Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Improptu Hellgate 100K?!?!

Brad Birkholz's Race Report...

To crew or not to Crew?

That wasn’t the question I was asking myself for this year’s Hellgate. I had every intention on crewing instead of running it, even up to the point when we arrived. But, after driving around with Horton, helping mark some of the trail, coming back to Camp Bethal and soaking up the atmosphere, I got sucked in. When it was time to go to packet  pick up I decided to run instead of crew. Why not, was already signed up. What was I thinking? I hadn’t run hardly anything since my dismal performance at Glacial. Now it’s not like I just got off the couch and ran 100K+, I’ve been working out, a lot actually, just not running wise. Just decided to take it as it comes and see what happens.

Well because I didn’t plan on running I didn’t have all the gear needed to run this thing. Unfortunately Cassie got sick on the way down and wasn’t able to run. Because of this I was able to get some gels and S-caps from her. Sean had a pack that I could use because he was using Cassie’s and Marcel had a pair of shorts for me to use. Just needed to find a short sleeve shirt.  No one had a shirt so my InStep long sleeve tech shirt got customized with a pair of scissors. Had everything else needed and I was set to run.

Because of my last minute decision, eating dinner, race meeting and getting the gear I needed there wasn’t much time to chill out and lay down before the 12:01 a.m. start. Standing there in the dark waiting to go I was going over the course in my head, this was my 6th time at Hellgate with 3 finishes so I knew what was to come and was getting antsy to get going.

From the start to aid station 1 was all runnable. Didn’t even use my head lamp because there were so many people through here didn’t need to use it. Got through the infamous stream crossing at mile 3 to the road and the long climb to aid station 2. All systems were a go through here even my stomach, by the time I got there my stomach was growling and needed food.

The sections during the wee hours of the morning went well. It got cold at times in the higher elevations and was able to turn off my light with the full moon. From the start to just before aid station 5 I was going back and forth with Marcel and PT, who I know from Arkansas.  It was just before 5 that I caught up to Marcel again. He was taking in the Hellgate experience by taking pictures along the trail, didn’t see him again till the finish line.

With each aid station came more food. My stomach was working overtime and I was starving by the time I got to the next stop. With each aid station also came my drive to finish, not once did I feel like stopping. Other than my legs getting sore I felt stronger as the race progressed.  Got to aid station 7 feeling great, this is the make or break point for me. If I can hit 7 feeling good I know that I’m going to finish. Talked with Jody, who was crewing for us, had a hamburger and left.

From aid station 5 all the way to the finish I must have passed at least 20 people, which was great motivation to drive harder. Got to the last aid station in great shape, was ready to crank it up the 3 mile up and the 3 mile down to the finish.  Don’t know where it comes from but the last 3 miles was practically a sprint. Passed 5 people in the last 3 miles, even more motivation to push harder. Got back to Camp Bethal and collapsed at the finish with the effort I had just put out.

All I can do is shake my head at what I’d just done. In 4 finishes 16:02:19 was my 2nd best time.  Just jumping into a 100K is not advisable, but I was able to pull it off. Not to beat a dead horse here but when they say that Hellgate is a special race, it really is. I’ve put myself through more crap in the race than any other I can think of. Twisted ankles, cuts, bruises, ice, snow, cold, warm, shoes falling apart, water freezing, frozen hands, knee tendonitis and a dislocated shoulder and I keep coming back. Why do I keep going back? Because it’s Hellgate, that’s why.

My Time at Hellgate: Joe Jameson's 100K Race Report

Joe Jameson is the Race Director of the Marquette Trail 50 - His Hellgate race report mentions a lot of the LPTR's that were down for the race...

 As I toed the line at midnight I felt a blend of giddiness, fear, and dread.  A really strong inner voice was giving me the old “Joe, what did you get yourself into?”  Did I really belong with all these fast people?  I had been thinking about Hellgate 100k since my first ultramarathon in 2007.  On some ultra forum I read snippets of a race in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia with a cult following, with a race director with his own cult following  -- a gifted runner in his own right – but with a blend of sadism which can be seen in the names of two of the races he started:  Mountain Masochist and Hellgate.  What other race has a midnight start (he says it is so everyone – even the top runners—have to run the same amount in the dark), crazy climbs and descents, knee deep water crossings when a bridge is handy, some of the nastiest rocky single-track covered with a foot of leaves,  and … well, you get the idea!  When I asked my brother, who lives in DC, about the area of western Virginia, he replied to the effect:  “those are some real rednecks down there  -- are you sure you know what you are doing?”  Midnight start?  Possible snow and ice?  Wet feet the whole time?  Winter temps?  Crazed RD?  Bring it on!  What is more kick-ass than that?

The good news is I thought my training was solid.  No major injuries for 6 months and steady 50-80 mile weeks with a number of races from a Turkey Trot 5 mile to two 50 mile ultras, the last being Door County 50, 7 weeks before, all on road.  If I have a strong point it is my climbing so why not use my training and my strengths to tackle a really tough course in a race with maniacal following?  

Unfortunately my legs had been feeling really “dead” for the last few weeks.  With Hellgate looming I knew I needed to rest more so I only ran two times the last week before the race.  By race day I was feeling pretty well rested and up to the challenge, though sort of scared shitless.

Since the weather is always iffy flying out of Marquette I felt obliged to arrive a day early.  I flew into Richmond, pleased with myself until I realized later there is a direct flight from  Chicago to Roanoke.  The great news is I took a detour on the way and saw the home of Cyrus McCormick, inventor of the cotton gin.  I stayed in some cheap motel off exit 150 and ate at Cracker Barrel, a restaurant/knickknack store with decent food but unfortunately no alcohol – bit of a letdown there.  Oh well, back to my motel room with an eye on the Weather Channel, the weather looked like it was going to be outstanding but the recent rains meant the rivers/creeks/gullies would be full of runoff.

Friday morning I arrived at Camp Bethel and met up with a group from Wisconsin that had arrived the night before.  They were led by Robert Wehner (veteran of several Hellgates – and a RD of several ultras in Wisconsin), also with Marcel (and crew/wife or girlfriend Jodie), Sean (and girlfriend Cassie Scallon –an excellent runner coming off a  spectacular win at JFK.  Cassie got a GI bug on the drive to Virginia and didn’t start the race.), and Brad B, a veteran of the race as well.  We took a walk for an hour or so on the trail and Robert gave me his take on the course and a description of the legs.  Spent the evening hours at bib pick-up where my low-grade anxiety ratcheted up when I realized I was given bib #137.  It seems Dr. Horton seeds the racers based on past performance and his perception of how you will do in the race.  Many runners feel their race is successful if they “beat” their seed number!  And so now I’m seeded 137 out of 140 runners!  Oh well, doesn’t mean a thing, he probably didn’t know where to put me.  Still I was a little miffed ….. but also a little concerned – maybe he is right? 

