Currently in Wisconsin for the Master Resiliency Trainer (MRT) Course. The first week of training was interesting. The only part I struggle with is how the Army takes a cerebral approach to taking care of human emotions, but what else could I really expect?
We were given a pass for the weekend, so of course, I looked for races nearby. I couldn’t decide between paying for The Willow – 20 miler or the Eau Claire Marathon. I finally picked The Willow because I like trails more, but had waited too long so spots were sold out! I emailed the Chris, the RD but he said there was nothing he could do because of permits and insurance reasons. George reminded me that I could volunteer, so I signed up to a sweeper. It ended up working out for me because Friday after work, I had a cookout with my classmates and was I able to sleep in. It’s a two-hour drive to Willow State Park in Hudson and I didn’t have to report for sweeping until 1030 Saturday morning. Plus at the cook-out, I met someone who knows someone who does endurance racing FOR the Army… That would be such a dream!!
At Willow State Park I briefly met the RD Chris and he pointed out the group on the sweeping detail: Lisa, Christy, and fellow ultrarunner Jeff. I’m glad Lisa wanted to run along the course because I was not trying to walk 10 miles. We laughed about how we were all bummed about failing to register for the race as picked up flags (“flegs” in her Minnesota accent hehe) and signs along the way. After a week of dealing with the dreary rain, I felt really happy to soak up the sunshine while volunteering on the trails!
For the Eau Claire Marathon, I was told I’d have until 7 pm to do same-day registration so I figured I would go sign up after the I finished volunteering. I took my sweet time driving from Hudson to the University of Wisconsin, where the expo was held. The lady said she had just sold her last full marathon bib 30 minutes before I got there. I guess I didn’t learn from missing registration at The Willow to think that there would be a limited amount! I gave her big ol’ sad puppy dog eyes and then she said, “Let me see what I can do for you.” I walked around, bought a box of plant-based protein Kakookies (yum!!), watched little toddlers racing in the Diaper Dash. So cute, I can’ wait to have my own 🙂 I came back and the lady said she talked to the RD and could transfer the last minute cancellation to me. Yes!! However, the only bib with a chip that she had left was the blue half-marathon one instead of the green. I didn’t mind at all, those usually end up crumpled in my washing machine. She told me I was special and I certainly felt special!!
After the expo, I hung out at Phoenix Park along the Chippewa River while I waited for my Couchsurfer host to get off work. Couchsurfers has been a really great app for me to find a host to crash with or just hang out wherever I travel. Her name is Amalia and she has such a beautiful soul. She’s 23 years old and her birthday is the day before mine. I squealed when she told me and asked her if she believed in synchronicity. She said yes!! Her personality is very similar to mine and we laughed as we reflected on our capacity to love hard as a strength while having tendencies to be impulsive/flighty as our weaknesses. Must be a Gemini thing??🤷🏻♀️
She introduced me to her group of friends who were all very expressive with their emotions. This was the complete opposite of the group I’ve been working with over the past week. It was actually very refreshing and didn’t take me too long to feel comfortable with them throughout the night. I don’t normally drink before a race, but this time I did have some sangria as we sat around a bonfire as I got to know more about Amalia and her friends. I got a tour of Aba’s house and it was so unique !!
Luckily for me, Amalia’s roommate Laura was in San Antonio hosting paintball tournaments so I crashed on her bed. Other couch surfers had to stay in the living room where Cynthia watches over you while you sleep:
I left the bonfire around 1130 to sleep and woke up at 0430 with a slight headache, probably from all the sangria. I felt happy to sleep on a real bed instead of my twin in the barracks. Amalia was coming back in from the night. I made myself some coffee with coconut oil and had Kakookies for breakfast. I didn’t go over my gear to see that I had not packed my Osprey pack water bladder to carry my giant phone and my nutrition. I carried one stick of Clif-bloks and 1 Spring Energy gel (Speednut) which fit in the back pocket of my Rabbit Mountain Climber shorts. The rest I would have to eat whatever’s on the course.
The weather was gorgeous. It was 45 degrees when I left Amalia’s place. She lived 2 miles from the start at Carson Park. The high was supposed to be 65 and I knew it would be too warm if I wore a long sleeve, but I wore one anyway because I wasn’t sure how long I’d be standing around waiting for the race to start. I like small-town races because bathroom lines are so short! I waited with the 4:30 pace group as a prayer was said and the National Anthem played. I stayed with the pace group for a while until mile 10 or so. It was a hilly course so I lost them on one of them. It was really hard for me to focus all morning – probably another consequence of drinking and also because I didn’t get to talk to AJ before my race which had me feeling blue. What a great opportunity to practice what I’ve been learning at MRT right? I had to get out of my “thinking traps” and switch to an attitude of gratitude. I was definitely grateful for the Eau Claire community and appreciating how beautiful Wisconsin is. I love giving little kids high-fives and seeing the smiles on their faces.
At mile 23, AJ called me on WhatsApp and I was so happy! I really feel energized when my husband talks to me! I picked up my step and started applying the intervals training that Ann has me do during the week (3 minutes hard effort 2 minutes easy) for the last few miles of the race. It started raining for a little bit which felt soooo good on my skin. I crossed the finish line in 4 hours and 31 min… 5 minutes off from the All-American marathon. Still a new PR for me 🙂
The sun came back out, and I had a lovely walk back to Amalia’s, wrapped with my foil blanket and medal around my neck. It was nice to have a place to come back to a warm shower!! I had lunch with Amalia (burger and cheese curds – because Wisconsin!) before I took off for my 65-mile drive back to Fort McCoy. Lisa recommended that I stopped by Norse Nook Bakery for some award-winning American x Norwegian homemade pie. Luckily it was along the way for me, so I treated myself to a slice of pumpkin pie and bought a whole Dutch apple pie for my classmates. That’s how I ended my wonderful weekend in Wisconsin. 🙂