Well I made it out alive and surprisingly can walk down stairs about as good as after any other race. Surprisingly you ask? read on.
So the night before the race just before I go to bed at 8pm I check Facebook for any updates before the race. Turns out it is snowing super hard. This after the close to inch of rain during the day. I’ve been on the course once before so I know how bad it’s going to be with this news.
Got up at 4am to drive to Theilman, MN. Thus began the “awake clock”. Past Zumbrota there is snow all around and the roads are slightly icy. So now I have to drive slow and hope I get there. Got there in time to get my bib and get stuff organized at least. 30 degrees for the temperature so I wore what I thought was appropriate clothing, forgetting there was zero wind in the trees. I was way too hot. There was fog everywhere which is both creepy and awesome at the same time running in the woods. Crunchy snow on top of wet leaves, rocks, and mud. Wasn’t surprised by the injuries I saw the first day. Finished my first lap of 6 in 3:05 which was better than last year when I only did the 1 lap race. Shows how out of shape I was last year after not running for 6 months. In one of the themes of the day, I spent time changing clothes (6 times during the race) due to the weather constantly changing. My last 100 mile race I spent 37 minutes total at aid stations, in part due to my awesome wife crewing for me. This time it had to be at least 90 minutes. What a waste!
So lap 2 it sleeted and rained. This really made the course difficult. Basically had to hang on to trees to go down hill and not crash and fall. Slows you way down. Messed up all my accessory muscles in back and hips trying not to fall as well. At least I never did fall. I was getting grumpy. My stomach had been off the whole race. In fact the night before I had to take Imodium and Gas-x to get things to stop if you know what I mean. Lets just say I was in the bathroom 4 times in an hour.
I finally just stopped eating food all together during the 3rd lap. I was surprisingly still on pace for my goal of 25 hours. I felt much better towards the end of lap 3, in fact the aid station people could tell. I knew I looked bad earlier by how they looked at me but their constant food pushing was the wrong thing for me this race. At the end of lap 3 was 50 miles. The sun was setting. My quads were already in bad shape. Was wishing I had signed up for the 50 so I’d be done.
But I didn’t abandon my family for 2 days just to quit. Plus I wasn’t really injured yet. So loop 4 started off with new socks, clothes, headlamp, etc. I think my time wasn’t too bad with this loop. I ran to the first aid station with someone who was going to pace someone else on the 5th loop. It was nice since I hadn’t seen anyone on the trail since the first loop other than the 2 injured people I passed. Don’t worry, they were already getting help from aid station workers. 9 hours is a while to not see anyone other than the aid station people.
Started the 5th loop just after midnight which was also when the 50 mile race started. Kevin Langton caught up to me and we talked for a while. I say caught up because after the 4th loop my body was done and I wasn’t even tired yet from not sleeping, I knew that would come later. My goal of 25 hours was gone. Now it was just finish mode. He stopped at the top of one of the hills on a rock and was looking at the stars. It seemed peaceful but I knew if I stopped that would be bad. I didn’t see him again until a few miles before the finish line when he passed me again. I thought he quit but turns out he spent some time warming up in his car. Mentally I was all over the place. Happy that it was colder again (low 30’s), wanting this to be my last loop so I could sleep in my car, like REALLY wishing this was my last loop so I could sleep in my car. At least the trail had dried out some so that you could at least grip the mud with your shoes and not just slide on it.
Finally I finished lap 5. Really no question as to whether or not to start loop 6. If you make it 5 you can do 6. I knew I’d have to walk the last loop almost entirely. I really have no idea how I made it down those steep hills on this loop. The sun came up just after I started the 6th loop as it was around 6am. Finally I could see everything since there was no longer fog everywhere, just in the valley. Quite beautiful view from the ridge tops. By the end of this loop it was 70 degrees instead of 30. The 1 loop race started about 3 hours after my leisurely stroll started so I knew they would all be passing me. We wear these pink ribbons so that the other racers know we’re doing the 100 mile and will be slow. While it is encouraging to hear “great job 100”, it almost gets annoying when you hear it as 60 people pass you. What’s funny is when they say “looking great”. Now I know what they mean, but really? There is nothing about a guy gimping along for 17 miles that looks great. I know from experience that it actually looks pretty sad as I was one of those 1 loop people last year looking at the sad pathetic 100 mile people in their emergency garbage bag ponchos in the rain just gimping along. If things had gone to plan I would’ve been off the course before that race even started.
