Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Kettle Moraine 100 miler

(TLDR version: I ran 100 miles, it went better than expected, my crew was awesome.)

I had the great opportunity of running my third hundred mile race recently at Kettle Moraine 100 miler in Wisconsin.  I’ll start off by saying that I have been really lucky so far in running ultras.  I have yet to DNF and have not had anything go spectacularly wrong in a race (my first hundo was really tough, but I was able to finish).  This recap is all about planning, crew and having fun.
I went into this race with a goal of a sub-24 hour finish.  Kettle is a relatively easy course as far as 100 milers go.  It is very runnable with well-maintained trails and it has total elevation gain of less than 10,000 feet.  I don’t think that any 100 miler is easy, but this was a good race to shoot for a PR.  My first 100 (Superior) was done in 33:30 and my second (Pinhoti) was 27:00.  I figured I had a sub-24 hour race in me if everything came together.  I trained harder than for my last hundo (but still only 860 miles in the 23 proceeding weeks) and was diligent about doing speedwork this time around.  The race specific training seemed to make a big impact on results.

I had the best crew and pacers anyone could hope for in this race.  Paul Schlagel is a local runner I met about 8 months prior when he lent me a garmin for my last race.  We had met only a few times, but had some conversations about running.  Paul nailed his first hundred this spring at Zumbro and was signed up for Kettle, but injured his knee a few weeks before it began.  Paul graciously agreed to come along to crew and was invaluable.  Joe Lang and Matt McCarty are running friends who agreed to come along and crew and pace.  Both are strong runners and all around funny guys which made the trip down and the entire experience a blast.  Additionally, we had Matt Lutz meeting us down at the race and he was running the hundred as well.  We planned the trip together, camped together and cheered each other on.  I paced Matt in his Superior finish last year and was looking forward to seeing how his race would go as he had little training due to a heavy work schedule and family responsibilities.

We left Minneapolis on Friday afternoon for the long drive down to Southern Wisconsin.  The hours flew by as tales of debauchery and running filled the truck.  Packet pickup was uneventful other than a good talk with John Taylor who was running Kettle for his 83rd hundred mile or further finish.  John told tales of an easy course, but to beware the section he nicknamed “The Serengeti”.   After a nice meal I settled in for a quick night’s sleep in the tent.
With Erik Raivo (Gnarly Bandit)
Race morning went by quickly with some pictures with friends, pictures of the Gnarly Bandits and an uneventful start at 6:00 a.m.  Kettle has quite a few different races going on all at once.  I started with the other hundred milers, the hundred mile relay teams and the 100k runners.  This made it interesting to try to decipher who was going out how fast, and why.  The course starts with an approximate 50k out and 50k back on the same trail, then the course takes a slightly different 38 mile out and back that shares the same 7.5 miles with the prior out and back.  I wanted to push the pace early in the race to get further out front and stretch the legs a little.  I visited with a handful of other runners and enjoyed company until I met my crew at mile 6.  I had prepped my crew with my diva-like tendencies (they were given a 22 page crew packet with explicit directions for how the race should go).  I came into the first aid station and most subsequent aid stations and gave them an empty bottle, grabbed a handful of food and a couple quick drinks of Heed and Coke, grabbed a new bottle from the crew and hit the trail again (they also had bacon for me at the first aid station).  I hit mile 6 in 28th place and 8 minutes ahead of my plan.

The crew was fantastic.  They had everything ready for me, encouraged me, pushed me out of aid stations, tended to my every desire, updated social media and took pictures.  They had Nascar-like efficiency and were always ready with a quick joke or degrading comment.
Miles 6-14 were uneventful other than falling in with a group of fast runners that I really had no business hanging with.  This included Jason Rezac from Minneapolis (who eventually ended up in 13th place) and a runner I nicknamed LA Jesus because that is what he looked like.  This group kept a solid pace and had good conversations to keep the miles moving by quickly.  Besides one nasty toe stubbing and one pit-stop these miles were wonderful.  I hit mile 14 in 31st place and 12 minutes ahead of my plan.
Miles 14-23 is some of the toughest on the course, not due to difficult trails (this is perhaps the most runnable section), but due to a lot of open exposure to the sun through prairies and meadows that hold humidity and bugs.  This is the Serengeti section John discussed and another runner nicknamed “Helter Swelter”.  We were extremely lucky that despite fairly warm temps and high humidity we caught a break with some cloud cover on the first trip through this section.  The miles rolled by fairly effortlessly and I found myself coming into the aid station at mile 23 in approximately four hours which was ahead of my plan.  Banking some extra time versus my plan seemed the wise move given that I felt good and I wanted to get through some tough sections before it got too hot.  I hit mile 23 in 34th place and 25 minutes ahead of plan.

