Friday, September 29, 2017

Radioactive - Thyroid Cancer Version

Since Katie and I have both endured a life with Thyroid Cancer, we wanted to share a little about that. Radioactive Iodine treatment especially is a bit of an adventure. 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Match Made in Thyroid Heaven

My Thyroid Cancer story for Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month.

I was standing in line for "Superman", the new roller coaster at Six Flags Great America, with a group of teenagers from the church I served as Minister to Youth when I got the call.  The day before I went in for a biopsy of my thyroid, and they told me I'd hear back in a week.  It's never good when they call you the next day.  Let me back up.  I was 24 years old when I found a lump on my neck.  My doctor ordered an ultrasound, but the wrong one.  Instead of looking at the lump under my chin, the ultrasound tech spent her time down at the bottom of my neck.  It was there - as she looked in the wrong place - that she found a tumor.  (Papillary Carcinoma)
You know what's not the best thing to hear as a 24 year old man?  "You have middle-aged woman cancer."  Okay, that's not literally what they said, but a little research showed that Thyroid Cancer was most commonly found in women over 40. (It's occurrences have since been growing in people of all ages and gender.) I had surgery to remove my thyroid and then Radioactive Iodine Ablation afterwards.  (That was an interesting two days in the hospital with everything covered in plastic and getting checked daily with a Geiger Counter.)  And I was done.  So I thought.
When I was first diagnosed, I was told it was the "good cancer" to get because the mortality rate was low and the cancer grows slowly. So I was sure that a little surgery and radiation treatment would knock it out and I'd be done. But this "good cancer" wasn't quite as easy as I thought. 
Shortly after my 5 year Cancerversary, my annual neck ultrasound showed a lymph node looking “atypical”.  So we started all over again.  Let me take this opportunity to petition for a name-change for surgery to remove lymph nodes in the neck.  No one wants to go in for a "Radical Neck Dissection".  But again, surgery and Radioactive Iodine were my roadmap. In the 8 years since that occurrence, “atypical” lymph nodes on my other side have been a concern, but they’ve been too small to biopsy. I’m just waiting for the day when we check them out too. (Though an “atypical” node isn’t as concerning to my doctors as a “suspicious” looking one, for me it’s meant the Cancer is back.)
I’d had enough of Thyroid Cancer by this time. (2015) I’d had to deal with treating it twice, and many people I knew were diagnosed and would come to me to learn more about the process of treatment. Then, 10 years after my initial diagnosis, my wife Katie was diagnosed with a different kind of Thyroid Cancer. (Follicular Carcinoma) There is nothing "good" about this Cancer. Katie had 2 surgeries to remove the thyroid, and then her own batch of RAI as well. Her reactions to RAI were stronger and she dealt with pain in her salivary glands for about a year, and had more trouble than I did with balancing her thyroid hormones with medication.
It’s an odd thing to go from Thyroid Cancer patient to caregiver and from caregiver to Thyroid Cancer patient as Katie and I have. There’s no doubt that she is a much better caregiver than I am. She’s probably a better patient than me too. (This isn’t too surprising; I always knew I married up.) But our experience with this disease was very valuable as Katie went through it.
Here's what we've learned through dealing with cancer.
There is one Great Physician.  Doctors are wonderful, but only One has the power to heal.  It was a doctor's mistake that led to finding my cancer.  And both times I was diagnosed, the doctors were sure it wasn't going to be cancer.  God knew, and looking back, I believe He worked the details to find this hidden disease in my body.  And there's a bonus.  God will also prove faithful in being with us as we go through difficult times. He has been faithful to us each time we’ve dealt with this disease.

Bad news has a great way of mobilizing God's people.  The support we received from family, friends, and church was overwhelming.  Everyone needs support when the C word gets thrown around.

Being a "survivor" is a great club, even if no one really wants to join.  Everyone has been touched by cancer in one way or another, and those that have battled it have an instant connection.  As a pastor, I'm grateful for my experience with cancer every time I sit with a family dealing with the news for the first time.

