Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Kettle Moraine 100-Race Recap

I had originally signed up for this race to pace my good friend Ashtyn (Fit Life with Ashtyn) in her first 100 mile race.  I've been coaching her for almost a year now.  My plan was to run with Ashtyn the entire race and be by her side every step of the way.  With me coming back from a stress fracture in my last 100 mile race in January I knew that leading into the race I was going to be a little under trained for it and I probably wouldn't get my mileage quite where I needed to be however I would rather be a little under trained and make it to the starting line healthy than be injured and not even make it to the start.  My usual mileage in training for a 100 mile race is anywhere between 60-100 miles per week.  For this race I peaked out at around 50 miles and really didn't do much hill training as to not flare up my past injury.  I was still able to get some 30 milers in but it was on flat, non-technical trails.   The mid week back to back longs I usually did didn't happen as often as I would have liked.  I learned from my injury in January to not push it.  If I felt pain in training then I would take an extra day off and not risk injury.  I've learned since then to listen to my body.  I know a lot of runners are stubborn and try to push through pain but I have learned from my mistakes.  It's not worth the risk.  If you have pain, your body is telling you something. I don't want to have more time off from an injury so the main goal was just to get to the start line healthy and whatever happened would happen.  I also knew in the back of my mind if I could get her to the 100k mark that she would have a fresh pacer for the remaining 37 miles.  Like I said, my main purpose was to help her get to the finish line.  This wasn't my race, it was her's.  She trained hard and it was her time.  I've had my time.  I've finished 100 mile races.  There is nothing like it and I wanted her to experience this feeling.  I had run 3 previous 100 milers and finished all 3 of them so I knew what I was up against.

I arrived in Wisconsin on Thursday afternoon.  Ashtyn and I had already talked race strategy earlier in the week.  Her boyfriend Lucas was going to be crewing for us during the race.  He was very organized and I knew he would do a great job for us which he did.  We went out for a burger at a local restaurant for lunch then we went to Whole Foods.  She got her healthy junk and I got some cookies (yes they have awesome chocolate chip cookies even at a healthy food store.  See, cookies are healthy.)  We got back and got our drop bags ready for the race.  I decided to use clear plastic totes as drop bags.  They are easy to see what is in there, especially at night.  I've learned from the previous 100 mile ultra's I've done is to be prepared for everything.  Pack everything, including the kitchen sink and you will probably use maybe 2 things out of everything you pack but always be prepared for everything.

On Friday, the day before the race, Ashtyn and I went to the gym, I got donuts for national donut day, got to run with Krissy and Julia.  They ran 1 mile with me for runstreak day 17.  Ashtyn and I decided to drive the course and see where our support vehicle would be when we arrived at each aid station.  The directions given to us from the race for the support vehicle were spot on, easy to follow and very detailed so the support vehicle wouldn't get lost going from aid station to aid station. I always like to eat a sub sandwich the night before a race but we ended up having a sub for lunch and then again for dinner.  We ate at Firehouse Subs and it was delicious and hit the spot.

Sara from Simply Sara
I didn't sleep well the night before the race which is typical for me and got about 5 hours sleep(actually more than normal for me before a race). We had about an hour drive to the race on Saturday morning and the race started at 6am.  We got up at 3am, left around 4:30, got there about 5:30 just in time to get our timing chip and go to the restroom before starting.  My friend Sara (Simply Sara) met us just before the race!!  She is so sweet and drove over 1 1/2 hours just to see us off.

Ashtyn had mentioned to me before the race that there were some rolling hills so I thought that sounded nice.  Rolling hills, yay!!  So nice and peaceful to be one, with nature with 100 miles of gently rolling hills, lovely!!  Sounded just like my type of race.  Also you got to run on a soft bed of pine needles Sounds almost like pillows for your feet.  Just lovely.

