My palms begin to sweat, I tremble as I watch the clock turn over to 8am. I blink, flashes of Race Director John Strokamp come into picture as he stands on his ladder, bundled up in his brown Carhart overalls, once again flawlessly distracting everyone with his preface rambles moments before the start.
Race day is still a week out, but I'm already beginning to get nervous for my first 100-miler.
After a quick drive Thursday night before the race to pick up my race packet and drop off my drop bags I went over a few final checks, set out my clothes and went to bed around 9pm. For the first half hour or so my mind would not stop racing. I'm not really one to get nervous before races, but attempting my first 100-miler was nothing to take lightly.
I soon found myself taking a few deep breaths and the next thing I knew it was 4am; time to get ready.
|My tote with almost everything related to running I own|
|My mantra I wore on my wrist for the entire race along with some extra motivation from my incredible girlfriend|
Rain drops began to lightly trickle down. I hoped they would not last, but knew we would be heading in the opposite direction the clouds were moving.
Kristene arrived, threw my tote in her car and we were off. Weaving along the empty highway I looked out the window and noticed giant clouds drifting away over the Mississippi river. The storm had passed and a new day was following in the sun rising horizon.
|Storm clouds drifting away in the distance|
|A somewhat detailed description to help my crew|
"AJ, you look cold. You're shaking a lot," my mom whispered as I sipped on a small cup of warm coffee. "Not really, just nervous, mom," I calmly replied.
More and more runners began making their way in as race director John Storkamp coaxed everyone to start. I glanced down at my watch, 7:42am, it was almost time for the pre race chat.
I gave my mom one last hug before heading to the start area as she wished me good luck. Others nervously made a few last minute adjustments to their drop bag and sheepishly walked to the start area, trying to stay as far back as possible.
The first row of runners stopped about 15 yards from the actual start line as John made his way to the top of his iconic Zumbro latter.
"You all know the start is here. Come on, don't be shy," John coaxingly said to everyone like a hungry wolf telling rabbits to come out of hiding.
Slowly I glanced at my watch, 7:53am. I wasn't going to be fooled by a startled start like I was last year at he midnight 50-mile start.
Fog from my breath began to slowly rise past my eyes, I looked around at nervous, yet attentive runners focusing on what John is saying while trying to bury the fact of what they are about to embark on for the next 20 or 30 plus hours.
My mind started to race. Not another moment with these exact individuals will ever happen again. 70 + runners about to head off into a journey each their own, each will never forget. Everything began to blur as the count down started from 5...4...3...2...1. I blinked. We were off.
Bursting from the start, runners filed inline hiking up a short incline followed by a small flat before dipping down, around and up the first big hill to one of the best lookouts on the course overlooking the start/ finish area.
|The start/ finish area below about 1 mile in|
|Conservatively walking to the top of the first climb|
|One of my favorite sections atop the first hill|
As we made our way to the next section, the shortest section on the course, I knew I would need to fill up my handheld water bottle at the next stop. I quickly poured my Tailwind into my bottle once we arrived, shoved down some oranges and headed up Ant Hill, quickly catching Kevin on the climb.
|The rocky ascent|
Soon we quickly caught up with some other guys we ran with on the first climb. On our way down the final section before hitting the gravel road Kevin Langton flew by us.
"HOW AWESOME IS THIS GUYS!" he yelled and let out a loud "WOOO". "I LOVE RUNNING DOWNHILL," echoed as he made his way to the road.
The wind hit us straight in the face as we turned onto the gravel road. A few of the gusts took my breath away with snow mixed in. I could hardly look up without hundreds of snowflakes stinging my eyes. Once we crossed the bridge leading into aid station 4 my jacket was completely covered in snow, things were starting to get exciting.
|Making our way into aid station 4 as the snow began picking up|
"Hey Kevin it's 11:11am. That's gotta be good luck to finish at, right?" I muttered as we crossed the finish line. I've heard it's good luck to make a wish at 11:11 so I quickly closed my eyes for a second and wished I could just finish this thing.
I quickly handed my water bottle off to my Mom making my way to my drop box to grab a few things to fix a nagging blister on the outside of my left big toe before it got any worse. Kristene ran over to me and asked if I needed anything.
