Sunday, June 08, 2008

Kettle Moraine 100K - Madison WI

I seem to have a knack for picking unexpectedly brutal races this year. First the inaugural North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Miler in April in Bear Mountain, NY. This ended up being called for time for all but the top 19 of the participants (and their average time was 12 hours). Ohlone 50K three weeks ago was a scorching almost totally exposed 100 degree plus heatwave, with two runners being hospitalized. In terms of effect on the participants though, Kettle's heat and humidity had far more effect on the field.

In fact, though I've only been doing ultras for a little over a year, I haven't heard of any races with this high a drop rate. In the 100 Miler, 15 participants finished out of 114 runners who reached the Scuppernong mile 31 checkin. This is an over 85% drop rate. Stunning. In the 100K, there were over 70 starters but less than 40 finishers.

On race morning, the heat and humidity was already evident at 6am at the starting line. So we knew it was going to be a tough day. I lined up at the starting line with a custom bib made by Ultraholic leader Chihping Fu (see below), alongside last year's 1 and 2 finishers fellow Ultraholic Mark Tanaka and fellow Philly boy Joe Kulak.

I ran with Mark, Joe and Zach Gingerich (with a 3:20 50K PR) until the Tamarack aid station at mile 5. At that point I let the leaders move on ahead and stopped to beg some potatoes from the just opening aid station. I headed back out enjoying the soft firetrails and constant up and down hills that wound through the forest.

From miles 16 (Emma Carlin aid station) and mile 23 (Highway 67 aid) the course runs through quite a bit of open high grass fields. The heat in these areas was overwhelming. Once the trail led back into the woods the temperature was a bit more comfortable. I reached the 50K mark of the Scuppernong aid station turnaround in 5:08. I was in fourth place for the 100K at the time, and first master.

As I hit the fields on the way back the heat did take quite a toll (everyone around me was walking). And then I hit some blister issues (presumably due to extreme sweating. I took 30 minutes at mile 45 to fix the blisters, change socks, and try to cool down. On the next leg I hit some major chafing issues beyond what I've had at any race (not really sure why at this point). I had to take time to pin up my shorts in something like an adult diaper to alleviate it (I know - not a pleasing image).

Shortly after that a serious thunderstorm started up. It was apparently part of a tornado warning. The sky was lit up several times with massive lightning. We don't usually get thunderstorms in California. So this was interesting to see. It also cooled things down a bit. At mile 50 there is an unmanned aid station called Horse Riders. Some runners stopped here to take shelter from the rain. But to me this was an opportunity to run in cooler weather. However in the extreme thunderstorm I couldn't quite see the way back onto the trail. Eventually after running into an actual horsebarn one of the locals directed me back onto the trail.

At mile 55 I stopped for another 20 minutes, to eat soup and drink Red Bull. I had spent so much time stopped before that I assumed (incorrectly) that I was no longer in contention for my agegroup so I was in no particular hurry. It was my first 100K and finishing was the primary goal.

After leaving Bluff Road and running one or two miles I saw Mark Tanaka and Zach Gingerich running together. To me it looked as if Mark was in the lead. Apparently that honor belonged to Joel Eckberg, who I guess reached Bluff Road and the turn to Rice Lake before I got to that aid station. Mark looked like he was having a tough time in the heat. He finished second in 20:39 this year after winning last year in close to 16 hours.

After another mile or so I stopped at the Tamarack aid station five miles out and sat down again chatting with Ultraholic Ian Stevens, while he got me potatoes and Mountain Dew. It was a festive atmosphere there with tiki torches all aglow in preparation for the night runners of the 100 Miler. Feeling good after this point I took off a good clip. I ran across Bay area ultrarunner Rick Gaston coming back out for the 100 miler with about 2 miles to go in the 100k. Rick was looking strong and would finish 3rd overall in the 100 miler.

