Sunday, August 3, 2014

Run Report from Colorado, South Dakota and Indiana

Run Report from LPTRunner Steve Hartman Keiser...

You know we mostly run not for races but just for the fun of being outside in the woods exploring nature and the limits of our stamina.  And also so we can stop running and keep having fun eating, drinking, and whatnot. Maybe mostly whatnot.
Anyway, I’m just contributing an entry about running.  And thanks to a couple family reunions, I’ve been lucky to run in some pretty cool places this summer.
First, Snow Mountain just south of Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.  This was pretty much a hike from 9000’ to the top at 12000’, then some runnable parts along the summit ridge with amazing views, and running back down.  I’m always glad when I don’t fall.
Sunrise on Snow Mountain
Gore Range from Snow Mountain summit
Tiny rose (?) on Snow Mountain
Second, the Black Hills in South Dakota.  Here I got to run on the Centennial Trail for 3 hours and saw no one except this bison steaming in the morning mist.  I had to go off trail a bit to give him some room.  And an hour later when I came back he was actually lying down right in the middle of the trail.  Only in South Dakota!

My bison buddy next to the Centennial Trail
Black Hills meadow

Black Hills Vista
I will say that the signage on the Centennial Trail is not nearly as good as our own Ice Age Trail.  I took the wrong fork a couple times and had to backtrack.  And while the single track parts of the Centennial were awesome, there was quite a bit that was on forest roads, which wasn’t as interesting.
So we should be really really thankful that we have the Ice Age Trail!
Finally, last weekend I ran the trails at Potato Creek State Park near South Bend, Indiana which included one nice almost kettle morainish hill and a fun single track mountain bike trail.
I’d love to hear where else people are running this summer!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Kettle Report from Alison...

A race report from LPTRunner Alison Wiedmann...

My dear LPTRs,

Two years ago this past weekend I ran my first ultra! I would have never thought I would be able to accomplish such a distance, especially when not long before I thought 5 miles was a long run.  I still have memories of that first ultra…talk of squishy beds and trolleys with your favorite beverage to take you to the finish line.  Random chairs placed on the trail, but NO sitting down! Nutter butters and good friends made it possible to make it to the finish. 

Now 9 ultras later, it wasn’t all that different. Talk of being on a happy train, but no getting off till the finish, 3 teachers trying to teach the proper use of good and well - (Apparently 38 miles isn’t long enough for some students!). Glow sticks and headlamps flying through the air, olives and nutter butters, two new ultra runners and an amazingly fast last mile and a half and we made it to the finish line!

 I have learned and grown so much during these past two years.  Not just in becoming a better runner, but in many ways. Although I do now know what drop bags and s-caps are, the importance of staying hydrated, and that I better not have too much of a kick at the end of a run or I’ll be accused of sandbagging the rest of the way.  (Do they realize it’s just fun to make boys suffer once in awhile?)  On more than one occasion when runs get long, hills get taller or the snow gets deeper, Todd reminds me that it only makes me stronger. You’re so right, Todd! (Did I really just say that?) I am a stronger person- mentally, physically and emotionally!

 I’ve also been told many times- while running with boys who make me work harder than I wish to be- you’ll thank me later. I usually give a “look” and say – yayaya. But I think that later is right now.  

And so I thank each and every one of you.  Thank you for your friendship.  Thank you for your conversation on and off the trail.  Thank you for making me laugh and smile.  Thank you for your encouragement.  Thank you for giving me something to look forward to in the middle of the week in the middle of the winter.  Thank you for helping me be a better person. Thank you for running amazing races and amazing distances that continue to inspire me! And yes, thank you for making me run when I don’t want to!

Sadly, in the next month I will be saying good-bye to Lapham Peak and Wisconsin and the LPTRs and heading to new unknown trails of Florida.  I believe that each of you has helped me become a stronger person, a better runner and this will help me on my new race in life.  I will be a long ways from LP, even for ultra-runners, but you will stay close in my heart. I will certainly be smiling when I think of each and every one of you!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Boston: The common person's Olympics

Race Report from LPTRunner Steve Hartman Keiser...

