June 4th, 2011
The Kettle 100 this year was my first attempt at running 100 miles. There’s always something special about first races and this one definitely falls into that category. I constructed my own training plan for this race which was primarily running with biking and swimming for cross training. The most I had run on average prior to this training program was about 30 – 35 miles per week. This program had me in the 60 mile range for a while and then up to 80 before tapering. I realized that trail running was very different than road running and I had to make many changes to my program along the way. I consistently ran trails with the experienced M.U.D.D.’s (awesome group that has lots of belt buckles (ultramarathons give out belt buckles for 100 miles (I’m not sure why they give out belt buckles since only Texans wear them))).
I felt confident in my training and felt I could finish in about 24 hours. The plan was to go out a little quicker knowing I would slow down at night in the dark.
Weed out all the unexperienced fools that have “plans.” The fools (I’m in that group) are the ones that set a pace based on finishing time rather than heart rate. Add heat and humidity to the mix and watch them drop, one by one. I have used pace based on finishing time before for shorter races and it has worked. I seem to be able to race for about 12 hours, even while dehydrated, and get through with puking, mild heat stroke, etc.
The Gun Goes Off!
I start at a 10:30 or 11 minute pace on flat and downhill wide grassy trail. The temps are climbing into the 80’s already and very humid. There’s a possibility of rain for the afternoon. I’m loaded up with a camelback with Perpetuem, gel flask and phone so I can call with special requests to my wife and crew, Judy. At the minimum, she will meet me at the first turnaround at Scuppernog Trailhead (31.6 miles) and Nordic Trailhead (63.2 miles) to replenish my camelback and gel flask. My heart rate was a little high starting out and I attributed that to the B-12 I took earlier that morning. Usually after a couple of miles my heart rate lowers and stabilizes. I felt really comfortable and carried on. Jake passed me at 1.5 miles and I felt good that he was ahead of me because I kept thinking,”am I going too fast?” The only other memorable things in those first miles was that I was sweating profusely and I passed a guy that was running barefoot. I found out later that this was Tenderfoot’s first time running barefoot. It looked painful. Maybe I should’ve been more conscious of my heavy sweating?
Getting to Emma Carlin Trailhead (15.8 miles)
On shorter races I often skip the first rest stops which I did this time too. Tamarack (5 miles) and Bluff (7.5 miles) seemed very close to the start and I wanted to use up what was in my camelback to lighten the load. Instead of eating I was taking lots of gels. Looking back I needed more substantial food earlier on as well as taking in Heed at the rest stops to keep my electrolytes high. Eventually, I caught up to Jake and then pulled ahead a little. I didn’t stop at Horserider’s very long (12.7 miles) since they didn’t have any food. I ran out of gel so I put in a special request for Judy to meet me at Emma Carlin to replace my gel flask. I was still going at an easy pace (11 to 12 minute miles) but by the time I got to Emma Carlin I could feel the ache in my muscles from dehydration. I was also hungry which I knew meant that I was too late in eating. I refueled as best I could and decided to slow down a little in order to rehydrate better.
After refueling at Emma Carlin, I felt better and headed out with the hope that if I kept drinking enough and slowing my pace I could bounce back. In just a couple of miles the trees fade away and everyone goes through the open prairie lands with no shade and extra humidity to boot. By this time it is in the 90’s and somehow my camelback is empty! My plan to rehydrate is foiled by this miscalculation. Somehow, I am drinking twice as much as expected but it is still not enough. When I get to Antique Lane (18.9 miles) I fill up my camelback and head back out. Wilton Road (21.6 miles) is another unmanned aid station with only water on the way to Highway 67 (24.1 miles). Finally, the open prairie lands end and it’s back to trails.
Just get to the Turnaround!
It was great seeing Judy at a lot of the rest stops. I think she was a little worried because I was struggling so early. I got only 3 hours of sleep the night before, the humidity surprised everyone and I wasn’t acclimated to it. I figured this is why I was feeling the deep ache in my muscles only 25 miles into the 100. So, I did what I usually do. I pushed on – towards the turnaround at Scuppernog Trailhead (31.6 miles). I stopped quickly at Highway ZZ (26.6 miles) aid station on the way. The temps and humidity kept climbing as well as my muscle fatigue. Since this was an out and back, I saw the leaders run towards me. Zach Gingerich, who holds the record at Kettle and also won Badwater last year, was passing so I said, “good job.” He replied, “keep it up.” By the time I got to Scuppernog, I was really doubting myself finishing this race. Judy saw the pain in my face but was still being upbeat and supportive. I took about 30 minutes at this aid station so I could get back on track with nutrition and hydration.
The Sauna – Again!
