Monday, June 6, 2011

Kettle Moraine 100 Mile: Race Report 2011

(You can hear me groan in the beginning as I am trying to sit in the chair)

I have finished my second 100 mile race and it was another tough one. I did feel like I was a lot more prepared for this race than for the Zumbro 100 I still had a tough time. The Kettle Moraine races take place mostly on the Ice Age Trail which is a gorgeous path that runs through Wisconsin. The part that we were on is mostly cross country skiing paths so the overall course has a lot of runable areas. The Kettle Moraine 100 mile and 100K is the second race in the Gnarly Bandit Race Series, which is part of the Upper Midwest Trail Runners.

On a scale of 1-5 the course was about a 2.5 there was not a lot of elevation or climbing but you were constantly going up and down. The trail was a combination of single track and cross country ski trails so there were only a few sections that were really technical.

I was not going to make the same mistake as last time at Zumbro. I pre-taped my toes this time.

I also used the Injinji toe socks to help with blisters

This was my first solo ultra, so I tried to be as prepared as possible knowing that if I didn't bring something with me that I'd just have to go without it. I pulled into Whitewater, Wisconsin around 4:30pm on Friday and checked into my hotel room. I dropped off my stuff and headed down the road about 9 miles to La Grange were the packet pick up and the Start/Finish area are. I grabbed my packet, talked to the race director briefly and then headed back to Whitewater. After having a nice meal at Randy's in Whitewater I organized my drop bags and gear for the next morning and tried to get to bed early, but didn't really work. I eventually fell asleep around 11pm, the race started at 6am and so I set my alarm for 4:35am. I actually woke up at about 4am and just laid there for about 30 minutes. I packed my things and was out the door, I pulled into the Start/Finish area and there was a pretty big crowd. Kettle Moraine offers a 100 mile, 100k, 100mile relay and 38 mile Night Fun Run that starts at 9pm. The race director was giving out instructions and I was still messing around getting things situated. I dropped my drop bags and head towards the start area with about 2 minutes to 6am. Luckily someone was yelling out "Don't forget your timing chips!" I hustled over and grabbed mine and put it on just as the race started. The nice thing about ultras is they are long and if you're a minute or two late it probably won't make much of a difference.

It was a bit weird running with so many people and it took a long time to really get thinned out. The trail was pretty wide because we were on cross country skiing trails but still much too congested for a trail ultra in my mind. The first 20 miles were nice I was purposely trying to stay in the mid to mid back of the pack to ensure that I would not go out too fast and kill myself again. I found a few runners to run with and we chatted quite a bit. I ran with a runner Scott from Illinois for about 10-15 miles. He had run Kettle Moraine several times so it was nice to be able to ask him questions about the trail and race.

I also ran about 10 miles with another runner Paul Schaefer from Rochester who was doing his first 100 mile and was about 50 years old (Paul ended up beating me by about 1hr 20 min) At about 3 hours into the race I started noticing that my shins were starting to ache. I was concerned about this because I had run the Fargo Marathon 2 week before and probably ran it too hard and really hurt both of my shins, it felt like I had shin splints. I started to take some ibuprofen to help manage the pain. One thing I learned from Zumbro was to start on top of pain management, don't wait till something starts hurting. By this time it was starting to get pretty hot, when I check the weather forecast before I left it said sunny and a high of 83. It ended up being in the low 90s for a lot of the day and you could tell that the heat was taking a toll on everyone. I had two 22oz handheld water bottles that I was carrying with me and I was trying to drink as much as I could and was taking a salt tablet, S-Caps every hour. I don't think that dehydration was ever really a big issue for me, thankfully. Though I did see a girl running the 100 mile that did not carry any sort of water bottle or camel pack with her, how she didn't die is amazing. How she ended up beating me by 20 mins is impressive.

Around noon there is a long stretch of trail that cuts across an open prairie which is nice for running but in the heat of the day was not a lot of fun. Thankfully I was feeling pretty good on this section and manage to move my way up a few places. I hit the first turn around at mile 31 around 6:37:54 not too bad of a pace.

