Saturday, June 27, 2009

31 Humbling Miles

As I said earlier this week, today's familiarization run of the last 30+ miles of the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run was two-fold. For one, I needed to see it again. Past mile 85, I was a bit fuzzy on the course and the many turns. Secondly, I wanted to get an idea where I'm at with regards to my recovery from the Kettle Moraine 100 three weeks ago. I certainly got answers...regardless of whether I like them or not.

At 7am this morning, Jim Chaney arranged for a 14 passenger van to shuttle us from the finish to the Happy Days parking lot off of Route 303. It was perfect as only 1 seat remained as we set out. (Thanks, JC!) A few others waited at the start and at 7:30am, we headed out 17 strong.

Right off the bat, I was thrilled. We got some folks from out of state and some other locals who I never get to run with but have e-mailed with or have heard of. For one, I finally got to run with Ron Ross (royal blue singlet) who I interviewed last month for the WRTR newsletter. He has a phenomenal running career that includes running his 14th Mohican 100 Miler a whoppin' SIX days ago...then he's here to run another 30+ miles. Geez... Then there was TJ Hawk (standing middle, white VR tech tee), someone who I had never met but also has an impressive ultra running resume as well. Feeling like I'm running with "celebrities," then I meet Marie. Marie (standing on the right in the long sleeve black tech tee in pic above) is not only a Western States 100 Miler finisher, but she's a finisher of the Badwater...the toughest ultra out there, happening in Death Valley each year with temps way over 100F and 135 miles in length. Enough? Well, as she turns 51 or 52 on August 2nd, she will have 150 marathons under her belt. Yes...150 marathons. She's at 149 right now but will get #150 either next week or the following week. When she was 50 years old, she ran her 100th marathon at the San Francisco Marathon and wore bib #100. Yea, only 2 years ago and 50 more marathons complete. She is a pace team leader with Clif Bar so that's what she does at each marathon. More? She's competing in an Ironman Triathlon 4 weeks after Burning River. Unreal. I felt like the newest of newbies out there today but I absolutely loved meeting new fellow runners and trying to garner their wisdom and experience. Good times, for sure.

I felt like a million bucks for the first 10+ miles, before it started heating up. Once we arrived at the Covered Bridge (Mile 11 for today and Mile 81 of the BR100), I could tell my "tank" was running low already. ALREADY!!! I headed on up Perkins Trail, a trail normally loaded up with mud really wasn't bad at all today. We've had a stretch of dry weather so what normally is a mess of a trail, wasn't so bad after all. Once back at the Covered Bridge (4mi later), I was feeling totally drained. I'd been drinking as planned, eating my red-skin boiled potatoes, and taking Shot Bloks. Still, I knew the final 15 miles were going to be tough, especially with hardly any clouds in the sky and the thermometer clearly on the rise. From here on to the end, this course has little cover or protection from the sun as much of it is run on the Towpath Trail. Pictured below is a group photo I snapped before leaving the Covered Bridge for the 2nd time.

The next stretch is in the full sun and runs beside the Hale Farm and Village and I resorted to a mixture of running and walking letting the lead pack of runners go in the distance. Fortunate for me, 3 others waited up for me and we hung together for the remainder of the run. Thanks Greg, Frank, and Jason! Eventually, energy returned and I did much better but Frank was having issues with his hamstring so we made to sure to keep us all together. As we entered the Merriman area which is around Mile 93 of the BR100, we took a quick pit stop at McDonald's and shockingly, I had already emptied out my entire 1.5 liters of water that I was carrying on my back. I refilled in the Mickey D's bathroom, and we got back on the course. From here on in, we just kept forward motion and kept everyone together and aimed for the shadows on the Towpath to dodge the direct sun. As we neared the final miles, we got to the Signal Tree on the Highbridge Trail and since Jason and Frank hadn't been there before (they're from out of town), we stopped to read the history of it and snap a quick pic.

Over the last few miles, I felt much better and I felt the life breathed back into me. I celebrated the run by getting soaked in ice cold water fountains at the finish line area at Falls River Square. Whatcha think about the new header on my blog?! I set the camera on a timer and snapped a bunch of pics and picked out the best. I thought it was time to change up the look at bit here at RTRSBM.

Take-Aways from today:

1. I need to rest more and give my body more time to recover from my first 100 miler. The first week, I certainly took it easy. The 2nd week, I practically returned to business as usual with a 20 miler and 42 miles for the week. That was a mistake. There was no need to log that many miles so soon after the KM100. The 3rd week (this week), I logged 55 miles including today's 31 miles. Too much...too soon. Like I've said before, this 8 weeks between 100 milers is totally new ground for me and it's certainly a work-in-progress.

2. Time to shut it down. I don't mean that I won't be running at all but I'm not doing any long runs (ie: 20 or more) for at least one to two weeks...maybe longer. If I don't back off, I can kiss a BR100 finish goodbye...and that's not an option.

3. My right knee (just below and to the outside) is acting up. Rest is the solution. It acted up after last week's asphalt pounding and I adjusted my stride during the week to redirect the pounding and that appeared to work. However, it came back today. With only 5 weeks to BR100, I've gotta get that under control.

4. I truly don't believe I need much training right now for Burning River. I think my #1 priority should be to stay healthy and injury free. Secondary to that is training. Flip-flopping these things, in my opinion, is a recipe for disaster.

If you want to view the 44 photos I took of the course today with most filled with the other runners, follow this link.

For the first time in a long time, you'll see a ton of question marks on my weekly schedule on the right. I'm just going to take it day by day and do what feels right and listen to my body. I suppose I should practice what I preach to so many others. In the end, I'm glad I did the run today. It was very good heat training which I've been lacking since the majority of my runs happen pre-dawn.

Happy Trails, everyone!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Life is Good

Surroundings: I'm sitting on my back patio, sun is rising just off to my left to high in the sky to surely make it a hot/humid mid-80s kind of day, different kinds of birds are singing in the woods and all around, a light breeze is blowing, the goldfinches are fighting over the last 2 inches of thistle seed in the "sock," colors abound all around me thanks to Marjie's efforts in making the rear of our house very "summery" and full of blooming flowers and foliage, the mama cardinal just had her babies around the corner and my weekend has begun. It started with a 8 hours of rare sleep and sleeping in until just past 7am, the time when I have normally have got in an hour run, and checked into work in Canton.

Well, my toe tingling has nearly disappeared. Earlier this week, I shot out a message to the UltraList which consists of 100s of like-minded ultrarunners who range from very experienced to novices. Mostly, I just sit back, read, and learn. Occasionally, though, I have a question and throw it out there so I asked about the tingling toes post-100 miler. It turns out I am the fortunate one. Many have NUMB toes for up to a few months after a 100-miler. I only have had tingling in my right toes and have maintained complete feeling in them. Many also get nasty blisters which I did not. In fact, my feet looked pretty darn good immediately after the finish. They swelled in the immediate days thereafter but have since returned to normal. After last night's trail run, my toes feel even better this morning.

Last night was a blast. The newly named "Crooked River Trail Runners" Thursday night group run was at 6:30pm in the Brecksville Reservation. We ran the Deer Lick Cave Trail (a virgin trail for me) and soon after starting, the clouds opened up. Lots of booming thunder, lightning, and torrential downpours quickly soaked the trail. On a day that reached into the upper 80s and was hot/humid, it was suddenly comfy and cooled down...perfect. The trail system out there is an absolute maze and if you're not familiar with them, you can easily get lost...which some did. After we got back, we went out some more and gathered up the stragglers before heading down the road to the Courtyard Cafe in Brecksville. If you were driving through Brecksville looking for somewhere to eat, you'd never stop here. They are nestled in the corner of a strip plaza with practically no signage to speak of. However, inside it has a real homey, local, pub-like decor and super good food. I probably spent the better part of a 1/2 hour trying to pick something off of the menu. I resolved to the Grouper Wrap with their fresh-cut fries. Wow! That wrap was so good. You may or may not know that my favorite sandwich on the planet is the Grouper Reuben at The Pufferbelly in Kent so when I saw this, it was a must-have. Excellent choice, it was! The group run probably had 20-30 folks show up and about 20 or so headed out to dinner. (Message to Red: stop avoiding me!!!!) It was a great time for all last night and great to catch up with others I don't see too often outside of Facebook and e-mail. Eventually just before 10pm, I headed on home.