Met a few other runners who are Race Directors themselves (as am I).  Hmmmm…. Is Hellgate the race that Race Directors run?

After a family-style meal of lasagna, spaghetti, bread, salad, vegetables, and cupcakes we had an orientation meeting where Dr. Horton gave last minute instructions and embarrassed a few people.  All in good fun!  He also introduced Clark Zealand, a very fast guy, who has taken over RD of Mountain Masochist the last few years.  Now we had a couple of hours to get our stuff ready for the race.  Robert, the designated boss of our dorm room, enforced a no lights on rule from 8:30pm to 10pm during which I think a few runners actually slept but most of us just rested with our eyes closed.  I might have dozed a few minutes.  Then it was lights on and a scramble to put on my tights and make sure my hydration system was full and drop bags ready.

Caravan to the start in multiple cars/vans/trucks driving up Highway 81. Weird experience  on a near deserted interstate.  Finally pulled off to the start with 15 minutes to start.  It was cold just standing around but some were wearing shorts.  Probably about 30 degrees or so.  I wore some clear glasses – afraid of “Hellgate eyes” (frozen corneas) that had occurred to racers in the past (in colder and windier races).  With a few minutes to go we had a prayer by Dr. Horton, then the Star-Spangled Banner, then the Canadian anthem (Oh Canada?).  Now the start.

The pace was fast from the beginning.  I was probably about a third of the way back and people were running much faster than I expected and what I’ve experienced in other ultras.  I kept up, but didn’t pass anyone, just kind of holding steady.  We went up and down a few little 20 second climbs or so.  I passed a few people that were breathing pretty hard for the first few miles of an ultra – they needed to slow down.  Through the creek crossing that was knee deep, with a pretty fast current, and quite rocky and hard to keep my balance.  A few people partly fell in the water – didn’t want to do that! Then through the aid station and the REAL start of the race – the climb to Petite’s Gap.  All uphill.  There were a couple of switchbacks that you could see the head lights behind and below you.  Above was the moon and I turned my lights off.  Also up high, way up high, those aren’t stars but headlights of the leaders WAY above up and traversing the  ridge.  This was walk/run.  Probably one third fast hiking and two thirds trotting.  Passed a handful of runners on this section and the race began to really spread out.

After Petite’s Gap we crossed the parkway and descended on a slightly rocky single-track which changed into a two track.  More single-track and some off-camber technical trail followed.  Perfect.  Eventually another major climb (1500 feet or so) up to Camping Gap, and the third aid station.  The next leg to Headforemost Mountain was billed at the longest, highest, and coldest, and lived up to all three of those superlatives.  A lot of climbing, single-track, and gravel road.  Luckily, I had my ipod nano with me and jammed to Steely Dan, Tom Petty, Todd Rundgren, and the Who.  I ran a lot of this alone in the woods; but on the climb to Headforemost Mountain I passed a few more runners.  Came into the aid station and loaded up on more gels and had a couple of cookies.  My stomach was still Ok, and I wasn’t too tired yet.  This was about the one third mark.

The elevation profile shows the next section to Jenning’s Creek as mostly downhill but it isn’t necessarily a cakewalk.  There was some significant up and some sketchy single-track followed by a long downhill that was really starting to tweak my knee.  Sometimes it would hurt quite a bit, then become quiescent.  Jenning’s Creak volunteers cook breakfast but I was feeling good and didn’t even stop at the aid station.  I had plenty of fluids, and some gels, and was feeling pretty good for the long climbs ahead to Little Cove Mountain which was a little past halfway.

Imagine my surprise when I cruised into the Little Cove Mountain Aid station to find only about 5 people lounging around a fire.  The time was exactly 7 hours, and my body was starting to really feel the effects of the race.  I felt like I should be about done but still had 31 miles to go.  Sitting around the fire I found Dr. Horton who asked how I was doing.  I told him I was pretty shot but still had a little fight in me.  That’s when he told me I was in 11th place, and I couldn’t believe it!   Still I was barely hanging in there.  I knew I couldn’t go any faster and he told me that I just needed to maintain my effort and some runners in front of me might falter.  Top ten was within my grasp!

With that motivation I cruised out of the aid station to start a really long (8 mile) nasty section which started on a pretty nice fire road but quickly deteriorated into a single-track with plenty of steep uphills, rocks, and off-camber trail.  There is a section with shin-deep leaves and rocks.  Some parts, even level, were essentially unrunnable for hundreds of yards because of all the rocks hidden on the trail under the leaves.  Tight switchbacks led up and downhill, some in better shape than others.  This was a pretty slow section due to terrain, and eventually it emptied out onto another fire road with a decent (hike) climb to Bearwallow Gap.

At the Bearwallow Gap aid station I made the only serious mistake of the race.  I changed my hydration pack and neglected to take out my patellar knee brace out of the old pack.  I really needed the brace after that and started to have more and more knee pain for the next 23 miles.  I was now at about 43 miles.  I left my lights at the aid station.  I had a full hydration pack and some gels but my stomach was getting queasy.  I wasn’t able to take in my desired 300 calories/hour that was my goal.  Probably only able to take in 100-150 calories/hour for the rest of the race.  The next section didn’t have lots of climbing but had a lot of single-track which ran in and out of the ridgeline.  There were many small gullies and creekcrossings which were full of water from the recent rains.  Sometimes I could hop over the water, but more often was forced to splash right through a number of times.  My knee was hurting so I pulled the waist string out of my tights and wrapped it tightly around my lower patella and tied it and that seemed to help but it kept slipping down and I had to stop and retie it often.  I was still able to run most of this section.  In the last two sections I passed one or two runners.  I felt faint and woozy at times.  A couple of times I almost vomited.   Bobblet’s Gap was the next aid station.

After Bobblet’s Gap is 8 miles to Day’s Creek.  This starts with about a 2 or 3 mile downhill which was hard on my knee but I was able to run at a pretty good clip.  Then it was a sharp right turn into the nasty single-track again.  (Some runners missed this turn but it was easy to see.)   This trail was up, and down requiring some serious hiking.  At one point it actually went up a creek bed and I had to jump from bank to bank.  I thought I was making decent time when Helen Lavin came screaming by me.  She was running a lot more of the hills than I was.  Two things I remember about her other than she was going much faster:   she had some sort of a long-sleeved parka or coat on which I thought would be really hot (I was sweating at this point in a long sleeved technical shirt with the sleeves pushed up; and she said “hi Joe” but I don’t think she knows who I am – maybe she said “how’s it going”?  In any case in my sorry mental state I spent sometime perseverating about that.  Did she say “hi Joe”? or did she say something completely different?    Just at the end of the section, as we ran into Day’s Creek, I was passed by the same guy that passed me, like, 15 miles ago.  Turns out he made about a 15 minute wrong turn on an earlier section and was now making up for lost time.

