Fall 50 Recap

This race has been on my yearly schedule for the past 5 years. It has been my fall goal race. This year it was in the back of my mind all year, but still not sure if it was going to actually happen. Leadville was IT this year. All my focus after the 100K National Championships in April, was Leadville. I didn’t look at my race calendar after Leadville. I had no idea the shape I would be in physically and mentally, so I just kept myself off of the calendar.
I have a client who made this race her goal race. It would be her first 50 miler even though she runs 50K’s all the time. I would be at this race regardless, I would never miss a chance to be there for a client on such a big day.

Back up just a bit. I attended a running retreat in Arizona put on by Kara Goucher. Yes, THE Kara. Some of my dear friends who I met at a camp similar to this with Kara as well last year, were also there. So not only did we get to hang with Kara, we got to spend some time together. This camp was intense. It was hard. The running wasn’t hard, it was the rest of it. I do not think I have ever been so venerable, stripped down to a raw emotional state in my life. Sharing fears and dreams is scary. It can also be tremendously liberating. You are in a safe space with all these women who are in the same state as you. I came home exhausted, emotionally.
On the last day we all shared our intention for the next year. I set mine high. Now that I have finished Leadville and it wasn’t the destroyer that I thought it would be, I thought about what’s next. I am going to enter the lottery for Western States (Leadville was a qualifying race), I will enter Leadville’s lottery as well. There is also the Vermont 100, and Wasatch 100. If I get into all of them and complete them it is considered the Grand Slam and will be 4-100 milers in about 4 months. Bonus: Kara herself said she would crew for me if I got into Western States, um YES!!

Anyway, on this retreat I had also made up my mind that I would run the fall 50 as my last race of the season. I had hurt my ankle on this trip and had to bow out of a 20 mile run at mile 13. So maybe I shouldn’t run it? My reasoning being it was the last race, so if I get more injured I’ll have the time to take off. Dumb, I know.

It’s race week and I take a few days off, run with clients and friends, but for the most part my ankle feels fine. It was decided that I would for sure run, but I would be alone. Most of you know that Roger is a primo crew chief, so to do the race alone was new for me. I got up there the night before about 6:30pm, registered(pretty sure I was the last one #119) and ate dinner at the hotel. I then drove the 15 minutes to the cabin I was staying at to get my gear bags and attire situated. I had a good talk with my client about race plan and prep and we agreed to meet at the finish line to get on the bus together in the morning.

3:30a.m. came early, but I was wide awake. I had attempted to make overnight oats, not knowing what would be available at the cabin, this was a fail. I ate maybe a half of a cup. Packed my things into my car and headed to the finish line. I meet Ali on the bus and I can see my car, my lights are still on. I go back to the car to shut them off and I had left my car running, awesome! Is this how the day is gonna go?

On the bus I eat a picky bar knowing that I needed more to fuel me at the start. When we get to the start there is the obligatory bathroom break and we now have 20 min to the start. Since I have done this race many time before I look around for familiar faces. I see none, this can be good or bad. The gun goes off and I am out front with the first pack of about 10. My race philosophy is to get out front fast and stay there. I pass one woman right after the first mile, I’m pulling a 7:40 and it feels good. Shortly before the first aid station a different woman passes me. The first real “hill” is just up ahead and I can see her slowing. This is my chance. Normally I would walk the uphill to save some for later in the race, but I felt strong. I latch onto the two guys ahead of me and pass her holding that same pace. I pass the guys at the top, “thanks guys, that was fun!” I never saw that woman again.

Since my crew wasn’t there I had to rely on the aid stations for water. I had brought my own food and had it on me, and dropped a few bags along the way to restock the rations. So I blow into the first aid station for some water and back out. The weather was a dream! Mostly cloudy, little to no wind and about 50 degrees, Perfect! I started the race with a light wind proof jacket that came off after the sun came out and ditched at aid station 5, I think. This jacket is genius. No tying around the waist, you stuff it into its own pocket and it has an elastic band so you can slip it onto your hand. Even better, straight from the head bird herself Sally, is to slide it up your arm so it rests above the elbow. Boom, tried and true. Thanks Sally!

At the second aid station I had placed my handheld bottle with water and some extra food. But with the cloudy day I made the decision I would go without. The longest stretch between aid was about 8 miles. I was taking salt tabs every hour so I figured I would be fine as long as I drank 1-2 cups at each station.

It gets a little blurry until about mile 18. Up until that point there was a group of about 5 of us, two sets of guys and myself that piggy backed each other but all holding that same pace. I remember thinking that I could hold this, it was uncomfortable, but I could do it. We all pull into the 18 mile aid station roughly at the same time, we joke and chat a bit about how the pace is good and the weather is awesome. They ask to confirm that I am the first female, why yes, yes I am. I eat a banana and drink water and am the first out. Shortly, one of the pack came up behind and his buddy had dropped back. The pace was too fast to hold onto for him. We continued together, but with him just about 10 yards ahead holding pace. He didn’t have a watch and this was his first 50 miler, so I was his pacing strategy.

Much of the same happened until mile 32. I was in the lead up until then. I was in the aid tent getting water and this young girl comes flying in and out. The volunteers look at me, and with a smile on my face I say “let her go.” I knew I had to pull back a little, my ankle was acting up, not much, but it was there. I knew I could waste energy and hold that pace for a short time in an effort to catch her and then have it backfire and blow up so close to the end. I decided to pull back 30 sec per mile and hold it.

Coming out of the second to last aid station I see a woman behind me, no way am I going to give up second place. I will fight for this. The guy who I had been piggy backing with left that aid station with me and I told him I had to hold under a 9 min mile to keep the distance from the woman, he fell off. See, you start to panic when you see someone behind you, you think that they will just fly right by you like you aren’t moving. In reality you are going about the same pace just far apart. I was taking no chances. I knew I had to make the last aid station as fast as possible, I got water and grabbed a liquid sweet potato clif pouch. It didn’t taste so awesome. But it had 200 calories and I could just carry it and squeeze for the last 4 miles. When I looked back with a little more than a mile to go and there was no sight of the woman, I relaxed a little. My pace didn’t slow, but I didn’t go any faster either. At the finish I did, of course.

Coming across the line was surreal. It was the first time in my racing career that I have not had someone there for me. And for how I just raced, and how that felt, man it was weird. Next thing I know, I hear my name. Its Shawn a guy who happens to be at every race around and I met through my friend Angela(my Leadville pacer). I finished in 7:37, beating my course pr by 23 min, my 50 mile pr by 18 min, and hitting other pr’s along the way.