I wake up this morning to a surprise...our small, local newspaper here in Portage County published a story on me for running and completing my first 100-miler. Truth be told, I did contact the sports editor with links to my race report and left it at that. Not even 24 hours later, they contacted me after reading the report and really wanted to publish a story on the sports section's front page. By Thursday afternoon, I was being interviewed and wham, there it is this morning. Just one little mistake spelling my last name under the picture on the 2nd big deal. Here's the link to the online version of the article. Very cool. I wasn't seeking fame, by the way...that may come if I'm in USA Today or the New York Times...not in our local paper. More so, I figured if they are going to write about the occasional 5K (3.1 miles) race, they could at least cover a 100-miler...right?!?!? Stories like this are cool especially when I live in a small town of just over 7000 people and I grew up in the area. Moving on...

Well, just about 3 weeks have passed since the Kettle and I'm continuing to pay close attention to how I feel physically. I feel really, really good! The big question mark lies on how I'll do 5-6 hours into a run at this point..the energy tank has been a bit low since my return from Wisconsin. To test it, Jim Chaney and I are leading a familiarization run of the last 30 miles of the Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run tomorrow morning. We're stacking everyone (literally!) into a passenger van at the finish line and getting shuttled to the Happy Days Aid Station at Mile 70.3 and will begin the run at 7:30am and finish early afternoon at Falls River Square in downtown Cuyahoga Falls. Forecast is perfect...well, perfect in preps for an anticipated hot race day in August: mid to upper 80s, sun, and humid. Not so perfect for hydration and the 'ol energy tank, but perfect training. Assuming no forecast of rain, I'm going to take the camera and try to take pictures tomorrow. My picture-taking has been non-existent lately on the trails and I miss it.

Have a great weekend and stay cool!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Monday, June 22, 2009

M-Cubed for 6/22/2009

Monday Morning Musings for June Twenty-Second, Two Thousand and Nine. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

- Father's Day was great yesterday. The day started out with a present that I had a hint was coming. Marjie, as many people know, is an avid scrapbooker. In past years, she's put different projects together of my running events and such but this year, I knew she was working on something different and with the girls' assistance. The result was a small "booklet" type of thing (about the size of those Hallmark musical cards) that inside had pictures of my girls, some with me in them and some without. The captions, normally written by Marjie, were written by my 8 year darn cute! Overall, it was very well done and I absolutely loved it! Best part is that it's not so fragile and delicate like her other projects so I can take it to work and other places and show it off a bit. Thanks, girls!

- Not too far into yesterday morning, out our back window we notice what you see in this picture. This determined squirrel made it up the super-smooth pole and is thinking about how to get the bird seed from the feeder. In the past, he or she has held on to the pole, reached out and smacked the feeder to get the food to fall to the ground. Today, he's being a bit more bold. Check out the end of M-Cubed today to see how he gets the food.

- This past Saturday, I wanted to take a bit of a check on where I was on the "recovery life-cycle" after the Kettle so at 5:15am, I headed out of Lock 29 and hit the trails en route for the Wetmore area over just north of the Kendall Lake area, via the Valley Bridle Trail. I knew Wetmore would be a swamp because even if we had 2 weeks of straight sunshine with no rain, this trail is muddy. Well, with the 5" of rain that we received in the few days prior, it was worse than I had ever seen before. I headed through the normal muddy area and came to the first water crossing which is usually passable without getting soaked. This time, I had to jump right in. As I left Wetmore and followed the Burning River course through the Butler Trail, 3 more crossings were ahead. Picture knee-deep (remember, I'm 6'2"), rushing muddy water, and a very strong current. There was no way around. The level was so high that any rock to step on, etc. was long covered over. I plodded on through and somehow came out cleaner on the other side each time. Around 5 miles, I turned back to be back in time for the 7:30am VR Training run. I had made it past Robinson Field and had crossed Akron-Peninsula Road. The stream crossings were all higher on the way back. I think the run-off upstream was really starting to fill these streams from all of the overnight rain. After getting back to Lock 29 and 10.5 miles, I changed into dry socks/shoes and headed out for a couple of miles on the Towpath followed by asphalt for a total of 9.5 miles and 20 for the day. The rain started coming down hard during the run which I had been hoping for all morning. It felt so good. I was, however, thinking about the Mohican 100/50 runners down south. This band of storms ran north to south so anything we were getting, I presumed they were as well. It turns out they were in the mud as well.

- I had a little bit of fun with the girls yesterday, too. Before heading off to church, I set up the camera on the tripod and took a series of silly pics. They're all on Facebook so feel to check them out. (Click through them fast and it looks like one of those picture books.) Here's a collage of them all. Kind of hard to see unless you click on the pic to enlarge it. Good, wholesome fun!

- Getting home after my "recovery" 20-miler, things were achin' that normally don't ache. I started to and continue to question doing 20 miles only 2 weeks post-Kettle. I'm convinced that while I seem to recover very well and quickly, 100 miles did take a piece of me and hasn't quite given it all back yet. This morning, some places hurt and ache that never do so chalk it up as a lesson-learned. TAKE IT EASY! Still, the 20 was not difficult and was easily executed but I just don't think my body appreciated the 2nd half of the run on the roads, much of which was uphill or a fast pounding downhill. I plan to really rest this week with a decrease in mileage...except for the Saturday, that is. This Saturday, I plan on running the final 30 miles of the Burning River 100 course starting from Mile 70.3 at 7:30am. As I always preach: "Listen to your body or your body will put you in check. I promise." Remember, this is an to treat my 8 weeks between 100-milers. I don't believe I need a lot of distance training, though. I think my time would be better spend re-building and recovering for the next 100. Without that, Burning River could be yet another disaster for me. I do, however, believe I need to get out in the heat and humidity more. Traditionally, that's what I can expect on August 1st.

- I wasn't at Mohican but I've been reading as many reports as I can find. I know it was humid, rainy, muddy, and nasty. I've also read a consensus of reports about poor markings on the trail. Granted, with all the rain, trail markings will wash away but directional pie plates and streamers will not. While all I have read is not direct knowledge, there seems to be agreement in frustration over this as well as some aid station unhappiness. I honestly feel bad for the runners as nearly all trained so much for this event and for it's execution to fall short is a shame. It was the 20th running of the event so basic things like trail markings seem inexcusable. Maybe I was just spoiled by a first-class event at the Kettle. On the positive side, though, I've heard about some phenomenal performances like Kevin M. running his first 100-miler and finishing FIFTH!!! Awesome job, Kevin! I knew you were fast, but dang!!!! Regardless of your outcome (if you were at MO this weekend), please recover well and get back out there on the trails as soon as you can. They're waiting for you!

- Back to that squirrel: as you can see, true grit and determination can be found not only on the trails by us humans, but atop a bird feeder by a squirrel. This guy used his tail for balance and sticky hind legs to hold on while he wrapped his body down and stuck his face in the food...all while the feeder swinging around from the non-bird weighing it down. Funny stuff!

- And lastly, for those of you with an appetite, prepare to lose it. "Losing it" is just what I may be doing. That right big toenail of mine that took a beating at the Kettle two short weeks ago is going in and out of soreness right now and changing colors...all pre-cursors to a most-likely departure from my right big toe in the near future. Don't worry...I'll have the camera ready. :-)

Have a great week and Happy Trails, everyone!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


OK, I'm sorry. That's way too catchy of a subject of a blog post that involves no injury but hey, it's my feeble attempt at humor, alright?! Actually, it's what seems to be "running" around many folks in the running community right now. For me, I couldn't be more thankful for being injury-free after completing all of my 100-mile training and completing my first 100 miler. I have zero issues except for some lingering tingling in my right toes. For others, their upcoming race goals have been sidelined due to injuries and seeing that happen to other folks is always tough for me to see. As passionate as I consider myself, I can't imagine being told "scrap all plans from now until the end of the year." "Oh yea, no running, no exercise, nada." I can't even imagine that. Some of those are due to overuse and abuse of the body and not ever giving it a break. Others are just from bad luck. Fortunately for me, I am always on the alert for anything out of the ordinary. I'm not paranoid, just alert. Call it my peripheral vision on my "injury meter."

