VHTRC

Four members of the VHTRC successfully conquered the seventh running of the Kettle Moraine 100 Miler, overcoming a 93-degree, cloud-free day to pick up our commemorative copper kettle finisher awards.

Ed Schultze, John Dodds, Kerry Owens and I (Jaret Seiberg) traveled out to Wisconsin for this 100 Miler, which also has a 100 K option. John and Ed had both done MMT three weeks earlier so I thought they were nuts. Then Ed does a 50 mile training run the week before just because some friends wanted to run the entire Greenway trail out-and-back. That just reinforced my notion that he was crazy. Yet Ed appeared sane compared to Dodds, who still had a massive blister on his foot from MMT and who is signed up to do Laurel Highlands this weekend.

That meant Kerry and I were the only sane ones. This probably should be the time to mention that the prior weekend while cutting through a series of fields to cheer my wife on during her first 5K run that I got poison ivy all over both legs, both feet, both arms, both hands, my hips, and lower back. It was severe enough that the doctor put me on steroids. (No, not the kind that bulk up muscles.) Also, Kerry re-injured her ankle just a few days before the race, which resulted in much swelling and made it painful to walk

So as I was saying, Kerry and I were the only sane ones.

Ed and I meet up with John at noon Friday at the Milwaukee airport. Ed had a big duffel bag, I have medium duffel and a small backpack. John had three suitcases. Ed and I were quietly applauding ourselves for agreeing to the car upgrade when we saw all the luggage. Unfortunately we only had upgraded to a Dodge Neon, which has a trunk that barely fits one suit case let alone all the crap we brought with us. I can’t fathom what the other car would have been.

Whitewater, Wisc., is a very small place. Located about 45 minutes southwest of Milwaukee, the town is just big enough to have a college and very little else. The three of us met up with Kerry at the AmeriHost motel, which is where most of the runners stayed.

We wanted pasta and the motel clerk told us we were out of luck if we wanted to eat in Whitewater. Instead we needed to drive 15 miles to the next city, which we did so we could consume mass quantities of carbs.

On race morning, we leave the motel at 5:10 and are at the start by 5:30. The instructions from co-race directors Jason Dorgan and Tim Yanacheck were pretty simple. Follow the painted white arrows on the ground. Do not worry about marks on the trees. They also told us it would be very hot so the extra water stations would be added to the course.

With that, the crowd of 112 were off.

This course consists of two out-and-back loops, both of which share the first 7.5 miles. Those 7.5 miles are in the Nordic center and I will be happy if I never have to run another step there. VHTRC member Amy Bloom introduced me to the term PUDS – pointless ups and downs. Well the Nordic center has WUDS, wasted ups and downs. The loop consisted of roller coaster like ups and downs, many of which were too steep to run down.

Still it was gorgeous. We ran through groves of Pine trees and past all types of wild flowers. Question to our flora experts: Any idea of the name of a red and white flower that looks like a bell, with the red pedals the outside of the bell and the white the chine inside the bell? At night the flower closes up.

There was never a massive climb along the course. Rather you had many smaller climbs that gradually sapped the life out of your legs. Dodds took off early in the race, with Kerry close behind. I started a bit slower and Ed was anchoring our group.

After the mile 7.5 aid station, we left the Nordic center and entered the ice age trail en route to the Pine Woods camp ground and the turn around at mile 31. The ice age trail has great footing – very few rocks. And we enjoyed the shade as the temperature even at 8 a.m. had to be about 80 degrees.

All seemed great and Kerry and I were wondering why the finishing percentage for this race is so low. (For this year, only 45% of those registered for the 100 miler finished.) A mile or two after the Emma Carlin park aid station at mile 16.5, we figured out what makes this race so tough. For about 10 miles in each direction you run through giant fields created by glaciers. There is no shade or shelter. That means on years when it is wet and windy, you are fully exposed for 20 miles. Or more pertinent to our endeavor, when it is 93 degrees without a cloud in the sky, you roast for 20 of the first 46 miles.

