Brian Kuhn

It’s pouring down rain at 3:30 in the morning. I’ve been running over 21 hours. And I am having a blast. I feel refreshed and I am running faster now than I have the entire race. I can’t believe it. Such was the day I had at the Kettle Moraine this year in the 100 mile run. The day began very differently however.

Unlike my previous 100 mile run last fall in Arkansas, I did not have a specific goal for the race other than to finish and have fun. I had several other friends running in the race which made it special: Don Frichtl, a fellow buffalo from the Champaign area whom I train a lot with, was running his second 100 miler. Two good friends from the Lafayette area were running their first 100s – Tony Greig and David Jackson. There were also two buffalo relay teams from Champaign whom I would meet many times on the trail. Finally, a strong runner, recently to our area – Tracy Thomas was there and had a great run.

The race began uneventfully (as most races do). I found myself running with Don, after Tony and David fell behind us. After about 10 miles, Christine Crawford caught up to us and ran with us. Christine was planning to run the 100 herself, but had sprained her ankle the previous weekend. She would end up running the first 31 miles of the race anyway before she headed back to work at the race. I ran the next ten miles with Don and Christine. It was very humid and when we got to the open fields, I was struggling to stay with them. I knew that I should drop back, but for a bit I kept with them.  It was funny that Christine asked me if my stomach was feeling ok. I thought everything was alright, but then not 30 seconds later, I had to stop and empty my stomach on the side of the trail. I guess she knew something I didn’t. After this, my stomach felt immediately better (as it usually does), although my legs were still tired. I caught up with them at the next aid station, but that was the end of my running with them. I wanted to let them go.

I was now on my own, about 20 miles into the race. I kept a somewhat steady pace going and made it to the 31 mile turnaround at 6:17 into the race.  I was feeling somewhat better than I had been 10 miles earlier, but I knew that it was going to be a tough day. I think the temperature was to get somewhere into the lower 80s and I was not prepared for the heat. I was putting ice in my hat – as much as I could fit. I discovered that about 2 inches of ice in the hat would last about 50 minutes.

I stayed for probably 15 minutes and ate a lot of food at the aid station before heading back out. I think Tony and David got ahead of me at this point. I would be seeing them a lot during the next 31 miles. I don’t think any of us were feeling great and we were walking a lot. I was wondering how I was going to make the full 100 miles being as tired as I was. I did not recall being this tired in my other 100 mile attempts.  It  was defiantly the heat that was taking it out of me. Halfway back to the starting area, Tony’s wife, Lu had stopped at McDonalds and picked up some vanilla shakes for the three of us. It really hit the spot – thanks Lu!

It was a bit after this that Tony and David decided to split up.  David seemed to have some extra energy and went on ahead. I would not see him until back at the starting area. For those not familiar with the course, it is a 31 mile out (and back), followed by a 19 mile out and back. The first/last 7.5 miles of the course is the same for all legs, and is on a Nordic ski trail with plenty of short steep hills. The rest of the course is on a single track trail with pretty good footing for most of it.  There are a few sections with some rocks (which I did not mind too much).  The course has some hills on it but nothing particularly long or challenging.

I did have a few good running periods during the rest of my run back to the start area. With 8 miles left I was feeling better, and was informed by other buffalo that Danielle (one of the buffalo relay runners) was less than 10 minutes ahead of me and was really struggling. I managed to catch up to her with 3 miles to go, but then she got her energy back, and with 2 miles to go, took off and that was the last I saw of her. I jogged/walked into the start area aid station around 14:12.

While here, I changed my socks and washed my legs in a tub of cold water.  Boy did that feel good standing in the cold water! I changed into a dry shirt and got my lights ready for the night running. I then headed over to the aid station and pulled up a chair – literally. Christine was working there and kept serving me food. The chili tasted really good. All in all, I spent 35 minutes at the aid station before I headed back out for the last 38 miles.

One of the things I learned a few weeks ago while running Ice Age, was that I run much much better when I have eaten enough. Throughout the day I was eating as much as my stomach could handle and taking some GU. At this point, I had a lot of GU packs left and decided that I was going to get into the routine of taking one of these every half hour. I did this at the end of my Ice Age run and the results were impressive there.