After Day’s Creek I knew I could finish OK the last 6 miles.  The climb out I walked the whole thing and got to the top in about 41 minutes.  The run down to Camp Bethel was slow partly due to my knee and partly because my legs were trashed.  I was passed by Micah Jackson just as we were onto the gravel road.  I did the last section in, I think,  about 70 minutes.  Horton gave me a big hug and I was surprised to finish in (just) under  13 hours.

Aftermath:  Now, 9 days later, my legs are just getting back to normal.  My quads are still slightly sore.   My knee is better but still tweaky.   Overall, I recovered pretty well, and I’m back to 6-8 mile days.  I loved this race and will do it again if my body lets me.  The weather was perfect this year.  I’m sure it would be a lot harder with the snow and ice of previous years.

Joe Jameson

Sunday, December 18, 2011

High Water Huff 50K

Mary Gorski's Race Report:

WHAT: The HUFF 50K, Chain O Lakes State Park, Northern, Indiana, December 17, 2011

Wading waist-deep in freezing water with snow falling all around me.  

It wasn't quite what I expected to be doing the week before Christmas. But there were warning signs in the days before that would have clued me in had I paid just a little bit of attention.

First, there was the weather report.  As usual, a few days before leaving for the HUFF 50K in northern Indiana, I looked at the weather forecast of neighboring cities. Fort Wayne, Goshen and other locales all reported pleasant temps for a late December run in the Midwest; highs in the mid-30s. And until the day before the race, no precipitation was even predicted. Finally, the HUFF –– with a reputation for brutal weather –– will finally make a change not only to new course at Chain O Lakes State Park, but to a kinder, gentler new weather system as well.

Alas, if I had only paid attention to the red warning banner than ran across the weather page. In my mind I saw red and thought of Christmas. The weather page is in a holiday theme. I love the holidays. Isn't that pretty? Now what were those predicted temperatures...

Had I read what was in the Red for Warning banner I would have noticed words like "FLOOD DANGER," and "GET TO HIGHER GROUND IF NEEDED." If I would have read the pre-race email a bit more carefully, I would have taken more seriously the caution about standing water on the road into the packet pick-up location. This was the only standing water that my friend and travel partner Kathryn Dunn and I noticed since we made a wrong turn or two and got to Chain O Lakes park in the dark. We didn't see the standing water in the woods until we were actually standing in it the next day. 

What you don't see might not hurt you, but it certainly can freeze your tootsies off the next day!

HUFF was filled with surprises. One of them came two minutes before the start when the race director said something about 50K runners doing TWO loops. TWO? The HUFF had always been a three-loop course. While the race site had changed I and many others thought that the loop number never would. It was the same distance but somehow two 15.5-mile loops seemed much more daunting than three 10+ mile loops. There was a shorter 10-mile race, a race that was billed as a ONE LOOP race, but their loop was different than the 50K loop. We quickly put this together in the seconds before the race started and I took comfort in the fact that I wasn't the only one discombobulated by the change in loop number. 

What if you needed something from your drop bag at 10 miles instead of 15.5? Well, what if you needed it at seven? Muddle on. 

Note the first three letters of the word I just typed: MUDdle. How apropos! Where there is flooding there is water. Where there is land recovering from flooding there is mud. I have never slip-slided through so much mud. Grey mud, brown mud and even black mud. Chocolate mousse-like mud. Toxic-sludge like mud (with sparkling flecks of green to give it a festive holiday look). And just plain shoe-sucking, ankle-wrenching, impossible-to-run-in MUD. 

That was about half to two-thirds of the slightly hilly course (through a beautiful forest, with light snow falling all about). The other sections? Some where very runnable -- for MOMENTS AT A TIME! 

And then there was the standing water. I knew that we would be running NEAR the lakes of Chain O Lakes park but I had no idea that we would actually be running THROUGH them. 

My first encounter with standing water was about five miles into the course. There was a slight gully with a stream about two-feet deep. Some opted to try to get across it on a log. I'm too clumsy. I figured that having part of me wet would be better than having all of me wet if I fell. And so I walked through the water. Frozen feet but just for a couple of minutes. 

"I can do this! It's not so bad," I thought to myself.

Shortly after we reconnected with the 10-mile runners who told us of several thigh-to-waist high water crossings they had already encountered. "Glad I'm not doing THAT course," I said to myself. "A 15.5-mile loop sounds good to me!"

And then we had our own aquatic fun. 

The first couple of flooded sections could be avoided by going through the muddy woods on either side. But with about four miles to go on the loop there were some long stretches that forced runners to do their Polar Bear Plunge a couple of weeks early. The longest was a slow, cold slog to the other side. I thought of Shelly Winters and the Poseidon Adventure. I wonder how cold that water was that she swam through in the upturned ship to save her fellow passengers. 

And then I stared to fantasize about being in an ultra-hot Bikram yoga room.

My mind quickly wanders when the blood flees from it to try to reheat my lower extremities. 

I came to the end of the first loop chilled but not frozen. I thought that I would trade out my vest for a full jacket and perhaps grab my camera for a few photos of the course. But when I got in the tent that had our drop bags I learned that all bags had been moved from the right side of the tent to the left side. I'm sure that there was a reason, but I decided that I didn't want to take the time to figure out what it was or where my bag ended up. Off I went to loop two. 

At first, the running was good. I rewarmed and was optimistic. I knew what to expect this time and knew that I could muddle through it since I survived the first loop. But then I hit the mud, mud that had been churned by the feet of several hundred runners. Loop one was sloppy, loop two was indescribable. I have never gone through such long stretches of slip-sliding mud. As my arm flew in the air for balance I thought of John Travolta rocking away on his Urban Cowboy bronco -- Kathryn and I had caught the last part of the movie before we fell asleep the night before. Little did we know that it was good prep for the balance moves we would need the next day. 

And then there was the water. "Heck, I made it through the first time, no need for detours; I am going to just wade right through and take the most direct route."  

This worked well for the first few crossings but then I got to the last and longest passage. "I can do this! I did it before!!" I silently cheered in my head. 

Midway through I turned into a frozen, hyperventilating, crying idiot, panicked that I'd never make it to the other side. "Freezing to death is supposed to be a calm way to die! I'm not calm! I'm going to die and I'm not calm!!!!" replaced the perky little "I can do this" self-speak.

Oh my.

