Tag Archives: ultra

Chilling Out, But Still Running


Winter has Michigan firmly in its grip. The snow is falling, the wind is blowing, and we have below-zero wind chills. So my non-runner friends have begun asking (with tone assuming Yes), “So you’re done running for the winter,” and “I suppose you’re doing your running inside now?”


First Snow Run 2015-2016

I admit it’s harder to get motivated to run outside than in the non-winter months. Here I rely upon sheer habit, and having others to run with. So far it’s worked, even with my new 6:00 a.m. midweek run. The only thing crazier than my friend Hirak and I running together last Wednesday in the frigid dark was that we saw a few people running solo. Sorry, but that’s just dumb – slip and sprain your ankle at that hour, and you could be a statue by the time the ambulance arrives.

I run year-round but I consider this the “off season” when it comes to racing. This means the workouts at Body Specs are pretty brutal, but they’re meant to build strength for the spring and summer. So I cut back a bit on distances and don’t race as much.

It's as much fun as it looks.

Yes, that’s a tension strap around my shoulders. It’s as much fun as it looks.

I did sneak in the Holiday Hustle 5K on December 10. Since I was also managing our Zero Waste team for the race, I was there from setup through teardown. So my afternoon went something like this:

– Freeze my tail off for four hours
– Get warm for 20 minutes running the 5K
– Freeze my tail off for two more hours.

I think he brought the weather with him.

I think he brought the weather with him.

So you might think I would be looking forward to a nice warm interlude until the Bigfoot Snowshoe 5K in late January. Do a little training on the treadmill, or just curl up by the fireplace with hot chocolate for a few weeks. Seems only fair.

So what did I do?

Signed up for a 50K trail ultra. On January 7. In Michigan.

And I’m looking forward to it.

The Yankee Springs Winter Challenge in Middleville, MI.

The Yankee Springs Winter Challenge in Middleville, MI (photo from their page).

To the inevitable question I can offer two reasons: because 2017 is my “off the wall” year for athletic events (more to follow there) and because I’ve never done a winter ultra before. So why not?

And you know what? Yesterday morning’s run with the PR Run Club started out pretty chilly and bleak, but we had a good turnout anyway. And halfway through, the sun came out in a bright blue sky, and the snow around us lit up in brilliant white. And boy, did hot coffee taste good afterward.

That’s why I run outside in the winter.

I really must run!

     (But baby, it’s cold outside.)

Go gotta have fun!

     (But baby, it’s cold outside.)

Trail Marathon Recap: No Wimps, Baby!

“I LOVE TRAIL ULTRAS – except when I’m running them.”

That’s how I described my relationship with long trail runs to someone running with me during Sunday’s 50K. It’s not entirely accurate – I enjoy experiencing being in the moment during one – but I also spend a lot of time fantasizing about it being over. That said, I had a great time at the Trail Marathon Weekend. And I got that No Wimps shirt and medal!

"No Wimps, Baby!"

Someone told me if you complete the No Wimps Challenge, you have to jump into the lake. Funny, nobody joined me. Wimps!

The vignettes below are from Sunday’s 50K. Saturday’s half marathon was fun but uneventful. I ran it easy so I could run strong on Sunday, and it was good prep for the 50K. (Not according to plan was tripping and falling twice, banging up my knee a bit, but I suppose it can’t all be sunshine and roses.)

(Note: See my previous post, if you haven’t already, for some awesome photos of the trail by fellow blogger Detroit Runner.)

What’s He Going to Do for His Second?

Some people start racing with something modest like a 5K, and then there are people like Ben. I met up with him at the halfway point of the second loop, and we got to talking. An experienced hiker (he’ll be hiking to Everest this summer), he thought a trail 50K might be good training.

Ben completes his first race ever - a little weekend trail 50K.

Ben completes his first race ever – a little weekend trail 50K.

“Yes, it probably would be,” I said. “So is this your first ultra?”

“It’s my first race,” he replied. Yes, a 50K was his first running race. Ever

And as a warmup, he’d run 26 miles on the trails on Thursday, so this was his second marathon in four days. He didn’t qualify for a No Wimps medal, but I wouldn’t have argued if he’d gotten one.

Blood and Guts

About four miles into the second 13-mile loop, I got to thinking how some of last year’s 50K finishers had looked like death warmed over, and by contrast, how good I was feeling. Then I passed a spectator. “Is this your third time around?” he asked. I confirmed it was, counting the loop the day before. “You have some blood coming from your right nostril,” he called after me.

I wiped my nose, which had been running more or less continually, and sure enough, there was some blood. Nuts. I slowed down a bit, but kept running – the nearest help was the aid station two miles ahead. But after a few minutes the bleeding stopped and I picked up my pace again. That, plus falling once more (on my right knee again – arrggh) was, fortunately, the extent of my injuries.

Goodness, How Delicious

The Friday before, another volunteer and I worked for over 90 minutes putting together about a hundred peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cutting them into quarters, and packing them in bags for the aid stations on Sunday. “Do we really need to make all these?” I asked one of the Running Fit crew.

“Oh, yes,” I was told. “We ran out last time.”

So I hope I can be forgiven for being annoyed on Sunday when I caught up to someone holding one of the pieces like he wasn’t sure he wanted it. “What’s the matter?” I asked him. He mumbled something about not being sure of its age or origin.

“Hey, I made that sandwich,” I snapped. “So eat it, darn it!”

And he did.


A perfect day - if you were running. Otherwise, it was a tad nippy.

A perfect day – if you were running. Otherwise, it was a tad nippy.

You’re Right, I’m Not

Final mile of the 50K, and I’m cruising on adrenaline to the finish line just a few minutes away. I’m passing lots of tired-looking people, and enjoying every minute of it.

“You’re making us look bad,” someone said as I caught up to a small group of struggling runners.

“It’s the final mile,” I said. “Rock it out!”

“Oh, no,” he said. “We’ve got six miles to go.” They hadn’t finished the second 13-mile loop yet.

“Sorry about that,” I replied as I passed.

There was a short silence. Then I heard from behind me: “You’re not sorry!”

I wonder what gave it away.

We’ll Meet Again

As I neared the end of the first 13-mile loop, some runners came up behind me. They sounded fresher, and I expected them to pass me. But at the next climb they dropped back, and I finished the loop ahead of them. “We expected to catch you,” one of them named Matt said at the aid station, “but you never slowed your pace. Nice job.” They then took off on the next loop while I was adjusting my gear, and I figured I’d seen the last of them.

Matt and I battle to the death - or the finish line, whichever comes first.

Matt and I battle to the death – or the finish line, whichever comes first.

18 miles later, with just a quarter mile to go, I passed a couple of runners. “YOU again!” one of them yelled. It was Matt. I’d caught up! “Well, let’s make it a race at least,” he said. It was on! We took off sprinting.

I was ahead as we crossed the final footbridge, but he kicked it in hard and beat me to the finish line. After finishing, we congratulated each other, and he thanked me for inspiring him several times during the race. I assured him it was mutual.

I collected my bling and sealed the deal with a dunk in Silver Lake. As it turned out, I won my age group by over half an hour.

I also saw Ben, wearing his 50K medal and posting “I’m an ultrarunner” on his social media pages. “Best post ever,” he said.

April 28 was Wear Your Medals to Work Day. (Hope you got the note.)

April 28 was Wear Your Medals to Work Day. (Hope you got the note.)