"Fruit," I said. "Oranges, please".
I watched as steam rolled out of my shoe sitting on the ground. The cold air was sharp on my foot as I began working on popping my blister and applying some Mole Skin. Kristene came over with a cup of fruit and water. My Mom brought me my water bottle back and I was ready to go.
"Slow down man," Kevin said. "We've got all day," he laughed as he grabbed his trekking poles out of his bag.
"No problem. We can leave whenever you're ready," I answered. I took the time to show my Mom and Kristene the sweet rock I had found on the course. They were thoroughly impressed.
|Kevin and I making our way in from our first lap|
|Fixing my blister early on|
|Showing off my awesome rock I found|
"We are on a 19 hour pace," Kevin said as we made our way up the first hill once again.
"Holy crap, we better slow the frick down," I said. The first lap fun run was good to get out of our systems, but we both knew that kind of pace would not be sustainable.
Hiking our way up to the top a few runners cruised past on on a small hill.
"Fools," Kevin said. "Don't worry. We'll catch them later". A flash of them doubled over on a stump in the middle of the night crossed my mind. Not that I was wishing them bad luck, but I knew they were chasing fools gold and no promises could be kept at the insane pace up hill they were going.
Kevin and I trusted our guts, running the flats and power hiking the hills. We were still making great time. After the first aid station we soon began the first of two climbs before reaching aid station 2.
"Hey man if you want to drop me and go on your own you can," Kevin said. I assured him he was fine and did not mind the relaxed pace early on. We found our way on the narrow, rocky climb that led to a shelter at the top. I slowly felt myself pulling ahead of Kevin and before I knew it I was at the top and he was nowhere to be seen.
I continued on to the next aid station, grabbed some fruit and took a few minutes to fill up my water bottle. A giant gust of wind caught under the aid station's canopy and moments later another gust finished the job, tipping the canopy over. The legs crashed into the tables as people ran away and volunteers protected themselves.
"Well does anybody need anything," one of the volunteers said jokingly. Other volunteers rushed to help set up the canopy and set up the tables. I was only taking up space in the commotion so I decided to head out.
My mind quickly began to wonder for a few minutes. I was alone by myself for the first time during the race and why is this dead tree down in front of me? Wait. Why was a sign facing away from me with markers on the wrong side of the trail. Did I miss a turn?
I quickly ran back around the corner and noticed a lot of foot traffic below me. This is right isn't it? I remember that opening, I think. My mind began to race. I quickly ran back to the downed tree and around the corner, just to make sure the trail markers were on the wrong side all the way around the corner.
Dang. I missed a turn. I quickly ran back, hurling my legs over the tree and running as fast as I could to the missed turn expecting a gang of runners to be there asking me where I came from; luckily no one was there and my mistake went unnoticed, but was back on the right course.
I made my way to the top of Picnic Rock to be greeted by a strong refreshing wind. I took a deep breath and thanked nature for the much needed cool down.
Making my way down the hill I was looking forward to my favorite section of the course before aid station 3. Narrow small hills weaving through the woods reminded me of being on a dirt bike or roller coaster. Taking a few steps to reach the top of one I let my body hang for a moment before I let the momentum carry me down and up the next.
Up the last climb of the course after a quick stop at the aid station I still felt surprisingly good. No aches or pains had shown up and I felt my stellar nutrition of oranges, tailwind and S-Caps was spot on.
Quickly I found myself finding a rhythm on the gravel road to the next aid station and what seemed like a blink I was cruising my way into the finish, completing my second loop sometime around 3pm.
Coming into the start/ finish area I already had a plan for the next lap in mind. Hand warmers and my headlamp were my main priorities. I did not plan on using the hand warmers the entire loop, but knew with the sun going down it was going to get colder and I wanted my headlamp in case I got stuck out on the course when it got dark.
I quickly made my way to the food to grab some oranges and fill my water bottle and turned around to see my girlfriend, Erika standing behind me.