Things are going well post-Kettle for me. 10 days after the finish line and I can honestly say that all feels quite well. I did 7 this past Sunday, took Monday off, had a really good "Mr. Moon" run on Tuesday morning on his 7-mile rolling course, then ran in the rain yesterday for 8 miles. Physically, all feels good but my energy "tank" is certainly running low. Even my weight dropped abnormally low earlier this week which was a surprise with the low mileage as of late. My explanation for that is that my body is burning calories rebuilding itself. Logical, you think? All of my eating has been on track as it normally is with nothing out of the ordinary but I don't think my body has quite gotten back its "running mojo" yet...the mojo that can keep the motor tickin' away for hours on end. It looks like it'll take a little longer. Along with "listening to my body," I skipped this morning's run in exchange for an extra hour of shut-eye. I figured after yesterday's lunch-time nap in my car when I rapidly descended into a deep sleep followed by trying to take a disability claim (stumblin', bumblin' idiot is what I sounded like), some extra sleep was in order.

Coming up in the near future, I'm going to slowly work back in the mileage starting Saturday with about 2 hours on the muddy trails followed by 7-8 miles with the VR Training marathon training group. All-in-all, probably get miles in the upper teens. Next week will be another attempt at "normal" and end with a Burning River 100 training run where we'll run from the 70.3 mile point (Happy Days parking lot) and follow the course all the way to the Finish Line at Falls River Square in Cuyahoga Falls...about a 30 mile run. I plan to pay close attention and get a good idea of where I'm at regarding my recovery...especially if it's hot and humid. From there, I'll plan out the final five weeks to Burning River based on how that run goes. This 8 weeks between 100-milers is like one big lab experiment on myself. What to do, when to do it, and how much to do is up for debate and is a constant work-in-motion.

If you're reading this and running or pacing at the Mohican 100 and 50 miler this weekend in central Ohio, best of luck to you and have a blast! One guy I ran with for awhile at the Kettle is doing the Mohican 100....2 weeks post-Kettle....ugh...can't imagine tackling another 100-miler right now.

The rain has fallen and will continue to fall...the mud is waiting...

Happy Trails, everyone!

Monday, June 15, 2009

M-Cubed for 6/15/2009

Monday Morning Musings for June Fifteenth, Two Thousand and Nine. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

- I accidentally forgot to mention a bit of hallucination during the Kettle last weekend. Hallucination is not uncommon during these events and some stories I’ve heard are pretty wild. Mine isn’t too wild but happened around Mile 93, right after I left the Bluff Road Aid Station inbound for Tamarack and then the finish. I was running under the pines and was approaching a turn ahead with some large trees down to the left of the trail. I was sure that hiding behind one large tree was a lone deer. I could “see” the legs, back, and rear end of the deer and even saw it move a little but it’s head was blocked. As I turned the corner and looked for the deer…nothing! No deer, no chance of it running away and not being seen…simply non-existent and a figment of my imagination. Freaky stuff.
- $2.11?: Simple enough, right? After a cat nap in my car at the finish line of the Kettle and stumbling around the finish line like an erect corpse, my goal was to drive south, get around Chicago (to skip Monday morning traffic), then crash at a hotel. Keeping in mind I had been up since 3:45am on Saturday and was seriously calorie-deprived, I stopped by the La Grange Country Store for an awesome sandwich (turkey stacked on cracked wheat bread with some sprouts and an avocado/mayo spread) then headed south across the Wisconsin/Illinois state line. With a growing need for drugs, I stopped by a grocery store and picked up some ibuprofen (picture the smallest steps possible through a grocery store since I was in pain) then headed across the street to a Starbucks. At first, I parked at the far end of the parking lot thinking I might try to sleep. However, I felt like a sloppy piece of pottery being cast into the kiln as I felt like my face and body were on fire. (it was under 70F, by the way) Knowing I couldn’t sleep, I bumbled/stumbled into Starbucks and ordered my favorite iced coffee, substitute soy milk and cinnamon dulce syrup. Total: $2.11. I vividly remember holding a handful of change in my hand and two dollar bills. People were standing behind me waiting and I just stood there, eyes blood-shot, and attempted to sift 11 cents out of a pile of quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies. Easy, right? I handed the cashier the whole handful of coins and the two bills honestly thinking I did the right thing. He handed the whole pile back minus 11 cents and I was dumbfounded. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “It’s only $2.11,” he replied. “Oh…sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking,” I replied back to him. He must have thought I was high as a kite. I plopped into the cool, comfy leather chair and checked some e-mail (thanks to you all for filling up my e-mail that morning!) and cooled down. About an hour later, I hit the road and ended up in congested Sunday-morning congested traffic in Chicago, but ended up in Portage, IN for the night at a Super 8 about ½ hour across the Indiana line.

- After a 10 ½ hour night sleep Monday night, I completed the trip home on Monday and was welcomed home by a family get-together at the Mexican restaurant and some of my parents’ homemade ice cream. That night was the worst all week. I tossed and turned all night long due to the pain in my legs and ended up calling off work Tuesday because of an overall feeling of “yuk!” Knowing my deep tissue massage was Tuesday night and moving/warming the muscles is a good thing and facilitates recovery, I decided it was a perfect day to take Marjie and the girls out to the Ledges, one of my very favorite areas to run. We had a picnic lunch at the Octagon then hiked all of the Ledges including stops at the Overlook and the Ice Box Cave. The girls loved it and especially my oldest tried to scale every single boulder/rock formation we came across. It was a perfect day for weather, too, with sunny skies and temps in the 70s. Tuesday night, Lori “fixed” me the best way she could and helped put me more on the proper road to recovery. In my opinion, a post-race massage for marathons or longer is a critical piece of the overall “stay injury-free” puzzle. My body is healing so aligning everything the way it should be with both facilitate proper recovery and allow the muscles to rebuild in the shape/location that they are supposed to.
- Thursday night was the first night I ran. I saw the group trail run was set to visit the 3 main waterfalls in the Valley and at a distance of 7.5 miles and thought it would be the perfect recovery run…soft run, variable running service, and NO asphalt. I had a blast and felt extremely good. Once running for about 5 minutes and everything being warmed up, all soreness disappeared and the run went off without a hitch and actually got a bit speedy at times. Ironically, the creaky muscles were back as I went to bed. That’s alright…more and more water each day and I’ll be good as new soon enough. Friday was yet another day spent sitting in my cubicle at work, taking walking breaks whenever possible just to get the muscles warmed up. On Saturday and a weekend on tap to spend with the Navy in Cleveland, I ran 4.5 on Saturday around downtown and another 7 on Sunday.
- Now being a week post-Kettle, I feel really, really good. Nearly all discomfort and soreness has disappeared with just a little bit of the tingling feeling remaining in my right toes. This week, I will get back to my 4:30am runs (very necessary to maintain my daytime sanity) and go a semi-long run this weekend somewhere in the teens. The following weekend (3 weeks post-Kettle) I will ramp back up to the 30 mile distance when I run the final 30 miles of the Burning River 100 course on June 27th. At that point, I’ll be 5 weeks out from my 2nd 100-miler of the year, Burning River.
- I’ll admit: for many MANY hours of the Kettle Moraine 100, I “wrote” many drafts of the e-mail I was planning to send to Joe (Burning River Race Director) pulling my registration. “Do I really want to go through this again?” “I’ve done it once, why do it again?” While I intended to pull that registration for the overwhelming portion of the Kettle, in the end the final result/decision about Burning River ended up being to leave it as is and to show up at Squire’s Castle at 5am on August 1st for my 2nd attempt at the getting my first buckle. The experience will be totally different: I’ll have family support, I’ll know people at nearly every aid station, I’ll sleep in my bed the night before, and most likely it will be hot and humid unlike the Kettle. Regarding the course, it is “easier” but I hesitate using the word “easier” and “100-miler” in the same sentence. Any way you cut it, it’s still 100 miles and still an incredible challenge no matter how many times you do it. I am thankful for the knowledge and experience I gained at the Kettle. I hope and pray it will be instrumental in getting me to the Falls River Square finish line in Cuyahoga Falls.

- These photos were taken with a disposable camera which I ditched at Emma Carlin Aid Station. I simply didn't want to deal with carrying it anymore. They're not so great in quality because not only are they not digital, they were scanned after being developed. Not having any friends or family at the Kettle, this is just about all the pics I have to share with all of you.

