Tunnel Hill 100 Mile – 2019 Race Report

There isn’t a whole lot to say for this years race.  I did this race in 2017 so that post has a fair amount of information in it.  The only reason for going back this year was to once again get a qualifying time for a different race.  I was hoping to get under 20 hours like I did last time so I’d get the under 20 hour buckle they have now and didn’t have last time.  I needed under 21 hours to qualify.

The main difference this year was that we brought the kids along.  Not ideal of course.  They were difficult for my wife as bored children can be.  They did help once with a shirt change that we had practiced at home.  Not that shaving off 5 seconds of time was that important but I figured they’d feel like part of the crew.  Basically I gave my pack to my wife to fill up with water, then lifted up my shirt and my daughter pulled it off, then my son had the next shirt already opened up so that all I had to do was put my arms in and he’d pull it down on me.  It worked just like we practiced.

Other than that, they basically added 15 minutes of time throughout the race.  Either they were distracting my wife from having ready what was supposed to be ready at that aid station, or I’d have to look at whatever interesting thing they had found or were doing.  My daughter insisted I stop to play with a dog at one aid station.  The hugs I got I certainly didn’t mind taking time for.

My son at one point told me he’d be dead by now if he had run that far.  I found out later though that half the time he complained I was so slow.  I’ll remember that if I ever crew him!

So to start this all off, we drove down the day before the race.  The drive wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been with the kids.  We didn’t get to listen to any of the fun grown up songs that my wife and I like to listen to on long road trips though.  That was a bummer.  While we don’t necessarily enjoy long road trips, my wife and I have a lot of fun when we’re by ourselves driving, especially in areas we’ve never been.  Great conversations and just goofing around to pass the time.  Before blogging, we’d keep journals of our trips and made sure to put some humorous writings in there as well.

Anyway, we drove straight to the packet pick up and supper.  The kids got autographed photos from Camille Herron.  She just broke the world 24 Hour record last month!  I also got one from Pete Kostelnick.  Among other things, he ran from Alaska to Key West a few years ago.  He ran through Mankato on that journey but I wasn’t able to run with him that day unfortunately.

It was super easy to see this coat during the race so I always knew where my crew was!
He was a little shy.

The rest of the evening was the regular, getting to the hotel and preparing for the race.  For the first time ever, the children went to sleep in the same bed and were fast asleep in 5 minutes.  Usually it’s an hour of fighting over covers, and annoying each other.

Race morning was uneventful.  We got to the start line about an hour early.  It was in the 20’s so I wore my puffy coat before the race to stay warm.

We started at 7AM.  I just used the same timing sheets and everything from the 2017 race.  I felt pretty good in the beginning so I just kept running comfortably.  It was a little faster than I needed.  I took my coat off almost right away so I probably should’ve just started without it.  This year I didn’t get to see my crew until the second aid station which is Karnak, 10 miles into the race.  I say 10 miles but really I have no clue what the official distance is.  It’s a certified course so you’d think it would be exact but the timing chart says 10.2 miles and the race booklet says 10.9.  Plus I still don’t know how that extra 0.25 mile parking lot run thing we do at the beginning of the race plays into the total distance.  Perhaps it’s just extra we’re running since we don’t do it on the second 50 miles.  Anyway, I got there a little early.

Jeff Genova
Before Karnak the first time.  Photo Credit: Jeff Genova

After this aid station you run to the Southern turnaround and right back to the same aid station so I just had them stay here.  I got back to them in 51 minutes and did the shirt change I talked about earlier.  I was off to the next station.

Phil Orndorff
Coming back from the Southern Turnaround. PC: Phil Orndorff

I was feeling good still and talked to a few people briefly.  In general there was much less talking this year.  Partly I think this was due to most 50 mile runners starting 2 hours later.  This helped to keep the number of people down in the first couple aid stations.  I started my run/walk pattern I think after the Heron Pond Lake aid station around 22 miles into the race.  I was really hoping to just maintain a nice 10:30 pace until 50 miles like I did last year at FANS 12 hour race.  That just didn’t happen.  In fact I finished the first 50 miles even slower than the last time I did this race.

I’m not sure if the starting out slightly faster than that pace is the problem or if that little bit of hills at FANS somehow changes things up enough to make that pace feel good.  Perhaps I still was hurting from my last race.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, I’m still only 25 miles into the race.  I was already hurting.  I just felt beat up, like I had already run 60 miles.  Instead of improving my time this year, I was going to be struggling the next 16 hours just to get under 21 hours.  I got to the start/finish line (26.5 miles) and told my wife things weren’t going well.  I started the Northern loop.

