Sunday, October 16, 2016

Eagle Mountain, Minnesota (2,301 ft)

28th High Point Visited
37th Highest State Highpoint
18th Most Difficult
Superior National Forest

It's been almost exactly two years have passed since my last high point adventure.    Once again in conjunction with a marathon adventure the day after running a marathon in Wisconsin I will venture to the neighboring state of Minnesota for my first visit to it's highest natural point.

My marathon Saturday morning was 176 miles away from the closest town to Eagle Mountain called Grand Marais.   Little to my knowledge, in 2015 this quaint, friendly harbor village was named a top 100 adventure town by National Geographic Adventure Magazine and won the title of "America's Coolest Small Town" by Budget Travel Magazine.   That's all well and good however mistakenly I was unaware of this combined the area was in full fall bloom finding a hotel was nearly impossible.  I hadn't booked a room because I wasn't how far up the coast we would be able to drive after the race.  Not only hard to find a hotel in Grand Marais, but every small town between there and Duluth was sold out.

Not that the 3-4 hour drive after just completing a marathon wasn't long enough the thought of sleeping in the car wasn't much appealing.   Finally a stop at a motel and the receptionist was kind enough that she had called every other hotel/motel in the town and said there is a little place up the street that has some small cabins with one still available.   A quick call to very and then a quick drive back to the entrance of town to snatch it up.     I asked the owner if I got a prize for the furthest traveled (from California), however, he said the couple that just checked out just came from Germany.    So moved our gear into the tiny cabin, turned on the heat, and headed out for dinner.

The next morning I was still moving slow, had some left overs from the marathon for breakfast, and were on the road heading to Eagle Mountain.   The weather had been suspect but we woke to perfectly blue skies.   Couldn't ask for a nice day to climb a mountain in northern Minnesota!

I have three different guide books so assembled all the directions to figure out which combinations of roads we should use to attempt to find the trail head.    I think it was roughly 15 miles of dirt roads with 3-4 turns before we arrived without never have been being lost.   Actually the route there was pretty well signed, so it wouldn't have been hard to follow the signs and end up in the parking lot without the trail guides.   I didn't anticipate many on the trail, but by the time we reached the trail head about 10 a.m. there were already many cars there.   We even followed a pickup truck most of the way down the dirt roads who pulled into the parking lot just ahead of us.   Hard to believe they were a young couple that asked the local townsfolk of a "challenging" hike and this is where they sent them.  The were vacationing from Iowa, which is a relatively flat state, so they were excited what the 2,301 foot mountain (hill) had to offer.


At the trail head there was a registration system, no fee, but each party had to fill out a form and leave one copy in the box and carry one with them at all times on the trail.   The trail guides described a 7 mile round trip route, so only 3.5 miles to the summit.   The first 2.6 miles of the trail were mostly flat and the last 0.9 miles the trail makes a turn and heads straight up the mountain (hill).    After 26.2 miles on my feet the day earlier, the hike actually felt great, often getting a change to stretch my calf muscles.  (a good kind of pain).   


You've heard the saying, it's a small world, right?  Well in 2001, yes 15 years ago I followed in my friend Greg's footsteps by climbing Mount Elbert (14,433) in Colorado a few days after Greg.   What I wasn't aware that on his trip from Ohio to Colorado he drove a northern route through Canada and believe it or not had stopped by Eagle Mountain and climbed it.    When I told Greg I was heading here as part of my Wisconsin marathon he shared with me he had been there.   I guess he remembered tripping over numerous tree roots and rocks.

Shortly on the trail we were welcomed by this sign.   So far the trail had been pretty clear of rocks, roots, and mud, however not for long.   There are 3 different bogs that the trail has been improved and wooden walkways over the bogs.   These were fun to cross!   All I could think is that my girls would have loved this hike!


The trail is pretty wooded so there was not much viability the first two miles, well that is until you come upon Whale lake.   The hill straight ahead is not the Eagle Mountain, but it's only a slightly lower elevation.   Our hill sits to the left of the lake and no where is there good visibility to see the summit from the base.  

There was a second clearing as we hiked around the left side of Whale Lake.   The reflections on the perfectly still lake were suburb!   There was one warning in the guide is that it was easy to miss this huge sign marking the turn to the summit.   This part of the trail was so rugged that all you could do is stare at your feet to make sure between all the small boulders that you were on solid ground.  Of course we nearly missed the turn off.   I took one last glimpse over my right shoulder to see if I could still see the lake and that's when I noticed the back of the sign.   I walked back to see what it said and sure enough that was the sign.     

