Sunday, June 07, 2009

Kettle Moraine 100 Miler - Madison, WI

Every year I try to do at least one trip to the Midwest to visit my Dad. Last year was Kettle Moraine 100KM. It was an epic day filled with heat waves, thunderstorms, hailstorms and a tornado watch. Despite all that I had a good race in my first 100K and a fun time throughout. And I really fell in love with the terrain of the Ice Age Trail that it's run on. Lots of climbing (more than 12000 feet) but mostly soft pine needle-laden trails.

So I decided to head back again this year, but step up to a 100 miler for the first time. I've always been a bit ambivalent about 100 milers. Is it really necessary to run a whole day straight? But if I was going to do one, Kettle was probably the best first 100 miler for me. The only thing that scared me was the need to head back out after getting into the "finish" at mile 62. Plus the race director Timo Yanacheck (one of the nicest guys I've ever met) lets participants "drop" at 100K and still gives them credit for the 100K. This is just too much temptation!

My plan was to try to run 23 hours. But anything less than 24 hours would have been just fine. I planned all of my times at the various aid stations and Judith was going to meet me with my preferred fuel and good cheer at each one.

The race was bigger this year and now has chip timing. I guess this is less work for the RDs but seems like it detracts from the simplicity of trail racing (I don't think I'll use it for the Quicksilver Trail Half Marathon). So race morning we picked up my chip and waited for race start on a much cooler morning than last year.

Ready to run at the Nordic start area

After Timo started us out, we headed out on rolling soft green firetrails to Tamarack at mile 5. Then more rolling firetrails to Bluff Road at mile 7.5. I got to Emma Carlin at mile 15.5 ahead of schedule at 2:25 (had planned 3 hours), so I missed Judith who had gotten there at 2:30. I had to settle for aid station Heed here, which upsets my stomach a bit (any conventional sugary sports drink does). Then the dreaded open fields, which this year weren't too bad as it wasn't that hot. I met Judith at Highway 67 at Mile 23.5. with my preferred ultra fuel (Perpetuem). From highway 67 there is lots of single track up and down connecting to some wide fireroad. On the fireroad Zach Gingerich passed me in the other direction, running very fast and strong. Then the fireroad started uphill to get up to Scuppernong. On the way up the hill, I noticed several runners come the other way who I had passed earlier (and hadn't repassed me). There's a shortcut marked off with a white chalk "NO" on the uphill to Scuppernong where a runner could bypass about two miles of running by taking it. Oh well, its a full 100 mile - two miles shouldn't matter too much in a race this long. And my only goal today was to finish.

I reached the Scuppernong turnaround in 5:24 this year (a bit slower than last year). I stopped for a leisurely lunch here with Judith: soup, red skin potatoes, Red Bull and cacao nibs. Yum. Heading back down the trail from Scuppernong, I saw another older runner with a long beard trying to take the NO shortcut. I told him he was going the wrong way. Heads up Timo - you may want to clarify why people shouldn't do this during the race briefing?

On the way back, there were no thunderstorms this year. I hit Highway 67, Emma Carlin and Bluff without incident. Then back through Tamarack where I had a leisurely break for some great grilled cheese and tomato soup from Ian Stevens and the rest of the crew there. I purposely did my fueling there because I wanted a quick turn at Nordic to go back out right away. While there Chris Garcia arrived. Chris is another Bay area ultra runner and had written to me asking about conditions at Kettle Moraine and to recommend training - somewhat amusing as he is a far more experienced ultrarunner than I am.

After a leisurely meal chatting with Ian, I passed Chris and got in a couple minutes earlier. I hit the 100K mark at the start/finish area at 11:50. Last year I finished the 100K in 13:55 (4th master, 13th overall) so I was pleased with progress thus far and wasn't really feeling tired. I grabbed a quick potato and coke and headed back out immediately, trying to avoid the lure of the finish area. On the way back to Bluff Road I got more grilled cheese at the Tamarack aid station from Ian, and got back to Bluff Again around 7:20pm.

On the way out from Bluff to Highway 12 Zach Gingerich passed the other way, probably around 8:30 pm, with maybe 15 miles left in his race. I realized then that he was likely to beat Eric Clifton's course record and maybe even sub 15 hours? The next aid station after Bluff is at Highway 12 at Mile 77. I hit it at 9pm when it was getting dark. I stopped to drink ginger tea, abandon my iPhone (not safe conditions to be running with music at night) and rig up my headlamp and flashlights. I haven't done much night running except pacing Jean Pommier at Rio Del Lago 100. And that course really wasn't that technical. The trail out to Rice Lake (both before and after Highway 12), by contrast, is quite technical. I slowed down enormously at this point getting used to the idea of running on single track on a cloudy night.

Still at mile 81, I was apparently in eighth according to the webcast (not sure if believe that). I just downed a quick cup of coffee here as this wasn't a crewed aid station. On the way back to Highway 12, I was passed by several runners who were much more confident at night. I arrived back to mile 85 at about the same time as Chris. As I sat drinking coffee and talking with Judith, I told him it was my first 100 miler so I was all about finishing today and I wasn't going to go chase him down.

After mile 85 though, my quads were completely done. I've never had that happen before after quite a few ultras with punishing climbs and descents. So I settled for a brisk powerwalk back to the Bluff aid station at mile 92.5. Judith walked me a half mile out on the way to Tamarack in the dark, which helped my spirits quite a bit. At Bluff, I drank more coffee and downed some miso soup: almost as good as Tamarack's tomato. After a fast 2.5 mile walk to Tamarack, I got some more soup from the kind volunteers there (Ian was napping at the time though). Then a five mile walk back to the finish. I did manage some stiff legged running for the last two miles back there.

I finished in 21:40 to my pleasant surprise since I had planned for 23 hours. This was twentieth overall. But I was mostly just glad to finish my first 100 miler as I wasn't quite sure that I had it in me to do it.

Spent and happy to be sitting

Chris was the next finisher ahead of me, just 90 seconds beyond Robert Insley. Zach Gingerich finished in an incredible 15 hours 17 minutes for a new course record by 40 minutes. This kid has a future in ultrarunning. Zach, when do you come out West to challenge the big guns? Timo presented me with the small kettle that all 100 mile finishers get. And we hung around for a bit drinking cocoa and eating chili. I am very curious when my quads will return as they still seem quite immobilized.