Miles 23 through the 50k turnaround were similarly uneventful.  This race has some nice views, but due to the flat nature of the course there are no jaw dropping vistas.  Through this section I put in headphones and began to chew through miles.  I consciously decided to dial back the pace a bit since I pushed hard before and my sweat rate was really high for this early.  My crew continued to be awesome and got me through aid stations quickly and kept the race interesting.  I entered the 50k turnaround in about 5:35 which is my fastest 50k.  I was now about 24 minutes ahead of plan, but had dialed back the last 13 or so miles right into my planned pace.  On Facebook my crew posted my splits and my wife wanted them to remind me that this was a 100 miler and not a 50.  I took about 4 minutes at the aid station and then headed out for the return trip feeling good, but hot.  I hit the 50k turnaround in 45th place and 24 minutes ahead of plan. 
Miles 31-38 were likewise fairly uneventful, but the hottest section was coming up.  I tried to take it easy through this section and bank some energy so I could push through the hot sections.  I also spent a few more minutes than usual at aid stations making sure I was fueling sufficiently.  At mile 38 I was in 42 place and 19 minutes ahead of plan.
Miles 38-47.  I hit the Serengeti on my return trip right as the sun came out.  This section was fairly miserable and you could start to see runners dropping off.   I was still seeing runners going through on their inaugural trip and they looked pretty rough and I passed a few runners that were struggling with the heat.  Thankfully there were plenty of horseflies that kept me motivated to move quickly.  It was hot an miserable, but I felt like if I could make it through this section quickly and without any major damage that the rest of the race would go ok.  I hit mile 47 in 39th place and 27 minutes ahead of plan.
Miles 47-62.  After getting through the Serengeti unharmed I gained some confidence and was able to get back to business in hitting my splits and enjoying the miles.  These miles went quickly even with some confusion at the intersection where the trail splits in three separate directions.  I was looking forward to picking up my pacer and going into the night.  I knew I was running fairly well at this point and I felt better than many of the runners I passed looked which gave me a boost.  The end of this section is hilly, but I was still able to run the hills pretty aggressively.  I hit the start/finish turnaround in 33rd place and 33 minutes ahead of my plan.
Miles 62-77.  Matt McCarty was my first pacer through this section.  He nailed it as a pacer keeping me moving and interested in the run while also giving me space to run my race.  He kept me eating and drinking when I was starting to get that foggy ultra-brain late in the race.  We didn’t need headlamps until about mile 70.  I used my Black Diamond Spot headlamp on my head and Paul was gracious enough to share his Ultraspire Lumen waist light with me; this light is awesome.  I’m sure that my wife will curse Paul for this, but I need to get one of these lights.  It made night running so much easier as I could always see the trail in front of me and the two lights kept me from getting tunnel vision.  These miles were fairly uneventful and pretty lonely as many runners dropped at the 100k mark.  I think loop courses and races with multiple stops at your car make it more tempting to drop.  We made great time in this section and I came into mile 77 in 23rd place and 36 minutes ahead of my plan.
Mile 77-90.  I switched pacers to Joe Lang at mile 77.  I also switched out of my road running shoes and into trail shoes due to a couple muddy spots that I figured would be easier to navigate with treads.  Joe and I blazed through the early miles to the turnaround at mile 81.5 and back down the course to mile 90, even though this is the most technical section of trail in the race.  Joe was a fantastic pacer keeping me moving and entertained throughout the night.  I had switched to my race vest from handhelds in some sections and had even broken out the trekking poles in a section I thought would be easier with poles.  We kept a pace that was faster than my plan through these miles and ran really well.  It was nice to see some other runners from the turnaround on including John, Matt and others.  However, by the time I hit mile 90 I was in a bit of a low spot.  I hit mile 90 at about 2:00 a.m. in 23rd place and 46 minutes ahead of plan.
Mile 90 through 100.  I was in a fairly low spot at this point in the race.  This was the first time that I’ve gotten fairly foggy cognitively and it was strange to navigate.  I was still moving ok, but my pace slowed significantly and I just wanted to be done.  My feet hurt and that was my only physical issue, but mentally I was fairly spent.  I kept doing math wrong in my head about my pace needed to hit my goal and I didn’t trust Joe’s math (math late in an ultra is a bad idea).  Joe kept me entertained even when I had the conversation skills of a dial tone.  Somehow I mentally missed one of the aid stations so I thought that I had more than 2.5 miles further to go than I really did.  Hitting the aid station at mile 93 I started asking about how far to the next aid station and when Matt could join us and I would have two pacers.  I was shocked to hear that I was at the last crewed aid station and that Matt was ready to go.  Cheetos and 2.5 miles disappearing can make any ultra-runner happy.  We said goodbye to Paul and Joe, Matt and I headed off down the trail.  This section was really runnable when I had fresh legs, but now the miles had caught up with me and I was hurting and whiny.  I don’t imagine it was much fun for Joe and Matt but they kept me moving.  Lots of joking kept the miles ticking.  I knew that I was well ahead of my plan and that my goal was in hand.  This may have been a bad thing as I didn’t push too much in the last 10 miles, I hiked it in.  At one point Joe gave me the needed splits to break 23 hours and I should have pushed to make it, but I decided I was happy enough with what I had.  We tried to enjoy some time and I even “ran” some of the final few miles despite some hills that were really a pain the fourth time around.  I was nervous about my place, but we were able to maintain 23rd place through the last 25 or so miles of the race.