On the trail after the 31 mile turnaround

I was still feeling good despite the heat and the ibprofen seem to be helping me to manage the shin pain. The only issue was on some of the technical parts of the trail my shoes were cramping my toes and potentially would cause blisters again. At Emma Carlin Aid station at mile 47 I changed shoes into my old La Sportiva Cross Lites, these are more of a trail shoe which I liked but still were cramping my toes a bit. Now we were headed back through the open prairie and it was even hotter out now. When I left the aid station they told me it was 91 degrees out, but the heat still was really affecting me.

At Aid Station at mile 47.4

Out in the open again I felt pretty good so I started to run through most of the open prairie area and again caught and passed about 2-3 more people. Though after we got back on to the trail I was hurting a bit, my feet were starting to get sore and my shins were aching again. I discovered that the ibprofen works for about 5 hours but if I took one at 5 hours it would take about 45 minutes to kick in so there would be 45 minutes of pain. I quickly learned to start taking them early as to no have a lapse in pain relief.

I was mentally feeling strong and physically still doing ok, I ran with a few of the 100k runners from Emma Carlin(mile 47) to the Start/Finish area turnaround at mile 63. They reminded me not to spend too much time there as it would be tempting to call it quits and stay there. I took their advice and got in, changed shoes again to my Saucony Kinvaras, talked briefly to Adam Schwartz-Lowe a much better ultra runner than I and winner of the Zumbro 100. He decided to pull out at the 100K mark and not kill himself like I did. I left the Start/Finish area right around 9pm and it was about dusk. I had all of my night time gear with me so I was ready to take on the night, without a pacer this time. Luckily there was plenty of runners out on the course, especially since the 38 mile Fun Runners just started.

I was just under 2/3 of the way done and still feeling ok, especially now that the temps were cooling down. I ran through the night and only had a few freak out moments when I started thinking about the Blair Witch Project. Not a good idea when you are tied, probably dehydrated and alone running in the woods. The only real problem I had at night was that because I was still carrying two handheld bottles I could only use my head lamp for light and not my flashlight as well. This resulted in me kicking rocks and roots on several occasions and feeling like I broke a toe or two. Thankfully I didn't but a few times I had to stop and really walk for a while before I could get going again, plus it is a big demoralizer, especially at this point in the race. At about mile 70 things started to fall apart, I could feel that I was not catching anyone anymore and some people were catching up to me. At this point my shins were starting to hurt again and though I kept on schedule with my ibprofen they still seemed to be hurting. It also didn't help that I kicked two big roots with each of my feet that really hurt and slowed me down.

When I pulled into the Hwy 12 aid station at mile 77, I was hurting. The next aid station, the Rice Lake turnaround, was 4 miles away and the final turnaround point, but this was the most difficult part of the course. The next 8 miles took me about 3hrs and 15 minutes and they were painful. My right shin really started to acted up and there was nothing else I could. About a mile from the Hwy 12 AS (8 miles later) I was reduced to limping on one foot, I was pretty sure that this would be my last stop and that I'd have to drop out.

Not wanting to leave the aid station at Rice Lake

When I got into the Hwy 12 aid station I sat down in a chair, something that I never have done before for fear of not getting back up. I got some chicken noodle soup and and snacked on some chips. I talked to the aid station medical person and told him about my shin pain. He told me that I had a pretty good knot in my shin and that the good news was that I won't hurt it anymore by running on it. What I really wanted him to say was "you need to stop running," he didn't though he said its going to hurt but that I could make it. Easy for you to say you don't have to run 14 mile on one leg. He did rub some type of ointment on it that seemed to help and so I got up and hobbled down the trail. He told me that I'd have to limp the rest of the way and favor the right leg, so for the next 14 miles even when I was "running" it was still with a pretty significant limp.

This was a long stretch, it was 4.1 miles to the next un-maned aid station then 2.2 miles to the next staffed aid station. I was trying to maintain sub 20 minute miles, which is about a brisk walk, but I was in so much pain that any sort of walk was painful. I did decide that it was only slightly more painful to jog than it was to walk to I tried to jog as much as I could but this was again a limp more than a jog. As I approached the next maned aid station I was certain again that I'd have to drop out the pain was just too much and I was certainly not having fun anymore. I was even contemplating not running any more racing for the rest of the year. I was at the lowest of my lows and had there been a press conference right there I may have announced my retirement, but...I made it to the next aid station. There I talked to the staff again, sat down and had some more soup. One of the staff there iced down my shin and seemed to numb it up. The one encouraging point was that I thought I was 10 miles from the Finish and I was really only 7 miles. That was encouraging and I managed to head out again, the staff told me the next maned station was only 2.2 miles away then 5 miles to the finish.

