Thursday, July 19, 2007

Wisconsin has been very very good to me

The trip through Wisconsin has been absolutely fantastic so far! A look back over the past six days:
  • The first full day in Wisconsin took us along the Great River Road then up out of the Mississippi River Valley through little winding canyons - stunning scenery all along the way. (Picture below: Lake Pepin along the Mississippi River)
  • I did have a very upset stomach and headache as I started that first day and ran for the first hour or so just sipping iced tea. Then Kendall and Paul made me a bit of oatmeal; it seemed to settle things down. Kendall next stopped at a bakery in the little town of Maiden Rock where he found cranberry wild rice bread. Delicious! I nibbled on that for the rest of the day and felt better and better with each nibble. This experience has really changed how I eat during the run. I think my stomach was simply rebelling against my six-days-a-week diet of gu and clif shot blocks. Now I do take a gu about an hour into the run, but after that I nibble on bread. The Great Harvest Bakery of Longmont has been supremely generous throughout my run, sending bread, cookies, rolls, homemade energy bars, name it, they've sent it from their bakery. One of their breads, "Happy Whole Grain" is my favorite. So now my most frequent request when I come up to my support crew is for "Happy Bread." Consequently, my stomach is the best it's been for this whole trip.
  • After climbing up out of the Mississippi River Valley, my next road was Highway 10. I've been worried about this road ever since I finalized my route. With over 60 miles scheduled on Hwy 10, it was going to be an aruduous stretch if the traffic was heavy and the shoulder was dicey. It was not that bad of a road - but certainly too busy for any kind of daydreaming to take place. However, Kendall and Paul came through once again! After reaching Mondovi (30 miles into the Highway 10 portion of the run), they spotted the Buffalo River ATV trail paralleling the highway. Upon checking our Gazeteer (a must-have map book for anyone doing back country exploring through the states - Lysa introduced us to it in Nebraska), the guys discovered that I could run the trail for the rest of the planned Highway 10 distance. So, Mondovi-to-Fairchild was 33 miles of cinder/dirt trail with only a couple dozen ATVs the whole time. Fantastic!
Turkeys clearing the road next to the Buffalo River Trail
  • The ATV trail was followed by lovely little county roads and a most generous display of hospitality. Running buddy AndyE's wife Sandy is from Wisconsin. It just so happens that Andy and Sandy are in Wisconsin bopping around to various family gatherings. And it just so happens that Sandy's brother lives on a farm very near my route. And it just so happens that he recently renovated the farmhouse and put in a guest quarters. And it just so happens that he invited us to stay in his guest quarters. And it just so happens that AndyE volunteered to be my support crew for a couple of days while Kendall and Paul took a break at Mike's farm. What a grand couple of days it was. Absolutely beautiful countryside with heron, sandhill cranes, turkeys, deer, singing bull frogs, woods, rolling hills, lakes, Amish horses & buggies sharing the shoulder with me, and AndyE providing stellar support. (It's not every day that you can climb a hill with a little subaru putting along next to you belting out Willie Nelson tunes!) And each night we spent in the luxury of Sandy's brother's home with a whirlpool bath, comfy bed, TV for my teenaged-tired-of-the-RV-with-his-parents son, delicious food, and cows and sheep to keep us entertained out back. (By the way, if you're ever in the Marshfield, Wisconsin area and are in need of comfortable quarters to stay in, I highly recommend "Anna's Inn" at Mike Albee's farm. Mike is just now getting it ready to rent out to guests.)
AndyE, Mike, Paula & Paul at Mike's farm
  • The two days with AndyE also underscored how lucky I've been with the weather. The first day it was pouring rain as we set out from the farm. We got to my starting point, stepped outside of the car, and the rain stopped. At noon, we took our midday break, it started raining again, we went back to my starting point, and within a few minutes of the afternoon run, the rain stopped. All the while it stayed cool. The second day offered up a cool foggy morning. It moved into the upper 80s for the afternoon, but being only half the day and with AndyE offering drinks every mile along the way, the heat was quite manageable. However, the dingbat who laid out the daily route is going to need a talking to. For some inexplicable reason, she (me) decided 32 miles would be a good idea for this day. It probably had something to do with wanting to finish on the east side of the Wisconsin River, which is just how I ended the run on July 17 - which also happens to be the day I topped 1000 miles for the trip!
  • Yesterday (July 18), was the day I ran from Mosinee to the Mountain-Bay trailhead in Weston in the morning then met up with a gang of folks to start off the afternoon on the trail that will take me most of the way to Lake Michigan. Valerie Parker, a runner who works for the Village of Weston and who helped me out with my route through this part of Wisconsin, had organized this gathering. It was quite a treat to have so many folks meet up with us. The gathering included reporter Keith Uhlig and photographer Butch from the Wausau Daily Herald (check out for July 19), Barb Schira (president of the Wausau Area Runners Club) who enthusiastically accompanied us for a few miles, Helen Pagenkopf (president of the Marathon County Friends of the Mountain-Bay Trail) who rode with us for several miles sharing a wealth of information and history about the trail all along the way, and Valerie who ran with me for 11 of my afternoon miles filling me in on all sorts of tidbits about the area. Great company!

Helen, Valerie, Paula, Barb & Paul at the Mountain-Bay trailhead

  • Another weather luck phenomenon: as we finished up our midday break in the parking lot of the trailhead, a storm blew through with rain and wind. As the gang arrived, we learned that golf ball sized hail had hit the town about 11 miles east of where we were. And as we got about 5 miles down the trail, we started encountering trees that had been blown over....literally dozens of trees. It was quite the challenge for a few miles, lifting the bike (Paul was riding with us) and climbing over the trees. It was dumb luck, and just a matter of an hour, that we weren't caught in that storm. Whew!

Helen, Paula & Valerie and the newly wind-blown trees
of the Mountain-Bay Trail

Numbers and such:
  • Today is our 44th day on the road.
  • PJ Run miles-to-date: 1049.5.
  • Three bottles of sunscreen emptied.
  • One pair of shoes retired, with a second pair on the verge.
  • An estimated 2.5 days of running to get my first glimpse of Lake Michigan and three days (starting tomorrow) to get to the Michigan state line!

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