This race started on June 6th, 2015. Again most of this report is what I wrote in an email to friends.
My wife and I got to Wisconsin on Friday and saw there was a Fuddruckers in Janesville so we had to eat there before we picked up my race packet and such. So good!
Got up at 3:20 and did my normal pre-race stuff and got to the start with good time. Saw John Maas at the start line so asked him if he was going to win it again this year since I’m pretty sure he was going to try for it today but he just did the usual ultra response of “I feel pretty good”. Mostly because a LOT of stuff can go wrong in a 100 mile race and a good 30% you don’t have any control over anyway.
Started at 6am which seemed earlier than it needed to be but I guess the sun was up so off we went. Over 370 people started at once (the 100K was run at the same time) which is a lot for a trail run. It was a nice wide ski trail for the first 8 miles so plenty of time to find your spot and settle in for a nice long run. Usually I talk more to people but that didn’t happen much this race. Don’t know if I was less outgoing or just people didn’t want to talk. I usually don’t put my headphone on for at least 4 hours or so into a race because I’m talking to different people but I had them on after only 2 hours.
I tried to keep my pace down but I “felt pretty good” too going into the race. Didn’t have the bathroom issues the night before like Zumbro. The weather was nice and conditions were good at the start. Got to the first station a ways ahead of schedule which I always do because I just can’t help it. The next section was on the ice age trail which is single track and more of the trail I’m used to in MN. LOVED it! Probably my favorite section of race I’ve ever had. Couldn’t help but smile cruising down every hill, the trail was super curvy with enough rocks and turns to scare you going down hill fast but not enough to slow you from going fast (don’t worry mom I was always in control and never did anything dumb like I promised). Felt like a little kid running down a hill super fast, you know that look they have.
Anyway, the next section was a longer section where there were unmanned water stations and it would be a while until I’d see Jessie again. I kept wondering why she kept trying to push more food and water at me since the next station was only 3 miles away. Forgot that the next 2 stations were just water and nothing else and I’d be going through the open prairie. I had told her and even written it down to give me lots of stuff. She just needed to remind me how long till she’d see me again I guess. Luckily I was cruising along really well and was able to make what I had last long enough. It wasn’t too hot yet and was still pretty cloudy.
Then some more tree covered trail and some steep technical (rocks and roots) trail until the first turnaround at Scuppernong. Of course the really bad part of the trail was right as I usually hit my first “wall” at about 28 miles into the race. Took about 2 miles to work through it and then back to cruising. Turn around point was 50K which at 5:33 was pretty respectable on its own so I know I was feeling pretty good. Of course since it is a turn around spot that also means I got to see how many were ahead of me as I was running towards it since they were then running at me. I figured I was about 35th or so which I wasn’t too happy about but not much I could do about that. I was running well. BUT…
I wasn’t able to keep up with my sweating. It was now getting hot. Probably not much above 70 but for me that’s hot especially since there haven’t been many hot days to run this year yet to train. Plus zero wind on the trail and oh yay no more clouds just as it hits noon. I normally need 20 oz of water an hour. But not today.
Now I wasn’t getting dehydrated or anything but I was only peeing every 2 hours or so and I don’t like that. You never pee large quantities during the race but like to check it every hour or so just to make sure everything is working right. Probably too much information but I warned you above. Again it wasn’t dark but I could tell I wasn’t where I should be for optimal running. You just learn these things about your body after a while. Yes my electrolyte levels were fine as well to you medical people (again you just learn these things after a while) So I started dousing myself with water at every station until the end of the race to help keep cool. And started drinking way more than normal. Now since this was the turn around spot that means I was back in that nice long section of open prairie/swamp at 1pm with no clouds and trying to catch up with hydration. So I drank over 60 ounces in the 2 hours to complete the 9 or so miles and watch a couple of people pass me that apparently are camels and enjoy heat and not drinking any water (hate those people!). I just had to hope that the night would come soon and I’d get them back when I cooled down then. It was also during this portion of the race that lots of people were cheering.
Basically you run back to the starting line and then you go out on another loop in a different direction. So the section right by the start/finish line you run 4 times. I hate that part! Even the first time but especially the last time which I’ll get to later. Anyway, I got to see how many in front of me at the turn around again. I think things were pretty much the same, I was low 30’s for place and John Maas was still 7th I think. We high fived each other every time we passed other than at night in the dark. So 100K done and 38 miles to go. Did the same stupid section going out and actually ran it better than I thought I would since I thought the big hills would be hurting more by now.
Then night fell just as I got to the new loop section. This part was very technical. I stubbed my feet 50-60 times and almost went down about 6 of those. Always was able to correct somehow. I had to slow way down though so that sucked. Luckily I had planned on that on my pace card so I still was able to gain a minute or 2 every section between aid stations. Towards the turn around at Rice Lake there were some flat parts in the trees. I guess it’s supposed to be pretty but it was dark and the clouds started showing up so the moon didn’t do much for lighting up the view.
