Sometimes you go for it hard and succeed. Other times you fall flat. Every now and then you land somewhere in the middle. That pretty much sums up my Potawatomi 100 race.
I went into this race in really good shape. I’d trained hard through the rough winter (feel free to check my last post for more details on that). I was as ready as I could have been. I went out at a comfortable pace but was not just taking it easy. I ran the flats and down hills and power hiked the climbs. This was my mode for the entire race. Take what the course gave me and execute in those areas. Everything was going to plan. I was getting food in early and often and was pushing the fluids. Unfortunately my stomach had been a little grumbly the entire day before and through the night. I made some not so great food choices due to travel and while I can’t lay all the blame here, I know better and should have brought my own food to cook/eat for the day.
I was feeling really rough and felt like my food was not going anywhere. I just kept feeling fuller and fuller. My energy was really down and I even laid down on the ground at one point. Eventually the stomach revolted around mile 57 and I unloaded everything. This actually helped a lot. I was feeling better and running again. I let things settle down and worked to consume but I was walking a tight rope with it. Luckily I had my great crew of Tommy and John out there who were keeping me motivated and moving despite feeling really rough for the back 1/3 of this one. Most things were making me nauseous so I stuck to a diet of soup and soda. All of this held up well until 80 miles where I unloaded again around mile 80.
I didn’t eat again for the rest of the race. A little over 16 hours in and I couldn’t stomach any more calories. Everything that went in immediately made me sick so I decided that I was done with food. My legs were shot and my energy was really low but if I could avoid slowing down from being sick then I could just keep moving and get this thing done a little faster. I felt empty but we all have enough fat in our bodies that we can keep moving especially when we are not anaerobic so I just kept that in mind and kept pressing. Run (or attempt what appeared to be) the flats and down hills and hike the up hills just like I started this thing.
I wanted to win the thing but that was out the door. My goal time was gone, and I just felt like a pile of garbage. I wanted to drop from this thing more than once. However I had people helping and believing in me to knock this thing out. Plus I trained a whole bunch for this moment. As Tommy says “these things don’t start until 60.” I wasn’t going to let a less than perfect day (which is about what I would have needed to hit my goal time) keep me from finishing.
I crossed the finish line 2nd in a time of 21:25 (Brandt Ketterer took first in a great time of 19:45). A new 100 mile PR on a much harder course then my previous PR time. That was also over 4 hours faster than I ran this race 5 years ago. It also appears to be the 6th fastest 100 run in the race’s 12(?) years. I’ll take it. A less than ideal performance turned out to be a very solid day that I can look back at and see tremendous growth. Through all the adversity, I ran a good race with a strong first 50 and really had to dig deep to keep driving when the wheels came off. It is not very often that a person really lays it all out there to attempt something not fully knowing the outcome . I personally can say this is the first time I have done so. It didn’t go exactly to plan, but the outcome was still extremely positive. I learned some things about myself. I made some mistakes. I know more what my training needs to look like to get to where I want to get to. I wouldn’t know that if I just went out there and played it safe.
The last few months have not been ideal training weather if you needed to be highly motivated. Below freezing temps, layers of ice, and inches of snow have been the normal for several months now in what seems to be a winter that will not let go. Just last night a bit of snow fell and dusted the ground causing us to almost forget that we were enjoying the sun on bare arms in the 70 degree temps just over a week ago. Luckily I have been highly motivated.2013 was a bit of a bust when it came to running. With the exception of a fairly well executed Big Horn 50, I do not have a lot of fond memories of my training or racing when I look back over the calendar. My year started off with a bad case of shingles that took several months to get over then some minor symptoms of upper abdomen cramping that hung around the majority of the year and I still deal with from time to time. I have mostly learned to deal with these and can spot them as they are coming on, but it took a bit to figure out.I am fortunate enough to hang with some really good runners who had excellent 2013 seasons. I was able to train with them and in some cases crew or pace them in their respective victories. Watching them excel and move beyond what they had been the year before while I failed to progress as planned was humbling.I sat back an took a look at things. What was I training for? To go through the motions? To say “I’m an ultrarunner” as a group to fit into? No, it’s because I love it. I like putting my head down and grinding it out. I love the scene, the scenery, the people, reviewing gear, putting on races. I want to keep pushing when the normal response would be to stop. I don’t just want to run, I want to race!
A junk 2013, two great friends pushing their limits, and a rekindled love of going long is why I have been highly motivated. With the garbage weather so far it would have been fairly easy to find the excuses to back off a little or skip a long run because it was 10 degrees at the start, but I didn’t. I held myself accountable to being better not just staying the same. Next Saturday on April 5th I’m going to let it fly at the Potawatomi 100. A highly familiar venue. A course where I ran my first ultra (30 miles), my first 50, and my first 100. Weather is always a toss up but I’ve dealt with the winter snow and the bone chilling temps for months and I’ve seen this course in every condition over the years from heat to speed sapping mud. I’m as mentally focused on this as I can be and my training is there in terms of quality and quantity.
