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.