There were the bogs which were nicely improved with the planks but the trail still was challenging, even on the steep slope up to the summit.   Here's and idea of how rugged and in this case how moist the ground was in many spots. 

There are two lookouts on the way to the summit.   The first view looks south east and you can see Lake Superior.   I think I read the high and low point (Lake Superior 600ft) of Minnesota are only 15 miles apart.   Also it's interesting that Eagle Mountain is the northernmost US highpoint in the lower 48 states.  

The trail to the summit wanders around the left side of Eagle Mountain and the highpoint we discovered is a slight scramble to the top off to the right.   The trail wasn't super defined, too many rocks, but it was clear that this was the the "up" direction.   Sure enough hidden in some small trees/brush was the marker indicating we made it to the summit.

We passed one group on the flats with a a few young kids in tow then a couple more groups on the way up the steeper section.   Even ran into two groups on the summit.   The second clearing on the top we actually spotted on the way down from the top.   They say Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, from the top we could see at least 6 of them.

The trail home was basically a repeat of everything we saw on the way up.   When you get to these mossy boulders you know you are close to the trail head.  Not needed, but as a bonus the rental car for the weekend was a 4x4 so we had fun getting it a little muddy up and down the road to our hike.

Traveling up and down the coast of Minnesota we stopped to play tourist at three road side attractions.  

Attraction #1:  

Split Rock Lighthouse

On the way north,  we were needing a break from the long drive and had read there was a light house that is now a state park which is called Split Rock Lighthouse.   The day was already getting short but we sneaked in just before doors were closing.  

View from top of the hill by the lighthouse

View from the bottom of the trail looking back up at Split Rock Lighthouse

Not that running a marathon earlier in the day was enough challenge!

Hiking back up the trail to the light house

Great Sunset #1

Great Sunset #2

Attraction #2:  

Cascade Falls

Cascade Falls is a rushing river right next to the coastal highway 61.   It appeared as if there were many trails, but we just walked about 5 minutes and had great views of the root beer colored water flowing over the black rocks.   The water looks as if it could be polluted however there is no man made contamination upstream, the water's color is brown because of the swampy water that flows over decaying and decomposing organic trees and plants. 

Attraction #3

Gooseberry Falls

While visiting Split Rock Light House a day earlier I visited the gift store and they had a calendar of nice scenic locations in Minnesota and one of the first pages had a beautiful picture of Gooseberry Falls.  I remember we had driven by the sign a few miles back the down the road so we had put in on the must see places on the way home.   Again just before sunset, we made it to this attraction.  It must be much more brilliant in the spring, but even late October I was still very impressed!

Attraction #4

While not quite an "attraction" the coast was lined with "Pie" stores.   This one seemed to have a good reputation so stopped in to see what they had to offer.   After a long day of running on Saturday and a long day of hiking on Sunday, this place was just what I needed!

Eagle Mountain (2,301), Minnesota - State Highpoint #28

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Whistlestop Marathon (Wisconsin)

October 15, 2016
Marathon 56, State #49 (Age 48)
Ashland, Wisconsin

One final & last marathon in the mid west!

So I’m winding down on my “marathon adventures”, this will be state number 49.  Wow, how long ago did I start?  How old was I when I thought this sounded like a good idea?  What kept me going?  What am I going to do next?   I suppose these are all the questions I’m both ask by others as well as even ask myself!

Starting 2016 with only 3 states to go the plan was pretty simple.  A family vacation to Vermont in the spring and later in the year a trip to Wisconsin.   If I could do this that would leave only Alaska.   There are many races to choose in Wisconsin and in many ways it’s a special state for me where I have a little background.   When I was still in college I spent a quarter in Green Bay doing an internship with a paper company.   I wanted to see something new so when I stumbled upon a little race in the northwest of the the state in a little town called Ashland and right on Lake Superior I thought with fall colors in full bloom it would be an ideal marathon destination.  Plus would give me an opportunity the day after the race to venture on up to the north shore of Lake Superior where the high point of Minnesota is located. 

