Where to begin…
WHY – If I had a dollar for every time I was asked this I’d own a dog ranch. Few truly understand so rather I will answer the question of why this course instead.
1st off I love a tough challenge. When I decided I was going to tackle my 1st 100 it was a no brainer. Could I have went with an easier course…sure BUT that was not an option. It was going to be on a tough course that just flowed with awesomeness coming from the race director to fellow runners to volunteers. I knew no matter what happened on the trail it was a win win. I’ve completed the 25k, marathon, 50k and 50 miler here so it was simply “next”.
Race morning-I actually slept better than ever. We had a cute little cabin in Little Morrais but once I started gearing up the ol nerves started flowing faster than a river. I admired the sun rising over Superior, drank some java, had a banana, bagel and went poop 2x (never enough 🙂 we were headed to Gooseberry for the start of the race.
It was so fun arriving at Gooseberry. Getting to see fellow runners, crew, pacers and pups. I was excited yet terrified. Here I got to chit chat with many people. My heart felt like it was going to pump out of my chest. I was a ball of nerves. So many people gave words of encouragement and support but it was Wendy who really just had the perfect words for me at that moment. “Just relax, don’t use all that energy, take it all in” that just stuck. Funny stuff as my phone accidentally started recording our conversation. I now am the proud owner of a 7 minute pre-race pow wow to always remind me of this moment.
Hugs were given, my face felt like it was froze from smiling. I heard a 3, 2, 1 and off we were. HOLY SH&* it’s happening. Good idea or bad (he’s much faster) I shared the 1st 11 miles with Dan.
Dan is a dear friend who was also racing. Those miles flew by. I got to meet so many people along this section. Hawkeye fan Troy & the OG’s stick out during this section. I loved hearing Jeff Goldsteins Superior 100 stories, knowledge and advice. We were doing a short out and back and I was busy hooting at the runners telling them nice job, etc. I saw Long, got super excited gave him a fist pump. Dan took his eyes off the trail to see what was going on and face planted!! HARD!! He bounced back up like a lil rubber band. Made sure he was ok and kept trekking. Sorry DQ I literally laugh out loud now thinking of that. About mile 11 I could tell I needed to back off I only had 92 miles to go 😊 so I told Dan to go run his race and he was off.
It was here I yet again got to just learn so much about other people. Man we all have a story to tell. This is why I love events like this. Life is tough but guess what the human body and brain can be so much tougher. I thought about life, my boys, my family and my pups for about the next 10 miles. I was paying careful attention to my footing while climbing over rocks and roots.
Through out this time I was trying really hard to keep my hydration and nutrition in check but at each aid station my bottles (2) 18 oz. were empty. Every hour on the hour I made sure to consume calories. When I rolled into Beaver Bay mile 20 my crew (filled me with calories and liquids, I switched socks (ahhhh) and gave all a hug (Daniel and Susie were here too!!) and off I went. I must add not only did Brett and Sabrina help me but they volunteered at Beaver Bay aid station for hours to help ALL the runners.
The next 15 miles seemed to go by fast. I made sure to take in the views, meet as many new people as I could and make a point to remember I signed up for this pain that I was now starting to feel. Also being reminded how insanley difficult this terrain is!
About mile 35ish (I think..crap brain) my right calf started to give me some trouble. Nothing major but was having a hard time not thinking about it. UNTIL I was following 2 guys ahead of me we missed a slight turn got off track a bit and I turned back to see Susan Donnelly behind me! I felt like I was running next to a celebrity. She was so sweet and kind. I got to learn more about her and couldn’t help but be in awwww of how amazing she is. She’s glides through that trail and moved forward with such grace. We said our goodbyes and off she went. I once again was getting low on fluids and could tell I needed calories so shoved what I could in the pie hole and kept trekking. I was getting a little nervous as I didn’t pack my head lamp but knew my crew was going to be at County Rd 6. I was with a pack of runners and as much as I wanted to pass thought that’s silly “take it easy on day 1 so day 2 will be easiser” a comment from Jeff G. went through my head so I stayed put.
Low and behold I got there just before the sun went down. At this point my calf was really starting to bother me. Brett to the rescue he had brought an extra set of trekking poles!. I changed clothes w/ the help of Sabrina and Susie hiding me behind a blanket. Hit the pooper, tried to force in calories and music to my ears Brett asked if I wanted company. HELL YEAH. He was eager and ready to rock with me on the trail.
Off to Finland..this section was bliss and hell. Running in the pitch dark was actually kind of magical. Brett was setting a great pace and following behind was another runner and his pacer. I asked his name he said Tim but I didn’t want to turn around and blind him so we just kept shooting the shit while Brett led the way. 4 headlamps, 4 humans just enjoying the place we were calling home for the next umpteen hours. It wasn’t until miles later I turned around and holy shit it was Timothy the Owata I knew!! That made it even more kickass and he told us about a nice spot to stop and turn off our heads lamps and look at the starts. We did just that and it was stunning but we were on a boardwalk my legs were shaking and I thought I was going to biff directly into the water…I wasn’t alone with that thought so lamps went on and off we went.
