Tuesday, April 23, 2013

An Epic 100 Mile Journey

One of the many water crossings
After I ran my first 50 mile ultra last year it left me wanting something more.  Little did I know at the time I would be getting a whole lot more and then some.  That's when I saw that Indiana was going to be having their first ever 100 mile ultra. Indiana Trail 100 in Albion, IN.  This was my opportunity to try something like this. Less than 2 years ago when I first started running I would have never dreamed of doing something like this and now look at me.  I'm wanting to run 100 miles!!  I just ran my first full marathon in April of 2012!!  I heard everyone say, you're nuts, you're crazy!!  Why would you ever want to do something like this?  Well, I guess so you can call me nuts and crazy.  I like it like that!  I was going to put in the training and commit to this.  This would be my focus race for 2013, to finish my first 100 mile ultra.  When the registration opened up for this I was one of the first few to sign up.  I was new to all the training plans and nutrition.  My training plans usually consisted of wing it as you go and just survive on Gatorade.  At least that strategy worked for my 50 mile ultra.  I knew I would need something more if I was going to finish this race.  I needed to fuel properly, get a training plan and stick to it.  I found a couple of different training plans online.  Really not a lot of training plans tailored to this distance but I took the couple I found and came up with my own.  I still wanted to keep my running streak going during this time so on my off days I would still do an easy mile.  People say if you are still doing a run on a day off it really isn't a day off.  Well, I've found that doing that easy mile helps me keep loose and has helped me remain injury free so far.   I came up with a 24 week training plan and stuck with it pretty well although I did add extra runs and mileage on some days just because I love to run and wanted to run.  My plan basically consisted of:  Monday (off day or 1 mile for me), Tuesday 6-8 miles of hills, Wednesday (off day but I usually ran 3-5 miles with John and Christina), Thursday (10-15 miles), Friday (off day or 1 mile for me), Saturday (50k) and Sunday (20 miles).  The idea was to do back to back long runs on the weekends so I could simulate running on tired legs without near the recovery time.  My longest run during my training was 40 miles.

A week before the race I'm checking the weather report.  Calling for rain all week and good cool temps the day of the race however I knew if we got a ton of rain the course probably not be in that good of shape because of flooding.  I remember seeing videos of the Huff 50k from 2011.  I know what could happen there.  Well they got the rain but I was still hoping for the best.  As I'm arriving at Chain O'Lakes for packet pickup on Friday I see flooding everywhere although I'm still hoping it might dry out in time.  LOL.  What was I thinking. 

Ready to start
Let me just say that the Race Directors for this race were nothing short of amazing.  They worked their butts off every day leading up to the race doing every thing they could within their power to fix the course conditions up to and including the day of the race by even making a few new trails and marking them to try to avoid some of the waist high water.  It however could not be avoided and we were warned that there would be standing water in some sections.  Click here or here to see the water crossings we had to cross and the conditions we had to endure.  We were told about a parking lot that had been broken in half because of all the water and they had to put a rope across one of the trails to help us get through the water section on the trail.  Overnight low temps into the lower 20's would play a huge factor as well.  With those cold temps and you getting wet could lead to hypothermia.  In our race packet they handed out these free samples of a product called  2Toms.  It is a product designed to help prevent blisters but I'm not one that likes to try anything new right before a race then I thought to myself.  What's the worst that can happen?  I get even more blisters than I'm gonna get with wet feet.  I decided to give it a try.  Let me just say this product is incredible.  I had soaking wet feet for the entire run.  First 50 miles I used the same shoes and socks.  Feet were wet the whole way.  At mile 50 I cleaned my feet, fresh socks, shoes and reapplied the 2Toms.  After the race I did not have one blister.  Amazing.  I am totally sold on this product. 

Adella all smiles ready to run with me.
Night before a race I can never sleep and ended up getting up at 3:30 am.  We got to the race sight about 5 am for the 6 am start.  My crew for this event consisted of my wife Melissa and our friend Adella.  My goal was just to finish the race and to bank some time at the beginning so if necessary I could walk and still make it within the allotted time.  I had planned on running the flats and the downhills and walking the uphills even though I don't like to walk I knew it would be necessary to conserve energy.  I was planning on running the first 4 loops myself and then having Adella run lap 5 with me and Melissa lap 6.

