Good Enough

I write letters to myself often. They come in various forms… draft emails, journal scribbles, post-it notes, unpublished blog posts. They’re vulnerable and raw, but they also remind me of how far I’ve come. They’re little lessons about growth, reminders, and glimpses at moments past. And I love them. Little time capsules of love notes, acceptance, grief, stress, and joy… and when I feel like I’m treading water they sometimes double as tiny life rafts.

Buoys of good enough.

I spiraled my way out of the season having to drop out of my last ultra of 2018 after succumbing to heat illness (vomiting and visual hallucinations) and instead of reveling in what a great season I’ve had I was sent adrift in the waves of “not good enough”.  Definitional imposter syndrome. “I’m a total failure”. “I wasn’t tough enough”.  “I’m never going to sign a contract for 2019”. “F%*#!”. “It’s just running”. “Oh my goodness if I told people ‘it’s just running’ they’re going to be so offended”. “Crap”. “Why did I think I was good enough?”.



Turns out these feeling are not mutually exclusive to my own dumpster fire of a mind. Perhaps your mind is quieter than mine (cue hamster running on a wheel nosies), but it turns out lots of highly driven, highly successful people will experience imposter syndrome at some point in time. Including something like 70% of women! That doubt that is fueled by years of not quite being “good enough”, of “good standing in the way of great”, and of not being content with being “just” okay sometimes in order to be better at other times… it breaks us all down.


As I dig myself out of my tiny little wallowing hole of the past few weeks I’m reminded just how good 2018 was. I left my graduate program where the person who was supposed to be responsible for instilling new skills, fostering my creativity, and making me a better researcher crushed all my audacious ambition with “NEVER GOOD ENOUGH” (#thingsmenhavetoldme). I’ve started to pursue science writing, which it turns out I don’t totally suck at I’m good at. I kicked first time Western States* butt finishing 9th in one of the fastest women’s top ten groups of all time. I ran (and hell, power hiked the shit out of) TDS* to a 4th place finish to put two American women in the top 5 (yes yes yes!).  I got engaged (yeah baby!) and moved to San Francisco. 2018 was good, it was even great, and I’m learning to embrace that, baby step by baby step. Because, let’s face it, if we don’t celebrate who is going to?



*I promise to write actual posts about these two races! Reenactments coming soon.


Mountains of Silence

55 days ago on my way home from Way Too Cool as I flew over the Cascades my boyfriend Stephen, our friend Paris, and new friends Steph & Ian were in a avalanche that ultimately claimed Ian’s life.

The violent and sudden loss experienced in moments like the afternoon of March 4th is a frame shift event… nothing is quite the same afterwards, and I feel like I am just starting to adjust to this new normal. The exact happenings of that day are not my story to share, but in writing some of this down I hope that maybe it resonates with one or two people who have experienced loss or have a loved one who has.

I spoke with Stephen that morning, I was delayed in Sacramento due to fog, grounded waiting for the incoming flight.  He asked me how the race the day before panned out and I expressed a combination of disappointment and happiness.  The rust had been busted, my calves had failed on a biomechanical level of frustration, but I had run away with a shiny new 50km PR so it was hard to complain.   Stephen relayed where they were going skiing that morning, and gushed over the reasonably good day of skiing they had the day before.  We talked about Ian and Steph’s new puppy Obi and how much I would love them, and their dogs, we would go back there soon.  Stephen’s skiing enthusiasm was one of, “Exploring all the future zones and powder stashes,” we’d someday get to plunder together. I told him I loved him and signed off to the flight ahead, back to Seattle.