Cancer support organizations are wonderful; but do me a favor.  I already had to deal with having a cancer common in women, but choosing the colors pink, purple, and teal with a butterfly symbol certainly didn't make me want to proudly display Thyroid Cancer Awareness.  Give a guy a break. ;) 

Monday, August 14, 2017

On Jonah

Yesterday I began a 2 week sermon series on the book of Jonah and the story of a prophet who is defiant and disobedient to the call of His God. It seems absolutely relevant in this time as images of white supremacists marching in Charlottesville are all over the news; including stories of violence and terror. Many of these racists even have the audacity to claim their faith in God informs their beliefs on race. It's evil. But it's familiar.
Jonah was told by God to go to a people that he hated to tell them that they'd better repent or they would be judged. And he ran. But he didn't run because he was afraid. He ran because he knew that God was merciful and he didn't want God to forgive those whom Jonah hated. He didn't want his enemies to experience the love of their Creator.
As this group of white Americans look at people with darker skin as a hated "other" who they want to "take their country back from", I see the hate of Jonah. A people who can't imagine God's love extending to those they hate and fear. But this is defiance toward the God who created, loves, and sent His Son for every one of His children of this world. (As the song says, "red, brown, yellow, black, and white.")

But I also see myself in Jonah as I look toward the disgusting acts of white supremacy. Like Jonah I want to see judgment and condemnation for people that could treat others with such hate. (After all, there may have been some legitimacy to Jonah's anger toward Ninevah.) But I too must obey the call to love and forgive those who commit atrocities. And to proclaim the Gospel to them. So I have to search my heart too, for the sin that lurks in my thoughts towards those that do such terrible things.

We are broken; all of us. And things have to change. The sins of Jonah don't have to live on in us. And I believe Jesus is actively working to bring reconciliation to this world. May we be a part of that work.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Back to Booneville for the Buckle!

My last 100 mile race didn't go the way I wanted it to. That's the short of it. You can read all about it here but basically, a pulled quad muscle 40 miles in doomed me to a slow and difficult finish. I hate not reaching my goals.

So back to the Booneville Backroads Ultra to take on the full 100 mile race. Last year this was my first 100k race and I loved it. (That story is here.) It's a super challenging midwest race on the gravel roads around Des Moines. The race director Steve Cannon is awesome and intent on making sure you earn the moniker of Booneville Badass. The course is unmarked and requires cue cards to find your way through, there are miles of Class B Roads - which are awful mud roads in May, and the hills are not what you picture when you think of Iowa. (Steve is a badass in his own right. You can learn more about him and check out his awesome book at

I wasn't sure if I was ready for this. In January my family moved from Mount Pleasant, Iowa to our new home in Gardner, Kansas and moving makes training tough. A new job, new schools for our kids, and a new community means not as much time for running. But eventually things calmed down a bit so that I could get my miles in, and my fitness felt pretty good. But I had no idea if my quad would be a problem again or if some other injury would manifest itself. I never really could explain what happened at the Heartland 100. I didn't slip or fall to pull that muscle, and I'd never had any problems with it before. In my training since, my quad felt fine, but I had no idea if it would hold up or not for another race.

The strategy was easy. Be ready. Unlike last year when the mud roads broke my spirit at Booneville, I knew they were coming and wouldn't let them ruin me. Unlike at the Heartland, I had now been through a 100 mile race and knew I could endure the sleepiness and exhaustion. So the key was, make sure my nutrition was good, run smart, and keep going.

I didn't have super lofty goals for this race, but I was intent on reaching them. First, I wanted to finish in under 24 hours. I felt like that would be a respectable time. Second, I wanted to finish in the top 10 of the race. Of course, with midwest ultramarathons there aren't usually a ton of runners, so that should have been doable with an under 24 hours finish. Third, don't hate it. I wanted to try to enjoy this race and not just try to get through it. (I have a tendency to "get through" instead of embrace the moment.)

Let me take a second to stop and say I have the best crew ever. Once again, friends Matt and Jolie as well as my amazing wife Katie were ready to help me all day and pace me through the night. But this time we also had my awesome sister-in-law Jenny helping out. I could never do this stuff without their help and cannot thank them all enough for their selflessness.