But I did get to the other side, as did the two men who were right ahead of me and surely heard my emotional melt-down. Once I regained a little composure I caught up to them and apologized for sounding like a such a blubbering fool. 

"I was feeling the same," said one of them. "Couldn't look at you or I would have lost it too."

"The two women I was running with dropped after the first loop because they couldn't re-group after that crossing," said the other.

And then a guy -- wet head to toe -- came by us and said: "At least you didn't fall in!"

Oh my. 

The snow showers came to an end, and so too did the second loop. Manny -- a fellow runner from Wisconsin -- saw me at the finish and came out of his warm van to give me a hug. I held on for a bit not just because I was happy to see Manny but because the body heat felt so good. He was just what the doctor ordered. 

HUFF was well-marked, and fun in that "Oh my God I can't believe that I survived it" sort of way. Kathryn and I both finished with little more than a couple of bruises and some mud-encrusted shoes and clothes (I haven't had the guts to open my race bag yet). And for me, it was great to reconnect with so many friends: Fabiano and Danieli (the last time we saw each other was a year previous on sunny Peanut Island in Florida), Bruce, Lynn, Susan, Manny (and his warm bear-hug body) and a bunch of others whose names will pop into my head as soon as I post this. 

Happy holidays, and remember -- those red banners at the top of the weather page aren't just for holiday decoration. Sometimes they actually have pertinent information inside.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hellgate 100K

LPTR's at Hellgate!

Marcel Uttech's Race Report:  

Many people talked about how ‘special’ this race was… after awhile I already knew that I wanted to run it. The course sounded so challenging and scenic! After listening to Robert talk about his experiences there and going over some race reports from previous years, I was sold.

I knew I would have to train seriously for this one, not just because it was a 100k but more so because of some of the other aspects that make it so different than other races. Like the 12:01 am start- that throws ya off a bit! Of course you are up pretty much the whole day beforehand since you are at the camp, and there are other people there too, and practically everyone is talking about the race or previous ones or training and the energy around the place is electric!

The drive down was slightly cramped but a lot of fun. Temps were in the 40’s as Robert fired up his van, and then Cassie and Sean, Brad, Jodie and I piled in and headed east to Virginia. The drive took us about 14.5 hrs…we took turns driving and the time went by as we sailed through Illinois…Ohio…Indiana…Kentucky…West Virginia…ah, hello Virginia and your awesome mountains!

I had trained some with Robert for this race, and was glad that I did because many times our conversation would drift to Hellgate and I would learn a little more….I was a bit nervous and coming off of a dnf at Glacial I was pretty determined to get through this one, come hell or high water! And yes, both came.

The weather was perfect down there, we arrived to Camp Bethel and Robert kind of gave us the rundown of the place. Neat out buildings, with all kinds of landscaping around utilizing the creeks and natural spring fed pond to create scenic little waterfalls and guided little streams under decorative bridges…The main building where we stayed was simple and wide open inside the main part of it with rooms along the sides for sleeping which contained bunks. Showers were right there, and access to a fridge and micro (and yes, coffee makers!)

Friday morning Robert took us up the final section of the race which was a good climb up the side of the mountain. Took us about 45 minutes to walk it, Brad, Jodie and I took a little longer as we were taking pics. It was nice to get out in the woods and exercise a little, felt great!

After we returned to the camp Horton arrived. He was just as I remembered in the video that Jim Blanchard loaned me, where Horton runs the PCT from Mexico to Canada…full of energy, mind going a million miles an hour, always moving…nice to meet him. Brad and Robert went along with him to finish marking the trail and to help out doing whatever else needed doing.

More and more people began arriving as the day wore on, leading to many exciting conversations and a growing feeling of anticipation for the race. Cassie wound up sick the night before the race. She had flu like systems, and it made her so miserable that she had to drop from the race.

As the race drew nearer it was getting harder to find stuff to do…having the start at midnight really threw you off. I found myself pacing, then sitting, then pacing. It was mental torture! Should have brought a book…at least the dinner broke things up. The pre race dinner was set up home cooking style in a large room where everyone got to sit at these round tables. There was like 6 or so to a table, and they had pasta dishes and salad. I sat with Paul, the RD from the Ozark race and some others that had done Hellgate before and so dinner conversation was all about races, Hellgate, and of course poison oak.

Horton held a pre race meeting to discuss the race, and introduced some key helpers in the race (such as Robert!) so you started to get a feel for the history…he would call out the number of finishes and then those who had them would have to stand up. He would also make small talk of past mistakes people had made, and then make them stand up to…it was all good fun.

When it was time to go Jodie drove us (and Joe from Michigan) to the start. The full moon was already rising, which was wonderful to have running through the night!

Some gal sang the Canadian Anthem, and then we all sang the American National Anthem followed by a prayer led by Horton. And then it was GO time.

This race has A LOT of climbing. Miles of climbs. It was wonderful having the moonlight because we could shut our headlamps off while walking up the gravel roads. Gave the eyes a nice break! I remember by mile 15 my hamstrings were already starting to get sore, and I was thinking man this is going to be a long day lol! It was awesome to be up close to the top of a mountain and then look back down the switchbacks and see all the headlights bobbing their way up…just surreal.

We came to the first creek-not so bad. I heard someone say “this is the creek before the creek” and I thought oh, it must get worse. They had had a lot of rain down there so there were plenty of spots where water was running across the trail that had made its way down the mountain. In fact there were spots where the water was coming right out of the mountain! Very cool. Until you were running in it and your feet were soaked ha-ha

When we came to the creek Horton had mentioned it was up to about my knees, rushing along pretty good. I was about half way across when I saw the photographer sitting on the bank in the dark and that was quite a startle! Made my way across and squished up the other side; long climb to dry out and then some more single track. There was a single track section in here that had a ton of leaves and I found out soon enough that the Altra Instincts have less than desirable traction on such surfaces. I was sliding all over the place through there, once I almost slid right off the trail and down the mountainside so mental note for next time!

Seeing Jodie at the aid stations was a good boost. She crewed for everyone in our group, and found her way from aid station to aid station all night. It is always nice having someone you know helping out there! Plus I always got to ask how everyone else was doing, since I was last in our group coming through after Brad got ahead of me. I still cannot believe he decided to go ahead with the race with no training for 2 months and rocked it! WTF?!

Throughout the race I talked with a few people who were finishing up the Beast Series…had one guy (SNIPER) who pointed out Telluride Mountain as we were climbing up a mountain beside it. Always cool to talk with local runners too, who fill ya in on all the history of the trail and ‘what those guys are doing with the dogs’ that kept passing me while they were going up the trail in their hunting trucks. The aid stations were great, manned by students from Horton’s classes. They were encouraging and as helpful as they could be. At aid station 4 I heard of people dropping already. All I could think about was my dnf at Glacial. Seriously, it haunted me every time I thought about how hard things were getting or how much this or that is starting to hurt or how much farther can this climb possibly go on? I mean the mountain is only so tall right? Ha-ha There was no way I was not finishing this race….