Part way home I got a call from my roommate, she was up at Baker skiing and sounded flustered, concerned… my stomach dropped.  She was relaying a message from Paris’ girlfriend who had received a text an hour before, she wasn’t able to reach me, but something had gone very wrong.  Paris was okay, but there had been a big slide. I repeated those words over and over to myself as I drove home.  Periodically, I’d start to cry or hyperventilate convinced that Stephen had been injured or killed. I’d spiral momentarily. I felt helpless and desperate for a phone call, one that would either be Stephen telling me he was okay or someone else telling me he was gone.  “Paris was okay, but there had been a big slide. Paris was okay, but there had been a big slide.” Trying to read between the lines of a text message that had somehow escaped the mountains. Expletives, crying, our other roommate finding her entire chocolate stash for me as we waited to hear something, anything concrete.

If you ski, paddle, or climb the likelihood is you have lost a friend, loved one, community member, our tribe is not that big. There’s a degree of calculated risk involved in each, and that’s why we try to be cautious, to know when to bag it, to choose our approaches and lines with a heightened awareness and a healthy fear. We respect it, we take classes about it, we practice, we have experience, but nature can swiftly, and suddenly shake that resolve.

I spent four agonizing hours on March 4th trying to convince myself Stephen was okay.  Trying to figure out how long I had to wait before I called his parents, how long would he want me to wait?  Mountains are the place we are happiest, but this was mountains of silence.

When they finally got out of the woods and back into town and my phone rang I was simultaneously filled with joy, Stephen was, okay, and guilt because the meant someone else was experiencing the grief I had just barely tasted.  Grief that would be changing and indefinite. There was no right emotion, none of them fit.  It was not a time to be happy, it was and is a weird settling somber sadness, the knowing it could have been any of them, or all of them and for no rational reason we had gotten a second chance.

There is a ripple effect to grief. And I waited and watched it slowly spread through our community as people slowly found out what had happened.  I watched this community rally with love and support for Steph, Paris, and Stephen. A community who rallied with love and support in an expression of Ian’s love for his community, for Steph, and for the life they were building together in the Methow.

The last 7 weeks have been difficult and as the partner, on the periphery of the tragedy, I’ve had a hard time processing what happened and the associated guilt in the aftermath.  Guilt in a getting a second chance, but also the guilt of struggling at all.  When I know I’m suppose to be the caring, rallying, supporter, shoulder, and rock. As long as I don’t crumble too.

I know that the guilt and fear will slowly subside, but I hope that I never lose this feeling of awe in getting a second chance, or the belief that it shouldn’t be wasted.  Pursue what you’re passionate about, share it with everyone can, and know that #Ianwouldapprove.

I’ve got the fever… Birkie Fever!

The race season is underway in the US with athletes chasing down golden tickets and national titles, and across the globe with the Ultra Trail World Tour.  With the way the trail and ultra scene works there are numerous athletes who never even stopped racing, a constant blur of race motion, but I hold my off-season sacred.  Since stumbling across the line at TNF 50 in November I’ve been skiing a lot, riding bikes (don’t get a big travel bike you’ll quit running right now), and slowly easing my way back into the mileage game.  My season rust buster is around the corner and instead of feeling especially fast I’m getting anxious to get 2018 started.

Wait racing? Okay… hold my pizza!

And in true Corrine fashion, I decided it would be a great idea to head home to the Northland, Hayward Wisconsin, and jump into the American Birkebeiner before opening my running season next weekend at Way too Cool in California.  …What can I say, I caught the fever!


For those of you who know me as a runner, what you might not realize is that ultra running is my athletic career reincarnated.  After my health crumbled the fall leading into the 2014 Winter Olympics I retired from skiing/biathlon and haven’t raced on my skis since.  I was pretty disenchanted and fairly broken and it took me a while to work through my disappointment and quick departure from a sport I was heavily invested in and loved.  That will change in a way this weekend, although I’m still quite retired, as Stephen and I classic ski the Birkie. (Questionable decisions being made here)

Skiing and the Birkie have a very special place in my heart.  I’ve run, skied, and biked every corner of these trails, and it’s the place that I fell in love with being outside for hours on end.  Every February we would get pulled out of school to ski down to Main street in the Barnebirkie, I’m fairly certain I was only in it for the hot chocolate (not much has changed).