I went to my car to get my phone to call Roger. I started crying, he was shocked and proud and disappointed that the one time he doesn’t come that that’s when I decide to race! I changed in my car and got some food and root beer, anxiously waiting for Ali to finish.

I never doubted her ability to finish this race. I knew she could do it and within the cutoff. Around the 10 hour mark I text her. I knew she had her phone and I was almost positive she hadn’t finished, but in case she had I needed to find her. Her response was that she had been vomiting and not doing so hot, she was in between 48-49. I wait patiently at the finish knowing shes got this, she is not a quitter. I see her and she is full of emotion. She did it! Any feeling of self satisfaction that I had about my race was wiped away when I saw her.

This is what I was proud of, being in her shoes as that race was my first 50 miler as well. I know that feeling, I was so unbelievably proud of her, and writing this almost a week later brings tears to my eyes. This is why I coach, to see this, to feel this.

The woman who won beat me by 7 minutes, the woman behind me was 4 min back. I came away with a check for second overall woman and a medal. I got a medal for being first place Wisconsin woman and an awesome plaque. I was also first in my age group 30-39, so thank you to the young girl from Minnesota who beat me!

One thought that stood out in my mind near the end of the race was that I am so ready for a break. Just a baby break, like a month or so. So 2016 racing, that’s a wrap!

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Leadville 100 recap

100 miles or 528,000 feet, 28 hours 55 minutes and 46 seconds. That is how far and how long I ran between Saturday and Sunday. Today is Wednesday and i am finally home after the 16 hour car ride. It feels surreal that just a few days ago I was completing something so big.

This journey started a few weeks ago as we loaded up the car with my husband, the dog, and my daughter. We dropped her off by way of Minneapolis (which isn’t really on the way), then headed south and west. Nebraska seemed to take forever to get through. We stopped at a rest area Tuesday night/early morning to sleep for a few hours. 6 a.m. Wednesday and we were on the road again. We stopped at a little park to stretch our legs and let the dog get some exercise.

running in Nebraska in 95 degrees

As we approached Colorado the mountains were mesmerizing. We set up camp and at Sugar Loafin’ Campground right in Leadville and hit the hay.

The next morning we headed to do some training. I decided to climb the back side of Hope Pass from Winfield. This is one of the steeper climbs of the course and i wanted to be prepared for it. Roubaix came with me and Roger decided to ride his bike. The climb was amazing and gave me confidence that i could really do this.

Roubaix and i made it to the top of Hope Pass

Friday we climbed the powerline section. I had heard this was another climb that was going to be tough, you hit this at about 80 miles into the race. I knew that climbing it on fresh legs wouldn’t be the same, but I would at least know what was coming.

Saturday was the Leadville 100 MTB race. Coincidentally we were in town for it, and it was awesome. The night before, we were driving down main street of Leadville and we see this big tent Floyds of Leadville, and Roger whips the car around. See, he spotted an old friend: Floyd Landis. Yes, he is the retired road bike racer, but he is also one of Rogers’ oldest friends. They used to race mtb together on the east coast. It’s true Roger knows people everywhere.
He also happened to know one of the top racers, Jerimiah Bishop who came in third in the bike race. I always love meeting people from his past, and these guys were no exception.

beautiful Turquoise Lake

Sunday we ran a portion of the Turquoise Lake trail straight from the campground and got a little lost. Monday Roubaix and i ran the lake again while Roger went to ride the powerline section again. I really wanted to take in the lake knowing that both times I would be there in the race it would probably be dark. The powerline is a part of the race that the bike had to do also, and the beginning is pretty steep, so Roger had a goal that before we left he would ride the whole thing. Unfortunately his bike broke on his third attempt.

Tuesday I met up with fellow Oiselle bird Michelle (Drum), and did a nice 30 min run and grabbed some coffee. Our race strategies were pretty different, however the goal the same. To finish before the cutoffs. This was both our first 100 miler, she had never gone over 50 miles and myself not going over 100K. We cliched right away and it was awesome, we hoped to run some of the course together for the race. Friday we ran together as well and got to meet her crew and pacers.

Now its really time for the race recap.

Roger and i at the start

My pacer got in Thursday night and we went to dinner to discuss last minute logistics. i was feeling confident and in good spirits despite the rain that plagued us all week. We hit up the expo Friday morning and attended the mandatory race meeting. We went back to the campsite and i got the drop bags set. Even though Roger was going to be my crew and plan to be at every aid station he could get to, I wanted to have drop bags in case he couldn’t get there. With a race this long and the weather uncertain, you need to be prepared. I went to bed at 3pm and got up at 7pm to eat dinner. i was back in bed asleep by 9pm. That 1:15a.m. alarm came early, but i wasn’t going to let lack of sleep be my downfall. i had plenty of time to get myself ready and eat properly. At 3:15am we were in the starting chute.

i knew from camping for the past week that the nights were cold, but as soon as the sun came up it got hot. So I wore minimal layers for the start because i estimated i would be at the first aid station (13.5) miles after sunrise.
When calculating pace, i gave myself a buffer. i planned for a 28 hour finish time, and had sharpied the cutoff times on my arm. I picked up a plain old Timex watch and attached it to my pack in the event that my watch died. i set an alarm on both to go off 30 minutes apart. My plan was to start eating at the first timer and be done by the second.

We start and it is amazing, except for the fact that I went out too fast. This was an original concern for me, but decided it was beneficial. The path around Turquoise Lake is single track and i didn’t want to get stuck in a pack that was walking already. i beat my projected time by 45 minutes. Some food and change of clothes and i was off. i knew that the next section would involve climbing and 11 miles. i was right, it got warm by the time i was descending the power lines. i arrived at the Fish Hatchery Station, an hour and some before the official cutoff. i was already having a hard time eating what I had on me, so watermelon and ramen noodles became my staple at the aid stations.

Coming out of the Fish Hatchery aid station

i knew that this next section would be flatter and more in the open and it felt good to run for a good while. Coming into the Half Pipe aid station I knew i was on my own. This was a hike in aid station and Roger was picking up my pacer Angela and would meet me Twin Lakes.

Running with John was a blast

Here I changed my socks(so glad I did), grabbed lots of food and then was ready to head out when i saw John. I ran with John Friday morning with Michelle. It was nice to see a familiar face and so we ran together.