We knew we were into something special walking down the middle of Boylston Street toward the packet pickup on a sunny Saturday afternoon. People were everywhere, taking pictures at the finish line, bright orange official marathon jackets dotting the crowd. There was little sign of last year’s tragedy. Perhaps intentionally. Everyone seemed to want to move on and honor the past by making this year’s marathon the best ever. 

The Boston Athletic Association runs an amazingly complex and efficient event. Every step of the 118th edition has been planned and communicated to us runners via email and snail mail updates for the past several months, so I knew where to go and what to expect. Every stop along the way had plenty of super friendly volunteers, so there was no wait to pick up the race packet or to leave the drop bag or to board the buses. They’ll do just about anything except maybe stand in line for you at the port-o-potties.

And it is not just the official volunteers who take such pride and joy in the Boston Marathon—it’s the entire city.

From the bus driver early Monday morning who waved me on so I didn’t have to pay (“Hey, he’s a runner!” she said) to the random Bostonian at the bus stop on our way home later that day who congratulated me and wanted to hear all about my race. It is clear that the entire city loves this day, the marathon, and all of us runners who come to run it.

The phrase “Boston Strong” was everywhere on shirts, signs, posters, and on lips. Overused? Sure. A cliché? Never.

The most special sign of the deep connection between the people and the race was the scarf. Mary (see her story below) got hers at the Old South Church, “the church of the finish line” which initiated the Scarf Project to wrap runners in love, hope, and peace. I got mine—and a hug—directly from a friend of a friend who had missed the deadline to send it in, and for that reason she said I was meant to have it. After the horror and fear that all Boston lived through in the days after the bombings last year, this scarf is healing and hope for her, the city, the marathon, and now for me. I was deeply touched. 

I could have used the scarf at 6 a.m. Monday waiting for that first bus. But the sun was warming things up 45 minutes later as I walked out of the subway at Boston Common and found Rich, Pete, and Jose, all runners from Milwaukee. We walked past a quarter mile of double-parked buses filled with runners before finding an empty one.

That was a looooong bus ride: almost an hour. Like probably half the people on the bus I was thinking, “Man, I’ve got to run all this way to get back to Boston!” The other half was thinking, “I’ve gotta pee now!” So when we got out at the athlete’s village in Hopkinton it was straight to the end of the line for a port-o-potty. Turns out that even 790 port-o-potties is not enough.

The half-mile walk to the starting line is down a residential street. The neighbors were standing outside cheering. For us! The race hadn’t even started yet, and they were cheering us! Several had set up stands offering water and sunscreen (that one was really popular). Then there the guys handing out donuts, beer, and cigarettes. Really.

I find corral 5, show my bib to the race attendant, and squeeze in with 1000 very fit people. Everyone around me has run a marathon in 3 hours or less. It’s sunny and getting warmer, so I finally shed my Goodwill sweats and shirt. There are volunteers collecting all the left behind clothing to donate to benefit Big Brothers/Sisters.

I line up next to Meb. Okay, I’m actually lined up about a quarter mile behind the elites. When the gun goes off I hardly hear it, but we shuffle ahead and 3 minutes later we’re passing by news cameras and across the start line. We are underway. Downhill past crowds of people. A little girl and boy are holding out their hands, and I reach over for my first high-fives of the race.

Someone has said that the Boston Marathon is the common persons’ Olympics. I couldn’t agree more. For miles upon miles there are people lining the course. Some places in the early miles there are just a few standing by their driveways, but soon it is the driveways and the yards and the spaces between yards. The cheering is nonstop. Kids are handing out oranges, water, twizzlers. And we are just the first wave. The first 9000. There are over 20,000 more runners coming behind us over the next hour or more.

I find myself smiling. There are a pack of Harley Hogs standing next to their bikes outside a bar and raising their beers to us as we run by. There’s a dozen senior citizens all wearing cow hats (as in Holstein cows, not cowboy hats) for no apparent reason. There’s a Willie Nelson cover band singing “On the Road Again”. There’s lots of Boston Strong signs. And always always there are lines of children holding out their hands for high fives. I’m smiling again.

As we get into towns, the crowds are deep on both sides. They cheer anyone with a name on their shirt. I happened to be running by Rob and Henk and a guy from Australia, because I heard those names a lot. If you wave to the crowd, they go nuts and cheer louder.

