Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Zumbro 50: Going big, taking chances

So, um, a couple of weeks ago, this happened:
Zumbro has been on my mind a lot this winter. It's a mid-April trail race held at the Zumbro River Bottoms on 17 miles of trail that climb and descend the river bluffs and wind through the woods and stream beds of southeast Minnesota. There's a 17 mile (where I broke my elbow last year), a 50 mile (3 loops, midnight start), and a 100 mile (6 loops). It's a Rocksteady Running event, so it's well organized, well supported, and has great volunteers.

My plan for the spring was to do the 17 mile again, a half marathon with my mother two weeks later, then the Spring Superior 50K. Very reasonable buildup to a 50K, and that way I could volunteer during the first day of the Zumbro 100. If all went well, I'd do Voyageur 50 mile this summer, or the Fall Superior 50. Plenty of time to build and train.

But there was a problem. I felt a little too good after Wild Duluth last fall. Then, my long runs this winter felt really good. Great, really. And I started to feel like... I could do more?
A great snowy Saturday run!
Maybe I could pace a 100-miler. Two loops on the course would be just about perfect! I brought it up on the Upper Midwest Trail Runners Facebook page.
The response, especially once I mentioned the 50 miler, was (in hindsight) entirely predictable:
Thanks, guys. Thanks a lot.
I tried to be reasonable. My trail-running friends were not impressed.
If all your friends were jumping off a bridge, would you?
Peer pressure wasn't going to sign me up for my first 50 miler... but it did start me thinking about it again. Could I train for the 50?

I looked over a lot of 50 mile training plans... again. (I had found them all immediately after Wild Duluth, you see). I quizzed friends who have run 50 milers and asked my fellow Manic Runday-ers and INKnBURN amabassadors about their training secrets. And decided to start running a little longer on my weekends... just in case.

My long runs kept going well. The Frozen River Run went well. Lifting was going well. I was consistently running longer and better than I ever had. Last weekend, I ran over 6 hours on Saturday, then another 2 the next day... and aside from some knee pain in the last mile and a half on Sunday, I couldn't believe how good I felt.
Look at all those crazy people. Love running with this group.
Eventually, I decided to trust in what my ultrafriends have told me: although running 50K, or 50 miles, or 100 miles, requires strong legs and core and lungs and heart... it mostly requires a strong mind. And that if I head into this race determined to finish no matter what happens, I will finish it.

Who knew that filling out a form on the computer and clicking "submit" was an act of courage? It was for me. I hope to go into this with curiosity, excitement, and acceptance that unexpected things will happen along the way. I hope to see and hear and feel and learn something new. I think something happens to your mind when you run long, something that changes you. I think this will change me. I can't wait to see how it all works out.


  1. Way to go. I am cheering for you already. I am volunteering at an aid station and have friends running the 50! I have run marathons and trail marathons and hope to get up to 50 some day! Go Robyn!

  2. How exciting! I have no doubt that you will take this on with the rockstar spirit I so love.

  3. Congrats Robyn! While I don't think I could ever run 50 miles, I know what you mean about needing more the mind than the body. I was really freaking out about my triathlon last year and when I talked to my mom about it she said the best thing ever. "Holly, you're so stubborn, you'll finish no matter what." So, I'm giving it to you too Robyn. You are so stubborn, you'll finish no matter what! You are an inspiration to all of us!

    1. Holly, that is awesome (and your mom was totally right, you know!)

  4. inspiration for all of us.. congrat miss :)

  5. Go Robyn! Now that you are signed up, there's no doubt you'll finish! Enjoy every step of the race.

  6. Woohoo Robyn! Just catching up on one of my favorite blogs. I hope your training has gone well. I spent a little too much time in the Circle of Insanity this weekend (the Umstead 100) as a volunteer and pacer. Ultra-runners make you feel as though anything is possible! Pace yourself according to your training and have a blast! Starting a 50 miler at midnight sounds like so much fun!