I left the start area for the second time and was feeling much better than I had when I came in. I knew that there was no chance of making it under 24 hours and I was just out to have fun. The sun was going down but I decided to run without my light for as long as I could. The trail here was wide and had excellent footing. It reminded me of a trail we run on in Mahomet, IL – near Champaign. Every full moon, we go out there and run the trail in the dark without lights. This trail eventually got to be darker than it ever does at Mahomet – since we were in the woods and it was a new moon.  Anyway, I was having fun and could still manage to make out the trail even after it was completely dark out. This worked fine and I made it to the Bluff road aid station without using my light.

This aid station is also known as Margaretville, so I decided to try to take them up on it. I was out to have fun and was not concerned about my time.  I had to ask a few times before they would actually give me a cocktail, since they did not think I was serious. I didn’t see exactly what they fixed me to drink, but it was cold and tasty.

I was feeling better and started to run a good steady pace from this point.  I could see the lighting in the sky and was wondering if it was going to rain. There were a few open fields on this part of the course and I remember running very fast through them when there was lighting around.  About 12 miles into this part of the run the rain started. It was more of a heavy drizzle at first. I was running steadily and having fun. I passed Tracy as she was heading back just before the Hwy 12 aid station. She said that Don wasn’t that far ahead and she thought I would catch him. This of course was a bit of a motivator for me and I kept up the steady running.  The GU I was taking every half hour was really helping me keep my energy level up. I was also alternating between a bottle of water and a bottle of Succeed! Amino, with a salt capsule every hour.

The last part of this course is somewhat technical, with some rocks and steps on it. The rain had stopped and about a half mile before the turn around at Rice Lake, I passed David and his pacer. He looked good but said he didn’t like the rocks very much. I was flying at this point and took off. Before I knew it I was at the turnaround and who did I see but Don and Ellen (his pacer) there. We talked for a few minutes but I decided I was feeling so good that I wanted to get back to the trail. At this point I was 19:51 into the run. I did a quick mental calculation and somehow decided that I only needed to run the rest of the race at a 15 min/mile and I could make it under 24 hours. I started to really push myself. After a mile or so, however, I realized my math was wrong and that there was no way to make it under 24 – unless I ran around a 12 min/mile pace. I knew that I could not do that, since that was the pace that killed me in the first 20 miles.  I again slowed down a bit, but still running a steady pace.

With probably about 12 miles to go, the sky just opened up and it was pouring. It was at this point that I suddenly realized how great I was feeling. My legs felt like I had just started the race and I could do anything. It totally shocked me to be feeling this good, this late in a 100 mile run. I was on a long downhill and I started running as fast as I could down it. I passed several other runners who were walking (and wearing rain jackets). I almost ran over one of them as I came around a turn, but managed to pass on the side of the trial. I felt bad about this and did find her after the race and apologized – she didn’t even remember.

When I got to the Duffin Road aid station, I realized that I had 2 hours and a bit over 10 miles to go. It was at this point that I realized that I actually had a legitimate shot at making it under 24 hours. If I could run at a 12 min/mile pace I would have it. I took off, running with everything I had – both up and down the hills. I kept the pace up and made it to the Tamarack aid station (5 miles to go) with 1:10 to go. I knew at this point that I would make it unless I completely crashed. I figured that I had done the last five miles at about a 10 min/mile pace, and I only needed to finish with a 14 min/mile pace. I still ran hard, but as I got closer and knew that I would make it, I let off a bit. My legs were ok, but I could feel a bit of wear on them.

Earlier in the day, I had thought it would be fun to finish the race wearing my buffalo hat.  I had stashed it in a bag a mile from the finish. When I got to a mile to go, I stopped and put it on and ran in with it on. There were a few people out on the trail and I got some funny looks. As I approached the finish line, I let out a buffalo yell. This worked out well, as Christine managed to get some good pictures of me finishing – officially at 23:47:33.

Tony had decided that he had had enough after 100k, but he was there to greet me in the morning. He said that he plans to try another 100.  David finished in 25:40 (his pacer dropped after about 30 miles due to a blister or something). We waited around for Don, expecting him to finish at any moment. He made it in at 26:21 – also wearing a buffalo hat! Tracy had a great run, finishing first female in 21:54. And to top it off, the two buffalo relay teams *again* swept the mixed relay division.

Thanks go out to all of the volunteers and to the race directors. This is an extremely well organized event and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

All in all, it was a great run that I will remember for a long time. I was totally shocked that I was able to run so well the second half. I remember last fall at Arkansas, I was so completely dead at the end of the race.  It is defiantly more fun when you feel good at the end. The one thing that is really sticking with me from this race is that my performance is primarily limited by the amount of energy I can get into my body. I plan to work on this in the future. Now to figure out what is next.