I know it’s 11 o’clock, because some guy has a sign out giving updates of the score of the Red Sox game (it’s 0-0 in the 1st inning).

Wellesley College at mile 12 is famous for the screaming coeds and their signs. “Kiss me I’m kosher”, “Kiss me I’m from Iowa”, “Never been kissed!”, and scores of others on the theme of kissing. But my favorite sign had a Lord of the Rings theme: “Fly you fools!” Loved it! I might have kissed someone, but I was too busy smiling, and everyone knows you can’t kiss when you’re smiling!

I guess I haven’t said much about the running. I was in fact running. Pretty steadily at just under 7 minutes per mile. But those first miles didn’t feel nearly as easy as they did in Indianapolis in November. This was going to be a tough race. And it was getting hot. Thank goodness for the makeshift water stations—I grabbed water from kids a couple times when I needed it between the official aid stations. 

The family was going to be on the course in the last part of Wellesley, so I kept to the left side of the road and kept looking, past mile 14…15…and then right at the mile 16 marker someone started waving wildly—Lydia! And there they all were! I stopped smiling long enough to give Lori a salty kiss. High-fived some big kids for a change, and then kept going. 

Miles 17-21 include the Newton Hills, the last of which is the infamous Heartbreak Hill. And as the road goes uphill, things start going downhill for my race. It’s not dramatic. In fact, I handled Heartbreak pretty well actually, passing a number of people.

But it was getting harder to smile even though the crowds were thicker and louder than ever. There was an awesome fifty-person drum circle banging away halfway up the hill! Then it’s downhill again past screaming Boston College students.

Here’s where I hoped to kick into an extra gear to speed toward the finish, but there was nothing left in my tank except to try and maintain a 7:30/mi pace over the last 5 miles.

And then I was at the final landmarks. The gigantic Citgo sign at 1 mile to go. The underpass. The right on to Hereford. The left on to Boylston. The roar.

The roar! It’s about 5 blocks from Hereford to the finish line. 1/3 mile. About 2 ½ minutes at my pace. And the entire length of this canyon-like street is packed with people roaring. For me. For us. I’m just a guy from Wisconsin who likes to run long distances. I crossed the finish line with a 56-year-old Dominican guy from New York. And the crowds were roaring for all of us.

If I felt like a champion just for finishing, I was quickly humbled by the looooong walk back to Boston Common. It took a couple blocks just to get to the water, then bags of food. I was thirsty and my legs were very very weary. But every step of the way there were volunteers congratulating us, asking if we were okay (yes, I’m just really thirsty and tired). 

It took me a half-hour to cover the mile to the family gathering area in Boston Common. That last 30 minutes was almost as hard as the last few miles of the race! Lori and the kids weren’t there when I arrived, so I lay down on the grass in the sun and listened to the chatter of the runners around me.

An elderly Sikh gentleman came up and awkwardly hugged his son who was sitting on the ground. A chorus of “ohhhhs” burst out when one guy took off his shoes to reveal bloody socks. I drank 3 bottles of water and a protein shake and started to feel better.

Then the family arrived. They were having so much fun out on the course that Lori couldn’t get them to leave! Hugs! And hot dogs. Then the subway home. And along the way nods of respect and words of congratulations from perfect strangers. The guy at the bus stop who wanted to hear all about it.

My time? I had a good time, an unforgettable time really. Oh, you want a chronological time? A number? At the Boston Marathon that kind of time doesn’t seem to matter so much. Look it up on the BAA website. I’m bib number 4333. One of those ordinary runners who for one day felt like an Olympian.

Thanks Boston.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Race Report from LPTRunner Mary Gorski...

Screaming, tears…

They sure are a lot better to hear when they are based in joy rather than in shock and terror.

Coming into the last miles of the Boston Marathon this year I could barely hear my own thoughts over the screaming cheers of marathon fans along the course. I was in the third wave – many of the spectators had been cheering their lungs out for a couple of hours before I got there.

It was incredible.

And then there were the tears. Making the final turn I saw the finish, the backdrop to last year’s bombs; the stage for horrific videos and photos of pain and suffering; screaming, tears.

