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How Long Will That Take You?

“How long will that take you?” This is a question I get pretty much every time I tell someone that I am going to be running a 100k trail race later this month. The answer to this question is so much more complex than anyone asking the question really understands. The answer they are looking for is from the start line to the finish line, however, this race started months and months ago for me.

In August of 2021, I was informed that I needed to have surgery on my right foot to insert a plate on my second metatarsal. I had a lingering stress fracture that wouldn’t heal up on its own so a bone graft and plate were inserted to allow it to heal. I had been dealing with pain in my foot since February of 2021. I was given inserts, given drugs, but never given a diagnosis. Finally, I was given a referral to see a different doctor who was able to diagnose my pain as a stress fracture. This was devastating to me. I was far too active to see how I would make it through five to six months of not being able to run. I cried. I cried a lot. It felt like a jail sentence to me.

I had surgery in mid-September of 2021 and was told no running until February of 2022, one entire year after my injury. How am I going to do that?!?! I will not sugarcoat it….it was hard as hell! Luckily, I had a very supportive husband in Bill and the ability to continue swimming once my incision healed up. Swimming kept me mentally grounded but I still longed to be out running on the trails. Those months made me question myself and what made me who I am. Am I more than a trail runner, trail race director, or trail running friend? As my identity was so much driven by my love of trail running, what does that make me now? Many times I felt as though I was nothing but a burden and questioned what my purpose was. But my friends and family always brought me quickly back to reality. I am so much more than the races I run or the races I direct. I have a bigger purpose and not running for six months would not change fundamentally who I was as a human being. Yes, I still questioned that many times. But eventually, I saw a light at the end of the tunnel. I saw that who I was and what I believed in had not changed and I was going to be okay.

But I still longed for the challenge of trail running. Setting a goal and putting myself out there was what I did and who I was. Not having a goal to focus on sent me into a tailspin. I needed to find something to plan for and set my sights on finishing. This is where the 100k comes into the story. Since I had not done anything BIG for quite some time, I decided that the best way to ease myself back into trail racing would, of course, be to sign up for the longest distance race I had ever attempted. I mean, why waste time with shorter distances?? Go big or go home, right?!?! I had a race in mind that had been in the works for several years now and it appeared as though all the stars were going to align to make this race my comeback Ultra!

Back in 2019, a new event was being planned in the Chequamegon National Forest, on the Ice Age trail, Midwest States 100 mile and 100k. The race director had been dreaming of planning this event for 8 years and Bill and I had our eye on it to add to our race calendar. After a couple of years of delays, including COVID, all things finally came into alignment and she opened up registration for the August 27th, 2022 race. If you had taken part in the previously held virtual Midwest States events, you were given the first chance to register for the 2022 race. The number of runners allowed to sign up would be limited due to restrictions on permits. The race takes place in a pretty remote section of the Ice Age Trail which means limited parking and access. The concept of the race was described by the race director as a “wilderness adventure” which intrigued me even more. So as registration opened on March 3rd, 2022, I was on my laptop signing up immediately! Now I was fully committed to this crazy idea!

Now, keep in mind that I was not given the green light to run at all until February, just a few short weeks before I registered for a 100k trail race! On February 12th, I started my journey back into running by utilizing the Couch to 5k program that I used to start running back in 2003. It worked for me back then, I figured it would work for me now! So that first day of the program, I did 30 minutes on the treadmill which included a whole six minutes of running….but it was a great start and it felt amazing to be back at it again! I continued with the Couch to…… now 100k program diligently and by mid-March, I had run a whole 20 minutes straight! Doesn’t sound like much now, but it meant the world to me then. By the end of May, I was up to double digits of trail running and doing back-to-back runs on Saturdays and Sundays. I felt like I had never been away from these amazing places and trails.

The Plowline trails had become my second home on the weekends. I was trying out different nutrition and gear and slowly determining what will work for me and what won’t. Many hours were spent in self-reflection during those runs.

Sometimes I think I might have an overconfidence complex where I believe I can do much, much more than I really can. This condition is known as Overestimation, which focuses on the way one feels about their own ability, performance, level of control, or chance of success. It is most likely to occur during hard tasks where failure is likely or when the person making the overestimation is not especially skilled. Perhaps this has served me well in life as it has allowed me to take risks and take on challenges with no doubts that I can totally do it. However, the doubts and underconfidence then eventually creep in and attack me like one of those hidden ghouls in a haunted house. I am stricken by thoughts like “Why do I do this to myself?”, “Why did I think I was capable of doing this?” I have no misconceptions that these thoughts won’t creep in as I make my way along the Ice Age Trail at the end of August.

I have estimated that this 100k, which for us Americans is 62.2 miles, will most likely take me up to 20 hours. I know that over those twenty hours, my emotions will be like the wildest roller coaster ride I have ever taken. Happy one hour, sad the next, exhausted in the next hour, and exhilarated and energetic in the next. As the saying in Ultrarunning goes, “If you don’t like what is happening in the race now, just wait an hour, cause it will change!” I have to be mentally prepared for this race just as I need to be physically trained. There have been many hours of self-reflecting happening which I hope will serve me well at the end of the month. I know I am determined and would like nothing more than to complete this 100k race. However, I know there may be circumstances that will not allow me to do so. The biggest is the cutoffs.

In trail racing, cutoffs are certain times you have to arrive and depart at aid stations along the race route. For the Midwest States, the cutoff of death that I am worried about occurs at mile 32.25. I have to arrive within 10 ½ hours and be out 15 minutes after that. Looking at my past 50k times, I feel like this is totally doable. However, things can happen along the way that might make that not as easily achievable as hoped. Things like GI distress, injury due to falling, etc., etc. I will do my best to mitigate and deal with these issues as I go, with the help of my crew, Bill. We will problem solve and work through each issue as they arise with the main goal of getting me to the finish line. After the cutoff at 32.25 miles, there is another at 36.3 miles which I know I can make as long as I can make the first cutoff. The finish line cutoff is 34 hours which will not be an issue as long as I make the others first.

This will be the longest race that I have participated in. It is a daunting number….100k….62.2 miles. I am up for this challenge. I have put in the work and am ready to toe the line. Doubts may come…. but they will go as well. Pain will come….and probably stay for much of the race. But eventually, the pain will fade once I have reached the only goal of crossing the finish line. Thank you to everyone who has supported me along the way during this training. Friends I haven’t gotten to see as much as I would like to. My family, who had to change gathering plans because of my concerns and training plans. My amazing husband Bill who I have missed on my runs very much. We were supposed to be training together….but stupid f’ing COVID had other plans for Bill. I look forward to the time when we are both healthy at the same time and can once again conquer the trails together!

With limited cell service along the race route, I don’t believe there will be any live tracking by the race organization. However, if you would like to follow along on race day, check out the “RD Adventure Tracking” link on our website I am looking forward to the conclusion of this 18-month-long race and sharing my experience with you all.

Thanks again for all your support!

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