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Title:It's the Mettle That Counts -- Not the Medal or the Buckle
Date:Saturday June 1st, 2013
Author:Juli Aistars
Report:
met tle -- A person's ability to cope well with difficulties or to face a demanding situation in a spirited and resilient way.

That's what I'm talkin' about!!!

Tom Bunk Hill
Lorraine Moraine
Anne Heaslett Forest

Those are signs you will see at the Kettle Moraine 100M, and each one will make you smile, thinking of the people they represent - people with mettle...

This little run is dear to my heart, my first 100K in 2004 after my first Ice Age 50M, my indoctrination into the sport of ultrarunning, the first time I met many of these special people who I look forward to seeing every year at these 2 races, which are in my "backyard", a little over an hour jaunt up, up, up...

Some years I run, some I volunteer at the Gorski's Tamarack Aid Station. I always enjoy spending the night with Ian S. I only entered the 100M once, to pace with Rebecca from Florida. When she became hypothermic, I didn't continue. A DNF, no excuses. In 2011, I volunteered at Tamarack and then paced Steve Crane from CA -- I fell during the night, hurting my knee with 7 miles to go and had to let Steve go on without me. Lesson learned -- don't pace runners who run much faster :). Steve finished in about 21 hours. Last year, I entered the 100K with the intention of running 1/2 of it because I was going to WS -- where I got lost :)

This year, I jumped into the Midwest Grandslam of Ultrarunning. I'm using it to raise awareness of lung cancer prevention and early detection at Northwest where I work. Part of what I do every day is smoking cessation counseling and CT lung cancer screening for early detection. There are frustrations, but the successes make it worth it. I talked to a young lady the other day who I had counseled in the hospital almost a month ago. Jackie is 42, married, children. She struggles with weight and an eating addiction. She smoked for years. Her husband smokes. She has multiple health problems at a young age. She is lower income which throws in another wrench. She was fun to talk to and we worked on a plan for quitting smoking. She was motivated. Almost a month later, she is still quit and her husband is supportive, down to 2 cigarettes a day himself. They are walking and working with a dietician to eat better. I am thrilled for her. It is a start on the right road back to better health. She has had a noticeable improvement in her breathing. When I suggested carrot sticks as a substitute for smoking in the hospital, she said, "You skinny people don't understand that we don't eat carrot sticks!" She inspires -- she has mettle.

I know the Kettle course -- I decided I didn't need a pacer. Anastasia and Michelle were going sans pacer for the first time, wanting to experience it. We discussed the pros and the cons of pacers and everything in between. There is that feeling that you did it on your own. When you get tired, there is no one to correct the mistakes you might make. I find that you make more mistakes when you know you have a safety net. Val crewed me so I was not as independent as Bryce :). Val's crewing is mostly about seeing his smiling face and feeling his love, concern and support of me. That is huge. The aid stations are actually quicker than connecting with crew, but I do love Val's organic treats. He likes to experiment with all kinds of goodies but they are always those "snobbish" foods that you buy at Whole Paycheck and Trader Joe's :). Yummy!

Jan was there supporting Keith. She gets such a kick out of life -- it is written all over her face and you can hear it in her "Tee-hee" laugh. It makes me feel like trying harder just to see her. "You are going to do so well! You will get a PR!" Don't you love to hear those words???

We all gather for the start, 100K and 100M together, and unceremoniously shuffle off when we are told, some still trying to get to the start line, some still organizing their supplies. Don't you love the start of 100, anticipation in the air, but no particular urgency...

The weather is not the usual Kettle boil, but promises to percolate no higher than 75. Rain is possible and will be welcome, depending on when it hits. I run with Anastasia and meet Jerret, the new man in her life. Anastasia has her usual tutu and pigtails streaked with pink, and her big smile and her outdoor voice, "I love you!!!" Shelly and Alec come by -- she is our local elite who will conquer WS when she gets back in. Don't you know -- she ends up winning for the women! Congratulations Shelly!

And there is Juan, La Machine, in his signature red shirt. Red is for power, and Juan is a powerhouse. Michelle passes, going for her 5th Kettle 100M finish. She likes her hot yoga and she swears by it for heat-training. Gail Edgar has jumped into the 100M this year, after a 15 year hiatus from hundos. She has run over 20 Ice Age 50s -- a tough woman and I hope to see her finish. Debbie Leftwich is here from Arizona, another elite, still running strong at age 59. Joyce Kortze, a Rockford runner who has joined us for some of our runners more northerly, is going for her first 100M finish, I believe. I never saw her during the race and I have been wondering if this is her first 100... She usually kicks my A at the 50K and she is in my age group. Joyce inspires and motivates me to do better.