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The “foot” barnebirkie of 98. 


The Saturday “Nordic Kids” program spurred my love of throwing snowballs and our reused ’92 bibs.

I truly fell for skiing, like ass-over tea kettle hard, part way through high school, in large part because I fell into a group of kids who were as salty, as goofy, and as willing to go for a long ski or run every Saturday morning.  My friend Molly, her dad Roger, our coach Bill Pierce, and one of our teacher’s, Diane Tremblay, took us out every weekend on foot, roller-skis, or nor-dorking.  They drove us to countless trail heads, weekend after weekend.  I distinctly remember Roger rolling down the windows and locking them as  we rolled into ABR on an early Saturday morning, claiming he was “acclimating us to the cold” but was likely just trying to get us to wake up.   Diane, Roger, Steve, and Bill taught us to embrace the suck, thrive in discomfort, and learn to suffer gracefully.  Even if that meant running down the ski trail singing, “make it hurt so good” trying to get us to laugh when we were pinned, legs flooded, fighting our way to finishes.  I owe so much of my running success to the years of slow “toughening up” I was taught as a junior skier.  And those years have served me well, as no sport rewards suffering quite like ultra running does.


Desperately searching for coordination ’06

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The Hayward portion of the Midwest Junior National team. 

Although my life for the time being has moved me away from winter, and the skis I am out on most are nearly 3 times the size of my nordic skis under foot, I know some day I’ll be drawn back in to the peace I find out on the nordic trails. For now I’m in it for the cultural experience that only classic skiing out of one of the last waves of the Birkie can offer. It’s going to be a celebration of all the things I love, the town and community I grew up in, family and friends, and a healthy dose of suffering!

Now the true question is…. will it take me longer to classic ski 55km this weekend or run 50km next weekend?




2017 was hard, A Cliff Notes Version

I made a promise to myself to create more this year, and now at nearly 90%-ish (!?!?) of the way into 2017 I’m a little bit behind.  In part it’s because I was suppose to be writing. I was suppose to be writing a lot.  I had thousands of scientific words that were suppose to be constantly flowing out of me.  Manuscripts, literature reviews, abstracts, my… thesis.  Writing on spectral analysis, Nephrology, sodium receptors, recovery metrics, heat shock proteins.  I have not read a book for fun in about as long, because I’ve felt guilty… guilty that I was not reading scientific articles instead.  However, in recent months I’ve made some major life changes and I’m happy to be creating words once again.


After much deliberation, I think the best concise way to sum up the forward flailing that has been my 2017 season is through haikus.

Things were very bad
I retired from grad school
yes you heard me right

-Hey Coach-
I got a new job
I will tell you what to do
please go run some more

-An Ode to Bowels-
For the Chuckanut
I spent more time in the ferns
then on the race course

Practice races, fun
pushing off my quads all day
goodbye first toenail

-Pulled off Course-
got a shot in my bottom
so pretty, so sad


Not the teams first choice
fought hard for the team I love
everything hurts now

-Lonely Long Runs-
1-2-0 mile week
solo miles in no-where
must carry bear spray

I am so tired
100 miles is far
how can I do it?


4am race start
Eating battle is the worst
how did I not die?

-Douche Grade-
SF you so mean
please chop off my left leg now
friends won’t let you quit

In essence… 2017 was hard.  I challenged myself to meet race goals that I knew would test my limits, races that were flatter, faster, and outside my comfort zone.  I made a huge life change by ultimately leaving my graduate program to find a future profession that I hope will be healthier, happier, and more satisfying.  2017 I’m glad you’re almost over, because I can not wait to embrace the new things coming down the road in 2018!