Remembering what was, and celebrating what is… my eyes weren’t the only ones welling up with tears in the final stretch on Boylston Street.

Last year was my first at the Boston Marathon. A bucket list item, it was a 50th birthday gift. The plan was to enjoy the experience and then mark it off the list.

The bombs changed all that. “You have to come back!” In the two days after the race Dave and I heard it from Bostonians everywhere we went: the bellhop at our hotel, the servers at meals, the store clerks and streetside hawkers. Even the security officials at the airport genuinely wanted to know “Were you able to finish?” “Will you come back?”

How could I not?

And what a delight it was, starting with Dave’s own race on Saturday: the Boston 5K. After losing most of a foot last summer to a nasty infection, the race would be his first attempt at getting back into sports. Slow and steady, he walked the course, coming in after the official finishers. But organizers still had a finisher’s medal waiting for him when he came across the line, cheered by friends.

It was a good start to the weekend. A birthday gift for him this year, just a few days before the date itself.

Saturday evening we were at a dinner with others who had contributed to a book that running guru and legend Hal Higdon wrote about last year’s marathon: “4:09:43.” I was apprehensive going, expecting sad rehashes of the day, but instead it was a fun evening of laughter, food and a couple of Sam Adams beers. It was good to put names and faces together and share our individual stories of the experience.

Sunday: Easter Sunday. Last year Dave and I went to the early service at the Old South Church, a UCC congregation. In 2013 the 9 a.m. service was a small, intimate gathering in the side chapel of the church. We experienced a wonderfully welcoming community, good music and a great sense of worship. When we realized that the marathon this year would coincide with Easter weekend there was no doubt that we would go back to the Old South Church to celebrate it.

Easter is a busy day at any church, but at Old South, it was record-breaking. Located just past the finish line, it spent several days behind crime scene tape after last year’s bombing.

Because of its location, the church has a special connection to runners. One of the ways the church reached out to them this year was through the Marathon Scarf Project. The“Old South Knitters,” a group of about 30 knitters, chrocheters and weavers, got busy making scarves to, “wrap each runner of this year’s race in love, hope and prayer,” said the church’s pastor.

With an anticipated 36,000 runners coming to Boston, they were going to have to do a lot of knitting so they invited anyone to join them in their efforts. Knitters sent their donated efforts from all over Massachusetts, and a few states beyond. Each scarf had the name of the knitter attached to it.

Mine was from Cynthia in Beverly, MA.

During the Easter service, runners were asked to stand for a blessing. Members of the UCC congregation came through with the scarves. However, they did not simply had them out. Runners had the scarves placed on them by another. Funny how a bunch of knotted yarn brought so many to tears.

But again, tears of joy. Tears of happiness.

Race morning. Time to finally lace up the shoes and go. No bags would be allowed at the start area, so runners dressed in their hobo best to keep warm. Whatever clothing you left behind would be donated to charity. Though I think that my 25-year-old saggy tights and Helly Hansen polypro shirt with the permanent stink of 25 years’ of running probably (hopefully) was donated to the trash.

I wondered how chaotic it would be to travel in a herd of 36,000 runners. Surprisingly, it wasn’t bad. Race organizers did a great job with logistics, moving us to our starting areas like expert cattle ranchers.

And then the start, and the screaming began. Screams of joy from the runners; screams of encouragement and solidarity from the volunteers and spectators. There were a few spots on the course that weren’t too crowded, but not many. Each town welcomed you as if they were waiting just for YOU.

“Boston Strong, Boston Strong!!!” You saw it on shirts, on banners, in windows and you heard it from every direction.

I wore my race shirt from 2013 (a long-sleeved shirt, it wasn’t necessarily the best choice for the quickly warming weather). People saw it and yelled “Welcome back to Boston! We’re glad you came back!! Boston Strong!”

And every mile or two I heard that wonderful Boston accent letting me know that “waTAH is just ahead.” BAHston volunteers always serve up waTAH, not water.

The Boston course is a tease. It starts with gentle downhills, giving runners a false sense of confidence.  But then,  just as the temperatures were getting toasty, the hills made their appearance. I  forgot that there was more than just Heartbreak Hill. “Is this it?” I thought, but then there would be another. “Is this Heartbreak?” said a woman next to me, but "no," she was told by a veteran, “this one is just a ‘regular’ hill, it doesn’t have a name.”