Have a great week, everyone and Happy Trails!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

KM100 Race Report: Part 2 of 2

(Link to Part 1 of 2)

Leaving the Nordic Aid Station was empowering. “Timo,” the co-race director first shouted “100 miler heading back out!” which stirred up some cheers from those standing around, mostly celebrating their 100K finishes, then a final “Good luck, Nick!!!” as I disappeared into the darkness. I let the darkness surround me then powered up those two CR123 batteries and lit up the path. I don’t know if the Starbucks DoubleShot had already kicked in or what, but I felt full of energy with only one goal in mind…to get back to this very point…38 miles later. One mile away as I passed the one mile marker, I see one headlamp following behind someone with a gazelle-like stride. The one with the headlamp was easily taller than me (I’m 6’2”) and the one he was following was much shorter and wearing a 100-mile race number. (100 milers were easily identified by green-background bibs) As they passed, the man with the headlamp (his pacer) whispered to his runner (but loud enough for me to hear) “99 miles down, 1 to go.” Yea…my jaw hit the ground, too. Not only did he look as fresh as could be, contain a perfect stride, but he was 1 mile away from crushing the course record by 40 minutes…a far 37 miles in front of me! I believe that’s sub-9 min pace for ONE HUNDRED miles. Unbelievable…heck, that unHUMAN! Luckily, that didn’t even barely take the wind from my sails as I knew he was the extreme rarity and me…well, I’m just your average mid-packer who loves to run…just to run.

I’m not sure what it was about the night, but I have a hunch. One thing I’ve learned in this mental game we play as ultra-runners is grappling with the human mind. It is a powerful organ and one that doesn’t like being talked back to. “Tricking it” or “convincing it” to be OK with a different path takes time, patience, training, and perseverance. The overwhelming majority of this event was like that for me. However, the night made it easier…here’s why: Let’s say it’s light out and I see a long winding hill ahead. Mentally, I’m not so excited about yet another climb so it works against me…that being the “knowledge” of that hill ahead. In darkness, while I may be wearing a headlamp, it only shines a few feet in front of me. I don’t see what’s far ahead thus removing much of that negative super-sub-conscious talk that happens when the eyes capture the obstacle in the distance. You combine all of the hills and obstacles you really don’t get an opportunity to worry or dread about and the night becomes “easier.” I may be way off, but it’s just a hunch.

Coming into Mile 67.9 at Tamarack (visit #3 to the Gorski’s “oasis” in the woods), those grilled cheese were gone! I was nearly salivating for them since I left Nordic. Oh well, I grabbed some fruit, another piece of sausage, filled my Heed bottle, and was on my way to Bluff. Arriving at Bluff 2.5 miles later, I once again had a bowl of chicken noodle soup along with a comfy seat under the tent. I wasn’t lounging, though…it was a very fast consumption of some very appreciated hot food. I knew good food needed to get in the stomach here because I’d go nearly 2 more hours until another fully manned aid station. The only thing between Bluff and the Highway 12 aid station at Mile 77 was an unmanned station containing water and nothing else. I finished off the soup with 4 more Endurolytes and was on my way. Immediately here, it’s a nice ½ mile climb to Confusion Point, named so because in the first 100K, we took a completely different turn here. By this time, that part of the course was empty and they had barricaded any option of going that way. Instead, we made a hairpin turn onto one of the narrowest trails I’d ever been on. Quickly, I was deep in the woods heading south towards Highway 12 and eventually Rice Lake, the 81 Mile turn-around.

It wasn’t long before runners were inbound and passing me heading back for the finish. One really great thing I started to learn from this point all the way to the finish is how kind we all were to one another. At this point, all of the 100K runners had gone home and the only ones left were us 100 milers and the 38 mile fun runners who started at 8pm. At this point, they were far ahead of me so the folks I was seeing now were nearing the end of their journey and mentally preparing for a sub-24 hour finish. Not a single runner ever passed by without a word of encouragement. “Good job!” Lookin’ good!” “Keep it up!” “Way to go!!” Of course, the courtesy was always returned with a similar comment. In addition, if someone was perceived to not be doing so well, be injured, or in need of more than just a word of encouragement, they were helped. Isn’t this all the coolest thing??? Raw, positive humanity shown towards each other in a time where most would justify crankiness, anger, frustration, or worse. That alone put smile after smile after smile on my face. If you were out there with me and are reading this, please accept my deepest “THANK YOU” for sharing the trail with me and passing on the encouragement as we passed in the night.

On the way to Highway 12, the course was very much our like trails here in NE Ohio, that being full of roots, the occasional rocks, twisty, hilly, and fun! From time to time, I’d run through a section of sky-scraper pines and enjoy the soft bed of needles to run on. I also noticed as the night grew older, that the grey puffy clouds high above were beginning to give way to open sky and wouldn’t you know…a full moon! For those of you who have followed my blog over the past year and a half, you know what I was thinking. After passing by the Duffin Rd. unmanned aid station, some more climbs through the woods, eventually I got into some high grass areas totally out of the woods. I remember this section well as I could see headlamps rolling into and out of darkness up ahead. I knew I was getting close to Highway 12 as I could barely hear the generators running which were powering the lights that lit up the site. I was also starting to pass more and more runners as they were heading back. Coming into Highway 12, I grabbed my final drop bag, shed the jacket I’d been wearing since around Mile 50, had a quick cup of soup, grabbed some more Endurolytes, made up a new batch of Perpetuem, and hit the trail. This point I remember clear as anything. It was Mile 77 and “Mr. Moon” came out in all his glory. “Hello, Mr. Moon!!! Thanks for joining me!!!” (yea, I really said it) You want to talk about strapping on yet another set of jumper cables. I was still flyin’ high on that Starbucks Double Shot from nearly 3 hours ago and now I get a dose of Mr. Moon. “Dang, it doesn’t get any better than this,” I thought. Grinning from ear to ear, I crossed the busy Highway 12 and headed up into the rocks. This next section was the most dangerous of the entire course. It wasn’t due to drop-offs or anything like that, but instead because it was so dang rocky and technical in a time when it’s dark and not so easy to concentrate on lifting each footstep up high enough to clear the next rock and also planting that foot in a spot to propel yourself forward! I remember saying out loud a few times: “Pick up your feet!” I increased the brightness on my headlamp and focused hard on the trail. “No stinkin’ rock is going to keep me from reaching the finish line. Take it step by step by step. Run when you can. Walk when you must.” This section from Highway 12 to the Rice Lake 81 Mile turnaround is 4 miles. This rocky section lasted a little less than half of that then it turned back into the typical twisty trail I had become very used to with the occasional pine tree and grassy areas thrown in. As I passed 80 miles, my engines really fired up. All of a sudden, I was running and running fierce. I was passing people now that were also outbound to Rice Lake, greeting each one, of course. As I got close, I was once again thankful for driving here the day before….oh, I mean TWO days before (heehee!!)…I could visualize exactly where I was in the dark and how far I had to go. Just before Rice Lake, they had these green Christmas lights strung in the trees and when we crossed over a wood bridge, they had stuck landscape lights between the slats. It sorta felt like a cross between going to Tribal Council on Survivor and running into an island resort in the Caribbean….super cool! Arriving at Rice Lake at Mile 81, I proudly ran across the last timing mat knowing that time was being transmitted to cyberspace where hopefully someone was up just sitting on the edge of their seat waiting. Oh wait, it is the MIDDLE of the night…well, at least if someone checks, they’ll know I’m still alive out here! I grab some more soup, a few Endurolytes, douse myself with bug spray again, and head on out. In my head, I do my best attempt at some sci-fi mental telepathy: “Marjie. Wake up! Wake up and go check my status online. I’m OK! I’m in the final stretch of 19 miles!! I’m going to do it!!!!” I’d learn later she never did wake up in the middle of the night although both of my girls did crowd in with her that night creating a cozy evening for all. So much for my “Jedi-telepathy” during a hundred miler!

