First Solo Weekend

Another adventurous weekend in the books filled with big firsts and proud moments. I could not have done any of this without the support of my loving boyfriend Jason and our wonderfully generous family who took care of Phoenix all weekend. Huge shout out to all of you!!

I signed up for this odd named 10k trail run, Bear Trax and Brownie Shuffle, a couple months back giving myself adequate time to train. Train I did. Spent countless hours working my legs, building stamina and improving my running form. Did it all pay off? Keep reading….

Race day was hovering in and I still hadn’t made any plans as to how I was going to execute this whole thing. I certainly did not want to drive the 3 hours down the morning of the race. I decided I was going to challenge myself even further with a night of camping by myself. I mean have to try it once in my life right. I found a campground 15 mins away from the state forest the trail run was to be held. I called to make reservations but was told the minimum is a 2 night stay but they do have walk-ups. My chances of getting a walk-up on a good weather weekend and Saturday night was slim. Well shit now what do I do just risk the walk up thing, worse comes to worse spend the night in my car somewhere. The thought of spending the night in my car never bothered me before but I felt as if I had passed that time in my life and trained to hard to be held back by the uncomfortable sleeping. The thought of trying to find a babysitter just one more night for Phoenix and spending the weekend there started to creep in. Now to announce the plan to Jason who was already skeptical of me and one night. I believe he could tell that if I could find a babysitter I was doing it anyways, I’m a very stubborn, independent woman who loves a challenge. Deep down inside I know he is proud of that but man I can scare the shit out of him sometimes. Thanks again to my sister in law and her husband my plan was shaping up. I made the reservations at Ottawa Lake Campground for 2 nights. Now to get through the work week and begin the challenge.

Friday afternoon the adventure began! Did my farewells to Jason, lil man and Trixie then I was off like a prom dress. For 5 minutes anyways, I pulled over to make sure I had my bluetooth speaker camping alone means music is even more important this time around. I could not find it so back to the house I went where I still could not find it. What the hell of course this would happen not the end of the world I will improvise if its not in the car so back to the road I went for the next 3 hours. I don’t take the interstate so it takes me a bit to get places. It rained for the first almost hour of my trip, cleared up for bit the sun made a show but as I got closer to my destination the clouds started rolling in making quite a dramatic presence.

storms   storm 2

I parked to register for my site just after 7  and could feel rain was coming soon, could I be so lucky and get camp set up before it downpours, maybe. Walking back to car it starts to sprinkle, get to my site throw on the frogg toggss, grab a beer, snap some quick pictures, get my tent up very quickly and it starts to rain pretty good. Jason and I seem to have a cloud that just follows us whenever we go camping. Its actually to the point where we have to warn people of our camping escapades so they don’t make any outdoor plans.

Sitting in the car waiting for the rain to let up and warming my hands as it was quite chilly out, 40’s at this point.  I look back and there was that damn Bluetooth speaker sitting in my back window. I just chuckled if this was how the weekend was getting started what else could possibly go wrong. A question I should have learned to never ask. Rain finally let up enough to blow up the air mattress and make the bed quickly but let loose again. Chilling in the car, watching other campers scramble to save what they can I started contemplating my night and desire to always challenge myself more than I need to. By time a whole deep conversation played out in my head the rain let up to sprinkles.

My next frustrating point of the night was trying to start a fire. I brought some small kindling pieces from home to have at least something dry to start with. I was quite confident with my fire starting skills as I never had problems any other time but of course tonight. Rain, snow, sleet I have started a fire in all weather conditions. Backpacking is a good way to test your skills. Most of my food required fire to cook the other stuff that didn’t was geared more towards my hiking and run. Really needed this fire to go. I got it going for a bit, die down, going, die down. I called it quits, climbed into the tent with a packet of tuna for dinner. After I call Jason to say some good nights and check on Phoenix I hear that wonderful crackling sound, look out and sure as shit that damn fire was going. I had to call Jason so he could join in on a good laugh. Nonetheless I was still tucked in for the night and not going out to enjoy it. Instead I feel asleep to the sounds of drunken peoples laughter and attempts at playing harmonica. In an odd way it comforted me.

friday sunset
Before rain sunset.
tent number
Ritual campsite # pic.

Nighttime was my biggest worry. Sleeping alone in a campground full of strangers was a little nerve wrecking but also a little comforting knowing that literally most the campground had people so someone would definitely hear me if I was in trouble. For protection I did have pepper spray on me the whole weekend and a knife while hiking. I woke up only once during the night, thought about my surroundings but was so wore out from the long drive I fell asleep again within minutes.

morning shot
Good Morning!!

Morning time brought hunger like that of a spring bear but with it determination to get that fire going and a hot meal. Me and hunger do not mix well, I definitely fall under the hangry tab. Hot juicy burger with that yummy firewood smoked taste with fried onions was on the menu, so the mission began.