Finally, after 20 miles we came to Heartbreak. I’d run all the other hills, might as well run this one too. I put my head down and went up the middle, never looking ahead, figuring that my huffing and puffing would let me know when the hill was over.

At the top my legs were toast. But again, the cheers, the screaming from spectators urging runners to keep moving, to keep running to Boylston. To finish strong, Boston Strong.

And so I did. Even came in a few minutes faster than last year. 

Weather had been warm for running, but wonderful for lounging around post-race in Boston Commons. But eventually all good things come to an end. The Li’l Mister and I headed to the subway for the ride back to the hotel. Time for a shower and dinner.

And then there was one more treat. A subway worker pulled me away from the ticket machines and led me to an open gate.

“Congratulations on your finish! Thanks for being here. The ride is on us!”

The cherry on top of the sundae.

Boston, I'm glad that I came back. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Northern Kettle 50k

At the start...
Race Report from LPTRunner Marcel Uttech...

I had almost forgotten the familiar feeling…the anxiety before, the rush leading up to the start, the headlamps bobbing into the dark...the laughter and cursing excitement shared by all as they ran through the woods, leaving it all out there.

This was my first ultra after an intensely busy school year. I had decided sometime after the season had pretty much wrapped up last summer that I needed to start training again, running long again. In fact, since architecture school was SO intense, I needed it more than ever. Running kept me grounded, and I was really just not myself without those long afternoons in the woods. So after training all winter on the trails of the Milwaukee River and the Southern Kettle I had decided to of course sign on for Chippewa, one of my all-time favorite races and the course where I ran my first one in 2010. Then there was talk about another 50k, perfectly positioned 4 weeks before Chippewa…sold! The race fee was a donation toward the RACC (Racers Against Childhood Cancer) which Amanda K. put together with Nic Giebler. Pain has never been so cheap!

The last few weeks leading up to the NK50K Jodie Taylor and I began running the trails in the Northern Kettle to get more time on the hills and to learn the trails better. Deep snow, quiet woods and abundant ice was free for anyone who wanted a helping. In fact, if you didn’t get enough of the ice then, you got plenty on race day since the trail was about 70% covered in the stuff.  During the first half it was pretty decent, cold enough to not have the water slick sitting on top. Still some pretty slick spots anywhere the pines were blocking out the sun, and I got a REAL good look on my back of one of those, thankfully no harm done.

The race started at 6:00 sharp, which was pretty amazing since Nic and a few others shuttled everyone from the southern tip to the northern. After a couple of group shots they gave the go ahead and everyone set out. I was glad to be able to run with Robert and Logan for the first few miles or so and catch up a bit with them. Until Robert dropped me I was able to average 10 minute miles for the first 20 miles which I was extremely happy about with the ice everywhere. Only real bumps along the way were some leg cramps that came on about that time reminding me that I really didn’t get enough speed training in to sustain those speeds/effort for that long. Ran into Nic at Mauthe Lake and he had EVERYTHING you could need in his truck! Couple of S-caps later and I felt better. He informed my Logan was about a minute ahead but I never caught up to him. In fact pretty sure he lied Figured he could smell the barn and was stretching it out a little in the home stretch. Came in at 5:50, plenty tired and just glad it was over thrilled to get a race in finally!

The people organizing the race were great, it was low key and helluva lot of fun. In all honesty, I had a great time out there.

 Next year the tentative date is the first Saturday in April. Although there was plenty of LPTR’s up there this time around, this is too close to pass up and is a perfect peak run/race/excuse/whatever before Chippewa…just putting it out there.

It’s been a few days now, I’m sore and finally feel like myself again…looking forward to Chippewa 50k!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

2014 John Dick Memorial 50k

Race Report from RD and LPTRunner Robert Wehner... 

On February 1st we had the 26th running of the John Dick Memorial 50K, named after a long-time Badgerland Strider member.  This winter ultra is held on the trails in the Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest.  While we’ve been able to use the same layout the past few years, the weather and trail conditions have varied greatly, so the challenge is never the same.