Through aid station 6 I felt ok, which was around 30-40 miles. Soon after this however I started to get bad inflammation in my feet and ankles, and things were kind of at a real low. I struggled through the next section, running with Drew, a guy from Richmond who I got to know pretty well while running the next few hours. At aid station 7 I knew I needed something.  I argued with myself about taking Ibuprophen for a few hours...as I look at it as a crutch. Finally I just made the decision that nothing else is going to take the inflammation down, nothing in your pack, nothing in your supplements, nothing else you got on ya. I asked Jodie to see if she could find me some at aid station 8. She did, and after briefly talking with the medic there he said it was ok since I was hydrating well and had no cramping issues. After taking it and about 3 miles or so down the trail, I could almost feel the swelling go down and I was back in business! Still hurt but at least I wasn’t hobbling along! 

The rest of the race was pretty smooth sailing…there are sections of this race where you swear it’s just been forever, and then there are sections that are so scenic that I wanted them to last forever. The view of the mountains was just awe inspiring, and reminds me why we trail runners do what we do! At night the lights from the cities in the valleys was amazing, the sun coming up was such a welcome sight, the brilliantly green moss on the rocks and some tree bases was neat to see- so much tied into this race.  I can see why everyone calls it a special 

Climbing the last hill, you already have a smile (at least I did, I believe the guy behind me was cursing) as you know the end is in reach. I remember getting to the point where I realized that I was going to finish, in less than 17 hours. Talk about ecstatic! 

My Garmin watch helped me to get through the longer parts since the mileage was always longer than what the course said or the people at the aid stations would say. It lasted until mile 64- the last hill. I couldn’t believe it when the ‘low battery’ alarm went off! “Stay with me!” I said aloud, this is it! Then it faded to a dull blank screen… Alas, technology will never have the guts that ultra runners do…crossing that finish line and shaking Horton’s hand was a real treat to my memory. 

I am so glad that I was able to be a part of Hellgate 2011, and now I understand why Robert keeps on coming back to this one.

Mmmmm... Ensure....

Brad, Marcell, and Robert

(Editior's Note:  Joseph Jameson, Friend of the LPTR family and Race Director at the Marquette Trail 50 finished 8th overall!  WTG Joe!!)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tuscobia Winter Ultra

Midwest ultra-runners Helen Lavin and Chris Scotch have stepped in to save the Tuscobia Winter Ultra after it had been briefly cancelled due to some personal complications that came up for the previous race director.   

The Mid-December event features options for 150 miles, 75 miles or 50k along snowmobile trails between Park Falls and Rice Lake, WI.    Race rules mirror those for the legendary Arrowhead Ultra - This is a no frills, minimal support, tough-as-nails affair for hardy winter souls!  

Great to see individuals from within the Ultra community stepping up to keep an event alive!   With all the combined experience from Helen and Chris, you know it will be a very well run race.  Check out the details here at the event site:

So far only ONE WISCONSINITE IS REGISTERED!!?!?   Represent!!!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

New Years Eve 50K FA at the Nordic...

LPTRunner, Tom Bunk, has announced he will be hosting a 50K FA event on New Years Eve.  The start is scheduled for 7:30AM, Saturday, December 31st.  Plan to meet at the Nordic trail-head in La Grange, WI (Same starting point as the Ice-Age 50 and Kettle 100).

Hope to see lots of people out there - Should be a great way to close out 2011!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How to Baste a Turkey...

Dehart sure knows how to baste a turkey...

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Cassie wins the 49th running of the JFK 50 mile in the third fastest time in race history !!! Her time was right around 6:31!!!!!! WOW!!!!  Meghan Arborgast is 2nd...

Summary from irunfar:

On the women’s side, Cassie Scallon, unknown to many, ran away fromMeghan Arbogast when they hit the trail section only 3.6 miles into the race and never looked back. Scallon won JFK in the third fastest women’s time in race history – 6:31:37. Arbogast fell as far as 7 minutes back before closing late in the race. She finished in 6:35, the fourth fastest women’s time on the course. Arbogast broke the women’s 50+ course record by over 85 minutes and bested the 40+ record by 7 minutes. Elissa Ballas was third in 7:01.

Zach Bitter finishes 6th overall in a field that featured two runners under the 17 year-old course record.  David Riddel outlasts Wardian for the win in 5:40:45, breaking Eric Clifton's record by over 6 minutes!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Big Cheese at JFK?!

The JFK 50 mile will be run this weekend out in Washington DC and is closing in on its 50th year.  Every year, fast times are cranked out on the tow-pathes along the canal.   While technically a trail run, this one runs more like a road race with minimal elevation gain.  

The size of the field is a factor as well as over 1000 participants typically toe the line.  The buzz around the event attracts high profile Ultra runners and DEEP fields.   This year's competition should be no different and Wisconsin should be well represented.

Our very own LPTRunner, Cassie Scallon, is turning some heads with her stellar performances this year and iRunFar's preview of the race lists her as one to watch...

"Cassie Scallon is one of the field’s dark horses. More or less unknown, she’s run seven ultras in the past year and a half and has consistently placed near the front of the women’s field, including three wins. Of note are Scallon’s 7:45 at last year’s Glacial Trail 50 mile and 4:15 50k last month, also at Glacial Trail. She’s never run JFK, but her beau and iRunFar Coach Sean Meissner has run JFK (6:34 in ’07) and has surely provided her with adequate insight."

Being a dark-horse is perfect - Cassie is flying under the radar a little and it will be fun to watch her give notice!  Go Cassie!!!!!

Wisconsin should have an impact in the men's race as well as Zach Bitter (who claims he will be earning his LPTR sticker this summer!?) will take the USA's fastest 50 mile time this year and throw down with some of the sports biggest and baddest.  iRunFar lists him as a dark horse as well...

"Even more exciting is the biggest dark horse in the field, 25-year-old Zach Bitter posted the fastest American 50 mile time of the year with a 5:26:22 at the Fall Classic less than a month ago. Bitter has only two other ultra finishes, both sub-6:10 50 mile efforts at the past two The North Face Endurance Challenge races in Madison, Wisconsin."

Read the full previews here at iRunFar:



GOOD LUCK CASSIE AND ZACH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Rails to Trails Marathon

Race Report from LPTRunner Ron Bero:

Rails to Trails Marathon.  Norwalk, WI, Nov 6, 2011.  3 LPTR’s ran this race this past Sunday.  Ron Bero, Dave Neitzel & Loraine Bunk ran it.