This is the part of my 100 mile journey that was the best. These 19 of 100 miles were the funnest and most adrenaline-filled of the entire trip. For the last 19, I am “guesstimating” that I passed between 20-30 people. Granted, many were pacers helping out their friends or family get to the finish line and many were actually 38 milers that I had caught up to. (I mean no disrespect to anyone who ran that night…it’s just my story and how it all played out for me…I loved having you all out there!) I just didn’t lose the “spunk!” My theory and strategy for sometime now was to run when at all possible and when my body said “Go!” but to walk when necessary, but when walking, to always “walk with a purpose” and forcefully. No “Sunday stroll walkin’ in the woods, Mister!” As I got through the rocks yet again, I was back at Highway 12 at Mile 85. This time in, I had a bowl of mashed potatoes with some mixed veggies and downed it all with Starbucks DoubleShot #2! I think that stuff was like pouring octane boost into my bloodstream. It all went down well and I was out of there. 15 to go! Heading back over some high grassy areas, I quickly entered the woods once again. By this time, I was calculating the time until daylight. I figured that by the time I got to the water station at Duffin Rd., I should be able to turn off my light. Sunrise was just after 5am so first light should be around 4:40am or so…dependent on how deep the woods were at the time. As I ran past 4am, the woods started to come alive, but ever so slowly. All night, all I really heard was that creaky sound made by an old tree being swayed around by the wind, like a creaky door in a scary movie. However, now the birds were awaking. Much like I hear on my 4:30am runs around home, the orchestra of birds in the woods grew and grew and grew. They knew…I knew…daylight was coming. Sure enough, about a mile before Duffin Rd. it was plenty light where the headlamp was shut off for good. Now that I could see a good distance in front of me, anytime I caught a glimpse of someone, I imagined a bulls-eye on their back. It was sorta like casting a line out to them and using it to reel myself towards them. (Remember, this is all a mental game…breaking up the race into itsy-bitsy tiny pieces without the focus on the ultimate prize…at least not for a few more miles!)

As I get back to Confusion Point, I am pumped big time. Ever since I passed this point heading back to Nordic the first time (around Mile 54.5), I remembered thinking that when I turn this hairpin corner for the last time, I will be at Mile 92 with only 8 miles to go! I make the turn and I am definitely running more than I’m walking. I start doing the math and realize that I could actually break the 26 hour point. When I had left Rice Lake at Mile 81, I calculated that there was no way I could break 26 hours at current pace and stops at aid stations…figured it would be closer to 26hrs, 30min. But now, it appeared that if I maintained the pace I’d been doing all night long, I’d do it. Ahhhh…motivation! Along the way, however, I was stopping a lot, too. Forgive me to you non-trail running readers out there, but when we trail runners have to go, we go! (to the bathroom that is) I’d say that within the last 10 miles, I could go no more than 20-30 minutes without having to stop. I couldn’t believe it. I had gone the first 80 miles and probably didn’t go more than 10 times! One thing I know in this type of event is that it’s important to always be going to the bathroom. It’s an indicator that the kidneys have not shut down, as long as blood isn’t coming out. Well, I guess my kidneys were workin’ just fine! Back at Bluff Rd. at Mile 92.5, the aid stations are startled by me barreling down the hill into their station and commented how well I looked. I felt great…I really did. They offered a chair but I said “Not this time…gotta get going!” I slammed a few Endurolytes, chased them with some Heed, grabbed some oranges and bananas and I was gone. For these last two aid stations (Bluff and Tamarack), I wanted to wolf down as many bananas and oranges as I could because that would reduce the chance of me getting the 'motha-of-all-charlie-horses' at the finish line…they are natural anti-inflammatory pieces of fruit. (smart thinking, eh!?) I continue on running, walking as necessary, into Tamarack at Mile 95. I say my final goodbyes and thanks to Ian and the Gorski’s, grab some more fruit, one last piece of sausage, and I was out of there. T-5 miles to go. OK, I suppose now is an acceptable time to think about the whole 100 miles.

Remember those little wooden signs I mentioned long ago at Mile 1-4? They were like the 80s hit, the “Final Countdown!” as I targeted each one. You see, since I ran through here from miles 57 to 62 already, I could “imagine” all night long what it would be like to run through here again at miles 95 to 100. I decided I’d bend down and give a touch to each sign as I passed and would speak out loud the total mileage and the miles to go. “Where is that guy? Where is number 4? There it is!” I speed up and give it a tap. “Mile 96! 4 to go!” I keep on rolling and actually keep passing a few other fellow runners from time to time and shouting words of encouragement along the way. By this time, it’s past 6am and 7am back at home in Ohio. I’m secretly hoping Marjie saw my 81 mile split and figured that at about right now, I’d be in the home stretch and she was as excited (or at least in the ballpark!) as me. I keep speaking under my breath “where are you #3, where are you???” “There you are!” I charge up to #3 and give it a tap. “Mile 97! 3 to go!” Around this point, I pass a runner and he comments, “trying to break 26?” “Oh yea, I’m going to!”, I replied. I kept on charging, walking (with a purpose) as needed, and entered the very grassy, rolling, cross-country-skiing-favorable area of the Nordic Trail. I finally see the #2 mile marker. “Mile 98! 2 to go!” Oh geez…”Soak it in,” I thought to myself. “LIVE IN THIS MOMENT!” Well…let’s live while running…OK?! The 1 Mile marker was a big, BIG deal. I was contemplating what to do when I got there. Do I tap it? Hug it? Kiss it? Do all three? I kept on through the grassy rolls and there it was, laying all lonesome by itself, not realizing what it meant to me, so many who had gone before, and so many who were en route. I grab it, pull it up, and dare I say (and perhaps regret publicizing!), opt for the quick kiss. Hey! Don’t tell me you wouldn’t have chosen that option, too!!! When was the last time you passed the 99th Mile marker?!?!?!? “Mile 99. One to go!” At this point, I swear I felt like singing “Ding dong, the witch is dead” perhaps break into a skip along the yellow brick road, but no, my calves would’ve screamed many obscenities at me. Instead, I kept looking for that stretch of pines which was like a corridor to the finish. It was a turn into the pines, a short stretch, then…

I kept peering through the trees, not daring to walk a step, then I caught a glimpse of it. A bright, cherry red banner stretched across blue timing mats that read “Kettle Moraine 100 Start/Finish.” OK, freeze time for a second here. When I saw that, I had an overwhelming flood of emotion. Outwardly, I had the widest grin and two fat, chubby tears…one in each eye…instantaneously. My heart just fell. “I HAVE DONE IT!!!!” I picked up the pace (like any good runner will do when in sight of the finish line) and powered across the finish line. 25 hours, 39 minutes, and a few seconds. As always, there was “Timo” with his arm outstretched and offering lots of congratulations. I just stood there, arms on my hips, relishing the moment. “So where’s my kettle?!?”, I asked Tim jokingly. “I’m getting it!”, he replied. He presented me my kettle and thanked me and congratulated me for both running his race and finishing my first 100 miler. I returned the thanks and my compliments for a very well-executed event and especially for those cleverly-placed mile markers in the final 4 miles. I didn’t mention the kiss…he’ll find out with you when he reads this.

Overall, it’s a bit overwhelming. I cannot begin to adequately express my thankfulness for the ability to accomplish this goal. I have never been any special athlete. I didn’t play sports…I was the lead trumpet in the marching band. I don’t have a “runner’s body”…you runners know what I mean. What I did (and do) have was (is) the passion to go and never say quit.

Take-Away Points from my Experience at Kettle Moraine
  • Many thanks to Jim Harris of NEO Trail, a highly accomplished 100 mile runner, for providing the inspiration to learn how to walk up hills powerfully. (he doesn't even know he did) That work I did to get strong on the hills translated into rapid hill ascents and when walking at other times, provided a very fast, powerful pace while resting the "running muscles." That was my biggest success in the whole race regarding training leading up to it.
  • I don't regret not doing over-night runs in training. The night didn't give me any problems at all.
  • Starbucks Doubleshots are the bomb!! I honestly never got tired and felt like I needed to just lay down and curl up on the trail (although those beds of pine needles looked mighty comfy!). I think part of my alertness came from the infusion of that caffiene at the perfect time.
  • I do wish I had done one more thing in training. I wish I had done one run of at least 50 miles. I did plenty of 30+ milers to the point where they became easy. I should have recognized that and pushed further. Lesson learned for the future.
  • While many consider a pacer crucial in the latter miles of the 100 miler, I don't believe it hurt me at all not having one. I don't discount the value in one at all and I would have loved the company, but I just felt great in the time when I was permitted to have one. The opposite could have happened and those last 38 could have been downright nasty but in this case, it all worked out for the better.
  • I've got this foot thing down well. I type this 3 days after the Kettle and I have zero foot injuries. Yes, they've been swollen a bit, my right forefoot is still a bit tingly, but overall, no problems. I never changed shoes once in the entire event even though I had four pairs staged in drop bags along with lubricant-filled socks at the ready. No blisters or anything. I attribute part of that to putting cucumber cream on immediately after the event and also the next two days. If you didn't know, this stuff works miracles on your feet in very little time. It has very high healing properties.
  • I could write lots and lots of bullet points where I could could tie different parts of this event into life events. In the end, the main point is this: You can do whatever you put your mind to. If you say you can't run 3 miles, then you're can't. If you say you can..and will run 3 miles, then you can. I keep hearing so many say things like "I'm too old to run like that" but then I tell them at age 36, I'm one of the younger ones out there. MOST are older than me and more than just by a couple of years. As Yoda says: "Do or do not. There is no try." (sorry, I just couldn't resist!)