I did not sleep well before the race. I never sleep great, but on this night I made the mistake of checking the weather forecast before bed and then could think of nothing other than 14 hours of running in the rain. I slept maybe 2.5 hours that night. Not a good way to start.

We got to the Booneville start in good time and I felt good. So my crew and I waited around for the march to the starting line led by bagpipes and drums. It's awesome! I also caught up with Brad Dains, who I only knew via Facebook from last year's race. Before the start of the race, Steve gave another great speech in preparation. This year what stuck for me was, "There are only 2 things that can last forever today... A DNF or the hardware you win when you finish. You choose which one you're going to remember." I had been asked to give a prayer before the race so I did my best to ask for God's blessing while not being too long or too offensive for those not interested in this.  And it was on.

On races like this, I usually begin by paying attention to find someone who could run my pace and would be up for chatting. I've been blessed by awesome people to run with in previous ultras. Early in this race it was Brad. We began running together and chatting about our lives, running histories, and struggles. We ran together for most of the first 25 miles through the first two aid stations. My crew was at each station and, as always, was helpful getting what I needed. As we left the 23 miles station, we knew what was to come, but we couldn't have known how it would go.

I had planned to switch shoes at the 23 station so I could muddy up my VFF Spyridon MR Elites during that stretch and then put my V-Trails back on. But it hadn't been as rainy this week and wasn't supposed to rain until 1pm, so I figured I'd keep going with what I had. Bad idea.

About a mile before Brad and I reached the B roads, the sky went crazy. Brad had been dealing with some stomach problems and was trying to push through them, but also had told me over and over that I could take off if I needed to. When the storm came, as much as I enjoyed having a friend to run with, I wanted to get through the mud before it got worse. So off I went. For the next mile or so I ran into sideways rain, hail, and what seemed like way too close lightning. My best plan was to keep my head down and keep moving as fast as I could. Luckily the harsh storm didn't last too long and the rain only continued for about an hour.

Then I came to the mud. Last year I hated it. It slowed me down, broke my will, and hurt my time. This year I embraced it. And I ran. Thanks to my Vibrams, I could run and slide through the mud without too much sticking to my shoes or slowing me down. I passed several people who were trudging as I did last year. It may have been my favorite part this year.

The next parts of the race were the hardest of all. After the 30 mile aid station, there was a long stretch to 42, where 100k racers get to add pacers. Then a long 11 miles to the 53 aid station and the hilly, tough stretch to the 100k finish line. It was in the 40's that I realized that my legs were beginning to feel the miles. And running the parts that last year included my pacers made it harder. During the stretch from 53 to 62 I met up with David, a 100k runner who I'd see multiple times throughout the day. Knowing he was almost finished made me pretty jealous of the idea of being finished. But quitting never came into my mind.

At the Start/Finish line I got to have my first pacer. Matt took off with me for a 10 mile stretch, and it was great having him to run with. I couldn't believe how much faster the miles ticked away with a friend to run with; even though we were definitely going slower than earlier in the day. At the 72 miles station, Katie jumped in to pace me for 5 miles. (Don't tell anyone, but she's still my favorite to run with.)

We were well into the night by this time with headlamps leading our way. Next came Jolie, who paced me for 6 miles.

With 17 miles to the finish, my sister-in-law Jenny took over as my pacer and went with me through 2 stations and for 11 miles. Jenny was the "lucky" one to get to run through the "mud mile" of the 50k course. After a clear afternoon and evening, the mud had turned into heavy clay that made trudging through it difficult. Especially after over 85 miles of running already done. Jenny and I ran back in to the Start/Finish line for the second time as we finished up the 50k loop. This is the mentally toughest part of the race. I've just run 94 miles and have to run the incredibly long road to the Start/Finish line knowing I still have to go back out for 6 more miles.