I felt great this whole last stretch and managed to pass about five people enroute to finishing in 13:55. This was 13th overall (out of 70 starters) and fourth master. Third master had come in two places ahead and 10 minutes earlier. Perhaps a little less than an hour in aid stations was called for! But overall I was very happy with this race, and toughing out my first 100K (and first race over 50 miles) under extremely difficult conditions.

Thanks to Chihping for the great bib!


Blogger Baldwyn said...

What an epic journey. Congratulations on finishing your first 100k in a punishing race. I'm glad no one took a detour to Oz!

10:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congratulations, Adam. ANYONE who runs 100 miles is worthy of admiration. I was at the Kettle 100 watching my son, Joel Eckberg. It was his first 100 as well and I know the pain he went through in training, in running the race, and in the recovery from the race. You all are to be admired for your dedication.

4:29 PM  
Blogger Adam Blum said...

Mr. Eckberg,

The admiration should be reserved for 100 mile runners like your son. I just ran a puny 100km (though it was a big milestone for me of course). I ran with your son briefly as he passed me going up to Scuppernong.

I can also say that beating Doctor Tanaka in one's first 100 mile is an amazing achievement.

- Adam

4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adam... In my book anybody who trains the way you guys do and has the determination to put your shoes on and go out there is truly worthy of admiration. Three of my sons are distance runners and I know the discipline and training has served them well in every area of their lives.
I wish you the best in your running!

8:00 PM  
Blogger denalifc said...


Congrats on finishing a tough 100km at KM100. It was great meeting you at Tamarack. Sorry about the Midwest weather!!!


8:16 PM  
Blogger Mark Tanaka (Ultrailnakaman) said...

Congrats on your first 100k! You looked great coming out of Bluff. What a doozy! This year I think Miwok would have been a lot easier as first 100k, despite the bigger hills, which is pretty bizarre. Guess despite our earthquakes and wildfires, it's great to be living in California....

BTW, congrats on maybe finishing the first blogged report.

9:57 PM  
Blogger Brian Rook said...

Outstanding work, gentlemen!

And to think running three marathons this year was an accomplishment!

I'll be running two more marathons in September and November and my first triathlons this Sunday and again in October.

Hey Adam, I'm headed out to Cali this winter... wanna race? ;-)

7:35 AM  
Blogger Clara said...

Congrats on a good finish! I had expected to finish at your time but things don't always go as planned. :)

How does your stomach handle that carbonation? Coke always looks so good at the aid stations but I always regret drinking it 10 seconds later.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Adam Blum said...

Mountain Dew and Red Bull I think are absolutely required for me during ultras! Also potatoes are a great fuel, as well as soup. What I can't seem to handle at all is gels/goos. They totally wreck me, sometimes for days afterwards - especially the fructose ones. I agree that how to get nutrition and hydration done optimally seems to be the big mystery of longer ultras (>50K). I haven't really quite solved it yet.

10:38 AM  
Blogger Clara said...

That's really interesting because I can ONLY eat the Gus and gels, no other food. Even for the 100k I could only have those liquids. Anything else doesn't settle, not even a twizzler.

I don't know if I should just force my body to get used to eating those heavier foods or if I should continue sucking down a million gels. Hmm.

5:44 PM  
Blogger mel said...

I am a seasoned marathoner looking to break into 100k's will you share some training advice with me?


6:56 PM  
Blogger Adam Blum said...


I don't know. I am probably the ultimate "undertrain, overrace" guy around. What I believe in is "run every day" (but I don't always do it when I'm swamped with work, but I always regret it).

I believe in doing some hill work (certainly for ultras), some speed work (though I don't really like the track and prefer fartleks and intervals to it), and some distance work (for me my almost weekly races probably qualifies) every week. I also believe in racing frequently, but distinguishing between A races (goal races) and less important races. I also believe that training and racing on trails extends your ability to both train and race more distance and over longer periods of time. I also believe that doing one run a week "underfueled" (no food beforehand, no sports drink on the run) is valuable.

Beyond that, I defer to the traditional writing training pundits. I love the book "Brain Training for Runners".

Hope this helps.

- Adam

10:10 PM  

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