Lessons Learned: and other stories from Portugal

It’s been over a week since I ran, scampered, and power hiked my way through 85km of the Peneda-Geres National Park in Northern Portugal with a collection of ridiculously fast people.  The bruises have finally started to fade, my legs fit back in “normal” pants, and my right knee is back its regular shape and size.  I’m physically exhausted from the whirlwind trip in addition to coming home to a towering stack of midterms and assignments that were part of my “in November” collection of growing work.  The combination of physical and mental work over the past month has been adding up and after volunteering all day in the rain on Saturday I finally was able to get over the jet lag and sleep for 12 hours straight.  All hail falling back into a bonus hour of sleep!


The race was a lot of things.  People have described it as punishing, astounding, sadistic, inhuman, a vision-quest… and it was all of that, but it was also a lot of fun.  A mental, giggle inducing, sheer force of ridiculousness.



My favorite part of the entire race came right before the start.  Mario gathered us together into a huddle.  Our small, but strong American crew, united, like a little life raft in the sea of runners under dark skies.  He reminded us that it was a honor to race for our country and that at the end of the day, we race for team.  In that moment I felt calm.

The starting-pen was tight.  Akin to being at a concert, but without the crowd surfers. I had to keep my elbows (recently sharpened) about 6 inches away from my body just to maintain the tiniest of bubbles and keep both my feet on the ground.  With a count down and a little fanfare we were off.  Into the dark, hundreds of headlamps bobbing their way out of town.  I can’t remember the last time I got pushed around so much in a race start.  Elbows were flying, hands were out, and all I could think is, do we have 10 hours of this ahead? Calm down people! “Tranquilo! Tranquilo!”


I finally settled into a little group of three with a Swiss woman and a French woman.  They both looked older than me and I thought to myself, “They must know what they are doing.” We climbed up and up a dirt road out of town, our little train of runners spreading in both directions.   Considering we gained nearly 3,000 feet in the first 4 miles I felt calm and controlled.  We had a rhythm, a silent agreement to keep running.  Somewhere on the first steep down hill I reconnected with my American team mate Yiou.  I think the women around us thought we were nuts as we audibly laughed and whooped as the course sent us down what in daylight might have been a drainage ditch. I scampered along behind Yiou through the 15km aid station and then when the road took a turn back towards 18+% she lead the group out as I returned to a more internal uphill running pace.

We ran through the dark for nearly 3 hours.  We felt helplessly remote and then suddenly you would drop onto a cobblestone street and run through someone’s backyard. We traversed moonscapes with boulders the size of school buses and houses, and lush river basins, rocky sandstone, and granite speckled high open cattle range hill sides. Through old burns and new burns to the cry of “YEAH AMERICANO!” and occasionally “HEYA POLAND!” as we all seemed to run in red shorts and white singlets.

I ran out of fluid between the water station at 15km and the first team aid station at 30km despite carrying a liter, and suddenly it became apparent my swollen travel feet didn’t quite fit in my shoes.  A steep down hill at a little over 15 miles in with 2,000+ feet of descent disconnected four of my toe nails all the way to the nail bed. I’m used to barreling downhill and suddenly I was brought to a complete halt. And just like that I let around 6 women go.  As I said, “Go go go!” my feet said, “Yeah right!”, and I would go on to struggle in a jarring, braking fashion on every descent for the rest of the race. As we did our best to keep ourselves upright I met back up with two other women.  As I came up behind them I figured I would just tuck in and travel the last mile into the 30km aid station together.  They had other ideas and without saying anything, came to dead stop, grabbed me, moved me in front of them and gave me a little push. I let out a cat call, and led the three of us down into the aid station below.


I left the aid station around 20th place, happy to have fluids again as we headed into the two biggest climbs of the day. There was roughly 15km and 4,000+ feet of climbing between us and the next water station. Little did we know then but much of the women’s field would run out of water with about 5 miles of exposed climbing to go.