I would be doing 6 loops at 16.67 miles each.  My plan was to run the first 2 loops in 7 hours 30 minutes, and the last 4 loops in 20 hours, giving me a final time of 27 hours and 30 minutes.  Doing it that way still gave me 2 1/2 hours in the bank in order to finish within the allowed 30 hours.

I started off and about 2 miles in we came to our first water crossing.  It was cold!!  Knee high.  I felt pretty good on the loop though.  There were aid stations at about mile 4, 8.8, 14 and finish.  I had one 20
One of the water crossings
oz handheld water bottle that I was carrying Gatorade in and some mini snickers.  I don't do gels and still find it hard to eat when I run.  There was water and mud everywhere. I knew there would be but I just couldn't have dreamed it would be this bad.  There probably ended up being 35 or so water crossings and mud all over the place but it was kind of fun.  Yes, I know, I'm a little sick!   Kind of reminded me of a tough mudder event except we were doing 100 miles in this and not just 3.  I refilled my bottle at every aid station with Gatorade and Melissa met me there getting anything I needed out of my drop bags. She is so amazing and I couldn't do this without her. I decided at the first aid station I was not going to change my shoes and socks till the 50 mile mark.  Why change them when they were just going to get wet and muddy 2 miles in.  I ate a couple nutrigrain bars,  mini snickers, PB and J, and my Gatorade on the first loop which I finished in 3 hours, 28 minutes. Lap 2 much of the same.  I made it through in 3 hours 37 minutes for the first 2 loops in 7 hours and 5 minutes putting me 25 minutes ahead of my goal pace.  Doing this I missed Melissa at the finish of lap two because I was so far ahead of schedule.  I was OK so I continued to lap 3.
Another water crossing

3rd loop the mud and water continued to be a factor which was definitely taking its toll on me having to trudge through all of that but I wasn't letting it bring me down.  It was cold too.  Temps in the 30's with
lower 20's expected throughout the night.  I knew I needed to make up more time in order to have a shot at this because who knew what the night running would bring.  I thought wow, if I finish 100 miles in this crap I can finish 100 miles in anything.  Let's keep moving.  Melissa was still there checking on me at every aid station.  I continued to fill my bottle with Gatorade and eat nutrigrain bars, snickers, and PB & J.  Goal time for this lap was 5 hours and I finished it in 4 hours and 31 minutes.  I was now ahead of schedule by 54 minutes.  Goal for 3 laps was 12 hours and 30 minutes and I was currently at  11 hours 37 minutes.  That meant I had 18 hours and 23 minutes to finish the race in under the 30 hour time limit.  I heard they had extended the cut off to 31 hours because of the course conditions but I didn't want an extension.  I had signed up for the 30 hour cutoff and I wanted to finish within the 30 hours regardless of how hard the course was.

Some mud
By the start of the 4th loop I was still feeling pretty good and I knew after this loop I would have someone after it the rest of the way with me.  I was still running and walking up the hills but it was a lot slower.  The mud and water was definitely starting to take a toll on me now.  I finished up the 4th loop and it was dark, clear skies, and very cold but I had Adella waiting on me to do the 5th loop with me.  Longest she had ever gone was 13.1 miles before.  She was a trooper!!  I told her it was probably going to be
Adella and I getting ready for lap 5.
mostly walking as at this point my running legs were shot. At the first aid station about 4 miles I had to go to the bathroom.  I sat down for 20 minutes and my legs locked up on me.  At that point I seriously though about calling it a night.  I had a rock in my shoe and had to untie my shoe to get it out.  My shoe laces were frozen solid and I could not untie them.  Finally after about 10 minutes we got them untied thanks to one of the volunteers at the aid station.  All the volunteers were fantastic!!  I was freezing having sat for so long now.  I never drink anything with caffeine in it but tried some hot coffee.  That helped wake me up and warmed me up.  Adella said lets walk for a little bit to see how you feel.  Man am I ever glad I had her there with me.  She kept talking to me, keeping me motivated.  I even mustered up the energy to run just a little bit and was starting to feel a lot better she kept talking to me and the hours just flew by.  I kept drinking coffee and ramen noodle soup at every aid station.  I was wired
on all the caffeine now and I couldn't stop talking.  Before you knew it we had finished the 5th loop.  Adella and I finished that 5th loop in 6 hours and 22
Melissa and I ready for the final lap #6
minutes with all but about a mile of it walking.  She stayed out there from  11pm till 5am in the cold lower 20 degree temps with frozen feet, wet, muddy trails and wouldn't let me quit.  She did the most miles she had ever done before and supported me every step of the way.  I am forever grateful and that is something I will never forget Adella!!