I was draining a full 70 ounce CamelBack between aid stations. Ed was experimenting with new 27 ounce bottles and he was entering aid stations with nothing left in them. Adding to the misery was the fact that parts of the fields were swampy, which jacked up the humidity levels.

At the turn around, John was about 15 minutes ahead of me. While I was in the aid station, Kerry arrived. She had two crew with her – John Haywood and Jean Marie – and they had her out of the aid station before I had even finished changing my socks. When I was ready to go, I grabbed my CamelBack that the aid station worker had filled and realized the bite valve was missing. It took about four minutes to find it. I was ready to give up and take one of John Haywood’s water bottles when John found it under a bench.

Three of us were on the return trip, with Ed about an hour behind though on track for his goal of a 28 hour finish.

I catch Kerry at the next aid station and we start complaining about the heat and how we are just going to walk through those oven-like fields. We both did walk – as did almost everyone else in the race. Around this time, the heat forced the runner in second place to drop out.

We go back through all the aid stations and re-enter the Nordic trail system and its WUDS and PUDS. Dodds is at the Mile 62 turn around point when I get in. John Haywood tells me that Kerry may call it a day with the 100 K option because the heat is bothering her a lot.

Dodds leaves the aid station at around the 13 hour mark to do the 7.5 mile trek to exit the Nordic center and this time get on the ice age trail heading south. I left about 10 minutes behind him and passed Kerry who was about 30 minutes outside of the turnaround.

Kerry called it a day after 100 K, her first effort at greater than 50 miles. When I passed her on the way out of Mile 62 aid station, Kerry said that 100 Milers may not be for her. That appeared to last for less than 12 hours. On Sunday – after she did a six mile run — she was talking about entering Vermont and she already is signed up for Leadville.

The greatest thing about leaving the Nordic center was the time of day. It was getting dark and the temperature was falling to a beautiful 60 degrees. I had dreamed of lower temps all day and we finally got them.

Going south on the ice age trail was more challenging. It had more rocks and longer ups-and-downs, without any of the fields that we could have flow through at night. That meant that everyone’s pace had slowed.

I reached the turn around at Mile 81 about 30 minutes behind Dodds. I enjoyed some soup, ate a sandwich and headed back out. This is where the run got away from me a bit. My stomach pretty much went south from Mile 83 to 95, requiring frequent stops behind large trees.

I encountered Ed on the out-and-back at about mile 87 for me and 75 for him. He said he was right on target for a 28 hour finish. He was powering along and seemed in very good spirits.

At about mile 91, the stomach issue had taken its toll on my energy level and I was in trouble. I recalled advice from Michele Burr about the need to just keep moving forward during the bad times in a 100 miler. So that is what I did. I stopped briefly at the 7.5 mile to go aid station before re-entering the dreaded Nordic trail system.

I finished in 24:37, which was good enough for third in my age group. After a few saltines and some Sprite, I felt good enough to drive so John and I decide to call Kerry’s motel room to see if we could use her shower. I call, get connected and then hear a phone slam down. This happens when I try again.

We bet that Kerry was not angry with us but rather thought this was an annoying pre-7 a.m. wake-up call from the front desk. We bang on the door after arriving and our suspicion proves correct. I shower than collapse on a bed for a short nap while John Dodds showers and Kerry, John Haywood and JM go out for their run.

With a bit of sleep in me, I drive back with John to the Nordic center to see Ed finish. He was supposed to be aiming for 28 hours. Instead he finished in just over 27 hours, causing us to miss him crossing the end line. Kerry’s shower becomes group property at this point as Ed uses it while John Dodds takes a nap in the lobby and I go looking for food.

We regroup at 11:15 and head back to the Milwaukee airport, return the car, and then prepare for a six-hour wait. At least for Ed and I. John Dodds was going to stay in the airport overnight for his 5 a.m. flight the next day. I’m still hungry so I leave Ed and John sleeping in the waiting area and go to the bar for a beer and some food. When I return, John decides it would be best to find a motel to sleep at for the night. He and Ed go off to do that I head to US Airways gate to find a place to lie down.