Here is the course description and FAQ from the race website:
"The course runs entirely on trails (except for road crossings) and will traverse the Ice Age National Scenic Trail (IAT) for about 65 miles. The runners deviate from the IAT when near the Nordic Trails at the start/finish and also near the Scuppernong aid station.  The course consists of 2 different out and back sections. You will find the trail to be about 80% wooded terrain, with the rest meandering through prairie or marsh areas. Part of the course will be a roller coaster of hills, with rocks and roots scattered about to various degrees. Other sections will be gently rolling with relatively smooth running surfaces. The pine sections give you that soft bed of pine needles that so many of us like to run on. Though the hills are not long and/or especially steep, they can take a tremendous toll on you if you attempt to run them. We have a total altitude gain of approximately 8,800 feet.
Is the KM100 a good 1st 100 miler? I may be biased, but I do think the Kettle is a good 1st 100 miler. I like the variation with the hills. My 1st 100 was Leadville so I am a little different than many when looking for their 1st 100 miler. You will need to focus to get back on the trail after 100km since it has been easy for people to stop as it is so convenient. I suspect there are flatter 100 milers but our combination of volunteers and course I think make ours a very good first 100 miler."

Before you knew it Ashtyn an I were off tackling 100 miles!!  The weather was perfect.  Couldn't have asked for better weather in June.  Mid 50's for the start of the race and highs in the mid 70's mid day.  You had 32 hours to finish the 100 miles with each aid station having a cutoff you had to meet.  I had designed a pace band for us that had the cutoff time for each aid station, our goal time at each aid station and a worse case scenario.  The first several miles of the race was much like they described.  Rolling hills which gave the legs a nice break mixing up running and walking.  Walk the hills and run the flats.  We were both feeling good in the early stages of the race.  The course was hard but manageable.  We would call ahead to Lucas when we were about 1 mile from the aid station and tell him what we needed.  He was always there waiting on us with everything we had asked for.
There were aid stations with everything you needed about every 3-5 miles. Crew had access to these aid stations probably about every 9 miles or so.  Just about right and it was pretty easy to park at these aid stations and for us to get our stuff we needed.  You could probably get away without having any drop bags and just use your crew but it's better to be safe in case something happens.  We were maintaining a pretty good pace navigating the hills.  The trails were a little more technical than I had expected with big rocks, roots and some serious climbing.  Several sections were not runnable because of the terrain.  Almost like hiking trails but about 20 miles in and were chugging right along about a 14:30 pace.  A little ahead of the 15:30 goal pace I had set for us and still plenty ahead of the 19 min/mile cut off time pace.  The terrain continued to get more challenging and actually I felt that miles 26-31 were the worst with several switchback trails consisting of some serious climbing rocks and roots.  We lost a lot of ground on this section and were just making some cutoffs at this point. With this being an out and back loop the turnaround point was around mile 31 so we would have to do this section over again right after turning around.  The climbing and the navigating of the terrain was starting to take a toll on our bodies.  I could tell Ashtyn was struggling a little as was I but she had the heart of a lion and kept pushing on.  She told me several time to just go ahead without her and I would have none of that.  I signed up for this race to be with her and I wasn't leaving her side.  She would run some then walk.  At this point I was power walking.  I would let her run ahead of me then I would run to catch up to her.  It was working for us both.  She kept telling me to go on without her but I would have none of that.  I was there for her, however she needed me.  I'm her coach and I would never leave her even if it meant me getting my first DNF.  I was there for her till the end.  She pushed her body and I knew she was hurting.  The heart was there, the mind was still there, the nutrition was still there but the shins were telling her it was time to stop.  She, like me had an injury previously and she, like me has learned it's not worth getting injured again from pushing your body when you are feeling pain like she was experiencing.  Live to run another day.  There will be other races.  She made it to a little over 38 miles.  38 awesome grueling miles on the hardest, most technical course she had ever run on.  38 amazing miles and I'm damn proud of her for all the miles she did cover.  I'm proud to be her coach and I'm proud she learned to listen to her body.  From this point in the race I gave her a hug, told her I was proud of her and continued on.  I needed to try to make up a little ground as we were pushing the cut off times.  The next 8-10 miles or so were through the meadows.  Tall grass, fairly runnable but somewhat difficult.  You had no shade whatsoever in this section.  My friend Kat liked to call it the Meadows of Death and that's what it felt like.  Very beautiful countryside but them death meadows will get the best of you if you weren't careful.  I made up a lot of ground in the next several miles knocking out a 12 minute mile at mile 40 and 11:08 mile at mile 41.  My 2 fastest miles of the race.  I made up over an hour on the cutoff time but the time I made it to almost mile 50 but the meadows of death had taken it's toll on me at this point.  I was doing a run/walk and knocking off 16-17 minute miles till I got to mile 55 and my shins started flaring up.  I got my medical compression sleeves and my friend Jason met up with me.  My goal now was just to make it to the 100k and call it a night.  I was thankful to have Jason there to get me through those very long, last 8 miles or so.  Going along about 21 minutes per mile the legs felt like lead from all the up and downs.  It actually felt the way I usually feel about 90 miles into a 100 mile race.  With the aching shins I knew I would be happy with a 100k finish.  We made it to the 100k finish and I told them I was dropping down to the 100k.  For a brief and I do mean brief moment at that point I though about continuing on but got to thinking to finish in the 32 hour time limit I would have to continue to do 21 minute miles for the next 37 miles.  That probably wasn't going to happen.  The legs were toast, the shins were hurting and like I said before, I've learned from my past injury when it's time to call it a day.  It was time.  Live to run another day.  I did however get my first 100k finish.  I've done 50k's, 50 milers, 100 milers but never a 100k so that was cool!!  This was my 30th marathon/ultra finish too (16 marathons/14 ultras) I still felt amazing nutrition wise thanks to my electrolyte drink which I used exclusively to fuel my run.

