I gave them a smile, shrug and thumbs-down. It was weird to feel so good at the end.

I got to experience yet again someone trying to convince me to head to the medical tent. This time was much more light hearted, though. The guy at the finish grabbed me and lead me through the chute/blanket/medal area and kept asking "are you sure you don't want to go sit in the medical tent?" and seemed amused with my "Nah, it's just my knee" answer.

I limped on Kyle for a while but after about 30-40 minutes (I think) I was fine. We got my warm clothes back on, got my medal engraved, talked with fellow runners and sat down for a while. I wanted to go find people to talk with but I also wanted to eat so we headed for home after not too long. First stop, med tent for ice to go on my knee for the drive home.

Final time was 3:49.03. So, still not terrible despite it all. I figured since it was under 4 hours and since I was proud of the things I did right, I wanted to engrave the time. I love that they offer that service - it's $8 and you get your name and time official engraved on the back of your medal. I love it!

The trail was in a lot worse condition this year. It was a lot harder to find a good running surface for much of it and that got frustrating. I think one of my official pictures caught me in mid-grimace/glare from the bad footing, even!

The shirts were great this year. A nice color, good fit and pretty design. I like the side zipper pocket but the shoulder pocket is a bit strange.

So this left me wondering: what do I do about the Wild Duluth 50K? I decided on super rest, some nice walks and giving running a test go on trails on Wednesday. That went a-ok, no knee pain, so It's on! I think having to walk a ton at the end of Whistlestop probably helped me but I think it would take me not being able to run a step to keep me away since I've been super excited about this all year! Two days to my first ultra!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


So I'm currently reading Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything which is fantastic. Anyway, I just finished a short section talking about the Theory of Relativity - things moving super fast appear to be shorter and slower when seen by someone NOT moving super fast. As Bryson says: "The effect actually happens every time you move. Fly across the United States, and you will step from the plane a quinzillionth of a second, or something, younger than those you left behind. Even in walking across the room you will very slightly alter your own experience of time and space."

So. I made the next logical thought - running moves you faster than walking so by running you actually ARE making your life longer compared to those who don't run. Huzzah for that extra tenth of a second by the end of life!

Unless you look at it the way Denis Leary does when he talks about smoking taking ten years off your life - "Well it's the ten worst years, isn't it folks? It's the ones at the end! It's the wheelchair kidney dialysis fucking years. You can have those years! We don't want 'em, alright!?"

But I prefer to think that running will keep me healthier than that to the end.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

From NR: I have a marathon in 4 days!

Okay! Updated news is that I managed to get Friday and Saturday off with some help. Huzzah! So I'll be heading down to Ashland for packet pickup and spaghetti feed sometime Friday afternoon and racing on Saturday.

I'm feeling sort of detached from this one. Maybe because the decision was so late, maybe because I've got a lot going on outside of running? I don't know but I haven't even bought my gels yet and haven't thought about the course all that much. I'm tapering but it feels weird to not have to go out and run and I'm thinking I'm maybe tapering too much.

Anyway, this wasn't meant to be such a dejected sounding post! I'm ridiculous excited about Wild Duluth (soon I can start haunting the 10 day forecast!), which might be why I'm still sort of realizing that "oh yeah! I have another big race this weekend!" I'm feeling a little unprepared but I think that's because my long miles have mostly been done differently then I'm used to. My two 20 miles runs were vastly different - one had a 10K race in the beginning with added mileage around it and another turned into a 27 mile weekend with two longer back to back trail runs instead of one long run. I know there are a lot of people who do long runs that way instead and it works just fine, it just feels super strange.

So! Weather looks amazing for this weekend! Right now it's a high of 56 or so with lows from the night before in the high 40s. Beautiful! No need for me to worry about hypothermia this year . . . Though, rest assured that I'll be taking one of everything that I might want to race in just in case. I'm ready for a beautiful day of running, though.

I had a gorgeous run the other weekend, too! Kyle and I went camping at McCarthy Beach State Park. Now, I definitely wouldn't go there during the summer - there are too many campsites and too close together. But, in late September? Wonderful! We were one of six taken campsites in the whole park. So it's right on a couple of lakes and it was exactly 6 miles from our campsite, around the main lake. Half on tar, half on these beautiful rough gravel roads. So I did a couple laps of the lake and we hiked a ton of the trails.

Now, while I'm running my eighth marathon on Saturday (third for the year!), I have an online acquaintance (well, someone who's blog I follow and comment on) who will be racing the Ironman Championships in Hawaii. We have similar marathon goal times only her marathon comes after a 2.4 mile swim and a 112 mile bike! So I shall try to channel some of her amazingness on Saturday! If you want to follow her blog of awesome, she can be found at Go Sonja.

That's all for now! We're halfway through the NMTC trail series - the last Wednesday night is tomorrow and then we switch to Sunday afternoons. I haven't decided how I'm racing tomorrow, yet. I'm in the women's lead so far (super exciting!), so I have to race some to keep my lead but I don't want to go super hard . . . We'll see how it turns out and how I'm feeling, I guess. Luckily, the week between Whistlestop and Wild Duluth is sort of a rest week. Of course, the hardest course of the series is the day after Wild Duluth. Luckily, we get to drop our lowest score of the series!