Thank you to the countless army of supporters out there! You came out in incredible force for me and had filled my e-mail inbox by the time I got to it after the event. THANK YOU! YOU were a major motivator out there. I didn't want to have to report back a failure to you all! Like I thought many times throughout my 25+ hours, I was only leaving Wisconsin one of two ways: across the finish line or on a stretcher!

Happy Trails, everyone!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

KM100 Race Report: Part 1 of 2

Two years ago, I was signed up for my first ultra, the Summer Buckeye Trail 50K, after recently being bit by the trail running bug. It was a humbling, difficult, yet fulfilling experience. Two short weeks later on the first weekend in August 2007, I volunteered at the finish line of the Inaugural Burning River 100 Mile Endurance Run, northeast Ohio's first entry into the 100 mile race distance. I did so with two objectives in mind: 1) Support the local running community and those I knew participating and 2) To see people cross that finish line and thus witness their condition after covering 100 put the "nail in the coffin" of me ever considering such a crazy task. I left that finish line convinced that it wasn't for me. After a successful winter of running (I run best in the very cold temps), I ran the 100K distance all on asphalt at the Green Jewel 100K in the spring. After finishing and feeling like I had "more in the tank," I decided to give the '08 edition of Burning River a shot. (so much for that '07 BR100 finish line decision!) I trained the best way I knew how but ending up dropping out at Mile 55 after an ankle injury back at Mile 38 on the Carriage Trail. Immediately, I wanted revenge. However, I didn't want to wait 364 days to get it. I started the search for an earlier 100 miler in 2009 and with some "shopping around" and looking at the calendar, I came upon the Kettle Moraine 100 Mile Endurance Run, to be held on June 6/7, 2009. So that's how I got there. Don't ask me why I wanted to run 100 miles...I still have a hard time with that question. There is something addictive and incredibly powerful about pushing yourself beyond perceived limits and pushing through them...successfully.

Being that the southern unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest is about 8.5 hours from my home in northeast Ohio, I decided to drive all day Thursday and then get out and see the course on Friday. I thought driving that long the day before wasn't wise and would create more anxiety. I arrived in southern Wisconsin (about 90min northwest of Chicago) on Thursday afternoon, checked into my hotel in Whitewater, WI, and took a short walk into town for some dinner. Whitewater is a short 10-15min drive from the race start/finish. Apparently, I was the only one arriving a day early because I didn't see another running soul anywhere. After a good night sleep, I spent Friday morning preparing drop bags, measuring out multi-hour portions of Perpetuem, and going through race strategy over and over again. Clearly, the anticipation was building. I ended up getting out and seeing nearly all of the course accessible by car. With a course that consists of a first out and back 100K (62.4mi), then another out and back of 38 miles on a different section and a course that constantly twists and turns, it didn't take long to see it all. More than just seeing the course, I wanted to see the location of the different aid stations so I could visualize them during the run. Breaking up the 100 mile distance into 3, 4, 5 mile chunks is much easier and being able to visualize where you are heading to next facilitates this. After seeing the course and conveniently running into Tim, one of the co-race directors, I headed back to the hotel before heading back out again for packet pickup at 4pm at the La Grange Country Store, located just down the road from the race start. I had planned to meet up with some others for dinner Friday night but I suddenly felt the need to be alone and focus mentally. The result was ordering a pizza then crashing for the night. My hotel had turned into a make-shift race headquarters by that time with nearly everyone with either their significant other or friends they were running with or being crewed by or paced. I packed everything up, loaded the drop bags in the car, and went to bed. Alarm was set for 3:45am.

The elephant sat squarely on my chest when I awoke on Saturday morning. Wow, NOW I feel the pressure, the anxiety, the anticipation of what's to come. I brewed a pot of espresso, had some cereal and a piece of fruit, took a shower (yea, this seems silly but it's tradition!), and was off to the start just after 5am for a 6am start. I often try to "set myself up" for multi-hour runs by listening to the type of music I want in my head during the run...on the way "to" the run. I never run with anything plugged in my ears and prefer to just immerse myself in the surroundings and be alone in my own thoughts. My choice for this day was Casting Crowns, a Christian contemporary band that is one of my favorites. Their music is incredibly worshipful, powerful, and so very selfless. As I listened to "Lifesong," a song that many love, the sun was cracking across the horizon issuing in the new day. I couldn't help but think I would see that sun cross the sky, set, and rise again before I slept again. Oh, what a journey is ahead!