Melissa was waiting with her headlamp on and ready to go.  One more lap.  I've got about 6 hours and 45 minutes left to finish within the 30 hour time limit.  I knew she was tired having been up for a majority of the day as well but there she was with her awesome smile telling me lets go and giving me a swift kick in the butt!!  I fueled up on more coffee and ramen noodles and off we went.  My heart was still telling me I could do this but my legs didn't have much left in them.  We get to mile 88 and there is an aid station.  The sun is starting to rise so at the next aid station we will be able to ditch the headlamps.  The mud bogs were now frozen from the extreme cold overnight which made it a little easier to navigate through but was hard on the ankles.  The water had come down considerably.  There was only one section on the last loop where I got my feet wet.  The aid station at mile 91 had egg and bacon English muffins and it hit the spot.  My
Near the end.  I don't stop when I'm tired. I stop when I'm done.
Gatorade bottle was frozen solid so I decided to ditch it at this point in my drop bag.  I took a couple drinks for the road and off we went.  I knew when I made it to the next aid station I would have less than 3 miles to go.  I tried to start running but it just wasn't happening.  The backs of my calves were killing me.  I had been going non stop for over 28 hours when we came upon that final aid station.  I kept checking my garmin and it didn't look like it was moving.  Anything under a 20 minute mile at this point was moving!!  Emotion was starting to take the best of me when I realized I only had less than a 5k left to finish 100 miles!  Yes, I started crying some once it all hit.  100 miles, that's right!!  I'm gonna finish this.  Started picking up my walking pace a bit with mile 97 at 20:09 per mile, mile 98 was even faster at 18:16, mile 99 was 17:12 and then mile 100 was a 14:12 pace.  I did run at the end and ran to the finish line.  I did it!!  100 miles in the some of the most extreme conditions I had ever been exposed to!  I
Melissa and I at the end proudly showing off my 100 mile finisher belt buckle
finished in 29 hours and 31 minutes.  There were 180 that had registered for the 100 miles and only 57 to finish.  I finished 47th overall.   Not many people can say they have done 100 miles but I am now proud to be a part of this elite group!!

Me and race director Mike Pfefferkorn
I want to give a shout out to Mike Pfefferkorn and all the race directors and volunteers for putting on one the most organized, greatest races I have ever been a part of and for making this an experience I will never forget.  Mike was out on the course day and night with all his encouraging words, smiling and keeping us motivated.  That is what a true race director is like!!  He organized training runs every Saturday and showed runners the course.  He and his team were out making new trails the day before the race trying to make sure all the runners had the best experience possible which they did!  I want to also give a shout out to Terry Fletcher from the Group Indiana Trail Running.  His group provided a place for runners to get warm and change clothes if need be.  That groups support was outstanding.

Lastly I would like to thank all my family and friends for supporting me every step of the way.  Everyone that ever ran with me during training.  No matter how crazy you all though I was you were always there for me to help me see it through.  The soul sisters who made these awesome signs of motivation for me throughout the course. My awesome friend Adella who kept me going and would never let me give up and my awesome wife Melissa.  For sticking by me throughout it all.  For allowing me to train for hours on end and being there with me every step of the way.  I couldn't have done it without you babe.  Love you!!

Question is, will you ever do another 100 mile ultra again and the answer is YES!!  I loved it!!

On a dry course I really feel I could do that in 24 hours.  Guess we'll have to wait till next year to find out!  :-)

My starting weight before this event was 184.2 lbs and my ending weight was 182.8 lbs.  The day after the run I still went out and ran 1 mile to keep my running streak of 516 days alive!!  By about 1/2 mile in my legs started to loosen up and felt pretty good at the end.  Today I felt much  better and was walking pretty normal.  Still had some pain in the back of both calves but nothing unbearable and yes, I ran another mile tonight and felt really good at the end.  Less than 2 weeks till Indy Mini then doing my first team Duathlon with Christina.  Planning on 3 more ultra's this year.  It's gonna be a busy year!

Apparently I'm even too awesome for my running application.