This was a fairly up hill section and John started to have some knee issues on the downhills. But we still made good time and were still about an hour and a half ahead of official cutoff. We lost each other at the entry into Twin Lakes. This aid station was big! I found Roger and Angela, they were with Floyd and under his tent. i tried to eat as much as i could because i knew the first climb to Hope Pass was coming and the next time I would see them would be the turn around.

Kisses from my boy as i head out of Twin Lakes

Coming out of Twin Lakes you cross a river, a knee deep river. This felt pretty good after being on your feet for 8 hours and in the sun. Then you climb, and climb, and climb. You cover about 3,000 feet in about 6-7 miles. This was very hard for me. I think the lack of energy I had was from not getting enough nutrition. John caught me pretty quick(I looked for him as i left the aid station, but no luck), and took me under his wing. So many people had trekking poles. I purposely didn’t bring them
because I kinda hate them. I can’t seem to get them to work, they feel awkward, etc. Well, they are my new best friend now! John was so nice and gave me one of his poles for the trek up. He knew from our previous run together that my timers were meant to remind me to eat, so he made me stop and eat. I am pretty sure we averaged 30 minute miles here. I had to stop to catch my breath many times, but i knew I just had to keep moving forward. Before we got to the Hopeless aid station we saw the leaders coming back down, so fast!! Coming into the aid station it was nice to see food! i knew that was my downfall on the way up and it was another 6 miles to Winfield, so I needed to eat. The llamas were everything they were hyped up to be! But, we still had less than a mile to keep climbing. This was less steep with lots of switchbacks and you knew the top was right there!

Looking down into Twin Lakes from the top of Hope Pass on our training run.

To reach the top was pure glory!! This is were my journey with John ended, his knee was still a hindrance and the downhills were hard. I gave him his pole back and I went down the hill. I think this was one of my favorite parts of the race. i had a huge smile on my face and was encouraging the people on their way back up. I knew this section from the training run the previous week, so maybe it was the confidence, or it was because I had food in me. Either way it was fun! But by the time I got to Winfield that smile was gone. I was depleted. i had lost so much time on the climb, and I had my obligatory race meltdown. I was out of it, I was worried i was going to let everyone down if i got cut off. i wasn’t going to quit, but i was afraid i was going to be forced out due to time. Coming into this aid station my pacer was right there waiting, she goes to run alongside me to see what i need and i yell at her that she cant run by me. What a way to welcome my pacer on our 50 mile journey together. Jeez, i was a B.

Knowing that I had to climb back up, even though I knew this part, was overwhelming. i started to freak out that i would lose more time and be cut off. i ate more ramen, and whatever i thought i could stomach. Roger just instructed me to meet him at Twin Lakes and that Angela would get me there. She had brought poles for me to use, and I was thankful. We left Winfield at 5:07pm. So now I was less than a hour away from the cutoff. You had to have left Winfield by 6pm. We left and started to pass people on their way in knowing that it would be close for them to hit the cutoff, it was heartbreaking.

I don’t know if it was having someone with me, the conversation, or the amount of food I ate, but I felt good. Climbing the “steeper” side of Hope Pass was much easier for me. Of course I didn’t say that until the top as not to jinx myself. The pace was still slow, but it was doable. As we were climbing it was nice to see Angela take it all in. This is an act of bravery, to willingly climb this pass and run 50 miles, and not get a medal. To do this for me, whew. So what could i do, I pointed out places for her to look out and take in the beauty that she may never see again. If you haven’t been there, you have no idea.

We got into the Hopeless aid station and eat. Remember that big ass climb that i fell apart on? Well now we get to go down. I knew I could make up some time on the downhill and I knew we were still about an hour ahead. It was starting to get dark and a little colder. Angela and i ran down that mountain, passing people who were walking. This was another section that i felt really good. We get off the climb and into the field before the water crossing and we were booking it. Spectators seemed to be really surprised that we were running that fast. I thought the river would be alot colder as the night approached, but it was still a welcome feeling. We passed a few people who were not prepared for the night and had no lights. At this point it would have been really hard to see without light. We got into Twin Lakes and tried to change shoes and socks as quickly as we could. We made up another 30 minutes getting here, I didn’t want to waste any minute of it!

We spent 15 minutes here, but no worries we were feeling good. Roger was happy to see that I had rallied and was in high spirits. I knew that we would be climbing for awhile on this next section, it seemed to never end. I knew almost immediately that my feet were going to be a problem. When i had switched shoes after the water crossing, I had only a think sock with me that i thought would be warmer. but the thin sock had no padding on the foot and that was what ultimately did me in.

Getting ready to leave the Fish Hatchery aid station

We got into the Half Pipe aid station where we ate, drank coffee, and put on more clothes. i had pants and a down jacket, thick ski gloves, and a buff for my ears. Remember when i said that i was happy that i changed my socks here on the way in, well i changed back into them for the remainder of the race.

Leaving here was great, the moon was out and the big dipper was directly in front of us. This is the flatter open section into Fish Hatchery, so it was colder. We got into the aid station and layered on more clothes and drank some hot coffee. Roger was ready with some good snacks, oatmeal creme pies were delicious and easy to eat.

From here there was about 25 miles to go. One more big climb. We had about an hour and a half before the official cutoff, so time was looking good. Coming out of here my feet were starting to slow me down, good thing Angela has a pretty stellar power walk. The climb up powerline seemed to go on forever. i knew there were some false summits and was trying to count them. In the dark and with exhaustion creeping in, it was really messing with me, i swore we were at the top about 10 times. We passed a few people who were weaving because they were falling alseep. i felt good though on the climb, just overall tiredness. All of a sudden you hear music and see a runway of glow-sticks and balloons in the trees. Am i hallucinating?!! It was our welcome to Space Camp, our reward for making it to the top. Best surprise EVER. We slammed some flat coke and started our descent.

About to leave May Queen

We got into May Queen about 4:45am and the cutoff was 6:30. At this point though my feet were hurting pretty bad, I was doing this shuffle/scraping thing to keep warm and to put all the weight on my whole foot. This was however slower than our walk. For the time that Angela and were together so far i had been out front, but from this point on I needed her to lead. i knew that if i was out front i would slow the pace down. I needed to follow her because it was likely that i would be walking the last 13.5 miles.

Finish line the day before.