After a couple minutes at the aid station, Katie and I were ready to go out. With about an hour and a half before 6am and the 24 hour goal time, we were going to have to move. Normally a 10k is well under an hour run for me, but after all these miles this would be tough. Oh, and that evil race director Steve Cannon did us no favors in regards to hills on this last loop either. ;)

So Katie and I ran. We ran the whole 10k loop - except for a couple large uphills. The sun began to come up and fog started to hover over the ground, and we ran. I could tell Katie was tired too, but she never wavered as we pushed through to finish strong. 

I finished the 100 miles in 23:47:19 - almost 13 minutes under my goal. And I finished 8th overall - within my goal of a top 10 finish. Steve Cannon was there at the finish line with my medal and more importantly, the coolest buckle around. I'll be wearing this one constantly.

I love this race. It's hard to describe why, but there is something about the group of people that run it and the man that puts it on. And I'm so grateful for the ability and opportunity to do crazy things like running 100 miles on the gravel roads of Iowa and Kansas.

I'm not sure what else I'll do this year. My Garmin and my Yasso 800's seem to think I could qualify for Boston so the Kansas City Marathon may be in store for October just to try. I certainly need to find some other trail ultras for this summer and fall.

My Favorite Gear:

  • Garmin Fenix 5X - I. Love. This. Watch. I was able to track, use mapping navigation, and even live track my run with only the need to charge on the go once during the race. 
  • Vibram FiveFingers - I ran all but 12 miles in the V-Trails, which are my all time favorite Vibrams. For one stretch after the mud, I put on my Trek Ascents, but since my last 100, they are a bit stretched out and let too many rocks in. So at the next station, I was back in my V-Trails.
  • Injinji Compression 2.0 socks - The new generation of compression socks are a huge jump from the last ones. 
  • Tailwind Nutrition - This gets me through. I supplement with food at aid stations so I don't feel hungry in my stomach, but Tailwind is what fuels me for these races.
  • Ultimate Direction hydration vest - I added a Nathan insulated bottle and it was great at keeping my drinks cold.
  • Flipbelt - the best phone carrier around. 
  • Road ID - My wristband with emergency info just in case. Love what this company offers.
  • Black Diamond Storm Headlamp - 350 lumens and waterproof
  • Patagonia Houdini jacket - Lightweight and water resistant for the downpour.
  • Rev Run Crew Box - My awesome Christmas gift from Matt and Jolie. A great rolling plastic tote full of all my running gear and customized for me. Everyone was jealous. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Ultra Spiritual

I heard running ultras could be a spiritual experience. The mix of long days and night, extreme physical exertion, and mental anguish can lead to some incredible highs and lows. This is what I was looking to experience. I wanted to know what this kind of running would do to me, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Emotionally, I know that it messed me up for a few days. As a non-emotional person, I experienced some rawness to my emotions that is very rare for me. It culminated in uncontrollable laughing fits for a few days after the race.

Physically, it challenged my body in ways I'd never been pushed before. You can read more about that here.

So what did running 100 miles in 26 hours do to me spiritually?

I always struggle with my call when it comes to race days. Outside of my job and ministry, I often find myself wanting to compartmentalize my life into a focus on the thing I'm doing. So when I show up to run a race, I want to let running be the emphasis of my day. I want to ignore who I am and how I'm called so I can just be a normal runner trying to reach my goals.

But that's not what God wants from us, is it? He doesn't want me to put my relationship with Jesus into a FBC compartment that comes out when appropriate. He wants me to let Him into my life at every level; being a representative of Him in whatever I'm doing.

This race, I was ready for that. I knew that I had a challenge ahead of me just in trying to run and finish such a long distance. But I also knew that my identity as a disciple of Jesus had to come out too in whatever ways I had opportunity.

So when I ran with two other guys and the subject of my job came up, I couldn't back down. I'm always afraid that if I tell strangers that I'm a Pastor, the air will change and it will become awkward. I fear that because it happens all the time. Not on this day. As the three of us with different spiritual backgrounds - cultural Mormon, atheist, Baptist - talked more and more into the day, I found that my opportunity was great. Though I wasn't there to walk them through the Gospel so they could stop running to say "the sinner's prayer", I did have every opportunity to show them a picture of Jesus and of Christians that is a far cry from what we see in the news. I prayed for these two awesome guys, I talked openly about my identity in Jesus, and listened to their ideas and thoughts about life, politics, and religion.

