Monday, October 29, 2012

Chicago 50/50 - 2012

Race report from LPTRunner, Mary Gorski...

What a difference a few rocks, roots, hills, pounding rain and chilly temps make.

Two weeks ago I did the Glacial 50K on the Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin’s Northern Kettle Moraine. The race course is about an hour’s drive from my house in Milwaukee.

This week, I drove a bit further to the south side of Chicago to run the Chicago 50/50. Like the Glacial 50, the course is on a trail. But instead of the rugged Ice Age, Chicago’s is a paved bike trail along the city’s lakefront starting just south of the Museum of Science and Industry.

Both races have a 50-kilometer and 50-mile option. This year, I opted for the kinder, gentler metric distance in each race.

Each event had lovely runners’ gifts: Glacial offered a fleece pullover; Chicago gave runners a long-sleeve tech tee.

This year both events had wind; LOTS of wind. At Glacial, the wind was combined with freezing rain and rapidly falling temperatures. The result was freezing runners and rapidly falling attitudes. We ran not to get a PR but to simply get to the heat of the finish building.

Yet as significant as the wind was at Glacial, it was even worse in Chicago. In some spots heading north it literally brought me to a standstill, my arms and legs flailing about as if I were a cartoon character trying to run but going absolutely nowhere. It seemed like Hurricane Sandy was getting some training on the Chicago course, preparing for her main event on the East Coast in a few days.

However, Chicago’s stop-me-in-my-tracks wind is my preference hands down over Glacial’s wicked one-two-punch of heavy cold rain and strong wind. At Glacial, the weather’s brutality was a constant. In Chicago, you got a break every five miles when you turned south on the three-loop course. “Uncle, uncle!” I yelled at one of the turn-arounds, as if to a bully who was waiting for me to yell the magic word before ceasing his abuse.

Going south, jackets were unzipped, gloves came off (because of warmth, not to punch fellow runners), conversations became lighter (with the wind at our backs we could finally hear each other speak). The wind gave us a little power assist from behind. This was nice. This I could do.

Of course, once runners made it to the start-finish area they had to return to the north-bound course two more times (in the 50K; the 50-mile had four out-and-back loops). “Just get to the turn-around, just get to the turn-around, just get to the turn-around…” This was our mantra as we moved forward on loops two and three.

The “we” for most of yesterday’s run was my friend Jay and me. After a bit of a hiatus from running, Jay has jumped back into the sport full steam ahead. Last week he ran a marathon so I figured that he’d be taking it easy this week. But when he pulled alongside me in the first mile he was doing a pace a bit quicker than I originally planned for myself. “Might as well stay together for at least a loop; I can back off on the next one,” I thought to myself.

So what does Jay say to me as we come in at the end of that first loop? “I’m going to let you go on the next loop; the pace is a little quick for me. I’m feeling last week’s marathon.”

I was starting to feel last week’s marathon as well even though I hadn’t actually run it. Must have been sympathy pains.

Back and forth we went during the next two loops, frequently coming together to grumble about the wind and encourage each other to just “make it to the turn-around; once the wind is at our backs it will be ok…”

Heading out on the last loop my legs felt like lead weights. Shoe inserts that normally added comfort to my feet developed an obnoxious squeak. I was getting a little grumpy as I once again was stopped in my tracks by the wind.

But then I looked at my watch. Driving to Chicago that morning I thought that 5:30 would be a good time to shoot for. It was about 50 minutes faster than my Glacial time two weeks earlier, but on a paved, flat course, I thought the time drop was realistic. With less than ten miles to go I realized that I could probably walk a good chunk of the third loop and still meet that 5:30 goal. And once I said “uncle” at the turn-around, releasing the wind’s brutal punch, perhaps my legs would perk up and I would be the proverbial horse heading to the barn.

In this case, the barn was a pop-up tent with Beth Onines’ legendary beans and rice for a post-race feast.

Finally, the last turn-around. I filled myself with high octane ultra-fuel: cola and Oreos. Sugar, caffeine and the wind at my back for the final five mile stretch: my legs perked up and I ran in for the finish, crossing the line just a hair over five hours (5:02 or 03; I forgot to hit my watch and Chicago does things the old fashioned way – the only chips you’ll find there are on the snack table; no instant computer chip timing).

Jay was just a few minutes behind me; giving me enough time to get my camera out for a finish photo.

The sun was still shinning, both of us seemed to be without injury, and the beans and rice were fabulous as always. We congratulated each other on our runs and then headed back to our respective states.

On the way home I celebrated the fabulous day with a visit to the Container Store in north suburban Chicago. Nothing like a brand new scrubbie holder for the kitchen sink to commemorate a good run.

As for the competitive side of the race, it looked like there were some strong performances in 50K and 50-mile divisions. Chicago has a fantastic course for fast times, in fact, the world 50-mile record was set there in 1984.

