Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Kettle Moraine 100

When I first signed up for the Kettle Moraine 100, I was injured.  I had just come from the doctor’s office and was feeling optimistic about the Achilles and about racing in a month or so.  The doctor told me I could bike as much as I wanted and the injury would work itself out, as long as I wasn’t running.  I biked a hundred and fifty miles in a week or so and it made it worse.  I was out for a few more weeks b/f desperately getting a shot of cortisone.  I hadn’t run in seven weeks.  I hadn’t run more than forty consecutive miles all year.  So if I was going to do this race, it was going to be about 35% physical and 65% mental. 

To run with no mind / is how I wanted to run the whole thing.  I didn’t want to think about mileage.  It's impossible to wrap your head around running a hundred miles.  I didn’t want to think about time I was going to be spending on the trail.  I didn’t want to think about the unknown.  B/c these are the things that scare me.  I was about to spend the day (and night) doing what I love…I was just going to be doing it longer than I ever had b/f. 

I started off at a modest pace.  I planned to run all of the first ten miles and then start to back off and power-hike some of the uphills, to conserve energy.  I chatted w/ some folks.  Found Jason Penticoff and Ryan Dexter and fell in w/ them for quite a few miles.  It’s a solid fact that running w/ someone makes the miles click by faster.  I really enjoy running by myself but when you’re running a hundred miles, you should run w/ some folks to put some miles in the bank. 

Ryan Dexter is a multiple course record holder and has done two-hundred mile races!  He’s a tough dude.  He said he was just there for fun and not to compete but he seemed to be in a bigger hurry at aid stations than Jason and I.  It was cool to watch him constantly moving and an honor to run w/ him. 

I somehow lost the guys and ran it in to the Scuppernong aid station by myself.  It was a long stretch and I just wanted to get there and start making my way back.  It’s such a relief to come into an aid and have Brother John there w/ full water bottles and ready to help w/ whatever you need.  He’ll get you some Tums, he’ll Vaseline your feet, he’d take the shirt off his back if you needed him to.  I’m always glad to have him in my corner.  He takes crewing very seriously and somehow has the ability to make you feel extremely peaceful.  About yourself and about everything.

I caught up w/ Jason who was struggling and needed some positive talk to keep him moving.  I ran w/ him all the way back through the hot meadows which put a hurtin on both of us.  It’s a long fifteen mile stretch w/ no shade and nothing but the sun beating down on you.  We both needed a break after that and hiked for a while through the woods to let our heart rates recover and core temperatures come down.  It cost us a pretty good deal of time and we both got passed by other runners multiple times.  It was a pretty low point and probably the lowest point of the day.  We were both suffering.  Moving forward was a real struggle and I was trying NOT to think about the miles ahead of me.  When we made it to the aid station, my crew was worried and commented that I’d slowed down some.  I let them know that everything was under control and I just needed a little break if I was going to be running all night.  The break helped a lot and pretty soon I was back to feeling normal.  Jason was having a hard time too but we both came back from the dead after that checkpoint and pretty much crushed the next ten miles.  We caught back up to where we had previously been.  That ten mile stretch was probably the best part of the day.  The two of us weren’t running.  We were racing and we passed tons of people and just destroyed it.  It felt so perfect. 

Back from the dead!  This was after a serious low point.

I ended up running by myself back to the Nordic aid station.  It was very uplifting to get there and have my entire crew finally there together, to have a pacer ready to run w/ me, to have my family that surprised me and traveled from home to see me for about ten minutes at a checkpoint.  I knew I could have called it a day right then and there.  100 kilometers is a pretty good day.  But I never considered it.  Not w/ all the support I had there.  I forced some food down and changed clothes and took off with my pacer.  I’d never run w/ Marty KC b/f but I knew he’d get me to the finish.  I knew he was mentally tough and yet sensitive to my needs.  What I didn’t know is that he knew the trails we were going to be running in the dark like the back of his hand.  He knew when the technical parts were coming up, he knew when the long climbs were coming up and he knew how to talk me into eating when I didn’t feel like it.  There’s no doubt in my mind there wasn’t a better pacer fit for me on that day in the entire world.  His knowledge and expertise were absolutely perfect.  
 Time slipped away.  There was no more time.  It was only light or dark.  Right now it was dark.  We put our headlamps on and ran.  We power hiked the ups and ran the rest.  We took little breaks.  At one of the aids, Brother John told me I only had a marathon to go.  And for some reason, this was very comforting to me.  That was when I knew I was going to complete a hundred miles.  Even if I walked the rest, I would probably finish before the thirty hour cutoff.  But I wasn’t walking.  I always wondered how I would feel at eighty miles into a hundred mile race.  But I felt good.  I was still running.  I was still thinking clearly.  I never had any serious doubts.  Even when my right foot began to give me some grief, I knew I wasn’t going to quit.  I hobbled into the HWY 12 aid station and took some ibuprofen and my crew taped my ankle up and sent me on my way.  It helped a lot.  My confidence began to grow.  I knew I would finish.  I knew it.  I felt like I was getting stronger at that very moment.  I felt like I was getting taller, broader.  Then we ran some more, into the middle of the woods, into the middle of the night. 

                                                About to get the ankle taped up.  Mile 80.  1 am.

Tawnya was going to run the last seven miles in with me.  Marty had done such a good job getting me to mile ninety-three that I was almost afraid to run w/ anyone else.  But her patience, knowledge and energy were perfect.  I was having trouble w/ the uphills AND the downhills at this point.  She was patient and encouraged me on the flats.  As we ran the last two miles in I realized I’ve never felt so good about feeling so much pain.  My legs and my entire body were pretty much destroyed.  But I could finally say it.  One hundred miles.  The sun was just about to come up.  It couldn’t have been more beautiful.  When we saw the finish line, she said / Go get it / and I did.  I was surged w/ energy and felt fantastic.  My entire crew was there to greet me and they cheered like crazy.  These people had stayed up all night long to make sure I met my goal.  They were all so positive and I know for a fact I couldn’t have done it w/out them.