I settled into the climb with a women from the British team, as we hiked up hill we joked about forgetting it was a running race. Quickly I proceeded to nearly take her out as I leveled myself over a rock slamming my right knee and hip in the process. Laughing she and a Ukrainian guy rushed to pick me up, make sure I was okay, and then we continued to make our way upwards. Suddenly we came to a flowing downhill and I joined a Finnish gal and Icelandic guy as they ran by until the terrain got to steep for my toes to follow.  At this point the day was warming up rapidly and with little shade on course I constantly looked for places to take a little lie down in some water.  I snow-angeled in shin deep creeks, sat and splashed in river run off, and nearly broke into someones yard to lay down in a cow tub. Right as I ran out of water for the second time of the day I got a flyby hug from my Mom and Scott who had made the journey over to Portugal to chase me around. They cheered and told me I was about 5 minutes behind Yiou.  With a little surge of energy I headed into the exposed climb that would claim many of the drop-outs of the day.  Taking a moment to look up at the climb expanding in front of me I could see the long train of runners speckling the hillside.

Putting my head down I dug into my favorite grinding power shuffle and slowly picked my way up the chain of runners.  We gasped as we passed spectators and volunteers, occasionally asking about water and more often then not they would say “Yes, yes!” and point into the distance where you could make out radio towers.  I fell into marching pace with an Argentinian and a Norwegian girl.  We were all desperate to get to the next aid station and communicated in gasps and sounds of distress, the mutual language of suffering.  There was a little water run off but we were traversing high open range cattle land and any and all water was surrounded by the same cow poop we had been dodging for a mile.  I watched the Argentinian dip the sketchiest bit of water and we forged on.  We laughed on the verge of tears reaching the tented aid station.  Several runners sat down right there and pulled out cell-phones to call their teams, they were done. I drank nearly a liter, filled my flasks, grabbed as many oranges as I could carry and started to descend the long 8km to where I would get to see our team support system around the 55km mark.


We left the dirt road and headed down a steep, grassy off trail section.  The Argentinian women and a Spanish gal leading us down the grade.  I let them go as I babied my feet and when I got to the bottom I could hear a cow bell coming down the dirt road we were about to intersect.  It took me a moment to realize it belonged to a large, long-horned cow (not a adoring trail running fan) and as it ran towards us the Argentinian women appeared from the bushes to my right, pulling me in with her and out of the way of the charging cow.  We all gave a sigh of relief and thanks as we headed down the creek bottom towards our crews.


I was thrilled to see our team US crew at the 54km aid station. At this point it dawned on me that I had a spare pair of shoes, I just hadn’t planned on using them.  I asked if our crew could bring them and my spare timing chip to the next aid (12km from the finish), it truly was better late than never… and a total rookie mistake!   I picked up a new watch, as mine had long since died, and shuffled my way out to my darkest moments of the race.  The next 10km was both good and bad.  There wasn’t any sustained climbing or descending but the rock we were hitting was incredibly slick and my quads were pissed from the unnatural running gait I had adopted to get me down the descents for the previous 7 hours. This truly was going to be a race of attrition…

I do remember a moment of panic that came over me when I couldn’t remember if we got aid at 64km or if I had to make it all the way to the 74km mark.  It was getting really really warm and my water was once again running out.  Suddenly I saw people coming down the trail towards me and they informed me that the water station wasn’t far ahead.  I nearly bounded up the hill with joy.  Running up the cobblestone street the people cheered me on and I was elated to arrive at the aid station with a group of volunteers waiting to pour water on us.  I drank coke from a cut in half water bottle, and forged on alone.  For the next 6km I played the run to the flag-hike to the flag game with myself.  We started to run through the Sunday afternoon agriculture burns (read: What???) and headed up the final big climb of the day. Once again I suddenly realized I was coming up on a train of runners and slowly and steadily power hiked my way back up through the field, if only this race had ended on an uphill!