The pre-race briefing was held promptly at 5:40am by Tim with last minute instructions. I strapped my timing chip to my ankle, placed my drop bags besides the signs marking each drop bag location, made one last phone call home with a "Talk to you tomorrow! I love you!" and I was set to go. The first five miles are through the Nordic Trails and as the name implies, are perfect for skiing in the winter. Think of wide grassy, rolling areas with endless twists and turns. Nothing technical at all in this section and a nice wide area to allow the field of participants to spread out and thin a bit. A nice touch was mile markers for the first 4 miles. This was a good way to make sure that I wasn't starting out too fast. Little did I know how much I'd love these markers on Sunday morning. At Mile 5 was the first aid station, Tamarack, and the reputation preceded the race about this aid station. The Gorski's run this AS and the reputation is more about later in the race, specifically when it falls at Miles 57, 67, and 95. Feeling fine, I grabbed a piece of fruit, topped off my Heed bottle, and got moving. The next section continued the rolling and introduced many pines and pine needles to run on. 2.5 miles later, we arrived at Bluff Rd. This was also a major aid station that would come alive later in the day. It was important to get what I needed here because the next full aid station wouldn't be for another 8 miles at Emma Carlin, the first drop bag location. As I headed out of Bluff, the trail turned to a more technical, rocky terrain and was heavily covered by the forest. I ran with a few other runners off and on through here and in particular, one lady from New Jersey who ended up winning the women's race in just over 22 hours on Sunday morning. She ran Burning River last year, as well. While running with her, I pulled out my laminated card which on one side had a picture of my wife and girls and on the other side had my aid station spreadsheet breakdown. Well, I must have not stuffed that card very well into my front pocket on my Nathan vest because when I went to grab it around mile 16, it was gone. ARGH!!! That really stunk. Luckily, I had studied the course so well, the spreadsheet loss wasn't too big a deal. Not having my girls to call on for inspiration...well, I guess my memory would have to fill that role. Coming into Emma Carlin at Mile 15.5, I felt really good. I grabbed some potatoes which I had trained with and quickly found that canned potatoes and fresh red-skin potatoes are worlds apart in terms of taste. Potatoes worked magic for me during my training but today, I wasn't taking another bite...just an adjustment to my race plan to deal with and move forward. I got into my drop bag, ditched my disposable camera (I didn't want to deal with it anymore), mixed up a new batch of Perpetuem, re-filled my Heed bottle, grabbed some solid foods at the aid station, and got myself moving. Emma Carlin was the first place for a couple of things. For one, those with a crew had chairs set up for them and provided for all their needs...nutritionally, emotionally, name it. The other thing was that even though I was running my planned pace, did everything to the letter, I felt totally sapped of energy. WHAT?! 15 miles in with temps in the 50s and I feel like crud?! I had done multiple back-to-backs in my training with multiple 30-milers and felt fine at the end of them. Now, I'm tapered, fully carbed up, ready to go, and my wheels fall off at Mile 15?! "Deal with it...and get your tail" Instead of dwelling on the huge surprise, I figured it would only last 5 miles or so then times would turn so I just focused on forward movement. Unfortunately, the next section would turn out to be my least favorite. Thankfully, we didn't have hot/humid temperatures because if so, we would have baked out there. From Emma Carlin to Highway 67 Aid Station (about 7-8 miles), it's rolling wide open prairie land. The grasses were at time higher than my waist (I'm 6' 2") and this could be a treacherous area, especially on the return trip around 40 miles. Well, the funk didn't disappear and I just continued on pace to Highway 67. Tim, the race director, was there and immediately came up to me to ask how I was. "Hanging in there, Tim. Thanks." I gathered some salt tabs, some fruit, filled the Heed bottle, and got out of there. I could tell I was spending far less time at these aid stations than others with a crew. Getting pampered is all well and good but it definitely adds to the time not moving forward. For me personally, I didn't see a benefit to having one so far. I was doing fine by myself. The next section was back into gorgeous scenery and full of tall pines. Hilly, rocky for sure, and a nice break from the mundain open prairie land. In this section, I came upon a fellow runner who had just taken a nasty fall in front of me. A rock tripped him up and he broke the fall with his face on another rock. That was the first blood I had seen for the day. I wished him the best of luck and kept on moving. At about mile 26, I arrived at Highway ZZ Aid Station. It's actually only steps away (through the woods) to the 31.2/50K turn-around at Scuppernong, but instead of taking the short way, the course is another 5 miles through the toughest section of the whole course (in my opinion). Technical, rocky, "Buckeye Trail-like," hilly...actually, just my cup-o-tea!!! Arriving at 50K in 6hrs, 20min, I was ready to make some changes...quick. First off, get the Nathan vest the heck off my back. I had trained extensively in this vest and never had an issue with shoulder/back pain or soreness. It carries 1.5L of water and provides storage for the Shot Bloks I was carrying. I also had my North Face jacket stuffed in the back expecting the predicted thunderstorms. Well, this pack was giving me those pains that I never had before. This made no sense! I trained with it!!! Off it went and I took the jacket out, wrapped it around my waist, and used the pocket in the jacket for storage along with my zippered pocket on my Mizuno shorts for my Shot Bloks. I also changed into a new, fresh VR Training tech tee, and hit the trail. I also doused myself with bug spray before leaving and also witnessed more crews pampering runners and also some very long hugs...definitely made me miss home. Heading out, I was praying for rain. "Lord, please...just pour down some rain!" I didn't care about getting soaked, mud, or anything that the rain would bring. I love running in the mud and getting wet. To me, it's like running in air conditioning and it keeps me cool. Well, guess rained for the next 7 miles! Thank you! The way back, I started feeling a little better, although not fully myself...still wondering when the funk would fully disappear. I continued taking my Shot Bloks every 45 minutes to ensure a steady flow of electrolytes into my system. I didn't wear my Garmin GPS at all because it's battery would never last the entire race and I also didn't want to know my pace or exact distance. Instead, I wore my old, 11 year old Nike Triax watch and set the timer to go off every 45min to remind me to take a Blok. I went between Black Cherry (caffiene-infused) and Margarita (added sodium). Basically, I took the high sodium ones when it had been awhile since I had any salt tabs. I kept on truckin' and time started to pass a little faster and before I knew it, I was in the prairie lands again heading towards Emma Carlin at mile 47.3. Arriving there, I did the traditional re-fuel and got moving. On the way out, I clinged onto two 100K runners and stuck with them. When they walked, I walked. When they ran, I ran. Good conversation, too. I hung with them for about 8 miles or so but as my bathroom breaks increased (a very good sign during a 100 miler), I lost them. Not to worry, though. My funk was drifting way...finally. Arriving back at Bluff Rd, hot chicken noodle soup was at the ready so I took a cup, a seat, and enjoyed every last bite and sip of it. Wow, now THAT hit the spot. I wolfed it down knowing I had to get moving. At about this point, I saw the leaders of the race...they were heading out on the 38 mile about mile 70 for them, and mile 55 for me. They had pacers, looked effortless, and were cruising. I continued on another 2.5 miles to Tamarack and true to rumors, they had come alive! I quickly asked: "Who's Ian?!" Ian told me via e-mail to ask for the Brit when I came through. He sprung to life, introduced himself, and showed me the spread of food they had prepared. Some of the offerings: burritos, baked beans, grilled cheese, soup, lots of salty snacks, fruits, M&Ms, little sausage links, coke, mountain dew...oh so good. I chose to partake in the sausage link (a bit spicy) and took a burrito for my trip out. The idea was to grab what I needed and get moving. No need to sit and chat when I could be covering more distance. That burrito was SO good! By far, the best food on the course hands down. After filling my nutritional needs, I headed back onto the Nordic Trails for the last 5 miles into the Start/Finish area. At 8pm, the 38 mile fun run started so a swarm of runners passed me heading out into the night. I didn't get into the 100K aid station until around 8:40pm so I missed that start. Arriving back at Nordic, finish line observers and the race directors were either shouting "100K finisher!!!!" or "100 miler heading back out!!!!" accompanied with cheers. Tim, again, was very gracious and encouraging to me. Night was falling all around me at this point. I pulled over my drop bag, changed into my long-sleeve Akron Marathon black tech tee, and cracked open a can of Starbucks Doubleshot. I hadn't trained with this before but I assumed I'd need some pick-me-up at this point. I had another cup of soup as well, donned my Princeton Tec headlamp and headed into the night at 8:52pm. All of a sudden, I felt alive and ready to rock out the last 38 miles. Nocturnal, you think? Only the night will tell...

(Link to Part 2 of 2)

Monday, June 8, 2009

M-Cubed for 6/8/2009

Monday Morning Musings for June Eighth, Two Thousand and Nine. A smattering of thoughts that alone don't constitute a blog post but together end up here on Monday morning.

- Oh, how tempting to start typing the post-race report from the Kettle. However, seeing that I am
6hrs from home and writing that report will take a good bit of time, I'll get to working on it later this week. Lots to tell...the good, bad, and the ugly. I went through it all. For now, a quick M-Cubed post and on the road for HOME.

- I slept for 10.5 hours last night...and would've slept longer if my brother hadn't called. He thought I'd be on the road already. I can't remember ever sleeping that long and have to long would I have slept?? I feel much better far. (Ibuprofen is within arm's reach!)

- 25hrs, 39min..and some misc. seconds. I'm thrilled with it! Here's just a few bullet points that I'll mention again in my report.
  • You know that card I made of all the aid stations and it had a picture of Marjie and girls on the reverse? I was chit-chattin' with another runner around Mile 15 (who ended up winning the women's race!), took the card out to "introduce" my family, and about 2 miles later, realized the card was GONE!!! I must have not tucked it inside my race-vest pocket very well and I littered on the trail! (Bad Nick!!) I was pretty upset for a few minutes but hey, I know what they look like!
  • Clif Shot Bloks after several...and I mean several...hours, get downright nasty! The timer on my watch went off every 45min to remind me to take one. I'll admit...I skipped a few. The thought of one made me want to puke...which is a bad thing. But, it was a great trickle flow of electrolytes into my system.
  • Want an overwhelming out-pouring of emotion? Get a glimpse of the bright red finish line banner through the pine trees at Mile 99.9. More to come...
  • There was no better way to last-minute-prepare than to listen to Casting Crown's "Lifesong" en route to the race start as the sun cracked the horizon. Empowering, glorious, beautiful, inspiring.
  • Many are shocked that I ran without a crew (many had a crew who leap-frogged from aid station to aid station provided food, a chair, a hug, etc.) nor a pacer to get me through the night. Honestly...looking didn't hurt me one little bit. I'll explain in my report.
  • I learned a whole new level of mental fortitude over the last 48 hours. With all of my back-to-back training runs and many runs in excess of 30 miles, my "wheels came off" at Mile 15. Yea...can you believe it? That's a bad thing when you know you have 85 miles to go. Again, it'll be in the report.
  • Lastly for now: Mr. Moon joined me as the clouds parted at Mile about 12:45am on Sunday morning. Of course, the critters hiding in the grasses around me could hear: "Good morning, Mr. Moon!"
- To keep from actually never getting out this hotel room and not making it home, I'll stop with the bullet points or I WILL end up writing the report. There is just no end to my thoughts right now!