Ed shows up shortly thereafter, followed by Kerry. We crash at a different airport bar and celebrate with some drinks.

So why is the Kettle Moraine such a tough run? I am sure many will continue to argue that it is an easy course. Under the right weather conditions, they might be right. But the finishing rate is always very low which I think is because the Nordic section kills your legs while vast stretches of the rest of the course lure you into running more than you know you should.

Still, it is a beautiful course. More ultrarunners should take up its challenge.

Tough Time

Thanks for a most unforgettable experience.  I didn’t get back to Nordic for the 3rd time and a 100 mile finish, as I had hoped, but I pushed the envelope a little.

My first outing at KM100, in 98, resulted in a drop at 50 miles after taking a wrong turn and losing an hour exploring Wisconsin farmlands.

I returned last year, stayed on course, and felt fine, but couldn’t get past the 100k point due to the enforcement of the 9:30pm cutoff.

After that experience I had given up the hope of ever attempting KM100 again, until May 19–less than two weeks prior to the race–when I just happened to check out your website and discover that you had extended the 100k cutoff to midnight.  Wow!  A chance to FINISH this monster!  I overnighted my entry the same day.

All well…fate can be unkind.  Because of the heat I was popping Karl King’s S-Caps on an hourly basis and gulping cokes at every aid station.  During the night I took a NoDoz tablet and used caffeinated Hammer Gel to stay awake, which apparently didn’t do the trick because I was rudely awakened when my face bounced off the trail somewhere between
Nordic and Highway 12.  This was no wimpy “trip and roll” kind of thing but a real-for-sure FACE plant–no hands, no shoulders, just face, bouncing off the ground like a damn basketball.  THAT woke me up.

At some point I stopped to take a rock out of my shoe and noticed that my heart was racing.  Seemed kind of odd but then it had been a hard, hot day.  I missed the cutoffs at Highway 12 and Rice Lake, where I finally called it a day and headed back to the motel with my wife.

When we got up at 1 pm, my heart was still racing, so my wife (an RN) took me to the hospital in Fort Atkinson to have it checked out.  They put me in the ER immediately and rigged me up to monitors on one arm and three IVs on the other.  My heart rate was 150, which I can’t achieve on a treadmill with a full sprint.

By this time, I’d been tachycardic for maybe 30 hours straight, and the emergency room docs couldn’t get the rate down.  They tried two or three drugs with no results.  They finally eliminated the possibility of Atrial Fibrillation and concluded that I had a more serious condition, Atrial Flutter, in which the heart just quivers.  This is dangerous because it can wear the heart out and allow blood to pool and clot.

After several hours in the ER they gave me a drug that slowed the flutter from 150 to 70 beats a minute, although my heart still wasn’t functioning in a normal sinus rhythm.  Shortly later, as they were transferring me to the Intensive Care Unit, my heart “converted” to a normal pattern, pumping at my usual 46 pulse rate.

After monitoring the situation for a few more hours, they finally discharged me at 7:30 pm and the wife and I immediately headed to Randy’s for a delicious turkey dinner–our first meal since the day before.  This demonstrates the maxim that “all’s well that ends well” and in view of the alternatives, just being alive and well made up for not reaching the elusive 100 mile mark.

The doctors concluded that the electrical problem with my heart’s firing mechanism was caused by the high intake of electrolytes and caffeine combined with the heat and exertion.  So I wonder what the weather will be like NEXT year…

Thanks for a terrific race with unbelievable support and the nicest people I’ve ever met at aid stations.  Even with the detour to Fort Atkinson, we had a wonderful time in Wisconsin.