I know – it’s only a marathon.  Doesn’t really belong on the blog.  On the other hand – this is LPTR.  LP Trail R remember.  And technically, the Elroy Sparta TRAIL is a Trail.  Established in 1965 it is the first of it’s kind to be designated a National Recreation Trail.

This was going to be an adventure.  Mr. Grabowski was going to bring his Gypsy Camper to the Norwalk Town Park and set up camp.  The Bero’s were to stay at the posh Kickapoo Valley Ranch, 30 minutes away.  A rendezvous was to occur at Wild Cat State Park, located between La Farge and Norwalk.  The Grabowski’s did not make the trip leaving the Bero’s to spend the day shopping for bonnet’s, quilts, bakery and (thankfully) cheese and furniture at various Amish Farms located on Hwy D between Cashton and La Farge.

Right, forgot, this is a running blog.  The Rails to Trails marathon is great !  it starts Sunday at 9:00 except it’s really 10:00 since it’s the day after we fall back.  It runs on a flat crushed sandstone (maybe limestone except it’s brown) rail bed.  It actually is fairly curvy and it goes through a ¾ mile tunnel that 100 (or 38 mile fun run) mile runners have an advantage in since you can’t see ANYTHING (if you are 50 and your eye sight is going).  i.e., this marathon is MUCH better than the trail breaker.

I highly recommend this race since, after all, it’s only a marathon and you can be done in 3 and a half or so hours.  – oh, it’s 1.5 out and back then 11.5 out and back so you can have a Frank Marino concert for the run back to the barn (except it’s not a barn, it’s a park and there are lots of friendly people there barbequing chicken parts and serving beer).   

I’ll be back next year and I hope we can fill up the Kickapoo Valley Ranch (I would NOT recommend camping in the park – you need quarters for the showers – just try to visualize showers that take quarters – you’ll get the idea).

Tom Bunk has some pictures on his Face Book page.

Ron and Lorraine

Thursday, November 3, 2011

How Engaging!!

Typically this blog concentrates on race reports, gear reviews and all things Ultra-Running...but we are excited to take a moment away to announce...

LPTRunners Julie Treder and Sam Librizzi announced their great news at Wednesday's group run to cheers from all!  We are really happy for them both and wish them all the best!


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fall 50 - Door County: Bruce Udell's Report

I headed into this year’s race with optimism for a PR despite a torn and aggravated right hamstring.  I felt in good shape coming off of Ironman and a 3 hour marathon at Lakefront.  My concerns were whether or not my hamstring would hold up and my lack of training in the last 3 weeks.  I had tried a 4 mile run a week before the race and felt the hamstring pull 3 miles into it.  I would be racing on 21 miles total training for the 3 weeks prior to the event.

3 days before the race I found out that my plans for a room the night before fell through.  Luckily Tracy Neupert from APG came through with a place for me to stay.  Thursday I taped my hamstring with Kinesio tape and went for a short easy run.  The pull felt ok but the other side of the hamstring that I didn’t tape ached.  Friday I shaved the back of my legs and taped my whole right hamstring plus part of the left as that also was sore.

            Tracy and I made it to the bus for the ride up at 5:30 am with few seats left.  Christine Crawford had saved me a seat so that we could talk about how we both shouldn’t be doing the race.  We arrived with about 25 minutes until the start, just enough time without getting too cold as I debated over short or long sleeves.  The weather was close to ideal with temperatures (I believe) in the 40s so I stuck with the long sleeves.

The race began with one guy sprinting out followed by Stuart Kolb and John Storkamp with a woman in fourth place.  A few of us settled into a very comfortable 7:30-7:45 pace and over the next few miles I was surrounded by familiar faces and the conversations began.  Two hot topics being how long the leader and lead woman would last.  Seeing the tape on my legs they asked about my hamstrings, I lied and said they felt okay when I was really questioning the light aches in them.   After several miles we had a pack of 4 left including Kurt Rompot (with his wife in the “mobile aid station”), Nic Giebler and Dave Niblack(a newcomer with a 2:50 marathon).

At the second aid station I pulled away as they took longer to refuel and started gaining on Alisha, the lead female.  I could sense inexperience as she sped up every time people cheered us on and again as she saw my shadow approaching.  I ran with her for a couple of miles and found out she ran last year in about 7:40 and was trying to bank some time (bad idea I thought as she faded behind me).  The other 3 guys soon caught up to me and we stayed close until mile 25.  We hit 25 miles at 3:13 and I figured if I could just maintain an 8-8:30 minute pace the second half I would easily PR.

In the next few miles the others started pulling away as my pace slowed and I started to realize an 8 minute pace wasn’t going to last.  At mile 35 I caught up to John walking but after a couple of miles he caught a second wind and passed me as I entered a dark place where the miles began to really hurt.  Surprisingly my hamstrings were ok but my calves were twitching with cramps, both my Achilles were aching, the right knee was sore (probably due to bad form induced from trying to compensate for the hurt hamstring) and bones in my feet were throbbing with each step.  Lesson learned:  don’t ever wear marathon racing flats for a 50 miler. 

It was at this point I started questioning why I was putting myself through this as my legs were screaming to stop.  I know I have hurt in past 50 mile races but this seemed worse (even though it probably wasn’t and is one of the reasons for recording this).  I have suffered in past Ironman races and walked put not like the pain I was feeling now, every step hurt.  I thought I was in 2nd place for Master’s (forgetting that Kurt is in his 40s so I was really in 3rd) and couldn’t let up.  I figured if I could just maintain 9 minute miles I was unlikely to get caught by anyone from behind.  However I gave in to the pain and allowed myself to walk 20 seconds each mile.  Unfortunately between that and the pain in every step I was only producing 10 minute miles.  I did find out after the race that a couple of the guys in front of me walked for 1 minute each of the last 10 miles so then I didn’t feel so bad. 

I continued this for the next 5 miles until aid station #8 (mile 42) where I saw runners behind me and knew it was up to me as to where I would finish.  I picked up the pace slightly and gave up walking but it wasn’t long before I heard voices and was passed by Alisha with a pacer.  At least she wasn’t in my divisionJ.   My legs felt a little better now and I was now running 9:30 miles but couldn’t let up as Kevin drove by and told me there were 2 guys 150 yards behind me.  

I ran through the last aid station knowing I had enough fuel for the last 4 miles but again I heard voices coming from behind.  This is where I realized that racing 50 miles is a lot tougher than running 50 miles.  If I was to place today it was up to me to earn or lose that spot.  I literally told myself to dig deep and picked up the pace.  I had the energy and my legs felt good enough to run faster but my feet ached with each step and my calves had spasms shooting through them, I was afraid a cramp would shut me down.  