At the top we moved much more cautiously past a number of other large cows and directly to the worlds best placed water spigot. After soaking our heads and backs we headed down to our final aid station of the day.  We were on the homeward push!  I had caught up to a Polish girl as Vitor appeared on the other side of the hill to give us some cheers and help to guide us down to our waiting teams. I was thrilled to be greeted by a little flat footing, my Mom and Scott cheering and unfortunately a growing number of American team mates the race had chewed up in various ways. Our team managers got me to sit down as they helped me change my shoes.  Richard was less than impressed by how much dirt was in my shoes, but all I could think about was potato chips… as I had eaten one too many gels that day with way too little fluid.

I left the aid station with two handfuls of potato chips only to run directly into equipment control.  I asked if it was okay if I put my potato chips on the bench as I proved to them I had the headlamp and jacket we were required to carry for the entirety of a race despite the fact it was 80F and we would be done long before dark. I tried to most efficiently shovel the potato chips off the bench and back into my fat hands as I was ushered back out onto course.


The longest 12km was now the only thing standing between me an a excuse to stop moving. I ran surprisingly well for the next 6 or 7km. Moving forwards through the field. Then we hit a series of punchy climbs and steep descents, and despite the shoe change my feet were painfully thrashed and useless when the grade got too steep in the downward direction.  I stubbed my toe on a rock and was brought to tears for the first time all day. I hobbled, and got passed by the women I had passed climbing into the last aid station.. and for the first time in a long time I couldn’t fight my way back.  It wasn’t from fatigue, or that I couldn’t work harder physiologically… I had fallen apart biomechanically early on in the race, and I was paying the price.

I’m pretty certain we were told we had 4km to go atleast 3 times and when we finally hit the cobblestone I knew we had to be almost home. I cursed unintentionally and audibly when we hit a section of -40% cobblestone with less than a km to go, but when I saw Richard waiting for me at the bottom of the hill I knew we had to be there. I could hear the finish line and I’m pretty sure when I saw Richard I let out a loud, “I’m going to make it!”

Running into the finishing shoot alongside the announcer, through a group of traditional dancers, and towards a waving and smiling Mom and Scott I couldn’t think of a better way to end a long day out on the trail.



A lot of people keep telling me, “Oh well Americans don’t usually do well at this type of racing in Europe…” but I can’t just simply brush it off like that. After all, they put their pants on the same way we do in the morning (post race it involves sitting on the ground for minimal bending).  I truly loved the course, I made a couple of crucial rookie mistakes that cost me a good day, and although it was physical battle, mentally I was rock solid.

I learned a lot on my first adventure over to Europe to race, and although I’m not 100% satisfied with how the day went, I am hungry for so much more! Until then I’ll just keep practicing walking down stairs…


Special thanks to our fearless team managers Nancy Hobbs and Richard Bolt, with assistance from Vitor Rodrigues, and all of the family members and loved ones that traveled to Portugal to help support us!


Shuffle to Worlds

I’m writing this from row 28, seat A in my first germ tube of the day.  We’re currently barreling over the plains of the central North America as we head towards my first connection of this whirlwind trip.  I’m fairly certain my body is going to be confused for the next two weeks as this quick “jump to Europe” is the last trip of incredibly busy October.  I’ve gotten to the point where I literally have life piling up around me and I just keep saying, “I’ll take care of that in November.”  Welcome to my life as a natural disaster.  A whirling combination of enthusiastic tornado and overhyped typhoon.  Splish splash, “yeah yeah, I’ll do that in November…”


Where am I jumping off to?  I’m headed to Portugal, for IAU Trail Running World Championships where the small but mighty US team will be taking on 53 rugged miles with 15,000 feet of climbing Saturday morning (or Friday night? How does this time change thing work again?).   The work has been done, the donuts have been consumed, and the mocha stores have been topped off!  What more can a girl do? I’m as ready as I’m going to be.


