Yep there I was at the start of The Kettle Moraine 100 mile run. I had been training for this run for quite a while and felt like I could knock out a good 100. As you might have already gathered that was not what was to happen. I had an interesting and painful time and somehow still pulled out a 100K finish. Read on for more details.
I arrived at Kettle the day before and did some scouting and checking out where the aid stations where going to be. I also did a little jog out of some of them to get an idea of what the trails where going to be like. Most of my pictures where taken the day before the race when I was poking around.
One thing I liked about Kettle was that all the aid stations that the crew would need access to, would be right next to a road. They all seemed to be a very short 15 min drive from the start. They had some large tents, port-a-johns in place and I was impressed at how prepared they seemed to be. I also took a quick tour of the nature center there. I learned about the name, how the Kettles where formed by the ice and the Moraines by the glacier deposits. I saw as much of the Ice Age Trail as I could get in. It was different, yet very beautiful.
Other than those new terrain features that I found the terrain seemed suspiciously flat. There was a lot of low land that they called prairie. I took it to be marshland. I assumed I would find out what it was like in the morning and tried not to overlook the deceptive flat ground as easy terrain.
I lined up my drop bags and got them ready to go. I went and checked in at registration. Then I went back to my hotel and got a pizza and tried to get some sleep. This was going to be a new experience for me and I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. In the past I have had some of my family crewing for me. This time I was relying on one of my friends and several athletes through his non-profit called Project Echelon.
I knew I was going to just have to roll with whatever the trail had for me that day, but I was still wishing for some plan or something’s to fall back on. Early that morning I woke up a whole hour early. My first thought was fairly negative and from then on I had to work at staying open with a positive perspective. I just wanted a little more sleep….and so it began.
My friend showed up right at 03:30 that morning and we sent a little time catching up and going over race ideas. This was going to be from what I understood his first experience with ultra-running. Another first for him was going to be trying to crew for me having never experienced anything like this as a runner, crew or volunteer. Eric was excited and it help to create a better vibe for me as we grabbed coffee, I ate oatmeal and a yogurt then headed out to the start line.
I would have to say I was impressed at the amount of people that where there at the start line. I was not expecting so many people. As I got myself ready in the parking lot Eric started filming me to create a story for Project Echelon, which severs Veteran’s coming home by helping them to get active and find their path to healing. This started to create an interesting commotion as several runners wanted to know if I was famous?
(I also received a lot of comments about Jim Walmsley and I had no idea what people were talking about. It appears that many people like my shirt with ventilation holes cut in it. I can make you one just email me, 😶).
I would get asked if I was famous several times over the rest of the day. For many of you that know me I don’t really get out in the spotlight very much and stay fairly humble. This created an interesting twist. I had thoughts of telling people that I was the next WS winner or something crazy and see where it would go, but I didn’t.
I just smiled and talked about finding the trails as an adventure and hoped that others would be inspired to start their own journey. It was fun to tell Eric about why I did this or that, since it was fairly new for him. I hoped putting Trail Toes was going to help my feet and how 2Toms Sports Shield would stop any chafing issues I might have. They both worked well and my bottom half, to include feet ended up being wet all day. I think this was one of the most relaxed prerace starts I have had. Everything was laid out and I didn’t forget anything!
We lined up at the start and for this race I got close to the front again. I had already been down the start chute for over a mile. I knew that the trail stayed wider than a vehicle for the first 9 miles or so. I wasn’t worried about getting on the trail as I was in other races, but I wanted to run my race and not be dictated by others and so I chose to be up front.
We took off and I went off at my own pace. I was amazed at how fast people were going out here. I had to keep slowing down and eventually settled in at around a 12:30 to 13:30 minute mile pace. It was tough as so many people seemed to fast and without knowing it I would be up to a 9 or 10 MM pace. I had to keep close tabs on this for the first 20 miles.
While trying to keep tabs on my pacing I met another Veteran that was out running the 100K that day. I don’t know how that happens, but I seemed to be right where I need to be at those times. It was great to have another Veteran to talk to, someone that was trying to keep the same pace and that could hold a conversation. We talked a lot about our theories for Veteran’s returning home and how the trail could be of such great benefit for us.
The terrain was run on soft grass mowed wider than a vehicle, kris krossing a little dirt trail. It was flat except that the trail took us down into great depressions made by the ice and you would have a nice hill to climb up to get back on flat land. While I purposed to walk all those hills I didn’t think that they were all that difficult until much later that night. This was the first 9 miles or so and took me into the 2nd aid station. Here I met Eric grabbed a fruit cup and took off again. I usually don’t eat fruit cups. There was so many people at these stations that getting to the food was a chore. While volunteers where great at filling my bottles getting anything else was getting crazy.