- As part of recovery, I will absolutely NOT run today. I don't think I could if I tried. My feet took the beating of a lifetime. The ends of my right foot toes are still tingly. I have a feeling that my right big toenail is in jeopardy. :-( There were far more rocks on this course than I ever anticipated...and they were encountered mostly from miles 77 - the night. Tomorrow night (Tuesday), Lori will be coming over to work her expert magic on me...she'd better be gentle!

- That's enough for now. Believe me, there's much more in this noggin of mine that will spill out in the near future. For now...

Full Results (I was 51 of 90 finishers. I am unsure of how many started. 133 were registered and if I had to guess, I'd say 110-120 started...but that's just a guess)

Happy Trails, everyone!

Friday, June 5, 2009

KM100 Tracking and Weather

Event Details
Start: 6am CST (7am EST)
Event Cutoff: Noon CST on Sunday, June 7th (30hr time limit)

There are 3 events taking place:
1) 100 Mile and 100K (62.4 mi) start together
2) 38 Mile Fun Run starts at 8pm Saturday night and covers the last 38 miles of the 100 mile course. This will "liven" up the trail at night when the 100 milers really need it.

Live Tracking During Event
I will be wearing an electronic chip on my ankle that will record my time and update the site online at 5 different checkpoints: Start, 31.4 miles, 62.9 miles, 81.5 miles, and the Finish. I do not recommend checking until after noon on Saturday CST as it will take me at least that long to reach the 31.4 mile checkpoint.

Track Me Here. You will see the checkpoints, mileage, time, place, and splits.

Current Weather, Forecast, Local Radar in the Kettle Moraine area
In a nutshell, the forecast is calling for rain and lots of it with thunderstorms likely throughout the day and night. Temperatures will be abnormally cool, though. The key will be to wear the proper clothing and keep from getting chilled too badly as I become more and more dehydrated. Current weather, forecast, and radar are all available below.

"It's a Kettle, not a Tea Pot!!!!"

That's just one part of a lively conversation before I left work on Wednesday. Good 'ol Renee...I know she meant well, but really....the "Tea Pot 100 Mile Endurance Run?????" In all fairness, a kettle will hold water to be boiled just as well as a tea pot. Geez....

My drive in yesterday went off without a hitch except for a white-knuckle drive through Chicago. How can traffic be that nasty at 1:30pm on a Thursday?!? I don't want to know what rush hour looks like. I was also amazed at how much tolls cost me. I was on toll roads all the way from home until after Chicago...racked up $19.05 in tolls. Dang! I made really good time getting to Chicago in less than 6 hours and getting into Whitewater with plenty of time to see a little around town and get a good dinner in town.

Today, I worked on the drop bags, mostly filling baggies with Perpetuem and going through the bag contents yet another time to make sure each one has what it needs. I also replaced all 3 headlamps' batteries with fresh ones and verified they all work. (stupid me...I looked into that powerful one again...saw spots for awhile!) After resting, laying around like a slug, I headed out with the goal of seeing nearly the entire course by car...mostly at road crossing and aid stations. Since the forecast is rain, thunderstorms, and more rain, I thought beautiful, sunny skies were perfect today for some pictures that I won't get tomorrow. The main goal, however, was to follow the course and put the different stops into my head for motivation tomorrow. Picturing where I am helps me break up the course into bits and pieces instead of thinking about the event as a whole. Anytime I think about ONE HUNDRED MILES, I start to think: "What the HECK am I doing this for? Am I nuts?" So, I break it up into little pieces and just focus on getting from point to point.
Thinking about the whole thing is a path to mental destruction. Overall, the course is full of gentle rolls with nothing looking too incredibly steep. That matches well with everything I've heard. It has 12,000 feet of elevation gain through all these rolly hills. It is very much surrounded by lush forest and foliage. Some paths are extremely narrow but overall, the paths look like they're in great condition with the occasional rocks/roots. At my last stop which was the park headquarters, a man approached me after seeing my license plate and introduced himself. Turned out, it was Tim..the KM100 Race Director! Of course, I asked him to pause just one moment for a snapshot. (I wonder where he's storing those little Kettles...) Here are the rest of the photos for your viewing enjoyment.

Alright! That's it for blogging until I post a post-race report! Tonight after dinner, I will post the direct link for race tracking as well as a link for current weather, forecast, and radar. For now, it's time to get out to the La Grange General Store for packet pickup then dinner with some other fellow runners at 6pm in Whitewater.
happy, Happy, HAPPY Trails, everyone!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

"Eat Like a Horse, Drink Like a Fish, Run Like a Turtle"

Thanks to Greg M. for that saying that he posted on his blog earlier this week. Perfect. Simplistic, I know, but it's easy to forget to always be eating, always be drinking, and running nice and easy...especially at the beginning. I went ahead and also put it at the top of my reference/motivational card I made and laminated this evening. Below is one side of it that has every aid station, total accumulated mileage, distance to next aid station, and miles to go. The highlighted aid stations are those where I will have drop bags. Those with the letter "W" after them signify water only at those aid stations and maybe a few other minimal things. All other aid stations will have (as reported this week by the race organizers): water, ice, Hammer Heed will be supplied in Heed labeled cups, gels (Hammer raspberry, apple cinnamon, chocolate, tropical, banana, vanilla, orange and/or espresso flavored), Endurolytes, Coke, Mt. Dew, Sprite (no diet supplied), pretzels, crackers, cookies, chips, olives, peanut butter and jelly and turkey sandwiches, fruit (cantaloupe and watermelon), boiled white potatoes, and other assortments of sweet and salty foods. Some stations will have coffee, soup and other assorted food.
On the other side, I gave myself a few reminders for each and every aid station of things not to ever forget. I plan to review this before each station so I can grab what I need and get the heck out of there. In and out as fast as possible is the idea. I also put a picture of my girls...chances are, I'll have to call upon them throughout the weekend.

I also believe that I finally hammered out my fueling plan. I finally got some time to myself tonight while getting my deep tissue massage...when I counted out the miles and how often I would refill my Perpetuem bottle, take Shot Bloks, stage replacement shoes, socks, shirts, etc. In a nutshell:

  • (1) Clif Shot Blok every 45 minutes
  • Multi-hour bottle of Perpetuem every drop bag (~ every 15 miles)
  • Replacement trail shoes if necessary at 50K and 100K aid stations
  • Road shoes if necessary at 100K aid station
  • BodyGlide lubricant at all drop bags
  • Socks pre-filled with SportShield lubricant at 50K and 100K aid stations
  • Replacement short sleeve tech tees at 50K and Emma Carlin #2 aid stations
  • Long sleeve tech tee at 100K aid station
  • Short sleeve tech tee at Highway 12 aid station
  • Starbucks DoubleShot at 100K and Highway 12 Aid Stations (77mi/82mi)
  • Garmin GPS at 100K aid station
  • Petzl Headlamp at Emma Carlin #2
  • Princeton Tec main headlamp at 100K aid station
  • Petzl e-Lite and North Face waterproof jacket in Nathan pack at all times on back

Below is a picture of many of these items I laid out tonight minus the clothing. Laying on the bottom is the Ziploc 10 gallon bag that I'm using for drop bags. Easy to seal, easy to see through, and a built-in handle to make it easier for me to grab and for the aid station volunteers to handle. A pack of 4 is less than 5 bucks and can be found at Target. On the bottom are several little snack baggies with labels written on them. I'll pre-measure out multi-hour servings of Perpetuem and pick a bag up at each aid station for the next aid station. The idea is to get through the whole bottle and throw in the powder before entering the station so that all has to be done is getting it filled with water. I'll also carry a bottle and refill with Heed at each station. The little spray bottle is bug spray.

Once a race update site goes "live," I will post it here on my blog. That will be my last post before race start on Saturday morning. Until then, I'll probably post an update once I get into town and explore the area and a few key points along the course.

For this week so far, I ran 6 on Sunday, 5 on Monday, rest today and a deep tissue massage this evening, 3 miles tomorrow (Wednesday) very easy then start carbo loading tomorrow afternoon/evening. I'll hit the road for Wisconsin early on Thursday, have a hearty dinner, get a hopefully very long, restful night sleep, explore the area on Friday and pick up my race info, then embark on 100 miles in the Kettle Moraine National Forest at 6am central standard time, 7am EST on Saturday morning. Thanks to many of you who have already sent your well-wishes and support. I will do my best to post a picture of me holding a kettle by weekend's end!

Happy Trails, everyone!