I made note of the mile markers as I ran North since I didn’t really trust the mileage chart or my watch that much.  It was still a pretty run this year.  I was worried I’d be bored doing this race a second time but I wasn’t.  I was listening to podcasts and music the rest of the race since I wasn’t talking to anyone anymore.

The kids thought the tunnel was pretty cool.  I know runners liked my daughters jacket since they could see her in the darkness of the tunnel to give them some perspective of distance.  It really is confusing to the senses going from full sun to almost total darkness while at the same time being blinded by the light at the end of the tunnel.

The aid station breaks weren’t as good this year as last time.  Basically my crew was always a station behind when it came to having the right stuff ready.  I blame my kids for this.  They were just too much of a distraction for my wife.  Luckily the aid stations aren’t terribly far apart (1-2 hours) so they’d have whatever it was ready the next time around but by then I already needed something else.  That all started to affect my performance.

It was clear by the 50 mile point that under 20 hours wasn’t going to happen.  I was in a lot of pain.  I’ve never felt that much overall pain.  There was some exhaustion as well and things just didn’t feel right in general.  The aid station mix ups added some time to my race but overwhelmingly, I was just sucking at running.  My walking pace has improved greatly from 2 years ago so that helped to slow the bleeding some.

As I said earlier by 50 miles I had lost my 10 minutes of banked time and was another 10 minutes behind schedule for an under 20 hour finish.  Things only got worse from here.  I never felt nauseous but nothing was appetizing and the foods that usually give me some energy did absolutely nothing for me, even  hours after eating them.  I got my headlamp at the 50 miles spot but it was the wrong one.  Luckily it was still light out so I switched it out at the next aid station.

And so began the long sucky night.  Nothing to report really for most of the rest of the race.  It sucked!  No food helped.  Nothing seemed to help.  I couldn’t afford to just sit for 30 minutes to see if that would help.  Usually the night time is my favorite time of a 100 mile race.  I do better, well at least I feel better.  I of course run slower than the beginning of the race but compared to everyone else, I usually pass people like crazy at night.  I did indeed pass others this night but not many and they were all basically just walking so they were feeling worse than I was.

One interesting thing was that while going North on the North loop, I heard a group of coyotes screaming and howling just as I was crossing a long tressel.  They were very close and it just echoed everywhere since it was kind of a valley there.  Creepy and cool at the same time.

I finally got to the Tunnel Hill aid station for the last time at 18:26 race time.  It’s about 9.5 miles to the finish from here.  Last time I got a nice second wind here and pushed it in to the finish in under 2 hours.  That wasn’t going to happen this time.  Even if I could do it in 2 hours again, that wasn’t even close to getting under 20 hours.  I don’t know if my wife was delusional from being tired or what but she said, “You’ve got 90 minutes.”  I think I even laughed.  Like I was going to run under 10 minute miles at this point!

I just had to be content with finishing under the 21 hours which is what I needed to not have this race be a complete waste of time for me.  My watch finally died so I just had to keep watching the mile markers to know how close I was getting to the end.  The last mile or so I was able to push it a little bit and ended up passing someone.  The next person in front of me finished 20 minutes before me.  If it wasn’t for all the runners going the other direction, I would’ve been alone that entire North loop.

I crossed the finish line in 20:41:47.  Good enough.  It was 3:41AM.  400 started the race and 225 finished.  Probably over 100 people dropped down to the 50 mile distance which is allowed in this race.  That’s why it looks like such a horrible finishing rate.  I placed 44th overall.  While it is a flat and easy course, it isn’t an easy race.  I’ve never hurt so bad at the end of a race.

Of course that being said, I could carry stuff up and down stairs easily 2 days later, which never happens.  I still don’t know why I hurt so bad during the race.  It really makes me rethink my desire to do a 6 day race at some point.  That’s all completely flat too.

Anyway, we went back to the hotel to shower and sleep.  We got up and drove home around 9AM.  I slept on and off on the way home and still slept well that night.  Work the next day went just fine which I was kind of worried about.

I won’t be doing this race again.  It’s just too far of a drive.  Plus having had a better performance on a short loop at FANS makes me think there’s no advantage for me to run this race over that one.  If I still have to get a fast qualifying time in the future, I’ll just have to find another race closer to home or do a timed race.

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