"Girlfriend!" I yelled before turning around and grabbing some fruit. "PICKLES!" I yelled at the volunteers. The only stop that had pickles was the start/ finish area and I was as pumped as ever to have my two favorite things with me, Erika and pickles.
|Talking with my awesome crew before heading out|
Once my mom filled my water bottle I was on my way just as the song, Running with the Devil came on. It was hard to leave, but I knew I had to get going if I wanted to start my fourth loop before dark.
Taking each section of the course as the came I slowly chipped away towards each aid station. I thought about how great and different I felt this year compared to last year as this would have been my last lap of the 50 mile race. I thought about my plan of changing clothes and shoes going into the start/ finish area.
I tried thinking of every song that was about running, but could only think of one or two-- Running with the Devil and not really related to running, but Too Legit to Quit by MC Hammer.
|Finding a rhythm early by myself|
Coming up on my favorite section once again before aid station 3 I was looking forward to being halfway done and still moving well. Once I arrived at aid station 3 I grabbed the usual oranges and a few chips.
"Hey A.J.!" I head someone yell behind me. I turned around and it was my previous running partner Kevin Clark.
"Hey man!" I answered back. "Sorry I dropped ya on that climb."
"No problem," he said. "You were moving good and no hurt feelings, I'm just hiking and enjoying the day".
We chatted for a bit and I headed out for the last big climb on the course. I caught up with a guy as I reached the gravel road I had been leap frogging the entire loop. We talked for a bit as we made our way to the next aid station and onto the finish.
"Man I'm taking a little break when I get done with this lap," I told him. The top of my left foot was starting to ache on downhills which I think was from my shoe being too tight.
We made our way past the gate leading to the last hundred or so yards to the start/ finish area before he broke off to meet someone waiting for him as I ran on. Jay was standing by the aid station waiting for me as I ran in.
"I hope you're ready to run man!" I yelled as I ran in.
I did not even notice at the time, but I had just PR'd (personal record) my 50-mile time and was a half hour ahead of last years 50-mile finish time.
Heading to grab some more fruit and pickles at the aid station I saw my good friend Kurt Brown working the aid station.
"KURT!!!" I yelled as we threw up our hands to high ten. "Man, I'm felling good!"
"Yea! You look good man," he replied. I slammed down some fruit and pickles before seeing Sarah Chapman anxiously awaiting the start of her 50-miler at midnight. I wished her good luck and headed off to the back seat of Jay's vehicle to change and pop a pesky blister on the outside of my left big toe.
Next to Jay's car I seen Kevin Langton changing and taking a few moments to himself inside his vehicle. I waved and quickly made my way to change. Erika stood outside the door awaiting my every request.
|Popping blisters and changing in Jay's car|
|Making some last minute adjustments before we headed out|
|Jay and I heading out as the sun sets behind us|
With new cloths, shoes, hat and running partner I was feeling good heading into the night. Jay and I have ran countless miles together including a 24 + hour stint at his first 100-mile race at Superior 100 last September.
Coming out of the warm car and into the cool sunset air I was a little stiff. We walked to the woods and ran the short trail section before heading up the first big climb. Making our way to the top I tried to get some water out of my pack, but noting was coming out. I figured the hose was kinked so I took it off and tried to readjust.
After putting my pack back on I tried to suck some water out again, but again nothing came out. We stopped for a second as I took my pack off once again trying to figure out what was going on. Click. I pushed the hose back into the water sack connector and it was good as new.
"Erika must have not noticed she unhooked the hose a little bit when she tried taking the water sack out and filling it up," I told Jay. I was a little frustrated, but knew she was doing her best to help me and quickly turned to positive energy as we made the rest of the climb to the top.
I glanced over the start/ finish area as we made our way into the dark trail ahead. Jay and I were both moving well through the lap as night came.
I looked down at my watch a few times leading up to midnight when the 50-milers were starting so I could have a good idea as to when the blazing fast runners would start to trickle through.
Earlier I had joked with Jay telling him about all the 17-milers last year running up hills in the early morning of the 50-mile race and was joking with my running partner if anyone runs up these hills just as the lead runners came through.
Sure enough, just as I mentioned the story to Jay we were on a big climb as two 50-mile runners came charging up the hill past us.
"I can't believe they are running up this hill that fast," I told Jay. "I can't believe he's wearing a tank-top," Jay replied.