A few miles into the last stretch the sun started to come up and you could see the lake in its finest. Even with our walking we were passing people. People who could still run passed us as well, not many though. We got past the Tabor Boat ramp and it was about 6 am, we had 4 hours to get to the finish. We get around the lake and onto the road. We arent in enough sun yet to take off layers, but we are on flat ground. Upon hitting the boulevard we have 4 miles to go, this literally felt like an eternity. 4 miles while trying to powerwalk could still be over another hour, I couldn’t be on my feet for another hour, even the shuffle thing wasn’t working.

Finally across the finish.

We turn the corner on the boulevard and it starts to go up, a steady slight uphill. The sun is on us, its getting warm. After about the second false “top”, I about lose it. i told Angela that if I stop for any reason, i was done. My watch said a little after 8am, i wanted that 28 hour finish time.  i dug deep and picked up the pace, repeating in my mind that “my feet don’t hurt, they are fine, i feel great”. i was using a meditative exhale to keep a rhythm to keep pushing. i blocked out everyone around me and hustled. Once we got off the boulevard and onto the last piece of road leading to the finish, I knew we would make it. We crested that hill and could see the finish line. It was Angela who broke first. We both had to choke the tears back because we weren’t there yet. At the beginning of the finishers chute was Roger and Roubaix, I took Roubaix’s leash and the four of us ran across together. I lost it, she lost it. i couldn’t breathe. i did it. 28:55:56. My first 100 miler. Mother Fucker, i did it.

This race was an internal one just as much as physical. i crossed that line saying that i would never do that again. It’s been a few days, my mind has changed. If i can get the tender foot situation under control i have a lot still in me. Even with the nutrition behind, I still felt good and strong. My legs didn’t give out, I didn’t burn out my quads or my lungs.

congratulating Michelle on her finish

i had so much support from my one man crew team, Thanks Roger you are the best. I had the best pacer one could ask for. I cannot ever repay her for those 14 hours she spent pushing me and making me eat. The gratefulness I have and the connection we share will hopefully have to do for now. Angela you’re the bees knees. To John who kept me together, I know he doesn’t think it was a big deal, but to me I dont know if I would have made it without him, so thanks John. i take back what i said about your old knees. To all the friends and family, people who don’t know me, and the land of facebook, thank you. Knowing you all were following this journey made me push a little harder.
To Oiselle for bringing so much love and support. Without you I wouldn’t have my pacer, or have met Michelle from Texas. i even had the love from the Colorado birds cheering us on.

Race swag.

In the pre-race meeting the founders called us family. I get it now.

Fall training is here!

Are you looking at the fall race schedule? Are you looking to do your first half or full marathon? Lucky for you I am starting a group training program in August! I am proud to be partnering with Kula Yoga Studio. Together we will provide you with a one of a kind training experience. We will have a class specific to runners, a discount on packages, free swag, and the opportunity to meet and train with like minded individuals!

Sometimes training for something new can be overwhelming. With the support of others and weekly meetups you will have the confidence and knowledge to go forward and reach your goal no matter what it is!

More information on the way and the earlier you sign up the more you get for less!

To sign up click right here:

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All that can happen in 5 years

All the racing, all the miles, all the medals would not have been possible without a choice I made 5 years ago today.
My life without a doubt would be inherently different. I wouldn’t know what it was like to push my body to exhaustion, to feel the gains from hard workouts, and to wake up excited to face a new day.

These days with the pressure of social media and the illusion of the perfect life, living your life can be difficult. Making decisions for yourself without the worry of what others may think or what they did or how they did it. There are things only we can do for ourselves, truly for the well being of oneself.

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My first race, shortly after decision day

I can never claim that I’ve had it easy. It has been one road block after challenge after disappointment. I learned at an early age that I needed to look out for myself, that I needed to be in control of my own actions. I had no choice but to grow up fast, get a job (or two), and look after my siblings. Learning to budget money and pay bills at 14 is a skill that I adapted to quite naturally. When you grow up young and broke like that, you have a deeper appreciation towards “stuff”. You become attached to the smallest things that others don’t understand. You become hard. Your interactions with people become just that, an interaction. Emotion plays no roll, it’s not that you don’t feel, you just don’t have the luxury of feeling, there are things to do. With that I excelled in school, gaining a 5 year academic scholarship to a prestigious university. I had to, I wasn’t going to be able to pay to go to college.

With the odds stacked against me in the way they were, my life should have, by facts alone, turned out differently. When you grow up in a family of addicts, some in recovery, some relapsing more times than you can even count, and some dead already, by statistics you should be one too. But alas, I made my decision long ago: “I would NEVER be like my mother, I would never do to my children what she did to us”.  This reminds me of a short entry I wrote awhile ago, I have never shared it with anyone. Today is your lucky day.

Somethings in life make sense. There are some things that happen with no warning.
 You have a choice. Pull your boots up and get to work, be strong, survive. Or feel nothing, hide, and blame some one else. Either choice happens naturally and is hard to understand from the others view. Some could say it is Strong vs. Weak. When asked how you handle certain things, the Strong will tell you that they have no choice, that this is what needs to be done. There are people counting on them, bills to pay, shit to get done. The Weak will also say they don’t have a choice. That they are paralyzed, overwhelmed, not capable of dealing. So is it a choice, really? Is it ingrained within us from the beginning or taught? Can you be both? Most of you will identify with one or the other, possibly both. Can the Strong stay strong? Even then there is a breaking point where they get a glimpse of the other side  where vulnerability is raw. Is that worse somehow? Feeling all the emotions, seeing all the  situations, wondering how you accomplished these seemingly insurmountable tasks without even blinking. It seemed like the logical path and the most clear at the time. Was it a sort of delusion, a type of tunnel vision? But even that breaking point is short lived, there is no luxury for the Strong, they have the Weak to take care of.

Today, this day 5 years ago is not something I share voluntarily. The decision that was made then is common knowledge, yes; but not given out right. People ask me if it is hard, to stick with my decision. The answer is no. I made a choice and once that choice was made, the alternative isn’t even on the table. That day I had a glimpse of what my life would/could be if i didn’t take action. It was easy.  I say that I made the choice while I still could, before the hold became too strong and I couldn’t think for myself. But I don’t know if that is true, I came from a small town and did more things in high school than most people do in college. A part of me feels that if I was going to disappear, it would have happened by then.