I started my recruiting and my new good friend George I hoped would be up for the challenge.   Ends up it was an area of the country he hadn't explored either so the ball went into motion.   I often thought that Grandma’s marathon in Duluth, MN was one of my favorite marathons.   Ashland, WI was a short drive away so I would have the opportunity to go back and explore the greater Lake Superior area.   Also when I had previously been to Duluth, it was a long drive through Michigan, into the upper peninsula, and across the top of Wisconsin.   That trip included both the high points of Michigan and then on the way back to Ohio through the middle of Wisconsin also Wisconsin’s high point.   Missing from my bucket list was the high point of Minnesota which is all the way up the northern shore of Lake Superior so it wasn’t hard to talk George into adding Eagle Mountain into the travel plans the morning following the marathon. 

Vermont’s marathon was 5 months ago so there was really no carry over training for Wisconsin.   While I’m a big fan of under training, I think I took it to a whole new level for this race.   I usually get in a few double digit runs however for preparation this time around I tried a whole new training system.    I like to get out of long training runs so I justify a shorter run (8-13 miles) and often will time this length the day after a long or hard bike.   This fall two factors through a wrench in my normal training plan.  First it was a hot fall and up to a week before the race Los Angeles was still in the 90’s which isn’t a lot of fun to run in.  Second was I had to plan more of my runs around Parisa's schedule.

Parisa qualified for a new swim team and had practice every night of the week.   It worked out best for all of our schedules that I would take her to swim and run as far as I could during her 1.5 hour practice.    This meant my long runs took the form of a 6-7 mile hilly course near the pool.   It was even fun to train on new streets and trails.  I typically would have taken a day off after a 7 mile run, but the weeks leading up to the race I was able to run this route 3-4 days in a row each week.   I looked at it as I was still getting in the same weekly mileage just running more days and no longer runs like I had typically done in the past.   I still was able to cross train and of course live for the weekends in getting to ride 35-50 miles in the canyons.  Whether or not I would be race ready only time would tell.   If anything, a race day in northern Wisconsin  would have to be cooler than any single one of my training runs!

With all my running experience I’ve pretty much dialed in the gear I’m comfortable with for race day.   A question I’m often asked is what shoes do I wear.   There are many good brands however within each brand there are so many different models depending on what features you are looking for in a running shoe.   The weekend before my marathon I saw the stats published from Kona of the percentages of shoe brands that made it to the start line of the Ironman World Championship.   The top two brands were Asics and Saucony.   Both brands I’m familiar and have found a few models that I’ve been happy with however there is a new comer in the past few years called Hoka One.  I picked up a pair at the LA marathon expo this spring and have been alternating them into my training runs.   I was undecided until I packed my bag which one I was going to wear on race day and finally decided to go with the Hoka’s and give them a shot!  The next thing to calculate is the weather.  I looked at the forecast and it was crazy.   There was a 40 degree change in a few days from highs in the 70’s to lows in the 30’s.   I guess I just pack everything! 

Once I get closer to race day I always taper and lower my weekly mileage.   Only one new complication with race preparation is that I was volunteered to go to NYC a week before my race.   I guess I pack my running gear and hopefully find time to work in a few runs while trying to stay rested and not leave myself susceptible to catching a cold.    Hopefully even a run in Central Park?   Well, that didn’t work out however I did get a chance to do one of my two runs in Longbranch, NJ along the coast.   Ironically it was the location of my NJ marathon some years past. 

Another fun thing for my family is the annual Matt’s run at Cal Poly.   This yearly has fallen the week after my fall marathons so I was always the designated picture taker for Homeyra, however, this year my marathon would fall on the exact same day.   Homeyra was feeling undertrained and undecided if she was going to run or not this year.    Upon takeoff I found a picture from last year of her running and sent her the snapshot to encourage her to sign up and run again.    I later find out that both Homeyra and even Parisa ran the 5k.   Not only did they run together, my 11 year old swimming sensation crossed the finish line a few minutes ahead of Homeyra and even took 2nd place in her age group.    Have I created a monster?

As accustomed, when George has agreed to join me for a race I send him the celebratory six pack of Trout Slayer from Big Sky Brewrey.   It’s not exported to Ohio so about a month before our trip I throw it in the mail for him.   This year was no different however it’s getting harder and harder to find.   Apparently I didn’t pack it well and was contacted by UPS a few days later that my package had been “damaged” in shipment.   All I can think as if this could be a mess.   I found a second package and shipped away.   Even with some extra careful preparation I learn when it finally arrived that only 5/6 survived this trip.   Still George maybe not as surprised as the first time I sent him, but still seems to appreciate the thought!