I finished in 23:13:10.  This took a little less than 4 hours off of my previous best and was 14 minutes ahead of my plan.  I was very happy with how the race came out.  I felt like my plan was pretty accurate and I’ve learned how to listen to my body in 100 mile races.  It is great to get the sub-24 monkey off my back and another finish in the books.  I have my main goal race coming up this fall, The Bear, and it will be much different from Kettle.  Below is the chart of my planned splits between aid stations and my actual results.  I was pretty consistently on pace and ahead of pace throughout the race until the last 10 miles.
I truly can’t thank Paul, Joe and Matt enough for the crew support and pacing.  These guys were incredible.  They were strict, patient, funny and weird the entire time.  They dragged my crap through a hundred mile race and never complained and they slogged through the final miles without complaint.  My favorite part was after the race looking at the group chat we were all a part of.  My pacers stayed in fairly constant communication with the crew since there was cell service and kept them abreast of my pace and what I wanted when we came into the aid station.  This conversation somehow morphed from race details to trash talk, Rancid lyrics, ball gags/nipple clamps and things that shouldn’t be passed on.  I couldn’t have gotten the results I did without them.  Matt Lutz ran a great race as well as other friends out there.  I was able to hang out at the finish line and intermittently nap in a chair while cheering on other runners finishes.  A total of 225 people started the 100 miler and 133 people finished for a finish rate of 59% which is not bad for a 100 miler, but lower than I thought it would be.  Overall it was an amazing experience from start to finish.
In the end I always go back to the words of Wordsworth: ”Another race hath been, and other palms are won.  Thanks to the human heart by which we live.  Thanks to its tenderness, its joys and fears.”   I am still trying to figure out why I do these things and still feel like I am a long ways away from understanding.  Perhaps it is simply because I can, and that will have to do for now.

Gear List:
Altra One
Altra Lone Peak
Drymax socks
North Face short
Break the Stigma technical shirt
Asics singlet
Headsweats hat and visor
My 5-year old's sunglasses
Black Diamond Spot headlamp
Ultraspire Lumen light belt
Black Diamond Z poles
Ultraspire Alpha race vest
Camelback and Nathan handhelds

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Pinhoti 100

This is a long (run) for someone with nothing to think about
A hundred miles is a long way, despite what Karl Meltzer says.  Somehow this hundo didn’t seem as long as the last one, but still a long ways.  While running I’ve found that it is a great time to think, and more often than that, it is a great time to not think.  I often wear headphones and listen to music while on long runs and this race was no different as I listened to music throughout the night.  Therefore, this recap, like my running playlist will have Modest Mouse lyrics throughout.  For some twee, indie music fans it may be entertaining, for the rest of you it will be annoying, sorry.
The Pinhoti 100 is a point to point 100 mile trail race in North-east Alabama.  The race follows the Pinhoti trail through the Talladega National Forest in rolling mountains and over the highest point in Alabama, Mt. Cheaha.  Below is the course profile for those that don’t “think I know my geography pretty damn well”.  

I was lucky enough to run this race due to my friend Troy.  Troy was already heading to Alabama and had a crew and accommodations figured out and then I finagled my way into it.  We flew down on Friday and met Bob and Hays (Bob’s son), our crew and hosts.  After a little grocery shopping, settling into the hotel it was time for the pre-race dinner and hotel.  It was weird being in a running community that is not my own.  At the Minnesota races there are plenty of friends and acquaintances to visit with and tell old war stories, but here I didn’t know anyone except for Troy, our crew and one woman who also ran Beaverhead this summer.  The pre-race briefing mainly consisted of saying that it would be really wet and to “head south”. 

I should preface the recap by saying that I was not prepared for this race.  I joined pretty last minute and only had a couple of weeks to cram for the big test.  In the 23 weeks leading up to this race I ran 756 miles, that may seem like a lot to a non-runner, but it isn’t.  Additionally, before my race my longest run for the year was a 55k in June.  For comparison’s sake, I ran over 1,200 miles leading up to my prior 100 mile race.  I had a bad feeling the nearly 450 mile deficit was going to hurt me.  It was now too late to worry about preparation, it was time to “find out the beginning, the end and the rest of it”.

Following a decent night’s sleep it was off to the start line with Troy, Bob and Hays.  It had rained all night and was drizzling slightly as we prepared to start.  We were starting at aid station 2 and doing an out and back to aid station one since weather conditions had ruined roads going to the original start.  This reduced the race by approximately 1/10th of a mile, but the RD had assumed us he had added enough to the end of the race to make up for it so we could have a “Karma’s Payment”.  The beginning was pretty uneventful, just a bunch of wet runners in the forest starting at the turn of the hour.  I decided I wanted to start out a bit faster than usual so as to avoid conga lines when we hit the single track and to make up some time so I wouldn’t have to run the most technical sections in the dark.