So this day 5 years ago I chose to stop drinking. Like I said, I do not share this outright. In social situations I say i don’t drink. People think that is because of my level of athletic accomplishments and training. Let them.

This aptly came on the radio in the middle of writing this.

My first 100K- going the distance

Entering the land of the unknown can be scary and also exhilarating. Saturdays’ adventure was no exception. Attempting a new race distance and with the unpredictable weather we have had, everything was up in the air.

Coming off a high from February’s win, I had been feeling confident and well prepared. My training was really on point, diet was good, and I had been doing strength and structural work multiple times a week. I was getting bored of training. I was ready to race.

6:30 am start time

The day before the race i drove to the race start to pick up my packet. This is when the first bout of nerves decided to show up. The wind was brutal and had a bite to it. The forecast was predicting that the wind die down by the morning. Fingers crossed. I met some of my fellow racers, who had traveled from all over the country. How funny that you can be complete strangers with someone one minute and the next you are telling them your life story.

I had continued with my positive outlook for the day and by the time Friday night had come there was snow on the ground and the wind was as strong as ever. The only thing I was having a hard time with was what to wear. Race day forecast was 25 at the start, low wind, sun, and high of 43 at 4pm. How do i dress for that?!

Race day-here we go. Picked up my timing chip and got a boost of energy from a client of mine who was volunteering. Dropped off my bag of fuel for the second aid station and used the bathroom at least twice. It was cold, but no wind!! I decided to go with tights, I brought shorts in case i wanted to change. My legs just get so hot!

Shannon Johnstone who placed
3rd.

Time to line up, hugs of good luck to my new friends and its time to fly.

26 runners lined up to start their 100K journey before the sun was even up. The first lap was nice to settle into, my hands were cold and toes numb but it felt good to move. I ended up running with Anna Hailey one of the women i met at packet pickup. Chatting with her made 7:30 feel like a walk in the park. I knew that I had a big day in front of me and i would be running an extra 12 miles that I have never run before, so I better be cautious. The pace was fine, but I knew that I needed to slow it down if i wanted to finish strong and make it the whole distance. So after the first lap, I let her go while I stopped and fueled.

Roubaix watching for me inside the car,
the weather was too cold for him.

Now the sun was up and the warmth it provided was welcome. With the course being circular you had the wind at your back and also in your face. So even though you had the warm sun, you were also freezing. Lap two was a blur, I felt good and still holding a nice pace. Coming into the start/finish aid station I hear a familiar sound, which could only be Roubaix, my dog, my biggest fan. Seeing him there along with my husband gave me a little push.

Things were becoming a blur already on lap 3, I was less than a half a mile from the beginning of the lap and I couldn’t remember if I had kissed Roger or what I said. It was blank. I also started to get a cramp in my left foot up by my toes. Salt, I need salt. I didn’t pack any of my own but I knew the half way aid station had pretty much everything. At this point I had been lapped my the leader, he was going pretty fast. I offered my “good luck” and “looking good”, and watched him fly by.

I was right about the aid station. I poured straight salt into my mixture of Generation Ucan and water, ate a Picky Bar and went on my way. Lap 4 was also a blur, this was the last lap that i would see Roger for awhile, by now it was 10ish and the kids had activities. It was fine because the relay and the 50K solo was well in progress so I had people to focus on and chat with while running by.

Coming in on lap 5 I had decided that I would lose my jacket, the sun had gotten warmer and it was now maybe 35 degrees. I see this sign near my fueling station. “Nora is a Beast”, I am confused as to who would know me here and write this sign? I look up and see my aunt Joy who lives in Minnesota who was supposed to be at her sons track meet. We embrace in a big hug and I cry a little. The meet got cancelled at midnight and she and her husband drove up last minute. That was truly amazing. Do you know how hard it is to run and cry? Near impossible. you just have to choke it down. I also checked my 50K time, and I had set a new PR by 2 minutes from the race in February and 10 min from this last race last year.

Finishing lap 6 I got words of encouragement from a woman at the gym, talk about awesome. Then shortly after I see another friend who was starting her run for the day and decided to run the arboretum with the chance at seeing me. We ran and talked for a bit. By this time my feet were starting to hurt, just the soles. Around this time I got lapped by the leader again.

I think by lap 7 Roger was back with the kids. Lap 8 was a blur. A client of mine came to cheer me on after he did a 5 hour trail run that morning. It was so awesome to have a familiar face cheer for you. By this point in the race, the leaders had finished and the relay was over. the spectators were leaving and the encouragement along the course was pretty much non-existent. At the end of Lap 8 was the 50 mile mark. I also PR’ed my 50 mile time by almost 5 minutes. But now I was in uncharted territory, I had never run past 50 miles. 2 laps to go, only 12 more miles. You got this!

one lap to go

My pace had slowed considerably due to the bottoms of my feet being so sore and tender, I felt great everywhere else. My mental state really couldn’t have been better, my nutrition was on point, my legs felt like they could run forever, but my feet. My poor feet, as they say my dogs were barking.

The initial goal I had set for myself was to finish, that in itself was going to be a huge. Next was to finish in 10 hours, I gave myself a buffer with the unknown. As I closed the 9th lap I knew that I would not make my 10 hour goal, I would have to do the last lap in 45 min, which I was doing at the beginning, but not with those feet. So I refocused and under 10:30 was the new goal.

This lap was bittersweet. I had gone further than I had ever gone, I was feeling so good except for the feet. I was choking back tears, It really is hard to run while crying! I was truly alone. No spectators, no encouragement, nothing. It was difficult not to be brought down by the lack of support.
One woman, a woman who I do not know, a woman on her bike. She was riding the course in the opposite direction for the last 5 laps at least. She would slow down when she got near and almost whispered words of encouragement with a genuine smile on her face. On my last lap she was there and confirmed it was the last and said how good and strong i looked and congratulated me. My only response was “Truly thank you for all your support”, all while trying not to lose my shit. I still had 2 miles to go. I am crying just writing that. This single woman who didn’t know me and spent her day cheering for strangers, now has a special place in my heart. I will remember her forever.

4th woman finisher and 11th overall. 10:23:24

As I come into the last stretch where you can almost see the finish line, I try to speed up. I can’t see the clock(my watch had died before I finished the 9th lap), and I couldn’t risk not making my new goal. The tears were coming and I had to push it down. Did I mention how hard it is to cry and run? I pride myself in being a strong finisher, I always reserve a teeny bit for that finish. It was there, but this was no sprint. My feet were not along for the ride.