With the combination of a marathon and a high point this would be a five day get-a-way followed by a week earlier another five days from home it seems like I’ve been gone forever.   I packed up the bike and headed to LAX for my flight.  Still the best way to travel in Los Angeles and who could forget free parking!   The trip would start by flying into Minneapolis St. Paul and then head north from there.   Usually I’m pretty methodical about making sure I have reservations in advance, however, logistically we didn’t know where exactly we would be when so the only night pre-booked was the night before the race.  Hotels were hard to come by in Ashland so we ended up staying about 15 miles outside of town.   The other three nights we would “wing it”. 

This is what much of the roads looked like driving through Wisconsin

I arrived at the airport first so had time to pick up a car and within an hour George’s flight arrived.  I think it’s now the last six out of seven marathons George has been along for the ride.  He’s training for a marathon in 5 weeks in Cuba, so decided he would only do the 13.1 mile race and the tack on a few more miles to make it a long training run.   We didn’t need to drive all the way to Ashland so to get a little closer to Ashland we headed north towards Duluth, MN.    

Downtown Duluth

A "happening" bar in Duluth

I had such fond memories of downtown Duluth our first stop was there for a late dinner.    I love catching up with George he has great sense of humor and we have so much in common we make good travel companions.    From the bar/restaurant we found a cheap hotel a few blocks away and booked it for the night.  

Aerostitch Headquarters, Duluth
Since the race is a Saturday race we had to fly in Thursday.    Friday now and not far away from Ashland and looking for something to do for the morning.   First is a stop in Duluth at Aerostich warehouse located downtown.   This is the famed manufacture of motorcycle riding jackets/suits so first stop was to check out their showroom.  

Saw these all over the place and couldn't resist.   Pretty comical if you would have seen me trying to crawl up on on of these!

After a quick walk downtown Duluth, next we decide to drive a peninsula on the northern shores of Wisconsin.   We had hoped for more/better views of Lake Superior so just made the loop without a great amount to see.    One stop was the Apostle Islands Visitor Center in Bayfield.   A historic building which is now a National Parks Headquarters.   We learned there are boat tours of the islands but no time today for a 3 hour tour.

Nice view from the coast to Apostle Islands
Stopped at this park along the peninsula.  One of the many islands visible.

Apostle Islands National Parks Visitor Center
Something you don't see everyday
There really was hardly a place to stop including lunch so we didn’t get to eat until finally arriving in Ashland.  The expo didn’t start till 3:30 so after lunch downtown we had another 1.5 hours to blow before we could pick up our race bibs.    Not a lot to see in this little town, but we discovered a bunch of painted murals on the buildings downtown.  

Finally a spot worthy of lunch!

Every time we drove by here there was a line of car filling water jugs
Ashland, Wisconsin

Ashland, Wiscosin

The expo was in a community center that seems to double as the city’s ice rink.   Apparently a big thing in these here parts.   Once again the half seems to be the bigger draw and there were only about 350 full participants.   Nearly every race has either a tee shirt or in the least a finisher shirt.   I packed light hoping 1 day I would have a new shirt for the way home however the swag for this race is a finisher duffle bag.    


 I got final race day logistics for the point to point course.   There would be buses picking runners up downtown and taking them to their respective starting points along and old rails to trail.   The trail was gravel from start to nearly finish so it was dubbed as a trail race, tho without the river crossings or any significant changes in elevations.   The race was slightly downhill, but over the course of 26.2 miles it was hardly noticeable.     Shortly after the expo opened so began the pasta dinner.   I’d just eaten, but it it’s hard to pass up a free meal, especially knowing there wouldn’t be a lot of choices in town.   Also since our hotel was outside of town it seemed most possibly that we would not be returning to town later to eat yet again.

Some of the many murals around town
Traveling further along the shore of Lake Superior eastbound we stumble upon our hotel for the night which is an old run down Indian Casino.   Of course they were sold out for the race and it was a good thing I had made reservations!   When checking in there was another runner also in the lobby.   He was wearing his “50 State” shirt and said that he finished all 50 states last weekend with Hartford, CT, a race I had done just 2 years ago.    I congratulated him and headed back to the room.  Too early for sleeping we got things laid out for morning and decided to try our luck at our free $10 of slot play.   That lasted about 10 seconds and it was back to the room.  Surprisingly the place actually had a pool and hot tub which is always hard for me to pass up.   There are only a couple people at the pool including one lady that said she lives at the start of the half race course and she didn’t want to be waken up at 6 a.m. so every year she gets a hotel on race day.    Back to the room to post a few pics from the days adventure and then early to bed.   The two hour time difference sure trumps the three hour difference of the east coast plus as a bonus my race doesn’t start till 9 a.m. which is a relatively late marathon start.   I wasn't complaining, hopefully a little warmer and I didn’t have to get up so early.  My body’s time clock was on overdrive after the past 5 days being in 5 different states and 3 different time zones!