I set out and it only took about 20 minutes for my shin to de-numb and start hurting again. It was pretty light out at this time and so I could clearly see everything and didn't need my light. Thankfully the last 14 miles were pretty flat and runable, so it was just a matter of getting to the finish. That 2.2 miles seemed to take forever, but I made it to the final aid stations, sat down again got some soup and iced down my shin. I didn't stay too long because I knew I was close, but I had a feeling that these last 5 miles would feel like an eternity. They did. This part of the course was pretty nice but I was down to my last ounce of strength and had to pretty much walk the entire time.

I remember telling myself to try and run to the next trail market sign, they were about every 30-50 yards. A few times I would have to stop and work up the strength to run, but I felt that I had to keep trying to run. I didn't care about my time or place I just need to finish this race. The last 20 miles I must have averaged about 25 minute miles, mostly walking. The sun was really starting to come up and it was starting to get hot out. A few more people passed me the last 5 miles but I didn't care one bit. The last 5 miles had mile markers and every time I would reach one I nearly stopped to hug the sign I was so happy. When I finally got to the 1 mile marker even started running, I thought I would run the entire last mile. That lasted for about a half mile, then I had to walk again. When the trail finally opened up and I could see the finish line I was ecstatic. I did manage to run the last 100 yards and crossed the finish. I was sooo relieved to be finished with the race. Adam was still at the start and I talked to him for a while and the race directors. I had to wait around a little bit for my drop bags to get back but I didn't stick around long. I was ready to get out of my shoes, shower, eat and get to bed.

After the finish, kettle in hand.

As I said goodbye to some of the runners and Adam he said "I'll see you in three weeks," referring to the Black Hills 100 milers, I told him, "I hope so." This race definitely took a toll on me and I'm still assessing if I'll be able to race Grandma's marathon and/or the Black Hills 100 both later on this month.

I think that if it weren't for the heat and my shins I would have had pretty fast time and a much less painful race, but I guess that's ultra running for you. This was a really really well run race with a lot of great runners and a great bunch of volunteers. I don't know that I would have finished if not for the help and encouragement of the volunteers and fellow runners, so thank you all for a most memorable race.

Place: 29th Overall (122 started and 46 finishers)
Division: 15th
Time: 27 hours 24 mins 34 sec

Split Calculations
CheckpointMileageTimePace DistanceTimePace
Nordic Center Start 0.000 26.3 seconds
Emma Carlin Outbound 15.800 3:05:28.7 11:44.4
Scuppernong Turnaround 31.600 6:37:54.2 12:35.5 15.80 3:32:25.4 13:26.7
Emma Carlin Inbound 47.400 10:26:11.8 13:12.7 15.80 3:48:17.7 14:26.9
Nordic Center 100K 63.200 14:29:29.9 13:45.5 15.80 4:03:18.1 15:23.9
Hwy 12 - Outbound 77.500 19:05:39.5 14:47.0 14.30 4:36:09.6 19:18.7
Rice Lake Turnaround 81.900 20:52:04.4 15:17.3 4.40 1:46:24.9 24:11.1
Hwy 12 - Inbound 86.300 22:56:33.0 15:57.0 4.40 2:04:28.6 28:17.4
Nordic Center Finish 100.600 27:24:34.5 16:20.9 14.30 4:28:01.6 18:44.6

Post race recovery burrito.

Now if that isn't worth running 100 mile in 90 degree weather, I don't know what is.


  1. Great job Jordan! Hope the recovery goes well. How do you like the Injinji sox? I just started wearing them on trail runs recently.

  2. @gene Thanks Gene the recovery is going well except I think I'm going to be a few toe nail short for a while. I kicked a few rock a few too many times and they are not looking too good.

    The injinji socks worked great, I was concerned that they would be too hot and my feet would sweat. Even in the 90 degree weather they were pretty comfortable and really help with avoiding blisters, especially between my toes. I definitely recommend them.