The time was close to 1am and the temperatures were somewhere around 20 degrees and it was pretty astonishing someone was running outside with just a tank-top and shorts on.
Soon waves of 50-milers began to pass us as we held our pace as we both knew we had a lot of miles ahead of us.
"Hey is that AJ," one runner yelled as he passed by me with a group of runners. "Yep!" I yelled back. It was Alex Bartley, a running partner whom I have ran with before. He wished me well as he turned the corner with his group.
With more than half the loop done we were still moving and running great. I couldn't believe my steady diet of S-Caps, Tailwind and oranges at each aid station was still working like a charm.
"Running 100-miles is like eating an elephant," Jay said to me. "What?" I asked laughed as he went onto explain.
"You know, an elephant is big and you have to take it in chunks, just like 100-miles," he said. I knew where he was coming from, but for a little while I thought Jay was losing his mind.
After leapfrogging with Kevin Langton throughout the night as I would catch him on the climbs he would soon be right on my heels right before each aid station. He respectfully let us pass him on each climb to not hold us up.
I was in no hurry, but it was a nice gesture and I appreciated his generosity to let us go by. I knew we had a long road ahead and anything could happen, but for the moment I was ticking off the miles one by one.
As Jay and I approached the gravel road I told him we only had about 1 1/4 mile left until the aid station.
"I can check the actual distance on my watch," he said. No matter what his watch told him I had it stuck in my head once I got to the road before aid station 4 it was only 1 1/4 mile to the aid station.
I think it helped mentally Jay never did mention how far it was on the road because as the laps progressed it seemed to get longer and longer.
The sky was clear as we moved along the road at a good pace. I pointed out the beaver activity on the trees along the road as we passed by.
Rolling into aid station 4 I once again grabbed some fruit and a small cup of water and we were on our way.
I frequently checked on Jay to make sure the miles were not catching up with him too much.
"Even if I wasn't feeling good I wouldn't tell you," Jay said religiously every time I asked. "I know, I know. I just want to make sure you'll holdin' up old man," I replied with a laugh.
Before I knew it I could hear the music at the start/ finish area booming. Campers huddled around their fires as we ran in I could see shadows of people turning around to cheer us in like ghosts coming out of the woods.
I quickly went over my plan with Jay to grab some fruit and fill up my water pack before we headed out on our next lap.
The energy was almost instantaneously electric as I heard my name over the speakers as we came in and made our way to the smorgasbord of food the amazing volunteers had displayed.
"Kurt!" I yelled as I made my way in, high tening him once again.
"How are you felling man!?" he asked. "Great! I can't believe I'm more than halfway done and feeling this good man!" I replied. I grabbed some oranges and apples as my Mom and Erika attended to my water bag.
|Getting ready to go out for the next loop|
The cold night air was contagious. Jay and I both began to feel the cold air cool or bodies as we made our way out of the aid station. I knew the bitter cold would not last long as I conservatively planned to briskly hike the first climb.
Atop the first climb the beautiful stars shined bright over the camp below. Jay and I made our way to the first aid station, quickly grabbing some fruit and off we went. We were still moving quite well, which I was a little surprised since it was practically the middle of the night.
A lot more runners were on the course and I knew it was more important than ever that I stick with running my own race and not trying to jump on someones train just to keep up.
The quiet spells between Jay and I grew longer and longer. I checked on him periodically and his response was always the same, "even if I wasn't feeling good I wouldn't tell you", but I checked of an on anyway.
After about half way through the lap I sensed something might be up with Jay. His footsteps grew louder. His breath became deeper and more prominent on climbs and something just seemed a little off.
Finally after poking and prodding to get some kind of answer he finally let me know his stomach was feeling a little rough. I offered him some ginger, he denied and said he would get some at the next aid station, but I grabbed some out of my ziplock bag and handed them to him.
We cruised into the next aid station and took a few extra minutes for Jay to sip on some ginger-ale and wait for his stomach to relax, which I did not mind at all.
Within a few minutes we were on our way, up Picnic Rock and through my favorite section. I was a little worried the up and down wavy motion would upset Jay's stomach, but he did not seem to complain, but then again he probably would not have told me if it did.