I did it though. I finished. 100K done. I set 3 PR’s and won some hardware. The best feeling was if my feet hadn’t been as tired, I know I could have went faster. I wasn’t spent, I had gas left. That only means one thing, I can beat that time and Leadville is more doable than I thought.

I would only change one thing. My family and friends who came to watch, I would ask them to go onto the course somewhere other than the aid stations. It became a ghost town, and seeing anyone, especially a familiar face truly can make a difference. That being said, it was an amazing race and I will do it again.

Now my focus turns to the trails and to coaching. Building my business and training for Leadville will be no small feat, but hey “why not”.

John Dick Memorial Crusty 50K recap

This was supposed to be a training run and in most ways it was.

The night before was like most nights before a long run or sometimes a race. I had to download new music, check the course, get my clothes laid out, check the weather, charge my watch, and make sure i had all the food i would want. I was up late and we had to be up by 4:30. When the alarm goes off and as my husband and i lay there and being so tired i say:
we could just go back to bed and i could run later today, no big deal, its just a training run.
are you serious, with this hopefully tone.
Only 10%.
We got up.
i hadn’t yet registered for the race so we needed to get there a bit early. i had no idea what the course would be like, I knew that it would be a loop or an out and back and the loops could be up to 8 miles. we would also be on a snow mobile trail, so we are on the snow. I am glad that the night before I had asked Roger to put screws in my shoes for extra traction.

This is the first race that I have done since the Fall 50 in October. My first race of 2016 and really only 5 weeks into training. I had no expectations, this was just a long training run with a bunch of other people.
At the start of this race i was not anxious, i wasn’t in my head, and i was excited! That has never happened. I knew something had changed last year before my big race and I kept saying something changed, but now I know it has. I have seen it and felt it. This felt different.
Casual start and we are off, down the road and into a single track section, thankfully i was at the front so i didn’t get caught in the back log. i felt great, the right leg tightness and pain that i thought would bother me didn’t even exist. The first section was an out and back. going out was much better than coming back, you didn’t realize how much downhill there was until you had to turn around to climb it. I was feeling strong and climbed them all. You pass the single track and head into the “loop” section. This was my favorite part of the course, ok, maybe second. the hills were not bad and you could fly down the downhills and gain so much speed. From here you went back into the single track, this was my favorite part actually. I felt so strong climbing and on the decent, I passed quite a few people within this part.

coming off the first loop, second lap

Since the course is out and back you have the opportunity to pass people and see them frequently along the course. You get a good sense of who is in the lead and where you are in relation. The first loop was confusing because people were allowed to start early if they thought they would not be able to finish within 7.5 hours.
Coming into the aid station at the end of the first loop, Roger had everything i would need. I grabbed a GU and ate about half. It was gross and I haven’t had one since October. I have been purposely not fueling on my longer runs trying to stretch my need out. I am trying to fuel more naturally, so that was a shock to my system.
Second loop, lets do this. Feeling good and I see a woman who is running with a group of guys not too far behind me. Telling myself its not a race, you are just doing a training run. That is hard to listen to sometimes, especially if you are competitive(me, me, me).

This loop was much like the first, feeling great and everyone on the course was so encouraging and nice. I had a smile on my face quite a bit. Coming into the aid station at the end of this loop Roger tells me I am in first place(I knew this, but not trying to admit it as not to jynx it) and she was about 2 min behind me. i grab a Picky Bar and go. Roger meets me as I leave the single track with some water and tells me to stay strong. This lap was a bit harder on the way out, i was starting to feel the hills. I see him as i head into the second half of the loop and tell him i’m falling apart. I wasn’t, i was exaggerating. Pace.
Aid station, last loop to go. I grab another Picky Bar and eat half. I see the woman who was behind me go into the bathroom at the end of loop 3, ok I just gained a little more time. I walked the hills on the way out of the first portion so I could save energy to kick it in on the last section. i didn’t NEED to walk and that felt awesome. I see the woman further behind and I am feeling so strong, i go in for the last out and back of the single track and people are congratulating me on the course knowing i was first place. i wasn’t going to revel in it until i came across the line. anything can happen.

i love this one so much. That is how I felt. Confident.

But I did it. I won. i was the first place female to finish. 8th overall i think and shaved 8 min off my best time. New PR. I felt awesome the whole race. the WHOLE TIME. That has never happened.

These people, this group, the atmosphere, was unlike anything i have ever experienced. I told the race director probably 5 times how much i loved the course, how great it was, how much the whole thing was amazing. Maybe it was because I had changed. I am more aware of my surroundings and the people who make it. Maybe it is because I am more present. I guarantee I would have felt the same way even if I hadn’t won. I truly came out there for a gut check, a nice long training run. it was double the length of my longest run in this cycle so far, I was just hoping to finish.

Winning feels pretty good too.

I went to an event later that night all dressed up. All women. It was amazing. Everyone is on their own path and they are all different. I felt myself trying to hide my accomplishment of earlier in the day. I didn’t want someone else to feel bad about their journey, even though it’s not the same as mine. Then the words hit me. Don’t apologize for who you are. Be you.

So, I won. I had come so close in past. It feels good. I know this will not be the last and if I can do it on a whim as a training run, what am I capable of if I race?

Today is OK

There once was a time when missing a run would be the end of the world. I would be bitchy, irritable, and just plain pissed. The plan is the plan, you have to stick to it or else. Or else what? Are you going to spontaneously combust? Are your legs going to fall off? No.
If you are a seasoned runner you have had that feeling when you miss your run, generally this happened at the beginning of your running life. But, as we all know: life happens. You get stuck at work, all the kids are sick at the same time, the dog got bit by another dog, or it just didn’t happen. Accepting that you missed a run is hard. I can now proudly say that I am at that point. Today was that day, finally I was ok with missing a run. Of course it is my biggest goal year with thousands of miles in the queue but today, i was ok.

My daughter has had chest pain for months and sometimes with a 12 year old girl the level of pain fluctuates with who is talking to who. It has been getting worse and no longer could i ignore it. I took her out of school and to the doctor. An irregular heart beat and referred to a pediatric cardiologist, whew. it could be nothing, but it could be something.

These things put the whole deal in perspective. I have huge races on the calendar this year but i will drop it all in a heartbeat to be there for her. If I miss one run this week, even though i ran on my scheduled rest day so technically i’m not behind, to spend the day taking care of her, it will be ok.

