Monday, September 8, 2014

Hallucination 100 Race Report


How I death marched the last 25 miles of Hallucination


This is a race report.  However, it wouldn't be complete without a bit of back-story.  I had taken off the last five months of 2013 due to injury and illness.  When I started running again in January of this year, I was only able to run 1.5 miles that first run.
After I had gotten myself into some semblance of shape and had gotten my long run up to 15 miles, by the end of February, I started entertaining the notion of running the 50 mile distance at Run Woodstock.  I shared this idea with my wife and running husband, Kurt Adams.  Kurt said, "Why not do the 100 (mile)?"  Why not indeed.
So that idea eventually morphed into, "Why not attempt to sub 24 (hour) it?"
It is my belief that any solid, middle of the pack ultra runner is able to complete the 100 mile distance in less than 24 hours.  I consider myself to be such, so I said, "Why not?"

Background on Run Woodstock

In case you didn't click on the above link, or this link, here's some information on the Run Woodstock Festival of Running.  The races offered are as follows: 100 miles; 100 km, 50 miles; 50 km; marathon; half marathon; 10 km; 5 miles; 5 km.  Speaking only for the ultra distances, part of the course is within the Hell Creek Camp Grounds, in Hell, MI, and part of the course is on the Potowatami Trail, Pinkney State Park, Pinkney, MI.  
The course is a 16 2/3 mile loop, with the 100 km and 50 km distances running an abbreviated loop.  There are three aid stations (AS) per loop, and one at the start/finish.  They are at miles 4, 8 1/3, and 12 1/3.  There are long stretches of very runable road and tow-path.   Looking at my Garmin data for the first three loops, it's approximately 811 feet of elevation gain per loop.  This gives the 100 mile course an elevation gain of 4,870 ft.
The 100's start at 4 p.m., Friday.  According to the website, this allows the runner to experience the night loops while still relatively fresh.  That's a benefit.  One drawback to this are that, once the sun rises Saturday morning, you still have about two loops to go.  Another is that, unless you normally wake up in the afternoon, you've already been up for most of the day.  That was the case with me.  I woke up at 5 a.m., Friday morning.  So I had already been awake for 11 hours.  This would make itself evident starting in loop two.

Race Day

Shameless selfie.  Serious business is about to commence.

Kurt would be my crew and, starting with lap four, my pacer.  I would also be running the 100 with our good friend Tim.  Here we are, a couple of hours prior to the start:
L to R, Kurt, me, Tim.

Another potential drawback to the 4 p.m. start time is that, if it's unseasonably warm, the race would start at the warmest part of the day.  That was the case this year.  It was 93 degrees, felt like 97, and there was about 60% humidity.

Loop One

Given the conditions, I ran this loop way too fast.  But Kurt and I had boiled down the sub 24 hour goal into what each of the six loops should be completed in.  This loop's goal was 3:15.  It was the fastest of the six, and I felt a tremendous amount of pressure because of it.  I realized that I was running too fast, but justified it to myself by realizing that it would be dusk when I finished, so the heat of the day wouldn't be a factor anymore.
Stay on target.