In and out of every aid station I mentioned to Jay how much I loved water and how I was surviving this entire race so far on basically just eating fruit at the aid stations. I could tell things were getting a little foggy after our next climb up Ant Hill.
I remember looking down and randomly seeing rainbow colored cat faces coming at me. They drifted away and disappeared as each floated towards my face. I quickly shut my eyes for a second to clear my head and just like that they were gone.
|Pretty much spot on as to what my cat hallucination looked like|
Jay and I made our way towards the gravel road and continued at a steady pace.
"I can't believe you haven't had any problems," Jay said to me.
"I've just been enjoying the run, man," I replied. I knew I still had 20 or so miles to go, but it never once crossed my mind how many miles I was at during any of the laps.
The cool air frosted each breath in the light of my head lamp as we made our way to aid station 4. The lights trickled through the trees as we made our way towards the bridge. Jay's stomach was really bothering him, but I knew we were almost back to the start/ finish area and he could rest there.
Once we reached the aid station I bit into an orange slice as the thin layer of ice melted in my mouth, I knew it was cold. I was fortunate my body was still working and warm. Jay chugged a few cups of ginger-ale and we were on our way.
We made our way up the slight incline out of the aid station and started running. I noticed Jay began to fall back a little bit.
"How are ya feeling boss," I asked.
With a small pause he replied, "If you want to go on without me I can make it to the start/ finish area from here".
"Are you sure?" I replied. "I'll be fine," he said. I slowly started to pull away without trying and before I knew it I could hear his familiar footsteps behind me again.
"Don't push yourself too hard, man," I said. "You have nothing to prove to me. We've done hours and hours of training together which is more than I could ever ask for. I don't want you to hurt yourself for this".
"I got a second wind," Jay replied. "It's only a few miles until I'm back. I can make it with you". I was instantly humbled by his willingness to push through with me. The miles we had spent together over the past couple years had revealed more respect than I could have for anyone. I knew he was in a lot of pain, but it was inspiring to know whatever the last lap threw at me, I could finish this thing.
I glance down at my watch, 3:05am. A quick in and out and I could finish under 24 hours.
Erika and my Mom instantly worked on filling up my water as I continued to shine my positive energy around the aid station.
"KURT!" I yelled. As we high tened again.
"Man, you're killing it out there!" he replied. "Yea, I'm feeling pretty good man, last lap!" I said.
Before I knew it my pack was filled with water and I was ready to go.
"I'm going to try to finish under 24 hours," I said into Erika's ear. I'm not sure she was fully aware of what could happen, but she calmly replied, "You're doing great. You got this". We quickly kissed and I hugged my Mom before I headed out on my last lap.
I glanced over at a sign I had noticed on a couple of my previous loops, "Stay Strong". For some reason, maybe since it was my last lap, this time the sign hit deep.
A brisk walk along the road my left knee began to feel a little tight. I needed to run. Trotting towards the first climb I was surprised Shelly Gronke, an amazing runner and friend, greeted me.
"Is that A.J.!?" she said as she came up behind me. "Yep!" I replied a little unsure as to who it was at first. "Hey, Shelly!".
She ran off into the distance and power hiked the first hill. I knew if I could keep up with her I could relax the second half of the course and finish well under 24 hours.
I stuck with Shelly and another 50-miler to the top of the first climb. The three of us kept a strong pace as we weaved along the trail. I couldn't believe, after 5 laps (80+ miles) I was keeping pace with one of the best ultra runners I know. I was absolutely determined to finish under 24 hours at this point.
We neared the aid station, music blaring and the volunteers anxious as ever to help. I quickly made my way over to the table to grab some oranges and head out.
"It was nice running with you A.J.," Shelly said as she dug in her drop bag.
"You too!" I replied. It was the last time I seen her until she finished.
I made my way, alone, into the dark night across the bridge and into the dark woods once again.
OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW! I heard off in the distance. I had not heard any coyotes the entire night, what a gift.
HOOO! HOOOO!HOOHOO! Not even five minutes later the familiar sound of an owl echoed throughout the silent bottoms. I became fully focused. Nothing was going to stop me. I was on a mission, possessed by the night.