I have been pushing my mileage, with a goal of 10 a day, windng down to 17 miles this past week leading up to Kettle. I am feeling ready, having been on part of the trail doing the Ice Age 50K three weeks ago. I run early in the morning and again after work, almost exclusively roads. It is the only way I have found to run this much around a demanding work schedule. It does not take away from my work in cancer nursing -- it makes me more energetic and creative. I have more drive in all areas of life because of my running.

I find Steve on the trail and we start talking and end up running about 15 miles together. Steve is from Minnesota and seems to know everyone. Alan Holtz and John Taylor are also here from MN. Alan just finished Massanutten. I can't imagine how tired he must feel. Steve has a long beard. He is 62 and bemoans the fact that he only found ultrarunning at age 54. He is a 2:45 marathoner, but makes sure to say, "That was a LONG time ago." "It doesn't matter when -- you did something most can only dream of," I reply. We talk about his 2 children and how he just retired 6 months ago after 33 years with the same company. We arrive at Emma Carlin and I introduce Steve to Jan and Val as "my running buddy." I share our supplies with my buddy. I see Lisa (Elizabeth) Coll, a warm and friendly person who is a strong runner. She had trouble at Umstead 100 and she is on a mission today. Go Lisa!

I end up losing Steve eventually because I think he left without me and he waits for me at the AS. He catches up to me and says, "I had to put on my marathon legs to catch you!" After a while, he is running too fast for me, so I let him go. It was great, but it was just one of those things... :) I LIKE Steve!

During the night, Anastasia and Jerret are having stomach troubles. They think their race is done. They recover and get back out there, Anastasia like a new person. Even when she struggles, her tutu, her hair and her big smile never droop... Now she is running strong again. . I see some of the same people, including Dick C with his "65" on his green shirt. I see the guy with "For Jon" on his back. I ask several guys if they are Bryce, knowing he is in his 30s. Later I find out I would have only seen him swishing by as he was coming back from the turnarounds -- he ran sub 24!

I get really tired and sleep on the trail, but runners wake me as they ask, "Are you O.K.?" I understand, but I am SO tired! I have thought of a solution -- a sign I can place on myself that says, "Do Not Disturb -- Runner Sleeping, Not Dead. The rest seems to do something for me and I get running again, making it up to Rice Lake. I am not my usual social self at night -- apologies to anyone I mumbled to when they said "Nice work!" or "Good job!" I get SO tired at night though this was the best I've done at keeping up a decent pace on trails in the dark.

Morning comes and I am running hard (at least it feels like it) and I pass several runners who encourage me. I see Steve again with 2 buddies who have replaced me... Steve is happy to see me and encourages me in his jolly way. He and his buddies are walking and don't look like they want to run, so I am surprised to see them all show up right after me at the finish line. It is amazing how we can be down and out and then rally in 100 -- anything is possible.

I finish under 27, which was my goal. Without the training I have done, I think I would have finished more in the 29 range. I am going on 55 in October and I feel like a kid in a candy store. After the ankle fracture, foot surgery and frozen shoulder, I am back to reveling in running and feeling like more improvement is possible. It is all relative, but it feels great to know you can do more, do better, "do more than you think you can"...

Thank you to all the volunteers at the Aid Stations, resupplying the unmanned aid stations, standing at the road-crossings. Thank you to Ann, Jason and Timo who always put on a first-class event with their hearts and souls. Thanks to whoever marked the trail (Tom Bunk?). I am directionally challenged (LOL) and I tend to doubt myself when I am tired so the great signs, ground markings, glowsticks and confidence markers were SO, SO appreciated! Timo has such a way of making each runner, from first to last, feel very special -- thank you Timo! When he is there at the finish line, giving out awards, HE is the kid in the candy store!

Thank you Jan, Brandi, Kelly, Chuck, Karen, Julie and all the New Leafers and Mudders who are out there -- I love your special brand of encouragement, the word, the look, the offer of help. Thanks to those who encourage from afar like Rebecca, Mike, Melanie, Sharon, my Mom, my brothers and sisters...

Thank you Val, for your love and care after all these years...

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Posted:June 7th, 2013 8:59 am
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