I call it a trifecta when a hotel has a hot tub, internet, and a continental breakfast.   The casino didn’t come with the 3rd however, they went to down and set up a card table with all the necessities.    Later I shared this picture and apparently NW Wisconsin is considered “the sticks”.    Car loaded and off to the start.    Find the buses and each head to our respective starts.   I think it’s been a while since I took a 1 way bus to a start line.   I often say in training I’m glad I’d run a marathon before because 26.2 miles sounds so far.   Well to drill in that thought when you ride a school bus that distance one way away from the final destination it shows how long is a marathon.    I was thinking about half way to the start I’m getting too old for this and glad I only have one more after today.  

Continental Breakfast
The fun part of traveling is talking with others and hearing their stories.   Directly behind me on the bus is the guy from the hotel that just finished #50.   Ends up his resume is even more impressive because he’s finished 214 marathons, he’s 65 years old, and says he wants to do 5 a year until he gets to 250.   He also had run this particular marathon all 17 or 18 years prior so was on the legacy squad of only about a half of dozen other runners that had also run every years.   Hearing stories like that is always motivational.    Of course I shared with him my experience and conquests which brought into our conversation the guy sitting next to him.   A young guy in his 20’s who was doing only his 2nd marathon, his first 6 months ago for Grandma’s in Minnesota so he was excited that he was onto his 2nd state in his first year by completing Wisconsin.    Also equally motivating to see a young guy and seeing his excitement for his race.   He said he bonked in the hot summer last time around and was hoping to redeem himself today.

So for the weather, apparently Lake Superior determines the weather.   If the wind is blowing off the lake it can be brutally cold, or as luck would have it if the wind came from the south then it would be more warm.   Still a chance of rain and mist on the windshield of the bus I was prepared for all scenarios.   Walking out of the hotel it was noticeably warmer than the night before which means the wind had changed and was coming from the south.   I wouldn’t need all the layers, but with the possible rain I elected to go with a short sleeve with a long sleeve overtop as well as a wind breaker.    As the bus dropped us off, it was apparent that I way over dressed.   I did have a drop bag but for fear of a change of wind I elected to tie my wind breaker around my waist in case I needed it either to block the wind or stay dry.  

The start of the race was at what appeared to be a little camp ground with small cottages all about.   There was an A-framed structure to go inside so had it been nasty outside I could have ducked in to stay out of the elements.    I got on the earliest shuttle so was also the earliest to arrive so just wasted time by stretching and waiting for the start.   An old timer was called to sing not the national anthem, but rather “God Bless America”.   I guess he had sang for all but 2 of the marathon starts.   I’d never seen so much respect from the crowd, everyone was still in place and silent and this guy just belted out the most beautiful melody.     A few minutes later we all lined up and the countdown to the start began. 

With only 350 runners there was no pushing or shoving, no ropes, no crowds.   Just a simple “Go” and we were off.   Starting temp was 62 with a planned high of 68.   The first ½ mile was actually slightly uphill and before the end the 1st layer was pealed so now I was down to just shorts.   Heart rate was a little high, but after all it was uphill.   I just told myself all that matters is finishing, pride or time doesn’t count today.    I made the turn onto the trail and while the trees were miraculous in their fall splendor, the next 26 miles were virtually the exact same scenery.   Trees to the right, trees to the left, and a never ending straight away to the finish.

I usually carry water, but the water bottle I brought was a whopping 32 oz Gatorade bottle so I elected not to carry and take my chances there would be enough water stops along the route to keep me hydrated.   The trees blocked the wind so it ends up the course was way warmer than I had ever anticipated.   Thank goodness for all the hot training runs, however, it’s hard to simulate humidity in S. California for training.    The temperature tho a little warmer that what  had hoped wasn’t too bad, but the humidity was the killer.   Within a mile I decided to even shed my running hat.    I don’t normally sweat excessively but I was soon drenched from head to toe.   The first water stop wasn’t until 2.5 miles.   I didn’t read the map closely enough to know if this would be the normal spacing of stops, so while I would usually alternate every other stop Gatorade and a water, I took one of each every aid station.  I brought about eight salt tablets and instead of waiting to start these supplements, starting from the first aid station and every aid station until finished one more.  