Accomplished! That sound of burger cooking is one of the many sweet sounds of summer freedom I enjoy a little too much. While the burger was cooking away I set up the next best summer freedom, a hammock!

hammock after hike

Full belly and ready to roam, I get my day bag packed, grab a beer and off to walk around the campground I went. There were several others with their preferred beverage but pretty sure I was the only one wandering around by myself with a Bluetooth speaker in my bags side pocket blaring away Kenney Chesney’s Get Along song. That’s what Jason and I would be doing so might as well keep tradition alone or not.

This campground was a bit different than most, their roads were a two way when most are all one way loops. I chose to make the biggest loop then head toward the few trails they had.

Campsite shelters
Several campsites had these shelters.
Huge Campsite
Very spacious campsites.

One thing that really stood out to me was this barrier free cabin. I know a lot of places provide these but how awesome. Everyone deserves a beautiful spot to escape. This cabin had everything from a grill, campfire, deck with a view of the lake. Just awesome the thought put into all of this.

 

Now to the trails and by trails I mean nice wide paths for a short family jaunt.

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campground trail

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Only beach goers of the day.

After my walk around it was time to head in for pre registration of the race. Delafield Wisconsin is such a cute little town with a vibrant vibe. Saturday morning was a very busy morning for the town. Luckily the store Instep wasn’t to far in. Got my number and t-shirt! Heading back to the car I take a few moments outside to take in my surroundings. Felt I was in a different world compared to hometown. People were all dressed up and not for church. Ladies with heels, men with suits, young people and their casual hipster wear that actually looks stylish for a change. Next to Instep was a Olive Oil Bar with a mother and daughter walking out discussing olive oils! Walk around my hometown does not bring out such things, quite frankly the opposite. It was a nice change of pace but one where I do not belong.

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*My number*

Its getting real with number in hand my first 10k trail race is now under 24 hours away, nerves were starting. Good way to shake them is check out the condition and terrain of the trails. I did just that. Spent a good 3 hours hiking around the trails at Lapham Peak Unit of the Kettle Moraine Forest. Trails that would soon have me cussing myself out. They were walkable this time around. Phoenix and I were down here the previous weekend and it was a straight mud hole. Such a mud hole I was surprised the trails weren’t closed. Week’s worth of actually spring weather helped heal the trails tremendously. No mud holes besides just a patch along with one standing snow patch. Doable! The hills on the other hand, well I just worry about those tomorrow I kept telling myself naively.

Example of hill
Example of hill. You see those people at the top?

The wildlife on these trails were amazingly not so afraid of people. I was able to stare down a deer from a safe distance and watched a few others mingle around scraping at the ground for food. A couple of geese that were on the trail even let me get within arms length away from them to pass. I was chased by a goose when I was younger so that got my adrenaline going a bit but nonetheless pretty cool. Animals are such magnificent creatures and any opportunity I have to be close and examine them I take.

with deer
Can you find the deer?

 

geese

I stopped to make lunch on a part I figured wouldn’t see so many people but man the people I did see were either weirded out that I was by myself in a “remote part of the trails”  using remote very lightly, or the fact that I was just chilling making a mountain house meal with my jetboil and go pro going, a sight they do not see often I’m assuming.

lunch spot
Lunch Spot

 

lunch
Love me some Mountain House

 

Finally about 3 in the afternoon legs tired I decided to call it quits on hiking and get back to camp to rest up for tomorrow. Best way to do that by golly is chill in a hammock. This is when I would need to fight the worst feeling ever, boredom. I’m a very on the go person and sitting still is not my thing but sitting still on a Saturday night around a fire by myself was something else. That’s when I actually missed people. I called Jason who was visiting Phoenix for a bit so I got to talk with one and laugh at the other. Ill let you decided who was what 🙂

Even though trees interrupted a clear view of the lake the sun going down was still gorgeous. I walked down to that barrier free cabin and snapped a few shots on the deck. Back at camp I pulled the hammock up to the fire and watched the sun set fully behind the trees with John Denver for background music. Before I knew it I was awaken by a phone call from Jason ready to say good nights. Turns out I was a little to relaxed and fell asleep for about an hour. Hard climb out of the hammock was followed by a very easy fall into the warmth of my bed.

Supper 2
Saturday night supper! Burger and Broccoli
sunset hammock
Saturday night relax time

Mother nature I’m finding out is quite funny. She decided to throw one more curve ball into the mix, LOW temperatures. Saturday night was mid to low 30’s, Sunday night was a chilly one I woke up around 6 am to 29 degrees. The excitement and nerves of race day helped keep the freezing reality at bay for a bit. Crawling out from under the warmth would make anyone want to start running, I  ran for the hot shower.