First 100 miler

This afternoon, as I drifted in and out of consciousness on the massage table while Igor (yes, really, he’s Russian) tried to work the soreness out of my tired old body, I thought a lot about how truly blessed I am.  Yesterday morning at 10:28 am – 28 hours, 28 minutes, and some number of seconds after I had started – I had crossed the finish line of the Kettle Moraine 100 mile trail run. My training partner and best buddy, Jeff Wold, who planted the “ultra” seed in my mind back in 1995, was at my side, just as he had been since mile 62. My devoted crew, Anna Belu and Kathy Casale, were there waiting and cheering, just as they had been at every “crew accessible” aid station. Anna was taking pictures and writing down the numbers. Kathy had a tear in her eye – yeah, I saw that, Kathy. Race Director Tim Yanacheck came out with a big smile, shook my hand, and handed me my finisher’s award, the coolest little copper kettle. Another friend and occasional training partner, Scott Wagner smiled at me from the chair into which he had collapsed three minutes earlier. And yet another good buddy and training partner, Larry Pederson, who had paced Scott for those last 38 miles, beamed at me, grinning from ear to ear. Yeah, blessed.

Anna, Kathy and I had left the Twin Cities around 10 am on Friday.  During the six hours or so that it took to reach LaGrange, Wisconsin, we talked, listened to tunes, ate a hearty lunch, took turns driving, and had a lot of fun. By about 5:30, we had checked into the motel, the “girls” had changed into running clothes, and I was sitting at a picnic table at packet pickup, comparing braids with local speedster and 100K entrant Christine Crawford. Christine’s braid was judged (by Christine) to be a tad longer than mine, but mine was hands down grayer. The evening was rather warm, and the two of us confided to each other that we are NOT very good hot weather runners. We chatted more as other familiar faces came and went, and I realized that I felt very relaxed and ready for my first attempt at a 100 mile trail run. The heat concerned me a bit, but I felt confident that I was very well trained for every other aspect of the event.

I slept rather fitfully, evidently more apprehensive about things than I had realized. I woke a number of times, but the upside of that was that I knew I was well hydrated. The downside was that I probably only slept for about 4 or 5 hours, total. When the alarm went off at 4:25, I got up immediately to get dressed and get my breakfast down. I tried to be as quiet as possible, and let my crew get as much sleep as possible. As soon as I was dressed, I stepped outside to check the temperature, and also to check for Jeff, who had planned to arrive around 5 am, and tumble into one of the beds we would be abandoning and get a good day’s sleep before assuming pacing duties at the 100K mark. Jeff was there, as expected. Within a few minutes, my crew and I were headed for the start, and Jeff was asleep in the room.

The temperature at the bank in Whitewater was 56 as we passed by around 5:15. The sky was cloudless, and it was apparent that the day would heat up quickly. My stomach was feeling queasy already, probably a combination of too little sleep, too much breakfast, and nerves. I figured the feeling would pass once the RD set us in motion. At 6:00 sharp, 83 hundred milers, 29 hundred Kers, and a couple of 100 mile relay runners headed off into the woods.

I ran conservatively, drawing on my experience of 30 or so previous ultras, including four 24-hour races. As expected, the temperature rose quickly, and I drank steadily from my CamelBak. But unexpectedly, my stomach continued to feel somewhat upset. The smiling faces of Kathy and Anna at mile 7.5 gave me a huge lift, and the concern on Anna’s faceaf ter I spent about 5 minutes in the porta-potty at that aid station touched me. These two friends had each taken a vacation day, and devoted an entire weekend to support me in my quest for 100 miles, and another had driven through the night in order to be there to kick my butt when it would most need that treatment. There was no way I could let these people down. I ate some of the crystallized ginger that I had brought along for battling stomach upset, and headed out on the long stretch to the 31-mile turnaround.