My plan for fueling was to use two hand-held bottles.  One for water, the other filled with Go Juice.  This has protein powder, maltodextrin (a rapidly absorbed, complex carbohydrate), salt, no-salt (potassium chloride), sugar, and kool-aid.  Each 20 oz. bottle that I drank provided almost 400 calories.  I planned on drinking two per loop.  Considering that a runner can only absorb 200-300 calories per hour, I would still be fine.  I was going to use the Go Juice as long as I could; until I got sick of it.
The rule for ultras, especially in the heat, is to drink and fuel early and often.  You can't make up for it later.  You also can't drink or fuel to excess, because this will lead to problems as well.
The heat also exhibited itself to me by me needing a salt tablet.  I use these sparingly.  Throughout my summer training for this race, I had never taken one.  That's including weekly long runs of at least 26.2 miles.  My thoughts are, if you don't need it, don't take it.  This way, when you do need it, it will be more effective.  I also don't like to disturb the electrolyte balance.  Fueling and hydrating properly during 100 miles is a tricky enough situation as it is.
But I listen to my body, and it was telling me that I needed electrolytes.  I took one about one hour into the loop.  I took another one hour later.  I took a third one hour after that.  Those three salt tabs, coupled with the amount of salt and potassium in the go juice, caused my blood pressure to go sky high.
I drank one bottle of water between every AS on this loop, which was just fine.  I finished my first bottle of go juice by the second AS, the half way mark of the loop.
Another challenge for me at this race, with the sub 24 goal, was to minimize the time spent at AS.  If you spend just two minutes at each AS, that's 44 minutes for 100 miles.  So at the first and third AS, I pulled in, gave a volunteer my water bottle, grabbed it when full, and pulled out.  At the second AS, I gave a volunteer my water bottle, quickly put the go juice powder in the other, no empty bottle, had them fill that, and pulled out.
I did an excellent job at maintaining my goal to minimize time spent at the AS.
At about 7 p.m., just over one mile before I finished this loop, the tornado siren went off.  My first thought was, "Oh.  First Saturday of the month."  Then I realized that it was still Friday.  My thought then was, "I wonder if one would get disqualified if picked up by a tornado and dropped further along down the course."  I pulled into the start/finish two minutes under my goal time.  Kurt was there to fill up my water bottle.  I told him that I needed another bag of go juice powder, my head lamp, and asked his advice on whether or not I should change into my trail shoes, seeing as it was probably going to rain during this loop.  I had been running in street shoes, which was fine because the course was dry.  But if it was going to rain, it was sure to become muddy.  He said yes, change shoes.  So I did.  Quickly.
I gathered my bottles and headed back into the woods to start loop two.  The wind had really picked up and was howling loudly.  Before I entered the woods, I shouted, "IS THAT IT?!?!  IS THAT ALL YOU GOT?!?!" at the top of my lungs.
Time: 3:13

Loop Two

As I mentioned earlier, my pace during loop one took it's toll.  That, coupled with the fact that I had now been awake for just over 14 hours, caused me a tremendous amount of fatigue.  My blood pressure was still through the roof.  It felt like the skin on my head was too tight.  I stopped drinking the go juice.  So now I have to start eating at the AS.  Funny thing about running though, the body shunts blood to the organs necessary for survival because it's in a "fight or flight" situation.  The stomach is not a necessary organ.  I couldn't eat.  I wasn't nauseous, I just couldn't force anything into my stomach.
It was eerily spectacular running this loop before darkness closed in.  The sky was that weird shade of yellow that it gets when the conditions are ripe for a tornado.  The wind was wreaking havoc among the trees.  There were constant, loud cracks signalling limbs breaking off of trees.  They sounded like gun shots going off at close range.  I diverted my attention from the trail in front of me briefly, to watch for falling limbs.  I only saw one fall.  It was as thick as my arm, and fell about 12 feet from me.  One runner got hit on the head with a falling limb.  She ended up being pulled from the course with a concussion.
For all of the hullabaloo, I don't fell as if it really rained that much.  If it did in actuality, I was under a canopy of trees, so what ended up falling on me was more refreshing than anything else.  
But oh, the fatigue.  I pulled into and out of the first AS as I had last loop, but it was now dark.  I was tired.  I started thinking that I would tell Kurt, at the end of this loop, that I'd be best served by a 20 minute nap.  That changed into me telling a volunteer at the half way AS to wake me up in 20 minutes, and I would just sleep on the ground.  It got as bad as me thinking that I would just step off of the trail and nap.
I carried on though.  That sub 24 goal was dangling elusively in front of me like the proverbial carrot, even though I knew it was probably unattainable.
The second and third AS stops went much the same as they did for the first loop, so that was good.
When I was a couple of miles out from the start/finish, or the end of this loop, I started planning on what I needed from Kurt.  This is key if you have a goal time that you're shooting for.  Start planning on what you need before you get there.
I pulled into the start/finish and told Kurt, "I need coffee, my flash light, fresh batteries, my blue mp3 player, and two bags (of go juice powder)."  I really hate wearing a head lamp for any extended period of time.  The never changing distance of the light plays havoc with my mind when it goes on for hours and hours.  I train almost exclusively with small flash lights.
Kurt, like the good crew chief that he is, ran to get the items I had requested as I filled up my bottles.  When he came back, he told me that I was 45 minutes over my goal time.  I had already realistically given up on the sub 24, so I wasn't too disappointed.  I still had my secondary goal to shoot for, which was sub 27, and that was still very much within reach.
Kurt said to me, "This is going to be your hardest loop."  We had discussed this previously, and determined that the third loop would probably be my toughest, psychologically.  It would be the first loop ran completely in the dark, and it would be my last loop by myself.  Kurt would be pacing me, starting with loop four.
I told him, "Dude, I'm straight.  I've got my music, I've got a second wind, and I'm good to go."  I had filled up my 8 gig mp3 with music that would keep me going.  I put it on "shuffle all" as I proceeded to the trail head, and it did not disappoint.
Time: 4:11