But then I got hurt. As my leg seized up and pain forced me to back off of running, I had to let my new friends go on ahead. "God, why would you let some stupid injury keep me from continuing with these guys?" I had actually tried to make sure I was running with purpose. Couldn't He have protected me from pulling a quad for that continued conversation? Wouldn't that glorify Him better than me limping along the gravel?

What a reminder of the mystery of God. We often like to think that He is more like a formula than a being. If only I do this, then God will do this... It doesn't work that way. Not only that, but blaming God for a pulled muscle is shallow theology. More likely, I turned wrong, slipped on a rock, or didn't cross-train enough to strengthen myself for this run.

But there I was... limping and praying. My words were these, "God, I know this is not the most important thing in the world. But I really want to finish this race. Can you help with this leg situation?" Over and over and asked God for His intervention. And believe me, I knew how little this mattered. Running 100 miles literally means nothing to the world. In fact, it can easily become a problem of pride when we just want to show people how great or tough we are. But I pleaded nonetheless.

And I made a deal. (Don't act like you haven't done it.) I offered that if God could help me to continue this race, I would make sure to give Him the credit. Though toughness has always been my most prized value, I would admit that it was not my own toughness but God's grace that allowed me to finish after an injury at 40 miles. Brutal honesty: I haven't quite lived up to my end of that deal. Ugh, pride.

There's a quote from British Olympic gold medalist Eric Liddell from the movie "Chariots of Fire" that always goes through my head when I'm running. He says to his sister, "God made me for a purpose. But He also made me fast... and when I run, I feel His pleasure."

As I pushed my body, mind, and spirit to continue under difficult circumstances - pulled quad, exhaustion, pain - I could feel the God who was there with me. Again, this may not be among the most important things I do in my life, but I believe God blesses our passions. And I can glorify Him even when doing "nonspiritual things".

A couple of other learnings...

I am a starter and not a finisher. I am impatient. I tend to look past things based on the time it will take to finish them. So ultrarunning may be exactly what I need. I'm learning patience, persistence, and how to stay in the moment. God will use those virtues in me as I continue to grow in Him.

We are not meant to be alone. I would have been lost without my crew. Matt: driving to aid stations, filling bottles, offering encouragement. Jolie and Katie: helping Matt but also running with me into the night as I began to hallucinate and just wanted to sleep. It's possible to run these things alone, but I can't imagine it. I'm reminded that none of us are created to be alone. Out of the community of God's Trinity, we are made and called into community; with each other, with God.

This was a tough race, but one in which I feel like God was at work. And He still is. As memories of that day continue to float back to me, I'm learning more of how God can use these experiences to change me.

So I'm not done. Now I'm praying for recovery and good health... cause there are more races in the spring.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Running with Cows

The Heartland 100 Spirit of the Prairie Ultra Marathon. My first 100 mile race.

Whose stupid idea was this?

It's 6am, dark, and 43 degrees outside and I'm starting off for the longest day of my life. Though it's a pretty chilly morning, this is going to be the perfect day for running. Finally, I get an ultra marathon race with good weather. My goal for the race is to finish under 24 hours and it starts out looking pretty good.

The Flint Hills of Kansas are a beautiful place to run. As the sun rose slowly over the horizon, you could see for miles over the gravel roads and prairie grassland. Though a different world than the traditional mountains of West coast ultras, it was amazing to run through the rolling hills of Kansas. And I was running great. To begin the race, I stayed towards the front of the group, maintaining a pace in the front 10 runners. After a few miles, I connected with a couple guys who had similar goals and a matched pace, so that is where the day really began.

Larry, Sam, and I found quickly that running together, chatting, and solving the world's problems were a great way to pass the hours. For the next 40 or so miles, we ran together. Though we came from very different lives, it was a blast having some good people to run with.