My time you ask?  100k finish, 19 hours 10 minutes 52 seconds.  18:14 pace with 7320 ft of elevation gain for the 100k.

The course was very well marked, very well organized and great aid stations.  Would I personally recommend this race to someone?  Absolutely!!  For your first 100 mile ultra?  Probably not.  It is a Western States qualifier which is great!!

Kettle Moraine:  Beautiful course, great company and lots of memories that will last a lifetime!!  That won't be the last time Ashtyn and I run a race together.  Next time, I get to pick the race.  :)

I still have unfinished business with the 100 mile distance so it's not over for me yet.  Stay tuned.

Technical details you might ask.
What was in my drop bags and support vehicle you ask?

I packed a bigger tote that would be carried in the support vehicle.
What I packed in the main tote that would stay in the support vehicle:
-Electrolyte drink
-Plow on Gum
-GU Cliff Shot Mocha Gel
-Bug Spray
-Ginger Chews
-A&D ointment
-Baby wipes
-Rain poncho
-The stick(to roll out sore muscles)
-2 Headlamps
-Battery charger for garmin
-Extra garmin as back up
-KT Tape
-Cooling towels
-Body Glide
-Duct Tape
-Compression sleeves for sore shins
-Extra water bottles
-MP3 player

What I packed as far as extra clothes to stay in support vehicle:
-Long sleeve shirts
-2 extra pairs of shoes

What I packed in each drop bag:
-Tailwind Nutrition Stick Packs
-Plow on Gum
-Cliff Shot Mocha Gel
-Bug Spray
-Ginger Chews
-A&D ointment
-Baby wipes

What I used:
-Electrolyte drink stick packs(18 of them)
-Plow On Gum

What I carried on me:
-Electrolyte drink stick packs
-Heart rate monitor

My fuel for the race:
-18 electrolyte drink stick packs (each stick pack is 200 calories with 24 oz water-1 per hour)
-1/2 slice of PB&J
-2 pieces of Plow On Gum