Holding back enough to avoid the cramps I had picked it up to an 8:30 pace and after a couple of miles I looked back to see that I had put a couple hundred yards between me and the other 2 runners (turned out one was a pacer).  I kept the pace up but then felt a strain in my groin and eased off a bit to avoid another potential debilitating pull or cramp.  With a mile to go I realized an 8:00 would keep me under 7 hours but after a half mile at that pace the constant spasms were like knives sticking in my calves and I figured I would rather run across the finish than crawl.  I reduced my stride to a no push off fast leg swing and finished in 7:00:54.

I stuck around several hours for the great post race party to find out how everyone else did and to hear their stories or maybe it was for the beer to soothe my aching legs.  Either way it was a blast and a great finish to my 2011 season.  Now for some long over due recovery before I start training for my first Birkebeiner. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

100 Mile Double Door County Fall 50...

Race Report from LPTRunner Aaron Schneider...

I grew up in Sturgeon Bay, the county seat of Door County.  Living in Milwaukee now I still consider the roads and trails in Door County has my home course… all of it!  I love it up there.  To me there is not a bad season to enjoy a trip up there, but obviously Fall is one of the best times to visit the Peninsula.  Naturally I fell in love with Door County’s Fall 50; a relay event that offer a solo 50 miler that starts before the waves of relay teams.

All runners start at the far northern end of the Peninsula in Gills Rock and follow the Green Bay shoreline all the way to the end of the fifty mile course in Sturgeon Bay.  From an ultra run perspective this event is filled with more energy than any other 50 miler I’ve seen.  Just a few miles into the race and your already greeted by honking cars of relay runners heading for the start of the their event… all of which are probably trying to figure out why someone would voluntary run the whole course by themselves.  Once your out into the think of the course you find the same conversations you’ll find at any other ultra: about what have you run lately, what injuries are you recovering from, etc.  But you’ll also hear everyone talking about the amazing scenery, and how often it changes along the course.  From majestic views of the water to cliffs covered with fall color, and the interesting character of each of the small towns we pass through.  Most of the runners have been up to Door County before and lots of them are attempting their first Fall 50.  It’s always great for me to hear what the folks from out of town are saying about the place I grew up.  Its fun for me to share some of the stories I know from over the years of living in Door County.

Unless you’re in the top 5% of the 50 mile race you’ll likely be caught by relay runners during the journey down the Peninsula.  The energy they bring with as they are blowing by you is actually not as distracting as you might think.  Many are very encouraging (and sometimes amazed) of the 50 mile solo runners.  Plus most of the relay teams are themed and add a little entertainment to the day.  The race director is focused on getting all of the runners off the course before dark, because the course uses county road the entire way; the vehicle traffic can make for dangerous condition after dark for large groups of runners.  Thankfully the course is fast.  The hills are all in the first half of the race and in general are fairly forgiving.  The one thing the trail runners need to be ready for is that the entire course is on paved surfaces.  It’s a different challenge that I personal like to keep doing from time to time.

Aid for the event is good.  Each of the exchange zones for the relay serves as an aid station.  All are quicker, in and out types of stations with the essentials and friendly volunteers.  Because runners are allowed to have a support vehicle anytime, anywhere on the course many of the runners that have access to a crew for the day will load up a cooler of there personal goodies and just use as needed.  This is a great course for family and friends to follow you; since your not darting in and out of a forest.

Coming into the 2011 event I had competed two Fall 50’s already.

I love this event so much that I decided to do it twice in the same weekend.  Well, there is a little background to that idea.  One, it was something that came up a year earlier as I was sitting in the post race tent joking with friends about ultra-distance running.  “You know some day someone is going to double up this event and run 100 miles” I said.  My friends didn’t think it was an idea that was out the realm of possibilities, but I also don’t think they thought I’d be the one to do it first.  Second, in 2011 I had two DNF’s at the 100 mile distance.  Knowing that I had put in the needed training and was, as I feel, only hindered by illness and high temps; I was still looking for a 100 mile race for 2011.  Finishing a 100 miles had become a bit of a monkey on my back.  I had learned so much for each of my DNFs and I was anxious to get back out there and try again, but I didn’t need to fly half way around the country to do my next event.  Really, I had wanted to double up the Fall 50 for about a year, but my original plan of finishing the Superior Sawtooth 100 and taking it easy at the Fall 50 was already out the window.  Thus, it was time to kick the planning for the “Fall 100” into high gear.  I have family up in the area and they already know what I need for the Fall 50 course.  What I really needed was someone to crew for me during the night.  I wanted to run the extra 50 miles prior to the start of the Fall 50.  One thing I’ve learned from my pervious attempts and from what I’ve learned from follow runners that have finished the 100 mile distance is that it’s okay to set your self up for success.  Each of my pervious attempts at the 100 distance had been unaided.  Something I took pride in, but ultimately I was jealous of those that had crew with them when the going got tough.  So, this time I was going to need a crew, I was going to use my home course and I was going to use the energy of all the other runners out there that day.  I really felt I had a good plan.  The only thing was that I had to talk someone into staying up all night.  This past summer I was lucky to have connected with a new running buddy, Ashley Kumlien.  She had become a well accomplished ultra distance runner over the past two and half years (including a run across the US).  After crewing for her at the North Face 50 miler I told her of my idea, and without any convincing she was in.  I don’t know if she had more confidence in me than I did, or if she secretly just wanted to see what it was like to be out there all night long, as she is already planning her first 100 run for early 2012.  Regardless, we make a great team!  And to sweeten the deal Ashley also signed up for the Fall 50.  Thus we’d be able to run the second leg of my 100 miles together.  Who gets a pacer for 50 miles!?!?!?!?!?!?!  Yeah! I know! Lucky guy!!

I didn’t want this thing to be a simple show up and mutter my way through 100 road miles.  I still wanted to challenge myself and my crew.  We had a good plan and I not only knew we’d finish the journey together, I wanted us to have a finishing time that we could be proud of.  So I did the math. Since I was putting together my own race for the first 50 miles, I got to pick the starting time.  I decided to go with 8:00pm the night before the start of the Fall 50.  And the goal time would be 22 hours for the full 100 miles.  We would set out from right at the finish line of the Fall 50 and run to the start line in Gills Rock.

The run started out in Sunset Park with just Ashley and my parents and there were a few guys hanging around the finish area setting up stuff for tomorrow’s post race events.  After a few quick pictures, it was 8:00pm on the dot and I was off.  Into the dark night.  My parents headed home and rested, as they would have to meet Ashley and me in Gills Rock at 6:30am the next morning.  The roads were fairly quiet that night.  For the most part it was just me, Ashley in the SAG vehicle, and a clear starry sky.  No moon light though, still the stars made up for the darkness and not being able to see the fall colors we were running past.
Ashley kept track of my progress and made sure I was still hitting my scheduled times.  She would go out between four and six miles ahead of me.  As I’d arrive she’d already have the mini-aid station on wheels ready.  The pace was quick and I wanted to keep going, but since I was ahead of my times Ashley was smart to advise me to eat more and get of my feet for a minute or two.  A plan that would prove very beneficial later in the run.