The out and back to aid station 1 was pretty uneventful, yet a little bit fast for my liking.  We spread out pretty quickly, but I got to know a couple other runners, one of whom I would leapfrog and visit with over the next 27 hours, Kip.  The only eventful thing to happen in the first half-marathon was getting stung by a yellow jacket about 7 mile into the race.  I had a feeling that this race was going to feel like “I was in heaven, I was in hell, believe in neither but fear them as well”.  Coming back to aid station 2 and through aid station 3, mile 18.2, I used only a handheld.  At aid station 3 I changed into my race vest and got to work chewing up miles.  Although it rained throughout the morning and into the afternoon, it had become quite humid for a northerner like me and I realized that I was getting quite dehydrated.  Although not miserable, I knew if I didn’t start drinking more I would be in trouble and started to “drink away the part of the day that I cannot sleep away”.  I was running well and feeling good.  In fact I was running well ahead of schedule.  I should mention that we had a handful of creek crossings at this point.  Given all of the rain there were numerous places that we had to “float on, ok” through creeks.  I don’t know if I’ve ever been as soaked as I was for this race.

I came to aid station 7, mile 41, well over an hour ahead of my expected time.  I had fallen in with some solid runners and made up time on some really runnable trail.  The only problem with coming in early was my crew wasn’t there.  I walked through the parking lots, paced the road, used the bathroom and ate and drank while waiting for them.  I typically would have moved on without the crew, but they had my headlamps, jacket and new Garmin.  It turns out Troy had some major stomach issues and dropped and the crew went back to pick him up which is why they weren’t there.  After about 35 minutes my crew showed up.  I grabbed the gear I needed and left as fast as I could.  I’ll admit this threw me a bit off my game as the standing around and worrying and thinking.  Watching 30 or so runners go by me was frustrating, but I was determined to make up the time.  I took off fast down Blue Hell, the most technical section of trail.  This is where the trail drops off the highest point in Alabama.  I was in such a hurry that I missed the trail markers directing me to the trail and instead continued bombing to the bottom.  After not seeing any trail markers I sheepishly climbed back up the mountain to where I should have gone.  Now it was dark and I was frustrated, but there was nothing to do about it but run.  I still had about 100k to go so no use in crying over lost time.

From roughly 5:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m I would be in the dark with no moon.  This was the darkest race I’ve ever seen, not only was there no moon, but it rained constantly and it was foggy and misty throughout.  I typically like to shut my headlamp off occasionally and look at the stars and there would be none of that on this race.  It was also pretty spread out regarding other runners.  Although I was slowly picking off runners that had passed me at mile 41, there were long stretched where I was all by myself.  I felt like “And I’m lonesome when you’re around, and I’m never lonesome when I’m by myself”.  Thankfully I enjoy the solitude, but it was nice to pass back and forth with Kip a time or two through the night.  I fell into a nice pace that was really inline with my plan even if it felt like I “broke my pace and ran out of time” while moving through the night.

Aid stations were great throughout this race.  I forget which aid station it was that had a fully stocked bar and a big screen TV showing the Alabama game, but it was awesome.  Since I was so far from home and crew access was limited I really lived off of the aid stations.  Animal crackers, M&Ms, PB&J sandwiches, grilled cheese, quesadillas and pierogis were my go to foods during the race.  Every aid station had great volunteers and a good spread.  I also drank a lot of coke. “So we’re drinkin’, drinkin’ drinkin’, drinkin’ coca-coca cola, I can feel it rollin’ right on down oh right on down my throat, and as we’re heading down the road towards tiny cities made of ashes, I’m gonna get dressed up in plastic gonna shake hands with the masses.  Oh no.” 

Eventually I worked up the last big climb to Pinnacle, mile 75ish.  I hit this aid station at about 2:30 a.m. and it was windy and cold.  The aid station had a bit of carnage with people sitting down in a  hypothermic state around a fire and heater.  I decided I wanted none of this and quickly drank and hit the trail again.  “It’s not day and it’s not night, but it’s alright on ice, alright”.  For the next three and half hours it would be a cold march trying to stay warm and trying to stay on the trail.  Even though it was raining hard there was a thick fog that rolled in reducing visibility to only a few feet in front of you.  This made navigation difficult until the sun came up.  This section was the longest and most miserable of the race, “It’s been a long time, which agrees with this watch of mine”.  The next few sections consisted of me “thinking about nothing, looking at the thin air, breathing up the oxygen”.  Thankfully as I approached mile 85 the sun started to come up.