I haven’t been over to Europe for a race since retiring from biathlon and I’m slightly paranoid that I’ve forgotten something important in my little carry-on. This whole week I’ve been going through the packing list over and over again in my head.  I fretted over how me gels I could sneak into my carry-on… turns out it didn’t matter as TSA was nearly asleep at the scanner. The only hang up was the guy in front of me that decided he needed to take all the avocados out of his backpack…


What does this weekend have in store?  Well I’m hoping several pastries (what trip to Europe could be complete without it?) and some new inspiring trail visions. There’s a lot of unknown wrapped up in this trip, and that’s scary and invigorating but I’m up for the challenge.  I get to rub elbows with some of the best women on the trail scene, women that I’ve read about for years, that I’ve followed through the results, that I’ve admired and looked up to, it is going to be an experience!

If you want to follow along, jump over to corrinemalcolm, and I’ll be back on her next week with a proper update about the experience!

Marathon Month: a tale of two races.

After the Rut in Montana I hustled back to the the PNW to jump back into grad school with both feet.  This semester I’m TAing two classes and finishing up my Masters course work which means lots of hours in the dungeon lab as I try to get my thesis proposal approved. Needless to say, I’m trying to ride that sweet spot on the Stress:Productivity curve.


As I start the final prep for trail World Champs in Portugal I’ve been fortunate enough in the last two weeks to get in a couple of race efforts on some of my favorite trails.

Crystal Mountain: Who put this hill here?

Two weeks ago I headed south to Crystal Mountain, for the second fall in a row at the Crystal Mountain Sky Marathon. Scott does a great job with this race, getting us stellar views of Mount Rainer, utilizing elk trails, and putting us through a world of pain!

It’s crazy two think how much a year can change things. This time last fall the Crystal Mountain Sky race was my longest race of the season…This year?  …it’s my shortest!

The weather was decidedly “fun”, meaning over dinner the night before we placed bets on the two conflicting weather reports for the next day and ultimately went to bed listening to rain pelting the roof.

Armed with a belly full of golden grahams and in several jackets I headed to the start area under a gray sky. From the gun we started the first big climb of the day, from base area, to the top of the gondola.  For coming in just under 26 miles this race still manages to squeeze in just over 9,000 feet of climbing!  Trail runners beware, vertmonsters know how to have some fun!

Although I knew a bunch of the guys racing I didn’t know how the women’s race would shake out and was nervous to be leading from the gun. One thing I have learned over the past year is how to gauge my effort, and although I knew I was racing well within myself, I was paranoid to be out front by myself.   I yoyo’d back a forth with a group of guys but ultimately spent the first half of the race getting dropped with bathroom breaks and post scree field shoe maintenance stops.


After making it through the first off-trail section, a wooohoo filled single track descent, and the never ending dirt road descent I was thrilled as we approached my favorite part of the course.  A 5 mile climb with roughly 4,000 feet of vertical ascent. The bottom half of it is virtually unrunable due to the grade.  A power hikers dream!  I quickly found my rhythm and put my head down. Pushing off my quads I slowly picked off one guy at a time, jokingly proclaiming, “Who put this hill here?” as I moved up the trail. By the time we reached the gondola dock I had passed 6 guys moving from 13th to 7th overall. I high-fived the brave crew manning the upper aid station, grabbed chunks of watermelon, and barreled off the summit. I slipped and slid down the single track and through the fog as we descended down the mountain. I was greeted at the finish with blankets, tea, and the best assortment of rain jacketed supporters of the other runners!  After a warm shower and putting on all the dry clothes I had brought with me I was happy to share some beer and an assortment of BBQ before driving back North to the calling of the dungeon lab.


Birkie Trail Marathon: The Hilliest Flat Course

After a week at home, some North Shore adventures with Stephen, and helping to pace the  4:00 hour marathon crew a the Bellingham Bay Marathon I jumped on a germ tube and sent it for the midwest, arriving in the the homeland this past Thursday.