Later in the night after the bars had closed it become completely quiet on the streets.  All we saw were the local sheriff portal cars checking on us.  By this time the local radio station had also heard of my run up the Peninsula during the middle of the night.  Ashley was updating me on the awesome music the radio station was playing and how they thought we were totally insane for running out there all night long.

I reached Gills Rock and the start of the Fall 50 in 9hrs, 45mins (5:45am).  Not quite was fast as I thought I might go, but perfect for what I still had head of me.  There was about an hour before Ashley and I would have to make our way to the starting line.  So after finding some dry clothes, I did what any good ultra distance runner would do at this point… I napped.  A good 30 minutes actually.  When my eyes opened there was just the hint of sunrise.  Was I ready?  Only one way to find out; put on a pair of running shoes and stand on my legs.  Honestly I was surprised how good they felt.  Perhaps it was the adrenaline or something, but I couldn’t wait to get going.  I think I was actually too excited to get to the starting line.  Ashley was still in the process of putting together her stuff to start her 50 mile run on no sleep.  Some of this was a blur as my parents had arrived and we were updating them on what we would need first.  I’m pretty sure Ashley and I were the last to make the group of about 100 runners that were doing the Fall 50.  We exchanged a couple quick hellos with two of my running friends, Christine Crawford and Amanda Musacchio, and than we were off.  I was almost surprised how fresh I felt.  Perhaps it was the nap, or the dry clean clothes or just the excitement that this was all just happening but I was in really good spirits.

To me it felt like we were off to a good pace, but I’m sure Ashley was wishing we could pick it up a bit.  This was her first Fall 50 experience and this fast course was made for her.  She had put in lots of road miles over the past two years and I know was inching to improve on her 7hr,59min fifty mile PR.  I am grateful and lucky that she choose to stay with me that day.  Miles 50 to 70 seemed to click off fairly quickly.  But once we hit a long stretch in Peninsula State Park where we got separated from our crew vehicle things got a little interesting.  I was used to seeing them every four miles at this point.  It would be a very long 7 miles from the entrance to the park to the exit.  We had planned to see them once during that stretch, but didn’t.  Thankfully Ashley had her phone with her and coordinated our crew to meet us near the exit of the State Park.  At this point I was really spent.  It would take me a good 10 minutes to recover.  One thing new during this run was the Advocare Protein shakes that Ashley was making me drink.  I had taken protein during my other ultra events, but not to this level.  They were small doses at each stop, but none more important than the one at the exit of the State Park.  With that break and the new fuel in my belly I was out on the course again.   It was to the point that I just wanted to keep moving forward.  I had started to lose time from the pace I wanted to keep.  So the more moving forward I did, even if it was walking, the better I felt in my head (although at this point, my legs were starting to ask for longer breaks).

My pace slowed but we were still making good progress toward the finish.  I just wanted to get this down to a 10 mile run.  In my mind I was breaking up the race into smaller parts.  But this was also the point in the race that the last of the relay teams had caught and passed me.  Now there were only a few solo 50 mile runners out there and Ashley and I.  No more cheering from the relay teams.  With 12 to go we did the math and figured I’d have to average 9min miles to come in at a finishing time of 22 hours.  This was also the point when my feet finally started to win the battle with my brain and heart.  As much as I wanted to suppress the pain in my feet; it was no good.  My feet were winning.  Ashley tried desperately to keep me focused on the run and not on the pain.  I was just trying to get to the 10 mile to go marker, I had lost the big picture.  I had accepting that I wasn’t going to make it to the finish by 22 hours, and I had figured that there wasn’t going to be anyone expecting me to finish (although I knew I would; I just told everyone I’d be there much sooner than I was actually going to be there).

I made it to mile 90.  Now I was just focused on running.  Forcing myself to pick a point in the distance and run to it.  I could tell it had become a very long day for Ashley at this point.  Our patience for each other had grown a little thin, but we still found time to make fun of each other.  And I gave Ashley plenty of material.  Seeing how my feet were so sore, I adopted a new running form.  Boy, was that thing pretty (and tough on my quads).  I’m not sure of all the jokes told in the last few miles but I do remember I was glad I was around good friends.  With four miles left my friend Phil who was in the relay came and found us on the course.  This lifted my spirits quiet a bit.  I guess Ashley was right, I did have more left in the tank.  I found a new, quicker pace for a few miles.  Being that I was now a good 20 minute behind the pace I wanted it had started to get dark.  I was doing everything I could to finish before it was completely dark, and I was doing everything I could to keep from having to put that darn reflective vest on (thankfully Ashley was wearing hers).  Besides now in the distance about a mile away I could see street lights, we had made it the edge of Sturgeon Bay!

The finish line area can be a bit crowded so we had my parents go ahead for the last few miles and meet us at the finish line.  We had no idea how many people would still be left from the relay, but since the post race tent is basically the best post race party I’ve ever seen; I guess I figured they’d have a hard time finding parking in that area.
We were now within ear-shot of the PA system at the finish line.  Although the official time limit had pasted (max of 6pm, or 11hrs for the Fall 50), there was still a clock running and there was still hundreds of people hanging around the finish.  Being that it’s my hometown and with all the added attention of hearing about this guy running 100 miles on the Fall 50 course; I think the excitement grew over the duration of the day and lots of folks were excited to see me finish.  A van with flashing lights from the radio station came and escorted me in from the last half mile, the race director made an announcement that we were reaching the finish line, and crowds of people came out to see this unique event come to it’s finish.  I came down the finishing shoot to cheers deserving more of someone that had set the course recorded or something.  I couldn’t believe the number of people there to see the finish.  It was a dream achieved, and a moment that inspired many. 

Grand total: 22hrs,28mins. It wouldn’t have been the same without the amazing support of Ashley and my parents. And I am grateful they were there at the finish along with two of my other closest friends.  Usually these ultra distance events are in far off remote places.  Quiet events, you know.  And that was something I enjoyed about them.  But this day a lot of people go to share in the joy of completely 100 miles.  In a way they were all part of the successful journey.

What next?  I don’t know exactly but it’s going to be hard to top this.  Right now I need another adventure and wheels are already turning in my head.  Who’s coming with me?? J

Editor's Note:  Link to Off the Couch Blog Article:

Link to Door County Pulse Article: