Friday, June 2, 2017

VM 150


The record should reflect, right from the start, that I only ran ~111 out of the 153+ miles of this event. 

The VM 150 was an event that ran from Ludington, MI, on the coast of Lake Michigan, to Bay City, MI, on the coast of Saginaw Bay.
Approximate route

The RD was Kurt Adams.  He also turned out to be the only one to finish the complete distance.  The event benefited the Michigan Warriors Hockey Program a program that benefits wounded veterans.  


Ludington - Scottville (10.49 miles)

The event started at 8am, 27 May 2017.  There were eight people slated to run the entire 150 miles.  There were also two teams of five that were doing it as a relay.
One of the solo runners was going to carry the American flag for the entire route.
We had a police escort for the first mile out of Ludington.  It was quite an experience to run in the road, in the same direction as traffic, book-ended by two police vehicles with their flashers on.
The Army and the Marine Corps was represented by veterans who were members of Team RWB.  The standards of those branches were also being carried by us.

That's me in the great big, brown, wide-brimmed hat.  Also wearing a long sleeved, white cotton shirt.  All that will come into play later.
I actually ran point for about two miles of this leg, and carried the Army standard for another two.

Coming into the the city of Scottville, we came across this water tower
Not sure if I should be frightened, or not

And here we are arriving at the first AS

 Scottville - Barothy (miles 10.49 - 22.56)

We ran most of this leg on some back roads, most of which were dirt.  I carried the Marine Corps flag for four miles, and ran point for two.  I started to develop some gas pains that I could not relieve.  It started causing me some problems towards the end of the leg.  It also started to warm up a bit.  I was determined to keep my shirt and hat on throughout the race.  I soon regretted that decision.
We arrived at the next AS, where Dean (the crew co-captain with Kurt's wife Jessica), had made some quesadillas for us.  Those were so delicious, that I had two.  While sitting and eating, I was also able to relieve some of the gas that had built up.  So I was now ready to go.

Barothy - Bowman Lake (miles 22.56 - 33.24)

The majority of this leg was run on two track.  My gas issues popped back up with a vengeance.  I was forced to walk ~7 miles.  Running was just not possible with the pain in my gut.  I ended up taking off the long-sleeved shirt at 4pm, and the hat at 4:30pm.
The biggest problem that the gas pain caused me was that I was unable to stay hydrated.  I couldn't drink because my stomach just wouldn't allow me to.  I was still in it for the long haul though, and just kept waiting for it to cool down.
Upon arriving at Bowman Lake, I grabbed some ice-cold BCAA drink with caffeine.  It was delicious.  I sat down for less than five minutes, and carried on down the road. I also re-donned the hat and shirt.

Bowman Lake - Baldwin (miles 33.24 - 39.66)

I walked this entire leg.  There were brief instances of running, but those were very brief.  On some long stretch of highway, Dean and his brother-in-law, Paulie, handed Kurt, his mom Elise, and I some push-ups.
Dean was aware of my gas issues, and promised that this would help.  It actually did alleviate the pain somewhat.  However, I still wasn't able to stay hydrated.
Towards the end of this leg, I finally was able to urinate.  It was brown.  I knew that if I kept on going like I was, I risked injuring myself.  Upon reaching Baldwin, I told Dean and Jessica that I had to stop.

Baldwin - Chase (miles 39.66 - 50.51)

I drove to Chase with the crew vehicles.  Once there, I just sat and drank.  And drank.  And drank.  I drank one gallon of water in the hours that I was there.  By the time the lead solo runners started showing up, I was peeing clear again.  Once Kurt and Elise showed up, I decided to get back to it.  The sun was going down, it had cooled off, my gas problem was over with, and I was properly hydrated again.

Chase - Hersey (miles 50.51 - 60.83)

I left Chase with Kurt, Dan, Alex, and Brian. (the latter two wood go on to finish 100 miles. Dan had to drop at 88 due to an injury.) For the first three miles, we ran .4, and walked .6.  We did this for ~5 miles.
After that point, either Kurt, Dan, or I (really don't remember who), decided to walk. So the three of us walked the next five miles.
I ate a couple of cups of chicken noodle soup with doritos in it, drank a couple of cups of coffe, and we were on our way.

Hersey - Evart (60.83 - 71.39)

We walked the first two miles out of Evart, then did a run/walk of .3/.7.
Once at Evart, we were all pretty tired.  We decided to take a 12 minute nap.
I remember my brain being totally frazzled.  It was definitely some of the strangest 'sleep' I have ever had.
I'm not sure how long we actually slept, but I'm pretty sure that Dean did not let us sleep longer than 15 minutes.
And now that I think about it, the nap may have actually been in Hersey, not Earth.

Evart - Partridge Rd. (71.39 - 81.95)

At this point, all the three of us wanted to do was to reach Clare (the 95.24 mile mark).  The Clare Moose Lodge was going to have a buffet breakfast waiting for us.  Dan started to have a recurrence of an injury that he had suffered less than one month prior.  Something with his leg.  He was hoping to be able to finish the event, but was realistically just looking to get to 100 miles, which was a distance he had not yet achieved.
We walked about eight miles of this leg, and ran/walked 5/15 minutes for the remaining 10.5.
Pretty sure the sun rose during this leg.

Partridge Rd. - Farwell (81.95 - 92.38)

We did the run/walk 5/15 minutes for about 5 miles of this leg.  That's all I wrote in my notes.  I do remember that we ended up pulling away from Dan when Kurt and I started running.  He ended up dropping at ~88.  When we saw him at Farwell, we all commended him on his wise decision.  I remember telling him "He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day".  I thought it was very profound at the time.
I also remember the fact that I knew that breakfast and a 30 minute nap were less than three miles away, so we didn't take too long here.  Pretty sure we picked up Ruth Warner here.  The three of us would stick together the remainder of our respective distances.
This is where we found out that Dan had dropped due to his leg injury.
Someone also told us that Brian and Alex were planning on stopping at 100.  While this was news to us, I wasn't surprised at all.  They had been pushing the pace hard the whole event.  I said to Kurt on many occasions that they would blow up spectacularly if they continued to do so.

Farwell - Clare (92.38 - 95.24)

I remember nothing of these miles. All I remember is seeing the Moose Lodge from a quarter of a mile away, with all the volunteers there.  I ran through the parking lot to where Brian was sitting in a chair by an aid truck.  I said to him, "I heard something that I don't really want to believe".  He confirmed that it was true, he was indeed calling it quits at 100 miles.  This was a bit disappointing to me.  He, Kurt, and I had gone on a few training runs together, and both Kurt and I knew that he was really looking forward to completing the entire distance.
I went inside the Lodge, took my hydration pack off, and headed to the bathroom to clean myself up with some baby wipes, and then wash my hands.  That felt tremendous.
I then sat down to two plates filled with food.
After eating, I hopped in an aid truck, took my shoes off, and tried to sleep.  It was crazy sleep, once again.  The sun was shining in the truck, my mind was racing...  I honestly don't know how much sleep I actually got.
When our allotted time was up, someone woke me up.  I changed from the Altra Provision 2.0s that I was wearing into the Altra Olympus that I had brought.  The Olympus is the Altra version of Hokas.  They have a 36mm stack height.
I must say, those shoes were a game changer for me.  The pain in my feet was now negligible, and the pain in my legs decreased tremendously.  Super glad that I invested in them.

Clare - Loomis (95.24 - 102.97)

I have nothing in my notes for these miles.  I know that we walked.  After Clare, we did no running at all.

Loomis - Coleman (102.97 - 108.23)

Again, more walking.  Eddie Money was playing in Coleman.  He took the stage right after we arrived.  Kurt's sister fixed us a turkey sandwich.  I didn't want anything sweet, just protein.
I was also getting a caffeine withdraw headache.  I asked Kurt's sister to grab some BCAA powder that I had, that had caffeine in it, and to make me a bottle with three scoops.
It tasted great, relieved my headache, and put some pep in my step.  We didn't stay too long after finishing our food and drink, then off we went to North Bradley

Coleman - North Bradley (108.23 - 113.66)

It rained for about five minutes during this leg.  Hard rain.  Luckily, it was at our backs.  I made sure to stow everyone's phones in the Ziplock which held mine prior to the rain starting.
I remember Kurt trying to outrun the rain, and ending up just running into worse rain.  That brings a smile to my face.
We arrived at North Bradley.  Kurt and Ruth were already in new distance PR, prior to Coleman.  Because I sat out those ten miles earlier, I didn't reach a new distance PR until just before North Bradley.
We pulled in and sat in some camp chairs.  Dean had a special treat for us.  Bananas Foster.  I know, Bananas Foster during an ultra.
There was an extra one, so I had two.  I remember commenting that when this sugar dumped out of my system, the crash would be hard.
I was right.

North Bradley - Sanford (113.66 - 119.33)

It only took two - three miles for me to crash.  It was the worst feeling ever.  It wasn't just weariness.  It was like I had negative amounts of energy.  I remember telling Kurt that I was taking a 12 minute nap at Sanford.  And if necessary, would do so at every stop until the finish.  Pretty sure that I was belligerent about it too.   I also remember that a couple of miles before Sanford, someone that Kurt new joined us for the last few miles to Sanford.  Upon leaving Sanford, Kurt told me that I was muttering to myself and rolling my eyes at him the whole time.
I honestly remember nothing about that, and that's kind of scary.
Here's me pulling into Sanford.  I'm at the edge of the frame.  I turned right to a bench, and laid down.

Yeah, that's how we were feeling.
So we took a 12 minute nap.  I ended up moving to a camp chair after a few minutes on the bench.
I woke up very cold.  I put on a long sleeved shirt and the only pants that I had brought; my rain pants.  Those soon got really hot, as did the shirt.
I felt much better after the nap, and we ended up leaving around 9pm

Sanford - when I stopped (119.33 - ~121.5)

It took me almost an hour to go that distance.  Very soon after leaving Sanford, everything came crashing down in my world.  A woman who had run some legs earlier in the race, Shasta, joined us on our way out of Sanford.  As Kurt and Ruth pulled away from me, she stuck with me.  I took off the long sleeved shirt at some point.  I looked at my watch, and saw that it was ~9:50.  I asked her when we left Sanford.  After consulting with the crew via her phone, she told me 9.  I knew then that there was no way I was going to be able to make it to Midland.
I knew that there was going to be at least 30 minutes of sleep there, but I couldn't do it.
We passed an access point to the trail, where one could pull off of the road that was parallel to the trail.  I sat down on a bench and told her "Call whoever you need to call.  I'm done."
Some time later, Kurt's sister-in-law pulled up, and I hopped in.
My event was over.

Lessons Learned

I learned quite a bit from this event.  One of the most important things was to not break the cardinal rule of ultra running: "Never do/try something in an event that you haven't done in training".
I thought that the cotton shirt and wide-brimmed hat would not matter at all.  And while that wasn't the only factor to my early dehydration, it did contribute.  The gas, which made it impossible for me to stay hydrated, was the biggest factor.  But the heat that those two added definitely hastened the process.
This event was also the first time that  I had gone deep into the second day.  While I didn't last a full 48 hours (only about 38), that was still over 10 hours longer than I had ever been on my feet prior to this.
I am now seriously reconsidering the fact that Vol State is on my bucket list.  500km, in Tennessee, in July?  We'll see.
While the temps on Saturday barely pushed the low 80's (Fahrenheit), it was still warm enough to affect all of the runners.  Here in the Midwest U.S., we've barely had any weather approaching that which would allow us to acclimate.


As I stated, I had 100% faith in my training.  Here it is:

My Feelings on Dropping

I have no regrets.  I gave it everything that I had, and came up short.  I trained harder than I had ever trained before, and I went into this with 100% trust in that training.  That was not the issue.  I believe that the early dehydration issue took enough out of me that as the second night fell, my body just had nothing left to give.
I'm extremely proud of Kurt for finishing, and being the only one to do so.  I'm also proud of all of the runners who set distance PRs during this event.  There were many.  Ruth ran 128+ miles, her previous longest was 100.  Alex ran 100 miles, his previous longest was 50 miles.  Dan ran 88 miles, his previous longest was 78 mils.  Elise (Kurt's mom) ran 100km, her previous longest was 50 miles.  Shasta ran 50km (i think), her longest was ~10 miles.
Kurt stated that this event will happen again next year.
We'll see.  We'll see.
Myself, Kurt, and Ruth.  Well over 100 miles in.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

World's Longest Turkey Trot (WLTT)

How I Ran From Milwaukee, WI, to Chicago, IL, and Almost Lost My Mind


The 4th Annual Alfredo Pedro Perro Memorial World's Longest Turkey Trot 4 ALS started at the Amtrak station in Milwaukee, WI, at 8am, Friday, November 25, 2016.  Our journey was completed 32 hours and 25 minutes later at the Bean in Chicago, IL.

Alfredo was a much loved member of the Flatlanders, Chicagoland, ultra-running community.  Four years ago, he persuaded his close friend, Scott Kummer, to join him on one last 100 mile run for the year: from Chicago, IL, to Milwaukee, WI.   It became an annual event, with more people joining the two each successive year.

Alfredo was diagnosed with ALS in December, 2014.  On November 8, 2015, he started that great ultra in the sky.  This years WLTT had a fundraising aspect to it.  All proceeds benefited the Les Turner ALS Foundation .  The goal was $5,000, and it was met and exceeded.

Here is a link to the trail runner mag article about Alfredo.  And here is a link to Scott's blog post about how the loss of Alfredo has affected him.

My Involvement

I live in Michigan, approximately four hours drive from Chicago.  I am a member of the Flatlanders face book page.  While I never knew Alfredo, I did know how much of an integral part of that group he was.  The opportunity came for me to run the WLTT this year, and I took it.

The Event

I woke up at 1am the day after Thanksgiving in order to drive to Scott's house.  Upon arriving, his wife drove us to the Amtrak station in Chicago.  There we met four other Flatlanders that would be taking the train to Milwaukee. 
Doug and I on the train

Milwaukee train station. 
There were two Milwaukee TV stations at the Amtrak station waiting to interview Scott.  We would meet one other station 10 - 15 miles into the run.
The third interview

The Milwaukee Mattress Company, right outside of the Amtrak station

Less than one mile after we started.  We got stopped by a train.

Among our group of 12 starters were two runners that had never completed a 100 mile run: Scott (yo-yo man), and Kyle.  I commented that there was no better way to get that first one under their belt than this.  No pressure, no cutoffs, a group of supportive friends...

We were super blessed to have Kyle's wife, Jacquetta, crew us the entirety of the first day.  Kyle's brother came to relieve her that evening.  Their SUV was a traveling AS, with foods that one would expect to find at any other AS: chips, pb & j, bananas, candy, Gatorade, water, and Pop Tarts.  They would meet us every five miles.  Because this was a journey run and not a race, we would spend up to 15 minutes at each stop.

At approximately 20 miles in, we met them at a small park on the side of the road.  At this point, my right knee started arguing with me that it was not too pleased with what I was doing.  I put on my Cho strap at this point.  That helped, but my knee throbbed and ached the next 80 miles.
~20 miles in

We reached Racine, WI, (about 30 miles from the start) at around 4pm.  There, we stopped at a diner named Kewpee.  They had the best fries, and homemade root beer.  Delicious!  It started to rain a bit when we left Kewpee, but did not last for long.  Shortly after leaving, the sun had completely set, leaving us in darkness.
Some of the kewpee dolls on display

We reached Kenosha, WI, (about 40 miles from the start) around 8pm.  There, the founder of Kenosha Running Company, Brian Thomas, opened his office to us.  He had soup, oatmeal, cookies, chips, granola bars, fruit, candy... a veritable smorgasbord.  I ate so much there that I don't think I ate anything else until the McDonald's at Fort Sheridan, 25 miles later.  We spent about 30 minutes there.
Tables of delights!

Doug and I taking a bit of a break
Our group was spread out about one mile.  Doug and I spent much of the first half of the night running together by ourselves.  We would run for a bit, "Let's stop at that streetlight".  Then we would walk for a bit.
I had never run an ultra on pavement.  It produces its own unique challenges.  The lack of hills for built in walk breaks is one.  The constant pounding of the concrete is another.

We reached the Illinois border around 11pm.  There was a gas station there.  We waited for everyone else to arrive, took some photos, then continued on.
The border
We ended up running through a bit of a town.  I have no idea which one.  It was here that I received the last surge of energy that I would have.  At some point, I put on some music and just started running.  I passed the lead group, then started walking.  They caught up.
It is also at this point that my memory of exactly what happened the rest of the night becomes very fuzzy.  I honestly don't remember much until we reached Fort Sheridan, IL, approximately 65 miles from the start.  I do remember that I pretty much walked the entire time from 2 am until we reached Fort Sheridan around 6:15am.
Taken at 3:25 am

Our crew cars were at a gas station there.  On Racine's husband's (aka Hubster) was our sign:
We were a bunch of turkeys, to be sure
I bought a Monster at the gas station.  There was a Starbucks next door to the gas station where everyone else had congregated.  I entered to find most of them already asleep in the chairs.  I had taken a seven minute cat nap in a crew car about an hour prior to this which had completely refreshed me, so I just drank coffee.

I'm not sure how much time we spent there.  Maybe 30 minutes.  The sun came up while we were there, I know that.  I'm also not sure how the McDonald's came into play, but after leaving Starbucks, we went about 100 yards to there.  I ordered a McGriddle and ate it before I even sat down.  Racine, who was #teampancakes, ordered some pancakes.  Racine also never ate the full amount of anything, always offering the other half to whomever wanted it.  When she did this with her pancakes, I was quick to oblige her.
Racine and I eating her pancakes

I was refueled, but every millimeter of my body from the waist down hurt.  Really hurt.  Really bad.  I just could not find it in me to run for very long.  I'm pretty sure that it was at this point that I hooked up with Rey.  He was in the same boat that I was.
We just walked.  Not even an ultra-walk, but a 20 minute/mile walk.  We did this for the better part of the next 20 miles.

We reached Evanston, the suburb that bordered Chicago, and found that everyone was stopping at a bagel place there.  This was about 82 miles into the run.  Rey and I just sat outside, waiting for everyone to finish.  When they did, they ran off, and we continued walking.
Three miles later, we came upon the crew cars.  We filled/fueled up a bit, and walked about one block before we came to everyone else, sitting at a bus stop.
Here, Scott asked us if we could run at all.  I immediately said, "No".  He then asked if we could walk any faster.  I again answered, "No".  Scott then said something to the effect of "go ahead.  We'll catch up."

Not long after that, Rey asked if I could walk a little faster.  We then came to an agreement.  We would run for two minutes, then ultra-walk for three.  We did nine cycles of that, then walked the rest of the way to the crew cars.

We were now ten miles from the finish, and about one mile ahead of everyone else.  I slammed a 20 oz. of Coke, three small brownies, and a cup of coffee.  We then carried on our run/walk cycle.  We did this for another nine (?) times, during which time we came to the end of Evanston, and the beginning of Chicago.
So happy to see this sign!  The end is near!
We reached the AS that was set up on the lake front, five miles from the finish, just behind everyone else.  I was completely gassed.  The effort that I had put forth in the previous ten miles was everything that I had.
I enjoyed some Mexican coffee (thanks Tom!), and explained to Rey that everyone else was running a song, then walking a song.
(Scott had a bluetooth speaker in his pack).  I asked him if he could do that, and he said no.  That took any wind that might have been in my sails right out.

The next five miles (it seemed like 15) were the longest five of my life.  All I wanted to do was sit down, and not have to get up again.  I had a complete meltdown at one point, and many mini melt downs.  Rey was a trooper to put up with me.  I remember telling him that when we reached the Bean, I was just going to lay my head against it, and that I would kiss it if I didn't think that it had 10 million different germs on it.

We finally figured out where everyone was, on the other side of the highway, in downtown Chicago.  Rey and I took the tunnel under the highway, and entered downtown.

I was born in Detroit, MI, and raised in the suburbs.  I have never experienced anything like downtown Chicago.  Much less the day after Black Friday.  I had been awake for 40 hours at this point, and traveled over 95 miles of pavement on foot.
The whole experience was the epitome of surreal.  I just followed Rey through the incredible mass of people.  I really wanted to just lie down and die at this point.  Every time we came to a crosswalk where we had to wait for the light to change, I leaned forward with my hands on my knees.
A couple of blocks before the Bean, everyone else found us.  They offered encouragement, then ran ahead.
I don't even remember the approach to the Bean.  All I remember clearly is walking up to it, putting both hands on it, and leaning my forehead against it.  After that, I went and sat down.  That didn't last too long before I was told to get back up and pose for pictures.
Rey and I with our buckles

The whole group, including crew


Already, the pain of yesterday has faded dramatically.  My right knee is still sore.  I have random shooting pains in my ankles and feet.  But there is already discussion of next year's WLTT.  This time, it will go from Chicago to Milwaukee.  All the cool kids do it both ways.  I love to be a cool kid.
Here is a link to the Strava.  It cut four miles off of it.  It states our running time was 22:03:49.  The time it took us from start to finish was 32:25:00.
This was an entirely different experience than my other two 100 mile completions.  The fact that it was a journey run, and not a race, was one of the reasons.  There were no time constraints.
Another reason was the selflessness of our support crew.  Kyle's wife was with us for the entirety of the run.  His brother was with us for most of it.  Racine's husband was with us for most of it.  There were a couple (I forget their names) that met us in the middle of the night with hot soup and grilled cheese.  There were others who met us in the middle of the night whose names I've forgotten.  Thank you to all of you.
The main reason was the people.  I have never run that long with that many people.  And every one of them were pleasurable to be around.  Thank you, Flatlanders, for letting me be a part of this tribute to a man that I never met.

Lessons Learned

I have an event Memorial Day weekend, 2017, which will be 150 miles.  We're running west to east, across MI.  It will be on the same terrain as this event: pavement.  I have learned many valuable lessons.

  • I have to train to walk.  Walking utilizes different muscles than running.  My walking muscles were underdeveloped, and using them so much on unvarying terrain caused me to become fatigued far quicker than I anticipated.
  • Make sure that you put some sort of lubricant on my feet.  I've never had blister issues, and didn't this time.  By the end, however, I have many red, irritated patches on both feet.
  • When on a run of this type and distance, I need to take time to lay down and elevate my feet.  I did not do that this time, but I think that it would have helped.
  • Have faith in your self-knowledge.  I told Rey that I feared that our run/walk cycles would cause me to burn out if we started them too soon.  We did, and I did.
  • Cushioning.  I ran in the Altra Instinct 2.0.  While they have a decent amount of cushioning, for next year's event, I'd like to try the Altra Olympus (Altra's answer to the Hoka).
I'm sure that there are other profound things that occurred to me during this run, but they've slipped my mind.  Apparently, they must not have been that important.

Monday, June 6, 2016

2 out of 4 marathons complete. The result? DNF

On Saturday, June 4, 2016, my constant companion and running partner, Kurt Adams, and I embarked on our mission to complete a quadruple marathon.  In that, we failed.

The Yankee Springs Trail Run is a weekend long event that features a 10k, half marathon, full marathon, double marathon, and quad marathon (new this year).  Three years ago, Kurt and I completed the double, five weeks after finishing our first 100 miler.

It's a 13.1 mile loop, with about 1,875 ft. of gain/loss per loop.  The quad started at 5 am.  We ran the first two loops in 5:40.  In hindsight (always 20/20), that was too fast.

We felt great after the first marathon

By the time we started the second marathon, it had started to heat up.
A note on my lack of heat acclimatization:
Three weeks prior to this run, on my last long run, I wore a tech tee, long sleeved shirt, rain jacket, and gloves.  So is Michigan weather.  Needless to say, I only had 13 miles under my belt which were ran in any kind of heat.  My last two runs, the week before the race.
This was another contributing factor to my DNF.
My lack of heat training also played havoc with my hydration.  On the first two loops, I was drinking Gatorade.  Beginning loop three, I switched to plain water.  The lack of sweetness was a great relief.  However, I was already a mess.  My stomach was full to the point of sloshing.  I was constantly thirsty.  I took an S! Cap at 10 am, and another at 11:50 am.  They didn't seem to help.
We walked the majority of loops three and four.  We finished our second marathon in 8:20.  That sums up this story succinctly enough.
The only cutoff for this race was that you had to start the last loop (loop eight) by 8 am, Sunday morning.  That means that we had to do the next three loops in 4:20.  And that meant that we would have to do the last loop in four hours.
I found myself having to stop a couple of times on each large hill on loop three.  The heat took most everything out of me.  That and the math I just mentioned led me to the decision to drop.  I had zero desire to continue on slogging the course.  I told Kurt to go ahead, and drove home.


Of course the 24 hours following a race, successful or not, are no time to make rash decisions.  I started off my 100 mile journey going 2 for 2.  I am now 2 for 4.
Dropping out of a race while still able to move forward is the worst feeling ever.  My family and non-running friends tell me to feel proud of accomplishing what I did.  All I can think about is what I didn't do.
I'm already signed up for Hennepin Hundred.  That will be my last attempt to sub-24 hour a 100 miler.  I'll have all summer to train.  The race is October 1.  I'll give it my best shot.

Monday, September 21, 2015

I'm Supposed to be a 201km Report!


How I Ran 80 Miles, Self-Supported, with Kurt and almost got Hypothermia

Kurt, the stoic one.  I'm a goof.


In talking about it, neither Kurt nor I recall exactly how the idea arose.  Somehow, we had gotten it into our heads to double up on the Top of Michigan 100 km which we had run twice (report here).  This race starts in Gaylord, MI, and ends in Mackinaw City, MI.  We originally planned on starting x number of hours before the official race (which was scheduled for October 3), from the finish, turning around at the start, and running back to the official finish.
That plan was moved up three weeks due to the fact that my wife is expecting our second child on October 26.  That meant that we were going to do the entire 201 km (we added one km to make it 125 miles) self-supported.


I trained for this harder than I have for any race prior.  (If you're interested in that, I've included a training section at the end of the report.)  Kurt and I pored over the map of the course, deciding where we should place the food/water drops in between the major cities along the route.  There were to be ten aid stations (AS) we hit twice, on the way down and the way back.  We would use the place where the official race started as our turn around, making a total of 21 AS. 
We wanted to finish the first 100 km no faster than 14 hours, so we calculated the time we needed to arrive at every AS.
I spent a couple of hours preparing 42 bags of Gatorade powder, 42 peanut and butter sandwiches, and 21 bags of Halloween candy.  That, along with 82 cans of Coke, 42 snack bags of goldfish crackers, and 42 snack cans of Pringles would be what was available to us.  
The forecast called for a 90% chance of rain Friday and Saturday (it was wrong in part, but more on that later), so I had packed a change of socks at every other AS, as well as a changes of shirts at the approximate 50 km  and 150 km AS, as well as the turn around.
Kurt picked me up around 2 pm Thursday afternoon, September 17, and we made our way north.  Starting at Gaylord, we stopped at the spots that we had designated for our AS and strung our bags from trees to avoid raccoon molestation.
 Well, most of our bags we strung from trees, but more on that later
 We met a very nice, older man while hanging the bags in the picture below.  He comes up again in this narrative. 

Race Day

As is always the case on race day, we woke up well before the alarm we had set.  I woke up around 3:30 am, Kurt about 4.  We got dressed, packed our fanny packs (which we had bought specifically for this occasion), and checked out the morning weather report. As I said, it was supposed to rain all day Friday and Saturday. 
The weather radar looked ominous, with a line of storms ranging from Mackinaw to south of Gaylord, and covering the western half of the upper lower peninsula. We donned our rain jackets and headed outside. 
It was not raining as we walked the short distance to the pavilion, where the actual race ends. We took some pictures, I started my video log of the journey, and we proceeded to the trail head.

-------A note on the trail. It's a crushed limestone path about 6 feet wide. The 100 km course from Mackinaw to Gaylord has an elevation gain of 700 feet, all of it a gradual uphill. Because there would be no built in walk breaks (hills), we had decided to just run until we felt like walking, and then walk until we felt like running. ------

Mackinaw to Gaylord 

The major cities along the route, north to south, are: Cheboygan, Topinabee, Indian River, Wolverine, Vanderbilt, and Gaylord.  We put two drop bags between Mackinaw and Cheboygan (distance - 16.3 miles),
one between Cheboygan and Topinabee (distance - 11.9 miles),
zero between Topinabee and Indian River (distance - 5.6 miles),
one between Indian River and Wolverine (distance - 9.7 miles),
one between Wolverine and Vanderbilt (distance 10.9 miles),
and zero between Vanderbilt and Gaylord (distance - 7.6 miles).
We also put bags at each city.  We tried to place the in-between bags as close to halfway between the cities as possible, but found out that we had placed the one between Cheboygan and Topinabee about eight miles from the former.  When we realized that, I got a tad discouraged, but realized that when we got to it on our return, we would be at the approximate 100 mile mark.  That made me feel better.
We started off at a comfortable 11 min/mile pace, and just ran.  It always feels good to run again after a taper.  By the time that we reached the second drop, we realized that we would have to walk the remainder of the distance to Cheboygan if we wanted to keep to our schedule.  We maintained a 15 min/mile walking pace, got to Cheboygan, enjoyed some snacks and water, and moved out.
After five miles, we realized that we had placed the next drop too close to Topinabee.  After seven miles, I became discouraged because I thought that we had missed it.  Then we saw it.
At Topinabee, we realized the value of hanging the bags.  I stated that we hung all but two.  This is one of the ones that we did not hang, and the raccoons had gotten into it.  They ate all of our sandwiches and my wife's cookies.  They had left the candy and salty snacks, so we were alright.
The rest of the trip to Wolverine was uneventful.  We determined that as long as we maintained a 14 min/mile, overall pace, we would be fine.  We would run until it was 13:50, and walk until it was 14:05.  Prior to that, we were running four miles, walking four miles.  Still at our original, respective pace of 11 and 15.
At Wolverine (27.2 miles), I stopped for a restroom break at the vault toilets pictured above, while Kurt gathered our supplies.  we lounged on the grass for about seven minutes.  The pace that we had maintained was finally starting to get to us.  We cleaned up our mess and soldiered on to Vanderbilt.
-----A brief note on the weather conditions.  It hadn't rained yet.  It had misted for the whole trip, but both of us were wearing our rain jackets tied around our waist.  There was no sun due to the cloud cover.  Overall, excellent running conditions that would come back to bite us later.------
I was feeling pretty gassed heading out of Wolverine.  Our pace suffered as a result.  We were reduced to just running when we could.  We met the kind older man at our drop between Wolverine and Vanderbilt and had a brief, pleasant conversation with him.  He mentioned that he had seen us from across the road that paralleled the trail, and had come over to make sure that it was indeed us, and not someone else messing with our bags.  I'm pretty sure that he was the only person that we talked to, beside ourselves, the entire trip.  At some point after Wolverine, I hooked up the charger to my Garmin, so we would run 20 minutes by Kurt's chronometer, and walk 10.
Heading out of Vanderbilt, on the 7.6 mile stretch to the turnaround at Gaylord, I went into my long dark tea time of the soul.

The Long, Dark, Tea Time of the Soul

I've talked about this before in prior reports.  It's something both Kurt and I, and many ultrarunners, experience.  We've only gone through it when the race involves running through the night.  For us, 100 milers.  It's when I fall into a psychological pit.  Everything just seems pointless.  It's difficult to describe, but if you've been there, you know.
I made it a point to tell Kurt on the drive up that it was important that both of us not experience this at the same time.  This way, the one who was not could talk the other out of it.  Kurt came through.  This still resulted in us walking the entire 7.6 miles from Vanderbilt to Gaylord, where Kurt had his.

Gaylord:  100 km:  Halfway Done

At Gaylord, Kurt had to repair his shoes with duct tape, as the sides were becoming blown out.  That's the danger of using your most comfortable, broken in shoes for something like this.  I waited at the drop bag site for him to change his socks, tend to his feet, and repair his shoes.  We then walked the half mile to the pavilion to eat our snacks.  
We discovered later that leaving the drop site without donning the long sleeved shirts that we had there would be a crucial mistake.
At the pavilion, Kurt dropped into his psychological hole.  His was centered around the fact that we had arrived at the turn around nearly two hours later than we had planned for.  We were now about 15 hours and 50 minutes into the run.  It was my turn to help him out.  I don't know how I had the faculties to figure it out, but I remarked that it was because this was a self-supported run.  That's what caused the added time.  It took us about five minutes to get the items we wanted out of the bags that we had hung.  We then spent 5 minutes enjoying them.  Add another five minutes to put the trash back in the bags, and that's 15 extra minutes per stop.  Multiply that by ten stops, and that's an extra 2.5 hours.
In reality, we were keeping up our pace, but the time it took to get to our bags was adding up considerably.
We threw our trash in the garbage can there, turned around, and set our sights for Mackinaw.

The Long Road Home

I don't remember if we did any running between Gaylord and Vanderbilt.  If so, it was brief.  When we finally reached Vanderbilt, we just grabbed some water to fill up our hand-helds, and we each grabbed a Coke.  We sat on a bench at the Vanderbilt trail head and just enjoyed them before moving on.
The bench in question, the next morning.
-------A note on Coke.  This is the best thing ever during a long run.  Liquid sugar and caffeine.  Nothing beats it.  There was an added pep to our step coming out of every AS due to Coke.------
About one mile out of Vanderbilt, it started to rain.  The expression, "raining buckets" does not capture the essence of this downpour.  It wasn't a thunderstorm, but it was raining hard.  Super hard.  Super, duper hard.  We had both put our rain coats on at Gaylord, so we just kept on walking.
The problem that we encountered was that all that we were wearing underneath our coats was short sleeved tech tees.  Kurt's shirt didn't even have sleeves.  50 degrees isn't a problem.  Torrential downpour isn't a problem.  But when you combine them both, and you're not wearing adequate clothing, stuff goes bad.  We were getting hypothermic.  For every two steps we took moving forward, we moved about one stride to either side.  We ran into each other countless times.  We both fell off the side of the path a few times.
We were in no man's land, between Vanderbilt and Wolverine (neither of which is any kind of city to speak of anyway), with no way out.  We were focused on getting to our next drop.  It was just something to look forward to.
The drop in question

That drop was marked by a series of very large boulders on the opposite side of the trail.  Both of our headlamps were fixed on that side.  Kurt told me later that he would see them, but when he stared at them for a bit, they would disappear.  I was seeing the side of a barn out of the corner of my eye, and when I turned my gaze upon it fully, it would dissolve into the foliage that was actually there.  When we finally did get to our bags, we grabbed some water.  I remember telling Kurt that I had to get out of this, meaning the rain.  He went to look for a lean-to that he thought he remembered seeing on our way down.
This was a new experience for us.  Our first 100 mile completion, Indiana Trail, 2013, was cold but there was no precipitation during the race.  It got into the 30's (Fahrenheit), overnight, and the course was 50% covered in water.  So we had overcome the cold.  The difference was that, at IT, we both had long sleeved shirts at all of the AS along the course.  By the end of that race, I was wearing six shirts and two light jackets.
Neither of us had anything long sleeved at this point.  The closest spot that we had anything warm was Indian River, about 8-9 miles away.  I had been shivering for the past three hours.  When Kurt came back to tell me that he couldn't find any lean-to, I told him that I was just going to go up the driveway and knock on the old man's door.  Kurt said, "What are you going to say to him?"  I had no idea.  All I knew was that I had to get out of the rain.  In actuality, we weren't even 100% sure that that was his house at the end of the drive.  We knew that he lived close, and there weren't any other houses near, so I was confident that it was.  However, it was 4 am.  I acknowledged Kurt's point, and asked him what we should do.  We ended up seeing an old barn across the road from what may or may not have been the guy's driveway, and went up to investigate.
The barn was missing half of one long wall, and many sections of roof.  But it was dry, and out of the wind.  I ventured to the back of the barn, looking for an old horse blanket, a tarp, anything.  All I found was a chair.  I brought the chair to the front of the barn and sat down.  Kurt laid down on a 2 x 4 to avoid laying on the cement floor.  We both fell asleep for 5-10 minutes.  Upon waking up, I became aware of the fact that I was still shivering.  I told him we had to do something.  The rain was still pouring down outside.
The door of the barn, minutes before our rescue.
We had both brought our phones, so Kurt found a cab company in Gaylord and explained the situation to the dispatcher that answered the phone.  The situation was this:  we knew that we were between Vanderbilt and Wolverine, on Trowbridge Rd.  We had the address on the mail box at the foot of the driveway.  We had $10, no credit card on us(Kurt had one in his car at Mackinaw), and ideally wanted to get back to Mackinaw.  Failing that, we would take anything that was open in Gaylord.  An all night diner, gas station, anything that was warm and dry.
The next 1.5 hours was a comedy of errors starring Kurt and the cab driver.  We had given the dispatcher the address and Kurt's phone number.  The driver called him to confirm the address.  He then called back 45 minutes later, asking if we had seen anyone drive by.  That was a definite no.  He told us that he was on Old 27.  Kurt explained that we weren't on Old 27, we were on Trowbridge Rd., and asked the driver if he had a GPS or a smart phone so he could just plug in the address.  The driver replied that he did not, and then his phone dropped the call.
This whole time, we were standing outside, in the wind and rain, just hoping to see headlights.  After repeated attempts to try and call the driver back, Kurt gave up, and we were stuck again.
It was now 6 am.  We had been shivering for nearly 5 hours.  I walked up to the house at the top of the drive.  Kurt was 20 feet behind me.  I told him that I was just going to ask for an old blanket, and see where the conversation went.  Kurt said, "Let's just wait 30 minutes."  I said, "What's going to be different in 30 minutes?  There's nobody awake in their now, what's to say that there will be in 30 minutes?"  The fact that we weren't even totally sure that it was his house made me turn around and head back to the barn.
Once inside, Kurt called his wife and asked her to find a cab company in Mackinaw and Cheboygan, give them the address where we were, and pay them over the phone.  About an hour later, the cab pulled up, and we were warm again, on our way back to Mackinaw.

Lessons Learned

As is our wont, we dissected the heck out of what happened on the drive home.  We came to the realization that, at Gaylord, if we would have just recognized the fact that it was only going to get colder, and put on the appropriate clothing, we would have been able to marshal through the rain.  We would have been wet, but we would have been warm (relatively).  
We also learned just how different doing things self-supported is from doing them at an official event.  Aside from the time factor, if this was at an event, we would have had to only make it to the next AS, where we would have warm, dry clothes.  We could change, spend some time with other people in a well-lit, supportive atmosphere, and then head back out to the next AS, where we could do it again.  Being stuck in the dark, in the middle of nowhere, with no relief is completely psychologically deflating.


We still have to refine our plan somewhat.  But like MacArthur and the Philippines, "I shall return."  We've already blocked off sometime between the end of July, 2016, to the end of August to make our triumphant return.  This way, the cold won't be an issue.  In the interim, we will make the necessary adjustments.  We left some unfinished business on that trail, and we plan to come back and take care of it.

Video Log

I made a video log of the first 62.2 miles.  There's some sweet intro music over a slide show for the first 3.5 minutes.  So if you want to skip to the actual log, start there.

Garmin Data

I used a portable USB charger to charge my Garmin 310 about 14 hours in.

My Wife's Delicious Cookies

I mention these a few times in the video log I've included.  They are the perfect run food.  The ingredients:
  • bananas
  • raw, natural almonds
  • quick cooking oats
  • raisins
My wife doesn't measure anything when cooking, so I can't give you any measurements.  She just takes 4-5 bunches of bananas, peels them and puts them in a big bowl.  She then beats them until it becomes a soupy mixture.  She adds oats until it becomes thick, then adds the almonds (which have been run through the food processor) and raisins.  Then you put them in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  The best run food ever.


I trained harder for this race than I ever have.  It became evident to me after my DNF at IT 100 this year what was too little training.  I still don't know how much is enough, so I figured I'd err on the side of too much.  So that's what I did.
There are 92 days in June, July, and August.  During those 92 days, I ran 950 miles.  I only ran 5 days per week.  I ran doubles every week.  I started with once per week in June, moved up to twice per week in July, and ran two weeks of three times per week.  I remember, during the third week of July, just wishing that it was September so that I could taper.  This was my first time ever not going bat crap crazy during a taper.  I was just too happy to not have to bust my butt every day.
Because my Achilles heel is my lower back, I went to the gym and did ab and lower back exercises every Monday.
I don't know how much was too much.  I didn't suffer from over training syndrome, so it wasn't too too much.
So this is my go to training for any race of import.  I can scale it down a bit for a just finish, but not too much.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Lessons From A DNF

Lessons From A DNF

(not a race report)

DNF: Did Not Finish.  
My long time running partner, Kurt, and I had three rules for not finishing a race.
  1. You're physically broken
  2. You're bleeding out
  3. You risk worsening a physical injury by continuing
Up to 25 Apr,, 2013 I was 2/2 at the 100 mile distance.  
My first attempt/completion was at Indiana Trail 100 in April of 2013(report here), where 65% of the field dropped because of the course conditions.
My second attempt/completion (here) was at Hallucination 100 in September of 2014, where I had to walk the last 25 miles due to a back issue.
I felt as if I were invincible.  I had stared some horrible stuff in the face and come out on top.  

When I felt my back tightening up at the end of the first loop yesterday, I knew what it meant.  I didn't say anything to Kurt because there was no point.  All I could do was to just rock it until the wheels fell off. 
They fell off sooner, rather than later.  About two files from the first aid station on loop three, approximately 35 miles into the race, they flew wildly.  I told Kurt what was happening.  I must have said at least a dozen times, "I'm not walking the last 60+ miles."  After walking the last 25 of Hallucination, there was no way I was doing that.  Kurt suggested that I finish the loop.  I told him that I really didn't see the point in that, and dropped as soon as we hit the aid station.  I had nothing to prove to anyone.
Yes.  It hurt.  A lot.  For many reasons.  We were tracking to set a PR for both of us.  We were undefeated at the distance.  We were tougher than anything that we had faced.
None of that mattered when faced with a situation beyond you're control.  Which brings me to the point of this post

One Way To Look At It

  • I was robbed!
  • Son of biscuit!
  • Why me!
  • I coulda' been a contender!
  • It's just not fair!

How I Got Over It

This is what I discovered, after I got off of my brief visit on the pity pot.
I am 99.9% sure that Kurt and I would have finished sub 24 at IT in 2013.  We ran at least 50km in training every single Saturday for three months.  That was not to be.  The entire week preceding the race, it rained.  The course was 75% covered in water.  We persevered.  We were among only 35% to finish the race.  We were darn proud.
But wait a minute.  Shouldn't we rage against the weather for ruining our chance at a sub 24?  after all,  it was a circumstance beyond our control.
Either I had to be as mad at those circumstances as I was at these, or I had to let go of this as much as I had let go of this as much as I let go of that.
So that's it.  I could waste my time and energy raging against things that I can't/couldn't control, or I can accept what happened, and strive to make sure that it doesn't happen again.  I have a big race coming up in October.  I am so excited to train for it.  I'm looking forward to whipping myself into shape; to making sure that this never happens again.  As is said, "Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me."
Also, I have absolutely nothing to prove to anyone.

  • I was among the 35% at IT100 in 2013 who didn't quit because it was cold or because the course was flooded. 
  • I walked the last 25 miles of Hallucination 100 after my back seized up.

Time to get off of the pity pot, and get to work.
back to work boys

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A product review (No Financial Interest) Now With Updated Content!!!

Cellucor C4 Extreme


So I'm a bit of a supplement junkie.  While I'm not, nor ever will be, an elite, I'm a solid mid-packer.  I believe that if there's a supplement that will make workouts or recovery just a tad easier, I'm game. 
 Ever since I started running, I've voraciously read anything about training, eating, supplementation, etc.  The daily supplements that I use are: glucosamine, fish oil, multi-vitamin, vitamin E, and milk thistle.  The milk thistle is an antioxidant, but I use it for liver health.
After runs > 5 miles, I make a recovery drink with 8 oz. of whole, chocolate milk, and a scoop of whey protein.  After a long run, I use a BCAA (branch chained amino acid) in addition to my normal recovery drink.  I've found that the addition of the BCAA is a tremendous aid in lessening muscle soreness.

What I Was Testing

So the new trend in weight lifting is the pre-workout supplement.  What this is supposed to do, basically, is to allow you to do more, for longer.  It has some B12 and Niacin, which aid in turning carbohydrates and fat into fuel.  It also increases NO production, which you can read about here

Previous Experiences

I've used C4 before speed interval workouts, and seen a dramatic effect.  I was able to run the intervals faster than normal, and did not get as fatigued as I usually would during the later intervals.  
I was curious what effect it would have on the later miles of a longer run.

The Test

Today I went out for a 16.5 mile run.  A middle long run, if you will.  I took one scoop of C4 at mile 9.  I was averaging ~ 9:15 minutes/mile up to that point.  Allowing for miles 10 and 11 to be the absorption of the supplement, miles 12 - 16 were run at an average of 9:01.
The fact that I was running faster is irrelevant to me.  I was more interested in the perceived effort.  In that regard, I found that miles 12 - 16 were easier than the first 11, even though I was running 14 seconds/mile faster.

A Better Test

Last weekend, 6 Jun 2015, my long time running companion, Kurt, and I went for a 27 miler on some local trails.  Here is the Garmin data.  1,700 ft. of gain over the 27 miles.
We did an 18 mile loop, followed by two, 4.5 mile loops.  After the first 4.5 loop, we both had a serving.  About one mile into the last 4.5 loop, we both felt better than we had at any point in the run.  Our mile split times were faster than the comparable times from the first loop, and the perceived effort was considerably less.


I still have to test it on a real long run, which I define of > 26.2.  But my conclusions from this experiment were that:
  • I was able to run faster
  • The run itself felt easier

Updated Conclusions

After testing this product on the trails, and fairly deep into the run, I'd have to give it an endorsement.  We were both able to run faster, and it still felt easier.
On 19 - 20 Jun, we test it on a 50 mile, road run.  I'll update again.


If you are sensitive to the effects of niacin, I would recommend against this product.  My skin felt a bit prickly and itchy within the first mile after ingestion.  I attribute this to the niacin.
And as with any supplement, consult your doctor first, your mileage may vary, blah, blah, blah.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It's Not Whether You Win or Lose, it's how You Play the Game

A Follow Up

Someone brought up a good point to my post titled Validate Me.  That was summed up in this meme:
Not coming out on top in any type of competition, whether it be as an individual or as part as a team; whether it be against another person or a personal goal; is never a bad thing (unless, of course, you're on the losing side of a war I suppose).
Losing causes you to do one of two things: quit, or try harder.
I used to have a saying in the days of yore.  "If you can't stand losing, don't play."
I'm not the best loser.  I'm much better than I used to be, but that's due to age and maturity.  Losing leaves me with an extremely bad taste in my mouth.
I try again.  I try harder.

I'm not a big fan of quitting.  Quitters never win, and all that jazz.
In instilling values in my daughter, I've developed a new phrase, with the help of my wife.  That is to praise her for working hard, not for being smart.  Ie, "Good job!  You worked hard for that!"  As opposed to, "Wow!  You're so smart!"
Praising her for her intelligence may lead her to resting on her laurels.  Praising her for her hard work will cause her continue the pattern of working hard to achieve a goal.
It does matter who wins or lose.  But it also matters how you play the game.  
Before I started running ultras, I had a goal to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  My first step in that journey was a personal goal to run sub 8:30 min/mile for 26.2 miles.  
That was the hardest I had ever physically worked for anything.  Four months of training.  Twice weekly speed workouts that would leave me feeling as if each breath was fire in my lungs.
I achieved my goal.  At the end of it, I was a quivering, worthless, wasted piece of junk.  My wife had to help me to the car.
I realized, after that effort, that I did not have the desire to attempt to run 7:15 min/mile for 26.2 miles, which is the current standard to qualify.  So I won my personal battle, learned a lesson, and quit.  The lesson that I learned was that I didn't believe that I was gifted enough, athletically, to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  It was a hard lesson to learn, but as the saying goes, "When God closes a door, He opens a window."  That window was into the world of ultra marathons.
But that's a story for another post.
Only I know if I tried as hard as I could.  I'm either satisfied with my effort, or not.  I've done extremely well at something, and still not been pleased with my effort.  
All of these lessons have come over my 37 years of life.  Age and maturity are great teachers.  The best that I can do for my daughter is to try to impart my wisdom to her.  I suppose that's what all good parents do.  
I know how well I listened to my parents when I was a teenager.  
All I can do is raise her the best that I can.  And try to instill in her that hard work is its own reward.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.  But you always come away a better person.