Dances with Dirt Half Marathon

I belong to the best sub-category of humans on the planet. Runners are a different breed, that’s for sure, and I’m so proud to call myself one! Who in their right mind runs 13.1, or in many instances at Devil’s Lake this weekend, 50 miles…for fun? Well, I do! And I can’t begin to tell you how much fun I had!

Friday was spent traveling to Madison to meet up with my very first college roommate that I had in the dorms, Krystal. After filling her in on my marathon plans, she gave me my first donation to DetermiNation! Thanks, KP! Friday evening, I headed over to Maddie’s sister-in-law’s house to spend the night. They live only a half hour from Devil’s Lake, so we crashed there to make for a shorter trip in the early morning. We made pasta for dinner and chatted until it was time to catch some Zs  before the early wake-up call.

Maddie and I woke up “dark” and early (early=4:45am) on Saturday morning to make the short trip to Devil’s Lake for the Dances with Dirt Half Marathon. We still had to register, and the race began at 7:00, so we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time.

On our drive, to our surprise, we drove onto a ferry…? to make it to the other side of the river! We were definitely not expecting that and got a pretty good laugh out of it! (On another note, the sunrise was awesome).

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When we finally pulled up, it looked like this…

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Since the 50 mile and 50K races began at 5:30am, a lot of people camped out the night before so that they could just get up and run. When we pulled in, though, it was more like a party than a campsite…there were tons of people and music!

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A little before 7, Maddie and I lined up to start. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect. It was on the cooler side and overcast. Last year, they started everyone at the same time, and it got really backed up on the narrow trails. This year, they staggered the starts to help alleviate that problem. We lined up to start in the last wave of runners. We met another girl who we had a lot in common with and ended up chatting with her during the wait. Her boyfriend was running the 50 mile race, so she was on her own for the half. We sort of adopted her right away and she ran with us the whole time! I loved making small talk with other runners at the event. I run by myself most of the time for training, so it was so nice to talk to other people about shoes, hydration systems, other races, and all kinds of other things that I don’t really get to talk about very often!

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We started off the race at a pretty steady pace, and then from there it was all uphill for over two miles. We got backed up enough a few times where we had no choice but to walk, but usually the walking only lasted for a little bit of time before the trail was wide enough to pass again. We got into a groove with a group of ladies who were trailblazers and led the way. We started calling ourselves a school of fish because the 7 of us passed together and ran together! That was what I loved most about this race; the camaraderie. Every runner who passed us, or who we passed, was encouraging and giving high-fives and saying good job to each other. It was like a big community, like we were all in it together. It was just awesome.

I had so much fun during the race! It went by so quickly! I saw a quote on Pinterest the other day that said, “A run begins the moment you forget you’re running.” That’s the best way to describe it. The course was definitely challenging since we were running up and through the bluffs, and there were times where we were all tripping every few steps on rocks and roots and mud. But I had waited so long to do a half that I was just too excited to notice. I was busy making friends with other runners!

When we got to the top, it was an amazing view. There was a water station at the top so while I grabbed my water cup I had to take a quick picture before turning around to keep running. People were rock climbing (as you can see their lines) all over the place at the top. This was another part where we had to literally climb down rocks to continue. You can imagine why this course is slower! I remember saying to our “school of fish” at one point, “every time we get under a 10 minute mile pace I think to myself, wow, we are going so fast!” That’s how challenging it is with all the obstacles you encounter (including other runners).

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When we got to 10-11 miles, the course was pretty much downhill, which can be challenging on a trail, but it was a nice relief to run back down the bluff! At about 12 miles I turned around to Maddie and said, “Oh my gosh, I am so hungry!” She was thinking about anything but food at that point, but I have been so hungry lately from all the training, and all I could think about was my granola bar waiting for me at the finish line!

We finished just a minute apart and we came in around the same time Maddie had last year, so were pretty pleased! My time was 2:34, and I was pretty proud of that time with the trails and hills! I know that the race made me a stronger runner and that my road time will be so much faster than that! I told Maddie that I wanted to keep going, and she told me I was crazy…haha.

As I was rounding out the last corner, it was really weird but I got sort of emotional (which is not unusual from past races…). All I have wanted for the past few years is to get to finish a half, and I was just really excited and proud at that moment 🙂 I am so excited to finish that marathon in just a few short months.

After the race, and some food, I made my way to La Crosse to see my roommates from college! We threw Niki and Brian a small ducky-themed baby shower. They are expecting a baby boy in September and we are so excited for our first “roomie baby!” La Crosse was a two-hour drive from Devil’s Lake, so by the time I got out of the car, I was already SO SORE. I haven’t been this sore in a long, long time. It’s a good sore though! Not an injured soreness at all; just a, “I worked really hard at that race,” sore. Ibuprofen and a good night’s sleep did the trick.

I am now back in Illinois again after another fun-filled weekend. I am pretty tired of driving to say the least!

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