Things were going so great for me. My legs were feeling good, my feet were holding out great in my VFF's even on the Flint rock roads, and my nutrition was perfect. Tailwind was my basis, but for the first time ever in a race, I was actually hungry and supplementing with food from aid stations. We were on pace for under 20 hours to finish, so I was sure we'd break 24 easily.

Until mile 40. While running along, my quad began to hurt. I've never had this kind of cramping or pain, so I wasn't sure what was going on, but I was nervous. Little by little over the next few miles I felt the quad getting worse. Thankfully there was a 43 mile aid station coming with my crew of Matt, Jolie, and Katie there to meet me. At the aid station, I took extra salt, tried to massage the quad, and stretched trying to work out the cramp. Volunteers offered advice and I decided to take off again with Larry to push through and continue. It didn't take long to realize I had a problem. The leg wasn't getting better, it was getting worse.

After sending Larry off to continue his run, I walked. Maybe if I could walk a bit, it would stretch and work out the cramp so I could keep going. Ultra wisdom is that time and miles will heal most problems; just keep going. It wasn't working. I limped for 7 miles to the 50 mile aid station and turnaround, feeling like quitting may be my only option. The EMT agreed that this wasn't cramping. I either pulled or tore my quad and it was swollen and painful. What do I do? I can't imagine finishing this race in the pain that I'm in. But if this is just a pulled muscle, I will feel like a quitter. So after sitting for a few minutes at the aid station, I took an IT Band strap and strapped it around my quad as tight as I could and took off. I tried to run a little and couldn't so I walked for a few minutes, then tried to run again. Finally, I decided I was going to push no matter what. My new mantra became "Run slow, walk the hills, get there". And that is what I did. I ran slowly, feeling my quad with every step, but little by little it became bearable. We were back on!!

At the 57 aid station, it was time for some pacing, as it got darker and cooler. Katie saddled up for the next 17 miles of running into the night. After 17 miles with me, Katie stopped to rest a bit while Jolie took the next 9 mile stretch with me.

At this point I'm experiencing my biggest concern with a 100 mile race. Sleepiness. I just want to go to sleep. My body is tired, but not unbelievably so. But I'm dying to sleep. And then there is the even worse part. Chafing. I'd been using some anti-chafing lotion that I found and it DID NOT WORK! I was hurting in the "undercarriage" so badly that it affected every step. By now, this was hurting more than my quad did. I'd settled into the pain of my leg and was doing okay now.

After a slow trudge to the aid station, it was time for the home stretch. It was the last crewed station with 17 miles left to the finish. Katie never planned to pace me for nearly this far, but I was in need of company so she took off with me for the final miles.

It was tough. We're tired, my feet now hurt from all the gravel, I'm chafing, my quad is jacked up, and I'm ready to just climb into the back of my car and curl up to sleep forever. But finally, after the second sunrise of the race, Katie and I coasted to the finish line.

My goals were toast. I finished in 26:40:33 and was 24th overall out of 48 finishers. I wanted to be top 10 and under 24 hours, and was frustrated that I didn't get to meet my goal. But I'm happy that I stuck it out through the injury and finished. My buddies met our goals and finished in the top 10; congrats to Larry and Sam.

I learned a lot in this race. First and foremost, get the right kind of anti-chafing treatment. That was a big mistake. Also, my new Vibram FiveFingers Trek Ascents were great. I wore one pair for the whole 100 miles and I had one blister total by the end. I will admit that the bottoms of my feet were about over it by 80 miles in.

It was a great race! I love that I got my first 100 miler in the books. But I feel like I have a little to prove after missing out on my goals. I'm looking at you, Booneville Backroads Ultra 100 miler!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

A Pleasant Creek

 I guess I put off this report. Maybe it didn't seem too important to write, but as I sit two days from my first 100 mile ultramarathon, I'm thinking I should rehash my last race.

