Where do I start with this one? This was sort of a last minute thing that I threw together 3 weeks before race day. I thought for sure that I was going to be good to go with the build up I had. A solid 50 mile race and a 65 mile run 3 weeks before race day. Surely I was on par to run a solid 100 mile race. Well, not quite, it seemed that Ultrarunning always throws you a surprise or 2.
I left Seattle at 11:59 p.m. Thursday night - arriving in Milwaukee at 5:30 Friday morning. The red eye flight sucks, and I think I only slept about 25 minutes of the flight. Got the rental car, plugged in the GPS and I was off to find some food. Luckily for me I found a Perkins - the best place I know for pancakes - and proceeded to scarf a bunch of those down. If I have one complaint about living in the Seattle area it's that there isn't any Perkins restaurants this side of the mountains. So when I do have the opportunity to eat there, I get pretty excited. I did eye the éclair's and thought about it, but decided I needed to finish a 100 before I can eat a donut. Plus I lost some weight thanks to better eating choices. Although I genrally believe donuts are a great choice.
After breakfast I drove into Whitewater and got some snacks from the local grocery store. I couldn't help but notice how cheap everything was compared to home. Man, if I could only find a job that paid any amount of money away from Seattle I would love to leave. Wisconsin was really nice also, green, lots of open space, miles and miles of running trails, XC ski trails, an affordable cost of living in terms of housing and groceries, clean air, little traffic - a pretty nice little place. Way too many Wal-Marts though! Anyhoo, I then took a nap in the parking lot for an hour and a half, drove to a local bike shop, talked to the owner about bikes and riding (what else?), and then made my way over to the hotel about noon. The cute little college girl made me feel old that checked me into my room. Maybe it is because the older I get the younger the kids look, and this one looked about 12. Getting old sucks, but at least I still don't feel any older, and try not to act my age much either - which is good or bad depending on perspective. I asked her if there was anything to do in the town. She laughed and replied without any hesitation, "No." She smiled, laughed and added, "seriously, there is nothing to do in this town." Well, at least I had my room and could take a shower and get some things ready for the run the next day.
4 o'clock rolls around and I decide to make my way to the check-in to pick up my race packet. I was hoping to get there a little bit late and not have to wait in line forever. So I show up at 5 and notice the line is super long. So much for my brilliant plan to avoid the long line. I find a place to park the car, walk over to the line and wait. The sun is out in full force, it's over 80 degrees, and of course the direct sunlight makes it feel much warmer. If the race is like this most of us will wilt in the sunshine. I'm not enjoying my time sitting in the sun, and to make matters worse I am stuck between 2 groups of people having a conversation. I keep trying to move away from the middle of it, but I feel boxed in. I feel like I crashed someone's family reunion by accident- awkward!
Dinner time. I roll into downtown Whitewater, yes it does have a downtown, and find a place to eat some pasta. Chow that down, run to the grocery store to get some last minute food ideas for the run, then back to the room to pack the drop bags.
Drop bags are a pain to pack for the long races. For 50 milers I can carry some bars, some gels, and eat a couple things at the aid stations and I will be good. But for the longer stuff it is really hard to guess what I will need or want to consume 14,15, or 16 hours into a run. I can never predict what will taste good, what will stay down, etc. The weather was predicted to be warm, which for me makes keeping things down a little harder, so I tried to think of something that I can always eat. Pop tarts, cookies, bananas, and powerbars seem to usually do the trick.
8:00 - lights out, and since I only slept about 90 minutes the night before I fell asleep after only about 15 minutes of reading the kindle. 4:00 - I'm awake. I take a shower, eat some fruit and some sort of organic bar, I can't remember what it's called. Seriously, the market is so saturated with energy, nutrition, or whatever they market it as bars it's hard to remember what I'm eating half the time, or if I even like it. As long as it contains what the wrapping says it should suffice as a breakfast.
start of 2010 Kettle 100. Bill Thom photo. I'm in the middle
with orange shirt and black hat.
The race start is about 10 minutes from the hotel, no big rush to get there. I pull in at about 530 and take my drop bags over to their respective places for transport. The weather is pretty decent, about 60 and cloudy. I'm hoping this means the rain isn't going to start too early. 6:00 a.m. comes and we're off. No big hurry to get the race started as I have all day.
The race starts on some double track that twists and turns, goes up and down, and every so often offers a nice view off a valley of some sorts. It is really green. Not evergreen like Washington, but a softer green that is made up of grasses, trees, and poison ivy looking bushes. It looks really pretty though. I start off slow, really slow. I don't even care if I walk or run as long as I keep moving forward. I'm not much of a talker while running, so I kind of keep to myself and zone out, most of the time ignoring other people's exuberant early morning conversation of past race triumphs and let downs, work, families, or whatever else people talk about while running. I'm not a morning person at all - although I really like to get up early - just don't talk to me too soon.
We meander through the trails, get to the first aid station at mile 5 in about 58 minutes. I didn't even start a stop watch for this, so all times are haphazardly guessed and barely paid attention to. As long as I didn't pass 50 miles in under 10 hours I figure I would be good. Running really slow likes this seems to tire my legs out though. I am not used to jogging 12 minute miles, even while running in the mountains I don't like to go this slow. I figure my legs will eventually loosen up though. I have lots of time and the weather is still good.
Coming close to the Bluff aid station at mile 7.5 there are pink flamingoes lining the course. Being a Polish dude originally from Buffalo that makes me feel right at home. I eat some banana and take a couple drinks of water and move on. Shortly after the aid station I hear this huge noise as a large animal close by is running through the trees. The first thing I think is BEAR (I do run in the NW) as surely a deer doesn't move this clumsily through the woods. And unless a cougar is in pursuit of something I wouldn't think it would make this much noise either. I slow to see how close people are and as I do I see this huge ass deer busting through the woods. It had to be one of the largest deer I've seen that doesn't pull a sled. Whew! I always think it is going to be some rapidly moving carnivorous animal that will have nothing on its mind except to take a large chunk out of my leg, ass, or throat. Moving on….