I was immediately greet by our gigantic 8 year old cat Ringo. He purrs like a jet engine, and I’m convinced he was conceived by a bobcat.  (See photo for size)


I had a day to get my feet under me, to run from the Fish Hatchery trail head that I have run, skied, and biked from so many times before. The fall colors are popping here in the northern corner of Wisconsin.  With a little more red than we get in the west and a little more yellow than is currently in Vancouver (still have yet to confirm that fall doesn’t just drown in BC).

Saturday morning was cool and clear. After waking up on Central Time to left over pasta and coffee I headed further North to Seely and the North Ridge trailhead to the start and finish line for the Birkie Trail races. After about 6 bathroom breaks, prancing around in wet grass, getting free Skratch Lab gummies (thanks dude!), and hugging people I handed my jacket off to my Dad and got in the start shoot behind the front row of guys.  After one of those really long “One minute till start!” waits we shot out of the starting shoot and headed across the field to the Birkie trail.

The men’s field formed a pretty nice pack off the front and I found my way in behind two guys who were running a pace that I liked and settled in. After about a mile I saw Tammi, the women’s winner from last year as she came up on my shoulder, and I left my two guys and followed her.  We exchanged leads, she was moving much better than me on the flatter bits, and swapped chuckles about the race, the trail, and what lay ahead.  A little after the 3 mile mark Tammi pulled up short on an uphill, and after getting word that she was okay I carried on with Jim Kelly as we headed towards OO.


My dad was waiting at the OO turn that sent us back the way we came on the Classic Trail. It turns out he was in a clutch spot as several guys tried to run straight through. I thought the course was really well marked, but you all know how well our brains work in race mode!  At the next aid station I grabbed a gel without really looking at it. Big mistake, they had diligently opened all the gels… this is great, until you try to put the salted caramel Gu into your pocket…. I spent the next several miles licking gel off my hands as I chased my way up to the next guy. We rolled through some flowy single track winding back and forth to the point where we had probably ran a mile but hadn’t really made it that far as the crow flies. I fell into step with Kyle as we hit the Birkie trail again and shared a really sticky high-five.  After several fast miles of chit chatting Kyle fell back on an uphill and I plugged on ahead and alone.


This next section of trail was a little bit of a struggle for me on a combination of Birkie trail, North End trail, and single track. I tried my best to keep moving at the same effort, but kept finding myself getting distracted looking for mushrooms in the pine forrest. Oysters, chanterelles, boletus, and coral mushrooms springing up everywhere!  I’d ease off the gas on this personal mushroom scavenger hunt and then realize I had become lost in thought and accelerate again. I was so happy to see the 5 mile to go marker and tried to keep driving as I told myself, “Don’t worry it’s a downhill finish.”

We climbed winding single track back up to the Birkie trail.  At this point the half marathon course merges into the marathon course and shortly after the merge the top two marathon men came blowing by me at a speed I couldn’t quite comprehend, getting startled by both of them as they passed.  With a little over two miles to go the Trekkers merged into our course as well and I cheered for each and everyone of them, trading between “Looking good trekkers!”, “We’re almost there!”, and “How’d they fit all this uphill into a downhill finish!?!?”.


That last statement rang in my mind.  Every corner we went around came another uphill… The hills on the Birkie trail are punchy. It rolls and rolls without a lot of flat relief. …and as a local, this should not have come as a surprise…

My “downhill finish” never came but I fought through the last two miles and tried to find speed where ever I could. Finally I crested a little rise and saw the clearing in the trees, we were entering the final field and I was flooded with happiness knowing I’d be across the finish safe and sound soon.

It was wonderful to come across the line into the arms of my mom and our good family friend Barb Klippel (who won the 80+ division in the 5km and I want to be when I grow up).   I made it through the finish sneaking under my goal time of 3:30 and got to spend the rest of the afternoon hanging out with old friends enjoying a great fall day!


I’m excited to have a few more days to play in the homeland, run in some fall colors, and find some squeaky cheese before I head back to the PNW. Fall is a real treat around here, and I’m hoping we get a few more weeks of indian summer before the snow starts to fly.