Door County Fall 50 2017 – Running against the Wind

What do you get when you combine 5 runners (4 of which met each other that morning), 1 support vehicle, 2 cases of water, 4 containers of chocolate covered treats, sweaty socks, amazing fall colors and a cold breeze off the lake?

One epic race day at the Door County Fall 50!

This is one race that you really need to plan ahead, just so you can get in!  Registration opens at Noon on Aprils 1st and the relay generally sells out in less than 15 minutes!  Since we were trying to register 2 teams, we needed to have 2 people ready with fast fingers that day!  Thankfully, we were able to get both teams in… then it was just a matter planning for race day, and waiting for it to get here!

Team Wyle E Coyotes – At the startline and ready to run!

With we had two teams running, we knew we needed to get creative with team names!  After much deliberation (ok, maybe 30 seconds), we ended up deciding on The Road Runners and the Wyle E Coyotes.  As it turned out, based on each team’s estimated pace, The Road Runners were in the 7:45am start group and the Coyotes had to wait until 8:30am.   The Road Runners were given a 45 minute head start, but our estimated finish times were only 1 minute apart!  Would this be the day that the Coyote actually got to catch the Road Runner?  It was game on!  Challenge accepted!

As we drove up to Gills Rock, we got a glimpse of some of the hills that we were going to be running UP in just a matter of a few hours!  I forgot how crazy some of the hills really were –  especially the one that I had to climb on my first leg through Sister Bay!  Time to get prepared mentally!


We were at the start line early to see the Road Runners off and get ready ourselves ready to run.   Between finishing breakfast and writing on the car, we started off the morning with some great laughs.   Normally, at the start line, they pay some peppy inspirational song to get everyone ready for the miles ahead of them.  This year, they opted to play a s song that would set the theme for the day:

A little Bob Seger and Against the Wind!

Perfectly fitting, as the sun was shining but there was a crazy wind that we were going to be facing all the way from Gills Rock, down to Sturgeon Bay!  Rules of the day:  “Stay on the marked course. If ever a doubt on which way to go, always turn right.  If you end up in Lake Michigan, you did something wrong.  Once you start, keep running south until someone hands you a beer!”

Promptly at 8:30am, we were off and running!  Once we saw Angela start, we hopped in the car and headed to the 1st exchange to meet her.  I love doing events like this because you always run into other running friends at each relay exchange. Everywhere we turned, we all kept finding familiar faces to chat with and cheer on. We all have a passion for what we do and when fun events like this come around, we all gather up our friends and join the party! 

I got a message from Angela that she was at mile 5, so I knew that it was time to put my game face on and get ready to run! My first leg was 6.2 miles through quiet roads lined with beautiful homes along the water.  Now that I was on my feet, instead of in a car, it was easy to take in the amazing beauty of the fall colors.  I would have loved to slow down and just take me time to enjoy everything, but this was a race… and we had Road Runners to catch!

I knew that I had estimated my pace for this even at 11 minute miles and for the first 5 miles, I was able to keep the pace a little quicker, gaining our team a few extra minutes!  I was feeling strong as I came into Sister Bay, but then the crowds showed up.  This was one of the last tourist weekends in Door County and there were people everywhere!  I had the choice of either running along the road, and being between parked cars and those that were driving through town, or running on the sidewalk.  I decided to take the sidewalk and save myself the worry of moving traffic… but then I had to deal with the sidewalk crowds.  For anyone that is familiar with Al Johnson’s Restaurant Swedish restaurant and their famous goats on the roof, you know that there is always a crowd of people.  Some waiting for a table, some just watching the goats.  Since I had the joy of running through at about 10am on a Saturday morning, the place was packed.  Thankfully there were enough runners that had already come through, most people who were waiting were staying out of the way so we could get through.

Time for reality to show up!  Remember that hill that I mentioned earlier that we were laughing about who was going to have to run up?  It was now staring me straight in the eye!

The infamous Sister Bay Hill – photo credit to Robin Ducane

This was one LONG hill, and the picture fails to really put the steepness of it into perspective.  I wasn’t stopping tho!  I ran as for up it as I could and walked when I needed to. When I was about halfway up the hill (walking at this point), I sent a message to the team that I was halfway up the hill.  I’m not going to say what was in that text, as I generally try to keep my blog rated PG, but there MAY have been a few choice words in it!  After what seemed like forever, I finally was at the top (which you cannot even see in the above photo), I was rewarded with a nice downhill stretch to the next exchange.

Then it was time for Angela to run again!  As we walked to the car, Jason was still laughing about the text I sent from the hill!