Making my way to the first big climb I ran into my good friend, and eventual 2nd youngest finisher, Kevin Chem.
"Hey Kevin!" I yelled as I hiked past him and his pacer Jason Hara.
"Are you on your last lap, man," Kevin asked. "Yep!" I enthusiastically replied. I could tell he was in a rough spot having almost 2 more laps to complete and knowing someone passing him was on their last lap.
I quickly turned around, "You got this man. Just keep plugging away, the sun will be up soon and things will get better," I said.
His voice and spirits sounded lifted as he replied, "I know. I got this. Good luck!"
Before I knew it I was at the top of the climb, slightly out of breath, but I knew I needed to keep pushing. The body hadn't given up yet and neither had my spirit.
Like the trail beneath me the miles flew by. Soon I was at my favorite section for the last time on the course except this time it didn't seem as fun as before.
Quickly falling into a rhythm I found things were not the same as the previous 5 times. Maybe I was just ready to be done. Maybe I was about to crash, but whatever it was I knew the sun would be up soon and I only had a few more stops to go before the finish.
I glanced down at the open grass area as the early morning light began to brighten the trail around me. The light from my headlamp sparkled off the cold dew on the ground, it was amazing.
Into aid station 3 everything was beginning to freeze. Thin layers of ice covered cups of water and pop.
"What can I get ya?!" one of the volunteers asked me.
"Um, do you have any oranges?" I asked. "Absolutely!" he replied. "They might be a little frozen, but we'll do our best to cut some up for you."
I was instantly grateful for their generosity to help. I only took a few slices, but thanked them for everything they had done.
Making my way up the last big climb, Ant Hill, I knew the sun was about to come up. I glanced to my left and could see the golden orange sunlight poking through the trees of in the distance, it was exactly the pick-me-up I needed.
Soon it was light enough to turn off my headlamp as I came up on another runner, her pacer and a dog.
"Hey Michael!" I yelled as I passed by. It was incredible to see last years winner and current course record holder pacing a friend. The running community in this area is simply amazing.
Trotting up a slight incline the dog I thought was theirs waited for me at the top. I gently brushed my had over his head as he jumped behind me nudging my butt with this nose as we made our way along the single track trail.
I felt a strange energy flow through me as we made our way along the trail. It was as if we were connecting on some other level I couldn't explain. He quickly jumped past me and ran up the trail. Around the corner he stood tall atop another slight incline as we made eye contact and in a flash was gone.
It was nice to have the few moments we shared together on the trail, even if it was a dog I had never met before.
Down the last rocky decline I took my time. It's not worth hurting yourself here. Not now. Not this close to the finish. Take your time.
Once I reached the road I had my first major discomfort of the race, I had to fart. Now I know I've heard, "never trust a fart after 10 miles", but how was I supposed to handle this at mile 90 something?!
Okay, stop. Just breathe. Let it out....Sllloooowwwwwllyyyy. Phew, that was a close call.
After the slight discomfort and odd twisting and turning kind of dance that probably would have looked weird to anyone else if they were around me I found myself comfortably running along the road.
Nearing the aid station I figured I hadn't drank anything for a while. I sucked on the valve, but nothing came out.
Fumbling around, trying to push the ice back into the sack was a struggle, one I would not win. I figured I was close to the next aid station and it was not too far from the end and I would be okay for a few miles.
Once I made it to aid station 4 I quickly ran over to my drop bag to grab my, "I'm friggin' awesome" t-shirt. Since wearing it to the finish of the 50-mile last year it's become somewhat of my tradition at this race.
"Would you like anything," one of the wonder volunteers asked me as I made my way over to the table full of food.
"Just oranges and a little water, please," I responded with a smile. She poured me some warm water which was something I was not used to, but figured it would help me warm up as we chatted for a few minutes.
"How's your race going?" she asked. "Excellent!" I said. "This is my last lap!"
"That's awesome! You better get going and finish this thing," she said cleverly trying not to keep me too long at the aid station. She generously helped me pull my shirt over my pack, I thanked her for all she had done and was on my way.