Results will be at the race website at:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Glacial Trail 50 Mile Report...

Race Report from LPTRunner Joel Lammers...

I originally signed up for the 50K but decided to run the 50 mile because Ron Bero said he was going to run the 50 mile. The morning of the race, Ron showed up but made the decision to switch to the 50K. I really couldn’t blame him. Steady rain, wind and temps in the low 50’s do not make for an enjoyable run through the Northern Kettle Moraine. My goal was to break 8 hrs. but that was before I knew what the weather conditions would be.

Robert gave the pre-race speech, led us to the starting line and we were off. The first 5 miles it was dark and it was difficult to see the rocks & roots with the rain drops reflecting off the beam of your head light. I went out easy making it to State Rd. 67 (7 mi) in about 65 minutes. Even though it was raining the trail was in very good shape. In fact, it was nice & soft to run on. I continued my steady pace and made it out to Butler Lake (13.5 mi) in just over 2 hrs. Sal helped me lube up some private areas that were chaffing and I made my way to Mauthie Lake (20.5) which I made in just over 3 hrs. The trail was really taking on water but was still very runnable. I slopped into the 25 mile turn around at about 3:45 which was 5 minutes ahead of my planed time. During the run I was eating a GU every 30 minutes along with snacking at the aid stations. I was drinking Succeed & Heed in my bottle and water & Coke at the aid stations. Due to the cool weather, hydration was never a problem. The relentless rain continued.

I headed back still able to maintain a steady pace and I was still feeling good. I wanted to cruise to Butler Lake and then really start pushing myself if I had anything left. I hit the 50K turn around point and the trail turned into a muddy cow path. Rumor has it that when Todd Egnarski was running the 50K, he took extra steps and worked up the trail on purpose. The next 10 miles were muddy and very hard to run in some areas, especially the flat areas where the water pooled. My pace slowed due to the conditions. I hit the State Rd. 67 (43 miles) with 67 minutes left to make my goal. Fortunately the rest of the way was mostly hilly & rocky so the trail was wet but light on mud. I had a little left so I was able to make a respectable push to the finish. I made my goal by 3 minutes. I was wet, cold, muddy, tired and glad to be finished.

Thank you Robert for putting on a wonderful event and I especially thank all the volunteers who worked in less than ideal conditions.

The End.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Wild Adventures at Wild Duluth 2012...

Race Report from LPTRunner Angela Barbera...

As I was standing on the podium bathed in the applause and accepting my slate grey cap award for winning the competitive Super (not senior) Masters Woman Champion division I reflected upon the past 20+ hours and determined yes, to enjoy this moment was worth it all !!
Wild Duluth 2012 was rerouted this year due to the damage suffered in the Jay Cooke State Park. I read about the twists and turns in the race packet paying close attention to the description of a confusing intersection – whatever direction it is approached from, remember to run straight through it. The RD Andy Holak made sure to describe the intersection pre-race advising us that it would be marked – remember to run straight through it. I understood exactly what I needed do – therefore when I came upon the intersection around 13 miles after carefully reviewing the signs and flagging I made a sharp right. Up a single track trail, to the right again, and then up a steep hill called Spirit Mtn – only to be shocked to find that I had reached the Spirit Mtn Aid Station 31mile turnaround. Back, back, back to circle the confusing intersection and discuss with my cohorts that certainly straight was not the correct direction. Our group of seven were now bringing up the rear.
The day was beautiful, the volunteers great, I enjoyed the new course. It was technical and included some rock jumping. Talked with old friends made some new friends – was the recipient of some great stories from John T - had a wonderful time. By 47miles I had made up the time lost in the morning and was hoping to beat my time from last year. I only need to get back to the finish that was 15 miles away in 5 hours to make the goal. My stomach was starting to grumble but I figured I could get it done!
I probably should have grabbed some soup at the aid station – but oops, did not! My stomach finally won a couple of miles later and the contents were expelled from my body. I felt better almost immediately but woozily continued to follow the blue blazes on the trees with my headlamp. About 5 minutes later I found myself alone and confused about where I was and how I got there. There were a lot of paths, however no flagging or blue blazes in sight. On the positive side it certainly woke me out of slumber. The next 30 or so minutes were spent trying to find the path and determine the best option. I did not want to be “that runner” and not even sure how I would even be found if someone went looking for me in several hours. Finally I came across a white blaze on a tree and it was marked as a trail spur to the main SHT trail. I affectionately patted the tree and was considering kissing it. I found my way back to the SHT and luckily there was a flag so I could determine what direction I needed to continue in. After another hour or so or so I finally reached the aid station and upon my inquiry was told I was not the last runner and could continue on. My stomach was back to fighting with me and the volunteers generously offered me a piece of their pizza – however I knew that would not work. I grabbed half a banana and some coke and continued on.
Soon I paired up with my new friend Gary confident that he was my angel and I would not get lost and subsequently ripped apart by the coyotes in the wild that night. A couple of miles later the banana along with my shoes were expelled from my stomach – making me feel like a new woman. With only 6 or so miles to go I knew I would not need any additional food or drink to make it in, and that we would finish and we did!!
The finish was not pretty but a finish is a finish and looking back on it now I can say I truly enjoyed the entire day. Friends, trails, scenery, and a good chili at the end…can life get any better? A great weekend!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Glacial 50/50: Where's a hot flash when you need one?