The first 16 miles is well-shaded, and the ginger seemed to be doing its job. This part of the course is quite runnable, and I had to force myself to take walking breaks. The ginger had calmed my stomach pretty well, and I was running strong and on pace to easily finish under the 30-hour limit. Shortly after mile 16, however, there are some long stretches of unshaded meadows. The trails are very runnable, but very exposed to the sun. Knowing my usual vulnerability to heat, I became even more diligent about forcing myself to walk periodically, and made an extra effort to keep my water as cold as possible. At the next aid station, I filled my hat with ice, as Kathy and Anna swabbed me down with sponges drenched in cold water, and then slathered me with sunblock. Meanwhile, an aid station volunteer honored my request to put as much ice as he had to spare into my 70-ounce Omega bladder, and top it up with water. I hugged my crew, thanked the volunteers, and was off again into the oven that these meadows had become. I was staying hydrated, taking a Succeed! electrolyte capsule every hour, consuming Balance Bars and aid station fare, and keeping the stomach discomfort in the tolerable range. But about 30 minutes out of that aid station, I sucked on my bite valve, and nothing happened. I reached around back, and I realized that my pack is so well insulated that the ice had not melted. I had about 50 ounces of ice, melting at a pace slower than I needed it. Uh oh. Just suck it up and trust that all will work out in the end.

But remember, I am blessed. Before I got into any serious trouble, I was able to add some water to the bladder. The downside was that about 10 minutes later, I realized that while I was adding the water, I had dropped my bandana, which I use constantly during long events, for many different purposes. Again, I refused to let myself get too distracted by this little bump in the road, and at the next aid station, another runner’s crew had my bandana for me. Wow. My own crew, my two “babes,” as the usual suspects (you know who you are, Pat, Brad, et al) were calling them, continued with their wonderful support, greeting me with smiles, hugs, food, drink, sponges, and inspiring words.

I ran for many hours through this stretch with Phil Oelkers from Illinois, and we talked a lot and took turns pulling each other along. As we returned from the 31 mile turnaround, where we had made the first enforced cutoff by about an hour, we discussed our pace, and the dreaded open meadows that lay between us and the next enforced cutoff at mile 62, back at the start/finish area. Around mile 50, I think, after some clouds had mercifully helped us through those meadows, my stomach finally started to feel good, and I picked up the pace a bit. Anna and Kathy had my lights ready for me just when I needed them, and Anna, a scientist by vocation, let me know that I had even managed a pace that put me further ahead of the upcoming 62 mile cutoff. When I did get there, Jeff was all ready to begin his role as pacer, and guide me through those last 38 miles. I was 1:25 ahead of the cutoff – it was 10:30 pm.

Jeff and I have run probably a few thousand miles together since I moved to MN in 1995. Perhaps the only person with whom I have run more miles is my wife, Chris Markham. Chris teaches 9th grade science, and had stayed at home to wrap up end of school stuff, and to cheer for our younger son, Ari, who was competing in the 1600 meter race at Section Championships on Saturday. As Jeff and I headed out into the darkness, he told me that he had just spoken to Chris, and that Ari had run a 4:36, good for a 4th place medal in his event. Yeah, man, that was some great news, and got me ever more stoked. We cruised along, just as we have so many times before, sharing our love of running and the outdoors. We talked a little, but said so much more. Every once in awhile, we turned off our headlamps and enjoyed the silence and the dark of night. We listened wordlessly to the coyotes and frogs, and the other sounds of the night. Every so often, Jeff would tell me how strong I was running, and where we stood in relation to the cutoffs. And at every aid station, Kathy and Anna were there to make sure we were eating and drinking well, that we were staying warm, and to tell us how awesome we looked. It was very dark out there.

There was a lovely half to 3/4 moon that broke free of a cloud about 1:00 am. The temperature was now about 60, and I was finally very comfortable in my singlet. Virtually all the volunteers and crews, and many other runners, were now clad in jackets. But Jeff and I were moving very well, and were generating plenty of heat to keep ourselves warm. We were almost two full hours ahead of the cutoffs when we hit the four mile stretch to the 81-mile turnaround, and after stumbling over roots and rocks, decided that it was a good time to do a lot of walking. We power walked most of the way out and back, and still were 1:30 ahead of the final aid station cutoff “back” at mile 85. Our headlamps had been extinguished at 4:59 am, as we witnessed a lovely sunrise from some more of the open meadows that decorate the trail.

