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10/07-2023 - Dr Joan Johnson

I had been looking so forward to this race because it is a trail run and I love me some trail running! I deliberately did not look at the course because I didn’t want to know elevation, climb or terrain. I knew it would be tough and the less I know the better! I have been training by running on the lake path that goes around Lake Geneva in Wisconsin. This is a 21 mile trail and it has everything. It is up, down, rocks, slippery wood, cracks, bricks, stones, like I said, EVERYTHING!!! I made the right choice, I saw everything on this trail run. I ran up and down hills, across slippery wood, picked my way across rocks, ruts, roots, mud, creeks…it was AMAZING!!! Honestly, the hardest part for me was not being able to look around at the amazing scenery. The terrain was tough through 95% of the course, which means, staying laser focused on the ground and planning each foot placement. At times I felt like I was in Star Wars on the planet, Dagobah. There was moss hanging off the tree branches all around me and it was dark even though it was daytime. Sometimes, just seeing the ground was a challenge. The race started on fairly level ground, we ran single track the whole time. I chose not to wear headphones so I could hear runners behind me and yield to those who wished to pass. We ran on a well-groomed bark path for about 1.4 miles and then across a wooden foot bridge onto the mountain. I had done my traditional banana, larabar and was loaded with gels and water. We were told to pack in and out everything that we needed because there were only two aid stations; one, at 2 miles and the second, around 7 miles. I always carry what I need on my belt, as follows: 40 ounces of water, 4-5 gels, so packing in and out is no problem for me. Additionally, I put 1/8” sheet metal screws in the soles of my shoes to give me extra traction, 12 in each shoe. I knew I would probably destroy a pair of shoes on a run like this, so I intended to throw them out after the race anyway. As we crossed the foot bridge we started the hard part of the race. We ran switch backs through rough terrain and rocks and washouts and down trees and creeks, climbing up and down as we did it. We ran up the mountain and then along the river and back up the mountain again. None of the hills were big but they were too numerous to count. At what I estimated to be 3 miles I took a gel and picked up a hitchhiker. I could hear a male runner behind me. He never tried to pass me, but was on my six for the last 10 miles of the race. At first he didn’t say anything, he was singing and humming a bit, I thought he had headphones on, I later found out he didn’t. At about 3.5 miles he began talking to me. I wear a shirt that has a big happy face on the back and it says “continuing the quest to do a half marathon in every state” so he asked about that and we exchanged names. Sergei, had intended to run the 22 mile race that was happening concurrently, but he had been sick the week before and decided to step down to the half and wanted to run a nice easy race so he tucked in behind me. He thanked me many times for keeping him going and told me how impressed he was at me doing the quest and especially at my age, he is 41. At the 6 miles I took another gel. At 7 we hit the turnaround and the mid-race aid station. I had some electrolyte drink and turned to Sergei and told him it was his turn to pace. He was having none of it and asked me to pace for him again. Off we went for the last 6 miles of the race, I took another gel at 11ish and chatted a lot on the way back. My legs were getting tired and I walked some of the uphill but probably not more than 1/8 of a mile in total. I tripped more, but managed not to go down. Tripping and twisting feet and ankles is part of a mountain run, good training has thickened my ankles and even the twists weren’t painful. The company helped and the final 6 miles were not nearly as long as the first 7. Before long we were crossing the foot bridge for the last ¼ mile of the race. Sergei met Brian and asked him to take a picture to post on Instagram, I’ll have to look for it. He kept telling me that I need to make an Instagram account so that he can follow my progress. It was technically speaking the hardest race I have run, and my slowest, but as my husband says, “it’s a participation sport, a finish is a finish”. I looked around at the finish and saw some sprained ankles and knee scrapes and elbow and knee contusions. I’m thankful that I was not part of that. I looked at my shoes and had 3 screws left is each one. They served me well as long and they did and my shoes went in the garbage! Here are my stats:



103 of 134 overall runners

51 of 70 female runners

3 of 5 female runners 60 – 69

2nd oldest female runner

5th oldest runner overall

I like bookending a vacation between two races, so I’m hoping to do Vermont and New Jersey next year in this same way.

I have 5 races to go!!!

PS: That is Sergei behind me in the picture!


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