There is tomorrow and I will make the best of it, I will let go of today and not let it hold me down. I will focus on the other million things that will also help me achieve my goals. I will stretch, I will foam roll, i will ice, and i will kill my core workout!

Today it’s ok.

Who wants to #getcut?

Jan. 5, 2016

Whew, it’s been 2 days since the GetCut Program at Pat’s Gym has ended. I am at a loss, something is missing. I had grown accustomed to getting up and meeting my workout buddies 6 days a week early in the morning before work. I had created a pretty seamless routine in preparing my meals for the day and planning my eating schedule.

     Now, if you have been intrigued by my journey through this program and have started the Jan group or are thinking of trying it out. I feel that there are a few things that you must know about the program that are not in the plan. These things may not be true for everyone, but at least the 4 of us in my group, we seemed to share a lot of them.

1. Water. Pat tells you that if you can’t drink 100 oz of water a day then how can you be fully committed to be the best you can be. This may seem like a lot of water to some, but its only a little over 3-32oz nalgenes. While in this program you should get yourself a water bottle that can hold 32oz, it will help you keep track of your water intake. I injested 5-6 nalgenes a day. Thats almost 200oz! If you want to test this little water theory out while in this program be prepared to be slow, more fatigued, and overall lacking energy. I had only 100oz of water one day, and i learned my lesson.

2. Constipation. Yes you heard me correctly. Nobody tells you about this. When you are weighing yourself everyday at the exact same time, cutting calories, and fasting for 19 hours and the numbers go up on the scale. You almost lose your mind. You know that you are following the rules, but you haven’t had a bowel movement in 4 days. So you know what the cause of your “gain” is, the question is how do i take a shit?!  Don’t worry, i am hear to give you some suggestions and i hope by sharing this you can get on top of the issue before it starts to mess with your head.
       Spinach– it’s low in calories and when you put it in your blender with some protein powder as a drink or a part of your smoothie, you can get in 6-8 cups. This however will not work very long, a week maybe.
       Smooth Move tea– has a pleasant taste and you drink it at night which helps because you will be hungry and this will suppress those cravings. The main ingredient in the tea is Senna leaf-which is a natural laxative. Like most things you cannot take this daily as you will become tolerant to it. So once a week should work.
       Psyllium Husk Powder– used as a tea. I personally did not use this but another woman in our group did and it worked great. I imagine it worked the same way the Senna Leaf does in the Smooth Move.
       Acacia Fiber-this is a fine powder that you mix in water. it is not the most pleasing to the eye as it is looks like muddy water when all mixed, but it has no taste. This a milder form of fiber and can be used 3x a day to provide a more regular schedule.
       In the evenings you have your 60-90 min cardio, i suggest to do some running. The movement will help jostle things around.

Going into this program my intent wasn’t to lose much weight, I wanted to look lean and “getcut”. I wanted to build a better strength base and test my mental toughness. Removing alcohol from my diet wasn’t hard because I don’t drink in the first place. But removing carbs was difficult. I am an endurance athlete and much of my energy source to fuel my long runs come from carbs 4:1 ratio to protein. So to go to a mostly protein diet was probably the hardest for me personally.
You will notice that all the pain you are putting your body through in the workouts that you expect to be sore, but when you wake up the next day you aren’t really. Since you are fueling with high protein within a short window of working out you are repairing your muscles faster and more efficiently.

I think there is alot to be said about training with a group. i know that my teammates relied on me and i needed them to push me as well. If i had chosen to do the program but on my own i don’t think i would have had the results that i did. This may be better for some due to time schedule or prior commitments. But you really get to know these people and you see them suffer and grow in possibly more ways than their other friends have. I think this is true about the gym as a whole. you share something with these people who understand what you are going through and will be there to push you further.

Last words: you will be tired, you will be hungry. You will get stronger physically and mentally. They say it takes 3 days to get past a craving and its true. You have it easy this time. We had to do this during Christmas and New Years! So have a plan.
When you get off of work for the day, go home and pack your lunch and snacks in containers for the next day. Weigh your food for accurate calorie count. Keep a food journal. If you don’t have a scale, go buy one. Towards the end of the program you will be able to eyeball portion sizes because they will be ingrained in your mind.

Find portable snacks. Hard boiled eggs are low in calories(70) with 7g of protein. They are easy to throw in a bag. The Free range smoked turkey deli meat from the Co-op was a life saver!(90cal for 6oz and 20g protein) Remember when choosing dairy, choose full fat! Cottage cheese and whole fat greek yogurt plain are great breakfast choices if you can’t go home to make breakfast after your workout. Meat bars. This sounds gross, but they indeed are not. Created with a Paleo diet in mind they are packed with protein and little carbs. they are portable and not loaded with calories.

Many of the bars, teas, and specialty items can be found at the Willy St Co-op and Whole Foods. The Cave Man bar you can find at the Suppz store by Trek East. As in any program you should be eating clean. Focused on organic and try to get the most protein/carb ratio while still low in calories.

I lost 6 lbs total in 35. Good Luck from the December GetCut participants!

FALL 50 RECAP

Sunday October 25, 2015

8:17:50 was my official time for the Door County Fall 50 National Championship solo race. Technically I am the 7th fastest woman in the country in the 50 mile road race. Did I meet my goal? No. Did I do what I thought was possible? No. Did I do my best? yes.

Those No’s aren’t meaning that much to me this time around. I am choosing to focus on the positive. I trained hard (yes I could have trained harder) and I took the time that I thought was necessary to accomplish my goal. I came into this race positive, without stress, and with a mantra.

“I am strong, I am confident, I can, and I will”

That is what I told myself when I started to doubt myself, or when the second bout of rain that came sideways threatened to derail me.

I feel like I need to back up a bit. Like I mentioned, I took a whole new approach to this years race and I have to thank the experience of the weekend before for that.

As soon as I DNF’ed last years race I knew that I would be back and that I would never let that happen to me again. I vowed to train harder, train smarter, and recover better. I got a running coach, I became a part of a weekly speed group, I got a personal trainer, I got a running journal, and I tried to immerse myself into all of it.  I found out early in the year that I was being offered free entry into this years race because of my DNF last year. Like there was any doubt that I was going to do it again!

