Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Midwestern States, Part 3: My Kettle Moraine 100 Mile #3 and 2011 100 Mile Goof #3

This year's Kettle (the first weekend of June) was my third running of this race.  The first was my 2007 epic win over Joe Kulak, which inspired me to start this unsustainable blogging habit.  The second stab was in 2008, when brutal midday heat gave way to lightning, torrential downpours, and nearby tornadoes.

This was also my third 100-mile race this year, after HURT in January and Antelope Island Buffalo Run in March.  I finished those races much more slowly than anticipated.  Two outs, need a hit.

I had a lot of time to get to the race and prepare, so pre-race should have been glitch-free, except
I couldn't find my driver's license 2 hours before my flight.  I needed it to rent the car to drive the 2 hours from the West Chicago suburbs to the race.  As it turned out, I had left it in the glove compartment of the car I drove to drop off my family at the airport 5 days earlier, while I ran before  working a couple of long overnight shifts.  I also managed to nuke the entry on my calendar with my hotel reservation information, but eventually figured it out.

It was already hot, lower 90's even as late as 6 pm.  And remember those of you from drier western climates-- the humidity makes the effective temperature much higher.  I tried to last-minute acclimate to the heat and humidity on the drive up by keeping the windows up without any AC or even the vent, but it was unbearable and probably dangerous.  I had to keep the windows opened a crack.

For the last few miles (20 minutes) though I deliberately green-housed.  Stopped at an intersection, clothes soaked with sweat, I tried to capture my the beads of perspiration on my face and general malaise with this self portrait.  (No make-up artist with a spray bottle was used.)

I felt better getting out of the car and seeing the cheery race directors at packet pickup.  Thanks for putting on another great race!

Jason Dorgan, Tim (Timo) Yanacheck, Anne Heaslett

Timo told me I was originally going to get bib #1, but the 2009 course winner and record holder (set that year in ideal weather), Zach Gingerich, had signed up two days earlier.

I woke up before 3 a.m. (1 a.m. Pacific time) and try as I did, I could no get back to sleep.  I nontheless insisted on staying in bed until my alarms went off at 5:20, resulting in my usual late arrival.

One minute before the race started, co-RD Timo instructed us runners to make sure we go over the timing mat at the start.  I think this is probably the first 100-mile race I've run using chip timing-- and totally off my radar.  I ran over to the table with the timing straps and frantically put it around my right ankle about 20 seconds before the race started.

by Jay Smithberger

From yesterday I knew it was going to be hot and muggy, (the same day a young man apparently collapsed and died at the Chicago Half-Marathon relatively nearby), and remembering my mid-race malaise last time, decided to go out slower, and NOT 7:30 minute miles like in years past.

by Jay Smithberger

I ran and talked some with a Harry Harcrow from Colorado.

 lifted from the web.  funny, I don't remember him looking like this.

I thought he was breathing too hard so early in a 100 miler, and concluded he didn't know what he was doing, but later decided I was wrong.

entering Emma Carlin (mile 15.5) photo by Billy Thom

Entering the prairies, I turned on one of my iPods and listened to two podcasts of This American Life.  I figured this would help me keep my mind off the never-ending prairie and the rising heat, but one of them was about some guy who had been molested as a child and how he plotted to seek revenge on the perpetrator-- interesting, but not quite uplifting.

at Scuppernong turnaround (mile 31+), photo by Billy Thom


At mile 41, near the beginning of the uncovered prairie section, which you would think is untechnical, I tripped over a bump or rut in the trail, and fell forward.  My bottle took the first impact, but in the fall, I managed to strain my neck (mostly the back and right), both rear shoulder, right quadriceps and left hamstring.  Nothing too bad-- definitely nothing fractured or snapped, but I had a bad feeling.  A fall like that causing pain and tightness in so many places can haunt and taunt you later.  I had good reason to worry.

A few miles later, my right rear armpit started chafing.  I had taken care to lube my crotch every 10-15 miles, but neglected my armpits, which probably only give me trouble in hot, humid weather.  I abducted my shoulder to prevent further friction, but about half an hour later, my right deltoid went into painful spasm.

I took a while to figure out what to do with my arm to relax it enough to let the pain subside, but I found (and would continue to find) that any position to relieve one pain would trigger or exacerbate another pain.  It turned into a zero-sum game, and a game I was losing.

At the Scuppernong turnaround (mile 31) where I arrived in about 4:57 in 2nd place, there had been several runners coming in only a few minutes after I left, so I was sure that several would catch me, after my fall on the way back.  But apparently most of them were having a tough time, since only one passed me-- Harry, whom I had underestimated and felt bad about writing him off when each of two times he passed me.  I asked him how he felt, and he either said "terrible" or "like shit."  But he was running faster than I.

I didn't know it at the time, but Harry apparently dropped at Nordic (mile 62), so I was in 2nd place. However, I continued to having to work out numerous cramps and pains that kept popping out in my body.  I would run several hundred yards with one arm over my head or behind my back, until that position threatened to cause a new pain.

photos by Cathy Drexler
great aid stations at Kettle-- olives if you want them!