Race Report from LPTRunner Mary Gorski...

“Where’s a hot flash when you need one?”

This is what I was thinking at about mile 25 of today’s Glacial 50K. I haven’t been so cold at a run since I was wading through frigid, waist-deep water – while it was snowing – at last December’s HUFF 50K.

Rain was predicted for today. Saturday night it stormed in Milwaukee, about an hour south of the course.

I expected rain. But when we walked from the house to the car it was actually warm pre-dawn. Wearing ¾ tights, I grabbed a pair of shorts to change into before the start. Our car thermometer showed 60 degrees as we headed out of Milwaukee.

“A perfect day for a run!” I thought, as did Jay Hodde, who stayed with us the night before his 50-mile attempt.

And it was a perfect day for a run... if you stayed in Milwaukee. But Greenbush (race headquarters) had reportedly received two inches of rain in just the first hours of its 50-mile and 50-kilometer races. Temps were in the 40s, not 60s.

“I had no idea it had been raining up here,” said a friend who drove up from Milwaukee to see the end of the race. 

Thanks for the reminder Tom.

It was appropriate that RD Robert Wehner gave out fleece pullovers as participant gifts. We received them when we signed in and I fantasized about mine for many miles. I also fantasized about hot tubs, hot cocoa, and simply the concept of “hot” itself. Three weeks earlier I had been in warm and humid India and after a couple of weeks of incessant sweating, I told myself that I would never complain about the cold again.

Oh how quickly one forgets.

Several volunteers noted that there was little kidding around with runners at the aid stations. We were all business as we tried to get in and out quickly, not because we cared about setting a personal best, but because we wanted to get to the end while we could still feel our limbs.

The rain occasionally calmed, but never stopped. As we headed back north, the winds picked up as well, plastering saturated shirts and jackets against our cold bodies, sapping out any heat that was still remaining.

Even my shoulders were cold. I’ve received the cold shoulder from others, but I never actually experienced my very own body giving me the cold shoulder treatment.

So obviously the cold was my most significant memory of this year’s Glacial 50/50. And since I am prone to a bit of embellishment (exaggeration?) it probably wasn’t all that bad. Actually, the first half was sometimes quite pleasant. So I am only exaggerating about half (a third?) of the race.

But it is no exaggeration that it was a good event. Robert warned us that there wouldn’t be as many signs on the course this year and that we would have to pay attention to the Ice Age yellow trail markers ourselves. But it was fairly easy. Not too many lost souls today.

The Ice Age Trail in Wisconsin’s Northern Kettle Moraine usually drains faster than my bathtub after a Draino treatment. But today it was a soupy mess of mud. Fallen leaves on rocks looked like poorly applied, and slippery, decoupage.  Yet surprisingly, a lot of the trees managed to hang on to their fall-colored leaves even in the midst of the rain and wind.

Before my teeth started to rattle, I thought that the woods were quite pretty. And even after I started to shiver, I still thought that they were pretty but it was the kind of pretty that I felt like enjoying from inside the car, with a cup of coffee in my hands and a blanket on my lap.

Coming to the finish my plan was to just keep running and go into the Greenbush community building. I didn’t care about a finishers’ medal. All I cared about was heat and dry clothes. Evidently the volunteers felt the same way because the finishers’ table was under the awning by the building’s door. The finish line was still at the roadway but well-wishers cheered us from afar, protected from the rain. And even protected, they looked cold.

I never broke stride as I made my way past the table, put my arm up for the volunteer to do a ring-toss style medal delivery around it, and headed inside, straight toward the hot vat of chili. Thank you Sally Wehner for having it ready and waiting. Just putting my cold hands around the outside of the crockpot brought an indescribable happiness.  

My finish time was slower than some years, faster than others. To be honest, I don’t know the exact time since I didn’t have the small motor skills to push up my sleeve and get to my watch. My hands were uncooperative until I got to that chili vat.

Several people had slower than usual times, but not the winners. Unfortunately, I don’t know his name but I heard that the 50K winner crossed the line in about 3:51. He hardly had time to get cold on the course. The 50-mile winner was in the community building while I was still eating my chili – and he only had an hour head start on the 50K runners.

Results will be at the Badgerland Striders website in the next few days.

Many thanks Robert and Sally Wehner for a great race, as well as the volunteers that braved the cold and rain. I thought that I was cold, but I am sure that many of them were doing worse.

