History of the Kettle 100

The original 100-mile course had been reconfigured several times, but has remained essentially unchanged since 2002 or so. The backbone of the course has always been and will be the Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Forest. The description of the course by Peter Gagarin, reported in Ultrarunning Magazine in 1996, still rings true:

The Ice Age Trail rolls and turns and twists through southeastern Wisconsin, in places a bit rocky and rooty and nasty, in places the most beautiful pine-needle-covered trail you could ever hope for; in places a steady progression of short, sharp ups and downs, in places very gently rolling. There are no deep canyons, no mountain passes, no thin air, no claim to be the toughest 100-miler. But 100 miles is still 100 miles. You still have to deal with Mother Nature, with the night, with blisters and chafing and sore muscles, with trying to keep eating and drinking and running. These factors are always there.”

1996-2001 The early years
1996 – First Year

Kevin Setnes instituted a Friday afternoon start and a 28-hour time limit for the first KM100.  Wisconsin’s Ray O’Malley became the race’s first-ever winner in 18:41:50.  Christina Ralph of Washington was the first female winner, in 21:42:45.  95 runners started the race, and 63 finished.

1997 – New Records

The second KM100 also began on Friday afternoon, a factor considered as somewhat of an equalizer because all runners would be required to all night.  The men’s and overall winner, Dana Taylor of California, set a new course record in 17:51:40.  Marge Adelman of Kansas won the women’s race and also set a course record, 21:12:25.  54 runners finished the race under the 28-hour time limit.

1998 –  An historic victory

Donna Perkins, a Wisconsin local, was the first female and the overall winner of the third KM100.  Thus, she became the first woman to ever win a 100-mile trail race outright.  Donna also broke the women’s course record of 18:12:30.  The first male and second overall was Marty Hoffman, also of Wisconsin, in 18:36:10.  Kevin continued the practice of a Friday afternoon start and a 28-hour time limit.  62 runners completed the race within the 28-hour limit.

1999 – Hot, humid weather

Wisconsin summers can be hot and humid affairs.  This fourth edition of the KM100 was the first to deal such withering weather to our runners.  The Friday afternoon start proved to be somewhat of a boon, as the sunset provided a little relief.  Eric Clifton, New Mexico, came in first, winning by over two hours and setting the current course record in 15:57:09. Holly Neault-Zinzow, then from Illinois and now from Wisconsin, was the first female finisher, in 21:38:39.  The weather contributed to a 50% DNF rate  –  114 runners started, 57 finished. Again, there was a 28-hour time limit in effect.

2000 – New winners again

Our usual pleasant Wisconsin early-summer weather conditions returned for the fifth KM100.  The start of the race was moved to Friday noon, allowing a few more hours of daylight running while the runners were still fresh.  The winner, Hal Koerner of Colorado, finished in 18:03:59, less than 10 minutes ahead of Terry Pann in the closest KM100 finish to date.  In her first attempt at a 100-mile race, Ann Heaslett, another local Wisconsin runner, was the women’s winner in 20:44:10.  53 of 88 starters finished the race.

2001 – First repeat winner

Kevin switched to the more conventional Saturday morning start for this sixth KM100, extended the time limit to 30 hours, and added a 100-kilometer event.  The weather was pretty miserable for the most part, chilly and drizzly.  Terry Pann was the men’s and overall 100-mile winner in 18:06, while Ann Heaslett became the first runner  –  male or female  – to repeat as winner of her event, in 18:45, which was good for second place overall.  This was a year for outstanding performances by women, with Janice Anderson of Georgia finishing as the second woman and fourth overall.  The winners of the inaugural 100K race were Colorado’s Brandon Sybrowsky and Wisconsin’s Holly Neault-Zinzow.

2002 New race directors
2002 – New race directors bring a hot year to the Kettles

Whew, it was hot for the Kettle Moraine 100 Endurance Runs this year!  The heat and humidity were too much for some runners.  An additional 27 100 mile runners opted to call it a day at the 100 km point.  The results reflect the fact that we gave our 100 mile runners credit for their 100 km time if they dropped out at or beyond that distance.  However, medals for place awards were given only for the distance the runners signed up for.  We crowned four new solo champions in addition to our two 100 mile relay champions.

We anticipate these 4-person relay events will gain in popularity in the years ahead, giving more trail-runners a chance to compete at a less daunting distance while enjoying the special camaraderie of a team effort and the ultra running community.

Our selfless and enthusiastic gang of volunteers was able to keep up with the runners’ needs throughout the day and night.  At the 100 km point one runner who was continuing, but at the same time fretting over how tired his feet were.  Upon hearing this, the aid station captain, offered up her socks and made his day.  (By the way, if you happen to read this please bring the socks with you next year.)