A few miles later is when everything went south. I felt “off” nauseous, tired, dizzy, weak, every step felt like a struggle and the thought of any food made me want to puke. I tried to stomach down what I could knowing it could be a game breaker but F was that a challenge. Was something wrong or it normal to feel this way at this point of the race? This is when I also had to shut off my head lamp and pee about every 15 minutes. It was odd I was peeing way more than I should have yet color was clear and no burn. Chalked it off to to much water early on and kept moving forward. I started having a self doubt, my calf felt like it was slowly tearing but I had thoughts of my boys and the words “Harapats don’t quit” running through my head. At mile 58.7 we should hit Sonju JUST KEEP MOVING! but I tell you what this aid station seems to be washed away in the woods. We kept hearing people, going around bends and even smelled a bonfire but FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF where is it. Brett thought we were in the twilight zone 🙂 We passed a sign and he told me it was only .2 to the aid station. Wrong (it’s ok Brett 🙂 that was for a campground or something else it had to be close to 2 (which felt like 20) He told me when we got there he just wanted me to sit for 10 minutes. OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOK!
Low and behold we made it. I plopped into a chair and a few moments later a medic came over. Asked me a few questions (such a blur) told me he wanted me to sit for a bit and was worried about dehydration due to the amount of peeing (Brett had filled him in). I got really cold so moved to the fire and sat there while getting licked by a chocolate lab which was therapy at it’s finest. Fast forward about an hour I wasn’t feel great but better. I knew Sabrina had been waiting at the next aid station for hours ☹ I felt terrible for how long she was waiting. The medic was sooooo amazing (thank you volunteers) but made it clear he was worried. Basically stating this isn’t Grandmas marathon where they can get to me right away and hook me up to an IV I’m in the middle of nowhere if need be. I can’t remember if it was Brett or the medic but someone said “There will be more races but there’s only one Heidi” This made the tears flow and reminded me once again I promised my family if it got to the point of the race where I felt I was a risk I would drop. But once again “Harapat’s don’t quit” rolled through my head and I started thinking of my Mom. I just wanted my Mom!!!!!!!! Crosby was about 4 miles away I needed to make a decision as to much time was ticking. I decided to start walking as I wanted to get to my beastie!
I got up and felt great for 5 glorious minutes! I even told Brett he could pick up the pace and shortly after boom hit by a ton of bricks again. I went pee 5x in less than hour. WTH was going on. Got into Crosby saw Sabrina and once again cried. This time not sure if I was so relieved to see her or because my race may be over. A medic came over. She was on her game and convinced it was hyponythermia (to much water not enough sodium) now this made complete sense based on my prior day. I sat for a bit shoved down calories while battling with my brain. I wanted to keep moving but my body didn’t! I wasn’t going to listen to my body…….yet…..JUST KEEP MOVING
Sabrina knows me best. She knew I was struggling but kept me moving forward. She’s didn’t give a monkeys ass that I couldn’t eat anything she literally said we would stop until I did and so that’s what we did.
I appreciated her tough love that day and what just what I needed. This section was very technical but “only”10 miles to Sugarloaf. We got to watch the sun come up together, battle rocks, roots, listen to nothing but each others breathe from hiking up the inclines, it was great. She kept my brain occupied by talking to me, told me about her day but I couldn’t help but be extremely distracted by my calf. I couldn’t run and as much as I wanted to speed up physically I couldn’t. Soooo frusterating. I kept chugging along and like a pack of cheetahs that were just unleashed the 50 mile runners (there were 100, 50 and 26.2 mile runners) were on the course. Seeing there fresh legs and speed was almost comical. Jake Hegge flew past us like a man on a mission. I have to say those pink ribbons (100 milers wear them so other runners know what distance we are going) are genius. EVERY single runner from the front to middle of the pack made a point to say “looking good”, “your amazing” “Your killing it” We got a good laugh out of some of the comments as I looked in her phone at one point and thought yup I looking exactly like I feel #likeshit but so cool to have a cheer sqaud from fellow runners.
Things started to get pretty real now. Sabrina is a whiz when it comes to course aid staions/pace/time etc. as hard as I kept trying to speed up it wasn’t happening. My heart was crumbling inside as I feared the inevitable but tried to keep my focus on the course. She’s a realist and told me I would have to maintain my current pace for 31 miles without stopping at an aid station for the remainder of the course to come in under 38 hours.
Heart sunk, kids disappointed faces, my Mom, Dad, friends and crew ran though my brain. I have to keep going…JUST KEEP MOVING
A few more miles went by and “There will be more races there will only be one Heidi” ran though my head. I talked (and cried) with Sabrina as we were moving forward and rather than make matters worse decided I would get to the next aid station and drop. Those last few miles were filled with smiles and tears as I felt such a huge sense of disappointment yet relief.
Rolled into Sugarloaf after 26 hours and 20 minutes on the course hitting mile 72.3. This is the longest distance I’ve ever made but honestly felt a sense of shame. Hard to explain how you can get 72 miles and still feel disappointment but it’s a raw hard feeling that I had. My first DNF DID NOT FINISH
Fast fwd a few hours I got to take a shower and get back to the course in time to enjoy the remainder of the day. Cheer on other runners and have a nice cold beer and watch DQ come though that line. I couldn’t help but be soooo crazy proud of all the runners from the marathon, 50 mile and 100 mile coming in. I wish it had been me but life and goals clearly don’t always go as planned but its ok. I don’t have that sweatshirt I was dying to get or that sweet buckle but I’m at peace with it all now. Heidi will brush herself off, take notes, try again and be grateful for a weekend that filled my heart and soal. I will look back at all these amazing pictures captured (which I’m so grateful for) and think as the old saying goes I Did Not Finish #dnf but I Did Not Fail.
Thank you volunteers, thank you John and Cheri, thank you crew, thank you fellow runners, thank you fam, thank you friends, and thank you trail pups LOVE YOU ALL!
Best of news Mr Harper could have cared less I DNF’d was still proud. He says hes excited to log long training miles again someday