I turned on my light right before Highway 12 aid station (mile 77).   The first year I ran this I turned on the lamp AFTER the aid station going other way (8 miles farther).

The 4 mile trail to the Rice Lake turnaround is probably the most technical of the course.  I had been still trying to run flatter, less technical sections, but soon after leaving Highway 12, my toe kicked a root, I feel lurched forward and my chest and shoulder muscles went into a really bad spasm, probably the worst and largest of the day.  I tried to walk it off, but with my mechanics off, my balance was affected and I felt like continuing would cause my calves to spasm on the climb.  I had to stop and rest against a tree for a couple minutes, pursing my lips as I forcibly exhaled to try to ease the pain.

I decided that besides continuing to grow more painful and less efficient, running was too dangerous to attempt.

Even power walking posed risks, such as straining a leg muscle (both posterior and anterior compartments), especially while ascending and descending stairs or other steeper sections of trail.  The risks weren't imagined-- I had several more painful, close calls.

You should all know me well enough-- though many a runner might decide to quit here, I didn't fell quitting was an option.  Besides, if it was flat and untechnical, I could manage a slow jog.

Lots of runners were passing me, but most were in the relay or the 38 mile fun run which started at 8 pm.  Realizing that my pace was going to be slow, I gave up first on the sub 17 and then the sub-18 goal, and just made aimed to win an age-group award.  So after turning around at Rice Lake aid station (mile 81), I asked everyone coming the other way or from behind which race they were in, and if they were in the 100 mile race, how old they were.  I had no problem getting "granped" by someone over 50 (Paul Schoenlaub, 51, who would finished 2nd overall), but just couldn't let anyone 40-49 pass me.  This was an imperfect research method, as people wear headphones or have no idea what I'm asking.

At Tamarack aid station (mile 92), 38-mile Fun Run participant Dominic Guinta caught up with me.  This was his last long training run before his second Western States (Dom has been extra lucky with the lottery-- some of us who have been running 100 milers years longer have yet to get in...)   Figuring that no awards were being given for placing in the Fun Run, he offered to pace me in, and got me running again.  Thanks again, Dom!

Only 46 finishers out of 131 registered runners and not sure how many starters.  Tough day (and night)!  More than hours over my personal best 4 years ago, but everyone was hurting.  The winner, elite runner Zach Gingerich, finished similarly-- 19 1/2 hours, more than 4 hours over his personal best and course record set two years ago.  I asked him how he felt when I ran into him headed the opposite way at one point, and I think he said what I think Harry said and what I probably said a bunch of times.

 Zach Gingrich setting the course record at Umstead 100 mile in 2010.  unsure of who took this photo

Still, despite nabbing that age-group award and everyone else running relatively slow, the early face plant and subsequent problems constitutes a significant failure to accomplish my original goal.  Though an out that was well worth it.

I'm not complaining.

Thanks again to all the volunteers-- who got me in and out quickly when I was doing well, and who attended to my needs later.  (I couldn't bend over or squat to pick up and open my drop boxes once the cramping started.)

Garmin Forerunner 305 recorded maps (missing a few miles) of my run: 
miles 0-31
miles 31-70
miles 70-100


race website

My previous KM 100 Race Reports:
recap of 2007 KM100: "My First Ultra Win Ever"
recap of 2008 KM100: "Sweltering, Scared, but Spared-- Surviving the Kettle Moraine 100 Mile Run from Hell (and My First Title Loss Ever)"

"Midwestern States pseudo-series"

part 1:  McNaughton 150 mile, April 2009
part 2:  Mohican 100 mile, June 2010

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Firetrails 50 #5: The Deceleration Continues

Had it continued to rain Thursday and Friday, the firetrails in Tilden, before and after the turnaround for this year's Firetrails 50 Mile would have sucked-- thick, clumpy mud adding several pounds to each foot.  Luckily the rain we had Monday through Wednesday just softened the trails.  I would have done well with any of my Sportivas, but went with my Wildcats.  Rowr.

Unlike the three 100 mile races during the summer (reports I have yet to finish), nothing too bad or crazy happened this race.  Did not kill myself trying to talk or run with anyone too fast.  I was by my count 16th at the turnaround, but had moved up 8 places the next three splits to Skyline aid station (~mile 37).  Was feeling slightly bad-ass about this, though I suspected those 8 people were just hurting more than I.   Soon I stiffened up enough that 4 people passed me before the end, losing my top-10 spot, and as I later found out, prize schwag I would've nabbed for coming 3rd in the 40-49 male division.

Leapfrogged several times with Quicksilver teammate Pierre-Yves Couteau,
who yet another time this year (lost count), finished before me.

To my credit, I did look back while on the pavement 1.5 miles from the finish and saw someone I recognized as a 50 miler gaining on me (the Golden Hills Marathoners were mixed in with us on most of the return).  I managed enough of a kick to hold him off with just 11 seconds to spare for the prestigious 12th place overall, rather than 13th, which is unlucky unless you are into baking.

