Zumbro- Expect bad weather, hills and pain, but most of all expect an enthusiastic crowd of trail runners and their families. Expect amazing volunteers and well stocked aid stations. Expect friendly competition. Expect hundreds of bad asses with one goal in mind, to finish this bitch.
Last year my brother and I went down to Zumbro to do the 17 miler. When we finished I was in so much pain I don’t think I could have ran another mile if zombies were chasing me. This year I went ahead and decided I needed to attempt that same loop… Three times. So I signed up for the 50 mile distance. The 50 mile has an extra bit of challenge thrown into it, the race begins at midnight.
Friday we arrived at around 3pm. We found our group’s campsite and started to get organized. My plan was to wait for our friends that were doing the 100 to come through then I was going to eat and try to sleep. Well the last one came in around 5 so I setup my tent, ate, gave Cole a hug and told everyone I’d see them some time Saturday. I saw everyone 2 more times before my race, I slept for maybe 30 minutes. I got up at 10:30 pm to eat and get registration taken care of. Once that was done it was time to get dressed and relax for a bit.
At the start John Storkamp gave a motivating pre race briefing and lightened the mood a bit for everyone. During the speech he mentioned bibs. I looked down realizing I forgot it!!! I didn’t need it until I came through the finish line and because I knew my number I was able to check in at the aid stations. The countdown began and we were off to the hills.
The first loop went really well, actually it went perfect. I felt as good as I could have. I ate well and finished around 3:45 am. Jeremy Lindquist who coached me for the past 4 months was at the race due to getting sick on his way to Zion. This turned out to be a Godsend. When I got to aid station 1 he was there and making sure I had everything I needed.
The second loop started great. I was still feeling good and moving well. About half way through my stomach started to act up. The thought of food gave me nausea. I forced food down and kept moving. My legs felt good, tired but not hurting or cramping. By the end of the second loop my feet were beginning to hurt. Luckily I had bigger shoes waiting for me. When I got to the the gate I saw my parents, Cole and his cousin, my brother, Jeff and Jeremy patiently waiting for me. This was huge!!! They took care of me. Every request I had was answered instantly. Talking to Jeremy he asked if my hands were puffy when I told him about my stomach issues. I told him no. I hadn’t looked recently.
Third and final loop started well. My stomach was still a little off and my feet hurt but I knew I was going to finish and that alone kept me moving. 5 miles in I took off my gloves and saw that my hands were swollen. This got me to back off the water and tailwind for this loop, hoping I would feel better. All I wanted to eat was fruit so I stuck to that at aid stations. By mile 6 I was reduced to power hiking mostly except on the downhills. I bombed every single downhill at the race this year with a giant grin on my face!! This used to be my weakness but now is my strongpoint. I would get passed on ups and flats but downs would send me flying by multitudes of other racers, even some of the faster 17 milers! My feet were starting to hurt pretty bad by the midway point and I needed a boost. Thats when I heard “There you are!” It was my brother who was out on the 17 mile race. He stuck with me for a bit but finally listened to me when for the 5th time I told him to go ahead and finish fast. After that I started to move well again. I eventually ran into Mark Smith who I trained almost all my long runs with, he was pacing for Craig Woodward for the 100 mile. Mark gave me some typical Mark motivation, “get going, finish this thing strong, get moving, only one more downhill left, blow yourself out on it!!” Damnit, Mark, it worked. I got down the downhill FAST and ran into another 50 miler on the road and we ran it all the way to the gate.
The finish was the hardest part of my race. When I got to the gate everyone was waiting for me. Cole was going to run the campground section all the way to the finish with me. I dropped my vest and Cole jumped in with me. About a third of the way to the finish Cole said, “I love running with you dad.” “I love running with you too buddy” was my response. I was choked up. Then a couple seconds later he said, “Wanna know why?” I said “Why Cole?” and he answered “Because I love you.” I couldn’t even respond. I was fighting back tears. I patted him on the head and said “Thanks buddy, I love you, too!” Cole was fading as we got closer to the finish but once we hit the crowd he got a second wind. They announced my name and everyone was cheering us on. “Go Joe and Little Joe!!” Cole was so excited and smiling from ear to ear.
A couple weeks back I was running with Jamison Swift and we were discussing our start into the running world. We talked about how excited we were to experience our first 50 miler and for me my first Ultra. I told Jamison my running started with trail running which inevitably lead to reading about ultras. I have literally been dreaming of doing an ultra since my first 5k and I am proud to say that I am officially an ultra-runner. I know I have said it dozens of times over and over again, but we really do have a great Ultra community here in Minnesota. I could not have finished this race, or even the training, without this community. The support that this community has shown me is something I have never felt before – thank you.
-Cole had a blast cheering everyone on! Giving “High Fives for Energy!” He is Minnesota’s #1 Ultra running fan.
I am looking forward to pacing Mark Smith in Kettle 100 and running the Fall Superior 50 mile race in September. Next year who knows, if things go well I think I will be shooting for the 100 mile distance.