This year has been one of the coldest and snowiest winters on record for southeastern Wisconsin.  It certainly has made recent training more difficult, and contributed to the tougher conditions runners faced on race day.  125 runners headed out on the course, in single digit temps, and 3” of fresh snow on the ground.  Our multi-loop course brought everyone back to the start/finish area 4 times during the race, before heading out on the final out-n-back segment.  There, a great group of volunteers attended to their needs (and the door to a heated shelter awaited those finished for the day).

The deeper packed snow, with the fresh on top, made conditions harder than usual; it was evident early on that it was not going to be a PR day.  We could take some solace though in the fact that it was nowhere near as bad as 2011; a blizzard a few days before the race that year resulted in the TOUGHEST CONDITIONS EVER.  So the mantra became: Hey, it’s much better than 2011!

As he did last year, Kevin Grabowski took the lead from the start, and repeated as our champion with a time of 4:34:38; Gardiner Rynne was not too far behind in second, in 4:41:35.  For the women, Jessica Garcia ran steady and won in 5:27:30, with Jennifer Rolfing a close second in 5:31:00.  Overall, we had 77 runners complete the full 50k, so it had to be much better than 2011; the finish percentage of 61.6% far exceeded the 32.4% of that year!

Despite how tough the race, and this winter has been, there was nothing but smiles and good cheer all around for the day.  Many runners stayed long afterwards, enjoying the post-race spread and the warm shelter.  Thanks to all the great volunteers who helped with the race.  Now all we need is to make it through the rest of this winter, to the warm spring that has to come eventually (it will come, won’t it?). 

Robert Wehner, RD

Full results available at the race web-page:

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Door County Fall 50!

Christine and Mary

Unexpected gifts are often the best gifts of all.

Door County's Fall 50 was certainly an unexpected gift for me yesterday. And like a kid the day after Christmas, the first thing that I thought of this morning was my favorite gift from the day before.

And then I took my first steps out of bed.


It was a gift that came with a bit of a kick.

Two weeks ago I did the Glacial 50K in the Northern Kettle Moraine. Perfect weather, beautiful fall colors and a surprisingly good race on legs that have not been getting a lot of mileage in recent months. That was a good gift too, but more of a stocking stuffer. A nice little something to put a smile on my face for a day or two.

The day after Glacial I thought, "Well, if one race went well, might as well do another." I went online to sign up for the Lakefront Discovery run, a 15K race just a few miles from home along Milwaukee's lakefront.

But no room at the inn. The race was full. 


I went to my favorite race calendar – -- and started hunting. I found a few things -- a marathon in Middleton, a few 5Ks -- but nothing that really caught my attention... until I saw a listing for the Fall 50.

I remembered hearing about the event, a 50-mile race from Gills Rock at the tip of Door County to the last bit of land on the southern end of the peninsula in Sturgeon Bay. But when I went to the site the first thing that I saw was "FULL." 

Criminey again.

Then I looked a little closer and realized that it was the team event that was full. There were still openings in the solo category. Being an only-child I don't always play well with others so going solo was more to my liking. I pulled out the credit card and signed up.

I meant to do the Discovery Run, which is a race along Lake Michigan of a distance divisible by five. In Door County yesterday I did pretty much the same thing: ran primarily on the shore of Lake Michigan (technically, Green Bay) but in a race of 50 miles instead of 15 kilometers. Still divisible by five.

A little after 5 a.m. on Saturday morning the Li'l Mister and I made the quiet drive to Gills Rock. I don't know who the heck Gill was but he must have been quite a blowhard. His namesake had winds that could rival Dorothy's Kansas. However, except for the wind, the weather wasn't too bad. Upper 40s for the start, a couple of raindrops but no downpour. Later in the day the sun even poked out to check up on the runners. But never for long. Must have been the sun's day off. 

Before the start I said hello to a few of my LPTR friends including Aaron Schneider and Christine Crawford. Aaron grew up in Sturgeon Bay so the Door County 50 was his home field. 

Christine and I started off together, gabbing away until a I heard a porta-potty call my name. Usually 50 mile runs are on trails without the luxury of such civilized things as private little johns with toilet paper. 

I was living large in Door County!