Congrats to the finishers in both events, especially my LPTR and TP buddies. A big AGGGGGGHHHHHH to Todd Egnarski, and a special congrats to Jim Blanchard and Dawn Chavez who finished the 50K together after each taking some unintended time away from running.

If I keep mentioning names, I’m bound to miss someone, so enough. 

As for Jay, today wasn’t his for a 50-mile finish, but it was great to have the excuse of the race to spend some time visiting with him and Corey.

No more words; time to go back to my hot cocoa and see if I can stay awake through the Packer game.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

There and Back Again: A Runners Tale

Report from LPTRunner Marty Kanter-Cronin...

I am a house on fire. A microwave of flesh and bone, cooking inside out. I’m barely holding lunch in a rope knot twisted stomach. I’ve never tossed it during a run, and I’d really prefer not to break that streak right now.  I teeter on a taut line. Struggling not to fall and shatter. There is no one there to pick up my pieces. I’ve been at it for nearly 43 miles. Running out of the Eagle section of the Ice Age trail, past hwy 59 and headed south, I exit the open prairie where it was an unseasonable 80 degrees. Finally in the cool shade of the forest. The next 3 miles will take me an hour, as I try to get my system righted. The question is on my mind as I shuffle along, one asked of me many times over the past several weeks.


Why would anyone want to run from one end of the Southern Kettle Moraine to the other, and back again?

The question comes in two forms. The first is rhetorical; not really expecting an answer. Usually coming from a non-runner, it has the element of challenge as in “Why would anyone want to do that?”  For these people, a return volley “Why not?” is usually sufficient to end the conversation. They are not going to understand a real answer any way. The second kind of why is from many wanting an answer. Are you training for something? Are you running for charity? Is this a “Fastest Known Time” attempt?

It’s not all that complicated, really. I just wanted to see if I could. It really is that simple. It really is that fragile. To test myself, mentally, physically, spiritually.

So why the Kettle?  To quote Edmund Hillary, when repeatedly asked why climb Everest: “Because it’s there”. Because it’s out there, and someone has to do it. And I have to do it. An itchy feeling that just must be scratched; a thing to haunt your dreams and keep you up at night; a stone in your shoe that will not shake out. It is a good thing Everest is not in my back yard. Never mind that its already been climbed; I would have to do it too.

The Southern Kettle. To run there, and back again. All of it.  From Rice Lake to Hwy C, and then turn around, and do it again. 31.5 miles each way, 63 miles total. Simple rules: Do it solo, self-supported. No aid stations, no drop bags, no water stashed on the trail. Everything I needed I would carry with me.

There is elegance to the start of a local adventure. Minimal planning, no plane tickets, no shuttles, no set up. I am flush with excitement, starting at 4 am on a Saturday, the dark carrying its own kind of magic. I carry 2 liters of water and a pile of food. Probably too much, but that is part of the trial of the day. It is one of those axioms hard to defeat: if you have the room in your pack, you will fill it. I have over 5000 calories. 15 pounds or so, with headlamp and some other gear.

So I carry everything. Some of it’s a guess, you never know what the weather or your food needs are going to be. Many folks wanted to come and support me, and I appreciated the thoughts and gestures very much. It shows what great supportive community exists in Ultra running. But I wasn’t counting on anyone but me for any of my needs, simply because counting on myself was the point. In the coming months, many other adventures lay waiting, and most of the time, I won’t have that support anywhere to be found.

There is that mental support too, when you know you are coming to an aid station, or your crew. Once I got started, the only thing I could count on was me, so it’s good I like my own company. Interestingly, I actually still had that mental boost when I knew I was coming to a familiar spot. A road crossing, a landmark, anything. I would arrive, and the thought on my mind was “Wow, here I am! I made it to there!”

Mostly, though, I was just running. At first alone with my thoughts; run and think and run and think. Thinking thinking, thinking until suddenly you stop thinking. You let the animal out of the cage. You don’t think you just act. The mental energy burned away. Foot, rock, root, tree, turn, up, down, jump, move, look. Stop and look. Be there. Cresting Bald Bluff, sunrise just started. See what a glorious day it is to be alive.  I wasn’t thinking about where I had to be, what time it was, or how fast I was running. I was running. Moving through the forest, with a capable speed. It was just plain good to be here. It felt just right.

The section from Emma to Hwy 67. Usually too hot in the summer, or too fly infested, in the fall it is glorious. Everything was blooming in the prairie. Flowers, full, leaves, red and yellow and brown. Waves waves and waves of blowing, moving sea of tall grass.


Hwy 67, Road X, Piper Road, Scuppernong, Pine Woods. The miles flow. I reach Hwy C, and Robyn is waiting for me. It was a nice surprise, unexpected. A kiss, a photo. I’m off.

Time to go back again.