Loop Three

The first song up was 

As I do on all of my runs, I started singing along at the top of my lungs.  I proceeded to kill this loop.  I reeled in well over a dozen people, singing the whole time.  I talked to a couple of friends after the race, and they mentioned that they had greeted me, but I didn't hear them.  I was too focused.  Focused on picking up time, if possible, and the music.
All AS stops went as well as they had the first two loops.  I managed to force some food down at each one.  All the AS had little dixie cups of grapes.  I would slam about five of these per AS.  At a couple, I downed a few small cups of Coke or Mountain Dew, and perhaps a couple of cookies as well.  These items got me the fuel that I needed.
The amount of debris on the course from the winds earlier was incredible.  Large, fallen trees now crossed the trail periodically that were not there on the first loop.  The rain felt magnificent.  All was right with the world.  I pulled into the start/finish to pick up Kurt.
Time: 4:19

And Then, the Wheels Fell Off

Loop Four

The wheels didn't just fall off, they flew off of a speeding car and careened on down the road.  Picking up Kurt should have provided a boost.  It did not.
Any ultra runner will tell you that there comes a point during a race when you hit a psychological low.  My theory is that the low is proportional to the length of the race.  The low that I experienced during this loop was the darkest point of my life.  Those that truly know me know that that is saying a lot.  It was a profound sense of homesickness.  I knew that my beautiful wife and six month old daughter would be at the start/finish later this day.  All I wanted during this loop was to be with them.  I kept thinking that the this night was the first night since my daughter's birth that I had not checked on her before going to bed.  I missed them so much.
I honestly don't know how Kurt put up with me.  I was mentally exhausted, and more homesick than I have ever been.  I must have said to Kurt, "I honestly don't know how I can do two more loops after this" one million times.  To which he responded, "All you have to do is make it to the next AS" every time.
Woodstock offers a drop down option to 100 mile runners.  After the completion of four loops, or 66 2/3 miles, you can tell them at the start/finish that you're done, and they will record your time as 100 km finisher.  This option sounded so appealing to me.  The reasons that I didn't, in no particular order:
  1. There's no buckle for 100 km finish
  2. I didn't train this hard for 100 km finish
  3. I didn't want to have had dragged Kurt out here to crew me for three laps and pace me for one
  4. My wife and daughter still wouldn't be there until the late morning/early afternoon
  5. You don't DNF (Did Not Finish) unless you're physically broken or bleeding out, and not completing the distance I signed up for would be a DNF in my book
So I trudged along.  The only redemptive thought being that, sometime during this loop, the sun would rise.  And it did.  With it, my spirits rose.  Slightly, but it was enough to dampen the negativity that had been consuming me.  We pulled into the start/finish.  Sub 24 no longer even a distant goal, but maybe I could pull off a sub 26.  That would be good enough.
Kurt called my wife before we left.  Talking to her was the best thing ever.  She stated that she was already on her way, and that she would see me soon.  I told her that I loved her, and looked forward to seeing her.  Truer words were never spoken.
Time: 5:08