People told me that from mile 85 on that it is all downhill; this is a lie.  Although the course gets significantly easier with long sections of dirt road intertwined with trail, the rolling hills on the road drove me nuts.  I really just wanted to be done with the race at this point and started picking up the pace to get it over with.  My feet were hamburger, I was chaffed and sore and my legs felt like I had run 90 or so miles.  That said, I was determined to cut some more time off from my expected pace.  I entered mile 85.5 aid station at about 6:20 a.m., well ahead of my expected 7:54 a.m. arrival.  After a quick change of socks (I tore on of my shoes open at some point during the night and my shoe and sock were full of mud and debris) I was on my way.  This is where I got motivated by the simple thought, “You’re walking down the street your face, your lips, your hips, your eyes, they meet; you’re not hungry though”.  I was hungry both physically and mentally and wanted to finish strong.
I dropped the hammer (as much as you can after 85 miles) and started to have good splits through the last 15 miles.  I entered the last aid station, mile 95.1, at about 8:45 a.m.  There was a nice sign that said “5 miles to finish, 2 mile of trail and 3 miles of road”.  Math late in an ultra feels like the “never ending math equation” but I was pretty sure I could go under a 15 minute/mile pace through to the end.  I left in a hurry and started to run.  The trail section was runnable, but I knew I needed to move a bit faster on the road to make it.  I started passing people almost immediately and passed 6-8 people in this last section; one of whom was Kip.  As I watched my Garmin and looked for the lights of the high school stadium where the race ended I was disappointed to hit 5 miles without a finish line, then 5.25 mile, then 5.50 miles and so on.  The only thought I had was “This’ll never end, this’ll never end, this’ll never stop”.  Eventually I see the lights of the stadium, but only have about a minute to cross the line under 27 hours.  I sprint through the gate and on to the track.  I’m watching the seconds tick by on my Garmin and after a herculean effort cross the line in 26:59:59.  Ecstatic about my time I grab a chair and sit down and begin visiting with other runners and my crew.  Eventually I wander over to the computer with times and see that they logged me a 27:00:10.  Eleven seconds slower than reality.  Not a big deal, but still kind of a big deal.

Overall this was a great race and a great experience.  I feel much better in recovery than I did after my first 100.  I’ve always been lucky when it comes to these things that my stomach has never failed me and I haven’t had any devastating injuries.  Although the weather made it brutal, this is a well-organized and nice hundred miler.  If I were to voice one displeasure, it would be the littering.  I have never been to another ultra where I have seen cups and other garbage thrown in the woods like I did here.  Other than that, this was a great race and I have nothing to complain about.  The race had a lower finish rate this year than any other year that I could find at about 52%.  Below is a chart that compares my planned or expected times for each segment to my actual times.  I love it when a plan comes together.  Now I have two balls in for Western States and we’ll see what the next year holds for running.

I need to give a big thanks and acknowledgement to Troy for letting me tag along and once his race was done for taking over as crew chief.  His course knowledge and helpfulness was awesome.  Bob and Hays were a fantastic crew and know how to keep a runner moving.  They were also gracious hosts on Sunday night at their home.  I need to also thank my wife who lets me do dumb things with sometimes minimal eye rolls and sighs.  I still don’t know how to answer the questions, “Why do you do this?”.  However, each race gets me a little closer to the answer.  All I know is that this keeps me sane; gazing into the abyss is giving me insight into the abyss inside of me.

Gear List:
Asics singlet
North Face shorts
Salomon jacket
Headsweats hat
Altra Lone Peak 2.5 shoes
Drymax socks
Camelback handheld
Ultraspire Alpha race vest (loved this)
Ultraspire Collapsible bottles
Black Diamond Icon and Storm headlamps
Garmin 220 and Garmin Fenix 3 gps

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Superior Trail 100 Race Report

I have historically expanded my longest distance raced with the birth of a new child; half marathon with the first kid, marathon with the second and 50 miler with the third.  There is no new baby for my wife and I as running became the new baby this year as I trained for my first 100 miler.  I was up at all hours of the night, always looked exhausted and my wife came to loathe what I had done to her this year.  This has been a long a difficult year of training and racing all in preparation for the Superior 100 which is now in the bag.  Now as I think about it I am reminded of Wordsworth's words, "Another race hath been, and other palms are won.  Thanks to the human heart by which we live.  Thanks to its tenderness, its joys and fears."  On to the recap:

Superior is a difficult race as far as hundreds go ( lists it at #12 out of about 60 hundred milers).  This course lives up to its billing of Rugged, Relentless, Remote.  I felt like I was well trained and was well acquainted with at least half of the course.  I went in with visions of an approximate 29 hour time which I figured would put me in about the top twenty.

Friday morning at 8:00 a.m. about 200 runners toed the line at Gooseberry Falls and began a long journey through the Sawtooth mountain range in northern Minnesota.  The first section (9.7 miles) was rather uneventful with wet trails from the prior days rainfall and people positioning for the proper place and pace.  It was nice to run for a short time with John Cameron, the eventual 4th place finisher and a year long training partner.  I settled in with a group of about five other runners and we worked our way to the first aid station.  I arrived about 17 minutes ahead of my plan, but felt comfortable with the pace and the runable trails in that section.  I was in 38th place entering this aid station.  There was no crew access to the aid station, so it was a quick turnaround with fresh water and picking up one gel pack.

The section to Beaver Bay (10.3 miles) was also fairly quiet as the packs began to split up more and people dropped into their own pace.  I ran off and on with other individuals, but tried to just run my own race.  Throughout this section I felt good despite running a bit faster than I had planned.  I arrived at Beaver Bay 47 minutes ahead of plan, in 39th place, and felt great.  It was nice to see my dad who had flown out from Idaho to crew me at the race.  This was his third opportunity to crew for me in ultras.  After a quick fill of my handhelds and some fresh ShotBloks I was on my way and looking forward to seeing my wife and kids at Silver Bay aid station in 4.9 miles.