As the miles pile on, it gets hard, then easy. Highs, lows. Thoughts of doubt, of my own ability. Euphoria. I remember two places in particular. After hitting 54 miles around Hwy H on the return, I realized “This is the farthest I have ever been!” I had such a high, I ran the next three miles under a 9 minute pace. I was floating on a cloud. Soon after, about 5 miles from the finish, between Duffin and Hwy 12 I hit a low low low. I was in that place where the brain is just saying stop. It passes.

There were times, as there always are, when I had everything I needed, but nothing I wanted. Times when food wasn’t going down to stay down, and I could have used something different. I dealt with it. Digging deep, working without a shovel, you find the resolve to keep going. Dig deep, setting heart and soul on fire, sometimes the only things that burn. Give me silence, water, hope. Give me struggle, iron, volcanoes. The poet Neruda.

In the end I used less than half of what I carried. My 15-pound pack could have been closer to 10 pounds, had I given it more thought. But, that was part of the point. What do I need? How much do I really need? I mean how much stuff have I ever gotten at an aid station? It seemed to me, not all that much. If I could figure out how to carry what I need, what kind of range would suddenly open up to me as a runner? What possibilities? Your imagination is the only limit to the possible adventures.

Running and Ultra running events primarily focus on time and competition, and I love Ultra events. The community, the atmosphere, the competition. It is the glue that holds many ultra people together. Races are always going to be a part of my ultra life, whether participating or volunteering. But to limit myself to that one facet of running is to leave out some great possibilities. Open it up. It can also be done for the thing itself. And any act done for itself should have elements of style, elements of fun, elements of challenge to it. (And not too many rules).

So I am reaching the 15-hour mark. Yet, for this run, elapsed time was never really much of a factor. It was about range, self-sufficiency. Fast and efficient was just one element instead of the only one. No one asked Edmund Hilary how fast he got to the top of Everest, just that he got there at all.

After Hwy 12, with about 4 miles to go, twilight was setting in. The timeless time of October light. I ran out the sun, from east to west. Another feeling rises up. I wasn’t hungry, tired, or anything. I was just ready to be back again.

Robyn and a good friend of ours, Cheri are waiting for me. Headlights on, and cheering loudly. A nice surprise. Watermelon, and an Izze soda quench the fire in my belly.

Deep breath.

So, I made it there. And then, I made it back again.

Breaking Knees and PR's - 2012 North Face Endurance Challenge 50k Race Report

Race Report from LPTRunner Nick Weid...

Ouch!!.... Followed closely by OH NO!!!!... These were the first two phrases that popped into my head when, 9 days before The North Face Trail 50K, I attempted to walk across a grocery store parking lot only to be stopped short by an excruciating pain encompassing my entire right knee. Now I have battled on and off with a tight IT band but this was not even close. While IT issues are more localized to certain areas of the knee, the pain that I currently felt was like something had exploded inside my knee cap. I decided right there, ha my knee decided, that I would not run another step till race day. So it was time to reacquaint myself with interval session on the bike and ladder sprints in the pool. I usually swim, bike, and lift weights while running, but for the next 10 days these would become my focus. I also made an appointment with my Chiropractor Dr Charles “Buck” Blodgett. It took him 5 whole seconds to deduce that my tibia and femur were no longer aligned and my knee was rotated, YIKES! Well he adjusted me and I swam and biked away my frustration.

Sunrise mist (Photo from TNFEC)

Race day started out like always; up early, eating while getting ready so your body doesn’t realize you are filling it with food at 3:30am, and driving to the race. The morning air was a bit chilly, so I chose to wear arm warmers. The great thing about arm warmers is that once the day heats up you can roll them down and they are great for wiping sweat out of your eyes. Well the call to get ready came, everyone left the comfort of the heaters, lined up, and off we went. Due to the knee issues I decided I would hang just off the front and take it easy through the first 10 miles. The first 10 miles run through the Scuppernong Ski trails and a northern section of the horse trails, and are hilly. While not long hills they are steep and relentless. They were also made all the more beautiful by the fog which had settled due to the cool temps. My plan was to make it through this section in the top 20 then see how my knee was holding and begin to pick up the pace. I ran this first section with several guys from my trail running group, The Lapham Peak Trail Runners. We were running a comfortable pace and the conversation was flowing just as easily.

The next 10 mile or so section is on the Ice Age Trail, which has some small hills, but is mostly fast and non-technical. I decided here, since my knee was holding, that I needed to pick it up. I settled into a pretty fast pace and began to reel in both people and the trail. Throughout the race I was blown away by the number of aid station staff and road guards from the LPTR group, it was a huge boost to see so many friendly faces while pushing hard. I road this wave of energy to the final turn onto the horse trail.

The horse trail is soft sand which you can not avoid, even if you run off trail. Soft sand is not something you want to face at the end of a race. But I decided to turn on the tunes and maintain the best running pace I could. I was still moving pretty quickly up the hills, just not as fast over the sandy flats. I managed to reel in several more people. I started to cramp a little in the final 2 miles. Up the last big climb I went and then I let gravity do its thing on the other side. I made it to the final .8 mile section of road before being seized by full cramps. I managed to run through the finish and hold off a hard charging Adam.

