Tag Archives: trail run

Kettle 100: Sights and Sounds

THE KETTLE MORAINE 100 WAS LAST WEEK and I’m still having trouble believing that a) it’s over, and b) I finished it. At least I think I did; I might still be out there hallucinating. (More on that next time.) I’m putting together a more detailed account, but right now I’d like to share some of the myriad sights and sounds of my 28-hour, 17-minute adventure.

The text in italics was spoken by other runners; where there’s no attribution, I just happened to overhear it.

Mile 2 or so, cruising along with a large group: “Hey! Walk the hills!”

KM100 - Early Hill Climb

“I was running with Nick and he picks up this big rock. He was going to carry it to the next aid station as a gag. He thought it was about a half mile away. It turned out to be over three miles. But he carried that rock the entire way.”

Mile 14 aid station, as I approached the drop bags: “Just take any one you like, they all got the same shit in ’em.”

KM100 - Emma Carlin - Drop Bags

Group of women to another group: “Happy Birthday, to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday, dear — people! Happy Birthday to you!”

“We’re celebrating our third wedding anniversary at this race.”

(To me) “What’s the Scuppernong cutoff? My wife’s worried she won’t make it.” Me: “Nine hours. She’s got plenty of time.” Him: “I don’t know why she worries. She did just fine at her 100 two weeks ago.” Me: “She ran one of these two weeks ago?” Him: “Oh, yeah. She’d do these weekly if she could.”

KM100 - Shirt - Our Shoes Have More Miles

Mile 45 aid station, sunset not far away: Guy 1: “You don’t have a headlamp?” Guy 2: “No, I didn’t think I was gonna need one.” Guy 1: “I have a spare headlamp in my bag. You will take it. Just turn it in at the finish and tell them my bib number.”

Woman ahead, turning to me: “What’s a name of a band that begins with V?” Me: “Um – Van Halen.” Her: “Thanks! Never would have thought of that one. Join our game, please. I’ve gotta do something to keep my mind off this.”

I stuck with running.

“Run, Smile, Drink Water, Don’t Die” – sounds like good advice to me!

Mile 62, as I start the second leg of the race: “100-miler going back out!! Woohoo!!”

Aid station, middle of the night: “What do you need?” Me: “A pizza and a large latte, that’s what I need.” Her: “How about some chicken noodle soup?” Me: “Sounds good.”

"So, like I'm considering swapping the PB&J for peanut M&Ms starting at mile 75. What do you think?"

“So, like I’m considering swapping the PB&J for peanut M&Ms starting at mile 75. What do you think?”

Several people along the way: “God, my feet hurt.” Me: “Yep, mine too.”

And this was *before* things got bad.

And this was *before* things got bad.

Aid station captain at mile 96: “You’ve got 4.8 miles left. You can do anything for 4.8 miles. You could stand on your head for that long.”

KM100 - Leaving Final Aid Station Mile 95

I stuck with running.

Just about everyone who passed me during the race: “Good job.” “Good work, man.” “Keep it up.”

Yeah. What they said.

Yeah. What they said.

A Beer for Brian

IF YOU’D SEEN ME LAST NIGHT paying tribute to my cousin Brian, and avoided being struck blind, you’d have had good cause to doubt my sanity. But I was fulfilling an obligation and following some very sage advice.

Fortunately, there are no photos. But you’re welcome to use your imagination.

Brian-croppedBrian was a sweet, good-natured guy with a broad and deep sense of humor. He was fun to be around. He enjoyed life, and at 51 was far too young to leave it. But his cancer was aggressive and incurable, and he passed away two weeks ago.

His memorial service was held yesterday in Wisconsin. My wife went but my biggest race of the year was this weekend – the 100K at Run Woodstock, which would start Friday afternoon and spill over into Saturday morning. So I offered to run my race in Brian’s honor, which the family thought was a fine idea.

Run Woodstock - ready to go

Ready to rock ‘n roll! Brian’s photo is pinned to my shorts.