Last week was my highest volume training ever at 101.4 miles and close to 10k of climb in a hair under 16 total hours. I’m feeling great as I go into my taper. I’ll be making food, sleeping, and hydration high priority as I try to not bounce off the walls and irritate my wife while anxiously waiting for that start gun to go off. I was highly motivated to train. I did that. Now I am highly motivated to race.
After a 6 week stretch of averaging about 65 miles, I decided to pump the breaks a bit this week and take it easy on miles. I still had 7 hours across 2 runs but I was able to get some extra sleep, recover a bit from a cold, and navigate a fair amount of traveling with work. The big run was a 6 hour 26 mile rocky scramble down in the Taum Sauk Mountain State Park. Taum Sauk is the highest point in Missouri. Clocking in at a breath taking 1776 feet above sea-level. While this is not a huge mountain by any stretch, the trail to get up the thing is no picnic. There are tons of rocks and rough footing along the way with very few easily runnable sections. Perfect for working on turnover and making that proprioception work overtime. The weather was great and the views were fantastic. A really rugged and scenic area that is totally worth visiting. Just make sure you have some plans on water. We all ran out.
Ah the new year is only just a month in and I’ve already had a great adventure! I had the privilege of heading west to Moab, Utah for a long weekend of running and talking about trail/ultrarunning. What could be better?! I can say with a fair amount of confidence that to this point, Moab might be one of the most unique place I have visited in terms of terrain. It has big mountains, the plateaus and arches normally associated with Utah, and even sand dunes transformed into stone. All of these areas are within miles of each other. It seems mostly when I visit an area you have mountains, plains, deserts, etc. and to though some of these places may exists close by each other it tends to take some travel time to move from one experience to the other. Not Moab, jump in the car and you can be in all of these varied areas in just minutes. It is really hard to put into words how amazing of a time I had seeing this area on foot with friends. Slot canyons, petrified trees, petroglyphs, slickrock, snow, ice, sunshine, scrambling… so many amazing sights and things to do! I captured a some video and pictures that I hope tells a bit more of the story. Some photos are from my buddy Travis Trampe (we are the Travi).
Training wise, things are starting to trend up. After being knocked down by the flu for the first week of Jan, I came back fairly strong and have averaged over 60 miles a week for the last 4. I’ll move this up a bit more in Feb, but this weather that has hit the central part of the US sure has not made it easy. We have had lots of snow and lots of really cold days. Doing my best to enjoy the treadmill and make the most of my time outside. Luckily the really bad stuff seems to have missed the weekends and I’ve been consistently hitting the 25-29 mile long runs every Sat or Sun. These runs may have been muddy or snow packed but it all will pay off when the good weather hits. Potawatomi 100 in on the schedule and I’m going to go in fit and trying to hit it hard. Game on.
In the gap
La Sal Mountains
Mike, Meghan, Kristin, Bryon, Me, Tom, & Travis T behind the camera
Things are moving along as I look toward planning the 2014 season. Per usual, the lottery gods did not smile upon me but I’m sure I’ll figure out a way to have some fun next year. I have my roll over to Grindstone 100 in October since it was canceled due to the government shutdown and I think I’m going to head back to McNaughton Park in Pekin, IL in April to hit the Potawatomi 100. I’ll throw some races in there along the way before and between, but as of now those will be my anchor races.
Training is going well as I set my base and begin growing out my average monthly miles. While the weekly miles are not quite where I want them to be yet. The weekend miles are going great. I’m moving my average Saturday runs from about 21 miles to 25-28. In fact, yesterday these 3 dudes cracked off 32 miles in the cold temps.
I also have not drank a cup of real coffee in over 3 weeks! This is pretty big for me. I’m (was) a coffee drinker. The smell of it, taste of it, finding new beans, the ritual of making it in the morning… I love it!! But I was having some cramping issues that I could not track down so I decided to take a shot at getting off the stimulants and see where that would get me. It seems that the cramping has gone away and as a super added bonus, I sleep like a baby. I go to bed early. I don’t get up during the night to go to the bathroom. I wake up alert. It’s pretty great. There are also some potential athletic benefits to more sleep so overall it seems to be the right move to make. I do miss it and think that eventually I’ll have a cup every now and then just to enjoy it. Ultimately it feels great to not be so reliant on something every morning to wake up. Plus I am over the headaches and wanting to punch the walls from the withdrawals so I figure it’s best to stay off it a bit longer.