The next 8 or so miles were some nice single-track. Nothing flat for long at all. I don't think I ran much more than a mile at a time before it was time to do some serious power walking, most time much less. It was nice to break the day up. I talked to some girl from Boulder for a little while. I am jealous of pretty much anyone that lives there. Great town. Too bad I'll never be able to afford it. Talked to another dude from MO- but he started a long diatribe about work - so I faked having to go to the bathroom to get away from that subject. I ran the next 15 or so miles to Scuppermong alone with my thoughts. Sometimes it's really nice to run this way. I can think about whatever I want, enjoy the sights, think of the things I've done in my life that led me to the current path I'm on. I mean it. If I really stop and think about all the details that led me to the middle of the woods in Wisconsin on this particular day it's kind of cool. The weather is really warm and humid, later I would learn the temperature was above 80 and the humidity was high.
After Scuppermong, which is somewhere between 31 and 32 miles we turn around and retrace our steps to the start. The first 10 or so miles aren't so bad, a slow drizzle starts but is welcome to deplete the humidity and offer some cooling. But this drizzle doesn't last long. Instead the skies slowly open up and it starts pouring buckets of rain. The drops are so large and hitting the surrounding leaves with such force the noise is astounding. The single track quickly turns into a river. The water is just hauling ass down the hills. The rain lets up for a second, only for the skies to once again unleash their force. And then a flash of lighting. Boom! Followed by ferocious thunder. The rain is relentless.
I make it to Emma Carlin aid station at Mile 47 in just over 10 hours, which is perfectly on my schedule of going slow. The rain now is just a constant downpour. There is standing water at least 12" inches deep in many places with no way around it. No choice is given but to wade through these mini lakes. The trails are so slick that on the hills I need to walk on my heels in order to maintain traction. Going downhill is analogous to skiing in that I can stand, bend my knees, lean a bit forward, and slide down the hill on my feet while trying not to fall on my face. This is nothing short of madness. Why did I take time from my family to do this? I wonder. I don't have an answer. But I still can't explain the allure of running either.
My spirits are still pretty decent though. From miles 48 to the Bluff aid station at 58 I feel pretty good. I make myself take an extended walk break, force some calories and salt tablets down, and continue to drink. My stomach is having a hard time accepting whatever I offer it though. After a few dry heaves, and a minor upchuck of what I assume is Nuun I stabilize and work my way back to Nordic at 63 + miles. I run and walk all the hills and hit the turnaround and find my drop bag.
Nordic - mile 63 and I see Timo the RD out greeting the runners and checking on them as they approach. I don't know this guy at all, but the effort he put into the race and his presence throughout the day is something that I really appreciated. In a sport like ultrarunning, with almost no fanfare, money, or fame it is great to see someone so selfless to allow people like me compete and feel the camaraderie from this wonderful sport. It is still raining like it only can in the midwest. Or maybe Florida.
I change my shoes. Grab my stuff. And head out. Shortly after this it turns really bad. It is now almost dark, but with this darkness brings a new sense of adventure (or so I tell myself). I need to eat though and try some Powerbar. I take a nibble and start dry heaving. I continue to walk. Legs, mind, and body are inexplicably fatigued horribly right now. I just want to lie down and sleep. I stop about 20 minutes later and start throwing up. Loud, wretched heaves are coming from deep within me. I haven't thrown up like this since I last got hammered in the college years, and at least I knew why that happened. I walk some more. It takes me about 25 minutes to cover the first mile from the aid station to mile 65 or so.
I grab the cell phone and try to do the virtual pacer thing. I'm really starting to feel out of it. Almost delirious. I know I need to get calories in me, but my stomach won't allow it. The rain is still coming straight down and I'm starting to get really cold despite the added clothes and rain poncho I'm wearing. I talk to my mom for a bit and she does her best to keep me positive and moving forward, but I am now freefalling fast. I hang up and walk a little bit more. I stop and sit on the side of the trail. A couple people pass and ask if I'm still conscious. Am I? I think so. All I can think of is some old Isaac Asimov story where some dude is stuck in a traffic jam in a tunnel - which is his hell. Is this mine? Will I make it out of here? I don't know.
I've never seen such a waterlogged hand before. This is
mine back at the rental car.
I quickly go through the events of the day that transpired. How did I end up like this? What mistakes were made? Surely there were many that led me to this quickly all-consuming failure. I know fitness isn't an issue. I had a great build up to this day. Although my legs weren't feeling the best they were still decent. Did taking the red eye flight screw me up? So many things are running through my mind, which in its glycogen depleted state is having a hard time processing. And I don't even want to think about the chafing issues. I bet I used more Vaseline than anyone. Time for something new. I walk another mile and stop. It has taken me well over an hour to cover 2 miles. I quickly realize that I can't go on any more. Without being able to eat, and barely drink my event is done. Of course I am disappointed. I turn around and start the 2+ mile walk back. There is nothing left to be done. Game over.
As I think about this race of course I'm disappointed that I DNF'd another 100. But I also know that I left everything out there on the course. I gave it everything I had. I fought as hard as I could and struggled through more misery than I should have. I just didn't have it on this day. It's a 100 miles. I'm still learning. I will finish one soon. I know that. I am not looking backwards anymore but forwards to the next one. I will adjust my training a little bit more. I will shed a few more pounds, and I know I will be successful. Running 100 miles is a journey, and it's not an easy one. But with persistence and learning from each mistake I will see it through to the end. I can't give up now.
Flying home a tad disappointed. I'll be back.