The Pleasant Creek Trail Run takes place near Cedar Rapids, IA in Palo and offers the options of running a 15k, 30k, or 45k. These distances are based on the length of the horse trail that we run and how many loops we run. I really only signed up for this race because I had registered in the No Coast Trail Series, where I had to complete 3 of the races in Iowa to be in the standing. I had been leading the "Ultra" category all along due to my Hawkeye 50k and Booneville 100k finishes. I was hoping that by finishing the Pleasant Creek 45k, I would solidify myself at the top.

This race was even more exciting for me, as it turns out, because it was my wife's first ultramarathon attempt. After running her first half marathon this summer with our 9 year old son, Katie decided she was up for trying a trail ultra. Though the 45k is only a little further than marathon distance, it counts. Our friend Jolie was taking on the 15k as well and we were excited to see her finish too.

The Pleasant Creek Trail Run turned out to be a blast. Finally I got to run an ultramarathon on a nice day. No rain, no 20 degree temperatures, just sun and 70's. It was great.

As the race was about to begin, I stood near the back of the pack with Katie trying to get her phone and watch to sync up. Those things always work perfectly until you need them. As we fiddle with it all, the race is started and we take off. I had no plans of running with Katie since I was hoping to run this one hard and she was planning on going out conservatively. So I took off into the pack, trying to get past most runners.

I learned in Painful Elimination that getting stuck behind slower runners in a trail race can be a big hindrance, so I decided to go out fast and get past people so I had some room. I blew past a bunch of runners and found my place near some others who were going about my pace.

Though you can't ever compare midwest ultras to the mountain ultras of the west, I found this trail to be challenging due to it feeling all uphill. It wasn't a ton of actual elevation but it felt like we never came down; we just kept going up. And unlike the short steep hills of our local trails, these were long and drawn out. As I ran them on my first loop, I knew I should walk for the long term. But I didn't. Adrenaline.

As I finished the first loop I saw one other runner coming back out from the start wearing the bib number of a 45ker. Everyone else in the front was running either the 15k or 30k. So I knew I needed to catch this guy. About halfway through loop 2 I caught up to the runner ahead of me, and eventually dropped him. I was feeling good and as I came across the 2nd loop finish, they seemed surprised that I was a 45ker already. Was I in first place?

The 3rd loop was tough. I should have walked more uphills earlier, and my body was tired; but I knew that the guy I'd passed before could come up on me at any moment so I had to keep moving. I kept going, ran through aid stations without stopping, and began to entertain the idea that I could win. At one of the aid stations the volunteers told me they thought I was the first of the 45k runners to come through, so I started to believe it. I could win my first race as long as I don't let someone catch me.

Finally, the last stretch. As I came in towards the finish, I saw Kate going out on her 3rd loop. She looked strong and hadn't called it a day after 2 loops. I was proud to see her going back out to finish.

As I ran hard to the finish, I heard a volunteer yell out, "2nd place in the 45k..." Nuts.

Apparently another runner had been way ahead of me from the beginning. He beat me by close to 25 minutes and I'd never seen him. Oh well. For my 4th ultra and a race I hadn't even considered the option of placing, I got 2nd.

And Katie finished her first ultra. She had a horrible 3rd loop as her phone and watch both died and she had no way to gauge her progress, and no music to keep her going. But she didn't quit. She kept on until the finish and is an ultra runner. I'm more proud of her finish than mine. She went from an early summer half marathon to a tough trail 45k. That's toughness.

Gear: I wore my new Vibram FiveFingers Spyridon MR Elite shoes and they were great. They kept out the mud and gunk from getting inside and gave great traction through the race. Otherwise, I counted on my Epson Runsense SF-810 watch for tracking, my Ultimate Direction hydration vest, and my Flipbelt for my phone. I didn't need my Plantronics Backbeat Fit bluetooth headphones this time. I just listened to the woods, my steps, and my breath. I'm finding that I run with headphones less and less.

Nutrition: Tailwind. The aid station volunteers seemed to take it a little personally that I never wanted anything from them, but on this shorter ultra, I just needed my Tailwind and I was good. I did get some water late when I was ready for a lack of flavor in my mouth.