Showered, warm and ready to go I pack up the car with race day essentials. It had said on website to arrive early or car pool as parking was limited. Makes sense being Delafield is between two major Wisconsin cities of Madison and Milwaukee. My race did not start until 10 am but I was there before 8 and very glad I was. Parking lot wasn’t full when I arrived but within a half hour people were arriving on the constant. A very friendly middle aged man parked next to me and could tell I had nerves. He struck up a conversation with me about racing and techniques. He is on the ultra running level where I am still on beginners. He was participating in the 20k to warm up for future 50k’s. Walk the major uphills was his biggest point.

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Pre-race jitters.

Time is ticking closer and closer to start time. I was spending every second preparing by taking in last minute energy, stretching and running small slow laps around parking lot. 15 minutes till race I call my dad to calm my nerves a bit, my heart was starting to race and legs getting shaky.

start

At the starting line counting down the final minutes surrounded by complete strangers who all have one thing on their mind. 5 4 3 2 1……….air horn!!!! This was it, the last 2 months of training, all the effort, pain and sweat was showcasing. The first mile or so always seems to be the hardest for me like my legs are just teenagers refusing to do what they have been told. When my true running legs finally come around is when its game on, praying my heart can keep up.

This trail run was brutal to nicely put it, I lost count of how many hills there were and they started right of the bat and did not end until you could see the finish line. In fact to the finish line was all downhill. By the fifth hill I was cussing myself out why the hell did you sign up for this, pay lots of money to come basically torture myself. Rocks, roots and loose downhills kept things even more interesting. I did manage to get out without a fall. My thighs were burning by the end though. My goal was do the race in 1 hour 10 minutes. I crossed that finish line at 1 hour 10 minutes and 44 damn seconds. You could say I was beating myself up about those damn 44 seconds pretty well, you couldn’t possibly have ran some of those hills or faster in between or maybe learn how to breath better so you wouldn’t have wasted probably those 44 seconds running with your hands about your head looking like a damn fool. 44 seconds really? I started to come around to the fact that hey I just accomplished what I set out to do over 2 months ago. Made a game plan, stuck with it through all the training and here I was across the finish line of my first 10k trail run. Proud moment.

I go up to replenish on bananas and watermelon when they started doing the awards I figured I would stick around and cheer on all the hard earned winners. Then something astonishing happened they announced my name for 3rd place in the 19-29 age group. HOLY SHIT was the only thing going through my head. How the hell did I place 3rd especially in the 19-29 age group. There were hundreds of us at that starting line, did most of them only do the 5k?  Is there a miss rereading of the timers? Went through all those negatives thoughts before I landed on the thought of I did my damn best and was finally rewarded for it. I ran my little heart out, literally gave it everything I had. Under my rib cage started cramping for a bit and I still ran through it with my arms in the air trying to take in bigger breaths in hopes it will go away all to cross the finish line in a certain time. I did it!! First 10k Trail Run and going home with a medal and  more motivation than ever to keep pushing myself. I had no one waiting at the finish line which was a bummer but I nice stranger took my picture for me. Even had a state trooper recognize me from my job at the academy (small world) and congratulated me!

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I DID IT!!

Relishing in the moment for just a bit longer then it was time to head back to tear down camp but first not without stopping at the camp store for Phoenix surprises. While in there I had another small world coincident. The DNR gentleman was talking about his vacation next week for turkey hunting and he was going of all places my small hometown 3 hours away. Makes you smile wondering about all the small world coincidences.

Chilling in the hammock for one last time relaxing with my finisher’s beer and thinking back to all that has been accomplished this weekend left me with a wonderful feeling! A proud feeling. I just camped a weekend by myself for the first time and earned 3rd place in my first 10k trail run.

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5 Comments Add yours

  1. Girl you just took “being cool, doing your thing, stepping outside your comfort zone and having the right to be so friggin proud about yourself” to a whole new level 🙂
    Congrats !! You are the best!! Just think of what your life was about just a couple years ago and now this! Your family and friends must be so proud about you and one day your son will read this and see what a strong mom he has!
    Keep on going and just stay your wonderful self !!
    Huge hug from me to you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jessica says:

      Thank you for all those encouraging words. Im so glad I just went ahead and just did it. Never imagined this life 5 years ago. Everything has changed for the damn best. Thank you again. Awesome progress on the house by the way!! Have a wonderful day.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, you are really brave doing this all on your own. I am a bit of a chicken now days, but I do love exploring out in the woods or anything that involves nature. Looks like you had quite the adventure and will have a great story to share now with all your love ones. Congrats on this accomplishment.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jessica says:

      Thank you! Ive realized you just have to get out and try it. I took lots of precautions but was still a very exciting adventure.

      Like

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