I started to become more familiar with the clothing brand Oiselle, and of course started following everyone on social media. I became aware of the Oiselle Volee and I wanted in, but how? To my surprise they opened it up to anyone for a short time. I got on that fast, because at this point I was already starting to own much of the clothing and wanted to race with them. Around that same time there was a camp announced that would be held in Duluth, and with none other than Kara Goucher! They mentioned some other accomplished athletes, but truthfully I had never heard of them. What was even better was that this camp was being held the weekend before my big race, of course I had to go.
In my opinion If you aren’t prepared mentally for a race then you shouldn’t be racing. I feel I had given up mentally last year way before my body gave out. So this seemed to be the last piece of the puzzle.

How could you not feel refreshed with a view on a run like this?

I could go on and on about the retreat but this post is about the race so you get the cliff notes version.

By joining the Oiselle team I had gained so many friends that I didn’t know I had. In my running life back home I lack the network essential for my running to flourish in the way I want. To meet these women was so much more than I could have hoped for. I gained a massive community and friends who understand. Understand the injury, the pain, the hope, the mental defeat, the training, the sacrifice, and the joy. Walking into this retreat with literally knowing no one I quickly became friends with other Oiselle teammates and knew that these ladies will be life long friends.

Those “other” coaches that I didn’t know existed turned out to be very important indeed.  The Kleckers. If you don’t know who they are, you should look them up. They are both amazing athletes and pillars in the running world. But beyond that, they are amazing people. Barney holds the American record in the 50 mile road distance of 4:51. 4:51!!!!  Janis was a part of the first Olympic marathon trials for women in 1984. Both have had beyond amazing running careers while raising 6 kids.

Janis has an effect on people. She has a calm demeanor and pretty much makes you cry when she opens her mouth. I was gravitating toward her. Needless to say we had a conversation and I cried (like always) she changed my life in 10 minutes. I felt lighter than I have in along time and I knew that the next weekend was nothing to worry about.

Fast forward to race day. My anxiety was pretty much non-existent and I was ready to tackle this race. As a runner you know that you cannot control the weather so you race in the conditions that you are given even if they are not ideal. Rain. Wind. Cold. Those three nasty words when combined together make for an interesting race.


That feeling of weightlessness followed me into race day and throughout the race. I felt strong and I had the unwavering support of my husband and daughter, what else did I really need?

I had set an aggressive goal for myself and about 30 miles in after changing shoes and socks and getting poured on again I realized I was going to miss that goal. I could still knock out a stellar performance so I pushed on. At around mile 40 I had a woman come up behind me asking if I was Nora. Surprised and wondering how this stranger knew my name I said yes. She showed me her Oiselle tank under her raincoat and said how proud she was of me and said I was her hero. She told me I looked strong and to keep going. This woman has no idea that I had to fight back the tears as she passed me (she was a part of the relay). Its hard to run and cry. I had passed the point where I had to drop out last year and was emotional already.( I had to choke down tears many times by this point). To me, I had a score to settle within myself and to be considered a hero to someone else was inconceivable.

From around that same time my right calf began to tighten. It felt like it was fully constricted and no matter how hard I pushed I could not go much faster.

When you are doing a race of that length the last miles are so welcoming. Trying to explain that to someone who has never ran that far is thinking “10 miles, that is so far,” but when you have already ran 40, 10 is a piece of cake. As I was approaching the finish a group of women ran in with me. I have never seen these women before and still have no idea who they were. Because of this my husband and daughter didn’t see me coming in and therefore did not get to see me crossing the finish line.  Maybe that was for the best. Remember when I said I had to choke back the tears during the race, well this time I let them flow. All the emotions overtook me. I was so happy to have finished, to prove to myself that I can do it and that last year was a fluke. I was exhausted, cold, and mentally spent.
I cannot give a detailed account of the race because as I finished I gave Roger a hug and accidentally my race got deleted. Yes the whole race! Being so emotionally fragile at that moment I flipped out on him when he was just trying to comfort me. But I don’t NEED a watch to tell me that I ran 50 miles, I don’t NEED a watch to tell me how I felt during that race. What I NEEDED was right there in front of me.

I ended up placing 7th overall woman and got another big medal.

This time around there was no disappointment in myself, there wasn’t a bunch of “if I only did this,” I was simply content. I gave all that I was capable of giving that day. I only walked two hills that I knew going in I was going to walk. I felt stronger than ever on the other hills and my overall fitness was better than ever. My recovery and strength training proved its worth in the days after. I am marginally sore and not in the areas that I have previously been.

It is safe to say that my running turned a corner this year and climbed the hill in the past two weeks. I will be back next year to chase the goal.

life isn’t fair

There are things in life that just aren’t fair. That is a fact. I was reminded of that yesterday as I tried to help some people in need.
My husband and I saw three clearly homeless people and a dog asking for help at a popular intersection. We turned to one another and knew that we must help them. We were headed to Starbucks and I grabbed a sandwich and a bottle of water for each person, explaining to the barista where they were going. She kindly did her part in discounting the items and wished all of us luck. Upon returning to deliver the items the police pulled up alongside them. We were determined to help in any way that we could, so we proceeded. I walked up to the group who were now getting hassled and written tickets that most likely will not be able to be paid, and with kind words handed them the bag ” it looks like you could use this”. The look of appreciation on the man’s face was evident and shock on the others that I came upon them while the police were there. One of the police officers pulled me aside as I was turning to walk away explaining there is a policy in place against panhandlers in intersections and people giving to panhandlers. I had no idea and was just trying to help some people who clearly needed it. He explained that giving money especially was prohibited because they just use it to buy drugs, but the food and water we gave them should be ok.
At this point my husband got out of the car thinking that I was being accosted. Our dog also jumped out of the car window as I was walking back to the car.
I couldn’t explain what the officer said to me because I was so emotional. Thinking about it now brings it back. How much courage do you think it took for those people to advertise that they were so in need? What chain of events caused the situation they were in? Then to be treated like they don’t matter and written tickets that they can’t pay. Assuming they are drug seekers.
Was any of that necessary? Could the police have just asked them to move along? Life isn’t fair.
Maybe the emotion hit me because in another life that could have been me. I’ve been pretty low before and there were times I didn’t know if I would have a roof to cover myself and my daughter.

My husband and I share the dream of opening a homeless shelter in the Madison area. We will call it the Birdhouse. Even that is just a business plan, to help the people in need in just our community takes an enormous amount of money and assistance. So for now we do our small part day to day and remember that our problems are small in the grand scheme of things.