Moving out of the aid station the terrain changed to rolling hills that the Ice had pushed up years ago. This was a little more of my style of trail running and I forced myself to stay on pace and not take off to much. There were a few climbs in this area. Nothing that bad, but I started to sweat a bit from them. I had expected the weather to be hot and so far it was staying a bit cool and looked like rain would come soon.
Soon we were at the 3rd aid station at mile 15. I brought in a whole band of people to that station only to find it more crowded than the last one. I looked for Eric, but I couldn’t find him in the massive crowd. I got to my drop bags filled my pockets and headed out again. Here the terrain turned to what I called marshland. With all the rain the past several days it had left the trail a bit muddy. It wat that nice dark black mud that you get up north and I knew it was going to be fun coming back this way.
Through this area my new friend and I picked up the pace several times. We seemed to take turns as one person tiered the other would hold the pace and keep us going. This went on for the next 7 miles or so we went through the next few aid stations and these were not as bad with having too many people. It was about this time that the terrain started to change again to a pine forest and hills as we came into the next aid station.
I missed Eric here again. For me this started a long process of having issues with feeling all alone out there. A lot of emotion was right there as well. While I encounter this fairly often I did not expect the depth and amount of feeling that I had. Usually when I get negative I need to eat. So I started getting some gels down. That helped for a minute until my stomach started to turn.
I wasn’t even to mile 25 and here we go… I thought. I took ginger. It would help for a bit and then I would have issues again. I started to slow down and felt sorry for myself. Soon I hit the next aid station and my friend had to continue without me. I was walking! The next 5 miles or so to the aid station at mile 31 seemed to take forever. I ran when I could, walked when I had to and generally felt like crap. I didn’t eat anything for that period hoping to feel better at 31. I pasted the time trying to cheer others up hoping that it would help me.
There seemed to be several people out there running who knew each other and they would be yelling at each other as they passed going down this out and back section. I found this to be really interesting and the sense of community they had seemed great. I somehow found myself walking a jeep road though pine trees heading into the station at 31.
Here I linked back up with Eric and it was great linking back up with him. I changed my socks here as my feet where soaked. Then I got a little to eat. While the sun had come out for a little bit it had mostly been overcast and rainy, this only increased the muddy conditions on the muddy course. So as I took care of my feet I got some food. It felt good to eat again and I thought that maybe I was passed the nausea part of the race.
I ran a bit and walked a bit. The food help a lot. However about four miles after that my stomach took turn for the worse and I didn’t eat after that. The next 30 miles back to the start line was a pure gut race. I used all the tricks I knew. I tried ginger, I tried Coke. I used Ginger ale. Nothing worked. I noticed that I had cell service out here and so I started phoning in friends. I called my coach, my wife, any one I could think of.
I don’t think I have felt that nauseas for that long without being able to puke or lose it some other way. So here I was just trying to survive. Someone sent me a text that said “Only those that risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go” and so I tried again. Again and aging I tried, finally after getting shut down each time I started to just walk. I tried to walk the best I could and I stated passing people again.
Walking was really humbling. I was not in a good place and the race wasn’t going well for me. I tried to see the beauty in the nature around me. While it was not the mountains it was still beautiful. I met some great people out there that tried their best to keep me moving. I am so grateful to them. I’m really grateful to my coach for being available for me to call and help me problem solve. Soon it just came to the point where I was just hoping to be done and there was the finish. They gave me a Buckle for the 100K finish and said that I had better come off the course. So in the end I got pulled and yet still salvaged a finish in there.
While I was a little hard on myself, it was not a failure to me. I learned I can go 30 miles on almost nothing and still be ok. I can be fine with just a cut off t-shirt in the cold. I can be fine with pain. I can sign up for another race! There have been some other observations as well. My stomach was having issues since Wednesday before the race. I have been doing a lot of sugar free stuff and some of the products I am finding can make me sick. A few weeks later and my stomach is still having issues, but I am running again. Defiantly do not have Jelly Belly’s Sugar Free assorted flavors Jelly-Belly-Sugar-Free before or after the race. While the normal and the energized Jelly Belly’s work fine the sugar free have a warning that I did not see.
So yep it is a process and there is a learning curve. However I am set to attempted 3, 100 milers this year. I would not have evened dreamed that was a possibility last year. See you at the next race! Badger 100!