The 100 km point of the race was a place for joy and trepidation.  The heat made it an oasis for those finishing their race, a comfortable resting point for those working up the courage to continue on for 38 more miles and an easy decision to accept the 100km finish for those signed up to do the 100 mile but just too worn out to continue.  Hans Dieter Weisshaar left it up to fate as to which option he would choose – the quarter came up heads and he continued.  Unfortunately, he had to drop later in the race, but was pleased to be told he would receive a finisher’s copper kettle.

We strove to find a finisher’s award which was unique and represented the Kettle Moraine name.  The little copper kettles arrived two weeks prior the race in great shape all the way from Peru.  Our four champions received full-size engraved kettles for their winning efforts.

It was an additional honor for us that France’s sexagenarian, Henri Girault, ran here and completed the 467th (we think) 100 km race in his illustrious career.

This is the only 100 mile race in Wisconsin and Illinois. The founder of the Kettle Moraine 100, Kevin Setnes, laid the groundwork for a great annual event in the previous six years, and we’re trying to build on that tradition.  Though at times it seemed overwhelming, the race came and went with many satisfied volunteers and runners.  Many thanks go out to Tom Bunk, Frank Slamar, our aid station captains and other volunteers.  A special thanks to Kevin, Kris Clark-Setnes and Ultrafit this year for their support.

There were a lot of tears on the trail – and not just of pain.  The joy we felt every time someone came across the finish line was very rewarding.  We look forward to doing it all again next year, June 8 and 9, 2003.  Expect to see quite the competition for best aid station next year.

Stories from 2002

2003 New Women's 100km
2003 – New Women’s 100km course record sets overall record too

As our second year as race directors wound down we were again overjoyed to be able to help 135 runners, numerous pacers, our gang of volunteers and all the family and friends experience the extremes of joy and sorrow all rolled into a serious dose of pain.

Overall 97 runners wrote happy endings to their ultramarathon stories at this year’s Kettle. Another 29 were able to say they had finished 100km even if they had been hoping to tackle the 100 mile course. Once again we had 3 races starting off in the morning dusk, a 100 miler, 100 km and 100 mile relay.

In the 100-mile event, ultra newcomer Nate Emerson, 27, had a spectacular showing with his first 100 mile event. Our women’s winner was Jodeen Hettenbach, 39, and what made the race enjoyable for all was seeing what JoDeen would be wearing next. Her trip around the course included five complete costume changes in the first 62 miles alone. Nate and Jodeen were each awarded our traditional first-place award of a handsome copper kettle.

Our 100-kilometer event continued to increase in popularity. First place overall was also the women’s winner, Ragan Petrie with a new course record for men and women. Michael Davenport is a regular at Wisconsin ultrarunning events and won the men’s 100K race.

This year we doubled our participation in the 100-mile relay. The competition was tough and the solo race leaders were kept company by the fresh relay teams throughout the day and night. A mixed team from IL took honors as the first team.

Happily, we enjoyed a high finishing rate again this year. Nineteen hours of dry, mild weather helped. Also, for better or for worse, our course is set up so would-be 100-mile runners can drop out at the 100K mark and still get an official time for that distance. (However, runners are eligible for place awards only if they complete the event they sign up for.) Every runner who reaches 100K also receives one of our unique little copper kettles as a memento of the race. As we travel the country we are happy to hear that people appreciate our unique awards.

We mentioned those 19 hours of nice weather. By that time (1 a.m.), all of our 100K finishers were in. But most of our 100-mile runners were still strung out along the final 38 miles of the trail when a tremendous thunderstorm struck. The downpour was a deluge. How we didn’t lose anyone in the woods, we don’t know. The rain was so heavy, runners reported that flashlights reflected back all their light without shining on the path ahead. Maybe the lightning helped light the way. Lots of folks sought shelter at the nearest aid stations and squeezed in under cover with our volunteers.

For those stuck in between aid stations more ingenuity was required to prevent hypothermia. As Bill Wilkey and Parker Rios pushed through the finish line the rain couldn’t get much worse. Bill and a pacer had modified a space blanket to fit over their heads in bonnet style, providing some comedy for the finish line aid station volunteers.

After a wild half hour, the storm passed as abruptly as it began. No lasting harm came of it. As we’re fond of saying, our Kettle Moraine trails “drain well” and Tom Bunk’s painted trail markings withstood the test.

As the 30 hour cutoff neared we were speculating whether or not Vince Varrone would be able to make it. The consensus was positive and he came through with plenty of time to spare. The decision to finish came back at mile 85 where he had the aid station captain call the finish line to inform everyone that Vince was behind the recommended cutoffs, but would make them up over the last 15 miles.