We spent the next few hours driving between exchange points, cheering each other on as the support vehicle kept moving forward!  The wind was definitely NOT in our favor!  Yes, it was a sunny day, but sunglasses were worn more as eye protection from the wind and dust that kept coming up out of nowhere!  I honestly forgot how bright and radiant the colors across Door County can be! This was the perfect day to be out running and exploring Northern Wisconsin.

Virtually everyone that runs this event will agree that the exchange at the end of leg 5 (which is just past the halfway point) is THE BEST exchange!  It’s where lunch is served!  This goes down as the best ever homemade chicken nipple… I mean chicken NOODLE  soup in the state (Some conversations in the support vehicle are better left there… )  This awesome soup is served alongside of some pretty spectacular PB&J sandwiches.  Ok, maybe the PB&J taste that good because by the time most runners get to this point, they are Rungry!  Don’t get in the way of a Hungry Runner… they just might eat your arm if you don’t pay attention!  Apparently, we all were so hungry that NO ONE, between our 2 teams remembered to take a photo of this beloved soup – we all ate it too fast!

Skirt Sports for the win! Yes, that is a roller stick in my pocket!

Angela did however snap a picture of me, with a roller stick in the pocket of my skirt, as I was carrying my precious soup and sammiches to the car!

Shortly after I finished my cup of soup, it was time to run again!  Since Ann was running both of her legs back to back, we were able to skip the next exchange point.  So, instead of staying in the slow moving line of cars heading to exchange 7, we figured that we’d be smart and take a shortcut around and traffic and jump ahead to the start of exchange 8.  We parked and headed to use the bathrooms and I ran into a few friends.  As I was talking to Clint I must have said something about getting ready to run another 6 miles, to which he replied, but this leg is only 3 miles!

WHAT!?!?!

OMG!  We were at the WRONG exchange!  This is where I was supposed to be ENDING my 6.1 mile leg… not starting it!

So much for trying to be smart!  LOL

Since we already got a message from Ann that she was starting her second leg, we knew that we had to hustle to get back to the correct exchange, and hopefully not lose too much time!  We headed back north the 6 miles to Murphy Park.  Since Angela needed some extra miles to hit the 20 miles on her training plan for the day, when we got back to the park, she jumped out with me so we could go find Ann.  The rest of the crew went to park the car and then find Ann once she finished.

We found Ann right away and headed out.  Yes, she had been waiting for us.  We didn’t stop to chat so we really didn’t know how long she had been waiting, but when we talked to her after, it had only been about a minute.    Now that our mini panic attack was behind us, it was time to run again.

Angela let me set the pace, as she was there to get in her miles (and help keep me moving).  It was actually nice to have someone to chat with along the way this time!  We chatted Skirt Sport, other races we did, and who knows what else.  It helped keep my mind off of the fact that my hip was starting to bother me.  After about 3 miles, I knew that I couldn’t ignore it anymore.  Instead of the 4:1 run/walk interval that we had been doing, I needed to listen to my body.  With another half marathon coming up next weekend, I needed to play it smart!  We ran when I could, we walked when I needed to.

Since Angela is naturally a faster runner than me, our run intervals were usually a little faster than my normal, so that helped us to maintain a slightly better average pace than if I was running by myself.  In the end, once we finished my 6.1 mile leg, I lost us about 6 minutes, but at that point, it was more about getting it done and moving forward!

At this point, we had 2 legs left!  Jean and Jason ended up switching legs, giving Jason the shorter 3 mile leg since he was already hurting from his first leg (through hilly Peninsula State Park).  This meant that Jean had the last 4.5 miles to the finish line.

Jean killed that last leg with 8:25 minute miles!

When we met her at the finish line, she didn’t let up much speed, we all jumped in behind her and headed for that finish line!  We made it!  We got our medals, took a few pictures and headed to the finish line party tent for some pizza, breadsticks, beer, and wine.  We met up with the Road Runners to chat for a few minutes and then headed back to the car.  It was a long day and we were ready for bed!

In the end, the Coyotes never did catch the Road Runners!  But it was fun trying!

When we compared team results, the Road Runners finished with an elapsed time which was 5 minutes faster than the Coyotes.

Results: Road Runners – 8:28:34 (average pace 10:11/mile)      Coyotes – 8:33:19 (average pace 10:16/mile)

Can’t get much more even than that!

No matter what, we all had a blast! We ran, we cheered, we laughed (correction, we snorted), we ate, and then we ate some more! When we started the day, 4 of the people on our team met for the first time, but we all left as friends.

This is always a awesome, well organized event that draws in a crowd!  If you plan on joining us for 2018, you better get your fast fingers ready on April 1, 2018 to get your team registered!

But take this as a warning…

After spending all day with your teammates, you might come out a little crazier than you were when you started your day!

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