I was extremely happy with my results at this race. I managed to run a 4:35 (results) for 12th (13th overall, yes I got chicked), set a PR, and had zero knee issues the entire race. Sometimes I guess you just need to go for a really long run. My nutrition was spot on and powered by VESPA, stay tuned I plan on detailing what I eat before a race and how I fuel in a future post. The course is very beautiful, the volunteers are spectacular, and the event itself is well put together. If you are looking for a fun and somewhat faster course then I would highly recommend this race. At the end of the race I had the pleasure of hanging out with the winner of the 50 Mile, and new course record holder, Ian Sharman as well as the third place finisher Eric Senseman. Both Ian and Eric ran amazing races and were great people to end the day with. I also got a consolation picture with Dean Karnazes for getting “chicked”.

Dean Karnazes and I

50 Mile Podium
L-R Eric Senseman, Mike Bialick, Ian Sharman

My Cheerleaders

Race Result
50K (31miles) 4:35:51
12th Male 13th Overall9th AG (26-35)

Gear Used
Shoes - Hoka One One Stinson Evo B (
Socks - Drymax Trailrunning (Performance Running Outfitters)
Calf Sleeves - CEP (Performance Running Outfitters)
Shorts - Salomon Exo S-Lab II (
Jersey - Sugoi Team Jersey (Performance Running Outfitters)
Hat - Headsweat (
Bottle - Ultimate Direction Access (Performance Running Outfitters)
Arm Warmers - The North Face (Performance Running Outfitters)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Superior 100

Add caption
Race Report from LPTRunner Bruce Udell...

By now most of you know the outcome of my first 100 mile trail run at the Superior 100 and have said what a great race I had. But it was with the inspiration and support of so many people that it was more of a group effort that got me to the finish line. Therefore this is an acknowledgement to everyone involved and my journey to get there in addition to being a race report.

While I knew some day I wanted to attempt a hundred miler I really hadn’t decided when or where. After finishing July’s Dances with Dirt 50k, I was trying to figure out what race I’d do next when I remembered an email from Amy’s Play Group (APG) member Karla Bishop offering everyone a place to stay for the Yellowstone – Teton Endurance Race relay or solo 100 miler. Seeing fellow ultra runner Tracy Neupert (APG) was signed up for her first 100 it got me thinking, if Tracy is going for it why shouldn’t I? I had just done a 50k which would be a good foundation for my training so during a lunch run I ran the idea past friend and coworker Dave Nowotny. He not only supported the idea but said he would even be willing to crew for me (800 miles away)! Now the wheels were really turning, however upon further investigation we found that Yellowstone is a road race and I couldn’t see going that far on pavement (especially in such a beautiful area). So we starting looking for others that were a little closer and of course the Superior 100 (actually 103.3 official miles) came up along with the Hallucination 100 in MI.

I started asking about Superior at a Lapham Peak Trail Runner’s Wednesday night run and found Kevin Grabowski was making his third attempt at Superior with one DNF while Tina Heil had a 37 hour finish last year and was going back for more. How you could you not be inspired by this even if it showed the difficult level of the course? Then on a lark, Brad Birkholz said he might be willing to pace for me. I ran this by Dave and he said he could crew but could not go up until Friday. Now I would need a ride up and Tina came through big, not only with a ride but with a place to stay Thursday night and offering crew support until Dave got there. With everything falling into place and people to mentor me on the course how could I not sign up?

As word got around people were surprised maybe even amused that my first 100 would be at Superior, known as one of the more difficult and hilly races in the country with 20,000 feet of elevation gain (Rugged, Relentless, Remote is their slogan). In fact when Angela Barbera (a Superior veteran) heard, she laughed at me and bet I couldn’t finish it! She then asked what my goal was and laughed more when I said 30 hours. We ended up with 2 bets for three 6-packs of my choice (Saranac Carmel Porter, not available in WI). Angela claims this was to motivate me and had laughed because she knew I liked to run fast. This was not only twice as far as I had ever run but was totally out of my element as I like shorter races like the 50k where I can run the whole time. She also knew that if I started out as fast as I normally do I would never make it to the finish. She did offer me a bright headlamp to wear for night running (but that may have been an attempt to sabotage me).

As I learned more about the race from Kevin and Tina and looked up training advice on the internet I found there were 3 changes I’d need in my running: more miles, more hills and a slower pace. The miles and pace were not too difficult to implement but the hills would require work. Thanks to Amy Sanborn (APG) for inviting me to join her Skinny Girlz training group for hill repeats at Elver Park (even if it was the day after the Great Taste Midwest Beer Festival). That week I also got a great training tip from Darren Fourtney (APG and 2x Badwater 135 finisher). Since much of this race would require walking up hills, he recommended walking on the treadmill at a 15% incline. I added this to my training the next day and could feel the calves burning in less than a minute. My long run ended up being a 31 loop night run on a 1 mile trail I created on my father’s land, followed by 16 more loops less than 12 hours later.