This section was fast, short and uneventful.  I was still feeling great and running my own race.  I entered the aid station and was able to see my wife and kids.  It was amazing the emotional bump from seeing them.  I also saw other good friends and running partners at this aid station who had come in to check in on runners.  After some quick refills of handhelds, salty cookies and kisses from the kids I was on my way to Tettegouche in 9.9 miles.

Silver Bay to Tettegouche is a beautiful section with some great views of lakes and some good decline into the aid station.  I ran well through this section as I really tried to enjoy the race, the views and some time to myself.  I knew that at some point things would not be going as well and that I should enjoy everything that I could.  I arrived at Tettegouche a little over an hour faster than my plan and had moved up slightly to 35th place.  I was still trying to be cognizant of pace and not burning too much energy too early in the race.  I was able to have a pretty quick turnaround at the aid station with more cookies, some small sandwiches, fluids and ShotBloks for the next section.

The next section to Country Road 6 is 8.6 miles and has some good runable sections (from what I remember).  I disliked the crossing of the Baptism River with a shaky bridge and a lot of wooden stairs.  For the first time in the day I felt human as the legs gave me some complaints while running on wooden stairs.  After hitting some nice climbs and downhills I was able to put the body into overdrive and cruise through this section.  I was looking forward to seeing my family for one last time for the day and picking up my pacer at mile 43.5 (unless I came in before 6:00 and then he couldn't proceed with me).  I arrived at Cnty Rd. 6 at 6:05 to the kids holding signs and my pacer ready to go.  We took a little more time at this aid station as I said good night to the wife and kids and grabbed a head lamp for  the coming night.  This was supposed to be the last crewed aid station for me, but since I was about an hour and twenty minutes ahead of plan my dad decided to come to one more aid station before calling it a night.  I entered County Road 6 in 29th place.

The next section to Finland aid station is short, but has some decent climbs and descents.  Craig Woodward was pacing me and jumped right in to keeping me entertained and making sure I was eating and drinking regularly.  It was nice to have some company as the sun set and the moon rose.  We saw one or two runners in this section, but for the most part it was beginning to get very quiet on the trails.  We entered Finland aid station (the 50 mile race start) a bit over an hour ahead of schedule and in 32nd place.  We would maintain the 32nd place for the entirety of the night as everyone dropped into their rightful places and worked their way down the trail at night.  At the aid station I switched from handhelds to my hydration pack.  I also added a second headlamp around my waist which made a huge difference in lighting and depth perception on the trail.  After confirming I had everything I needed for the night and eating the last of my salty cookies we left for our long and lonely night.

Finland to Sonju Lake (7.5 miles) and then on to Crosby Manitou (4.2 miles) were fairly uneventful with some nicely paced running and a lot of story telling through the night.  The night was beautiful with a nearly full moon and a sky full of stars.  Occasionally I would stop to look up and let out a yell as we worked our way through the night.  My legs were beginning to feel the effects of +50 miles of running on technical trail, but I still felt good at this point.  We had dropped slightly off of our goal pace and entered Crosby Manitou about 25 minutes ahead of the original plan.

Immediately following the Crosby Manitou aid station there is a wickedly difficult drop down to the Caribou River and then an equally difficult climb out.  At some point in this mile or two section my right knee decided that it had had enough and began to tighten up pretty significantly.  I have had this issue before, most pronounced at Wild Duluth 50k last year.  My knee tightens up and I am unable to lift my leg behind me at all.  This makes downhills and running technical terrain very difficult.  I still felt ok on uphills, but quickly began to realize that my day and race had changed.  The good news was that I only had to run about 40 miles with one leg.  Despite the knee issues and a slower pace, we reached the Sugarloaf aid station still in 32nd place, but had now slid about 40 minutes behind my goal time.  The Sugarloaf aid station was great and brought my spirits up a bit before facing my demons again through the next section.

Sugarloaf to Cramer Road (5.6 miles) was the beginning of the death march.  Our pace dropped significantly and other runners began to catch us.  I had three other racers pass me in this section as the knee continued to tighten and hurt.  I was hoping the rising sun would boost my spirits and loosen me up, but it was not to be.  I could feel the wheels starting to come off of my race throughout this section.  We arrived at Cramer Road about an hour and a half off of our expected time and had slid to 35th place.

Cramer to Temperance River is a section I was fairly familiar with following a terrible training run this summer where I bonked and laid in the trail for a long time.  With this though tin mind I was not looking forward to this section.  I knew that there was a lot of downhill ahead of me and that I would not be able to enjoy it the way I hoped.  At this point my mood went south and I became a bit crabby.  I was beginning to hear voices of other runners catching me and about nine runners passed me in about a mile or two of trail.  At about mile 79 I hit bottom and had my first experience with weird mood swings during an ultra.  As my pacer was trying to boost my spirits with positive affirmations I decided that I was sick of it all.  I promptly told Craig to shut the $&*# up, turned on my ipad and began to run (it was much more of a hobble) down the trail.  My entire body filled with rage I had the biggest endorphin rush I have ever felt.  I hated Craig, I hated the trail, I hated the race and I hated my knee.  With eyes full of anger and sadness I ran as hard as I could and surprisingly the knee began to loosen up.  Craig said something about how I was really starting to move well when I told him to shut up again and ran faster.  We dropped the pace down to about 12 minute miles for about three miles.  I passed every single runner who had passed me on the section and felt great.  We were able to drop into the river valley and work our way to the aid station still in 35th place.  My dad was there to crew me and must have known that I was in bad shape.  I explained the knee issue, switched gear and slowly hobbled my way out of the aid station.