The race directors’ “dessert” after an ultra is the post-race cards and letters we receive from runners and crew. Once again, most people’s comments this year rightfully reflected on the lovable volunteers who staff our aid stations. We wish we could dedicate an entire article to our many friends who rolled up their sleeves and worked to make the Kettle Moraine 100 a success for the eighth year in a row. And our volunteers are always the first to turn the praise back on the runners for their courage and tenacity as they wrote their ultramarathon stories again this year.

Stories from 2003

2004 New Women's 100km course record sets overall record Again

2004 – New Women’s 100km course record sets overall record Again

New champions were crowned in the Kettle Moraine 100 Endurance Runs this year, as well as an old one.  Alex Swenson, enjoyed his first overall winner of our 100-mile event, after acting as aid station volunteer and pacer during last year’s race.  Francesca Conte graced our trail for the first time and won the women’s 100-mile race.   The 100 mile field was fairly spread out, but both winners were pushed by the relay teams joining us this year.  The out and back course also provides a welcome camaraderie on the trail which makes the dark sections between the aid stations that much more bearable during the night.

Ragan Petrie, repeated as the overall winner of our 100-kilometer race.  For the second year in a row, she returned to Wisconsin from Georgia.  This time Ragan broke her own overall and women’s course record by almost 20 minutes.  This race was hotly contested for the first 40 miles amongst the top 4-5 runners; eventually becoming strung out by the end.  It wasn’t until the last 5 miles that Petrie was able to put on a spurt to pass the eventual men’s winner Bob Pokorny.

The top male and female finishers in both events take home handsome copper kettles, which have become our traditional trophies.  Smaller-scale kettles are presented to every runner who finishes at least 100 kilometers.

We enjoyed the added spirit and speed brought by runners in our 100-mile relay events.  Teams can run legs of 31, 31, 19 and 19 miles.  We had more relay teams this year than ever before.  A young team, recently out of running in college, made a fast go of the course in record time.  We will continue offering the relay option as a way to welcome more runners to trail-running and to the natural beauty of Kettle Moraine State Forest.

Much of our course is on a lovely yet rugged stretch of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.  We give our  runners a self-guided  tour of classic features of glacial geology, often mistaken for hills and valleys.  Observant runners can find many interesting rocks and soils as well.

Excellent Wisconsin summer weather helped many runners run well this year.  It’s rewarding as ever to see all the smiling faces even when you know there is a physical struggle being waged against the trail.  We had 42 finishers in the 100-miler, and 35 completed the 100-kilometer race.  We also give credit (and a little kettle) to every 100-mile starter who completes at least 100 kilometers, although their finishes do not count in the official race standings. This allowed another 29 runners to complete their ultra experience that weekend.

A special thanks to all the volunteers who make our jobs so much easier.  We look forward to seeing everyone the first full weekend of June next year.

Stories from 2004

2005 New Women's and overall 100km course record set Again
2005 – New Women’s and overall 100km course record set Again

Our tenth year! If we were celebrating a marriage instead of an ultramarathon, this would have been our “tin” anniversary. But we feel like our trail race over the green hills of southern Wisconsin is more precious than that.

We take the occasion to reflect on ten wonderful years of sharing the Kettle Moraine State Forest trails every June since 1996. That year, Kevin Setnes founded the race as Wisconsin’s first and only 100-mile run. Jason and Timo took over the reins in 2001 and added the 100-kilometer event and the 100-mile relay. Over the years, the Kettle Moraine 100 has grown in size and reputation. In the 100-mile event, Eric Clifton holds the male course record of 15:57:09 (1999), and Donna Perkins’ female course record is 18:12:30 (1998). We’ve welcomed other elite runners from around the country as well, and we expect to have more in the future.

In style and personality, we think this remains a Midwestern race. It comes naturally to us to try to make our guests feel welcome. We offer every opportunity to run a satisfying trail ultra: a well-maintained trail, a clearly-marked course, enthusiastic volunteers, well-stocked aid stations, lovely scenery, nice shirts, and distinctive awards. We try to do better every year. We impose very few rules on our runners. The strictest rule is the one we impose on ourselves as race directors: “Runners first.”

Our goal each year has been to bring as many runners together as we can to enjoy the fine trails in these parts, including the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. It’s a joy for us to see ultramarathon veterans running with newcomers tackling their first 100-mile, first 100-km or the team event. We love the special camaraderie of this sport.

This year, Stuart Kolb of Green Bay, Wisconsin, decided to run our race as the first 100-miler of his young life (age 43). Leading all runners right from the start, Stuart’s blistering pace had him challenging the course record for much of the day. People wondered how he could keep up the pace in the oppressive combination of heat and humidity. He finished in the second-fastest time ever run on our course.

Another tough masters runner, Tracy Thomas, now of Champaign, Illinois, won our female 100-mile title. Tracy recently relocated from California, where she would revisit just three weeks later and complete the Western States 100.