No photo of the above end-of-race kick. 
Instead a photo of me being chased by a blue balloon, which at least matches my shirt and gaiters,
into Bort Meadow Aid station (mile 44). 
photo by Baldwyn Chieh

Normally about 2 km after Bort, we get on a winding single track, Cascade Trail, but this year the East Bay Park District had decided it was too storm damaged, so the course rerouted on the fireroads above it,  adding an uphill and a small amount of distance, but making the name of this race, "Firetrails 50" more true to its name by about 1.5 miles.  (map of Chabot)  I had actually offered the RDs to trim the poison oak and other growth on Cascade Trail on Monday, but our fire alarms started beeping in the middle of the night, which required shlepping ladders from the garage up two flights of stairs and a lot of precarious reaching.  So I had to sleep in a little before heading to work, and defer on the trail trimming. This was the beginning of a busy, sleep-deprived work week, further lowering my already low expectations.  At least I didn't snip a bunch of trail foliage that we ended up not running through.

I've also decided that if running this race at the age of 60 in 9 1/2 hours is not a wimpy feat, I can slow down about 6 minutes every year and not be considered to have wimpy feet.  In which case, I am about on target, given my personal course best of 7:24 at the age of 40 (2007 race report: Halloween Horrors) and 7:43 last year (2010 race report: Bodily Fluids).

The only glitch in my schedule of age-deceleration comes from older Quicksilver teammate, Jean Pommier, who seems to get faster as he approaches age 50, and who came virtually tied for 2nd just above 7 hours, killing his own PR.  This is so wrong!  Just for that, I am leaving him out of the next section and not including any pictures of him, even knowing that he stuck a picture that included me in his report.  (I anticipate some public opprobrium for this rudeness.)   Here is his race report, which actually gives you a better description the event, and which despite flying out to Dubai Sunday evening, he managed to crank out the day before mine.

Top Finishers

I usually don't write about top finishers, since this tends to get beaten to death in UltraRunning and other race recaps, sometimes by the top finishers themselves.  But for a change I'm going to put out this report BEFORE, and not MONTHS OR YEARS AFTER UltraRunning comes out.

Dave Mackey won his 3rd Firetrails (set the record last year) and his 5th race all year.  This win was preceded this year by Bandera 100k (course record), American River 50 mile, Miwok 100k (not the course record but in 2008 he got that with the only sub-8 time ever), and Waldo 100k (course record).  All at the age of 41 and while working on his degree as a physicians assistant (PA).  I'm guessing he ran Firetrails at a pace I that maybe I could hold for a 10 km trail run.  Here I am trying unsuccessfully to look cool and fast next to him.

I would've gotten more of the scoop on his run, his year and his family (his wife showed up at the finish with their young kids), but my not-as-young boys had already grown impatient with my incessant small talk.

The portable fences set up as the finish chute make great makeshift soccer goals. 
Luckily a size 3 ball won't fit through the space at the bottom.

Speaking of soccer, my older son's assistant coach Ben Maxwell, finished his first 50 miler, in a solid mid-pack 10 hour finish.  Way to go, Ben!  And thanks for helping teach him real soccer.

Despite a lot of female talent and a lack of such on my end, I managed not get chicked this race.

Top 3 women, left to right:

1st:  Roxanne Woodhouse.  I ran a little with her at the start-- she goes out hard.  She possibly would have chicked me, but she got lost at a poorly marked road crossing at a complex intersection on the return (I even started heading the wrong way, but caught myself.  RD's please take note.)  48 years old, whoa!

2nd:  Jen Benna.  Ran with her at Tahoe Rim Trail 100 mile in July before she put a few minutes (well, actually, a few hours) on me.  (her TRT report)  Her baby recently turned 1.  She didn't mention bringing her breast pump to this race.  More details on this if and when I finish my TRT report.  Her husband's Western States documentary coming out soon.

3rd:  Bree Lambert.  I think she might have been a little disappointed with finish, but she also got off-track and in any case, still top 3.  We are so lucky to have her on our Quicksilver Ultra Running Team.

Speaking of our Quicksilver Team, we may have clinched all divisions of the PAUSATF Ultra Grand Prix competition.   I think I remember from years past when I won the individual Open (30-39) Men's Division, that the winning teams get a paperweight or something similarly amazing and valuable.  Undoubtedly we will give this to our Great Leader, Coach Greg Lanctot, who gave me a Guinness from his cooler.

The fairly steep rise in the race fees under the new management (Norcal Ultras) raised a few eyebrows this year, but at least everyone's family can eat for free.  My kids claimed to have only eaten 3 Smores each. 

 Diane Forrest, post-race picnic volunteer in crime with my kids

Plus the race schwag was pretty good, this from someone with already enough shirts and jackets.  Patagonia x2 and Moeben.  Plus a nice volunteer gave my visible kids a couple of Puffins cereal backpacks.  Thank all you awesome volunteers!

Stand on your head if this bothers you.
(I don't have time to figure out how to invert it.)