As good as it was to run a good section, I paid for it in the remaining 18 miles as my knee swelled up and felt worse than ever.  The section from Temperance to Sawbill (5.7 miles) is difficult with the worst climb of the course up Carlton Peak and then straight back down.  My leg was a mess and during this section I became resigned to the fact that it was still going to be a long day of hiking and dragging a leg.  Thankfully climbing was still easier for me than descending as this section has a high net climb ratio.  We maintained a better than expected pace of about 22 minute miles in this section and entered Sawbill in 39th place.  I was now two hours behind my expected pace and knew that a sub-30 hour race had slipped out of reach and was becoming more concerned with actually finishing the race.  My wife and kids were at this aid station and as great as it was to see them I felt bad that they had to see me in this depressed and pained state.  I could see the look of concern on my wife and my mothers faces as I came into the aid station and was promptly outraced by my two-year old daughter down the trail.  When they asked what was wrong all I could muster was that my knee was shot and my whole body hurt.  I didn't want to talk for fears of breaking down and tried to quickly get my gear organised and get out of the aid station.  This was the only time that a dnf (did not finish) crossed my mind, but it was quickly put to rest when my wife gave me a stern look and told me I was finishing this race.  With fresh bottles, food in my belly and a determination to finish I hobbled my way down the trail.

The 5.5 miles from Sawbill to Oberg are decent miles, but the trail was extremely muddy and beat up from other 100 milers and most of the marathon participants tearing it up.  This was my slowest section.  After a brief pit stop in the trees about a half mile out of the aid station I emerged with a walking stick to help me take some weight and pressure off of my swollen and painful leg.  My pacer graciously found me a second one and I began shuffling up the trail with trail made trekking poles.  We averaged about a 31 minute/mile pace in this section and I was passed by numerous runners.  Finally after about three hours we emerged at Oberg.  I entered the aid station in 50th place and exactly three hours slower than the original plan, but I made it.  Here I made my only change in gear for the entire race as I switched into compression socks to see if it would ease any pain and switched to my most cushioned shoes (Altra Olympus).  With 7.1 miles to go I figured I may as well try to be as comfortable as possible.  We probably wasted a little more time than necessary with the shoe change, but time was no longer a concern, only finishing.  I convinced my wife to meet me at the top of ski hill road and run the last half mile or so with me.  The thought of meeting her gave me motivation to keep moving.  We told her we would be about three and a half hours.

The last section is tough with two major climbs up Moose Mountain and Mystery Mountain.  Fortunately for me, climbing was the only thing that I was still able to do.  It sounds odd, but I wish the entire last 30 miles had been uphill.  Craig and I started to pound out the uphills and gingerly work my way down the downhills.  We made better time than anticipated (just below a 29 minute mile pace for the last section) and next thing I knew I could hear the sweet sound of the Poplar River below me.  Once we got close I sent Craig ahead to make sure my wife was ready.  While crossing the river I had another hundred miler pass me.  I resolved that I was going to pass him and beat him to the finish line.  Thankfully he was not in the mood to race down the road, because he could have easily beat me.  I met my wife, who was just showing up since we were a bit ahead of schedule, and I began to run at the fastest pace I could down the road when I glanced at her walking next to me.  I rudely asked her if she could at least pretend like she was running so I didn't look so silly.  She obliged and we began our final stretch into home.  I enjoyed being able to run a bit with her and share the experience of coming into the finish line.

I finished in 33:30:10 and 58th place.  Although well behind my goal, I am exceedingly happy with the results and glad to have it done.  The finish line was great as I was able to catch up with other runners and friends and hear stories of how the race went down.  John Storkamp was there with a welcome high five and a nice bowl of chili.  After picking up my buckle and finishers jacket I headed back to our room for a much needed shower and some rest.  The plan was to come out and watch some friends finish the race and watch the award ceremony, but unfortunately my body went into shock.  After shaking violently on the couch for a while not being able to get warm I finally swallowed some horse pills and went to bed.

Overall this was the most amazing experience.  It is incredible to watch others put themselves through this experience and to suffer and celebrate alongside them.  I was overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from family, friends, volunteers, fellow runners, and complete strangers.  I have to thank my amazing wife who has been a widow throughout the year and has still stood by me as a trained for this race; she is my rock.  Additionally my kids have been patient and supporting as they haven't eaten a proper breakfast with dad all year due to my training.  My parents were incredible in flying out and crewing me and supporting me.  Craig was an amazing pacer and I can't wait to pace him on his first 100 next year.  I also want to thank all of my running partners throughout the year who kept me motivated to keep training, the volunteers at the race and the race director who puts on an amazing show.  I highly recommend everyone trying something that seems impossible in your life and accomplishing it.  Superior was an experience that I will never forget.  I have never hurt so bad in my life; I can't wait for the next race.

Gear list:
Asics singlet
New Balance shorts
Camelback handhelds
Gregory Tempo hydration pack
Headsweats visor
Black Diamond Spot Headlamp
Cabelas XPG headlamp
Drymax socks
Altra Lone Peak 2.0 shoes
Injinji compression socks
Altra Olympus shoes
about 26 packs of Clif ShotBloks
15 of momma's homemade salty cookies
copious amounts of Heed, Gatorade, PB&J sandwiches, M&Ms, quesadillas and other assorted aid station food.      


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Random Image

This brought a smile to my face that won't take 2 hours for the coroner to wipe away.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Gambling on Super Bowl XLIV

Last year I gave my initial take on gambling on the Super Bowl. I will not go into as much detail due to the fact that it is late Saturday night, and most people thought it was boring the first time around. But, for the nerds and degenerates out there, here is my take on betting on this year's game and how my Super Bowl squares came out.

This year I had more luck in my draw for Super Bowl squares and drew the (4,0) and the (6,2) squares, the Colts will always be listed as the first number since they are the favorite to win. My model for valuing the squares which is based off of the results of all prior Super Bowls values these squares at $11.79 and $0.92, respectively. The initial purchase price for each square was $5.00.
Thus I am looking at a theoretical $12.71 of value for my $10.00 investment, or a 27.1% theoretical gain; much better than last years draw where my $4.00 investment was valued at $2.19. The only additional change this year is I purchased a 50% share of the (2,0) square. This investment cost me $1.00 and I project the square has an intrinsic value of $4.99. I am now holding a squares that are theoretically worth $17.70 from an initial investment of $11.00, or a 60.9% gain. I think this was a shrewd deal, but it doesn't matter unless I get paid. I am interested in starting a secondary market for those who are interested in hedging or monetizing their investments in Super Bowl squares in the future, but I realize that most people are not nearly as nerdy or as big of degenerate gamblers as I am.

Now for the more exciting betting. Last year I made projections on the coin toss, winner, over/under and the National Anthem and was correct in most of my projections. Here are my picks for this year:

Coin Toss: Again, this is the dumbest prop bet that is out there, but last year I nearly had the trifecta on this bet. I projected that Pittsburgh would call tails (correct), that the flip would be heads (correct) and that Arizona would elect to receive (incorrect). Arizona was the first team in the history of the Super Bowl to elect to not receive the ball at the beginning of the game. This year I predict the Saints will call tails, the toss will land tails and the Saints will elect to receive.

Winner: Vegas is pretty good at these things and I am going to have to agree with them that the Colts will win. The favorite has won 70% of all Super Bowls and I don't think this one will be any different. The Colts are favored by 5 to 6 points depending on the sportsbook which is a slightly lower spread than usual, but enough to make me uncomfortable betting on the Saints. I personally am rooting for the Saints as I can't stand to think about the fetus-headed Manning winning another Super Bowl.

Over/Under: This is a tough one this year as there are two high flying offensive teams involved that both have weak defenses. The over/under is currently set at 57 which is well above the average of 43. There have only been 8 of 43 Super Bowls that have had more than 57 points scored and the last one was in 2004. Despite my argument above, I think the game could be a little more sloppy than expected and would take the under on this one.

National Anthem: I think this was the easiest money last year with the over/under set at 123 seconds for Jennifer Hudson. Ms. Hudson then went on to sing a 130 second National Anthem. This year Carrie Underwood is set to perform the National Anthem and the line is set at 101 seconds. Scouring YouTube for her performances at sporting events shows that she is averaging about 99-100 seconds per appearance at a major sporting event. Many people think that she would stretch it out for the biggest venue of all sporting events, but the trend for her is getting shorter and shorter with each appearance since 2005. Looking back historically at white artists which average 97.1 seconds compared to black artists which average 116.2 seconds, women which average 113.9 vs. men at 94.2, it is a toss up at where she will come in. The only trend that gives me more confidence in this bet is the fact that country artists average consistently shorter National Anthem times than any other genre. Therefor, bet the under on the National Anthem. I would guess it will come in at 99 seconds.

Well, good luck to everyone in your betting this year and don't come after me if you lose any money. If you are looking for me I will probably be hiding from my bookie for a while.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Poker Face

I've been travelling a lot over the last three weeks, but wanted to quickly post something that I find entertaining. Everyone who knows me knows that I don't spend much time in the dance club, and thus I don't pay much attention to current pop hits, especially ones with annoying lyrics sung by hermaphrodites. Thus, I am not a big Lady Gaga fan, but I found a cover that I think is amazing. Check out Chris Daughtry's version where he completely does a "Chasing Amy" to this song.

This is awesome and shows why he should have won AI; although it may not be as awesome as Christopher Walken's version.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Night Night

Is it sad that the only song I know to sing to my daughter to get her to bed is "Blue Shadows" as performed by Lucky Day, Dusty Bottoms and Ned Nederlander? I learned all of my parenting skills from Lorne Michaels.