Except that the 100K didn’t go according to plan. I overheated and dropped out at the 56K mark for my first-ever DNF. (More on that event, and what I learned, in an upcoming post.) I called my wife to let her know, and that I felt bad about it. By not finishing, I felt like I hadn’t really honored Brian properly. She set me straight.

“Brian wouldn’t have wanted you to kill yourself over this,” she told me. “You know what he would have said? Fuck it, and go get a beer.”

The moment I heard that, I knew it was exactly what he would have said. So my revised mission was to follow that advice. And I knew just how to do it.

In addition to the races, Run Woodstock offers fun, untimed trail runs of 5K or 10K on Friday and Saturday nights. There are two options available. The first is to follow the standard course on the trails. The second takes you to a secluded part of the woods where you can run a mile loop “the natural way”. You’re allowed shoes and a headlamp, and the rest is placed on a tarp at the starting point.

Or perhaps more appropriately, a "what the Hell" activity.

Or perhaps more appropriately, a “what the Hell” activity.

So which option did I choose for Saturday night’s run? Only the Natural option offers beer. Plus it fit well with the first part of the advice.

So I followed the flags to the tarp and made the necessary wardrobe adjustments. There was a group all ready to go for their mile, so I joined them. It was a perfect evening, dry and cool, and the loop flew by quickly and easily. After the sweltering heat followed by rain Friday night, this was pure bliss.

And unlike the first time I ran the natural mile, I felt completely at ease, even when we gave two fully clothed hikers a surprise. Everyone else seemed comfortable, too. “Liberating!” I actually heard someone say. Part of this, I think, is that runners tend to be easygoing and accepting. Awkward situations are nothing new to them and they pretty much take things as they come. It’s either part of what makes them runners, or what running does to them.

I finished the loop and picked up a cup of beer. As I was getting ready to salute Brian’s memory, I overheard a nearby group of women. They were doing the Natural for the first time and were a bit uncertain about where to go on the trail. Being the compassionate and chivalrous man that I am, I offered to go with them. “Oh, yes!” they said, so I put the cup down and off we went, two guys to about six or seven women. The evening just kept getting better!

That is, until we passed a woman walking along the trail holding a baby, nursing it while she walked. All the women stopped to ooh and aah over the baby and the other guy was telling the mom how great she was for doing this. So I was now by myself.

What to do – wait, or run? My body said run, and amazingly my brain agreed, so I went with that. Turned out to be a good plan. When I returned to the starting area, there was one cup of beer – the last one – on the table. In previous years, they’d set up a bar shack with more beer, wine and other drinks, but this year they’d kept that all in the main campground. So I’d arrived just in time.

I picked up the last cup, explaining that it was needed to fulfill a sacred duty. Naked in front of God and the other naked people, I raised the cup toward the heavens. “Brian,” I said, “this one’s for you.”

If he was watching, I hope he had a good laugh.

A SFW version of my toast. RIP, dude.

A SFW version of my toast. (The button is from last night.) RIP, dude.

Woodstock Warmup!

FRIDAY’S FORECAST FOR HELL: HOT, with rain showers likely, then cooling off on Saturday. Trail conditions: 200 yards of campground road followed by 61.9 miles of slippery, shoe-eating mud.

Just hours now to Run Woodstock and my first-ever 100K trail race, starting at 4:00 Friday afternoon, and crossing the finish line somewhere between 4:00-6:00 a.m. Saturday. The rain is also supposed to start around 4:00 Friday afternoon, and end somewhere around 6:00 a.m. Saturday. Rain, dude, we’re good buddies and all, but why couldn’t you have signed up for a different event? Not that a little rain bothers me, of course. Not at all. Won’t even notice. Yeah.

Woodstock - Making Sandwiches

Three hours making sandwiches! It’s comforting to know I have skills like this to fall back on if I ever lose my job.

At least the weather forecast made my preparation simple. Pack everything! That done, I went over to Hell Creek Ranch to help set up, making PB&J sandwiches and unpacking medals for the 1,600 people running this weekend. Mother Nature was there too, dumping about fifteen minutes of light rain on us. Just warming up for the races, you know.