When I left Scuppernog, I was feeling much better. The long break was therapeutic and I was super-conscious of slowing down and keeping up with
my hydration. This was working well. I went back through Highway ZZ (36.6 miles) and Highway 67 (39.1 miles) at a nice easy pace. Judy saw me and said I looked much better. Yes! I was feeling hopeful of seeing this through to the end. I think it was that hope that got me through the sauna again. Another 10 miles of open prairie lands with high humidity and heat was grinding me down, down, down. Just before Wilton Rd. (41.6 miles), I started to get dizzy so I stopped and put my hands on my knees to catch my breath. That made the dizziness worse so I pushed on to the aid station. When I got there, 3 of my friends (Dorn, Steve and Robin) were there. Dorn had dropped so as to not jeopardize his upcoming race at Western States. Steve had dropped and so had Robin. Apparently, Robin had thrown up some blood which I responded with, “Cool! ” I’m always impressed at how far we can push. While I’m filling up my camelback and thinking of heading back out in the sauna, I start getting dizzy again so that’s when I started again, thanking them and hoping just to make it to Emma Carlin, which was still 5.8 miles away. Those were a long 5.8 miles. I went through the Antique aid station (44.3 miles) and finally to Emma Carlin (47.4 miles).
Getting to Emma Carlin took everything I had. For some reason, I felt if I only made it there, everything would be alright. When I got there, the realization that I was just under halfway was disturbing. I was groggy and not interested in food. I tried to drink but really every part of me wanted to stop this madness and rest. And it was sooo hot! Judy was telling me of all the runners that were suffering and dropping. Looking around I could see people getting iced down and being tended to, like a war zone. Meanwhile, some other friends came into the aid station, Mike and then Michele and Brandi. Michele was looking to place high in the 100k and was doing a great job of pacing and nutrition, something I didn’t have a handle on all day. She looked like she was ready to really turn it up these last 15 miles. Judy asked the volunteers if I could lay down under their canopy for a little bit. I had to try whatever I could to bring my heart rate down and cool off. So I layed there for about 20 minutes. I kept asking myself, “Is this the end of my race?” My wife (and Mother) have always told me how stubborn I am. I try to be stubborn at times like these. So I got up and started eating, drinking and preparing to head out as best I could for as long as I could. I tried not to think of how much farther to go but that I needed to keep going. Judy looked totally surprised that I was even thinking of going. Mike was also hurting a lot but was ready for some more hurt. So Mike and I headed out and I felt like I really needed to run in order to keep my body in that rhythm, if I could find it. Mike wasn’t ready to start running yet, so we split pretty soon after leaving.
To the Very End
After I began to run again, it didn’t take long for the suffering to start again. I was walking more and running less. At Horserider’s (50.5 miles) I was not feeling all to well. I did have to urinate and as I’m going, I’m realizing that this is the first time all day. And it’s dark brown. At this point I can
only walk, running is out of the question. Martha comes running up from behind and tells me Mike was sprawled out on the trail. She got him on his feet and now caught up to me. She asked, “Do you want to run together for a little bit?” I think I said no, my pace would slow her down. So she heads off and runs the next hill and out of sight. My walking is getting slower and slower until the dizziness comes again. I’m stumbling through the trails for a little longer till I spot a rock in the middle of the trail to sit on. As I sit, I realize I am about to pass out so I go to grab my phone (special request: please make this stop. Can I get off this merry-go-round now?) and it rings. Judy is asking me if I’m going to get to Bluff (55.7 miles) soon.
I’m telling her that I’m passing out and I’m not sure where I am when a guy with a really orange fluorescent shirt comes up and asks if I’m ok. I lose consciousness and then come to with the good samaritan getting me to stand up. He has given Judy our location and is encouraging me to walk to the next road. Young Rd. is about 2 miles away. He gives me one of his walking sticks and heads off, he has a race to finish too. Judy has called for help and isn’t sure what shape I’m in or if I can walk all the way. Robin (blood puker), Steve and Brandi head out on the trails for a reconnaissance mission. They locate me and help me to Young Rd. where the madness is finally over.
Most of my friends didn’t finish this race and I can see why. Juan, Annastasia, Mark, Steve, Robin, Karen, Dorn, Mike and I cashed it in early. The heat and humidity were punishing all of us. A few of us did finish and even did well. Jake, the guy I was running with early on, went on to finish in 22:49 hours. Martha (27:09) placed 3rd female masters and Holly (29:10) placed 3rd female open. Michele (15:11) snagged first female masters for the 100k. I’m ok with not finishing because I know I pushed as far as I could go on that day. I also know I need to improve on nutrition, hydration and pacing. Getting sleep the night before is a good idea too. Since I’m fully trained and only got through half of this race, I’m signing up for another one 2 – 3 weeks out. The plan: Take what I’ve learned from this race and get it done!