So finally I finished just after noon with a time of 28:08. I only got passed by a couple 100 mile people on the last loop. Still ended up 12th which is pretty much where I was the whole race due to people quitting and injuries. 74 started and 46 finished which is pretty close to normal. It’s usually about a 50% finish rate for this race. Most races have about 80% finish rate. It’s mentally hard to not want to get in your car and sleep since it’s a loop course and the weather has almost always been harsh at this race. Physically doing the same super steep inclines with mud and rocks over and over again is hard to train for this early in the year in MN.
Went to bed in my car about 1pm after signing the finisher banner and eating some food (so 33 hours awake). Didn’t sleep well obviously and got up at 3pm and had to wait another 3 hours to get my drop bags back from the course since I didn’t think to go and get them myself – I think I was too tired to realize I could just go drive and get them. Think I got another nap in there as well. Drove home after eating some more, showered and brushed my teeth, got to bed about 9pm.
So I got my second belt buckle and met a few more people. I guess I’m a veteran ultrarunner as I had my first race that wasn’t a personal best. This race isn’t well-known nationally yet so it’s still somewhat small with upper mid-west people mostly. Hopefully it stays that way since southern people would clean up at it with being able to train all year. Plus most of the other MN races I do had to go to the lottery entry format since they filled up in 20 minutes.
Being just a day after the race and away from the horribleness of having to “walk it in”, I’m glad I finished and didn’t just quit. Hopefully I can take my kids to one of these races when they’re older to volunteer at an aid station so they can see what determination is. Not some poster in the locker room or gym at school of a buff guy with his face all grunted doing something supposedly hard. Instead, a real human being that you’ve watched for over 24 hours go out again and again in bad weather with no teammates to support you and doing it for yourself. Trying to win is great. I’ll never do it, since with kids I don’t have time to double my training. There can be only 1 winner. So to see so many people continue for no reason other than their determination to finish what they started is awesome. Some of course would say that’s insane or crazy. But really it’s just a goal. Just like any other goal that other people have. My kids may never be runners but after seeing a race they will hopefully know that making goals without determination is a waste of time. Also that climbing our 40 foot hill in our backyard isn’t really that hard.
Here’s a video of me literally walking it in. It is what it is.
I have to say this is a race you either love, hate, or both. I’m probably in the last category. I smiled and kind of cringed every time I wore the buff I got at this race while running this summer. I immediately signed up for Kettle Moraine 100 mile when I got home after this race to redeem myself. I did well there and wrote a report on it here.
This race is very well run as are all of John Storkamp’s races that I’ve done. This one even has bacon! Although due to my super slow 6th lap it was all gone when I finished. Seriously, bacon is the most awesome thing during and after a 100 mile race. I’m sure you can find some reports describing the course better than this one since this was just an email to non running friends who wouldn’t care about those things. It is a pretty brutal course. It’s not the steepest course, even in MN but it’s over 18,000 feet of gain which isn’t easy. There are some rocks in spots and long stretches of sand. Lots of leaves cover everything up at least the first 2 laps so you never know when you’ll find a rock, root, or large hole. The weather is usually the worst part of this course most years. Snow, rain, mud, ice, cold (although you should be used to cold by April if you’ve been training all winter). Not one I’d recommend for a first 100 miler. I’d suggest wearing gloves. Not just for the cold that usually occurs but to help save your hands while hanging on to trees going downhill and to save them when you fall. Gaiters are a necessity in my mind. I’m still in amazement how many people don’t use them on this course. There is over a mile of deep sand and lots of mud to run through. It is beautiful there and the people are great at this race. I just need to train more hills during the winter and not charge down them so much the first few laps. Unfortunately it’s my weekend on call next year when this race is put on so I likely won’t make it next year.