I saw Randy, the race organizer there, and asked him about the quality of the trails. “Oh, they’re fine from the campground to the woods,” he said. Oh well, at least only the “hundies” (100K and 100-mile runners) will be out there Friday night. I can only imagine what the trails will be like Saturday morning when the other races start. Might need to call in the kayakers from the summer triathlons.

Super cool, right? Isn't it worth an all-night run on muddy trails in the rain to  get one of these? Sure, I'll wait while you think about it.

Super cool, right? Isn’t it worth an all-night mud run in the rain to get one of these? Sure, I’ll wait while you think about it.

Full weekend report to follow. For now, gotta finish my pre-race training regimen: carbo-loading and rest. Let me tell you, sitting around watching TV and eating pie isn’t easy. Seriously. I am not used to this. But I’m doing my best.

Countdown to Woodstock: 50 Miles, Ready or Not

ONE WEEK TO RUN WOODSTOCK and my first 50-mile ultramarathon.

This weekend is my final long-mileage prep. Saturday was a 59-mile bike ride at an easy pace, and Sunday will be one more long-ish run of 13 to 15 miles. Then it’s a few days of rest and carbo-loading with just a couple of short, easy runs to tune up.

I feel ready. Fired up. But have I really prepared enough? A summer of long runs and bike rides makes me think so, but only the race itself will tell.

The course will be the same as last year’s 50K, only that it will be three laps on the trail instead of two. That third lap, however, makes all the difference. The strategies for running a marathon don’t work for a near-double marathon. Here are just a few things that require a different approach.

Pace. After the Crim race last week, I was talking to a PR Fitness runner who also does ultras, and has run the Woodstock 50-miler before. His advice on pace: Start slow. Keep it slow. Walk the uphills. My last marathon pace was just under 9:00 per mile. My 50K pace last year: 12:00 per mile. Part of the difference was dry road vs. muddy trail, but the rest was about preserving enough energy to finish.

 

8:28. Dagnabbit! Too fast!

8:28. Dagnabbit! Too fast!

Fuel. For a marathon, I can get by on water, Gatorade, and fast sugar like Gu or gels. For longer distances, however, regular fueling with real food at regular intervals is necessary. This is not always easy. Running shunts blood away from digestion and can make eating uncomfortable. And too much salt or sugar can make you sick, but so can too little. There’s general guidance out there, but I won’t really know what my body can tolerate during a 50-miler until I run one – another reason not to push too hard on my first.

 

My best friend during the 50K last year.

My best friend during the 50K last year.

Gear. For most races, one shirt and one pair of shoes is enough. For Woodstock I will pack at least two pairs of shoes, and make sure I have tape, bandages, and ointments. Stuff like chafed nipples, wet socks, and sand/gravel in the shoes are minor irritants in short races; for an ultra they can cause a DNF (*) if not dealt with quickly. The weather from the 6:00 a.m. start to my likely 3:00 p.m. finish can also change quickly, so warmer clothes and dry spare outfits may be needed.

Nathan race vestI’ve been training with my Nathan race vest, which can be used either as a small backpack for running errands, or a hydration pack for long trail runs. Among its handy features are front pockets for cellphone, camera, and running gels. The back compartment can hold a jacket, sunscreen, or other light gear. It’s amazingly light and comfortable. (It’s also designed to be a hydration pack, but there will be aid stations at Woodstock.)

Motivation? Nope – why I’m running 50-miler is the same as why I ran my first 5K. Because I thought it would be fun and a personal challenge. And while I believe the first will be true, the second definitely will be. So bring it on. Rock and roll!

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(*) DNF = Did Not Finish. Also sometimes expanded (humorously) as Did Nothing Foolish or Did Nothing Fatal. Regardless of the reason for a DNF (including sensible ones) dedicated runners consider it a personal failure and will do just about anything to get over the finish line.