The Fall 50 course is primarily on quiet roads decorated in many spots with peak fall colors. The race advertises itself as the "Most Scenic Run in the Midwest" and they aren't bragging. Along the lakeshore, wind-driven waves splashed across the rocks. On the roads, beautiful canopies of yellows and oranges surrounded us. When the winds from the lake found their way inland the leaves swirled around us like a golden snowstorm. 

I wasn't the only Gorski getting a workout in yesterday. After a summer of illness that led to the amputation of a good part of his foot, the Li'l Mister was crewing me for the first time in months and it was no easy task. With hundreds of teams added to the solo division, there were a lot of vehicles wandering around the Door Peninsula. Well managed with different routes for cars and runners the race course was rarely congested but the aid stations often had field-based parking lots that could rival those of a county fair. 

But Dave was determined to return to his crewing duties.  Bundled up in his winter gear and armed with a cane for balance, he made his way to most of the aid stations and stood for hours on end only to have me quickly pass through saying "feeling good, see you down the road!"

I'm sure that after a few stops he was ready to toss that race bag he had been hauling around right into Lake Michigan. You know the bag, the one filled with all of those "just in case" supplies that the runner rarely ever uses. 

I was feeling good. Surprisingly good. After about 30 miles I saw some familiar gaits ahead of me. Runners can often identify each other from afar by running style. I came up first on Thao Hoang, a member of our "Turned Away From the Grand Canyon Because of Government Shut-Down" group. Talking with him I learned that he was eventually able to do from the North Rim what several us could not -- run from one end of he canyon to the other… and back. He said it was fantastic. My guess was that he still had some Grand Canyon dust in his legs. 

Up ahead was Christine. Before the race we talked about expectations. I said that I was looking at finishing the race in 9 to 9.5 hours. When we saw each other that was still my plan. 

"But you are on a pace to finish under 8:30," she said. 

"Oh no, I'll fall apart. Don't worry; we are still in double digit mileage before the finish line. The wheels are going to fall off any minute."

I had never run 50 miles under 8:30. I can't even remember the last time I ran under 9 hours. A road course is going to be faster than trails, but still, 8:30 hadn't been in my reach for years. I'm a "senior master" now, surely my PRs are behind me.

At the halfway point I was at 4:11. Double that and you have 8:22. "That gives me a nice cushion to slow down and come in under nine hours" I kept thinking to myself. But even with a few more pit stops and a newly placed hill that brought me down to a slow walk for about a half mile I was still maintaining a steady pace. 

The last aid station was less than five miles from the finish. I told the Li'l Mister that my legs were getting tired. My hip flexors didn't feel like flexing a lot any more. 

"What did you expect? You've run over 45 miles. You are supposed to be tired. See you at the finish!"

And off he went. 

I saw the 46 mile marker sign and realized that I was still on a pace to come in under 8:30. Actually, I was on a pace to do an even race: second half in the same time as the first.

But I still thought that the wheels would fall off. "At least now if I have to, I can walk it in and probably still finish under 9 hours," I kept saying to myself. 

I thought this up until I made the turn into Sunset Park and the last half mile of the race. By then I could have stopped, taken a short nap and still made my time goal of 9 hours. And at the start of the race it really wasn't a goal, it was just a hope. 

Coming through the finishing chute I looked at the race clock because I no longer believed my wristwatch. 

8:21 (and a lot of change, but still, it wasn't yet 8:22).

I ran the second half faster than the first.

I ran a personal best by… I really don't know. It's been so long since I have run anything under 9 hours that I haven't a clue. But I do know that I've never clocked a 50-miler under 8:30.

What a wonderfully unexpected gift. 

I saw Aaron, who finished about 15-20 minutes ahead of me. I thanked Ashley for cheering me on as I trudged up the longest hill of the course. Got some warm clothes on and saw Christine come in. Cheers and hugs. Finish photos. 

And then the shivers. That gosh darn wind still hadn't let up and I was turning into a popsicle, as was Dave. The party tent looked like a lot of fun but I desperately wanted a hot shower. It would be the bow on top of my most wonderfully unexpected most wonderful gift of a race. 

This morning my legs are whimpering. My back is a little stiff. My shoulder has a kink from carrying a waterbottle all day. There is a blister on my foot that could use a pop.

And I couldn't be happier.