Horseshoe Island, Ellison Bay
Well, I've gotten a bunch of photos from this weekend back, and I can't wait any longer to share the story. This was an event that reminds me a lot of Chicago, where after you do it once, you feel a need to go back and do it again, to experience all that you may have missed the first time around. It was fantastic.
Ellie and I competed as a pairs relay team, one of only 5 such teams to take on the 50 miles. In all, there were 400-some participants on teams of 3-5, and 43 solo runners. The race started Gill's Rock, the northern most tip of Door County (the "thumb" of Wisconsin) and ran down the western shore to Sturgeon Bay, the southern-most aspect. The event started in different flights, depending on your estimated pace. The solo runners were off and running at 7 AM, followed by teams of progressively faster paces at 8, 9, 10, and 11. I had estimated we'd run a 9:00 minute pace, which put us in the 9 AM flight. This was great--it allowed us to sleep a bit longer in the morning before heading to the start (although I was still up at 5:30, anxious to get going).
A 35 mph wind greeted us at Gill's Rock (see the flag?), but our...well, my...spirits couldn't be dampened. I was excited to get going. My turn would have to wait, however, as Ellie was running the first leg (of 10). At exactly 9:00 the gun sounded and our adventure was under way. The first leg was 4.8 miles, and Ellie was smiling throughout. The wind even died down a bit once we got into some of the back country roads along the route. After about 42 minutes, it was my turn to run. I would be running the next two legs for a total of 10.6 miles. We had set up who would run which legs by their length (obviously) and by the elevation change. Legs 2 and 5 had some serious hills, so they were mine. They didn't disappoint, either. Along my second leg I started getting phone calls from Brock (our NF Hero). He was coming up with his parents to surprise Ellie along the route. I wanted them to arrive when she was running, so I was trying to run, text estimated times to Brock, and converse with the fellow runners. Ever try texting "Peninsula State Park?" Not easy.
Have I mentioned how excited I was to run? Well, it showed, as I ran my 10.6 miles in 1:13 for a 6:58 pace. Probably not the smartest approach to a 50 mile relay, that's for sure. There was a pretty strong headwind, and the hills didn't disappoint, so I was running way too fast way too early.
After my leg was over, it was Ellie's turn to run what was probably the best leg of the course--a 7.5 miler through Peninsula State Park. After I handed off to her, we followed her through some beautiful roads...
Did I mention I was running way too fast, and not being real smart with my pacing? Well, in the State Park there is an observation tower. Yep, I climbed up it with Curt and Gretchen (my brother-in-law and his wife) for some photos. Again, not all that smart. But the view was AMAZING!
Brock and his parents arrived at mile 6.5 of Ellie's 7.5 mile run--perfect timing--and completely surprised her by suddenly appearing on the side of the road to cheer. She had no idea. Mission Accomplished!
Once she finished, it was my turn again, for the biggest of the hills--in Leg 5.
This one didn't disappoint, either. About half way up the hill (which is about half way through the race, incidentally), I passed a wheelchair participant doing "switchbacks" to navigate the hill. I felt bad for a little bit, but after talking to him, he was in great spirits, and he asked if this was the last hill. I said I was pretty sure it was, although in truth I had no idea. It felt like the right thing to say at the time. Sure enough, within 5 minutes I was back on level ground, and the same wheelchair guy came flying past me at about 15 miles an hour. Jerk!
I finished up leg 5 (4.8 miles) and got to the "Half Way Buffet" aid station. It was pretty much the same as the other aid stations (self-serve water/gatorade/fruit) but also had M&M's and warm chicken broth. The chicken broth was DYNOMITE! I am definitely incorporating that into long runs from now on, as it completely hit the spot and energized me. It really was amazing. I wish I had taken in more than just one cup.
Leg six was mine, and it was a beautiful 3.8 mile run right along the water. Well, not right along the water--between the road and the water were some MASSIVE houses. Absolutely Beautiful.
At this point we're 31.5 miles in, with 4 legs to go. Ellie had a relatively easy 4 miler, made easier by another surprise. Her parents drove up and were waiting around a corner on the route for her--Mission Accomplished Again!
Then it was back to me. I remember thinking, "I could really use some more Chicken Broth..."
"Okay, how are we going to get this thing over with?" --Between Legs 7 and 8
I was originally going to run the next two legs, a total of 9.1 miles, and then Ellie was going to run the final 5.4. She was getting a little tired, and her right IT Band was tightening up. I, however, knew that it would get pretty ugly trying cover the final 14 miles on my own. We decided that I would take the next leg (6.1), then I'd rest while Ellie did 3 miles, then I'd finish the 5.4. It actually worked pretty well. While Ellie was running, I can remember thinking...man, I just want to nap...
But we made it. With the help of our families, the help of the amazing other teams, always cheering, I found Ellie waiting for me at mile 48!
Onward we went, down a couple gradual hills, into Sturgeon Bay, and to the finish, hand in hand. In all we actually ran 52 miles total, and finished in 7:09, winning ourselves a pretty sweet belt buckle!
I can't say enough about this event--from the other participants, to the volunteers, to the scenery, it really was a blast. I'm already excited about next year. I'm not sure Ellie wants to do a Pairs again, though. She's leaning for a team run.
Thanks again to my family, the event staff, and most of all, Ellie. What more can someone ask for than a spouse who is so supportive she'll run 20 miles of a 50 miler, with the only material gain being a belt buckle?! Well, that's not entirely true--I surprised her with flowers yesterday!