On the upside to all this darkness was I was finally well hydrated and cool again so I could eat more and really do well on the flat parts. I was unable to tell how many people were in front of me at the Rice lake turnaround because I didn’t dare look up from the trail most of the time since there were so many rocks and roots and looking at people just blinds them with your lamp and is kind of a douche move. I do know that I actually passed some people on the trail so that was very promising and a great morale booster.
Finally at the station after the turn around I caught another person and then saw the most glorious sight. Ok 2nd most glorious (my wife was the first). Anyways there were probably about 10 racers sitting in chairs. “Die chair sitters die” I said in my head. Most people would say you should NEVER sit down to take a break in an ultra or there is a real good chance you will never get up from said chair. Some people can do it and still get back going but they’ll admit they lose more time than they want to by doing so. So I knew I was easily in the 20’s now for position. I gained a few more on the next section but knew I would probably lose one or two on the last section that I did 3 times before already. There are always some people who seem to be running on new legs at the end of the race that fly by you. Of course they are really only going about a minute a mile pace faster but in the dark it looks like they come out of no where. Only got taken by 2 of them. I think I also gained a couple at the last aid station as well Jessie thought. I was hoping to be the person doing the taking this race but the last 7.5 miles SUCKED. I don’t even want to talk about it. It’s where mental fortitude takes an important roll in a 100 mile race. I was able to keep the pace I thought I would do but there was nothing fun about that section other than the finish line. And the 22:24:42.9 on the clock. That was 4:24 am and it was just starting to get the smallest amount of light out. The birds started chirping a few minutes later. Oh and I beat the storm clouds as well which was nice. It would’ve made that last section suck even more.
So 100.6 miles later I had a few blisters that didn’t hurt at all during the race other than when a rock or stick would hit them somehow. Basically pain-free. Now that means no additional pain than what I would expect from a 100 mile run. I believe the veteran ultrarunners when they say a 100 mile race always hurts. Jessie has some pretty good stories of this young woman who kept passing me and yet I’d always be in front of her the next section because she kept sitting down and was complaining how she hurt and Tylenol wasn’t taking care of it, etc. When I first heard her say her knee hurt, I thought she was injured. But when I still saw her running past me 30 miles later I kind of knew she wasn’t really injured. Her mom talked to Jessie a fair amount because we were always there at similar times and I get the impression the young woman didn’t know that it is normal to hurt when you run really far, no matter what drugs you take or how young you are. Anyway washed off the dirt and tried to sleep for a few hours (not easy to sleep when no position makes you not hurt) until the breakfast was served. Ate and then took turns driving home.
Now I have a qualifying race done for Western States 100 next year but it’s a lottery to get in so I likely won’t be able to do it. It’s starting to suck that all these races are having to go to lotteries now. Too many crazy people wanting to run long distances I guess.
Overall I was 26th out of 266 starters. 165 actually finished the race which is 62% and kind of low in my mind for an easier race. Perhaps too many first timers that didn’t know what they were getting into. I was secretly hoping to finish in 23 hours but put 24 hours on my time card I make with all the aid stations, etc on it since I sucked it so bad at the last race. So I even beat my secret goal which made me very happy, but maybe not so much for Jessie since the time card was all screwed up with me constantly beating my times. Anyway she was a super awesome crew. My down time was only 34 minutes at the aid stations this race. That’s less than my 37 minutes in my Kansas race that she crewed for me as well even with the extra aid stations this race had. I think Cheryl was pretty impressed how fast she got me in and out of the aid stations. Thanks to my SUPER DUPER AWESOME CREW WIFE and my sister Cheryl for helping during part of the race. Cheryl told Jessie that no one seemed to be smiling while running but she needs to come to the finish line to see that, or had been there after that super fun section at the beginning (it wasn’t as fun the second time when I had to go up all those fun hills).
I’ll just add that this race has some things to be desired in my mind. The main thing was that there is a night run that goes on at the same time as the 100 mile race. The race directors didn’t bother to tell those people to yield to the weaker 100 mile runners. So they would run 2-3 people wide and not move over for anyone. They’d shine their lights in people’s faces, etc. I understand that the RD’s don’t have control over how people behave but they didn’t remind people and they need to do that. Totally ruined the race for me. The only reason I’d do this race again is because it is a qualifier for Western States and part of the Gnarley Bandit Series.
The official elevation gain is 8801 for the course based on 2011 data. They used to say it was over 10,000. The record times for the course make it seem like the 8801 would be the more accurate number but when I put it in Google Earth which is usually low on elevation it comes in at 10,962. So I’m kind of torn on how they came up with 8801. I kind of think it is closer to 10,000. With the flat prairie sections I could see how it runs fast like it’s only 8801 and the winners are through most of the technical portion before it’s dark. Whatever, I’m sure they’re confident on the 8801 since it’s so specific of a number.