We had fifteen miles to go, and six and a quarter hours to get there. And we were still taking frequent running breaks from our awesome walking. All we had to do now was stay strong, and avoid doing anything stupid. Our excitement rose, as did Anna’s and Kathy’s. Their smiles got bigger at each aid station, and even in the daylight, they continued to tell us how good we looked. The volunteers at the last aid station, 5 miles from the finish, had promised pancakes upon our return when we had last seen them at mile 67. And they had then ready for us now! It was doubtless the longest aid station stop of the run for me, but I gobbled down a couple of pancakes with syrup, while Jeff more daringly devoured some breakfast sausage. We headed out of there well-fueled, and with plenty of time to walk it in if we had to.

My stomach problems had never completely gone away, however, so putting so much food in there all at once had a pretty quick effect on me. For the fourth time of the event, I had found a nice quiet spot to squat in the woods. Squatting after 95 miles has all sorts of interesting effects of the body. But I survived, and returned quickly to Jeff’s side, shaking the cramps out of my quads as we powered up and down the hilly cross-country ski trails that would take us home. The sun was up now, and the temperature had risen a bit, but it was still quite comfortable.  But I was finally starting to feel weary, and we were doing almost 100% walking. We were still about an hour and a quarter to an hour and a half ahead of the cutoff pace, so it was just a matter of maintaining forward motion for another hour and a quarter or so. It was about this time that we encountered an elderly couple walking together on the trail. They asked if we were participating in the 100 mile race, and when Jeff replied that I was, and that he was pacing me, the woman asked me, “What do you do with your mind when you’re running a hundred miles?” Without hesitation, I replied, “Ignore it.” About 10 seconds later, Jeff turned to me, laughing like crazy, and said that he might have a new favorite ultra quotation.

We finished strong, running the last mile or so, but still managing to get passed by a resurrected Scott, who had nearly dropped at mile 62, and had looked like a “Night of the Living Dead” cast member at mile 81. Another runner also passed us, but I couldn’t have cared less. As we came into sight of the finish, people were hollering, Anna was snapping photos, Kathy was brushing away a tear, and I was pumping my fist. I had completed my first attempt at 100 miles on trails, and I was proud and grateful. Upon learning a few minutes ago that I was one of only 38 of the 83 starters to complete the 100 miles, I felt even more blessed.

I can’t say enough thanks to Jeff, Anna, and Kathy for their support out there. I don’t want to even think about what it would have been like without them out there, inspiring me and taking such good care of me. Thanks to Tim Yanacheck, Jason Dorgan, and their volunteers for putting on an awesome race. Thanks to all my training buddies for their patience and support along the way. Thanks to Christine Crawford for the cute little flower hair thingie that she gave me for luck as we gathered for the start – I wore it all day, and it is permanently attached now to my race bib. And finally, thanks to my wife and son for inspiring me to run as strong as they both do, and for sending me off with love and confidence.

On the website (http://www.kettle100.com/), my name is listed as a “100 mile solo” entrant. Not the way I see it.

Miss Steps

Thanks for putting on a first class ultra!  The aid stations were great, they had an excellent variety.  The extra aid stations you put in place probably saved my race.  I wish I had gotten the name of the woman at the aid station at the finish line who sponged my head and got me something to eat, she will never know how much she helped me.

I have a couple of funny stories:

On my way into the Hwy 12 aid station (mile 76), I sent Bruce Juppe’, my pacer in ahead just before reaching the board walk.  While I was crossing it, I looked up towards the big hill for his light, missed the board walk with my right foot and found myself on my back, lying in the swamp, looking at the stars.  At this point, I then contemplated just staying put still someone found me and was actually laughing about my predicament.

Just after the Rice Lake turnaround, I was climbing the hill to cross Kettle Moraine Drive.  Coming towards me was a runner with a pacer in front and a pacer in back.  The runner and front pacer were kind enough to step off the uneven trail, the pacer behind was coming directly at me.  At this point, I had no choice but to move over onto the loose gravel where I fell and then fell again trying to get up.  The lady that caused this then yelled to my pacer behind me that he better check me out because I was falling down alot!  At the finish, I once again ran in to this woman who said she was surprised that I finished seeing how I could barely stand up the night before.

Thanks Again for all your hard work.