In our 100-kilometer race, Kami Semick of Bend, Oregon, continued what seems to have become a tradition at the Kettle Moraine: Kami is the third female in three years to win the event outright. She also set the overall course record. Ragan Petrie of Atlanta, Georgia, overall winner in the previous two years, came in second. Another good friend of our race, Bill Wilkey of Phoenix, Arizona, was the first male finisher and third overall.

We were very pleased that Montrail included our event as one of three 100-kilometer races in its Montrail Ultracup series this year.

We had very hot and humid weather here this year. It came to us a little abruptly. As a result, times were generally a little slower for everyone except maybe Stuart. As is somewhat familiar to us with a cozy 62 mile aid station, 26 of the 100 mile runners opted to forego the tough final 38 miles and accept the 100km recognition for the day. For those finishing the 100 miler, under such conditions, it is a great accomplishment. We are also proud of the relay teams who encompass two ultras of 50 km each and to shorter 19 mile sections. Someday we hope they will jump up to the more challenging races we have, now that they know the beauty of an ultra race.

During Saturday night, the runners were treated to a fantastic lightning show from the isolated thunderstorms menacing the area. There was one late-night deluge. There was also a scary bout of high wind at the Mile 84 aid station – the timely efforts of the crews and volunteers held the tent down, barely preventing it from becoming the Mile 85 aid station. The sky cleared by the time the sun came up on Sunday, and temperatures rose again for the final 100-mile runners. While sweeping the trail, we were a little taken aback to find a fallen 50-foot tree blocking one section, and thankful no one was present as it came down.

Stories from 2005

2006 New 100km and 100 mile relay course records set
2006 – New 100km and 100 mile relay course records set

The verdant woods and meadows of southeastern Wisconsin were again the scene of the Kettle Moraine 100 endurance runs.  At 11 years old, we’re still growing.  A record 217 runners started our various events this year.  This year we were finally able to comply with people’s request for no rain at night.  The last few years there had been torrential storms between 1-4am, while this year is was idyllic.  Of course the hot humid weather on Saturday afternoon could not be avoided.  The 4 miles of open meadow at miles 19 and 39 were once again brutal from what everyone said.

Long-time competitor in races on the Ice Age Trail, Parker Rios, took home his first Kettle victory, winning the 100-mile race.  He then proceeded to power nap in the finish line tent all wrapped up like a mummy. That way he was still able to hear the other runners coming in for both the 100km and 100 mile races.   Finishing second overall, Rob Hruskovich led the race for the first 96 miles, before Parker was finally able to overtake him.  In the true spirit of ultrarunning our first 5 finishers in the 100 mile race spanned 4 of our 5 age groups from Open to Grand Master, this was very neat to see.

Tracy Thomas, our defending women’s champion, repeated this year, running the hundred miles more than half an hour faster than last year.  Second woman in the 100-mile race was Kathleen Yarger.

Todd Nott knocked five minutes off our course record in winning the men’s 100-kilometer race in convincing fashion.  Francesca Conte won the women’s race.  Francesca, Todd, Tracy and Parker were awarded our traditional copper kettle trophies for their victories.

Our 100-mile relay events are turning into quite a spectacle.  We had a record number of four-person teams this year (11); the runners do 31, 31, 18 and 18 miles respectively.  Four guys calling themselves the Midwest Conference Has Beens put on a great show of strength and speed and crushed the prior relay record in a time of 13:44:10.  It was not unusual for this team to come into an aid station before we were even set up.  Next year we will have to account for some fast teams pushing the pace.  Finishing a 100 mile course in daylight is quite the accomplishment.  The Kaminski family once again completed the relay, with dad Dick leading the way for his three sons.

We were delighted to have with us two relay teams from the Mexico City area.  Eight spicy women traveled to Wisconsin just for our race.  They made a fashion statement by wearing bright  team uniforms and set a high standard for sportsmanship with their spirited cheering for all the runners.  Hasta luego, Senoras!

How about a 38-mile fun run?  We tried that this year for the first time, and it seems to have been a big success.  A non-competitive event, we started 22 runners out on the 38-mile final loop of our 100-mile course at 8 p.m. Saturday night.  This put fresh people on the trail for the nighttime hours, providing some company for the racers and giving our hard-working volunteers a little more action at the aid stations.  If you wanted to see people having a great time it was only necessary to see the smiles on these runner’s faces.  I think that’s because they could enjoy the comaradirie of the 100 mile runners without experiencing all of the pain.  Many of these runners were using this event as a training run for near term 100 milers like Western.  We are glad to be able to make their training a little more fun.  Each “fun-runner” received a token award for their effort.  We’ll do this again next year.


Stories from 2007