Race preparation consumed much of my free time, not only the training but figuring out my gear and nutritional needs as well as mentally learning and preparing for the course. Finally the last piece of the puzzle fell in place when Brad confirmed that he would not only pace but be able to crew from the start. I think everyone was a bit bewildered with the amount of gear and supplies I had as I was prepared for everything and even had nutritional logs and instruction sheets for filling my flasks. My main energy supply would come from 3 flasks that I would carry: Gu premixed with water, Perpetuem, and Gatorade with S-caps and chia seeds.

The weather forecast was great, low 40s to the low 70s with light wind and no rain (when are forecasts correct)? Surprisingly I was very calm the 24 hours prior to the race but still only got about 3 hours of decent sleep. Race morning was cool, I lined up about 15 feet back so that I wouldn’t get drawn out too fast at the start. Kevin was ahead at the front line. He had told me not to run faster than a 10 minute pace. I hit the 3 mile mark at 29:55, right on target, but Kevin was nowhere to be seen. I passed numerous runners as I power walked up hills while they walked at a normal pace. At mile 7 I tripped for the first time and went down hard, I figured it was the first of many. I finally caught up to Kevin at the first aid station, mile 9.3. This was a no crew access station but I had a plan, and my first race failure. Paul Heil was volunteering at the aid station and I had given him a frozen bottle of Perpetuem to give me to dump in a flask. Unfortunately the cooler temps had the bottle still frozen so I left without it. I had a backup plan though and chewed a couple of Perpetuem tablets as I headed after Kevin.

I quickly caught up to him and ran behind him for a mile or so. He slowed up to climb over a high log and I had to step back to avoid being skewered by the spears he was carrying for protection from the wolves (he called them trekking poles). As I started over the log I caught my leg which caused my hamstring to cramp up, a bad sign I thought. I made it over just as a guy behind us said “guys, the trail turns here.” I hurried back over the log with my hamstring still cramping and headed after the other runner as Kevin was busy trying to bush wack a new trail ahead with his spears.

A few miles later, running alone, I slowed up when a large black animal appeared on the trail ahead of me. I believe I heard Kevin behind me, run away screaming, but I was quick to recognize it as a giant black lab with a stick in its mouth and a goofy look on its face (probably wondering what all the screaming was about). I continued past it and several yards later its owner came around the corner. That was it for my wildlife encounters in over 103 miles of wilderness. I made it to the first crew accessible aid station (mile 19.4) and Brad quickly replaced my hydration pack and nutrition flasks, I was out in under 2 minutes munching on a breakfast cookie from my wife, Trish.

I ran/walked the next 40 miles in a variety of weather as it constantly changed from hot sun to cloudy with a cool breeze to chilling rain showers. I felt no pressure other than to finish and slowed to take in some of the hill top views. I came to the downhill known as the “drainpipe” and picked my way down over wet rocks. I was pleased to find it was not as bad as expected but that was turning out to be par for most of the course. While the trail was filled with roots and rocks (sometimes the size of small cars) it was not as bad as I expected. Nor were the inclines and declines as steep and numerous as I though they would be. Since I had been expecting the worst it actually made things seem somewhat easy for much of the race. Not that there weren’t steep technical spots, a few times I saw my pace was barely over 2 miles an hour and that was on downhills! At one point I backtracked, thinking I had missed a turn when I came across ribbons on the wrong side of the trail. But it turned out they were markings for something else. And then I misread the signs and made a wrong turn as I came to the mile 50 aid station but only lost a total of several minutes between the 2 errors.

I covered the first 50 miles in just about 10 hours. This had me thinking, if I could do the next 40 miles in 10 hours, I might break 24 overall (that has won the race some years). But I knew I had a long night and much fatigue ahead of me. At the Finland aid station (mile 50.6) I was greeted by Dave, Angela and Marty Kanter-Cronin and took time for a change of socks, shoes, cap and shirt as well as relubing different body parts. Angela attempted to sabotage me here by feeding me a cheese quesadilla (actually she was very helpful and got me drinks while I changed). This was my longest aid station stop at just under 10 minutes.

It was at this point I was allowed to have a pacer as it was near dusk so Dave joined me for the next 12 miles. This was a fairly runable section and we kept up a decent pace that only slowed as it got darker and harder to see the trail. By now I was starting to get some soreness in my quads but really only felt it on the descents so it didn’t affect me too much.