Near Finish Line
There are usually clocks along the way which make it easy to figure out how I’m progressing.   There were only mile markers, 1 every mile, showing how far I’ve run.   There was a timing matt at 13.1 mile and it’s the only time checked my watch the whole race.   I finished the first half of the course in a few seconds longer than 2 hours.   Not bad for a warm, humid, rocky trail I thought so I kept trudging along.   With only 350 runners it didn’t take long to for separation to begin.    I think about mile 8-9 I looked back and could only see a few runners, likewise, looking ahead there were not many either.    I seem to always find someone to talk to to help the time go buy however this would be a long lonely run.    


At the start of the race I always find it fun to judge the other runners and have over the years have created categories.   There are the runners that look all ripped however it seems like they are all show and no go, even if they start out fast I’ll reel them in later on the course.   There was such a large variety of runners old and young.    I suppose I’m still a little competitive, so when I see others on the course that look my age if I can out run them I’ll try.    A few characters I either followed or they followed me for a good chunk, but one by one they dropped back and I passed them.   Once I get half way I’ve liked to run a negative marathon split where the 2nd half is faster than the first half, however today was not going to be one of those days.   Each mile that passed seemed to get harder and harder.   I don’t know if it was my lack of training, my new style of training for this race, a mixed up sleep over the past two weeks, the humility, or just an off day, but every mile I felt like I was getting slower.   

25 miles of this trail
I remember when running hard, mile 19 seemed to be the point when it starts to hurt.   Well even though I wasn’t running fast by 19 it was already hurting.   I simply went back to my heart rate and tried to target 160 bpm or less.  When my heart rate shot up to 162 I would back off a little until it was under 160 again.   After a while I resorted to taking more walking breaks in the final miles allowing my rate to get near 140 and then start running again until it soared above 160 and repeat.    

I don’t usually have many pass me in the 2nd half of any marathon, but about 4-5 runners did pass me and I couldn’t keep up and had to surrender.   A couple that passed me I did eventually pass again, but a few remained untouchable.    With the unchanging scenery it was like I was running and never getting anywhere.   The only thing that changed was the mile markers along the course.   Again very beautiful, but a little crowd participation is always nice.   There were quite a few cross roads so I ended up seeing the same people at each cross road.   Apparently someone running just behind me had a big fan club so I started joking with their fans that I’ve seen them before.   It was even more comical as they continued to pop out again and again and each future cross road!    The only other thing that I could see as I peered up the trail were port-o-johns.   Whenever I saw the white roof I knew an aid station would follow.   Only once was I tricked when there was one without a water stop.

I think it was the 25 mile marker when the stone/gravel/dirt trail finally ended and I was back on flat/even pavement.   I thought I could try to pick up the pace for the last mile, but my legs had no answer.   I think when your legs are tired there is an expression called the marathon shuffle.   I don’t think I totally bonked, but a negative split was not in the cards today.   I wasn’t concerned with time so I’m sure I still had a big smile on my face when I finally crossed the finish line of my 49th state marathon.   Of course George was there waiting with his camera and even got a few pics in the final .2 miles!    I thought about my finish line summersault but maybe will save that for Alaska next summer!

A silver blanket was wrapped around me and a finisher medal was draped around my neck.    Onto the food tent where a chair was calling out my name.   I didn’t even make it to the food and decided just to sit.   I thought it would feel good to not move and had you asked me right then if I ever wanted to run a marathon again I might have bit your head off.     First there is the joy of finishing and then quickly followed by the pain and agony of the legs suffering over the past 26.2 miles.     I was on the verge of cramping but toughed it out and motivated myself to start moving and try to find the showers in the ice rink next to the finish line.   A hot shower always breathes new life into the body, dry clothes, and ready to go!    


At the finish line was a big tent with live entertainment all afternoon as well as food and drink.   I found the table at the back of the tent with my finisher duffle and packed all my wet clothes then sat down and enjoyed the most delicious food of all times.   Well maybe not the best, but a bratwurst and bag of chips never tasted better!      The adventure has just begun for the day because we would drive for 3 hours up Lake Superior’s Northern Shore of Minnesota in search of a place to set up a base for our attack of Minnesota’s high point called Eagle Mountain the next morning!