"Kevin!" I yelled as I made my way out of the aid station. Kevin Clark, whom I had ran the first lap and a half with.
"How are you doing man?" he asked. "Great! I'm almost done," I replied.
"That's awesome! I still have one lap to go. If you want you can pace me," he said with a laugh.
"Thanks for the offer, but I think I'll be good and ready to relax once I'm done," I laughed. We wished each other luck as I pressed on.
Catching up to some other 50-mile runners I ran into another friend Long Nguyen. Long dashed ahead as another guy and I made our way through the windy single track trail.
Before I knew it we were back on the road. I knew it was not far to the end and was instantly struck with a burst of new energy. I wished my running partner well and sprinted ahead to catch up with Long.
"Oh hey A.J." Long said surprised. "Hey!" I replied. "We're almost to the finish from here, lets bring it in strong!"
We blew past the metal gate to the open campground. As I ran past where I cramped at the end of last years 50-mile I was thankful that feeling had not greeted me this year.
"We're doing a 10-minute pace," Long said. "Awesome!" I replied.
As we neared the finish line Erika stood of to my left cheering me in. I looked ahead as John Storkamp, the Race Director, stood wide eyed as I sprinted in.
"I gotta go Long! Thanks for running with me!" I yelled as I sprinted as hard as I could across the finish line.
|Coming in strong|
After crossing the finish line I said something to the effect of, "the Zumbro Gods were apparently in my favor," to John, it sounded better in my head, but I think he got the point.
I was soon greeted by my Mom who gave me the biggest hug ever.
"I can't believe you just ran 100-miles," she said. "I'm so proud of you!"
John handed me my buckle sometime during all the excitement and I signed the banner before things got too busy and I forgot. Larry "The Oracle" Pederson congratulated me and was in just as much shock as I was.
|Receiving my finisher's buckle from John|
"I think whoever cleared the trail the first and last few miles was the difference maker in me running this thing under 24 hours," I jokingly said to Larry and John.
"Yea, those guys did a pretty good job," Larry replied with a laugh.
Josh Thiemann, whom I had seen Friday afternoon, came over and congratulated me as well. He looked a little too comfortable to have finished, but I asked him how his run went anyway.
"I dropped after I seen you," he said. A tough thing for any runner to swallow, but I know he'll be back next year.
I spent the next couple hours relaxing after changing into some clean clothes, which felt amazing, watched the 17-mile runners take off and a few 100 and 50-milers finish before heading home.
|Erika and I shortly after I finished|
|Congratulatory hug from my awesome pacer|
|The banner everyone who has ever completed the Zumbro100 gets to sign at the end|
|Finishers medal and buckle|
Zumbro teaches you exactly what you need to learn. Not just Zumbro in particular, but running in general teaches you a lot about life if you are willing to listen to the journey.
Running my first 100-mile under 24-hours is nothing I take for granted, but an experience I will remember forever. I did not have any down moments the whole time, which I am extremely grateful for.
With no expectations, but to finish, I felt helped me find a groove and relax early in the race and take everything as it came and reacting accordingly. I have found this has worked in every running race I have done.
The night before the race I was a little anxious to get to the start and contemplated staying up all night, but my girlfriend reminded me worrying about it would only make things worse and it would be better to just sleep, she always knows what's best for me.
I'm not one to worry too much when it comes to races and I think it helps to implement similar habits into my training. I'm not saying to not train without goals or worries that may result in a loss of interest, but training the mind to deal with the mental aspect of endurance running is key.
After having some time to try and wrap my head around what happened I'm still a little shocked. I remember waking up the next day after sleeping for 12 or so hours and thinking what the heck happened yesterday while looking at my buckle.
I never thought in my wildest dreams I would run 100-miles under 24-hours. I am thankful for the opportunity to have done it, but at the same time realize if I never do it again, it's okay.
Enjoying the little things and subtle acts of kindness people did for me throughout this experience is something I am forever grateful for. My Mom and girlfriend who came to help with little experience and do an absolutely amazing job is something I cannot thank them enough for.
I feel it's fair to credit all of my friends and family who supported me along the way, the miles I shared with numerous people have all helped more than I could ever ask for. Without them I know I would not be where I am today.