We came into Crosby-Manitou (mile 62.2) and again were greeted by Angela and Marty along with Matt Patten and Brad. It was great seeing an aid station manned by the LPTR gang and I spent a few extra minutes here eating and talking. It did turn out to be my biggest mistake of the race however. While talking with everyone I noticed I was blinding them all with my headlamp and made an attempt to turn it off. I gave up since we were about to leave but was unaware that it had different brightness settings controlled by the main switch and I had dimmed it (never try something new on race day). As Brad and I headed out I noticed it had dimmed and thought it was the batteries. The dim light made it near impossible to run on the technical trail. There would be short sections that were obstacle free but as soon as you got a pace going you had to walk again to avoid tripping on tree roots. I realized I would now be walking most the night even though I had the energy and legs to run. Through out the night I tried to employ a power walk and told Brad to remind me if I ever slowed down. Even at a walk we both constantly tripped and stubbed our toes, followed by curses about the pain.

Sometime in the night I noticed the pain in my quads was gone but it was replaced by a terrible shin splint like pain in my lower legs along with a pain on the top of my right foot. It was especially bad on down hills and I cursed any with high down steps as they hurt the most. At one point we discussed the idea of never deciding whether or not you would do a race again the day of the race. However I told Brad it was unlikely I would do this one again since I was not likely to get better weather and therefore would not PR. It was in these long dark hours that I was caught by several runners (whom I assumed were just younger with better night vision) and dropped from about 6th to 12th place. The only complaint I got from Brad was that he was falling asleep on his feet (I must have been going too slow). I never had an issue with sleep as I had avoided caffeine until about 11pm that night.

As dawn came I was able to run again in the light but it was always difficult to get going after an aid station as the muscles tightened up standing still. Earlier I had told Brad that my mantra - If you don’t feel like walking you aren’t running hard enough. If you are walking, you aren’t suffering enough - doesn’t apply to 100s and certainly not to the Superior. Here if you didn’t walk the up hills you weren’t going to make it to the finish and by now even walking hurt. But it was somewhere in the early morning hours that I told Brad I had to run even though it hurt. I didn’t want to finish and feel like there were parts where I could have gone harder, especially if I got caught by someone (Kevin was still out there). The most pain still came in my lower legs on the down hills and on the steeper steps (rocks) I would look for something to grab onto to lower myself down. Then with about 12 miles left I got a second wind (or maybe it was the Aleve I finally was persuaded to take) and was able to run strong.

We were in and out of the last aid station in about a minute as we started the climb up Moose Mountain with 7 miles to go. Maybe it was just the point in the race but this seemed as bad a climb as any I had done. By the time we reached the top I was spent, it took all I had to start running again. My lower legs ached again but we continued on and in the middle of the woods came across Dave waiting for us about 3 miles from the finish. He congratulated me on completing 100 miles but I still had 3 miles to go. At this point in the race having someone new took my mind off the monotony of the past 25 hours and as we ran he snapped some pictures. The last few miles went by quickly and soon we came out to a gravel road leading to the finish. Knowing we had less than a half mile to go we picked it up and I was surprised to see I could still run an 8:15 pace. The finish line was quiet with just a few volunteers but they cheered and rang cow bells as I crossed the line, I had conquered Superior.

We sat down and I was a little dismayed as there was no food available, not even aid station food. Brad mentioned they don’t bring the food out until the bulk of finishers are coming in, so I had a cup of lemonade but that was it. I’m sure this factored into my passing out a ½ hour later, verifying that I had left it all on the course as is always my goal. It was after that Dave brought in my nutrition bag and I gulped an Ensure since I hadn’t used any during the race.

I had gotten through the whole race with just the one light cramp, no blisters, no real raw spots and ended up finishing in 26:22, 12th place. It was good enough to beat the women’s course record, but then I was beat by 3 women in the process! After being up for 30 hours straight (and 26 hours of running and walking) I was beat and it showed. Dave took Brad back to mile 62 to get his car and I was falling asleep alone in the pool room of the hotel when my angels of mercy, Angela and Christine Crawford, appeared. They were staying in the host hotel and offered me their bed to crash in. After a 4 hour nap I was ready to join the finish line festivities that were just getting under way. A few long awaited beers helped relieve some of the aches while some real food reenergized me. We were lucky to have Deb Vomhof offer us a place to stay as I had originally planned on starting back that night with Dave.

The next morning on the way home after a hearty breakfast, Brad mentioned Mary Gorske’s rule: you can eat anything you want for 24 hours after a race. I said “that not fair, it’s already been 24 hours!” After some thought I came up with a better rule of thumb: you can eat anything you want for each mile you covered in a race, that was 103 hours for me.

I was hampered the next 2 weeks by the lower right leg shin pain but after an x-ray was cleared by my Dr to run again. Earlier I had said I was not likely to do this event again but then I think I could take off a couple hours by being able to run at night, so one never knows. Of course everyone says any other 100 miler will be a cakewalk in comparison so I think I better find another one first. Thanks again to everyone mentioned above that helped me through this, its great to be able to call you friends and/or family.