Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Indiana Trail 100


On Saturday, 20 Apr 2013, at 6 am, I started what would be the most difficult, most rewarding experience of my life.  Indiana Trail 100 was held at Chain O' Lakes State Park, in Albion, Indiana.  It consisted of 6 laps, 16 2/3 miles per loop.  Three aid stations on the loop.  One at 4.25 miles, one at 8.8, one at 14.5, and the start/finish.
The week preceding this, Indiana, and my home state of Michigan, experienced a tremendous amount of rain.  Because of this, Much of the course was under water, forcing the RD to reroute some of the course.  There were still some sections that were under water, forcing us to wade through water that was up to mid thigh, three to four times per loop.
every crossing at least this long

The biggest problem that the rain caused was the mud.  Shoe sucking mud.  Quad burning mud.  The mud consisted of approximately 20km of the 100 mile course.  One of the worst aspects of it was that it would be 50 feet of mud, then some short runnable surface, then another 50 feet of mud, etc.  Forcing us to start, stop, start...
Here's a nice stretch of it.  Most stretches not as easily navigable.

It was pretty bad.  Here is a brief, 3 minute video of some of the mud and water.
My wife, Crystal, stayed awake with me the whole time.  She was invaluable through this process.
This race had a 62.5% DNF rate.  I was not among them.


I won't get into much detail here, since this is a race report, not a training report.  All I will say is that I trained for 14 weeks.  Every weekend except 4, I ran greater than 26.2 miles with my friend Kurt.  He was also training for IT100.  We had decided to run as much of the race together as possible.  Turns out, we ran all but the last 2.1 miles together.  We had also discussed loop times for a sub 24 hour finish.

Loop 1 projected - 3:30   actual  3:37

Kurt and I before the start

My bib and the bib for Boston

We found out just how bad the course was on this loop.  We still made good time, only going 7 minutes over our projected time.  Did I mention the mud?  I had two 20 oz. bottles in a waist pack.  One filled with water, the other filled with Jonathan Savage's Go Juice.  This set up worked fine for the first four laps.  More on that later.
We were having fun, wading through the water, and not so much, slogging through the mud.  But we were doing it

Lap 2 projected 3:30    actual 4:02

It was a dirty business
Kurt and I decided to take the extra time it took to take care of our feet after every lap.  We changed socks, dried our feet, wiped all the mud from inside our shoes, and reapplied vaseline to our feet.  We figured that the time we took to do this would save us from major issues later in the race and a possible DNF (did not finish).
We were still in decent shape for our sub 24, but were thinking that just finishing was more in order.  We had fun still.  Picking up some running partners here and there, talking with them and each other about all manner of things.
At the completion of this lap, we met our friend Tim, who would be our pacer later in the race.  We were allowed pacers starting with lap 4, but Kurt and I wanted to wait until the start of loop 5, which we had dubbed the Loop of Doom in training.  We named it that because it would be the first lap done in complete darkness and it would be just the 5th lap.  We would still need to do 50 km at the beginning of this lap.  We wanted our pacer to not lose his efficacy.

Lap 3 projected 4:00   actual 4:38

This is where it started to fall apart
So yeah.  After lap 3, 50 miles, things started to go a bit south.  Half way through this lap, my stomach really stopped accepting anything, including the Go Juice.  I knew that would happen, that's why I made the Juice, to supply the calories needed.  But I just couldn't stomach that either.  I had some saltines and a couple of Tums at the last aid station before the finish, then we made it back to change our shoes.  Crystal (all pictures courtesy of her), and Tim were a great crew.  Crystal provided our clean socks, while Tim filled up our fluids.
It was at this point that we stopped thinking about the sub 24 hour finish.  We knew that we would still finish under the cutoff (30 hours) if we just kept on moving forward, so that's what we did.
Change of shoes, good to go.  Note how bright blue those shoes are.

Lap 4 actual 5:18

We started this lap in the light and finished it in the dark.  We knew that we wouldn't see the light again until after the Loop of Doom.  In the start/finish tent, Tim told us that people were coming in from lap 4 and not going back out.  They would sit down by the heater and drop, or drop and sit down by the heater.  But once they came in, they weren't leaving.  Dropping was not an option for us, so we topped off our fluids and took off.
The loop itself is kind of a blur.  My stomach wasn't getting any better, and I was quickly losing my energy.  At the 8.8 mile aid station, I donned an extra layer because it was getting colder.  I was now wearing a short sleeve tech, a long sleeve cotton, and two light weight coats.
We walked at least the last 5 miles of this lap.
One thing that we both looked forward to at the end of this lap was coffee.  We had cut our consumption significantly over the week leading up to the race.  Me, by two thirds of my normal.  At every aid station, we politely declined their offer of coffee.  Upon completion of this lap, we downed a couple of cups.  Mmmm.... delicious coffee...
At the start/finish, i donned another long sleeve cotton.  Now I had 5 layers on.

Loop of Doom actual 5:59

This is where I personally fell apart.  I hadn't been eating or hydrating for over 6 hours.  My back was a knot of flame from carrying 40 ounces around my waist for 17.5 hours.  I remember at one point stepping over a tree that was across the trail and just sitting down on it for a minute.  Then I got up and carried on.  We ended up walking a lot of this lap as well, despite Tim's efforts to get us moving.  Towards the end of the loop, Tim realized that I was dehydrated, and started making me drink Gatorade and take some salt tabs.
I'm gorked out

Tim putting fresh batteries in my head lamp.
When we got back in from this lap, I did my best to avoid the attention of the EMT's.  I didn't want them to start asking me questions, and me not being able to answer them.  So I just tried to mind my p's and q's, drank the Gu Brew that Tim gave me, and carried on for the last lap.
Tim had an extra hand held water bottle that he let me use for this lap, since there was no way I was wearing that waist pack anymore.  I wasn't too keen on putting a hydration pack on either.  So I popped an electrolyte tab in the bottle, topped it off with water, and we were good to go.

Final lap actual 5:12

At the start of this lap, Tim took the time to have a cup of coffee, so Kurt and I carried on.  As we passed over the timing mat, I broke into what passed for a run.  I told Kurt, "It doesn't matter how fast we're going, but we have to keep a running form to stay warm."
This lap was actually not too bad.  The ground had frozen (it got down to 28 degrees fahrenheit that night), so the mud wasn't that much of an issue.  That, and the fact that we just didn't care anymore, really helped out the slogging factor.  The water level of most of the course had dropped, so that by the time we finished, what had once been a 20 yard, mid thigh deep lake, had turned into something that got the bottom of our shoes wet.
We got to see the sun come up during this lap.  That was a highlight of the entire race.
At the 8.8 mile aid station, they had home made egg and bacon muffins.  The protein was the most delicious thing I had ever eaten.
At the aid station 2.1 miles from the finish, Kurt just checked in and carried on.  He said, "I just want to be done."  I told him that I just didn't have it in me to run anymore.  Tim had been a harsh task master throughout this loop, making us run often.  I found out later that my wife had told him, "Don't be nice to him."  Well, he wasn't.  I told Kurt to tell her that I would be 5 - 10 minutes behind him.  We walked for about .75 miles, then I found some reserve somewhere, and ran as much of the rest as I could.

Finish 28:48:30.35

This is where I left Tim

Coming up and around to the timing mat at the finish was one of the sweetest, most fulfilling moments ever.  I crossed the finish and told the small crowd, "I think I'll stop now."  That got a laugh out of them.  I traded my timing chip for a buckle.  Best trade ever. 152 people started the race.  57 finished.  I was 37th of the 57.

It seemed like a sprint to me

From l to r, me, Tim and Kurt

Lessons learned

I trained my arse off for this race.  DNF was not an option.  Not because of mud, not because of sub freezing temps, not because of huge water crossings.  Go into it with that state of mind, and that's a huge part of the battle already won.
Waist packs may be fine for 50M or less.  Anything more, not so much.  Hand helds being ordered this week.
Especially when your stomach goes south, pay attention to your hydration.  Keep drinking.  Keep electrolyte levels up.

Parting Photograph

Bright blue shoes on the right
Yes, it's a female shirt.  All my race shirts go to my wife


  1. Congrats Andrew! The course conditions look brutal, and that DNF rate is insane! I hope you are taking some well deserved time to rest and that the recovery is going alright. And hopefully one day I can join you and Tim in the 100 mile club!

  2. Great report Andrew! Great job on getting it done that day! I was happy to be a part of the 100 mile club that day!! It was really fun in a sick kind of way!