Loop Five

All was going swimmingly through the first two AS.  I was able to pick up some time on the long stretches of runnable road.  I was still running when I could, which was the mantra/key that Kurt and I came up with after completing our first 100 miler (Indiana Trail 100, 2013).  Shortly after the half way AS, we ran down a hill that leveled out at a bridge.  About ten feet onto the bridge, my back seized up so bad, I stopped and cried out.  I immediately lay down on my back to stretch it out.  Other runners were passing me by, stopping and asking if I was ok.  I waved them on and told them that I was fine.  Kurt bent over me and asked me what was wrong.  I told him what had happened as I was getting up.
My back had been tight since loop one.  Starting at the completion of that loop, I would stop and stretch it out at every AS.  This time, no amount of stretching it out was helping.
Running was not an option.  Every time I started to run, my back would seize up again.  So we walked.  And walked.  And walked.
We walked the last 8 1/3 miles of loop five.  It was an immense mental drain.  But I did it.  I did it because DNF is not an option.  DNF is not an out.  DNF is the last resort of the physically unable to perform; of the broken.  If you can move, you move.  However slowly, you keep on making relentless forward progress.  That's what I did.
My wife and daughter were waiting for me at the completion of this loop.  Kurt went over to them to tell my wife what was happening, and that I would probably have to walk the entire last loop.  She came over to me.  I hugged her and kissed her.  Told her how sorry I was for taking so long.  She just told me that she loved me, and that she and my daughter would be waiting for me at the finish.
Best.  Wife.  Ever.
Time: 5:25

Loop Six

As we pulled out of the start/finish, and back onto the trail, Kurt asked if I was alright to run a bit.  My back was feeling better, so I gave it a shot.  That lasted about half of an hour, when it seized up again.  So we walked.  And walked some more.
All told, I walked the last 25 miles of the race, minus maybe 1 - 1.5 miles.  It was the most mentally exhausting thing I've ever done.  When you put it into perspective, that's walking almost a marathon distance.  After having already covered 75 miles.  I felt like crap, mentally, but knew that it would all be over sooner rather than later.
We were both hoping to finish before it got dark again.  After leaving the last AS, I put as much effort into the walk as I could.  I had ditched the Garmin after loop three, but Kurt had a watch and was telling me what time it was.  Sub 28 was the best that I could hope for.  I put every ounce of effort into achieving that goal.
I was familiar with what the trail looked like as it dumped itself onto the path that wound its way to the finish line.  As we approached the hill that led to that trail head, I said softly to Kurt, "There it is."  I trudged up that hill as fast as I could, and pert near sprinted down the chute and across the finish line.  The RD gave me my finisher's medal and commemorative hat, but more importantly, he gave me my buckle.
Time: 5:39

Total Time: 27:58:19

With my daughter and Kurt.  Everyone's happy that I finished!


The body is a wonderful, tremendous machine.  It remembers.  As I sit here writing this, less than 48 hours after my finish,  I'm not very sore at all.  My feet are a bit beat up.  The entire ball of my left foot is a blister, and there's a blister where the big toe of my right foot meets the ball of the foot.  Other than that, I'm really not that bad.  If I've been sitting for an extended period, I'm a bit stiff.  But that's only until I start moving around.  I remember how sore I was after my first 100 km race, and how long it took me to recover from my first 100 miler last year.  My appetite still hasn't returned from running this race, but I'm going to go for a run tomorrow.  It won't be fast, and probably won't be very long, but it's a start.
I owe most everything in this finish to Kurt.  Without him, I would have dropped after four.  Thank you, Kurt.
And to my wonderful wife, thank you.  There has never been a purer love than that which you have for me.  Thank you Crystal.

Lessons Learned

I finish, as always, with what I've learned.  I learned that it doesn't matter what you feel like mentally.  You do what you came there to do.  You handle your business.  Unless you're broken, bleeding out, or risk causing permanent damage, you finish.  Not finishing is simply not an option.  You do the best that you can.  If you don't meet your goals, you can still look at yourself when it's all done and know that you gave it your all.  That's all that matters.


  1. Congrats, man! I enjoyed the report. I hope to talk to you soon.

  2. Great Race, and blog! I just ran the 50 at Hell, and found your blog while researching the Top of MIchigan 100k which Im thinking of doing here soon!

    1. Chad, Kurt and I will be there this year. Just do it, it's awesome.